No Passaran

CNT-FAI Poster
The volatile political situation of 1930’s Europe with the rise of competing extremist factions saw the increased use of art for propaganda purposes, and also the realisation that propaganda itself could be an art form (Hitler, Goebbels and Mussolini were all failed artists: Hitler of course was a mediocre painter; Goebbels and Mussolini fifth rate novelists). Nowhere was this more apparent than Spain, which after the military uprising by General Franco and his fascist inspired Nationalists against the democratically elected, left leaning Republic descended into a vicious Civil War that soon took on an international dimension.

The above poster commemorates the successful defence of Barcelona by members of the anarcho-syndicalist trade union CNT-FAI (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo-Federación Anarquista Ibérica) on 19th of July 1936. Although the government had denied arming the anarchists, union members led by Buenaventura Durutti captured weapons from army barracks, manufactured home-made grenades and improvised armoured vehicles leading to the defeat of the rebels. After the events of 19th of July  the CNT-FAI became the de facto power in Barcelona and implemented a social revolution that George Orwell pays eloquent tribute to in his memoir Homage to Catalonia.

Below is some fine examples of the posters that would have lined the buildings and windows of the Republican controlled zones.

22 thoughts on “No Passaran

      1. Mostly…I occasionally go back further and jump ahead sometimes, but it was an exceptional period artistically, plus lots happening. Anyway it is brilliant art regardless of its intent. Plus I always like the CNT-FAI the most out of all the sides in the Spanish Civil War (a lot to choose from).


  1. Mr. Cake, these posters are amazing, well why not make visual propaganda terrific? Several of the posters remind me a lot of Ex-libris bookplates. I image that any one of these posters would fetch a fabulous price. Wonderful post, I had no knowledge of propaganda art, so thank you. ~ Miss Cranes

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    1. Well I was in Barcelona and I saw No Passaran several times which I knew was the motto of the Popular Front, They Shall Not Pass, and I was familiar with the great graphic work from that period (the Nationalists also produced posters as well) so I thought why not even though it is a little different from my usual style. Glad you liked.

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      1. I could do, my next post is to be about the politics of De Sade and then an article in B. Travern (I’m calling it the anarchist trilogy). But there is definitely room for another post, plenty more posters and of course the Spanish Civil War is a vast and complicated subject. It was like a dry run for WWII.

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      2. I like that, “The Anarchist Trilogy”. I think if you can swing it with all of your projects it would be great, how is Part 5 coming along? You have endless avenues to follow as for posts.


  2. It was indeed wonderful art work and still retains a tremendous power. So glad you directed me to your post. I missed it first time round — I seem to miss many things as I age. The man wielding the hammer could be a Greek God. Men and women fought side by side at the barricades. True equality, perhaps, but only for the briefest of times.

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    1. I think about it often, a missed chance? Maybe. The art is excellent and lots of restaurants have murals that seem to refer back to that style. Don’t worry about missing it, I can be over prolific and not write at all. But I enjoyed writing this piece.

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      1. I think the problem is art and the use or misuse of art. There’s a fine line that we must walk between art and propaganda and commercialization. In addition, there is discovery and rediscovery. If the art is good, it will be rediscovered.

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