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Robert Klonsky

Spanish Civil War Vet


By John Johnson




            My  roommate during the beginnings of the new left in Los Angeles was Mike Klonksy.  We formed SDS in Los Angeles and Mike went on to become National Secretary in 1968.


            His father Bob and his mother Helen lived in the Fairfax district.  They were always open to helping out SDS people even though we had severe disagreements since Bob was still an "old leftist" and worked with the local Communist Party.


Here is an excerpt from another obit.


            Robert  Klonsky was just a teen-ager at the bloody battle of the Jarama Valley in Spain in 1937, armed with an old rifle he had picked up, watching his comrades die around him in volleys of machine gun fire.


            Klonsky was a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which fought on the side of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War that historians view as a prelude to World War II.


            He was with green troops, untrained and sparsely armed, who emerged from their trenches to charge up Pingarron Hill, dubbed "Suicide Hill," in the face of withering fire.


            Of the 500 who went over the top, 300 were killed or wounded. Klonsky was one of those who survived, only to be wounded later and sent home.


            The Spanish war was just the first battle in the lifelong ideological wars of this former Philadelphian, who spent most of his life in conflict with forces that he believed were oppressing the common man.


            Klonsky, Communist, civil rights firebrand, anti-war activist, and occasional movie actor, died Saturday.




            He was 84 and lived in Chicago.


            While living in Philadelphia, he became one of the defendants in a famous trial in the mid-1950s of nine local members of the Communist Party.


            The marathon 71-day trial, widely covered by the press of the time, was then the longest criminal trial in the history of the Philadelphia federal courts.


            The nine were convicted in 1954 of violating the Smith Act, which outlawed "teaching or advocating the overthrow of the American government by force."


            Klonsky was sentenced to two years in prison, and served a little over a year at the federal penitentiary at Allenwood before the Justice Department withdrew charges in 1958.