After recently returning from Spain and after many discussions with Spanish, Catalonian, and Basque friends about the Spanish Civil War, I decided to do a Google search to see if there were any new revelations about the war — a war in which I’m proud to say my late father participated in on the side of the Republican and anti-Fascist Popular Front government. I discovered that the Catalonian government has recently announced plans to exhume the remains of just one of 54 mass graves where the Fascists disposed of executed prisoners and other political opponents during the Civil War.
During the Google search, I also ran across an archived television program from March 2000 called Uncommon Knowledge, produced by the right-wing Hoover Institution. The topic was the Spanish Civil War and the former progressive journalist-turned-neo-con toadie, Christopher Hitchens, was featured as a guest. The program was underwritten by the John M. Olin Foundation, which also supports the neo-con American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation, and the Starr Foundation, another right-wing money machine that supports the neocon diatribe-rich periodical, American Spectator, a home base for another liberal-turned neo-con sycophant, P. J. O’Rourke.
Hitchens was supposed to have been debating Ronald Radosh, a researcher at George Washington University, who unabashedly apologized for the Spanish Fascists and their leader, Generalissimo Francisco Franco. But Hitchens wound up generally agreeing with his “adversary” and beat up on the Spanish Republican cause — something that must have pleased the right-wing sponsors of the program.
Hitchens’ verbal flatulence about the Spanish Civil War is evidence of the beginning of his transition into a fifth columnist for the neo-cons at least three years ago. Here is what Hitchens said about the Spanish Republican cause:
“Stalinism was one of the causes of the defeat of the Spanish republic. I think that’s been amply demonstrated by a number of historians, and was understood by a number of the historians of the time. In other words, that’s why I’m bold enough to quote an axiom: victory and Stalinism were not possible in Spain. You couldn’t have had a Stalinist victory.”
Really? My father served on a Danish merchant vessel that shipped arms and ammunition from that nasty Stalinist Russia to the Republican-controlled Basque ports of Santander and San Sebastian. That effort was organized by the Social Democratic-controlled merchants’ union in Copenhagen. Russia was one of the few countries in the world that was willing to supply the Republican side with much needed weapons and communications systems to counter the heavy influx of Nazi German and Italian Fascist support for the Franco forces.
The Russian arms were not only shipped from Leningrad but also from the Lithuanian (and former German) port of Klaipeda, the Latvian port of Riga, and the Estonian port of Tallinn with the support of the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian governments, respectively. So the effort to ship arms from Russia to Spain not only involved Stalin’s Russia but also Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Denmark, nations which were certainly not counted in 1936 as being within the Stalinist sphere. When my father trekked into the Basque Pyrenees to help install radio stations for the Republican side, it was done with the assistance of a number of international volunteers for the Republican cause, including American, French, and British partisans. So Hitchens is flat out wrong when he states that the Spanish Republicans were hijacked by Stalin and every Republican volunteer was an unwitting tool of the Soviet Comintern. That is just pure right-wing claptrap.
Hitchens also fails to mention that Texaco provided oil credits to the Franco forces and Ford Motor supplied the Fascist forces with vehicles. Only Stalin is accused of using the Spanish Republicans for his own purposes. The Americans are always pure in Hitchens’ myopic Pax Americana view of the world and of 2oth century history.
Then Hitchens blames the Communists for the defeat of the Spanish Republicans: “the Communist Party in Spain and its Soviet backers who infiltrated a number of the institutions of the Republic, and also the International Brigade, were in a sense working to undermine the revolution. They didn’t want any government or movement to succeed that they did not control. They would rather have been defeated. That’s consistent by the way across Europe.”
More of Hitchens’ ramblings. When one looks at the underground movements that fought the Germans during Nazi occupation, the Communists and left-wing socialists served as the activist vanguards for the resistance movements. In Denmark, where my grandmother Victoria Madsen, an official of the Danish Communist Party and newspaper (who also fought as a resistance leader), it was the Communists who were the most willing to attack the Germans and die for the cause of liberation of their country from the Nazi yoke. It was the Communists and their left Socialist allies who largely organized the secret boatlift of Danish and other Jews to safety in Sweden.
Likewise, in Spain, it was the Communist trade unions that organized workers into militias to fight the Fascists in cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia.
As for Hitchens’ other contention that the International Brigade and the Communists undermined the Spanish Revolution, Hitchens seems to ignore the fact that it was the Fascists (backed by the German Nazis) who undermined the legitimate government of the Spanish Republic through their backing of Franco. Hitchens uses a big paintbrush to tar and feather all International Brigaders as “Communists.” Of course, the Abraham Lincoln and International Brigades were full of Hitchens’ “Communist” supporters — John Dos Passos, Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Paul Robeson, Archibald MacLeish, John Steinbeck, W. H. Auden, and Esmond Romilly (the nephew of Winston Churchill).
Hitchens’ use of the term “infiltration” is also interesting. It was a favorite term of Senator Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon. But now the term can be used for people like Hitchens, who obviously has been used by the neo-cons to infiltrate progressive movements and gatherings as a “fifth columnist.” When it comes to the Spanish Civil War, and who was right and who was wrong, I’ll defer to my progressive Spanish, Catalonian, and Basque friends, as well as to the memories my father had of that grand war against the same types of imperialistic right-wingers who Hitchens now prefers to keep in his company.
WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth. He is the co-author, with John Stanton, of the forthcoming book, “America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II.”
Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com