Oct 28, 2009

Clarence Kailin, Lifelong Antifascist Dies

I had the honor in 2002 of interviewing Spanish Civil War combat veteran Clarence Kailin for CounterPunch marking the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Memorial in Madison, Wisconsin's James Madison Park. Clarence Kailin, one of the last surviving Americans who fought from 1936 to 1939 for the elected Spanish government against Francisco Franco allied with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, died at 95. Derided as a 'premature antifascist' by F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover, Kailin fought for justice, and America and most of the world later joined Kailin and his comrades in the great battle known as World War II.

Following is the text of the address by Mr. Kailin spoken at the Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade event marking the Brigade Memorial on May 28, 2002:

***
One month ago, on April 28, I was in New York with my daughter, Julie. We attended the annual affair of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade held at New York University. This was in celebration of the 66th anniversary of the Volunteers for Liberty. There were 900 people there, and among others, we heard the San Francisco Mime Troupe who sang many songs from the Spanish Civil War. That was the emotional high point of the day.

However, we were there for more than memories. At this time of international crisis, we find an urgent need to carry on the spirit of struggle in which we, along with the Spanish people, were involved sixty some years ago when fascism was threatening the world, when Spain was the only country to stand up to Hitler, and when the democracies betrayed the Spanish Republic, giving Hitler and Mussolini everything they wanted. This was when the International Brigades were formed. Spain and the Volunteers made that period one of the most unusual and unique in history.

Today, with the United States having become the dominant world power and seeking to extend its empire to every part of the globe, the danger is much greater than at any other time. Almost total control of information by the monopolized news media has made our work that much more difficult.

I want to quote from the latest edition of The Progressive magazine. This is in Matt Rothschild's column. He quotes from Tariq Ali, an editor of the New Left Review. In the prologue of his latest book, The Clash of Fundamentalisms, he (Ali) criticizes our 'increasingly parochial culture that celebrates the virtues of ignorance, promotes a cult of stupidity, and extols the present as a process without an alternative.'

'The virtual outlawing of history by the dominant culture has reduced the process of democracy to farce. The result is a mishmash of cynicism, despair and escapism. This is precisely an environment designed to nurture irrationalisms of every sort. Over the last fifty years, religious revivalism with a political edge has flourished in many different cultures. Nor is the process finished. A major cause is the fact that all other exit routes have been sealed off by the mother of all fundamentalism: American imperialism.'

American capitalism is the common denominator, the main reason why we want to encourage the many single-issue organizations in this area to come together in common cause--but without asking them to giving up their own important work. ... This is the work of lifetime. But I always see the fact that we outnumber them by a thousand to one. So one should never despair. So, again, seeing you here tells me that in the long run the people can win.

(clinched fist in the air) Salud, everyone!

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