[CNT, National Committee AIT, Office of Information and Propaganda. Fascism]. Signed: Monleón. Oficina de Información y Propaganda. Gráficas Valencia, Intervenido, U.G.T. C.N.T. Lithograph, 3 colors; 100 x 69 cm.
Here the Spanish conflict is presented as the struggle of man against beast. The revolutionary--red--hued, naked, and muscular--wields his hammer against a serpent coiled about his body; the man's nakedness reflects the purity of his cause, in contrast to the insidiousness of the coiled snake of fascism. The caption announces that the poster was produced by the anarcho-syndicalist trade union Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) in conjunction with the international anarchist organization Asociación Internacional de los Trabajadores (AIT). The presence of the AIT initials on anarchist propaganda gives the illusion that the domestic movement was backed by an international organization similar to the large and vigorous Communist International, or Comintern. In fact, by 1936 the AIT listed fewer than 100,000 members and was able to provide relatively little aid to Republican Spain. As the war progressed, the Communists, as administrators of Russian arms and supplies, progressively dominated the Republican camp. Lacking this international clout, the Spanish Anarchists, despite being numerically much larger than the Communists at the beginning of the war, found themselves increasingly marginalized and powerless. The artist Manuel Monleón (1904-1976), like his more famous contemporary, Josep Renau, was a graphic designer who specialized in photomontage techniques. He was committed to left-wing politics and in 1933 joined the radical artists' group, the Unión de Escritores y Artistas Proletarios, formed by Renau. In the same year his work was included in an exhibition of revolutionary art in Madrid. Monleón contributed to three left-wing Valencian publications before the war: Nueva Cultura, Orto, and Estudios; the latter was an anarchist-backed magazine which advocated free-love, and whose covers were often graced by Monleón's pictures of voluptuous, naked females. Between 1936 and 1939, Monleón produced propaganda posters for the CNT and the Partido Sindicalista. At the war's end, he was imprisoned for four years, after which he took exile in South America, first in Colombia and later in Venezuela. He returned to Spain in 1962.
The poster was produced under the aegis of the UGT and CNT control committee, which controlled the production process in Valencia until the Republican government transferred there from Madrid in November 1936. We can thus date the poster to the first months of the Civil War.