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As our mailing today we have an essay from John Pilger, one of our
regular ZNet congtributors and a ZNet Sustainer Commentator.  

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Here is John's moving, insightful, and all too appropriate article for

by John Pilger
We gathered, the other day, at the International Brigades' Memorial in
Jubilee Park beside the Thames in London. It was warm with no breeze, "a
Spanish day", one of the Brigaders said. Like the others, all in their
eighties and older, he took shelter in the shade and rested on his
walking stick. He wore his red beret. Twenty yards away, tourists
waiting to board the London Eye looked bemused at the elderly men in
their berets, and the rest of us, without knowing who we were, what the
men had done and why we were celebrating them.

Between 1936 and 1939, the International Brigade fought in Spain on the
side of the republican government against the fascist forces of General
Franco. They were British and other Europeans, Americans and
Australians. They were very young and volunteers, determined to stop
fascism in its tracks. Although the republican government eventually
fell, in February 1937 the 600-strong British Battalion of the XVth
International Brigade stopped Franco's advance on Madrid. Four hundred
were killed, wounded or captured in four days' bloody battle.

There were many battles like that. Sam Russell, a Brigader, described
eloquently how on the Sierra del Pandols, "there was not enough soil to
bury the dead, so we covered them with stones". The poet Martin Green,
whose father, George Green, was killed when Martin was four years old,
stood at the edge of the crowd. For his father, he had written:
You had no funeral nor hearse
No grave except the place you fell
. . . I was a boy too young
To take the blow that felled 
The tree that was your man.

Now, 67 years on, we sang, to the tune of "Red River Valley", the
rousing song of the Battle of Madrid. Jack Jones, the president of the
International Brigade Memorial Trust, read out the names of his comrades
who had died since their last reunion a year ago: Charlie Matthews (who
had been reported killed on the battlefield in 1939 and whose obituary
had appeared in his local paper) and Cyril Sexton, who was wounded at
Jarama and went on to fight at Aragon, Belchite, Gandesa and Ebro where
he was wounded again. Last April, he died in Tenerife at the age of 91.

A Brigader and poet, David Campbell, had nominated me for the honour of
describing the meaning of their heroism today. This is what I said:

I first understood the importance of the struggle in Spain from Martha
Gellhorn. Martha, who was one of my oldest friends, is remembered as one
of the greatest war correspondents and especially for her dispatches
from Spain during the Civil War. In November 1938, she wrote this:
"In Barcelona, it was perfect bombing weather. The cafes along the
Ramblas were crowded. There was nothing much to drink: a sweet fizzy
poison called orangeade and a horrible liquid supposed to be sherry.
There was, of course, nothing to eat. Everyone was out, enjoying the
cold afternoon sunlight. No bombers had come for at least two hours. The
flower stalls look bright and pretty along the promenade. 'The flowers
are all sold, Senores. For the funerals of those killed in the eleven
o'clock bombing, poor souls'. It had been a clear and cold day all
yesterday ... 'What beautiful weather', a woman said, and she stood,
holding her shawl around her, staring at the sky. A catastrophe,' she
said. Eeryone listened for the sirens all the time, and when we saw the
bombers, they were like tiny silver bullets, moving forever up, across
the sky."

How familiar that sounds. Barcelona. Guernica. Hiroshima. Vietnam.
Cambodia. Palestine. Afghanistan. Iraq. All those "tiny silver bullets"
moving across the sky and bombing to death tens of thousands of men,
women and children. Martha Gellhorn wrote of the International Brigade:
"Whatever their nationality, whether they were Communists, anarchists,
socialists, poets, plumbers, middle-class professional men, or the one
Abyssinian prince . . . they were fighting for us all in Spain."

The enemy then was fascism, out-and-out fascism. Armband wearing,
strutting, ranting fascism.

The enemy then was a great world power, adventurous, rapacious, with
plans of domination, of capturing the world's natural resources: the oil
fields of the Caspian and the Middle East, the mineral riches of Africa.
They seemed invincible.

The enemy then was also lies. Deceit. News dressed up as propaganda.
Appeasement. A large section of the British establishment saw fascism as
its friend. Their voice was heard in a section of the British press: the
Times, the Daily Mail.

To the propagandists, the real threat was from ordinary people, who were
dreamers, many of them, who imagined a new world in which the dignity of
ordinary life was respected and celebrated. Some were wise dreamers and
some were foolish dreamers, but they understood the nature of fascism,
and they saw through the lies and appeasement.

They knew that the true enemy did not always wear armbands, and strut,
and command great rallies, but were impeccable English gentlemen, who
sold out their country to rampant power behind a smokescreen of
propaganda that appropriated noble concepts like "democracy", "freedom"
and "human rights" and "our way of life" and "our values". Their words
were echoed by courtier journalists and justified by pseudo-historians,
who feared the public's ability to reason why.

Does all this sound familiar?

I ask that question, because when I read the aims of the International
Brigade Memorial Trust, I was struck by a reference to "the historical
legacy of the men and women who fought with the International Brigades
against fascism ..."

The "historical legacy" of the International Brigade, as Martha Gellhorn
wrote, is that they were fighting for us all. That means, for me, a
legacy of truth - a way of seeing through the illusions and lies and
deceit, notably the propaganda of our own governments. It means
confronting murderous power in whatever form it appears.
That legacy is needed today more than ever. Impeccable gentlemen now
invade defenceless countries in our name, destroying hospitals, shooting
doctors, rounding up thousands and writing a number on their forehead or
forearm, then imprisoning and torturing them. They speak of freedom and
democracy, and our way of life and our values, and they deride those who
reason why. They do not wear armbands and they do not strut. They are
different from fascists. But their goals are not different: conquest,
domination, the theft and control of vital resources.

When the judges at Nuremberg laid down the ground rules of international
law following the Second World War, they described an unprovoked
invasion of a defenceless country as "the paramount crime against
humanity ... from which all other war crimes follow". The judges also
pointed out the obvious: that violent invasion would beckon violent
reaction, which compounded the original crime. 

The world is a very different place from the Sierra del Pandols, and the
Valley of Jarama in 1937, where the best of men lie beneath the stones,
but the legacy of those who understood and confronted fascism then
endures as a warning to us all today. 

It is a warning about sinister ambitions behind democratic facades:
about messianic politicians, apparently touched by God, and their denial
of the consequences of their violence, and it is a warning about those
who shout down the reasons why in the name of a fake patriotism. It is
also about moral courage: about speaking out, breaking a silence. I
salute those of you International Brigaders who are here today, who did
more than speak out. I thank you and your fallen comrades for what you
did for us all, and for your legacy of truth and moral courage. La Lucha

You can support the International Brigade Memorial Trust by e-mailing

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