On this 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany…

Post date: 08/05/2015

To mark VE Day and the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazism, here's an extract from the current issue of the IBMT Newsletter (2-2015). Our photo shows Spanish Republican prisoners greeting Allied troops liberating the Mauthausen concentration camp in May 1945.


No equivalence between fascism and communism of the volunteers


By Jim Jump, IBMT Secretary


This May marks the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazism in the Second World War. Many International Brigaders and Spanish Republicans played a part in that great victory, whether as members of the Allied armed forces or as resistance fighters and partisans in Nazi-occupied Europe.


The Second World War saw the death of some 60 million people and unspeakable crimes against humanity. Its causes lay in the militar­ism of Europe’s fascist dictators and their poisonous ideology of political violence and racial superiority. The danger that fascism posed had been obvious to many people, not least the volunteers who went to Spain. It took longer for the political elites in Britain and elsewhere to realise it was a threat to their interests as well. 


Sadly today many of these historical truths are being distorted. In some countries of Eastern Europe and former parts of the Soviet Union, Nazi collaborators are now publicly honoured as “nationalists” and “freedom fighters”. Monuments to the International Brigades have been removed, along with those to the Red Army. Fascist insignia are openly displayed in street parades and demonstrations and, in the case of Ukraine, worn by pro-Western military units fighting separatist rebels.


In that same spirit of historical revisionism, in 2009 the European Parliament carried a resolution on “conscience and totalitarianism” condemning totalitarian crimes and calling for the recognition of communism, Nazism and fascism as “a shared legacy”.


Such attempts to equate communism with fascism must be rejected. Stalin’s Soviet Union committed terrible crimes against its own people – as indeed have many Western powers and allies against those who stand in the way of their ambitions. But the Red Army must take most of the credit for destroying the Nazi war machine. And communists had a proud role in the vanguard of the resistance movements that shared that victory.


Most International Brigade volunteers were communists. What’s clear from what they said and wrote is that they wanted a world free of fascism, anti-Semitism, social injustice and oppression. It is an insult – and a travesty of history – to compare people with these values to those who systematically exterminated millions of Jews, along with Roma and other ethnic and religious groups, and mass-murdered gays, the disabled, communists, trade unionists and Soviet prisoners of war. 

One of the tasks of the IBMT must surely be to challenge any such pernicious rewriting of history. We owe this to the anti-fascist volunteers who went to Spain from these islands and the 526 of them who in doing so gave their lives.


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