69

The veterans we forget


 

You who will emerge from under the flood

In which we have gone under

Remember

When you speak of our failings

The dark time too

Which you have escaped

– Bertolt Brecht, To Those Born Later

This morning, at cenotaphs and memorials across the country, Canadians will honour and remember those who fought and died in two world wars, in Korea, Afghanistan, and in several peacekeeping operations. This is as it should be. I’ll be there, too.

But there are those who few will remember today, though more should. On August 24, 1944, the first Allied tanks to enter Paris belonged to General LeClerc’s Free French. The names painted on the vehicles, however, were Spanish: Guadalajara, Ebro, Teruel.

Their crews were also Spaniards. They were among the thousands of Spanish Republicans who joined the French Resistance or the Free French after their own country fell to fascism following three years of civil war that began when General Francisco Franco launched a coup d’etat with the assistance of Hitler and Mussolini and ended only months before Hitler invaded Poland.

Those Spaniards are rarely acknowledged. That the Western Democracies, Canada included, refused to come to the assistance of the Spanish Republic, instead sacrificing it in a vain attempt to appease European fascism is an uncomfortable thing to remember.

Also forgotten are the 40,000 volunteers from around the world who defied their governments and volunteered to defend Spain from fascism by joining the International Brigades. These included some 1,700 Canadian, of whom 400 died. None has a marked grave.

One of the best books about the war is Javier Cercas’s Soldiers of Salamis, which, like the best fiction, captures a larger truth. Those interested in the story of the Canadians in the conflict could do worse than to read my Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War.


 

The veterans we forget

  1. "That the Western Democracies, Canada included, refused to come to the assistance of the Spanish Republic, instead sacrificing it in a vain attempt to appease European fascism is an uncomfortable thing to remember."

    The Soviet Union supported the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. At least 6,832 priests and religious were martyred, including 13 bishops by those same Republicans. The Spanish Civil War was a proxy war between the Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union.

    There is nothing whatsover uncomfortable about Canada not participating in the Soviet Union's dirty work. The twin evil regimes were fighting their ideological battles at Spain's expense. Canada had no business there.

    What should make people uncomfortable is their forgetfulness of the crimes committed by the Soviet Union.

    Lest we forget, indeed.

    • There is nothing whatsover uncomfortable about Canada not participating in the Soviet Union's dirty work.

      Astonishing. You're proud of us having stood by and watched fascists take over Spain, yet you would probably call opponents of our Afghan mission and of America's mythical "War on Terror" a bunch of "appeasers".

      I wonder, given your scruples against forming a temporary alliance with Stalin in Spain, whether you feel we sullied ourselves during our long and abiding alliance with Stalin during the Second World War, during which our American friends sent untold millions in Lend-Lease to the "Evil Empire" to help it crush the Wehrmacht in the East.

      • The perniciousnes and viciousness of the Soviet Union's crimes is the great untold story of today.

        Even Obama didn't think it worth his while to visit Berlin to celebrate the coming down of the Berlin Wall. Because the Nazis were bad, while Communist Russia had there heart in the right place but didn't know how to go about implementing their laudable socialist goals. That's a lie. Communist Russia caused untold human misery. Both regimes were evil. Entering a proxy war between two evil regimes made no sense. No sense at all.

        As for the tactical alliance with Stalin, well, we were both at war with Nazi Germany, at the time the bigger threat. I fail to see any similarity between that and entering the fray in Spain in the late 1930's.

        • …we were both at war with Nazi Germany, at the time the bigger threat. I fail to see any similarity…

          Are you saying Germany was not a threat in 1933-1936? Are you aware that you are literally using the language of Chamberlainesque appeasement–the language that got the world into WWII?

          Nazi imperialist arrogance could have been crushed in Spain in the mid-Thirties by a determined act of will on the part of the democratic West though a tactical alliance with a Soviet-friendly and non-expansionist Spanish regime. This would have prevented the need for a much wider and much more degrading alliance during the Second World War–an alliance through which the U.S.S.R. managed to gobble up vast chunks of Eastern Europe (with the happy consent of FDR/Truman and their pro-Stalin advisers) and oppress their inhabitants.

          Your attitude is precisely what allowed Stalin to execute his" perniciousnes[sic] and viciousness". It is retroactive pro-Nazi appeasement that also manages to be implicitly pro-Stalin.

          • "Nazi imperialist arrogance could have been crushed in Spain in the mid-Thirties by a determined act of will on the part of the democratic West though a tactical alliance with a Soviet-friendly and non-expansionist Spanish regime."

            It's a fool's game to make such categorical retroactive historical assertions. The Soviet Union was if anything as expansionist as the Nazis and remained a threat to the west well into the 1980's.

            You live in a black and white world Sir Francis. If only we all had your genius and a laboratory all would be right with the world.

          • Until your last sentence, that was an interesting and adult debate.

          • Everybody: let's remember what day it is, and keep the conversation civil, eh?

            Jarrid:

            It's a fool's game to make such categorical retroactive historical assertions.

            I don't think it's a "fool's game" to assert, retroactively, that the West's policy of appeasement was disastrous; in fact, it's an historiographical (and commonsensical) consensus. Also held by consensus is the fact that the Spanish Civil War and Mussolini's depredations in Abyssinia were catastrophically missed opportunities to batter and humiliate the world's two most aggressive and dangerous fascist leaders. Endorsing the West's inertia during those crises seems to me tantamount to endorsing appeasement. I'm not saying that to be insulting; I just can't see any way out of that conclusion.

          • 2) Needless to say, without his successful Western campaigns, Hitler could not have attempted his invasion of Russia. Thus, the next point follows from the first. Without the need to face Operation Barbarossa–something which injected badly needed discipline into a rotting military infrastructure (which had proven itself barely able to invade Finland a year earlier) and triggered massive American aid–Stalin's forces would have remained the under-funded, ineptly-led amateur army it was in 1940. The Soviets would never have had either the opportunity or the means of re-constructing their military network along modern and imperialist lines. It was the war that gave them that imperative. Without the war, Soviet designs on Eastern Europe would have remained utterly impotent, and any attempt to execute those designs would have resulted in Western intervention–by fresh, well-equipped and well-motivated troops, not the exhausted, depleted, burnt-out Commonwealth and U.S. troops who had no choice but to sit and watch Stalin have his way with Mitteleuropa.

          • In the interests of more arm-chair, historiographical retroactivity, here are some points to ponder:

            1) How would Hitler have goaded the OKW and the German populace into war with Poland and France after having had his Condor legion wiped out in Spain? Without the halo of success and valuable tactical lessons learned from his Spanish adventures, where would Hitler have gained the skills, prestige and national support he needed even to advance into the Sudetenland?

          • Failure to blunt the force of fascism as an exportable commodity and to humiliate its leaders in the eyes of their enthusiastic populaces was a direct cause (perhaps the cause) of a wider war that claimed the lives of millions.

  2. The Spanish Republic has a reputation that it doesn't deserve. The Popular Front government may have been elected, but it was not democratic. It was a revolutionary socialist government that disregarded the constitution and repressed its political opponents. Franco was wrong; this doesn't mean that his opponents were right.

  3. From Canada the MacKenzie-Papineau battalion consisting of Communists and Stalinist sympathizers went and fought in the Spanish Civil War.

    In 1994 Bob Rae, as Ontario Premier, dedicated a plaque to them mounted on a large stone outside the Ontario Legislature. Pinko Bob Rae, saluting his commie friends doing dirty deeds as Soviet dupes.

    Maybe the Liberals should stick with Iggy after all. Rae's a disgrace.

    • Of course, they were every bit as Canadian as you. I would venture that at least third of those brave Canadians who fought in two world wars were trade unionists, Wobblies, socialists, progressives, etc. In your world, we would only celebrate the true blue who fought (if they're rich papas hadn't found them a safe command-staff job), and ignore the sacrifices of the southern and eastern European immigrants, union/labour types and Western Canadian "pinko" farmers who did the grunt work of soldiering. Fortunately, we don't live in your world. We live in the real world, where not everyone who fights for a cause or serves their nation in other capacities does so for the same reasons or holds a monolithic worldview, intolerant of others.

    • PS: Troll.

    • Jarrid you are one ignorant, judgemental and self-righteous jerk.

      • And that, folks, is what I call ironical.

  4. The Spanish Communists were certainly not heroes, and the fact that some Canadians went to help them is a disgrace. We should remember them, true, but more as an example of misplaced zeal.

    The forgotten Canadians I'd rather remember are those 30000 who volunteered to fight in Viet Nam in an attempt to defend an innocent people from the ravages of Communist tyranny. They are rarely, if ever mentioned in the media, and they showed true courage.

    • 30000? where do you get that number?

      • He's probably talking about those who volunteered for the US forces. Oddly he's probably right, but not for the reasons he asserts. We shouldn't make blanket judgements of those who volunteer to fight for a cause – which is what he's doing. Most of the Canadian's who fought in either war went believing they were doing the right thing at the time. The fact thet they may not have been right is for the historians to sort out.

    • "Misplaced zeal" is an apt description for the thousands who signed up to fight in WWI (a ripping good adventure, King and Country, what what), including entire high school graduating classes and wet behind the ear university students. They died in trenches by the thousands and in hospital wards by thousands more. Sadly, today we have twisted an observance of the Armistice that ended the senseless bloodshed, the silencing of the guns, into jingoism. We see the poppy as a symbol of patriotism and martial pride rather than as a vivid reminder of the blood shed and young lives cut short. "Lest we forget" once meant, let's remember how vile and senseless war is; that it is the result of our abject failure to find other outcomes.

      The very idea that you "would rather remember" one group of veterans over another, based on your assumptions that they shared your political biases, is telling. And doubly sad, today.

      • I would rather be inspired by those who fought for a good cause than be saddened by those who fought for an evil one.
        This is not commentary on their motives, merely on their actions.

        • You've just defined amorality. The morality of an action is dependent upon the motives of the actor.

          • Yes, and yet one can still consider the action apart from the motives. People do bad things with the best intentions all the time. One can therefore comment on the goodness of an action without assessing the motive of the actor. This is not amorality – it's called "giving the benefit of the doubt".

  5. Not to worry, guys. Some day PM Jason Kenny will unveil a monument to the Contras.

    In Spain, 35,000 volunteers from 53 nations. Orwell, Bethune, Hemingway included.

    Herbert Matthews (reporter, NYT)- "nothing so wonderful will ever happen to me again as those
    two and a half years in Spain …In those years we lived our best,and what has come after and what is to come can
    never carry us to those heights again"

    • Where there's a discussion of innocent blood being shed for a good cause, Sisyphus pipes up with a comment

      • It seems you're abrogating to yourself the right to say who was innocent.

        • Communism's victims were innocent. The same as Nazi's victims.

        • I was afraid you'd say that.

  6. "I would rather be inspired by those who fought for a good cause than be saddened by those who fought for an evil one."

    Astounding how people like you can appropriate the role of God the judge. Why don't you at least have the decency to preface such an assertion with IMHO?

    • I think Gaunilon is performing a rare service by reminding us that there were many, many Canadians who sympathised with Fascism — as there are still some like him who, astonishingly, sympathise with it today. The struggle in Spain is in many ways not over.

    • Everything I post is my honest opinion. It would be redundant to say so every time.

      If I were assuming the role of "God the judge" I would be judging intentions as well as actions. This is precisely why I try not to do so. But unlike intentions which are visible onto to God, actions are visible to everyone. Therefore everyone with a basic understanding of right and wrong can assess actions.

      In this case, there was Communism versus Fascism. Neither side was particularly good. There is a tendency today to whitewash the ills of Communism, but the facts are that Communist societies have routinely engaged in mass slaughter of their own citizens. The Spanish Communists were no exception; in particular they went after (and by "went after" I mean "captured and then executed with a bullet in the back of the head" and "locked in churches which were then burnt to the ground") Catholic nuns, priests, and anyone else deemed a threat to the Communist worldview. This was an evil regime, and therefore fighting for the Spanish Communists was wrong.

      Do you have a problem with this argument that goes beyond "you pretentious judgmental snot, stop judging people"? If so, please present it. I'm sure you'd have no hesitation in judging the actions of the Blue Division of Spanish volunteers who went to help Hitler's Germany, so why do you have a problem with judging the similarly problematic actions of the Canadians who went to help Spanish Communists?

      • Obviously the difference is that Communism's ideology, though (as you say) hardly its reality, was a vision of universal human brotherhood, equality, and justice. Fascism's was the opposite: a nightmare world in which might would have made right, caste was institutionalised or pseudoscientifically justified, and race warfare was glorified. The Fascists made no bones about that; they didn't pretend to be peace-loving democrats; they mocked human equality and social justice whenever they could. The upshot is that those who went to fight for Fascism did so because they loved the idea of a nightmare world; while those who went to fight for the Spanish Republic — who were not all Communists, by the way — loved the dream of social justice and human brotherhood. Or so I think as someone who is only halfway through Mr. Petrou's first chapter.

        Your facile equation of the Spanish Republic and Hitler's Germany shows how shallow and historically unimaginative you become as soon as "Communism" is mentioned.

        • What tripe you utter Jack.

          Mass executions are O.K. if done with "a vision of universal human brotherhood, equality, and justice."

          You should change your avatar. You're sullying Orwell's memory.

          Communism killed more people and caused more misery than any political system last century. We recently celebrated the destruction of its most visible ugly monument – the Berlin Wall – for precisely that reason. Oh, there's the hangers-on, I guess you're part of that crew, who pooh-pah the Soviet Union's crimes as "mere abuses". 100,000,000 million victims of Commmunism's version of "social justice and human brotherhood".

          Lest we forget.

          • Jarrid you're either a dishonest debater or you don't actually read what your opposite has written. Where has jack asserted that mass executions are ok? Are you seriously suggesting that the canadian volunteers willing participated in these executions? Jack's simply made the point that the motives of those who went to fight for the fascists and the SR couldn't be more different. With hindsight it's possible to say the Rep vol's may have been naive. I'm not even sure that's fair since you can only judge motives or actions within their own time. In 1935 it was not widely known that Stalin was a monster – if you believe Orwell it was the war that opened his eyes. Try reading Jack's last sentence, it applys equally to you.

          • This, interestingly enough, is a blanket judgement of people's intentions. No one knows what motivated individual Blue Division volunteers to help Hitler. Probably there were a range of motivations, some good and some bad. All we know is that their action was wrong.

            Similarly, we can't judge the intent of those who fought for the Spanish Communists. Some were probably anarchists, others Communists, others idealists, others militant atheists, etc. But given that they were fighting for a murderously repressive regime their action was wrong.

            Interestingly, you mention that many didn't know how evil Stalin's regime was in 1934. That may be true (although I doubt it). What is certain is that many didn't know how evil Hitler's regime was. What everyone (in Spain) did know, however, was how evil the Spanish Republic was. There were enough massacres and political executions of people whose only crime was their religion to make that obvious.

          • Are you actually illiterate, jarrid, or just playing dumb?

          • Fighting for regimes that liquidated people for self-righteous motives is more noble somehow? I don't agree. It just allows the killing to continue for a longer period, as it did in Russia, China and other places unfortunate enough to be subjected to these monstrous regimes.

            To this day people are woefully ignorant of the utter savagery Soviet Russia visited on it's own people. A good place to remedy this would be to read "The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression", originally written in french but subsequently translated in english.

          • I'm not woefully ignorant of the savagery of the Soviet Union. Compared to yourself, I'm not woefully ignorant of much of anything.

            We are talking of 1936, right? Any idea how little known the USSR was in the West in 1936? Owing to the, you know, North Korean-style total control of information? The Ukrainian famine wasn't known; the show trials were still to come; only a Western socialist of higher than average discernment grasped that the thought control and hypocrisy of the Communist party would necessarily profound humanitarian consequences. People like André Gide, George Bernard Shaw, etc., would visit the USSR and report back, perceiving (in spite of their NKVD chaperones' no doubt best efforts) that something was dreadfully askew; but that idea had not trickled down to the ordinary working-class Communists, who honestly believed in a better world.

            And, yes, absolutely, it makes a serious difference whether you think you're fighting on behalf of human brotherhood or if you think you're fighting on behalf of a racially polarised 1000-year nightmare. I would never have joined the Communists, myself, but I would probably have gone to fight in Spain. Given a choice between the liberal-democrat-anarchist-Catalan-Communist alliance on the one hand and Mussolini and Hitler's favourite proxy, there's no question where a decent man's allegiance should have lain, or should still lie. We are talking about an enemy which, as soon as it could, gassed six million Jews. On your conscience be it if you start playing games of moral relativism with such stark facts as that.

          • If you had gone to fight for the Communists in Spain Jack, you would have been fighting for people who committed, and possibly participating in yourself, purges of civilians.

            I'm afraid I don't buy the argument that Communists believed in "a better world" because it seems to me that Communists that embraced violence (like in Spain or Russia) generally believed that the ends justified the means, no matter how bloody they get. It is true Hitler would gas 6 million Jews as soon as he could, but the Communists would purge tens of millions to achieve their goals as well.

            If there was a case to be made for interventionism in Spain during the civil war, I don't see how it could involve intervening on one side or the other. I think neutrality during the conflict, and a refusal to honour those who participated in that bloody conflict, are perfectly acceptable ethical positions.

          • "If there was a case to be made for interventionism in Spain during the civil war, I don't see how it could involve intervening on one side or the other. I think neutrality during the conflict, and a refusal to honour those who participated in that bloody conflict, are perfectly acceptable ethical positions."

            This is exactly the kind of pacifism that Orwell spent four years deploring. If the Spanish Civil War was a sideshow in a far-off country of which we know little, that's one thing — though one can argue whether it was beneficial to the Allies of WWII that they had let a major European country go fascist on the eve of hostilities; but Orwell's point would be that in the struggle between fascism and democracy it is impossible to remain neutral, and if the Spanish Civil War is interpreted as a conflict between fascism and democracy in some form, to remain neutral is objectively to side with the stronger party in the struggle — in this case, with Franco.

            I would emphasise again that the Republican side in Spain was not exclusively dominated by Communists and that, as a matter of fact, almost all liberal democrats were against Franco. That they were eventually purged by their own allies, and would not have lasted long in a Communist-dominated Spain, seems to me immaterial in deciding whether they were on the right side or not.

          • Well, maybe I just have a different perspective on it, since I probably would have been one of the first against the wall if the "republicans" got a hold of me. I also would have known that people like me were being targeted in 1936, because they had been doing it for 5 years.

            Franco's regime went on to kill 200,000 people in his "white terror" but the red terror wracked up an impressive 30,000 in a much shorter period of time. If the republicans had won, I see no reason why they wouldn't have matched or surpassed Franco's bloodbath.

            I can see a case for intervening in Spain to fight both sides of the war, or a case for staying neutral and trying to intervene in other ways. I can't see financially or militarily supporting one side or the other as being anything but a mark of shame.

          • If you had been a priest in Spain in 1930, your moral status would be about that of an Iranian mullah today: complicity in a brutal quasi-theocracy.

          • I'll dispute that Spain before the communists in 1930 was as violent or oppresive as the Iranian regime. Or as repressive as Franco's subsequent regime for that matter.

            But let's play the analogy out. Let's say a democratic revolution actually succeeds in Iran, and immediately starts doing mass purges of not only the mullahs, but the civilian population who are sympathetic to them.

            If the old guard of the theocracy begins fighting with the people doing the purges, am I supposed to reward and honour you for going to fight with those violent revolutionaries who murdered civilians? Perhaps even knowingly allowing or participating in the purges yourself? Hell no.

          • Well it's all moot anyway. As the reasons the western powers did not intervene, or stood by and watch the fascists win, were related to their self interest. Britain's ruling class in particular had a decidedly strong pro fascist tinge to them. One which it would take a ruinous war to largely erase.

      • I've already made my views about blanket judgements known above – including the vietnam volutuneers. I should have been a little more precise in my criticism…basically that you have to judge within the context of them time. Sorry if i came over as snotty, my bad.

        • I agree with you: their intentions were coloured by the perceptions of their time. This is another reason why we can't judge their motives.

          However, we can judge their actions. Helping Hitler, not matter what the Blue Division volunteers thought, was wrong. Likewise helping the Spanish Communists, no matter what the International Brigades thought, was wrong.

  7. Alright, Mr. Petrou, you convinced me to go buy your book this afternoon, on the way back from the cenotaph. Judging (so far) by its cover, it's good.

    • Thanks. Let me know if what's inside measures up.

  8. Actually, now that I think about it it's quite telling that Petrou commemorates the 1700 Canadians who (rightly or wrongly) volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War, yet entirely ignores the 30000 Canadians who volunteered to fight in Vietnam.

    You'd think, if one were just remembering Canadian warriors who volunteered to fight on principle, that the larger case would at least garner a mention today of all days.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiMj83nnpXw

      I could only watch the first few minutes but maybe Petrou discusses why he is interested in this topic. Had no idea you wrote book, Michael, will have to have a look for it. I am always interested in reading about fascism/communism.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiMj83nnpXw

      I could only watch the first few minutes but maybe Petrou discusses why he is interested in this topic. Had no idea you wrote book, Michael, will have to have a look for it. I am always interested in reading about fascism/communism.

      • That was a very good interview and sounds like an equally interesting read.

  9. The names painted on the vehicles were Spanish ……… in other words, Communists.

  10. There appears to be no risk in stating the obvious here.

    A reminder to everyone: World War II was a just war. We had to take out the demonic Adolphe Hitler who had taken over the most advanced and modern european nation and turned Europe into a hellhole.

    But the menace wasn't over: the West still had to contend with the communist cancer in the Soviet Union. That "cold war" lasted another 45 years. Many confused Westerners sided with the enemy in this war. They thought communism was "just". They were wrong. Communism was built on a lie. Let me quote the man who documented that lie and helped bring down that evil regime from within.

    “Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle.”

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn

    • I just looove your little lectures. Do you get a thrill out of boiling every single issue down to its simplest form? A kind of idealogical pablum that's easier to swallow? Or are you simply incapable of coping with the full complexity of the human condition?

    • Actually kcm, unless we know our history, we are condemned to repeat our mistakes.

      Too many Canadians give communism a pass because somehow it's a nice idea.

      As Gaunilon is patiently trying to explain above, if your actions are objectively wrong, your intentions don't change that.

      Getting a bullet in the head by someone who meant well instead of by someone who has an evil intent hardly matters. It still splatters your brains all over.

      I certainly don't get a thrill out of this. And I certainly don't have Gaunilon's patience, which is quite a feather in his cap. But I do like to correct error when I see it.

      If everyone here is prepared to condemn Soviet Russia as an evil regime, I'll go read a book.

      • "If everyone here is prepared to condemn Soviet Russia as an evil regime, I'll go read a book. "

        Everyone here takes that for granted, you moron.

  11. The ugly side of the Spanish Civil War, including crimes committed by Communists, is a topic I address directly and in detail in my book. If Jack Mitchell has the patience to get to Chapters 9 and 10, he can back me up on this.

    • I only got to the end of Chapter 1 today, owing to the evil influence of work and Mad Men; but I can testify that once one finishes the Preface, one knows one is in safe hands and will read the whole thing. The prose is rock-solid and the research seemingly exhaustive (rare combination).

      Looking forward to Chapters 9 and 10. As a long-time fan of Homage to Catalonia, I expect no less than murderous hypocrisy on the part of the commissars, but we shall see. The case studies in Part 4 sound great too.

      I found Chapter 1 quite interesting. I had not realised the proportion of foreign-born Canadians was that high, or that they were 70% Communist party members. My grandmother was a CCF fundraiser for the Mac-Paps in Vancouver, so I'd somehow imagined that old-stock CCFers were the norm. Sorry to hear that there weren't more idealistic poets in the ranks, though it's nice to hear that the qualities of the CEF in WWI — "rough-hewnness" for lack of a better word — were continued in Spain, by a different demographic. Interesting that "gravity" was a word picked to describe the Mac-Paps' ethos. Why do you think the percentage of Jews was so much lower in the Mac-Paps than in the American contingent? Was the Jewish population proportionately smaller in Canada, or is it that New York (with its high Jewish population) was a main recruiting area for the Americans? Or is that coming up and I'm getting ahead of myself?

      • Ah, to live in the 21st century. Reader chatting with author for all to see, actually begging for a spoiler.

      • Given your admiration of Orwell, you might also enjoy the chapter on William Krehm. He, like Orwell, was a member of the POUM, which was purged in the spring of 1937. Orwell, you'll probably recall from Homage to Catalonia, safely slipped out of Spain. Krehm, a former student at U of T, did not. He was caught and jailed as a suspected "fascist spy" – a dangerous thing to be accused of in those days. He was lucky to survive.

        I read a file on him in recently-declassified Soviet archives and was engrossed. (Soviet agents were well integrated in the Spanish secret police, which is why Krehm's file ended up in Moscow). In 2004, I found Krehm alive and well and living in Toronto. He invited me over when I called him up. His mind was clear and he still had stacks of papers from Spain. It made the long hours of research worthwhile.

    • It has been about a year since I read your book (it was extremely useful for a paper, so thanks) so I my memory might be a bit hazy. The chapters you are referring to include Hugh Garner's letter home and the issue of "problematic" volunteers being sent to near certain death in no man's land, right? The dark side of the republican war effort is definitely addressed. It is a very balanced book and easily the best of the four or so texts written on the subject. I really hope more scholarly work is directed at some of the issues related to Canada's involvement in the Spanish Civil War. Aside from Bethune (and even dealing with him) not nearly enough has been properly explored.

  12. Soviets with J.Stalin did assist brave Spaniard who fought against fascists… Soviets encourage soviet people go as volunteers to fight for democratic Spain. Soviet Union adapted thousand of refugee from Spain who fled from fascist general Franco. But nothing is simple in politics, because politic is a cattle slaughter-house -stinky, bloody, sleazy space and people who work there lack of many intellectual qualities of homo sapience. So do not ask for whom the bell ring – republicans or frankoists. It is ringing for you…

  13. Have been meaning to post about Renegades for some days, as I finished it quickly (three sittings: a real page-turner); but have been distracted.

    Outstanding book, a classic of Canadiana. Anyone sympathising with anti-fascism is bound to find it deeply moving in many places: after a few days' lapse, what stays with me most vividly are the departures (especially the two guys leaving Thunder Bay and debating if they'll return), the quite heroic efforts to get into Spain, the harrowing retreat from Azuara, and the story of William Krehm (which, as you said, Mr. Petrou, is remarkable: not only a welcome break from the Mac-Paps' conflict with the apparatchiks but seemingly the definitive POUM experience). The man who stays with me most vividly is Constant, not only for the hospital-bed coda but because I identify most closely with him. Also Cecil-Smith, who was clearly a larger-than-life character — what a shame that they prevented him from fighting in WWII. Chapters 9 and 10 were grim reading, though I rather expected them, and they make me think that I would have found the mentality of the International Brigades extremely claustrophobic. The paranoia about "Trotskyists" — which I had taken to be mere propaganda — is triply frightening in that it's clear that the commissars genuinely believed in this phantom fifth column: their persecution of dissent was heartfelt, not cynical. I suppose it's all explained best by Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but to see it actually victimising my fellow Canadians is very maddening.

    Anyway, this is all very loose even as a gut reaction, but I'd like to thank the author for his sterling job as a historian and a patriot.

    • Thanks, Jack. That's kind.

  14. Really, I am atonished descovering so many people under the nazi and fascist ideoliogy can give his opinion, knowing nothing, always speaking against communist, and never against the 4 decades of
    fascism under Franco . Deplorable.

    • Commies committed some very very bad deeds across the world and in Spain, Cristobal, and there's nothing whatever deplorable about remembering that fact, especially on Remembrance Day.

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