Ramón Rubial, a former President of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, PSOE, and an Honorary President of the Socialist International, who spent many years of his life in prison for his party and his cause, died on 24 May and was mourned worldwide.
The PSOE Secretary General Joaquín Almunia said, 'He suffered much and fought for his ideas but had understanding and respect for those who thought differently from him and never had rancour for those who kept him in prison for twenty years.'
Rubial was born in the Basque Country in 1906 to a working-class family, becoming an apprentice in an engineering factory at the age of 14 and joining the trade union and later the party. He was arrested by the Civil Guard for the first time in 1930 as he distributed leaflets and was jailed for four years.
In 1934 he became Secretary of the Socialist Youth Movement of his hometown Erandio and a member of the Executive Committee of the Metal Workers Union of the province of Vizcaya. He was arrested and put aboard the boat Altuna-Mendi in the port of Axpe for seven months and later to the prison at El Dueso until an amnesty was declared in 1936. In July of that year he headed the mobilisation against the military uprising of Franco, serving at the front in the XV Brigade until the fall of Asturias.
In November 1937 he was captured while trying to get to the Republican zone after the collapse of the Northern Front and in March was given a 30 year prison sentence by a court martial. Having been found to have organised a secret socialist organisation within prison he was given an additional 14 years in prison. In 1944 he married Emilia Cachorro by proxy. The following year he escaped but was caught by the forces of the dictatorship as he tried to cross the frontier into France and put into a punishment cell for months. Later that year his daughter Lentxu was born whom he would not see for 12 years.
The dictatorship freed him conditionally in 1956, and he planned to travel to Chile where his wife and daughter had gone two years before. The Party however asked him to stay to organise the party in Spain which he did successfully for several years using the alias 'Pablo'. Rubial was elected to the party's Executive Committee in 1959. The dictatorship struck again in 1967 exiling him to the remote region of La Hurdes in Extremadura before putting him before another court in 1968.
In 1972 and 1974 he attended the important conferences held in Toulouse and at Suresnes. In 1976 at the first PSOE congress celebrated in Spain he was elected party president and the following year he was elected to the seat in the Senate which he would occupy for the rest of his life. In 1978 he was elected President of the Basque General Council.
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