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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 March 2017

Non-fiction review - 'Spain in our hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War'

Precise, visceral account of working class heroism

photo Spanish Revolution/CC

photo Spanish Revolution/CC   (Click to enlarge)

William Jarrett, Newcastle Socialist Party

Left-leaning academic Adam Hochschild's remarkable latest work collects the visceral stories of Americans and Canadians who fought fascism as part of the 'International Brigades' in Spain's 1936-9 civil war.

Hochschild also emphasises the integral role that US and European corporate interests played in tipping the scales in favour of the insurgent fascist dictator Francisco Franco.

Diaries of combatants and medical staff, archives, eyewitness testimonies, enemy intercepts, telegrams, clandestine service reports. Internal records from the Texaco oil company, and to lesser extents the Chrysler and Ford motor companies. All were forensically analysed by the author.

Like Henry Ford, who expressed fondness for Adolf Hitler, Texaco oil baron Torkild Rieber was apparently a fanatical acolyte of Franco.

Harrowing

Readers also learn about the soldiers of Spanish Morocco, long exploited by Spain's colonial masters. The revolution's official leaders failed to support them with assurances of national independence, which weakened the revolution's strength.

The familiar exploits of towering literary figures like George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway are eclipsed by the harrowing experiences of extraordinary working class and middle class fighters. Labourers, academics, taxi drivers, and World War One veterans get the same dutiful storytelling as more famous participants.

Hochschild documents Francoism's horrific barbarity with precision. The dates, locations, and methods of fascist atrocities range from mass executions to the first episodes of destruction of entire cities by aerial bombardment.

He revisits Stalinism's betrayal of the revolutionaries in Spain. The civil war occurred parallel to the purges and show trials in the Soviet Union.

Hochschild goes out of his way to illustrate the persecution faced by the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (Poum). Poum's leaders came from a Trotskyist position - although also made fatal political errors, which this work does not deal with.

We're frequently reminded of the complete failure of US president Franklin D Roosevelt - and all the liberal capitalist democracies - to support the revolutionary Republic. They later abandoned or attacked the heroic International Brigade fighters.

The book elegantly concludes with thoughtful portrayals of these fighters struggling to reintegrate into their respective home nations, often persecuted. The twilight of their lives is a touching factor in Hochschild's tribute to the people who sacrificed so much for the cause of a socialist world.

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In The Socialist 22 March 2017:


What we think

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Socialist Party news and analysis

Tories scrap housing benefit for under-21s

Fight Tory attacks on women and children

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International socialist news and analysis

Northern Ireland: divisive election a warning

Jobstown Not Guilty: defend the right to protest

Netherlands: Heavy defeat for austerity government

Yemen: families left to starve by multinationals


Workplace news and analysis

Merseyrail guard found not guilty of "endangering safety"

End the seven-year public sector pay cap!

Aslef offer: unity needed with the RMT

Battle steps up in Unite general secretary election

Derby TAs' strike suspended after new offer

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

March against racism: Refugee Rights has lively bloc

We'll fight to save our NHS!

Biggest ever protest by Orgreave campaigners

Join the march against NHS cuts and privatisation in Cumbria

Battle for Wallsend walk-in NHS service

East London demonstration against A&E closure

Salford: International Women's Day meeting


Socialist readers' comments and reviews

"After seeing the branch's effect in the community, I decided to join"

'I'm writing this to tell you about the plight of disabled people'

Precise, visceral account of working class heroism

The Socialist inbox


 

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