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At Large
by Michael Coren

POLITICAL LIVES THERE ARE CURRENTLY TWO biographies of General Francobeing written and another, by Paul Preston, has just been published. They seemto be rather confused and I question their objectivity. My Uncle Lou was anEnglish member of the International Brigade and was a prisoner of theNationalists in Spain for over a year. I myself am half-Jewish and haveevery reason to hate fascism and all its works. But I do not believe thatFranco was a fascist. Are these new books objective? Or, can politicalbiography be objective? The established wisdom states that the Spanish civilwar was a battle of good against evil. So influential is this view that almost60 years later, some Canadian writers campaign for a monument to the men whofought on the Loyalist side with the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. Franco`s Nationalists were supported by Nazi Germany,that national manifestation of a new dark age. There was also a powerfulfascist element within the forces General Franco eventually led. But what aboutthe support for the other side? This came from a Moscow regime that began itsmassacres earlier than the Nazis. We ought also to consider the new evidencefrom KGB files suggesting that members of the International Brigade, includingCanadians, who went missing during the civil war were actually executed bySoviet commissars. This occurred because they questioned the Stalinism that wasbecoming increasingly dominant within the Spanish left and was intent onemasculating its Anarchist and Trotskyist allies. I acknowledge the bravery of those men who fought forthe Loyalists in Spain, but I cannot condone their logic or their politics. Weneed to look at the conflict with a clear eye. The Nationalists won the war andFranco established a dictatorship, a government that, according to theHolocaust and Second World War historian Martin Gilbert, "really shouldnot be compared to Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin. More like Catholic monarchismthan Nazism." Whatever the repugnance of Franco`s regime, he steadfastlyrefused to side with Hitler, maintaining a more honest neutrality than, forexample, the Irish Republic. He refused the Germans marching rights throughSpain and took in many Jewish refugees, to the horror of the little man Francodescribed as "the Austrian fool in a bad suit." As the Anglo-Israeliauthor Paul Rose has it, "Jews probably ought to thank rather than condemnFranco." Try a leap of imagination. Say the Loyalists won thecivil war. Not all of those who fought on this side were Communist, but theCommunists always out-manoeuvred their alleged friends and dominated anyleftist government. This happened in Russia in 1917, in Greece at the end ofthe Second World War, in Eastern Europe in the late 1940s. Indeed, members ofthe Communist Party often seemed to take a greater delight in murdering theirnonCommunist allies than in fighting fascism. If you doubt me, read GeorgeOrwell. So a Loyalist victory would almost certainly havemeant a Communist victory and, as with all of the other Communist parties, thisMadrid regime would have played poodle to their master Stalin in Moscow. WhenHitler and Stalin signed their infamous non-aggression pact the Sovietshanded back German Jewish refugees, and trusted their Nazi friends so much thatin its initial stages the German invasion of their country was disbelieved bythe Kremlin. If the Germans had asked for marching rights throughSpain, the Spanish Communists would probably have granted the request. Thiswould have enabled the Germans to attack Gibraltar from both land and sea andwould almost certainly have led to a British defeat. The war in theMediterranean would have been over. The British, and Canadians, would have beenforced to surrender and the entire Second World War would have come to anunimaginable conclusion. Mere speculation? "Not really," says PaulRose, "and quite terrifying. Better a Franco at that time than a Soviet toolin vital Spain." Once in office Franco isolated and suffocated Spain.He kept it firmly within the authority of a reactionary Church and anauthoritarian police force. His rule was anachronistic, rigid, and, ultimately,futile. But Franco was no fascist. He hated and abandoned the straight-armsalute as soon as he could, tried to establish diplomatic relations withIsrael, and maintained open borders. Before he died he groomed his successorand made certain that the young monarch would assume power. Because of this Spainslipped easily into becoming a key state in the world of parliamentarydemocracy. On the other hand, when the Communist leaders were forced from powerthey left only ruin and war. We are still, by the way, waiting for a soundbiography of the monster Lenin, and Stalin and Mao were lauded by biographerswhile they lived. Biography, just like politics, seems to have a little growingup to do. Michael Coren`s column"All Things Considered" appears every Wednesday in the Financial Post

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