Monday, 5 July 2010

A tale of two cities

A week or so ago we were sitting eating in a small restaurant in St Germain on a narrow cobbled street where almost 150 years ago the Parisian workers had raised barricades as part of the Paris Commune.
Those heroic Communards were commemorated by a small plaque on the wall opposite,and although they failed their memory lived on in international working class history.
So it was a strange serendipity that I found myself in Jubilee Gardens the following Saturday with three or four hundred people singing lustily 'The Internationale' .
we were taking part in the annual commemoration of the International Brigade volunteers who like the Communards before them rose up against oppression and fascism .
One of the French Brigades in Spain was called 'The Commune de Paris' Company in honour of their illustrious predecessors.
The British battalion had company names that were a little more prosaic-the 'Tom Mann Centuria' and the 'Major Attlee Company'
It was the first event on the South Bank where none of the five or six surviving Brigaders were able to attend,because of age and infirmity-but the spirit of those 3,200 men and women who went to fight as volunteers against the fascist forces was all around us.
I wonder what those tourists to London thought was happening when walking through the gardens heard the unmistakable melody and words of 'The Internationale' It might have given many a pause for thought!
What was inspiring was the presence,not only of representatives of the Spanish Embassy but also from the Regional Government of Catalonia,the only region in modern Spain that has an active department pledged to find the remains of all those victims of Franco,from Spain and abroad-and honour their memory.
Whilst it is important to always fight the multi headed hydra that is modern fascism and drive them from the political arena by whatever means possible it is also worth remembering that the real anti-fascist struggle is not simply an emotional spasm.
The real anti-fascist struggle can only be linked to the struggle for socialism.The two are inextricably linked.

There were many trade unionists there,notably the members from ASLEF, as well as folk from all the anti -fascist groups-including a beautiful banner from a group from Cable Street.
What was missing was any presence from the Labour Party-although at lunch afterwards with many old friends we talked animatedly about 'the Party'-but of course it wasn't the'Labour Party'.
When the call went out for volunteers there were many Labour Party members from all over Britain who went to fight in Spain, men and women who gave their lives atJarama,Brunete,the Ebro.They went to fight fascism but for Socialism too.
I wonder how many of the contenders for the Labour leadership care any more about Socialism?
I wonder if they could even spell the word?