In response to my allegedly “vitriolic” letter about the Spanish Civil War and Hilary Benn’s misappropriation of the International Brigades’ socialist legacy, to justify the bombing of Syria, Mr Peter West was compelled to correct my “one-sided” observations (Leicester Mercury Mailbox, December 28).*
I stand accused of publishing a “far-left-rant” on the Mercury’s letters page, for the dastardly crime of highlighting the fact that the International Brigades were the true internationalists, not Benn, in fighting alongside the Spanish working-class in opposing both fascism and capitalism.
With an air of independence from class politics, Peter feigns ignorance of the differences represented by the major combatants in the Spanish Civil War, which pitched the colossal masses of the Spanish working-class against an unrepresentative clique of well-funded fascists (Franco’s Nationalists). This surreal level of “independence” leads Peter to conclude that the Civil War was “fought by two equally nasty sides.”
Peter consequently downplays the significance of Franco’s slaughter of civilians at Guernica. Instead, he tells us, the anti-fascists would have done exactly the same if they had been as well-armed as the fascists. This is certainly a novel and very independent contribution to Spanish history.
Contrary to the nuanced appreciation of the internal dynamics of the Civil War, as accurately recounted by capitalist historian Antony Beevor, Peter prefers to misrepresent the conflict as a feud between the Stalinist Communist Party and “Franco’s Nationalists”.
In his well-known book, Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell provided a eyewitness account of how the democratic aspirations of the working class were crushed, rather than championed, by the Spanish Communist Party, thereby preparing the way for Franco’s bloody victory. More recently, this tragic and cautionary tale provided the framework for Ken Loach’s powerful film, Land and Freedom.
Such details however are all too much for Peter, who avoids identifying Franco’s forces as fascists, but quite happily tars socialists, like myself, with the murderous label of Stalinism.
Hence Peter says that I should remove my “red-tinted spectacles.”
But like most socialists, I have no rose-tinted view of Stalin’s anti-democratic legacy. It was Stalin, after-all, who in 1940, arranged the death of his most irritating critic in-exile, the revolutionary socialist Leon Trotsky.
Socialism evidently comes in many hues: ranging from the vibrant red of democratically-minded socialists like Trotsky, to the bluer shades of red (or rather purple) as evinced by elitist Blairites like Hilary Benn.
If needless wars for profit (or fascism) are to be averted, lessons must be learned from past slaughters.
On this score, Trotsky’s contribution to history, The Spanish Revolution, 1931-1939, is replete with useful analyses for internationalists striving for a democratic socialist world. On the other hand, Benn’s recent mockery of Spanish history, will soon, undoubtedly, be consigned to the dustbin of working-class history.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on December 29.
For another excellent account of the Spanish Civil War, see Felix Morrow’s classic book Revolution and Counter Revolution in Spain (1938). Also see Pierre Broué, “Trotsky and the Spanish Revolution” (April 1967); book review “Arms for Spain,” and “The SWP & the Spanish civil war.”
*Mr Peter West is a former Parish Council chairman for Birstall who now lives in Spain. Having been educated at a Grammar school, and then at Oxford University, Peter has much to say in support of the merits of such a segregated education system (Mailbox, February 18, 2011, “Is education the real debate?”). Previously Peter has written in support of the populist right-wing politics of UKIP demagogue Nigel Farage (Mailbox, July 26, 2011, “EU: Time for an apology”). However, over the past few years Peter has taken a keen interest in the far right-wing Islamophobic group known as Liberty GB (regularly leaving his comments on their web site), and he happily cites the gospel of Enoch Powell on his facebook page.
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