17 January 2008

R.I.P. Milton Wolff

Milton Wolff, the last living commander of what's popularly known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, died on January 14th in Berkeley, age 92. Wolff, a avid communist, and many other Americans like him viewed Franco's fascist rebellion in Spain as a threat to human progress and volunteered for the Republic's International Brigade. While the Spanish government was aided somewhat tepidly by Stalin's Soviet Union, and the western democracies refused support, Franco's fascists were heavily supported by Mussolini and Hitler, the latter of whom especially saw the Spanish Civil War as a testing ground for his military equipment and tactics. Both fascist governments sent official military "legions" to Spain, and it was Hitler's Luftwaffe that devastated Guernica, leading to Picasso's memorable painting:

This same painting now hangs in the United Nations building in New York, where it was covered up while Colin Powell lied to the UN General Assembly about Saddam Hussein's military capabilities (remember the "artist's renditions" of mobile chemical weapons trailers, none of which were ever found?). What a shameful moment for our country.

For his vision of Franco's fascist rebellion as a precursor to the tide of fascism that would sweep over Europe less than a year after the end of the Spanish Civil War, Wolff and his comrades were labelled "premature antifascists," a term that identified and ostracized communists or Leftists for agitating against Hitler and Mussolini while the United States government and businesses were still doing business with them.

In later life he continued to fight for the Left, "prematurely" agitating for the end of segregation and leading a drive to purchase ambulances for the Sandinistas, who were fighting the drug-running and US funded -- and oh the slippages between US government activity and drug-running, oh, yeah, arms for hostages, too -- Contras, whose major tactic was to destroy schools and hospitals.

Another man's done gone, as Woody wrote.


Lonnie Bruner said...

Ah, the Spanish Civil War ... makes me want to re-read Homage to Catalonia.

cuff said...

What a mess it was. One of my favorite treatments of the war is Ken Loach's Land and Freedom, which is very similar.

Lonnie Bruner said...

I think you're an anarchist at heart!

cuff said...

I've generally been called a Trotskyist more than an anarchist, but there you go. I've not been called a Stalinist, though I know a few.