John Cornford

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Cornford, John


Born Dec. 28, 1915, in Cambridge; died Dec. 27, 1936, in Córdoba, Spain. English poet and journalist. A leader of the British Komsomol; joined the British Communist Party in 1932.

Cornford attended Cambridge University (1934–36). He died in battle as an International Brigade volunteer in the National Revolutionary War in Spain of 1936–39. A revolutionary poet and Marxist critic, Cornford did his most vivid writing during the Spanish period—his diary, letters, and the narrative poem “Full Moon Over Tierza: Before the Storming of Huesca” (1936; Russian translation, 1937).


A Memoir. London, 1938.
Communism Was My Waking Time. Moscow, 1958.


Startsev, A. “Tri anglichanina.” Krasnaia nov’, 1938, no. 3.
Stansky, P., and W. Abrahams. Journey to the Frontier: Julian Bell and John Cornford. Their Lives and the 1930’s. London, 1966.
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Yes, Spain was indeed a magnet for idealists - miners from Wales and the poet John Cornford, factory workers and clerks, and Giles and Esmond Romilly, Winston Churchill's nephews.
If I had been there I might have met my hero, John Cornford, whose "Great Life" I celebrate tomorrow at 4.
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Yet, the Spanish Civil War was like no other war before or since, for it attracted intellectuals in such numbers that the names read like a Who's Who of the established and up-and-coming writers of the 1930s: Andre Malraux, Gustav Regler, Ludwig Renn, John Cornford, Louis Fischer, Christopher Caudwell, Arthur Koestler.
As the Cambridge graduate and communist poet John Cornford put it, "We cannot hide from life with thought/ And freedom must be won, not bought.
Like Orwell, the 20-year-old John Cornford joined the POUM militia, the independent Marxist contingent which was later to be dubbed "Trotskyite" by the Communist Party.