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The Forgotten Fight Against Fascism June 15, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Imperialism, Nazi / Fascist, War.
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Roger’s note: When we think of fascism we think of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco.  But fascism, as defined functionally, is when the state is indistinguishable from corporate capital.  Such was the case in both Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy.  Under these conditions, individual rights and civil liberties and imperial war mongering inevitably follow, with their accompanying brutality and bloodshed.  When we look at the United States today we see corporate capital more and more every day in control of the three branches of government, and what else to we see?  We see torture, police state violence against peaceful protest, the loss of habeas corpus, uncontrollable government spying, and gross violations of both the constitution and the Geneva Conventions (drone missiles, torture, targeting of civilian populations [US supported Israel vs. the Palestinians], presidential assassination lists, indefinite detention, indiscriminate bombing, undeclared wars, etc.).

I happen to be reading at the moment, William Shirer’s classic “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”  What we see in the 1930s are the capitalist democracies, principally England and France, not simply appeasing Hitler, but in fact by their cowardice and narrow self interest, actually enabling Hitler.  By the time the Allies got their act together to confront Hitler, he had already armed  Germany and moved into the Rhineland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.  The Soviets early on had been pushing England and France to form an alliance to stop Hitler, but they declined and were more afraid of being infected with Bolshevism.

I believe that the struggle today is not narrowly against terrorism or Islamic extremism, but rather the same fight against fascism.  This article gives us some historical perspective on that fight.

 

In late 1944 as a high school senior I rushed off to a U.S. Navy recruiting station ready to take on world fascism. Cooler heads insisted I wait until my graduation in June. After boot camp I served in “The Pacific Theater”—Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Hawaii, Saipan, Japan, and the China Sea.

Anyone who has gone through school in the United States knows that history textbooks devote a lot of attention to the so-called “Good War”: World War II. A typical textbook, Holt McDougal’s The Americans, includes 61 pages covering the buildup to World War II and the war itself. Today’s texts acknowledge “blemishes” like the internment of Japanese Americans, but the texts either ignore or gloss over the fact that for almost a decade, during the earliest fascist invasions of Asia, Africa, and Europe, the Western democracies encouraged rather than fought Hitler and Mussolini, and sometimes gave them material aid.

From Hitler’s rise to power, the governments of England and France, with the United States following their lead, never tried to prevent, slow, or even warn of the fascist danger. They started by greeting Japan’s attack on Manchuria with disapproving noises, and continued to trade with Japan. It was a prelude to Japan’s 1937 invasion of China.

Mussolini, seeking an “Italian Empire” in Africa, threw his army and air force against Ethiopia in October 1935. Fascist planes bombed and dropped poison gas on villages. Emperor Haile Selassie turned to the League of Nations and speaking in his native Amharic described fascist air and chemical attacks on a people “without arms, without resources.” “Collective security,” he insisted, “is the very existence of the League of Nations,” and warned “international morality” is “at stake.” When Selassie said, “God and history will remember your judgment,” governments shrugged.

However, in the midst of a worldwide “Great Depression,” citizens in the distant United States were aroused to help Ethiopia. Black men trained for military action—an estimated 8,000 in Chicago, 5,000 in Detroit, 2,000 in Kansas City. In New York City, where a thousand men drilled, nurse Salaria Kea of Harlem Hospital collected funds that sent a 75-bed hospital and two tons of medical supplies to Ethiopia. W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson addressed a “Harlem League Against War and Fascism” rally and A. Philip Randolph linked Mussolini’s invasion to “the terrible repression of black people in the United States.” A people’s march for Ethiopia in Harlem drew 25,000 African Americans and anti-fascist Italian Americans.

In Chicago on Aug. 31, 1935, as the fascist noose on Ethiopia tightened, Oliver Law, a black Communist from Texas, organized a protest rally in defiance of a ban by Mayor Edward J. Kelly. Ten thousand people gathered and so did 2,000 police. Law began to speak from a rooftop, and was arrested. Then one speaker after another appeared on different rooftops, to shout their anti-fascist messages, and all six were arrested.

By May 1936 before many volunteers or help could reach Ethiopia, Mussolini triumphed and Haile Selassie fled into exile. The Americans devotes a puny two paragraphs of its 61 pages of war coverage to this pre-Pearl Harbor conflict. And the drama of democracy versus fascism in Spain merits another whispered two paragraphs in The Americans.

In July 1936 pro-fascist Francisco Franco and other Spanish generals in Morocco launched a military coup against Spain’s new Republican “Popular Front” government. By early August, Hitler and Mussolini provided vital assistance. In the world’s first airlift, Nazi Germany dispatched 40 Luftwaffe Junker and transport planes to ferry Franco’s army from Morocco to Seville, Spain. Italy’s fleet in the Mediterranean sank ships carrying aid or volunteers to Republican Spain, and 50,000 to 100,000 Italian fascist troops began to arrive in Spain. Hitler and Mussolini had internationalized a civil war—and revealed fascism’s global intentions.

But one of the first lessons learned from Spain was fascist aggressors had nothing to fear from the Western democracies. The Luftwaffe destroyed cities such as Gernika in the Basque region of Spain, and Nazi gestapo agents interrogated Republican prisoners. But English and French officials, and their wealthy corporations with financial ties to Nazi Germany, greeted the fascist march with a shrug, quiet appreciation, or offers of cooperation. In England, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin prodded Germany and Italy to march east toward the Soviet Union. The British ambassador to Spain told the U.S. ambassador, “I hope they send in enough Germans to finish the war.”

The Nazi Luftwaffe overhead, Franco’s legions rolled toward Madrid and Franco expected a fast victory. But at the gates of Madrid everything changed. Under the slogan “They shall not pass,” members of unions and political and citizen groups formed military units and headed toward the front carrying lunch and a rifle. Madrid’s women, wearing pants and carrying rifles, took part in early skirmishes. Other women ran the first quartermaster corps.

A scattering of foreign volunteers began to arrive: Jewish and other refugees fleeing Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, some British machine gunners, and athletes fresh from an anti-Nazi Olympics in Barcelona.

By November the volunteer rush became a torrent: An estimated 40,000 men and women from 53 nations left home to defend the Republic. For the only time in history, a volunteer force of men and women from all over the world came together to fight for an ideal: democracy. The volunteers brought a message that ordinary people could resist fascist militarism.

Though most volunteers had little military experience, they hoped their commitment, courage, and sacrifice would persuade the democratic governments to unite against the fascist march, and head off a new world war.

But the Western governments ignored Spain’s plea for “collective security.” And some countries outlawed travel to Spain. France closed its border to Spain so volunteers faced arrest and had to scale the Pyrenees at night. England formed a Non-Intervention Committee of 26 nations that blocked aid to the Republican government, but not to Franco’s rebels.

U.S. policy followed England and France. The United States stamped passports “Not Valid for Spain.” The State Department tried to prevent medical supplies and doctors from reaching Spain. The Texas Oil Company sent almost 2 million tons of oil, most of Franco’s oil needs. Four-fifths of rebel trucks came from Ford, General Motors, and Studebaker. U.S. media outlets, isolationist and wealthy groups, and the Catholic Church cheered Franco’s fight against “Godless Communism.”

abraham_lincoln_brigade_wcaptionIn the United States some 2,800 young men and women of different races and backgrounds formed the “Abraham Lincoln Brigade.” Seamen and students, farmers and professors, they hoped that their bravery could turn the tide, or at last alert the world to the fascist drive for world domination. Most made their way to Spain illegally as “tourists” visiting France.

In a time of massive unemployment, lynching, segregation, and discrimination, 90 of the volunteers were African American. “Ethiopia and Spain are our fight,” said James Yates, who fled Mississippi. The United States had only five licensed African American pilots, and two came to join the Republic’s tiny air force (one brought down two German and three Italian planes).

Most of the African American volunteers had marched with white radicals to protest lynching, segregation, and racism, and to demand relief and jobs during the Great Depression. These men and women of color—one was nurse Salaria Kea—formed the first integrated U.S. army. Oliver Law became an early commander of the Lincoln Brigade.

The brave young men and women of the Lincoln and other International Brigades slowed but did not stop fascism. In 1938, fascism’s overwhelming land, sea, and air power defeated the Republic. Many volunteers had died, including half of the Americans, and others suffered serious wounds.

What is remembered as World War II began the next year in 1939, when Germany attacked Poland. It would take a massive, multinational effort to defeat Hitler, Mussolini, and Imperial Japan, and cost tens of millions of lives.

In 1945, world fascism was finally defeated. But for a crucial decade the democracies did not oppose and often emboldened the fascist advance into Manchuria and China, Ethiopia and Spain. But students today don’t learn this. Instead, texts present World War II as an inevitability and the Allies as anti-fascists and saviors of democracy. A fuller history of the failure of the United States to fight fascism at its outset—and even its multifaceted support of fascism—would help students rethink this supposed inevitability. Today’s students deserve more than a few textbook paragraphs describing the fight against fascism before 1939 while the governments of the United States, England, and France encouraged its aggressions.

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Never Forget: Grandson of Auschwitz Commandant Fights For A Nazi-Free Europe May 17, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, History, Nazi / Fascist, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: well, I am not a great believer in elections as a means of fighting fascism, but I still think the message here is relevant, not to mention chilling.  Not only are right wing neo-Nazi movements burgeoning throughout Europe, but around the globe, and that includes the United States.  This is grounds for alarm of the highest nature.

by Abby Zimet

With upcoming elections in a Europe beset by rising neo-Nazi frenzy, a new campaign by Swedish Social Democrats against the resurgence has a high-profile leader: Rainer Hoess, 48, grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the infamous commandant of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp who presided over the murder of over a million Jews and others before being captured and hanged near the crematorium he was so proud of. Hoess, who wears a Star of David around his neck, has spent years researching the Nazi movement, talking to survivors, and speaking to German schoolchildren about the dangers of right-wing extremism. He also appeared in the critically acclaimed documentary “Hitler’s Children.” The Swedish campaign, dubbed “Never Forget. To Vote,” stresses that “Nazi influences are growing in Europe for the same reasons they did back then. The social safety nets have been torn, and people are left behind…Hopelessness is what comes first. Then the hatred.”

Hoess on his murderous grandfather: “Generation after generation, we bear the same cross he put on our shoulders.”

 

Tragedy Repeats Itself December 30, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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 Dec 28, 2008, www.truthdig.com

Waltz with Bashir
iffkv.cz

By Sheerly Avni

Several months ago, when Ari Folman was promoting his new animated documentary, “Waltz With Bashir,” the film screened for a Palestinian audience in Ramallah, less than 40 miles from his home in Tel Aviv. 

The director was asked not to attend.

Folman had already traveled far and wide to promote the movie, which had received wildly enthusiastic accolades everywhere from Cannes to Auckland. But the French company presenting in Ramallah had asked the 45-year-old war veteran not to come to this screening so close to home, because it was not sure it could guarantee his safety. The company had a point: “Waltz With Bashir,” a graphic and violent series of recollections of the 1982 war in Lebanon, told almost entirely from the point of view of Israeli soldiers, culminates in bloody live footage of the aftermath of the infamous Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp massacres in which thousands of Palestinian men, women and children were murdered by Christian militia with Israeli troops stationed directly outside the camps.

As it turned out, the audience response in Ramallah, though passionate, was the kind every filmmaker dreams of: There was high demand for more screenings, because there wasn’t enough room in the theater for all the people who wanted to see the film.

This did not surprise Folman, whose intent for his documentary was always to tell a universal story, not a specifically political one: “I show how stupid wars are,” he said in a telephone interview. “I wanted to make a movie that no teenager could watch and think ‘Oh, sure, war sucks, but those soldiers are cool.’ There is nothing cool or glamorous about war.”

Folman should know. He was just 19 when he was flown over the Lebanese border for the Israeli offensive in 1982, and as we learn in the film, he passed the flight daydreaming about a romantic death in battle, hoping to inspire regret in the heart of the girlfriend who had just dumped him. What the boy found instead was fear, and absurdity, and enough trauma to blot out his memories.

It would be 20 years before Folman, now a successful screenwriter and director who barely even thought about his time as a soldier, would be forced to grapple with the meaning of his wartime experiences. He was 40 years old and tired of his time in the Israeli reserves, where he’d been put to work writing scenarios for military videos explaining, among other things, the proper care and feeding of gas masks. The army agreed to let him go—but only if he would agree to a series of exit interviews with a therapist.

Thought not a big believer in psychotherapy, he took the deal. Over the course of eight or nine sessions, he realized that he had no memory whatsoever of the massacres themselves, even though he had been stationed nearby. He then set out on a quest, both personal and professional, for answers to the questions that had come up in therapy: What had happened to him in Beirut? What had he seen? Why couldn’t he remember? What had the war done to him?

Folman sought out classmates, as well as men from his old unit and the first Israeli reporter on the scene of the massacres, and gathered their stories. He consulted an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder. He reached out to his best friend, Ori Sivan (listed in the credits as “filmmaker and shrink”), and he set out to make a film that would capture the surrealism of war and the fluidity of memory. He had already experimented successfully with animation for his popular Israeli TV show “The Material That Love Is Made Of,” and so he hired the artist Yoni Goodman, a gifted illustrator, and then set about trying to raise the money to get his movie made. Despite the modest $2 million budget of “Waltz With Bashir,” potential investors were reluctant to back the film—the first feature-length animated documentary ever made, and Folman ended up having to mortgage his house.

“I knew it had to be this way,” he explained. “If I couldn’t animate the film, I couldn’t do it at all.”

Folman and his animators filled the movie with dreams, memories and nightmares, all set to a soundtrack that alternates between rock music and Max Richter’s haunting score: A pack of dogs running rabid and wild though the streets, an exhilarating sequence of young soldiers boogie-boarding at the beach (Folman admits this was an intentional homage to “Apocalypse Now”), a teenage soldier dreaming that he’s being swum to safety by a giant naked woman, and, finally, Folman’s only clue to his blocked memory: a recurring dream about emerging naked from the sea.

The film owes much of its visual impact to the artistry of Goldman and his animation team, but its dramatic tension derives from Folman’s own Jason Bourne-style search for his missing memories. But when it comes time for the moment of revelation, the “Bourne moment” that might unlock his memory, Folman’s friend Ori hits him with an apparent anticlimax: the suggestion that his obsession stems from a much earlier moment in history—that his dreams are connected to an earlier massacre, an earlier nightmare.

“It’s all about those camps,” Ori suggests in the film. “Your parents were in Auschwitz. The massacre has been with you since you were 6 years old. … You felt guilty; you were cast for the role of the Nazi. It’s true you didn’t massacre. You just fired flares.”

As a child of survivors, said Folman, he had long been preoccupied by questions of circles of responsibility during the Holocaust. “How much did they know? Did they realize there was a mass murder happening? How many knew what was going on in the camps?

The same questions plagued him as he searched for his own memories of the Palestinian massacre, and as he spoke with soldiers who had been nearby. “What I learned was that people had all the elements, but they found it too complicated to put it together in one frame, because mass murder is not in our system. … You don’t think that things like that are happening just around the corner, even if you are participating in a war.”

In part, this is a particularly Jewish/Israeli problem, one which Folman does not shy away from: Is a culture that has experienced genocide more likely to recognize it the next time it appears? Not necessarily, says Folman, speaking personally again. “For us who grew up in those kinds of families, are we more ready to listen to those kinds of stories? On the contrary, I think it is harder. The Holocaust was like a one-time experience in the history of humankind for us. We are not ready for anything else.”

But Folman is adamant in insisting that there are no easy comparisons to be made between the Nazi murder of the Jews and the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla. “There is no comparison, there can be no comparison. But mass murder is mass murder, and it is something that the imagination cannot believe or accept, even while it is happening.”

War is horror beyond human comprehension: This is the theme of “Waltz With Bashir. “This film,” insisted Folman, “could have been made by an ex-American soldier in Vietnam, a Russian in Afghanistan, an American today in Iraq. … It could have been made by anyone who wakes up one morning and finds himself hundreds of kilometers away from home, in a remote city that has nothing to do with him or his life, nothing whatsoever. He doesn’t know what he’s doing there, he is terrified, and he has no clue.”

Asked if working on the film had turned him into a pacifist, Folman answered: “For that I didn’t need to make a movie. I became a pacifist by my second day in Lebanon.”