[Marxism] Mosess "Moe" Fishman - Presente! (1915-2007)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 7 23:03:27 MDT 2007

>From PORTSIDE. Fishman was a strong supporter of 
the Cuban Revolution. Granma wrote of him in 1961:

Mosess "Moe" Fishman - Presente! (1915-2007)
by Peter N. Carroll

The seemingly indestructible Moe Fishman, who represented the public
face of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB) for more
than half a century, died of pancreatic cancer on August 6, 2007 in
New York. He was 92.

During the past year, Moe attended public events around the United
States and Spain to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the outbreak
of the Spanish Civil War, a war that pitted rebellious generals, led
by General Francisco Franco, backed by Nazi Germany and Fascist
Italy, against the legally elected Spanish Republic.

Born in New York on September 28, 1915, Fishman left school during
the Depression and became a laundry worker and truck driver. He
participated in unionizing his fellow workers and found a commitment
to social justice issues as a member of the Young Communist League.

When the war in Spain began, Moe volunteered to fight, but was
rejected for lack of military experience. However, his skill as a
truck driver was needed and a second application for service was
accepted - with the proviso that he recruit ten other volunteers.
Fishman quickly found the men, though none actually showed up. The
recruiters took him anyway.

He arrived in Spain in April 1937 and trained as a foot soldier in
the George Washington battalion. In his first action, he was wounded
during the battle of Brunete, near Villanueva de la Canada in July
1937. He spent a year in convalescence in Spain before returning to
his home in New York. He then spent another two years in hospitals as
doctors fused bones in his injured leg, leaving him with a lifelong

During his lengthy recuperation from war injuries, Fishman stayed in
touch with New York humanitarian aid organizations providing
assistance for the civilian refugees of the Spanish Civil War. He
worked in the warehouse of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee,
while studying to become a licensed radio operator. His skills
enabled him to serve in the Merchant Marines during World War II.

After that war, Fishman worked again for the refugee aid committee,
even after it was targeted by the House Committee on Un-American
Activities (HUAC) for alleged subversive activities in 1946. Indeed,
it was Fishman's proximity to that case that changed his life when
HUAC set its sights on the VALB and President Harry Truman's Attorney
General listed the group as a subversive organization in 1947 as part
of the postwar anti-Communist crusade.

When Congress passed the McCarran Act in 1950, obliging all
designated subversive organizations to register with the federal
government and creating heavy penalties for leaders who refused to
cooperate, the entire executive committee of the VALB resigned. In
its place, two Lincoln veterans stepped forward: Milton Wolff became
the National Commander; Moe Fishman became the Executive
Secretary/Treasurer and served the organization in an executive
capacity for the rest of his life, more than a half century of
dedicated service.

Fishman and Wolff led the VALB defense before the Subversive
Activities Control Board in 1954. After their efforts failed, they
pursued the appeals process that concluded with a favorable court
ruling in the 1970s, declaring the Attorney General's list and the
SACB's rulings unconstitutional. Through it all, Fishman reminded the
vets, "we have not forgotten that our main purpose in life is our
anti-Franco activity."

"The long fight is over," he wrote soon afterward to vet Herman
"Gabby" Rosenstein, "and we are in (so to speak) [as] a legitimate
non-subversive organization. I'm not sure that is good. Maybe we
better do something subversive and get back on it otherwise the
public we are trying to reach, especially the youth constituency,
will look askance at these 'revisionists' who have stopped being
subversive and have a U.S. Court of Appeals that agrees we are not.
How about that?"

During the dark years of the black lists, Fishman kept the VALB
organization running. He helped produce dozens of four-page issues of
The Volunteer to keep the vets apprised of various Cold War political
cases; rallied support for individual defense trials; and
participated in protest demonstrations against Spanish government
policies and cultural activities in the United States.

By 1957, however, the two VALB leaders, Moe and Milt, faced an empty
treasury and considered disbanding the organization. They decided to
poll some of the vets, who resoundingly opposed the idea. Meanwhile,
Moe had received a letter from a Spaniard who had worked with the
VALB in New York in the 1940s and was now in a Franco prison. He
responded by summoning a campaign to aid all political prisoners of

An aid and amnesty project became VALB's major focus until the
dictator died in his bed in 1975.

To raise funds for the prisoners and their families, the
reconstituted VALB held its first reunion in a decade in 1957, an
annual ceremonial gathering that continues now under the auspices of
the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives.

There were times when Moe felt like a one-man band. "I'm the
organization," he said with little exaggeration for a 1962 article
that appeared in Esquire. "If there's something to decide, I talk it
over with the guys and then decide what I'm going to do. Cockeyed,
but that's the way it is."

As more veterans reached retirement age and returned to the VALB in
the 1970s, Moe remained a constant in the organization's activities.
He participated in innumerable panels and conferences, spoke to
students in high schools and colleges around the country, and
traveled to international meetings about the Spanish Civil War. In
his public talks, as well as in interviews, he revealed an incredible
memory for names and historical details, linking past and present

He had the patience to listen to the most asked, often hostile
questions and yet typically offered clearly recited answers. He
seldom allowed a speaker to escape a comment with which he disagreed.
Sometimes he seemed a relentless questioner, assuring that the role
of the Lincoln volunteers received its proper due. He was direct,
articulate, and unselfconscious.

In just one month this spring, he appeared on Pacifica's Democracy
Now program, greeted guests at the opening night of the exhibition
"Facing Fascism," spoke to a high school class on New York's west
side, and shared a podium with Harry Belafonte, while handling a
multitude of office details and giving interviews to visiting

He was also an active member of Veterans for Peace, proudly carrying
the VALB banner to parades. He is survived by his partner, Georgia

For years, seemingly forever, Moe Fishman stood at the center of a
halo that surrounded the Americans who fought in the Spanish Civil
War. He relished the spotlight and used it well. Lean, well-dressed
in suit and tie, dark eyebrows and brown mustache offset by a full
gray head of hair, he carried the vitality of a young man's cause
into his old age. Each year at the annual reunion, it was his voice
that announced recent deaths and called the roll of the surviving
veterans in attendance.

His silence brings the end of an era.

[Peter Carroll is the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Abraham
Lincoln Brigade Archive (ALBA). This obituary is to appear in the
September issue of The Volunteer, a publication of ALBA.]

[Moderator's Note: "Mosess" is not a typo or a mis-spelling, Moe
explained that his family didn't know English spelling!]

Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
writer - photographer - activist

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