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There might be some truth in this …

“the jihadist movement that ultimately spawned Daesh is far closer to the spirit of internationalism and solidarity that drove the International Brigades than Cameron’s bombing campaign”

… given that the International Brigades fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War were Communists who followed Stalin’s line, which was to ruthlessly suppress rival militias such as the Trotskyist POUM in which George Orwell found himself by accident. Once I would have believed that the Spanish Civil War was simply a trial run for WWII with the Republicans as the Allies and the Fascists as the Axis. Nothing will make me view Franco’s overthrow of a democratically elected government with approval, but I can no longer see either side as the good guys. That, too, is a parallel with the current situation in Syria and Iraq.

That quote, by the way, is from a piece called “Groundhog Day in Syria as Mr Benn goes bombing”originally published by the Stop the War Coalition (National Chair: Jeremy Corbyn MP) but since removed from its website. The whole piece can be still found on the website of Matt Carr, its author, here. A fuller version of the controversial quote is:

Benn does not even seem to realise that the jihadist movement that ultimately spawned Daesh is far closer to the spirit of internationalism and solidarity that drove the International Brigades than Cameron’s bombing campaign – except that the international jihad takes the form of solidarity with oppressed Muslims, rather than the working class or the socialist revolution.

Many left wingers have reacted with anger. The sole Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, has resigned from the committee of the StW Coalition partly as a result. The Guardian commenters laud her wisdom in stepping down without questioning her wisdom in ever having anything to do with the Stop Some Wars* Coalition in the first place. It is, and has been for years, the Emu to the Rod Hull’s hand of the Socialist Workers Party. As I said in 2011,

Three quarters of the posters [at the left wing demos I attended in the 70s and 80s], and almost all of the printed ones, were produced by the Socialist Workers Party. Busy little bees, they were. They still are: it is an astonishing fact that this tiny and fissiparous Trotskyist sect has twice dominated massive popular protest movements in my lifetime; the Anti-Nazi League / Rock against Racism movement of the 80s and the Stop The War Coalition of 2001-2008. Sorry, 2001-present, only they stop wars much more quietly now that Mr Obama is president.

*Wars against Israel are OK.

36 comments to There might be some truth in this …

  • JohnW

    it is an astonishing fact that this tiny and fissiparous Trotskyist sect has twice dominated massive popular protest movements in my lifetime; the Anti-Nazi League / Rock against Racism movement of the 80s and the Stop The War Coalition of 2001-2008

    Well, that’s altruism for you.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Can they do that hilarious thing where they demand an apology for being called terrorist sympathisers, again?

  • Paul Marks

    The left had no problem with armed revolt against a democratically elected government in 1934 – when the rose against the moderate Republican government.

    As for 1936 – as the leader of the Parliamentary opposition said.

    “Half of Spain will not just wait to die”.

    Even if we accept that the Popular Front government was democratically elected (and they did not even wait for the second round of the elections – and there was massive “disorder” in the elections). Only a Hobbesian would say that the will of the government to plunder and murder is the “law”.

    Indeed even Thomas Hobbes would accept (not as a moral choice, but as some sort of animalistic reflex) that people will defend themselves personally – he would just be baffled by someone risking their life to defend someone else.

    So when the Reds came to loot properties secular and religious (which they did almost at once) resistance was to be expected.

    The only question is whether the resistance would be organised (have a chance of victory) or would be futile.

    I am no Falangist – I despise their straight arm salutes and collectivist ideology.

    However, the military revolt of 1936 was (given the circumstances) the least worst option.

    If there is no “right of resistance” against a government that aims to plunder the property owners then we are back to the politics of the Roman Emperors.

    Where the “will of the ruler” was the ultimate law.

    Indeed the despotism the Reds represented was worse than that of any Roman Emperor – even monsters such as Diocletian (who reduced most of the population to de facto serfdom).

    1936 was the period when the Soviets were murdering tens of millions of people.

    Millions of people would have died in Spain had the Reds (for the dominated the Popular Front behind the scenes) been allowed to remain in power.

    And World War II.

    Had a Red government been in charge of Spain in 1940 why would Mr Hitler not have invaded and closed the sea at Gibraltar?

    Spain would have been in chaos under Red rule.

    Millions starving – and no massive amounts of gold (and other raw materials) as with Russia.

    Franco did not allow the Germans to close the sea at Gibraltar – but without him Spain would have been in no position to refuse.

    And had the sea to the Middle East oil been closed to British ships (easy if Gibraltar falls) we would have……


  • Paul Marks

    As for British Marxism – the may be few in number, but they are important.

    American Marxists are important also.

    The difference is that in the United States there is a counter weight – people still committed to such things as the principles of the Bill of Rights (the closest thing the West has to a sacred political document).

    In Britain there is no such counter weight to the Marxists.

    I suspect that when the international economy collapses – this country will fall.

    And America?

    The “Shining City On A Hill” – the “Last Best Hope For Mankind”.

    Would God permit America to fall?

    Yes He would – for humans must have FREE WILL and that means the possibility of the victory of evil.

    But, I believe, there will be a fight in America.

    But here in Britain?

    I doubt it.

    Even in 1914 people (at least the “liberal” elite – but not just them) in the “mainland” were baffled that people in Ulster might take up arms not for Radicalism – but to PREVENT it. If need be by fighting a traitor government.

    Surely blind loyalty to whoever the government is, be the only loyalty? Just as government WILL is the only law? How can there be such a thing as a “traitor government”? Surely only opposing the government is treason? At least according to the degenerate.

    And that was in a nation that had a network of “Constitutional Clubs” and a two million member National Rifle Association.

    All useless if people are corrupted by the influence (indirect as well direct) of Hobbes, Bentham and so on.

    Even firearms are useless if people have no beliefs worth fighting and dying for.

    A government elected in Britain (in the chaos of an international economic breakdown) looting everything in sight.

    Would there be resistance in modern Britain?

    Not in any organised way.

    At least so I believe.

    I hope I am mistaken.

  • JohnW

    Trump claim wrong that police ‘afraid’ of Muslims in London PM says.

    “Run you cowards.” shout Muslims.


  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Paul, if the Red side had won in Spain, they might have taken Gibraltar, and closed off the Mediterranean, just to spite Britain. Would Britain have been prepared to fight for Gibraltar, or would the appeasers have not worried too much? And wouldn’t a Red Spain create a strong-Right-wing government in Paris? If both France and Germany were right-wing, Hitler might have felt safe about launching war against Russia, straight away!
    Lots of possibilities.

  • Sean McCartan

    We all have our blind spots. Paul’s seems to be , with some regularity , Ulster , or Northern Ireland or the Six Counties or whatever we are pleased to call it. As it happens , it’s my blind spot too , albeit from the opposite perspective. Churchill’s dreary steeples have deep foundations.

  • Bogdan from Aussie

    Dear Nicholas, the only entity Hitler was on the right of was the entity owned by Stalin and which at that time was being called Soviet Union.
    It is worthy to remind all those friends who are still confused about Hitler’s ideological leanings that as a young Schickelgruber (or whatever was his name at that time) was a staunch communist who was for a brief time and immediately after the WWI active in the so called Communist Republic of Bavaria and who was lead by German Jews and supported by newly victorious Bolsheviks. He broke with that movement because of his rabid anti Semitism (despite being 1/4 Jew himself) and joined his war pal Ernest Roehm also a commie and an anti Semite. The original name of NSDAP was if I remember well Nationalist Communist Party of German Workers however they both decided to change it for the NSDAP (National Socialist Party of German Workers) having realised that the word Commie would be a non-starter in their drive to take over Germany.
    Hitler would be unable to launch any war against Russia at that time because Germans were to weak and newly independent Poland wouldn’t allow the Krautfressers to launch any aggressive action against reds through their own territory.
    However, just two years later Poland was victorious over the invading Soviets thus saving Europe from Bolshevism. It was the lost opportunity for Germans who should appreciate Poland’s historic achievement and start working on some kind of anti Soviet alliance.
    Unfortunately, Germans first and Hitler later were to consumed with the hatred of their Eastern neighbour to exploit such an option. Instead the Krauts expressed their gratitude for Poles by joining Soviets in aggression and destruction of Poland in 1939.
    It was not for the first time that Germans (and Austrians as well) expressed that kind of gratitude towards Poles for saving their skin.
    In 1684 Poles under the command of king Jan the III Sobieski risked their entire elite military formations the famous Winged Husars and rushed to the help of besieged Vienna rauting and expelling hordes of Ottoman empire.
    Barely hundred years later both German and Austrians joined barbaric Russia and invaded and partitioned Poland for the next 130 years.
    Regards from Aussie – Bogdan

  • Bogdan from Aussie

    Apology, at that time it was an entity owned by Lenin, Trocky, Stalin and other Bolsheviks…

  • Bogdan from Aussie

    P.S: needless to say that today’s Germans have showed exactly the same gratitude towards Yanks for protecting them from the Soviets for the entire period of Could War and demanding NOTHING in exchange.
    I used to live and work in then West Berlin for the nine months in 1980. The Krauts were so thankful for the Yanks for the protection and so in love with them that they were willing to walk around wrapped in American flag.
    Today it is impossible to calculate the number of times the Krauts have backstabbed The Americans in their hypocritical drive to become political “independent”.

  • Mr Ed

    If both France and Germany were right-wing, Hitler might have felt safe about launching war against Russia, straight away!
    Lots of possibilities.

    How could Germany have attacked the Soviet Union? The only route is via Poland, France was prepared to defend Poland. Franco prevailed in April 1939. Poland was invaded that September, first by Germany, then by the USSR, in its non-aggression pact with Germany, the one that Communists lamented as it ruined their political position, but they still went on organising strikes against war output until 22nd June 1941.

    And Hitler was a socialist.

    The appeasers would have had to take back an invaded Gibraltar at some point before general war with Germany, or at the latest, with Italy, the naval power in the Med after France, had a Red Spain seized it. Perhaps with a land invasion via the Alentejo through from Salazar’s Portugal and a landing in Ceuta, nominally restoring it to Portugal, to take both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar and Algerciras, and all the way up to Cape Trafalgar, for old time’s sake. And taking back Olivença for Portugal as a sweetener. But thankfully it never was to be.

  • TDK

    There’s no doubt that Muslims are coming from lots of places to join Isis. Therefore the some truth is self evident. However “International Brigade” carries more meaning than just being international. If that is the only criteria then we might remind Matt Carr that the Fascists also had volunteers from other countries fighting on their side and subsequently the Germans had lots of volunteers fighting alongside them in Russia, even those from defeated enemies like Holland. In the modern war we have Turkey, Russia, France, US and most countries in the middle East fighting against Isis.

    The problem for Matt Carr and others on the anti-Imperialist left is that they are so wrapped up in identity politics that any action by Isis, no matter how repugnant or remote is immediately blame on the West. We are the ultimate source of evil and no matter how little or how much we do we cannot escape the blame. The only challenge for him and his ilk is how to contextualize the latest horrific incident by Jihadists.

  • Mr Ed

    The Spanish Civil War had participants from both sides of the Irish Civil War in it, the ‘glory’ going to those who fought for Stalin’s lot in the Zeitgeist. It is often overlooked that in Ireland, the civil war following partition was a bloody battle between the forces of fundamental decency and the progressives. However, the Irish Free State government knew what it was dealing with and firmly put down the progressives, albeit with atrocities, but on a modest scale compared to how the socialists tend to behave. Tying nine men together over a landmine before detonation was rather unnecessary, and one survived blown clear.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “Nothing will make me view Franco’s overthrow of a democratically elected government with approval”

    It’s all very well to have principles, but as the only possible alternative was for a major European country to fall into the chaos of Stalinism, I think in this case pragmatism is the correct response.

  • Surellin

    Franco was no prize, and neither was Pinochet, but I point out that both deliberately created truly popular elected governments to succeed them. By the standards of dictators in general, that’s not too bad.

  • Watchman

    Mr Ed,

    The USSR and Germany had a land border in 1939 – the Germans still had East Prussia then. Admittedly the USSR might have spotted a military buildup there rather easily, but it was there…

  • Watchman

    I guess the issue with whether to support Franco or not is simply the issue of the rule of law. A democratically-elected government that does not follow the rule of law is clearly no longer legitimate, public support or not, and can be legitimately opposed as if they were a dictatorship (which in effect they are).

    Problem is if the government passes laws that are manifestly unfair or unjust, as it is possible to follow the rule of law but to have unfair laws – I suppose a case in point here would be a Trump presidency discriminating against people on the basis of their religion (I don’t care if you think Muslims are dangerous, government cannot act on the basis of a single characteristic…), as that would automatically invalidate his democratic mandate in my view, simply because he was engaging in harmful actions against some of those he was meant to serve. Admittedly the US constitituion and division of powers probably make this a highly academic point, but just because the people elect someone does not mean we have to continue to respect that decision if that person then starts to do harm on an arbitrary basis.

    I suppose the point with Franco is, did he intervene to overthrow the government because the government itself was in danger of doing harm. And the secondary question is whether he could have intervened and ruled whilst doing less harm himself. If you can answer the first question yes and the second question no, then his actions are perhaps justifiable. I doubt that I can answer the second question no (it was that long-running dictatorship thing that concerned me…), but maybe your views are different.

  • The fundamental points about the Spanish Civil War are:

    (a) Franco refused to deal with Hitler. Hitler remarked after exhausting negotating with Franco that he’d rather go to the dentist than do that again. Because of that their was no Spanish animus to take Gibraltar. This mattered.

    (b) Franco might not have been a nice man but he lead to an orderly transition to a democratic monarchy. He didn’t take the country down in flames like a lot of dictators. For that both he and Juan-Carlos deserve praise.

  • Mr Ed

    What NickM said.

    Had the Republicans won, Spain would have ended up at best like Romania in 1988, and still be suffering from it today, and at worst under first Nazidom and then Stalin.

    Although Franco didn’t quite lead an orderly transition so much as die with a succession plan, and Lt-Col. Tejero thought he had the most up-to-date version of the memo, but the King proved him wrong.

    Cue the Sage of Kettering pointing out the main failings of the Spanish Constitution or list of welfare schemes as it should be called, and compare with the rather rocky road of Portugal away from the Estado Novo after Caetano (Salazar’s successor) fell in 1974.

  • Paul quite rightly points out that if the ‘Red’ side had won in Spain there would have been “millions starving’. In fact in 1940-1945, under Franco there were serious food shortages. The British and later the US, used their control of the sea to regulate Spain’s ability to import food, this was reasonably effective in putting pressure on Franco. What food there was seems to have been fairly well distributed. I wonder if the largely Pro Franco Catholic church played a role in preventing mass famine ?

    Unlike Stalin and Russia, Franco saw no reason to deliberately starve millions of his fellow Spaniards. Franco was a bastard, but he was not a full on monster like Mao or Stalin (not to mention the Austrian National Socialist).

  • Taylor,
    I think you might be onto something there. The RCs were (are?) a massive influence in Spain. I suspect though rather than merely distributing food (and I am sure they did) they played a more fundamental, more basic role in being a source of stability in what were very treacherous times for all Europe. And bear in mind Spain is very provincial – being made-up of different groups, different languages. It isn’t exactly a unitary country.

  • llamas

    It’s always amused me when people discussing the Spanish Civil War dismiss the participation of German National Socialists as mere opportunism and a dreadful attempt to expand fascist hegemony, while at the same time lauding the heroic and selfless participation of militias dominated by various flavours of Soviet Socialists, whose only goals were brighter sunshine and more puppies.

    The ‘International Brigades’ were anything-but.

    Both sides wanted control of the Iberian peninsula, with abundant coastline access on the Med and the Atlantic, and with strategic domination of Gibraltar as the cherry on top. As others have noted above, Franco may have been a fascist, but we should be eternally grateful that he was a smart-enough fascist not to ally himself more than superficially with Nazi Germany.



  • Runcie Balspune

    the anti-Imperialist left

    Another element of cognitive dissonance, being anti-imperialist and siding with an entity that is hell bent on carving out an empire (a.k.a. caliphate).

  • Mr Ed

    Runcie B

    Didn’t the mass murderer Lenin say that imperialism was the highest form of capitalism? Ergo, if they are not capitalist, or not as capitalist as the West, they can’t possibly be as imperialist, and what is murder to a socialist apart from a one-way contact sport?

  • The only good outcome is probably not possible: Kurds wipes out the other Syrian militant forces.

    Juts look at the group of factions. It’s a who’s who of the “War on Terror.”


  • Regional

    The Republicans transferred Spain’s gold reserves to Moscow, Stalin didn’t even say thankyou.

  • Mr Ed

    The Republicans transferred Spain’s gold reserves to Moscow, Stalin didn’t even say thankyou.

    Indeed Regional, and I don’t think the Spanish have seriously asked for it back, as the Republicans got some weapons in return. And it may be that Stalin thought that the gold wasn’t enough, so perhaps he sent some Republican exiles off to look for more in Kolyma.

  • Jacob

    “The left had no problem with armed revolt against a democratically elected government in 1934 – when the rose against the moderate Republican government.”

    Neither has it any problem with violent revolt against elected governments now.
    Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, on leaving Argentine’s presidency”, after the “center-right” wing Macri won the last elections said to her supporters in an emotional farewell speech: “don’t hesitated to take to the streets is you feel betrayed by the new government”.

  • Jacob

    Franco saved Spain from communism. End of the story. Communism is a terrible plague, which all in eastern Europe, China, Cuba – had to endure for decades. Communism kills millions, tens of millions, not thousands. Anything that saves you from such a catastrophe deserves high praise. Winning the civil war in 1939 might not have been enough, you had to keep tight control to keep communism out.

    Both Franco and Pinochet saved their respective countries from communism, and led them to ultimate success and prosperity. (Same as South Korea’s dictators).

    In those days, and in ours too, communism uses violent and dirty methods to gain power, and then suppress all liberties and kill all adversaries. I doubt that communism could be contained by non-violent means.

    Franco and Pinochet were excessively violent and oppressive? Maybe. Maybe not. How much violence is “the right” amount? Show me the Utopia were you find the ideal dictator.

  • Jacob

    “But revolution, like war, is dirty, sad, monotonous, full of errors and even corruption, just like any other moment of life in any society.”

    Counter revolution too.

  • Jacob

    “Nothing will make me view Franco’s overthrow of a democratically elected government with approval”

    I invoke Godwin’s law….

    Suppose some military coup deposed the “democratically elected” Nazi regime in Germany, murdering several thousand nazis in the process, would you still oppose it?

  • Mr Ed


    Would it have been murder to kill those conspiring to get you killed or enslaved?

    Or would it have been self-defence, or defence of others?

    What is too remote a use of force to be lawful? Military forces get a lot of latitude here.

  • TDK

    Suppose some military coup deposed the “democratically elected” Nazi regime in Germany, murdering several thousand nazis in the process, would you still oppose it?

    Hitler wasn’t just democratically elected. He then passed an enabling act, merged his own position with head of state, banned opposition parties, locked up opponents, merged existing institution with Nazi equivalents. Being “democratic” is more than winning the ballot and a military coup in those circumstances is rather different.

  • Jacob

    Suppose there was a military coup immediately after Hitler was named prime minister, before he did all those undemocratic actions. Would it have been justified? Hitler did not hide his intentions – his programme was very clear and explicit.

    In Chile, the Senate declared Allende’s actions un-constitutional before Pinochet’s coup, so that coup even had some legitimate basis.

  • Jacob

    Mr ED, exactly. Our instinctive repulsion from the military regimes of Franco and Pinochet stem, mostly, from the overwhelming leftist vilification of them, and massive propaganda. In fact it was an act of national self defense, self defense against an immensely worse evil – the communist regime.
    It was a violent action – people were murdered by the thousands (tens of thousands in Spain). But most, if not all the murdered (or executed) were communists, who were using violence to impose their totalitarian regime on an unwilling population. (The communists murdered, in the territories they controlled in Spain, about the same number of people as the “fascists”.)

    And, even if the majority had wished to have a communist regime – it is still wrong, and still unacceptable, because of it’s utter disregard of human rights. You can’t justify a totalitarian regime by claiming “it is the will of the majority”.

  • Rich Rostrom

    TDK @December 11, 2015 at 9:27 am: Hitler wasn’t just democratically elected…

    The Reds in Spain also subverted the constitution they had won power under. They also had spoken openly of abolishing “bourgeois democracy”, though instead following the Soviet model. In the weeks between the 1936 election and the rebellion, they established a new national police force, the Assault Guard, staffed entirely by Red partisans.

    Just before the rebellion, a Red gang (including some Assault Guards) kidnapped and murdered a prominent conservative MP, the leader of the monarchist party.

    At what point does an “elected” regime forfeit legitimacy?