Skip to comments.The Man Who Punctured Communism’s Lies about the Spanish Civil War
Posted on 06/02/2015 1:29:04 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
In 1986, the liberal weekly The Village Voice had its offices picketed by aged left-wing protesters. What occasioned this protest was an interview columnist Paul Berman conducted with William Herrick, who had served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. According to Berman, Herrick, during the interview, decided to tell me things that he had never told anyone, not even his wife, about his time in Spain.
Asserting that the Brigade answered to the Communist chain of command, which included the GPU, Herrick recounted how he was indirectly warned after he mildly criticized the Party. As he was recovering from a throat wound, he was taken from his hospital bed and ordered to accompany a GPU execution squad, and to stand among them, unarmed, as the squad coolly put to death three Spanish leftists. But that was not his only startling revelation. The other involved the way Brigade Commander Oliver Law died in 1937.
Law was billed by the Communists as the first African-American soldier to command an integrated unit, and they peddled the story for years that he died heroically leading his men in a charge against fascist lines. Herrick said otherwise. He asserted that Laws own men killed him for incompetence and cowardice. Herrick heard this story second-hand from his best friends in Spain, Brigade soldiers Doug Roach (who was also black) and Joe Gordon, both of whom claimed to have taken part in the murder.
This assertion prodded the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who for years had maintained that they were heroic defenders of democracy, and not tools of Stalin into a wheezy protest. For Berman, it was a time-capsule moment. As they thrust their faces into mine and shouted and shook their fists, Berman could imagine what they had been like when they were disciplined liars and haters for Stalin in their heyday, the Thirties and Forties.
For Herrick, though, it was old home week, a continuation of their attacks on him ever since he very publicly left the Party over the HitlerStalin non-aggression pact in 1939. Thereafter, he earned their wrath with his attacks on the Brigade as willing accomplices of the Communist secret police, who were killing off anyone who criticized the Party.
By virtue of the sheer venom directed at Herrick, Berman designated him an American Orwell. This was apt. Herrick, like Orwell, became a fervent anti-Communist after witnessing the heresy hunts in Spain. Neither man ever stopped telling what really happened in Spain. Neither ever stopped reminding readers that Stalinism was another form of fascism.
But Herrick came from a much more revolutionary background than the middle-class, public schooleducated Orwell, and this would situate him closer to what was really happening in Spain. Born 100 years ago in Trenton, N.J., Herrick, in his memoir, Jumping the Line (1988), recounted his political journey from red-diaper baby to fervent anti-Stalinist. His parents, Jews who had fled Czarist Russia, were members of the American Communist Party. Above his crib hung portraits of Lenin. While other children wanted to grow up to be president or a sports star, Herrick wanted to be a Communist executioner, killing off opponents of the Bolshevik Revolution. By the age of 13, he was active in the Young Pioneers. As an adult, he was a dutiful Communist, fighting Jim Crow in the South and engaging in picket lines. His duties sometimes took a thuggish turn, as when he joined in smashing up Trotskyist and Socialist meetings.
In 1936, civil war broke out in Spain, when a mutinous army led by the Hitler-backed Francisco Franco fought against the legally elected leftist government of President Manuel Azaña. Along with his comrades, Herrick enlisted for the government in the Party-controlled International Brigades. Like Orwell, he began to notice that his comrades were disappearing under mysterious circumstances. One of these was Marvin Stern, who had a good combat record but made the error of criticizing the leadership capabilities of the American commanders in the Brigades. He was almost immediately removed from the lines, and his comrades were told not to ask questions about his fate. When Herrick nonetheless did ask a high-ranking Party official where Stern was, he was warned, In Party matters friendship doesnt count. The Party comes first.
But Herrick didnt heed the advice and even dared to criticize Communist policy. While he was recuperating from the throat wound, he made the mistake of expressing these sentiments to his then girlfriend, a nurse. She promptly reported him; thats when he was taken from his bed to watch the execution that haunted him for the rest of his life.
Invalided home, Herrick experienced repression from American Communists. Because he dared to attend a speech by the Socialist but anti-Communist Norman Thomas, he was fired from the Communist-controlled furriers union. Still, Herrick thought of himself as a Communist, albeit one with doubts. These doubts became certainties when Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin signed their non-aggression pact in 1939. Disgusted with the way the Party defended this action, Herrick resigned and never looked back. He immediately took to the streets, picketing outside the furriers union office and waving a placard that proclaimed himself the the first victim of the Pact.
Although he spent the rest of his life fighting the myth promulgated by the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB) that they were liberals defending democracy in Spain (he even went so far as to reluctantly testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in the McCarthy days), Herrick didnt document what he knew until years later, with the publication of the novel Hermanos! (1969). In many ways, this is the fictional counterpart to Orwells Homage to Catalonia, the latter an autobiographical account of the British writers time as a soldier in Spain. Herrick also criticizes the Communists, through the voices of two characters, Jake Starr and Joe Garms. Through Starr, a hard-line Communist sanctioned by Moscow to execute heretics, Herrick shows the reader the terror tactics of Stalin. Through Garms, we are witness to the military incompetence of Communist-appointed commanders, who are well versed in the dialectic but know nothing of military strategy; this choosing of commanders on the basis of politics causes dissension and criticism in the ranks (commissars are nicknamed comic stars). But those who openly criticized them were assured a bullet in the back of the head.
Not only does Hermanos! recall Homage, but by thinking himself into the mindset of a secret policeman, Herrick is also emulating Orwells feat in the creation of OBrien. The major difference between the two is that OBrien flourishes with each murder, retaining his prizefighters physique. However, Starrs necessary murders are destroying him. In the beginning, he finds comfort in Communist orthodoxy, in which morality and truth must be put on hold until the revolution is achieved. Even his awareness that his victims have been framed doesnt faze him at first: Riffling through the case files, he doesnt find one tittle of fascist propaganda or one Trotskyite or even anarchist. He is able, however, to counter these facts with an Orwellian bit of double-think when focusing on an anti-Communist leftist: Even if hes telling the truth, hes lying, because he doesnt understand the concrete truth of the Party. Hes an objective fascist and must be silenced.
But this helps only so much. Each succeeding execution eats into him: [H]e couldnt help thinking that when human life is purchased cheaply, the purchaser begins to find his own life cheap, and with a lowering of value comes a brutalization of feeling.
After getting his hands dirty by murdering an innocent socialist who denounced the Party for betraying the Spanish working class (the socialist tells Starr that socialism withers when the Communists come near it), Starr mentally and physically starts to crumble. He begins to itch uncontrollably, cant eat or sleep, and has to summon his true love to get him through the night. Communist rationalizations are no longer effective, as the corpses pile up. By the end of the book, when he has secured his death sentence by getting four dissidents out of Spain, he amends La Pasionarias famous statement, It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees, to read, It is better to die for liberty than live in the sewer.
Like Orwell, Herrick captures perfectly the Bizarro World atmosphere of these heresy hunts. When two Americans asked the trigger-happy commissar André Marty (who once boasted that he had executed 500 men) for a poncho to bind a comrades head wound, Marty called them fascists accustomed to luxury and wealth and threw them into prison. (In Moscow at about the same time, a young woman was sent to the Gulag for dancing with a visiting jazz band.)
Starr is not alone in being eaten by the treachery of the Party. One soldier is ordered to dig a grave for a mysterious corpse; aware that this is probably an innocent but questioning soldier, he still says nothing, the reason being that he is too near a grave.
Starr also lambastes the Party for appointing military commanders on the basis of their political reliability rather than any military skill. At one point five machine-gunners are sent out when only one weapon actually works, and the soldiers are so poorly trained they dont know not to bunch up when going over the top. Starr complains to a Russian general that they are fighting the stupid war of Verdun. To his shock, the general reveals the real reason the Soviets are in Spain: This Spain is only a game. What do we care what happens here? What are important are the lessons we learn to take home to the Red Army.
By the storys end, Starr has changed so much that he can no longer continue his work. In a reversal of Winston Smith, he now loves a woman more than the Party. Getting her and four American soldiers out of Spain and thus out of range of the NKVD, Starr retains his anti-fascism and seeks a more honorable way of expressing it by fighting at the front. But this only forestalls the inevitable; his name now on a death warrant, he is executed when he tries to leave Spain.
It is apparent why the VALB hated Herrick so. Like Orwell, he was an unwelcome truth-teller. His revolutionary background made it difficult to portray him as a Quisling. His anti-Communism was problematic for them; unlike many, he did not leap to the right. Nor was he a McCarthyite; early on, he denounced the senator as a prick who was destroying the anti-Communist cause. While in an audience mourning the dead senator, Herrick was the only one who refused to stand and observe a moment of silence.
Still, his old comrades tried. Even today, years after his own death, his version of Oliver Laws death is still being attacked. This time around the attacker is Professor Grover Furr, who is perhaps, apart from Vladimir Putin, the foremost current defender of Josef Stalin.
Grover Furr "He was listed by Conservative commentator David Horowitz as one of the "101 most dangerous academics in America."
"What do the political battles in Wisconsin and the Spanish Civil War have in common? A disturbing characteristic.
The Spanish Civil War is one of those events that are on the way to becoming forgotten history. The term "civil war" is a bit misleading, since the conflict internationalized itself in short order, with Hitler and Mussolini lining up with the rebels, or "Nationalists", and Stalin backing the "Republicans" (actually a motley gaggle of various left-wing elements). The dictatorships utilized Spain as a proving ground for new tactics and weapons, including the Me-109, fighter-bomber, the Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber, along with Rotte fighter tactics and area bombing raids, such as that carried out against Guernica. The war ended in 1939 with the defeat of the Republicans, even as World War II was looming. The Germans learned quite a lot in Spain that they applied to the Blitzkrieg campaigns against Poland and France. (Uncle Joe might have picked up a few things if he hadn't decided to have most of the officers sent to Spain shot on their return.)
Something similar, though on a much lower key (no massacres or bombing raids yet) has been occurring in Wisconsin over the past few months: a nearly open civil war instigated by the left in order to test an array of new tactics.
Last February, newly-elected governor Scott Walker signed a budget containing minor reforms aimed at the public-employees unions. Union members would be required to pay small amounts into their pension and health-care funds. Collective bargaining was curtailed on this and other matters in order to assure that these reforms would remain permanent......."
Even as he wrote that piece, J.R. Dunn didn't think a 2nd Obama term was possible....but it happened. But he saw something that we're watching now as we're coming up to the 2016 election and the very divisive tone that has been set and nurtured (as he points out in his piece) by the Democratic Party.
Don’t forget that the NY Times is also a fervent defender of Stalin.
>>In many ways, this is the fictional counterpart to Orwells Homage to Catalonia, the latter an autobiographical account of the British writers time as a soldier in Spain.
If you haven’t read Homage to Catalonia, I strongly recommend it. It’s a short read, and these are the real life experiences that led directly to 1984 and Animal Farm.
I’ll have to pick up this book.
"..... The Obama administration has handed the Castro regime a significant political win in return for nothing, Boehner said. Removing the regime from the State Departments list of state sponsors of terror is just the latest example of this administration focusing more on befriending our enemies than helping our allies, but fortunately it will have little practical effect.
Only Syria, the Sudan and Iran remain on the list.
Cuba was added to the terror list in 1982, accused by the U.S. of providing support to terrorist organizations in Latin America, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
But the State Department admits those ties have "become more distant." Last December, President Obama announced the State Department would be reviewing Cubas designation and the president officially requested Cubas removal April 14, days after meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas...."
"........... Eric Holder has had a very impressive career. He graduated from Columbia Law School, served as a city judge in D.C., was a federal prosecutor, and then deputy attorney general under Janet Reno.
But two of his final acts at the Justice Department are simply unpardonable: the infamous pardons of Marc Rich and the FALN terrorists. The Justice Department Office of Pardon Counsel (OPC) evaluates requests for a presidential pardon. OPC considers evidence that the conviction was wrong or the sentence unjust, usually requiring a convicted person to have served five years of their prison sentence.
But Holder helped Rich evade that process. Marc Rich, a billionaire, had been indicted of 65 counts of tax evasion and arms-dealing with Iran. He fled to Switzerland, where he lived an extravagant lifestyle. Holder personally worked with Richs attorney to get the pardon directly to then-president Clinton. Holder made clear that he did not oppose the pardon, while Richs wife was giving over $400,000 to the Clinton Library. She also raised significant money for the Democratic party and Hillary Clintons Senate race. President Clinton granted the pardon.
The pardon looked far worse than a bad idea. It looked like corruption. It looked like malfeasance in office selling out justice for potential personal gain.
As bad as that is, the FALN pardons where worse. Sixteen terrorists of the FALN group were imprisoned for felonies involving bombs, guns, robbery, and sedition. But in 1999, Eric Holder facilitated President Clinton commuting their sentences.
These were unrepentant terrorists. America is now at war with terror, and yet when we imprisoned over a dozen confirmed terrorists involved in bombings and other terrorist acts, the man who would be our top official against acts of terror helped convince the president of the United States to let them go. Whatever the consequences of that act may have been in 1999, in 2008 it should be political suicide.
But evidently Obama has decided it is not. And that tells us two things about our next president...."
February 2008: The Clintons' Terror Pardons
".....Hillary Rodham Clinton was in the midst of her state-wide "listening tour" in anticipation of her run for the U.S. Senate in New York, a state which included 1.3 million Hispanics. Three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- Luis V. Gutierrez (D., Ill.), Jose E. Serrano, (D., N.Y.) and Nydia M. Velazquez, (D., N.Y.) -- along with local Hispanic politicians and leftist human-rights advocates, had been agitating for years on behalf of the FALN cases directly to the White House and first lady.
Initial reports stated that Mrs. Clinton supported the clemencies, but when public reaction went negative she changed course, issuing a short statement three weeks after the clemencies were announced. The prisoners' delay in refusing to renounce violence "speaks volumes," she said.
The Clintons were caught in an awkward predicament of their own making. The president had ignored federal guidelines for commutation of sentences, including the most fundamental: The prisoners hadn't actually asked for clemency.
To push the deal through, signed statements renouncing violence and expressing remorse were required by the Justice Department. The FALN prisoners, surely relishing the embarrassment and discomfiture they were causing the president and his wife, had previously declined to accept these conditions. Committed and unrepentant militants who did not accept the authority of the United States, they refused to apologize for activities they were proud of in order to obtain a clemency they never requested.
So desperate was the White House to get the deal finalized and out of the news, an unprecedented 16-way conference call was set up for the "petitioners" who were locked up in 11 different federal facilities so that they could strategize a response to the president's offer. Two eventually refused to renounce their cause, preferring to serve out their lengthy sentences rather than follow the White House script......."
What a waste of a human life. He could have studied the Constitution his entire life and fought for it, non-violently, at home. But these Europeans went straight from the old country to America without ever learning anything about America. I don’t think you can find in the entire writings of Emma Goldman a paragraph about the Bill of Rights or the Constitution.
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