José Robles
José Robles Pazos was a Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 academic and independent left-wing activist. Born to an aristocratic family, Robles embraced left-wing views which forced him to leave Spain and go into exile in the United States.

In the 1920s he was teaching at Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University, commonly referred to as Johns Hopkins, JHU, or simply Hopkins, is a private research university based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States...

 and became friend of writer John Dos Passos
John Dos Passos
John Roderigo Dos Passos was an American novelist and artist.-Early life:Born in Chicago, Illinois, Dos Passos was the illegitimate son of John Randolph Dos Passos , a distinguished lawyer of Madeiran Portuguese descent, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison of Petersburg, Virginia. The elder Dos Passos...

, at the time also supporting the radical left, and his translator to Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

. His translation of Manhattan Transfer
Manhattan Transfer
Manhattan Transfer may refer to:* Manhattan Transfer , a Pennsylvania Railroad station in New Jersey* Manhattan Transfer , a 1925 novel by John Dos Passos* The Manhattan Transfer, a jazz, swing, R&B and pop group founded in 1969...

is still considered to be exemplary. He also translated some works of Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis
Harry Sinclair Lewis was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of...


At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 Robles was on vacation in Spain. He supported the cause of the Spanish Republic
Second Spanish Republic
The Second Spanish Republic was the government of Spain between April 14 1931, and its destruction by a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco....

 but his independent and outspoken views brought him in conflict with the Soviet Union's emissaries, who were gaining increasing control of the Republican government.

In early 1937 Robles disappeared. The American left-wing journalist Josephine Herbst
Josephine Herbst
Josephine Herbst was an American writer and journalist, active from 1923 to near the time of her death. She was a radical with communist leanings, who "incorporate[d] the philosophy of socialism into her fiction" and "aligned herself with the political Left", She wrote "proletarian novels"...

, then on a visit to the Civil War front, found out that he had been arrested and shot as "a spy for Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

ists", and conveyed this information to Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

 and Dos Passos who were in Madrid. The exact circumstances of his death were never clarified, and the charge of his having spied for the Fascists was doubted. Rather, it was suggested that he was among many sincere left-wingers (for example, Andrés Nin
Andrés Nin
Andreu Nin i Pérez was a Spanish Communist revolutionary.- Early life :...

) killed by Soviet NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 agents, led by Alexander Orlov
Alexander Orlov
Alexander Mikhailovich Orlov , born Lev Feldbin, 21 August 1895–25 March 1973), was a General in the Soviet secret police and NKVD Rezident in the Second Spanish Republic. In 1938, Orlov refused to return to the Soviet Union because he realized that he would be executed, and fled with his...

, for their independent stance at the time.

In a letter to the editor published in The New Republic in July 1939, Dos Passos wrote that it was not until he reached Madrid (after having spent a week in Valencia) that he got what he called "definite information from the then chief of the Republican counter-espionage service that Robles had been executed by a 'special section' (which I gathered was under control of the Communist Party) … Spaniards I talked to closer to the Communist Party took the attitude that Robles had been shot as an example to other officials because he had been overheard indiscreetly discussing military plans in a cafe. The 'fascist spy' theory seems to be the fabrication of romantic American Communist sympathizers. I certainly did not hear it from any Spaniards." [Carr (1984), p. 365.]

Robles' execution caused a total rift between Hemingway and Dos Passos, who were previously friends. Hemingway condoned the killing, as "necessary in time of war", while Dos Passos, embittered by the death of his friend, broke away from the left altogether and started his move to the political right.
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