Sunday, July 02, 2006

Revising History - 4

Oliver Kamm, quoting Beevor (Kamm's emphasis): 'There is nothing in any recent book on the subject to soften the cold brutality of the Nationalists… But more than enough has emerged to confirm that all those who went to fight on behalf of the Republic in the cause of freedom were completely duped'.

Undoubtedly, it's true that those who joined the International Brigades (which were Communist-controlled) were duped. But some, like Orwell, fought for the Republic with other militia. It is probably more accurate to say that they were betrayed, along with millions of Spanish workers.

Writing in 1942, Orwell asked two key questions:
Yet in the most mean, cowardly, hypocritical way the British ruling class did all they could to hand Spain over to Franco and the Nazis. Why? Because they were pro-Fascist, was the obvious answer. Undoubtedly they were, and yet when it came to the final showdown they chose to stand up to Germany.
[...]
Did [the Russians], as the pinks believed, intervene in Spain in order to defend democracy and thwart the Nazis? Then why did they intervene on such a niggardly scale and finally leave Spain in the lurch? (Looking Back On The Spanish War)
We have a fairly good idea of the anwer to at least part of the second question. After the communists in Spain had followed 'moderate' policies in the hope of bringing 'the western democracies' (i.e. Britain and France) in on the side of the Republic, the Munich agreement in 1938 'led to Stalin's decision that Russia's only hope lay in a rapprochement with Hitler' (Beevor, 1982, Ch. XXV, P353) .

To the first of Orwell's questions, in spite of what is often described as our media's obsession with the Second World War, I am still not sure of the answer.  Churchill certainly was not, initially, favourable to the Republic. The conventional answer, I suppose, is that after Munich Hitler could not be trusted to 'behave like a gentleman', to observe the rules of international order, to such an extent that even an alliance with Stalin was possible to defeat him.

Update: on the Russians' niggardly intervention, here is one answer: 'Stalin at first agreed to the non- intervention pact for fear of antagonising the West. The first arms did not arrive until October and then it was out of fear that German and Italian arms would give a decisive edge to the fascists. Aid was given "covertly and in order to limit the possibility of involving Russia in a war" (Krivitsky [...]). Because of this fear of involvement in war with Germany and Italy, aid was limited to bolstering the resistance until such time as Britain and France might intervene.' An Anarchist Perspective on the Spanish Civil War -  acknowledgement, Niall Ferguson (!).

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