Bunk, Brian D., 1968-; Pack, Sasha D.; Scott, Carl-Gustaf (ed.) / Nation and conflict in modern Spain: essays in honor of Stanley G. Payne
The Swedish left's memory of the International Brigades and the creation of an antifascist postwar identity, pp. 151-173 ff.
NATION AND CONFLICT IN MODERN SPAIN paint a largely uncritical picture of the Brigadistas, which not only attributes to them the best possible intentions, but also idealizes their exploits in Spain.'"6 Those who did not conform to the propagandized portrait of the heroic and highly politicized volunteer have been weeded out from the collective history of the Brigades. The volunteers who left Spain completely disillusioned with the international Communist movement-which was a fairly common experience in other countries'7 -are given no voice in Swedish accounts about the Spanish Civil War.' Ironically, one of the main shortcomings of this fictitious version of events is that it does the former volunteers an enormous disservice. The performance of those who did serve with distinction in Spain would become all the more admirable if placed in the truthful context of draconian discipline, soaring causality rates, and widespread deser- tion among the Brigades. Instead, the Swedish Brigadistas have retroactively been turned into political symbols that have little bearing on historical reality. In other parts of Europe, however, a more judicious interpretation of the International Brigades has recently emerged'59 (in no small part due to the opening of the Soviet archives).'60 Although some modest steps in this direction have been taken in Sweden dur- ing the past decade,'6' this progress is still far from satisfactory. In all likelihood, the chief reason that this larger trend has yet not made itself more felt in Sweden has to do with the myopic nature of Swedish historiography, which has often been slow to respond to new cur- rents in international scholarship. Yet, it likewise stems from the fact that the Swedish Right has not contributed in any meaningful way to the debate about the former volunteers,62 and consequently there has been no counterpart to the Left's interpretation of them. This is because Swedish Conservatives have had little incentive to involve themselves in discussions about the Brigadistas, whom they at any rate could not have cared less about.'63 This was a discernable trend everywhere in Western Europe, where after the Second World War, the Right characteristically has been silent about Spain. This was in part because Conservative support for Franco had collapsed as early as mid-1937; that is, well before the conflict was over.'64 In the wake of the German bombing of Guernica, even former sympa- thizers such as Winston Churchill began to turn their backs on the Nationalist cause.'65 In the postwar period, moreover, the Right's earlier backing of the Non-Intervention Agreement was now discredited as appeasement.66 Nor were West European conservatives at this point, eager to stick up for Franco's Spain, which in the early postwar years became a pariah state for its previous association with the Axis Powers. With all of this in mind, from a conservative point of view, the less that was said about the Spanish Civil War, including the International Brigades, the better. It is more difficult to understand why West European Social Democrats have been so reticent to debunk the Soviet mythologized portrait of the Brigades, given their historic enmity toward the Communists. In part this presumably reflected a lingering reluctance to place Stalin's atrocities completely on par with Hitler's. While the Third Reich was consid- ered utterly evil in the eyes of West European Social Democrats, the Soviet system was fre- 162
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