I have been wading through, or in and out of, a mammoth book – the second book in a trilogy about Communist Dictator Joseph Stalin. The Second book in this painstakingly researched and notated series is called “Waiting for Hitler 1929-1941”. I am not trying to work my way through the book page by page – the sheer amount of trivia recorded is almost impossible to follow. Instead I use it as a sort of “pot luck bag” I open it up at some random spot and I start reading. And wow, does that give some real glimpses into the evolution of a Communist State. Fascinating stuff.
Today I opened up the book at page 364 – (less than half way through) – and found myself reading a segment about the Comintern and its baleful influence on, of all obscure things, the Spanish Civil War. I was intrigued because I had just listened to a song written by the tedious old lefty, Christy Moore called “La Quinta Brigada” praising Irish Republican support for the Communist side in the Spanish Civil War. The main object of Moore’s praise is IRA member and left winger Frank Ryan. Bear with me here – the story is going to get even more involved.
What attracted my interest in the book was not, as it happens, La Quinta Brigada and Moore’s chirpy anthem to communist ambition. It was a note that says;
“Stalin ordered the Comintern to have the Spanish Communists intensify the ‘complete and final annihilation’ of the Spanish ‘Trotskyites’ as ‘agents of fascism’ “
The organization they were targeting was named “POUM” – which is a Spanish acronym for “Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification” and whose members were fighting in “La Quinta Brigada” alongside the very people who were being instructed to wipe them out! One of the leaders of POUM was named Andreu Nin and he was arrested by the Russian Secret Service (the NKVD) IN SPAIN and tortured to death!
In the meantime our leftist Saint, Frank Ryan was captured in the Civil War by the Nationalist side (Franco’s forces) accused of murder, sentenced to death by a Court Martial and stuck in Borgos Prison. In 1940, his sentence having been reduced to 30 years, he was released, thanks to some connections between the Irish minister to Spain and the German Government, into the custody of the German Intelligence Service – the Abwehr. He was taken to Berlin where he was persuaded to take part in various operations to support the IRA and to attack British and American interests. Nothing that he did seems to have born much fruit and, in 1944, he died of pleurisy and pneumonia in Berlin. He was buried in Dresden, and in 1979 his remains were repatriated to ingratiating praise and public display from his former comrades. They were loud in their assurances that ‘Auld Frank” had never abandoned his leftist views, even when he was living well in Germany as an agent of one the most reviled regimes in history.
There are, I think, two points in this little, bizarre, historical drama. One is that the left is totalitarian in its structure and outlook. It “progressively” attacks factions in its own structure that it perceives as “not really ‘true’ “ and that Keeping themselves more pure is more important to them than the welfare of the people they are claiming responsibility over. The second point is – that if the IRA and its leftist wing see no difference at all in working either for Joe Stalin or Adolf Hitler – then there really is no difference between them.