This blog has been written as part of my process for Wonder Fools' "549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War". It's about Communism in the the 1930's.
A word that somehow sat wrongly in my subconscious. Communism made me think of some sort dystopian, George Orwell style apocalypse. Barren, freezing cold wastelands in Russia and Kim Jong Il’s North Korea.
For me it was a dirty word like some sort of nightmare. When I closed my eyes communism felt grey. All the people with the same clothes, same houses, same money… same faces.
Then, to my disbelief when starting the ‘549’ research process I discovered George Watters and James Kempton’s, two of our central characters were Communists. This inspired me to investigate the political ideology of Communism and ask myself “What is Communism really about?”
I gave myself the task of reading the very dense looking Communist Manifesto, penned by Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels in 1848. Something I was apprehensive about to say the least.
As I started to read the Communist Manifesto my bleak misconceptions started to melt away and a newfound romanticism for a Communist utopia replaced them. The cover of my copy stated: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a communistic revolution. The Proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, Unite!” Reading the cover upon finishing, I had an epiphany – I got it. George and James were Communists by principle. They didn’t believe in the Orwellian dystopia I had concocted in my imagination, but in a world where working people would be treated as equal with the ruling classes.
Being a member of the Communist Party relied on a real faith in democracy and a genuine belief in the collective power of people. It was this collectivism that brought men from over the world together to fight against the evils of Fascism. While it would be wrong to say that Communism was the dominant ideology that brought these people together, it was certainly up there: 476 out of the 549 who went to fight in Spain were members of the Communist Party. In 1937, the Communist Party only had a membership of 2318 in Scotland. They offered a massive contribution that must not be forgotten.
Communists made one of the great stands against Fascism in Britain, from rioting at the British Union of Fascists party meetings in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh; to speaking out against the ideology in Party run publications such as the Daily Worker, which were circulated all over Scotland. And George and James were there. There on the frontline selling the papers; there causing the riots; and there standing on soapboxes giving speeches in their town centre. It was this unity and organisation that aided the defeat of Fascism in Britain as a mainstream political movement and to the successful deployment of so many of their members to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War.
“Working men of all countries, unite!”