Fascism and Antifascism: Yesterday and Today

Article excerpt

I salute the organizers of this week's events for choosing the theme of fascism as the major topic for our deliberations. Fascism is again on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic and we all need to understand what fascism is, why it appears, and how it manifests itself We need to understand that, contrary to what we are told by the U.S. media, fascism is not an extreme development, limited in time and place, that occurred a long time ago. Quite the contrary. Fascism is extended, generalized, and exists everywhere. But it is good that you chose the Spanish Civil War, as the proper terrain for discussing the nature of fascism and, equally important, of antifascism. We are just celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the only popular war - and the only antifascist war - that the United States has ever fought. It is quite fitting, therefore, that in the midst of this year - long celebration, we dedicate at least a few days to an understanding of the prologue to that war: the Spanish Civil War.

During this week we have seen several movies about the Spanish Civil War, including Tierra y Libertad ("Land and Liberty") by Ken Loach, one of the best and most progressive film directors in the English-Speaking world. His movies Poor Cow, Family Life, Kes, Hidden Agenda, Riff-Raff, and Raining Stones deserve to be classics. His most recent film Tierra y Libertad, which we have just seen, was hailed at the Cannes Film Festival of 1995 as one of the best movies of the year. We have also seen the classic film For Whom the Bell Tolls, based on Hemingway's novel, and the excellent The Good Fight, an epic saga about the U.S. citizens who joined that struggle for a better world. I want to salute you for keeping history and hope alive. It fills me with great joy that you, representatives of the youth of this country, want to learn from this important page in human history.

During this week of study, I have felt somewhat uncomfortable, however. It is characteristic of this week's films, and indeed of all the literature, movies, plays, and cultural expressions about the Spanish Civil War known in the Anglo-Saxon world, that the main characters are usually non-Spaniards, with true Spaniards relegated to the background. As a Catalan and a Spaniard, I feel somewhat used. It is as if the authors and film makers wanted to make a point and chose Spain to make it. Yet although it is the Spanish people who make their own history, that history is frequently narrated in the United States and United Kingdom by non-Spanish voices. There are many books, movies, plays, and documentaries produced by, written by, and featuring Spaniards who are unknown to English-Speaking audiences, Spaniards who are rarely mentioned or recognized in English-language history books. These are the people, like my father and another, my uncles and aunts, and millions of others like them, who were anarcho-syndicalists, communists, socialists, and Trotskyists, who fought and lost a war in Spain. After the war they continued fighting fascism. For some, like my uncles and aunts, the fight continued in France where they - the Spanish republicans - started the anti-Nazi resistance, the maquis, a fact that, incidentally, the French left has always been reluctant to accept. Many were caught, shot, or interned in concentration camps, where they died, escaped (as did one of my aunts), or were liberated (as was another aunt, who was liberated by an African-American division). Others, like my parents, stayed in Spain and were brutally persecuted and repressed by the fascist forces.

The voices of this generation of Spaniards are unknown in the history to which you have been exposed, of which this week has been a good representation-but this ignorance has a cost. What I want to do today is to present their point of view, the point of view of antifascism, because it is extremely important for you to understand not only fascism, but also antifascism. …