[16.10.2006] No pasaran!
Yet another case of distortion or concealing of history concerns the participation of anti-fascist Greek volunteers in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. So it is 70 years ago that this confrontation between the Spanish people and Franco’s fascist columns started.
In this case too, the antifascist struggle was linked up to the efforts for social change and in this case too today’s interpretations try to obscure its class content. According to these “interpretations” the Spanish Civil War was a confrontation between two “totalitarianisms”: communism and fascism. According to another version anarchist and petit bourgeois groups would have started resistance, but unfortunately “Stalin’s” Third International came and spoiled everything. In this way the role of communists just disappears for the generations to come.
The same goes for Greece’s bourgeois press, especially as regards the part Greek volunteers played and the central role of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) in setting up the solidarity movement with Spane’s democratic government.
Of the 40.000 people participating in the International Brigade from 53 countries, about 500 were Greek. The large majority of the Greek volunteers (the same goes for the Germans and Italians) came from the Greek communities abroad. In Greece itself it was extremely difficult to recrute volunteers for the anti-fascist cause, because of the Metaxas dictatorship. In spite of this, historical data show that the KKE - although this Party had to work under severe circumstances of illegality- had played an important role. For instance, the Greek government considered it necessary to adopt a law in the beginning of 1937 on “the ban on recrutement and departure of volunteers to Spane.”
The largest group of Greek volunteers came from the USA, where a dynamic Greekamerican communist movement had developed between the two World Wars, but from England as well a large group of volunteers of Greek-Cypriot origin went to Spane.
It was because of this geographically wide spread background of the Greek volunteers that they couldn’t set up a national department before July 1937. So first they fought in the divisions of the countries of their origin.
Organising thousands of people with a different national background into a ready for struggle international brigade could in no way be the result of volunteers spontaneously flooding in from all over the world grasping weapons just like that. This could have been realized only by a soundly set up body with an international network. The only network existing between the two World Wars being able to do this was the Communist International.
In Paris at that time there was a Greek Party center under the guidance of the Third International. After the dictatorship of Metaxas had been announced in Greece at August 4, 1936, the Greek communist movement in France, mainly in Paris, played a role of critical importance.
This might become evident from the information the Greek Embassy in Paris conveyed to Greece speaking about recrutement of volunteers and asylum to Greek anti-fascists. Paris was functioning as a center of political-organisational coordination of a Greek communist movement being active abroad against the dictatorship in their own country.
Through this mechanism Greek volunteers coming from several communities in other countries were recruited in cooperation with the national parties and the Third International. This has been confirmed as well in a letter of June 4, 1937, published in the Greekamerican newspaper “Forward”, paper of the Greek Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPUSA.
From other documents as well it becomes evident, that this voluntary recrutement had been the result of activities within the world workers’ and communist movement. This too should not be revealed to coming generations. It just doesn’t fit in the policy of rewriting history, which has become so popular the last 15 years after the reactionary changes in the world relations of power of the 1990’s.
Source: Kostis Karpozilos, Faculty of History and Archeology of the University of Crete. In: Rizospastis, 30 July 2006.