THE TRUTH ABOUT LAND AND FREEDOM - A VIEW FROM THE COMBATANTS
hariette at easynet.co.uk
Mon Apr 15 19:44:08 MDT 1996
>On Mon, 15 Apr 1996, Doug Henwood wrote:
> Ken Loach's superb "Land and
>Freedom" dramatizes how this took place in Spain.
Bill Alexander, an industrial chemist before he volunteer to fight in Spain
where he served in the anti-tank battery and later became commander of the
British Battalion, recently adressed a meeting in London (January 29, 1996).
Comrade Alexander started by explaining the importance of the Spanish Civil
War by pointing out that this war has important lessons for the struggle
He said that "it is no coincidence that at this time the books of George
Orwell are being produced by the bourgeoisie in several new editions, and it
was therefore important that progressive, anti-fascists and anti-racist
people act decisevely to put the record straight".
"The bourgeois ideological offensive taking place at the present time
explains the 2.5 million pounds supplied to Ken Loach from some dubious
quarters to enable him to make the film LAND AND FREEDOM, which so glorifies
certain anrachist factions which acted in a counter-revolutionary fashion
during the Spanish Civil War, and which so denigrates the real heroes of
that war - the Communists from Spain and other countries who fough for the
Republic - and the international working class movement, especially the
Soviet Union, and still that most deadly enemy of the bourgeoisie, Joseph
Comrade Alexander pointed out that the surviving members of the British
Battalion of the International Brigade had offered their services to Ken
Loach, but that he had rejected them.
Comrade Alexander gave the following summation of the Spanish Civil War as
seen by those who took part - and gave their heroic blood - in it:
"In North Africa the Spanish Army of Africa was stationed. This army had
considerable experience of war. The generals were in Spain and between them
and the army lay the Gibraltar straits. The Spanish Navy was on the side of
the Republic. Franco needed to get his troops across the water. Within 3
days the German Nazi Air Force provided all the air transport needed to
ferry the Army of Africa into Republican Spain. The result was a 3 year
long war, which would never had taken place if the "non-interventionists"
had prevented the fascist intervention and had given the Republic the right
to buy the arms it needed".
"Franco began to advance from Seville towards Madrid, the capital. What were
the tasks of the Popular Front government? It had no army, because the
Spanish Army had gone over to Franco. It had men of conviction and enourmous
courage, but no military training. So the Republican government had to
train an army, while at the same time Franco, helped by the Nazis, was
already advancing from the South towards Madrid".
"To counter this advance what was needed was a) organisation, and b)
weapons. Franco, incidentally secured his rear, as he advanced towards
Madrid, by the ruthless murder of everyone who oppossed him. He murdered
all the landless peasants who had taken over land in the South. In this
way, he was able to secure half of Spain in 3 months, leaving behind him a
trail of death and destruction".
"If Madrid had fallen the war would have been over and yet another country
would have been in the fascist camp. This would have reinforced the idea
that nothing could be done to prevent the advance of fascism. But Franco's
troops were stopped by the heroic people of Spain, untrained and poorly
armed as they were".
"The people of Madrid knew what fate awaited them if madrid had fallen, and
this strenghten their determination to stop fascism".
"Their victory over the fascists was a turning point of the war. Because of
this victory, in October 1936, the Republican government was able to fight
on until march 1939".
"Those two and a half years gave the democratic people of the world the
opportunity to learn lessons as to the true nature of fascism, to understand
what it meant, and to prepare for the fight against fascism that began in 1939".
THE INTERNATIONAL BRIGADE
"Who were the International Brigade". All over the world, men and women
felt that they could not stand aside from this contest, and from between 40
to 50 countries we came to the aid of Spain, on the side of the people".
"A few words about the people who came from Britain. We were called the
"Batallon Ingles" (the "English Battalion", even though it included people
>from the Commonwealth, to say nothing of others from many parts of Britain
outside the borders of England).
"In the fight to defend Madrid, the British Battalion played an important
role. Later, between Febraury 12 and February 14 1937, at Jarama, it had the
job, alonside others, of stopping the tremendous force armed by the Germans
"A four day battle took place: 161 of us were killed and nearly everyone was
injured. But the enemy did not pass!. We always mark that day because it
was the first battle in which we fought. We stopped Franco's attempt to
swing round and cut off Madrid from the rest of Republican Spain. I would
like to mention, in passing, the Italian Battalion of the International
Brigade, the Garibaldi Battalion: They really knocked hell out of
"The heroism of the people of Spain was beyond compare. So short of
equipment were they, that the fighters from Madrid used to go to the front
in tram cars. Their ability to hold out for so long against such
overwhelming odds, provides an important lesson of the power of the people
when united to fight for a just cause".
"To return to Ken Loach's film, it is clear from all I have said that the
most important front at the time of the events in his film supposedly take
place was the Madrid Front. Why did he not make a film about that? Why did
he not portray the exceptional heroism of the people of Madrid as German
shells fell all around them? That would have been a film worth making".
"Instead, Loach went to a remote village in Aragon, miles away from the
decisive front. The events in that part of Spain revolved around Barcelona.
In Barcelona, at the time that the fascist generals rose against the
Republic, the people stormed the barracks and took over the city".
"Having thus secured their position, they should have gone out of barcelona
to give support to those fighting the advancing Franco troops. But this,
they did not do because of the anarchistic and POUM leadership. They did not
fight at all".
"Loach decided to make his film in what was, in effect, a dormant front.
"During the events which ocurred in Barcelona - and hat are depicted in the
film - Franco was marching NORTH to try to take Madrid, and the nazis were
preparing World War II. They were bombing Guernica so that they could
assess the effect of mass bombing on a civilian population. You would never
have know these facts from seeing this film".
"Yet, it is important to see the events depicted in that film within that
very context. In Barcelona, while the grim struggle was going on elsewhere,
they had decided to stop fighting and to initiate collectivisation. They
did not want to organise a discplined army. They did not understand the
need for one. Frankly, the scene where the arguments were taking place about
collectivisation is quite pathetic when YOU REMEMBER THE FATE OF THE
COLLECTIVISED PEASANTS of the South of Spain who had been wiped out by
Franco in the early days of his advance".
"It is obvious that the order of the day was to stop Franco, and UNLESS and
UNTIL that had been done, all talk of collectivisation was futile".
WHERE DID KEN LOACH GET HIS IDEAS FROM?
"Not from the 2,400 who went to Spain from Britain to fight in the
International Brigades. It was illegal at that time to go to Spain to
fight, because of the Non-Intervention treaty. What one had to do was to go
to Paris on a non-passport trip, and then make one's way to Spain from there".
"Because of this illegality, it is impossible to know exactly how many
British people went to fight in Spain, but the approximate number is 2,400
of which 526 were killed. Who were these people? In the early days they
were mainly writers and artists who realised that fascism was a threat to
culture, because they knew that Hitler had been burning books. These people
also had the know-how to get out of Britain and get to Spain".
"It was only later on that miners, dockers, and generally the cream of
Britain industrial working class went out. They were joined by people who
were fighting against British imperialism - 27 from Cyprus, of whom nearly
half died in Spain, and 120 from the Irish Republic. Nurses and doctors
went too because fascism had to be defeated first before the Spanish people
could make up their minds as to what kind of government they wanted".
"Ken Loach, has therefore, confused the issue, and his film bears no
relation to reality. This is why the true picture must be shown".
WHY DID THE SPANISH PEOPLE LOSE?
"The main reason was those who enforced the policy of "non-intervention".
Our slogan, SAVE SPAIN SAVE PEACE was correct. If help had been given to the
Spanish Republic by the government of this country, if the movement had been
strong enough to defeat the fascists, then World War II would not had happened".
"Another of Loach's slanders is as to the role of the Soviet Union. The
Soviet Union wanted peace. For a short time, therefore, they went along with
non-intervention until they saw the reality of this "non-intervention",
wherupon they decided they had a responsibility towards the democratic peace
loving people of Spain. They sent help in the form of arms and food, and
they gave every possible help to the Spanish people".
"What was the role of the Soviet people who went to Spain? Ken Loach says
that they were murderers acting under Stalin's instructions. Well, I got
given a Soviet anti-tank gun. A Soviet instructor showed us what to do with
it. We were given Soviet rifles and he instructed us how to use them.
While the German planes involved in supporting Franco were piloted by German
pilots, Soviet instructors taught Spanish lads as airmen. Others were
taught how to drive tanks".
"In addition the Soviet Union suffered great losses in order to help Spain.
Its ships were bombed by Italian planes and sunk by German submarines. Some
people think that the Soviet Union should have done more, not realising how
much the Soviet Union actually did".
"Much of what it sent never arrived at its destination because of the
activities not only of the German and Italian fascists, but also because of
the activities of the "non-interventionists", such as France, who prevented
supplies destined for Spain from crossing French territory. In my opinion,
the Soviet Union did all it was humanly possible to do in the conditions
prevailing at that time".
"Why has Loach been given so much money to make such a film? Why is Orwell
being taught at schools as if he were a great author? It can only be
because the ruling circles in imperialist countries want to lower people's
vigilance against fascism".
"If you are going to fight fascism you have to realise that it is fascism
you fight at that time. You do not fight several other battles
simultaneously if that can be avoided".
"The second lesson of the Spanish Civil War is that you DO have to fight,
even it there is the possiblity of losing. You may lose, but if you do not
fight at the very first signs of fascism, YOU WILL DEFINITELY LOSE".
Bill Alexander's words - the words of a real hero of the proletariat of an
advanced country - are for us 1000000000000000000000 times more credible,
since they are signed with his, and his comrades blood, than all the
historiography of the NEW FASCISTS on the question of Spain. That is living
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