Person - Nelson, Steve (1903-1993)

Nelson, Steve (1903-1993)




Preferred form:

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Dates of existence/Biographical dates:

Croatia  1903-12-26 - 1993-12-11


Nelson, Steve was born in the small farming village of Subocka, Croatia, on the 26th of December 1903. Following World War I, Nelson along with family immigrated to the United States and joined to the rest of an extended family in an ethnically diverse, working-class neighborhood of Philadelphia.

His first job was in a local slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant. In time Nelson found work as a carpenter, a trade that would sustain him throughout his life. Workers in the shops who introduced him to socialist ideology and writings initiated his political education. Impressed by the Communist Party's efforts to organize trade unions and improve the lot of workers, Nelson joined the Young Workers League (later called the Young Communist League) in 1923. He soon began working as a union organizer distributing shop newspapers and visiting the coal region of Pennsylvania to meet fellow Croatians who were laboring in the hazardous anthracite mines. In 1928, he moved to New York City where Nelson studied Marxist theory and history at the New York Workers' School. In 1931, he was sent to Moscow and Nelson spent two years at the Lenin School studying Party doctrine and serving as a courier for the Communist International (Comintern) delivering documents and funds to the Communist parties in Germany, Switzerland and China. In 1933, he returned to the United States, settling in Wilkes-Barre. With the outbreak of the civil war in Spain, the Comintern recruited thousands of international volunteers to fight against Franco's Fascist uprising and in 1937 Nelson joined these forces. He embarked from New York on the "Queen Mary" in March and traveled to Spain via France. Near the Spanish border, he and two-dozen fellow volunteers were detained. Released after serving a three-week sentence, Nelson and the other men made their way over the Pyrenees Mountains to join the International Brigades.

Nelson served as a political commissar in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, mustering morale and politically educating recruits. After the Brunete offensive, Nelson became the commander of battalion and was promoted to Political Commissar of the 15th International Brigade. In this capacity, he was present at the battles of Quinto and Belchite. In the latter conflict, he was wounded and, after a period of convalescence, was recalled to the United States by U.S. Communist Party leader Earl Browder to report on Spain at the Party's National Committee meeting held in New York City in November 1937. From there, he spent the next months on a national speaking tour raising funds on behalf of the Loyalists.

In 1963, Nelson became the National Commander of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB). For the next forty years, he guided the organization through an era of activism. In 1978, two years after Franco's death, Nelson in the company of his fellow veterans, returned to Spain for the first time in 40 years.

Nelson also was the author of two books: "The Volunteers", which is about his experience in Spain, and "The Thirteenth Juror", which is about trial in the case of Pennsylvania Sedition and the period spent in prison. In addition, in 1981, he published his autobiography "Steve Nelson: American Radical". On the 11th of December 1993, Steve Nelson died at 90 years old.

Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

Date of the event: 1936 - 1939







United States

Lugar de Nacimiento:

Croatia in 1903-12-26


Martínez Reverte, Jorge (2014), Martínez Reverte, Jorge, Guerrilleros y traidores. De la guerra de España a la guerra fría. Madrid, Círculo de Lectores, 2014

Related Authorities

Brigadas Internacionales (España)

Associative relations :

Abraham Lincoln Battalion  ( He/She is a member of )

Communist Internacional  ( He/She is a member of )

External Links

Catálogo Archivístico:


Catálogo Bibliotecario:

Jewish Virtual Library

Catálogo Bibliotecario:

NYU Libraries

Recurso web:

The Volunteer

Recurso web:

The volunteer

Catálogo de Autoridades:


Fichero de Autoridades:

Biblioteca Nacional de Espa¿a


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