Causes and Ambiguities
When I come across an article whose author is David Remnick of The New Yorker, I immediately hasten to read it, because I’m sure of finding intellectually stimulating fare (even when he writes about sports!). One may not always agree, but one is enriched by the contact.
For me another such author is Edward Rothstein of the New York Times.
In today’s Times, Rothstein dissects an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York on Facing Fascism: New York and the Spanish Civil War. According to Rothstein the exhibit uncritically celebrates the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and “deviates little from what would have once been called the party line.”
Here is more of his reflection:
By 1937, after the show trials in Moscow, it was apparent to many
devoted idealists that the party’s high moral proclamations were not
what they seemed. This is what George Orwell fitfully recognizes in his
“Homage to Catalonia.” First he fights in an independent Marxist
division that was apparently kept deliberately undersupplied. Later he
fears for his life in Barcelona — Republican-held territory — as the
party begins a planned purge, including killings and torture. Some
recent research has suggested that even members of the Lincoln Brigade
— some of whom “disappeared” — were not immune.
“As for the
newspaper talk about this being a ‘war for democracy,’ ” Orwell wrote,
“it was plain eyewash. No one in his senses supposed that there was any
hope of democracy.”
None of this can be learned from the show,
and to all of it, our heroes of the Lincoln Brigade were blind — or
worse. The Hitler-Stalin pact, which followed Franco’s victory by a few
months, also hardly seemed to have affected their allegiances. Last
week, in The New York Sun, Ronald Radosh, author of “Spain Betrayed:
The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War,” quoted a speech by Milton
Wolff, one of the exhibition’s Lincoln fighters, made in 1941 while the
pact was still in effect. For Wolff, Franklin D. Roosevelt
had become the nascent fascist menace; no Lincoln Brigades would be
needed against Hitler. “We fight,” he proclaimed, “against the
involvement of our country in an imperialist war.”
Orwell said that no one could spend “more than a few weeks in Spain without being in some degree disillusioned.”
But even the fair-minded and judicious Rothstein makes no allusion to the thousands of priests and religious savagely murdered by elements of the left. For that I recommend turning to Michael Burleigh’s recent Sacred Causes.