EDITORIAL PERSPECTIVES (continued)
The two final battles of his political life centered around opposition to the
Vietnam war and the attempt to save the environment from the many threats it
faced and still faces, not the least of which is the vast arsenal of nuclear weapons. In
the forefront of the opposition to the war, Colodny wrote a powerful pamphlet,
Spain and Vietnam, published and distributed by the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, his comrades from the Spanish conflict three decades earlier. In it he
drew parallels with the struggles of the Spanish peasantry that underlay the
1936-39 war in Spain and the grievances of the Vietnamese peasantry, first against
French imperialism and then against the oppressive regimes, bloodshed and
environmental destruction that the Americans brought to Southeast Asia (Colodny,
1967b). Although Colodny lived to see the victory of the Vietnamese in their own
country, the creation of the global humane society he sought has not yet come to
pass. As David Montgomery stated at the 1997 Pittsburgh memorial session
(Montgomery, 1998): "the principles which Robert taught, and for which he lived
and volunteered to die, remain as vital and compelling [now] as they were in 1936.
It is up to us who remember him to carry forward the legacy of the owls."
Robert Colodny would surely have been pleased to see this issue of Science &
Society on the 1936-39 war in Spain in which he participated so valiantly, and
wrote and spoke about so eloquently. He probably would turn first to the memoir
of his comrade Carl Geiser, to whose classic work, Prisoners of the Good Fight,
Colodny contributed the Preface (Colodny, 1986). He would surely agree not only
with Geiser's memoir in these pages about the tasks of the generation of men and
women who fought fascism in the 1930s and 40s, but also with Geiser's companion
piece (not printed here, but available from the author in Corvallis, Oregon) about
the responsibility of the present generation to safeguard the environment and to
struggle against the remnants of fascism that survive into the 21st century. Geiser
served in Spain as the Political Commissar of the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion of
the International Brigades. Captured in the spring of 1937, he himself spent two
years in Franco's prisons, an experience which impelled him to write his book.
The three main articles in this issue, along with Geiser's memoir, discuss a
central issue of the Spanish conflict fascism. Gabriel Jackson, Professor Emeritus at the University of California at San Diego and author of the prize-winning
study, The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931-1939 (Princeton University
Press, 1965), gives an overview of the many meanings of the 1936-39 period, emphasizing the Franquista determination to put a halt to the Republic's social
reforms, and to crush Spanish liberalism and the left. Professor Paul Preston, author of an authoritative biography of Francisco Franco and many other books and
articles on the Spanish conflict, offers a vivid case study of an aristocratic fascist
officer whose political and social convictions passed over the line into insanity.
Helen Graham of the University of London, author most recently of The Spanish
Republic at War, 1936-1929 (Cambridge University Press, 2002), examines the
execution of a Republican woman who did not conform to the traditional role that
the fascists assigned to her gender, and the way in which Spanish historical memory
of this and other executions during the Franco years came to be revived. Graham
also contributes an important review article to this issue, described below.
Following Carl Geiser's memoir, our "Perspectives and Resources" section
continues with a methodological essay by Peter Carroll, Chair of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) and author of The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln
Brigade. Carroll, like Graham, analyses the usefulness and limitations of material
on the Spanish conflict in the collections of the former Soviet Union, and the distortions that are introduced when these documents are misused. Len and Nancy Tsou,
independent scholars, present previously unknown data on Asian volunteers in the
Spanish war, showing a neglected international dimension of that struggle. Paul
Mishler of Indiana University unearths and contextualizes a song by Woody Guthrie
written in honor of Abraham Lincoln Battalion Commissar Steve Nelson. And, of
special interest to scholars contemplating further work on the 1936-1939 conflict,
Michael Nash, Director of the Tamiment Library of New York University, summarizes the extensive Spanish Civil War holdings recently accessioned by this depository, now including the papers of Robert Colodny.
We also present a hitherto unpublished document, a 1938 letter by J. Edgar
Hoover dealing with the Spanish Civil War and the Americans who fought on behalf
of the Spanish Republic. The FBI chief, legendary for his tendency to demonize the
left (Schrecker, 1998, ch. 6) warned that on their return from Spain these volunteers
would teach military tactics in Communist Party schools in order to further by
armed insurrection their revolutionary aims in the United States.
The "Review Articles" section contains Helen Graham's analysis of the edited
book by Ronald Radosh, Mary R. Habeck, and Grigory Sevostianov, Spain Betrayed,
which forcefully counters that volume's "revisionist" attempted vindication of right-wing paranoia, presumably based on new materials from the Soviet archives. Graham examines the claims of Ronald Radosh and his coeditors that Stalin in the mid-1930s had assigned to Spain the role of creating the model for the post-World War
II "Peoples' Democracies" of Eastern Europe. Rightly dismissing this questionable
exercise in teleology, Graham instead reveals the genuine historical value of the
documents presented in this partisan collection, which its editors do not recognize.
In addition to Graham's essay on Radosh, et al., the "Review Articles" section
contains Cary Nelson's study of James K. Hopkins' Into the Heart of the Fire, an
important study of British volunteers in Republican Spain, an earlier version of
which appeared in The Volunteer (Nelson, 2001). Nelson engages the central interpretive issues raised by Hopkins' book, among them weighing the contradictory
evidence on the internal culture of the International Brigades, the validity of Popular Front antifascism, and the extent to which Stalinism shaped the experience of
the International Brigades.
The book review section contains analyses of books that deal with various
aspects of the Spanish conflict and the international participants in that conflict,
both from the left and in support of the Spanish right the franquistas. William
Loren Katz, noted author of books on African American history, who co-authored
with Marc Crawford The Lincoln Brigade: A Picture History (Apex Press, 2001),
describes the recent biography of Lincoln Brigade and World War II veteran Eddie
Carter, posthumous winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Along with Fraser Ottanelli and Chris Brooks, in 2004 Katz compiled a comprehensive study,
"African Americans in the Spanish Civil War," available at www.alba-valb.org/curriculum/index.php?module=2. Helen Shirley Mangini, Professor of
Spanish at California State University Long Beach, author of Memories of
Resistance: Women's Voices from the Spanish Civil War (Yale University Press,
1995), reviews both the English and Spanish editions of Paul Preston's Doves of
War, a study of women supporters on both sides of the conflict. Historian David
Messenger reviews a book on British and Irish volunteers who fought not on the
Republican side, but for Francisco Franco's "Nationalists" during the war.
(Messenger's review first appeared in the diplomatic history list-serve, H_DIPL),
May 2002, and is reprinted here by permission of H-Net Reviews, www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=300811022169179.) Finally, Annette
Rubinstein, member of the Science & Society editorial board, reviews Cary Nelson's
collection of Spanish Civil War poetry.
MARVIN E. GETTLEMAN
Science & Society
445 West 59th Street
New York, NY 10019
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