In another chapter from the lost history of the 1930s, the American Spectator’s Daniel J. Flynn looks at the strange legacy of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade:
Who says San Francisco doesn’t honor veterans?
Last weekend, the city, which voted in 2005 to ban military recruiters from public high schools and colleges, unveiled a memorial to fighting men and women in uniform. The uniforms they donned, however, were not those familiar to American soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines.
The city honored American Communists and their fellow travelers who fought in the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s. The $400,000 monument, donated from private funds but hosted on public land, extends 40-feet long and eight feet high.
Media accounts of the tribute uniformly noted that members of what has become known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade fought against Francisco Franco. But those reports were conspicuously silent about the man they fought for: Joseph Stalin. Similarly absent was the word “Communist,” a party with which roughly eighty percent of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade were officially affiliated.
The few surviving veterans are quick to point out that they fought fascists, but “fascist” in the Communist lexicon of the 1930s was applied to everyone from Franklin Roosevelt to Leon Trotsky to Francisco Franco. Stalin saw enemies everywhere, so many American members of the International Brigades in Spain partook in, and others fell victim to, purges of suspected deviationists among the “republican” armies.
It’s also worth looking back and asking, what if they had won?