Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Other International Brigade of the 1930s/1940s; The One That Your History Teacher Knows a Whole Lot Less About…

The title of this blog is a takeoff of the cry immortalized during the Spanish Civil War when the Republican camp tried to fight against the fascist totalitarians of General Franco — "They shall not pass!" — and when thousands upon thousands of foreign volunteers came to the Spaniards' aid in the 1930s in the form of an International Brigade.

This has been glorified by everyone in the West, from Picasso to Ken Loach, and the David/Goliath fight figures prominently in most history books from one part of the West to the other.

So if you know that, you know your basic history.

Or… do you?

There seems to have been another international brigade that we have heard about far less — far, far less…

Listen to the New York Herald Tribune at the turn of the decade:
WITH THE INTERNATIONAL BRIGADE IN THE FINNISH ARMY — Another group of Americans and even more Swedes, Norwegians and Danes reached the training center for volunteers late last night [Jan. 15, 1940] and early today to swell the number of fighting men in the International Brigade being formed in Finland. They have been coming in here every day now for four or five weeks, at first in groups of twenty to thirty, and then by hundreds. It is beginning to look as if the greatest International Column of all time will be fighting for Finland by spring. The backbone of this International Brigade will be the Swedish corps under General Eric Linder, a powerful force trained and equipped and paid for by Swedes. It will operate under the supreme command of the Finnish General Staff. Otherwise, it will resemble a private army. They are here to fight for a small country with a population about half that of the City of New York, into which a powerful neighbor has sent its armies and air force. — New York Herald Tribune, European Edition, Jan. 17, 1940 
So there was another international brigade come to the aid of a European people under attack by a totalitarian entity in the 1930s/1940s. And indeed, it seems to have become no less than "the greatest International Column of all time"—i.e., outweighing its Spanish counterpart!

Except this totalitarian entity it fought against was Stalin's communist Soviet Union (who, also, by the way, was instrumental in the fight besides Spain's Republicans (or shall, we call them Spain's "Republicans" with quotation marks?)).

So now we understand the reason why we have heard so little about this Finnish international brigade:

Rightist dictator(ship)s, bad.

Leftist dictator(ship)s, good.
(Or: at least, we have to try to make an effort to understand them…)