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SPAIN: THE LEGACY, THE CHALLENGE

From the perspective of the generations that came after the Spanish conflict and the huge worldwide movement in defense of the Republic, I welcome this remarkable group of papers, reminiscences, documents, and reviews. This special issue is less than a systematic history, but it is also much more: it reveals the rich interface between politics and psychology, between history and biography, on both sides of the war; it studies the ambiguities, contradictions and insufficiencies as well as the inspirational aspects of the Spanish Civil War; above all, it brings out some of the intensity of this early confrontation with fascism, and helps us to grasp its importance in shaping later events, right down to the present.

Many observers both at the time and later have pointed out the significance of the Spanish Civil War, and the International Brigades, as the first way many people were able to come to grips with capitalist power and domination, in the period of world capitalism's great 20th century socioeconomic and political crisis. Whether the enemy is defined as racism, anti-Semitism, fascism, or simply ruling-class reaction, the War — both for those who went to Spain and those who organized elsewhere to defend Spanish democracy — was a concentrated coming-to-terms, a turning point that transcends the gap between the "real" and the "symbolic." Given the arrogant and increasingly virulent imperial power rampant in today's world, as manifested in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Haiti, in Venezuela and elsewhere, the example of internationalism and farsighted solidarity shown by the many people who fought the good fight in — and for — Spain in 1936-39 is especially valuable. In that sense, this issue is much more than an exercise in historical scholarship — although it certainly is that.

We are, as always, indebted to the Guest Editors for this issue, Marvin Gettleman and Renate Bridenthal, for the great amount of effort spent in bringing this collection together. We hope readers will find the material informative and useful, and also that it will enhance the work being done by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives to transmit the legacy of this vital episode in the world progressive movement to future generations of fighters and thinkers.

D. L.

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INTRODUCTION

Robert G. Colodny: The Struggle Against Fascism at Home and Abroad

A university can never be more certain that it is properly functioning than when its faculty is accused of subversion, because then some entrenched idea is under assault and some traditional holder of power feels the tempest of new and renewing ideas.
— Robert G. Colodny, "Reflections on the Contemporary Problems of Liberal Education," University [of Pittsburgh] Times, December 10, 1970

THIS ISSUE OF SCIENCE & SOCIETY IS DEDICATED to the memory of Robert G. Colodny (1915-1997), one of our former editors, who, before beginning his academic career, volunteered to fight against fascism in that tragic prelude to World War II usually called the Spanish Civil War. In his posthumous memoir of Spain, published in the journal of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (Colodny, 1997), Colodny wrote of seeing André Malraux's inspiring 1937 description of the formation of the International Brigades to aid the Spanish Republic against the fascist uprising there and the support of the rightists by Hitler's and Mussolini's regimes. A dedicated anti-fascist, he then decided "that is where I am going to go" (Colodny, 1997). Momentarily enriched by earnings in a poker game, Colodny traveled from California to Chicago to sign up, and on to New York to sail on the Ile de France. From then, his story is broadly typical of the American volunteers: mobilized in Paris with others of diverse nationalities, traveling to the Spanish border disguised as a soccer fan, illegally crossing the Pyrenees by night, training briefly and then facing combat on the Jarama front. Severely wounded at Brunete in July 1937, Colodny received medical care at several hospitals, and — much to the surprise of his physicians — did not then die. Instead he was sent back into combat at Teruel, where in winter temperatures that reached twenty degrees below zero, he had a relapse. His military combat in Spain ended, he was sent to Barcelona and placed on a train to Paris, from where he returned to the United States. Later, recovered from his wounds, speaking at a Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade meeting in Chicago, Colodny told of his experiences in Spain and received warm acclaim from the audience. He realized that in delivering this talk he was doing "what professors do. I can become a professor," he concluded (Colodny, 1997).

Before he could gain the necessary credentials to commence his academic career, the world conflict began that, had the outcome of the Spanish War been different, might have been averted. Before enlisting again in the continued anti-fascist struggle, Colodny assisted in the preparation of the memorial volume for deceased Lincoln Battalion veteran James Phillips Lardner (Hemingway, et al., 1939), and then spent almost two years in Mexico working on an inter-American project to monitor Nazi political and commercial activity in Latin America (Colodny, 1990, 83; cf. Friedman, 2003). Joining the U. S. Army, where, after initial assignment to a radar unit protecting the west coast, Colodny found himself transferred to a military detention camp under a War Department policy of discrimination against American volunteers who had served with the Republican forces in Spain (see Carroll, 1994, ch. 19). Eventually, Colodny won release and spent the rest of the war in the Aleutian Islands, where he developed what one fellow soldier called "a one-man university of the air" on Armed Forces Radio. He also cooperated with another left-wing corporal stationed at the same base in remote Adak. He and the writer Dashiell Hammett edited a post newspaper, The Adakian, and prepared a pamphlet dealing with the early World War II years in the Aleutians (Colodny and Hammett, 1943). At war's end he had attained the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Returning to civilian life, Colodny enrolled at the University of California, received his B.A. in mathematics and chemistry, then went on to earn graduate degrees in history and philosophy. He was completing his doctoral thesis in 1949 when the Regents enacted the initial notorious California Loyalty Oath (on this oath, see Schrecker, 1986, 117-30), which illustrated the fragility of academic freedom in the United States. Colodny chose as a subject for his Ph.D. thesis the very Spanish conflict in which he had participated over a decade earlier. After graduation he spent several years filling temporary teaching and research jobs. Quite probably his initial lack of success in winning the secure professorial position he sought in the 1950s had much to do with the derogatory FBI material surreptitiously placed in his Berkeley placement file. Once he learned about this he demanded that his file be purged of the offending material. Then he found the job at the University of Pittsburgh which he held until his retirement in 1986.

A year before Colodny's arrival at Pitt, the book based upon his Ph.D. thesis, The Struggle for Madrid: The Central Epic of the Spanish Conflict (Colodny, 1958), appeared in print. The eminent scholar Gabriel Jackson pronounced this volume a "masterpiece of concision and objectivity," and observed that its author "was one of the few non-Spanish writers to take Spanish opinions seriously, not see the republican revolution and the civil war simply as instances to be evaluated solely by their similarities and differences relative to the French and Russian revolutions" (Jackson, 2002). Over a decade later Colodny published another book on the Spanish conflict: Spain: The Glory and the Tragedy. Evoking Hemingway, this work sought to make the new generation of radicals aware that they dare not "be indifferent to the bell which tolled for the people of Spain" three decades earlier (Colodny, 1970, 6). Its eloquent Chapter VII, a paean to Spain's "glory" during the era of the frente popular when the Spanish reformed their society and battled fascism, drew on the speech Colodny gave to the 1966 Socialist Scholars Conference, and which was subsequently published in Science & Society. "That the Spanish right, supported by the world counter-revolution, was able to abort this modest hope [for the survival of Spanish Republicanism] is one of the great crimes of the twentieth century, [one only] . . . partially redeemed by the fifty million dead of World War II" (Colodny, 1967a, 274).

Colodny's nearly 30-year tenure at Pitt began inauspiciously with a Pennsylvania state legislator accusing him of harboring "pro-Communist leanings." Soon afterward a "pistol-packing sheriff" delivered him a subpoena from HUAC during a lecture he was giving in Pitt's classroom tower, the Cathedral of Learning. Warned that the state legislature might cut off funds unless the University fired this politically suspect professor, the Chancellor, while declaring the University determined to "resist Communism," appointed a committee of influential corporate and academic figures to study the case. Based upon the committee's findings, the Chancellor issued a statement exonerating the accused professor of subversive tendencies, and reaffirming the University of Pittsburgh's commitment to academic freedom. Colodny attributed his victory to several factors: the waning of McCarthyism; the influence of the steelworkers union in Pennsylvania politics and society; support from leading Pittsburgh Roman Catholic liberals such as Father Charles Owen Rice; the courage of Pitt's Chancellor Edward Lichfield; and the influence of "prestigious corporate figures in the city" who told those agitating for a purge of the University to "back off and shut up." They complied (Colodny, 1990, 89-90; Alberts, 1987, ch. 23).

Colodny remained at Pitt for the rest of his academic career. Then, and on into his active retirement, he remained committed to the political and social principles he had adhered to as a young man. His students and colleagues found him accessible, understanding, supportive and always willing to address a teach-in. Labor historian David Montgomery remembered joining the Pitt faculty and gratefully experiencing "the warmth with which he and his family welcomed mine." Montgomery also recalled the collection of stuffed owls in the older man's university office. These symbols of wisdom represented Colodny's dedication to fostering the human capacity to understand rationally the physical and social circumstances of peoples' lives and his determination to act on his beliefs (Montgomery, 1998). A champion of egalitarian Enlightenment values, he passionately believed that the issues raised by scientific knowledge should not be debated and acted upon only by learned professors and technocrats, but by all people. An ardent supporter of the progressive labor and Civil Rights movements, Colodny also worked tirelessly for disarmament and world peace.




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