Friday, June 1, 2012

Searchlight smearing Anarchists - Paul Preston & "The Spanish Holocaust"

Nostromo | 14.03.2012 00:31 | Anti-racism | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements

The Hope Not Hate website run by Anti-Fascist campaign group Searchlight has published a review by Sam King of historian Paul Preston's new book "The Spanish Holocaust". Sam King states that "Preston makes it clear that the Anarchist CNT were as anti the Republic as the Fascists", and that claim is historically false...

The Hope Not Hate website run by Anti-Fascist campaign group Searchlight has published a review by Sam King of historian Paul Preston's new book "The Spanish Holocaust". The review states that Paul Preston's earlier book "The Spanish Civil War" has "eloquently portrayed the sacrifices that men and women from across the world made to fight Franco's brutal Fascist regime and the shadowy and sinister support he received from Hitler and Mussolini". The review goes on to say that Preston's new book is a "tour de force", which recounts "the tragic tales of men and women who took up arms against a military machine that wanted to crush all vestiges of democracy, humanity and secularism". While most people in the UK are disgusted by the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands murdered by the Fascist regimes of post-war South America, perhaps most importantly this book agrees with the many historians who estimate the number of Anti-Fascists that Franco butchered as being around 200,000. Even today Spanish people are struggling to obtain permissions to open Franco's mass graves and to identify the remains of their murdered relatives and loved-ones, while few people in the UK seem to have much idea of the sheer scale of the Fascist violence that occurred, with the connivance of our own government, so close to Britain. 

So far so good. The problem occurs however when Sam King states that, referring to the democratically elected Republican government that was overthrown by General Franco's Fascist uprising, "Preston makes it clear that the Anarchist CNT" (the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, which is still active today) "were as anti the Republic as the Fascists, viewing it as a bourgeoisie government". Whether this claim is one made by Paul Preston, or is a claim rehashed and not checked by Hope Not Hate, it's still false. Certainly elements within the Anarchist movement opposed alliances with Communist and liberal Republicans, preferring instead to pursue immediate and decisive social revolution, and arguably that did "destabilise the Republic" and "played right into the hands of the right wing", however brutal Communist oppression of Anarchists also played into the hands of the Fascists, with equally catastrophic results. Differences of historical interpretation aside however, the CNT helped form a Republican government in 1931, and even after the revolution of 1936, the CNT worked with other Republican groups, with Anarchist Federica Montseny becoming Minister of Health (and in fact Spain's first woman cabinet Minister), Anarchist Joan Peiró becoming Minister of Industry, Anarchist Segundo Blanco becoming Minister of Education, and militant Anarchist Juan García Oliver becoming Minister of Justice, in the very same Republican government the Hope Not Hate review says the CNT opposed. 

This response is written to remind Searchlight / Hope Not Hate that their intermittent smear campaigns against Anarchists aren't appreciated and won't go unchallenged, and to remind them that if they want to create an atmosphere of trust within the Anti-Fascist movement they need to stick to telling the truth. This response is not written from the point-of-view that Anarchist mistakes should go unchallenged however - it is for instance fashionable in Anarchist circles to lionise strong-arm men like militia leader Buenaventura Durruti, but somewhat less fashionable to admit that part of the reason the CNT was the largest and most successful Anarchist organisation EVER was because it contained strategically sophisticated pragmatists who were willing and able to pursue their ideals within the context of (relatively speaking) mainstream politics.