Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Professor Preston and the Spanish Civil War revisited.

PROFESSOR Preston in his biographical essay in 'The Spanish Civil War- Reaction, Revolution and Revenge' sheds some interesting insights into his attitude to the anarchists and George Orwell.   He refers to Orwell's Homage to Catalonia as  a sane, moving but ultimately narrow vision of the May 1937 events in  Barcelona written with a pro POUM stance which has been taken widely and erroneously as an overview of the war which it is not.

In the main body of the book Preston appears to lend credence to communist slanders that the revolutionary collectives in Aragon were 'done at the point of a gun' and 'they were not spontaneous creations of the peasants but imposed by force'.   Elsewhere he concedes that Gaston Leval and Augustin Souchin's eyewitness accounts of the collectives were important anarchist versions.    Scarcely a ringing endorsement of self management and autonomous organisation.

Preston lets the cat out of the bag re his penchant for 'popular frontism' in his introductory discussion of the 'war and social revolution' dichotomy.   He alleges that the debate was used successfully to disseminate the idea that the Stalinist repression of the revolution in Spain led to Franco's dictatorship.    He goes on to say that several works on the Spanish Civil War were sponsored by the CIA funded Congress for Cultural Freedom to promote this idea.  He gratuitously refers to an 'unholy alliance of anarchists, trotskyists and cold war warriors' which obscured the fact that Hitler, Mussolini Franco and Chamberlain were responsible for the Nationalist victory not Stalin.    This technique of the 'amalgalm' is a classic exemplar of Stalinist hagiography.

The evidential basis for Preston's disdain of the anarchists role during the Spanish Civil War is manifestly demonstrated  by many quotations from  Preston's writings.    His book 'Comrades' for example was enthusiastically praised by The Morning Star a communist newspaper.

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