Wednesday, 26 November 2014

What bombs did George Orwell plant?

There is a Wikipedia page ( listing, at the time of writing, 64 names of British people who volunteered to take part in the war in Spain which was a curtain-raiser for the Nazi takeover of continental Europe. Not all were on the Republican government, anti-fascist, side. Roy Campbell, for one, was vigorously anti-communist and supported Franco's Falange. Many more ordinary people joined. Some never came back, like the three memorialised in Neath's Victoria Gardens.

None that I know of imported the terror they had seen in Spain onto the streets of Britain. Indeed, the experience was an eye-opener for most. Orwell famously became a vociferous critic of Stalinism as a result. Many resumed left-wing political activity on return, but by democratic means. One at least - Sir Alfred Sherman - swung so far the other way that he finished as a cheerleader for Margaret Thatcher.

Communism was then as big a bogey as militant Islam is today. Great difficulties were put in the way of the British volunteers for Spain, but it seems that repatriation was easier. It would be surprising if local police were not advised to "keep an eye" on known supporters of either side in the Spanish conflict upon return, but there was nothing like the official demonisation of volunteers for Syria proposed by Mrs May.

To some extent the coalition has brought the difficulties on its own head. If it had not been so outspoken in favour of the forces opposing President Assad, making the anti-Alawite revolution respectable, maybe fewer Sunnis from this country would have been encouraged to join.

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