Thursday, 6 December 2012

Homage To Catalonia

The dissolution of Spain would be an unmitigated disaster. But Catalonia is nevertheless a hallowed land, where fell the ILP Contingent's literal martyrs to Stalinism. Is there any memorial to them, whether in Britain or in Catalonia? Or are they like the fallen British servicemen of Mandated Palestine?

There might also have been those, of a Social Catholic persuasion, on the other side. I should be very interested to find out. ILPers and Social Catholics? Hardly mutually exclusive categories, and neither of them either Stalinist or Falangist. One thinks of the War Memorial in Strasbourg, featuring two naked baby boys; no one ever says, but everyone knows, that one of them died in a French uniform, while the other one died in a German uniform. But at least they have a memorial.

Lest we forget, by the time that the Second World War really began in earnest from Britain's point of view, the USSR was both under Stalin and on side, leaving the ILP as the only party to stay out of the Coalition. It attempted to commandeer the entire Opposition benches for its three MPs. But rather more successfully, it continued to ask questions and to contest by-elections. Who will do that next time?

The CPGB has a positively high profile in our historical consciousness compared with that of the ILP. It suits certain interests down to the ground that there be as little discussion as possible of what actually went on in the Spanish Civil War, or of the historical existence of an anti-Stalinist and anti-Trotskyist Left with deep rural roots, whether in Britain or in Catalonia, among other places.

The thing about us London Bureau types and Two-and-a-Halfers is that we take each other as we find each other in order to influence each other as best we can. That meant the ICO in its many manifestations taking the ILP as it found it, complete with temperance Methodists, Social Catholics, Burkean lovers of the organic Constitution and of the organic countryside, the lot. And you could make a very good case that the ICO ended up where Fenner Brockway and the ILP were, not the other way round. The ones who didn't were in Alsace and in the Sudetenland. If you don't know, then you can guess.

Trotsky opposed the merger of his Catalan followers with the BOC, the Workers' and Peasants' Bloc, to form the unfortunately named Partit Obrer d'Unificació Marxista. As things turned out, he was right. Trots never did get anywhere in that, or in the French Workers' and Peasants' Socialist Party of Marceau Pivert, or in the ILP, or in any other part of the family. Almost a forgotten family now. Almost.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is a plaque at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, unveiled by a veteran in 2009. But of course you are right, the ILP Contingent is almost completely forgotten. I enjoyed the passage on the Spanish Civil War in you book, I enjoyed a lot of passages in your book. You are a fearless man, daring to tell the truth.