Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Lets get the facts right....
Knowing your people's history is an essential tool for progressive activists in terms of learning the lessons of the past and informing the political work that you intend to carry out tomorrow. However, the contemporary attitude of much of the left in Britain towards, amongst other issues, the Soviet Union, GDR and other socialist nations demonstrates the pervasiveness of what can only be described as a Trotskyite version of history that has a damaging effect upon new generations of left-wing activists.
At this cold time of year in 1936, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy recognized Franco as the legitimate head of Spain's government. The extent to which many young people have swallowed, literally hook, line and sinker, the trotskyite version of events of the Spanish Civil War never ceases to amaze me. More people need to outline misunderstandings about the conflict and, perhaps more importantly, try to identify the provenance of these lies.
The basic slogan that you will get told is:
'The Stalinists (trotskyite word meaning communist)deliberately lost the war and betrayed the Revolution'
This lie will no doubt be backed up by the 'facts' that:
1) All the best weapons were given out only to Communist controlled forces
2) The Communists murdered the true revolutionaries in Barcelona in cold blood
3) The Communists sabotaged the revolution because they did't want socialism
The best way to combat anyone uttering these fallacies, is to replace their misconceptions with stone cold truth. The only country in the world that provided any real assistance to the Republic was the Soviet Union. This came in the form of hundreds of aircraft, artillery, tanks, trucks,armored cars and thousands of machine guns, rifles, shells, cartridges, tons of ammunition. Of particular importance were the T-26 tank and the Polikarpov I-16 fighter airplane, known as the Mosca. These were accompanied by thousands of personnel, mainly tacticans, tank crew and pilots.
There has been an accusation that these weapons only went to fronts where the Communists and Socialists were in control, this is true, yet the reason for this was not Treachery, but the presence of nationalist offensives. The POUM and CNT controlled lines in Aragon were so unactive that many commentators descibed the boredom of life in the trenches, this lead these forces to concentrate on building a revolutionary society in this area.
However, the people in Extremadura, Andalucia and Madrid could not afford to waste time with such speculation due to the unrelentless advances of Franco's Army of Africa and Hitler's Condor Legion in these areas. In these areas people concentrated on the main issue of defeating the fascists, the most effective way of achieving this, in terms of unity of forces and prospect for global sympathy was to fight for the Republic. In these sections, the brutal execution of progressives, the cries of orphaned children and screams of raped women were persuasive in uniting the republican forces around the political argument that stressed making the defeat of the fascists as the main aim.
While the majority of the Republican forces agreed that the only way to defeat the fascists was to establish a unified command, whereby centralised leadership would provide a more effective military campaign and increase industrial production. Fighting to defend bourgious democracy was the only way further international support could be drawn, this would unite liberals, social democrats, communists and socialists. Murdering priests, raping nuns, buring religous items and enforcing land redistribution only led to isolating the Republic. Communist policy did not intend to betray socialism, it was the only policy that could have enabled the republic to win, and it stood in direct contrast with the ultra-left posturing of the POUM.
Those who supported the prioritization of fighting the revolution began to stockpile weapons as they feared repercussion from the Liberal-Socialist-Communist leadership. Overzealous activists from both camps began to engage in unconstructive acts of agression against each other that went far beyond petty bickering. The situation had deteriorated to such an extent that, in 1937, the leaders of the anarchist CNT and socialist UGT trade unions agreed not to hold a May Day demonstration for fears of clashes. Nevertheless, the POUM declared that their supporters should 'begin the struggle for working class power', and urged that they should have 'arms at the ready'. The Government ordered all stockpiles of arms in Barcelona to be given up and attempted to take control of Barcelona's central telephone exchange. CNT members then ignored their leaders and joined the POUM uprising equipped with weapons that had been held back from the front. The Republican, Socialist and Communist government leadership then ordered the army in to restore order.
I hope that this can counter the lies that are spread about the Communists in the Spanish Civil War, that have been spread by George Orwells 'Homage to Catalonia' and Ken Loach's 'land and freedom'. Both the book and the film is more a piece of propaganda that attempts to blame the Communist party for all the left's failures, they are false accounts that are based around trotskyist propaganda, and are not representations that display the true experience of the civil war.
This view of the Spanish Civil War does not only have no basis what so ever in fact, it is a complete disgrace to the memories of those brave people who gave their lives to fight against Franco. It is a falsification that, much like the debate centering around the GDR, correlates with Ruling class ideology more than it does with real progressive ideas.
Anyone who is interested in the real picture should check out the international brigade memorial trust's website and hear about Spain from truly heroic people. (http://www.international-brigades.org.uk)