Friday, September 22, 2006
Make Your Front Popular
Those nice people at Philosophy Football have produced a series of T-shirts to commemorate the Spanish Civil War.
As Mark Perryman says: “We've tried to break with all the sectarian nonsense around this period, whatever our views of the communists or anarchists these were men and women who gave their lives in the fight against fascism so the entire memory should be respected. We're hoping to raise some dosh for the International Brigade Memorial Trust.”
I think Mark is completely correct here. I recently watched that Ken Loach film “Land and Freedom” again and I was a bit weary of the caricature of the CP international brigaders. Not only was it bad history to only show one side of the story, it also reduced the dramatic power. For example the CP are only shown fighting other lefties, there was no hint, for example, of the immense role played by the Russian air force in preventing the fall of Madrid, and the fact that there was real substance to the CP’s argument that only a professionalised army could beat the fascists. In a bizarre twist of history the argument used by Trotsky for a professional army in the Russian Civil War was put forward by the official CP in Spain, while the semi Trotskyists of POUM echoed the position of Stalin’s supporters in the Russian Red Army, that there should be a proletarian militia.
In any event – the civil war was 70 years ago, and much of the historical baggage has simply got to be put to bed.
Philosophy Football have produced these shirts, because in Mark’s own words: “Seventy years ago in 1936 the Spanish Republic were joined by the International Brigade, thousands anti-fascist volunteers from around the world, in the battle for land and freedom. Their foe, Franco and his Fascists were backed by Hitler and Mussolini while the British and other governments shamefully hid behind so-called 'Non aggression' to starve the Republicans of supplies and munitions. The battle cry of the Republic was No Pasaran , 'They shall not pass', the heroism, solidarity and sacrifice in the face of Franco's overwhelming force has inspired anti-fascists ever since.”
The four shirts depict different forces united in Spain's battle. The flag of the Left Party of Catalonia, the Catalonians like the Galicians and Basques recognised the need to unite behind the Republic against Franco. The banner of the Tom Mann Centuria, formed by British volunteers in Barcelona this unit went on to become the basis of the British Battalion of the International Brigade. Tom Mann was a militant trade unionist and founder of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The banner of the POUM militia, the unit with which George Orwell famously served. And the banner of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT-FAI, critics of the Popular Front government but allies in the fight against fascism.
Apparently sales have been going very well, and people have been buying combinations of shirts in an encouragingly non-sectarian way. Although I am pleased to report that the Tom Mann shirt is the most popular!