The Front Lines of Social Change:
Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade
An ode to political activism,
an antidote to cynicism
a book of photographs and text
by Richard Bermack
Excerpts from Reviews
Oakland: Photographer’s book chronicles fights, idealism of lifelong protesters.
By Rick DelVecchio,. San Francisco Chronicle, February 25, 2005
"Elderly faces lit up with eager smiles and dancing eyes fill the pages of Berkeley photographer Richard Bermack's new picture book on the idealistic
and idealized volunteer soldiers who fought fascism in Spain in the 1930s, 'The Front Lines of Social Change: Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln
Brigade.' Here are men and women in their 70s and 80s looking as if
they're ready to take on the world..... They did, they were, and the few who survive still are. Bermack's camera
captures the aged brigadistas' thirst not merely for life but for life
with a hard, righteous and sometimes dangerous edge. His text suggests the
secret behind it: living for ideals, win or lose, in lifelong comradeship."
Rangefinder Magazine, August 2005, A.K.Crumb
"This fascinating untold story was captured by documentary photographer Richard Bermack, who juxtaposes portraits of the veterans in their winter years with photographs taken in their youth as members of the Brigade, a heartbreaking yet energizing comparison."
Monthly Review Zine, Paul Buhle, August 29, 2005
"... it is a superb oral history, because Bermack is so attentive to the memories. If oral history is inevitably (despite many hopes of oral historians after "facts") about states of mind in the present, Bermack records the subsequent shocks, from repression at home to the Khruschev Revelations, as part of the life story. What comes out in the end -- and it's a very long ending, because the ALB veterans were active throughout the 1960s, closing out their political lives only when they died or became too infirm to join a picket line -- is no political orthodoxy, but pure courage.
"Whoever has met these folks in later years (years that extend through my own political lifetime) will likely shed a silent tear while leafing through these pages. With them, a generation passes. But thanks to Richard Bermack, they did not pass unseen or unheard."
Henry Foner, The Unionist, Social Service Employees Union, Local 371 DC 37, AFSCME.
"There have been many books written about the Spanish Civil War and more particularly about those genuine American heroes who fought on the Loyalist side in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, but none of them have been as pictorially eye-catching as this work by photographer Richard Bermack.
" …we who have basked in the reflected glory of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade can marvel at the wonderful photographs that adorn this work, clearly a labor of love on Bermack’s part…. This is a book that will touch responsive chords in both those who know about the Spanish Civil War and those who know little or nothing about it and will have a learning experience in store for them."
The Berkeley Daily Planet, Richard Brenneman
What Readers are saying:
"I can’t wait to start reading this book to my grandson. The stories with those “then and now” photos are awesomely beautiful - I shed tears. Watching the veterans persevere undaunted through the decades, I feel so much better about committed action in the world. Their stories recharged me to believe it’s not a waste of time to keep fighting for those important issues that are worth fighting for. That we very well may never win matters so much less after reading your book." Virginia King, Berkeley
page 54 Al Tanz was celebrating his 94th birthday!
page 84 There is some controversy over when the photo of Chuck and Yolanda Hall was taken. Originally Yolanda thought it was in the 1950s, but their son Charles believes it was at a demonstration in the 1970s. He is attempting to research it based on the frames of her glasses.
page 94 "Mike McGraw" should be "Ray McGrath."