Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Guernica vs. Terrorism in Spain

This letter is in response to the misuse of Picasso’s Geurnica in the Tuesday March 16th Morning Call. The only relationship the bombing of Geurnica has to the terrorist bombing in Madrid is that perhaps, if the leftist government of Spain in the 1930’s and the spirit of international cooperation that supported it had been allowed to flourish instead of being brutally destroyed with the complicity of “democratic” governments and the Catholic Church, there would not have been a 2004 bombing in Madrid.

The Luftwaffe bombed the town of Guernica in the Basque region of Spain on market day April 26, 1937 in support of the fascist General Franco. For 3 hours, they dropped bombs and strafed the surrounding countryside, killing about 1600 of the towns 5000 men women and children. The outrage of this massacre is what Picasso’s Guernica represents.

The deaths that occurred in Madrid in 2004 were the result of a group of misdirected fundamentalists who do not hold state power. In contrast, with the bombing of Guernica the killing of civilians became a socially and politically acceptable act by governments during World War II, culminating in the horrific atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. To this day, the brutality of aerial “warfare” continues on a regular basis as we have seen from the use of cluster bombs in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The United States government and other major democracies maintained an official non-interventionist position during the Spanish Civil War that resulted in Franco’s forces getting plenty of guns, money and oil eventually ensuring the defeat of the elected leftist government. Before the government fell under the relentless barrage of well-funded fascists, more than 50,000 International Brigade members volunteered to fight for Spanish freedom. They came from Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Poland, the Ukraine, England, Ireland, USSR, Yugoslavia, Scandinavia, Canada, Hungary and of course from the United States. Republican Spain represented hope to people living in poverty and despair through a worldwide economic depression; hope to people who found a chance to fight in Spain against the same fascist enemy that was crushing them at home. Among the many who died there was the first black man to lead an integrated American military force, Oliver Law, a commander in the American Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Upon returning to the United States, survivors were labeled “premature antifascists” because their cause was not tied to nationalism but to internationalism and to the belief that all the people of the world deserve to be free.

A few years ago the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University hosted an exhibit called, Shouts from the Wall Posters and Photographs Brought Home From the War by American Volunteers. The introduction to the exhibit quoted the writer and film maker, John Sayles, “They fought when they didn’t have to fight, fought when it brought no public glory in their home towns, fought to put a lie to the cynicism that keeps people in darkness…for a republic that was mostly a belief in what people could be, in how they could live together…in a time when caring about someone you’ve never met is seen as weakness or treachery how much strength have we taken from the thought of them…”
There are many sources for more information about the Spanish Civil War. One of these is the website of ALBA – The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at www.alba-valb.org.

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