Where do the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn Stand on War and Peace? – Reveal Collective

“This is a critical analysis of current Labour Party foreign policy; focus on keeping Trident, firing instructions to Trident commanders by Jeremy Corbyn, confirmation of a general nuclear strike policy (“no first use”), consent to air strikes on Syria, consent to drone strikes, promotion of the arms trade (which includes Israel), promotion and support for US imperialism and NATO, sanctioning retention of British troops overseas in Estonia and preparedness to deploy more troops abroad and retention of neo-colonialism possessions……”

On Trident and nuclear weapons…

Jeremy Corbyn, during the debate on Trident renewal, June 2016:

“Mr Corbyn gave a defiant speech at the Despatch Box as he called Trident an “indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction” and said he would be voting against its renewal… I do not believe the threat of mass murder is an adequate way of dealing with international relations,” he added.

(Source: ”MPs vote to renew Trident: Jeremy Corbyn suffers biggest rebellion of his leadership as Britain’s nuclear deterrent backed by 472 to 117”).

Jeremy Corbyn’s statement after the EU Referendum result:

“When I was elected Labour Leader nine months ago it was first of all on the basis of opposition to austerity, secondly, in support of a more democratic politics and, thirdly, for a foreign policy based on human rights and peace”.

(Source: http://press.labour.org.uk/post/146453034384/full-speech-from-jeremy-corbyn-on-the-result-of 25 June 2016)

Where does he stand now?

“I am often asked if as prime minister I would order the use of nuclear weapons…Labour is committed actively to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we are committed to no first use of nuclear weapons”.

And what does “no first use” mean? It means that his Labour Government (if elected) would use nuclear weapons and commit what he previously condemned as “mass murder”. And, just so as to avoid any misunderstanding, in the same paragraph, Jeremy Corbyn goes on to state emphatically:

“But let me make this absolutely clear. If elected prime minister, I will do everything necessary to protect the safety and security of our people and our country. That would be my first duty….”

(Source: The Spectator; Jeremy Corbyn Chatham House speech, 12 May 2017)

And just to be totally clear, he has signed up to fully endorse Trident in Labour’s manifesto which says:

“Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent”.

(Source: Labour Party Manifesto 2017, page 122).

Whatever his personal or private views may be, he is now promoting support for what he once called an “indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction”. That is his public policy now, whether or not there may be yet another Labour Party review on Trident in the future – a review which like the last one, Labour Party opponents of Trident cannot win due to the overwhelming support for Trident among Labour MPs and certain union leaders.

The signs of Jeremy Corbyn’s accommodation with a pro-Trident policy were already visible back in March. When interviewed on The Andrew Marr Show, despite his considerable evasiveness, Jeremy Corbyn eventually confirmed he would instruct Trident submarine commanders to launch nuclear missiles.

“AM:… have to say something to the commanders. You have to say fire or don’t fire. And you can’t dodge it. You have to give them in those letters a strict instruction.

JC: A strict instruction, follow orders when given”.

(Source:  The Andrew Marr Show, BBC TV, Transcripts, 23.4.17)

Also, NATO policy and control has to be borne in mind too:

“Trident is assigned to NATO which apparently imposes a first use policy”.

(Source: CND press release, Kate Hudson, May 12, 2017,)

On the arms trade…

“Exports, trade and investment play a vital role in creating jobs and growth in Britain, and Labour supports the considerable contribution that a responsible, world-leading defence and security industry makes to the UK economy”. However, we also believe that strong export controls have a vital role to play in sustaining a legitimate trade in arms, while protecting UK jobs and R &D”. (Labour Party Manifesto 2017, page 121)

and

“The UK defence industry is world-leading, and Labour will continue to support development and innovation in this sector and to ensure that it can continue to rely on a highly skilled workforce. We are committed to a procurement process that supports the British steel industry and defence manufacturing industry, which in turn provide good jobs throughout the supply chain”. (Labour Party Manifesto 2017, page 122-3)

This is in no way a “foreign policy based on human rights and peace”.

Jeremy Corbyn stated after the Manchester terrorist attack that:

“We will also change what we do abroad. Many …have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home…”.Source: Jeremy Corbyn, speech Central London, 26.5.17,

http://press.labour.org.uk/post/161089328659/jeremy-corbyn-speech)

But there has been no change to his manifesto to end Britain’s role as one of the biggest international arms dealers, fuelling foreign conflicts and endangering peace and security in Britain and the world. The Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn are fully endorsing British arms dealers, the merchants of death, as a “…world-leading defence and security industry…” and “…a legitimate trade in arms… protecting UK jobs and R &D.”

Here is just one example, of what Jeremy Corbyn calls a “responsible, world-leading defence and security industry”, in action:

“At present, two thirds of UK arms exports are going to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is by far the largest buyer. The UK has licensed over £3 billion worth of fighter jets and bombs since it began its bombardment of Yemen two years ago…“

(Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade press release, “NATO summit: more weapons, war and interventionism will not make the world more secure”, 25 May 2017,).

In their manifesto, The Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn have committed to continue the arms trade; will they halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia in light of their bombardment of Yemen? No. Only that these arms sales will be “suspended”:

“In particular, Labour will demand a comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations of IHL in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition. We will immediately suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded”. (Labour Party Manifesto 2017, page 121).

Here are some more facts on Britain’s deadly trade, which Mr Corbyn refers to as “a legitimate trade in arms”:

Government figures, compiled by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), show that the UK has licensed over £4.1 billion of arms to the Middle East since the last election in May 2015. Government figures show that two-thirds of UK arms exports go to the Middle East…. The UK has licensed arms to the following regimes:

  • Saudi Arabia: £3.3 billion
  • United Arab Emirates: £265 million
  • Turkey: £175 million
  • Qatar: £139 million
  • Israel: £105 million
  • Oman: £71 million
  • Egypt: £65 million
  • Jordan: £19 million
  • Bahrain: £19 million
  • Kuwait: £13 million
  • Lebanon: £2.8 million
  • Yemen: £266,000

(Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade press release, Last UK government licensed £4.1 billion of arms to Middle East since election in May 2015, 2 June 2017.)

And what of “strong export controls”? This is no different to what happened under both New Labour and Conservative governments:

“The Governments’s talk of responsible rules on arms exports is a smokescreen for business as usual, with the “rules” used to legitimate, not limit,sales…Almost 10 years ago…CAAT was warning that “the Government’s arms export licensing system creates the image of control and benevolence” whilst allowing the Government to get on with business as usual…”

(Source:CAAT News, “Export Control? Facilitating Business As Usual”, April-June 2017,issue 244).

On Palestine…

“Labour is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine. There can be no military solution to this conflict and all sides must avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve. That means both an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements, and an end to rocket and terror attacks. Labour will continue to press for an immediate return to meaningful negotiations leading to a diplomatic resolution. A Labour government will immediately recognise the state of Palestine”. (Source: Labour Party Manifesto 2017, page 119-120)

Putting to one side the Labour Party’s neo-colonial dictate of “a two-state solution”, the Labour Party are painting Israel and the Palestinians as equals in the conflict when in reality Israel is by far the dominant party with its overwhelming and devastating military superiority and its systematic subjugation of the Palestinians. What does Labour Party support for “…a secure Israel” mean?  A “secure Israel” is the accepted diplomatic code for support for the current Israeli state; a state based on apartheid, which stands against a real “diplomatic solution”.

This support for Israel is in fact a confirmation that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party oppose a meaningful “state of Palestine”. Likewise Corbyn and the Labour Party do not oppose the sale of British arms to Israel – arms which can be used by the Israeli state, to suppress the Palestinian struggle, for a genuine solution to the denial of their national rights. This is rank dyed-in-the-wool imperialism.

On British imperialism’s colonial possessions…

“We will always stand up for the rights, interests and self-determination of Britain’s overseas territories and their citizens…protecting the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands against anyone who would seek to challenge it…”. (Labour Party Manifesto 2017, page 120)

Here we have the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn openly espousing jingoism; the nationalistic, chauvinist and racist poison of the ruling class (“We will always stand up for… Britain’s overseas territories… against anyone who would seek to challenge it…”).

Jingoism is the war cry of British imperialism. It was prevalent during the Falklands War of the Thatcher era, (which Jeremy Corbyn is defending here) and New Labour’s wars. Jingoism is the enemy of the workers unity and struggle for their rights. Jingoism seeks to induce workers to abandon their independent outlook and struggle and line up behind the class aims of their enemies, the rich, and become cannon fodder in imperialist wars. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party have accepted this role on behalf of the rich, as their own privileged position within society, is dependent on a share of the imperialist loot flowing into Britain, and from the exploitation of the working class here in Britain.

On US imperialism…

“Since the Second World War, Britain’s most important diplomatic relationship has been with the US… that special relationship is based on shared values”. (Labour Party Manifesto 2017, page 119).

“….A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind. The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully.

(Source: The Spectator; Jeremy Corbyn Chatham House speech, 12 May 2017)

Jeremy Corbyn’s criticism of the US or Donald Trump, is mere window dressing. In reality he is offering the US “…a strong and friendly relationship” as a junior partner in crime, in pursuit of US imperialism’s quest to dominate the world. Like previous Labour and Conservative governments, this path will only increase tension and conflict in the world. This policy poses a real threat to the world’s people and us here in Britain. Do we really believe that US imperialism will “…use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully”?

Here is a succinct comment on these “shared values” of US and British imperialism and there devastating consequences:

Whether it is the destruction of Iraq or the breakdown of Libya, it is civilians who suffer in war. The last 16 years of interventionism have not made any of us safer. They have failed in their own terms; having further destabilised an already unstable region while killing hundreds of thousands of people and contributing to the spread of extremism. The summit follows Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, in which he signed-off on an arms deal worth over $110 billion. Many of the NATO countries are among the largest arms exporters in the world

(Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade press release, “NATO summit: more weapons, war and interventionism will not make the world more secure”, 25 May 2017).

On NATO/EU… NATO military bases around the world are used to launch aggression against other nations and peoples. NATO bases also pose a threat to the safety and territorial sovereignty of the British people. Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s link with Stop the War and previous campaigning for British withdrawal from NATO (as part of the Campaign for Non-Alignment); he is now a firm supporter of NATO, the war-mongering US-led military alliance.

“Alongside our commitment to NATO, we will continue to work with the EU on a range of operational missions to promote and support global and regional security”. (Labour Party Manifesto 2017, page 122).

“The last Labour government consistently spent above the NATO benchmark of 2 per cent of GDP. Conservative spending cuts have put Britain’s security at risk… Labour’s commitment to spending at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence will guarantee that our Armed Forces have the necessary capabilities to fulfil the full range of obligations, and ensure our conventional forces are versatile and able to deploy in a range of roles.” (Labour Party Manifesto 2017, page 123).

Labour are boasting of their past, so-called defence spending.Note the Labour Party commitment to “…ensure our conventional forces are versatile and able to deploy in a range of roles”. What “range of roles” have the Armed Forces carried out recently?…..invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq are two; the occupation of Iraq, shows how the Armed Forces are used to brutally impose a sectarian political process and state power on another nation, depriving people of their right to a livelihood, peace and security, to facilitate imperialist plunder by the rich and their corporations.

What about the 800 British troops recently deployed in Estonia as part of NATO rivalry with Russian imperialism?

“AM…we’ve got 800 troops have just been sent to Estonia because of worries about the Russians on the border. You were against that deployment. As Prime Minister, would you bring them back?

JC: Listen, we’d keep those troops there for the moment, but we would use the opportunity of a newly-elected government to say, look, we want to reduce tensions on the borders of Europe…

(Source: The Andrew Marr Show, BBC TV, Transcripts, 23.4.17)

Jeremy Corbyn has changed his position from opposing to supporting their deployment.

Air Strikes on Syria…

“AM: And when you speak to President Trump will you be telling him that we will no longer be taking part in air strikes in Syria and Iraq?

JC: I will tell him that I want to see a process that brings about the end to the conflicts in both those countries, and at the end of the day –

AM: Sorry, do you suspend those strikes or not?…

JC: I want us to say, ‘listen, let’s get people around the table quickly. And the way of achieving that, suspend the strikes possibly, that’s one way…

Again, like with troop deployments, Jeremy Corbyn goes to some length to obscure his support for air strikes; his ruse is to appear to oppose air strikes by painting himself as a man of peace, while being highly ambiguous; he claims he will “suspend the strikes” but only, “possibly”.

(Source: The Andrew Marr Show, BBC TV, Transcripts, 23.4.17)

On drone strikes…

“AM: Well, the gentlemen in suits walk in, they said, ‘Prime Minister Corbyn, we’ve got good news for you. Al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, we know where he is, we can take him out with a drone strike, can we have your permission?’ What do you tell them?

JC: What I’d tell them is give me the information you’ve got, tell me how accurate that is and tell me what you think can be achieved by this. But the point –….

AM: Alright. Do you think killing the leader of Isis can be helpful for a political solution?

JC: I think the leader of Isis not being around would be helpful…”

(Source: The Andrew Marr Show, BBC TV, Transcripts, 23.4.17)

Jeremy Corbyn acknowledges that drone strikes kill civilians but is consenting to their continuation. Clearly his ‘political solution’ for Syria does not put the lives and well-being of ordinary Syrians centre stage but dovetails with the regime-change agenda of US-led imperialism, whatever the tragic consequences for the Syrian and British people.

What does CND say about drone strikes?

“International laws are being challenged as people are being targeted and killed in countries on which war has never been declared (e.g. Pakistan). Those targeted by drones are deemed to be guilty of acts such as terrorism and are killed with no opportunity to make a case for their innocence or their lives. Thousands have now been assassinated in this way. Many civilians, including hundreds of children, have become casualties after being caught up in the attacks…

CND is concerned that the use of drones threatens existing economic, political, legal, moral and humanitarian constraints on the conduct of war, and increases the likelihood of military interventions. We are also very concerned about the development of autonomous killer robots of any kind and call for national and international steps to ensure that these systems are outlawed. CND calls on governments and companies to end the secrecy around military drone technology. We condemn the use of drones for targeted assassinations and call for an end to their use. It’s time to end this barbaric form of high tech killing”.

(Source: CND, “Armed drones –a human rights violation?” January 2015,)

In Conclusion:

Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s association with CND/Stop the War and his past anti-war activism, his current foreign policy agenda does not represent a break from the Conservatives or New Labour – it is the continuation of their pro-war agenda on behalf of the rich, the kleptocracy. In these circumstances, all those who are continuing to promote the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn as anti-war are helping to spread dangerous illusions, particularly amongst the youth and workers. This only helps the imperialist ruling class to neuter and disrupt the anti-war movement. For their own opportunistic reasons these forces are trying to prevent any discussion of the facts or analysis of Labour Party policy, and insist that all politics must be reduced to “Tories Out!”.

Corbyn’s pro-war agenda will only deepen austerity as resources will continue to be siphoned from social programs and handed over to the arms companies, the arms trade, the military and military contractors, further distorting the economy and deepening the economic crisis. It represents a threat to peace and security, to people everywhere including Britain. We need to continue to build opposition to all imperialist war-mongering, including Corbyn’s pro-war agenda, and fight for a peaceful and democratic foreign policy, for a genuine anti-war government, for an economy and society based on defending the rights of all.

Reveal Collective – July 2017 e-mail: revealcollective1@gmail.com“.

Corbyn supporters – have a word! The Working Class won’t fight the bosses wars for them.

Happy Birthday Red Emma!

Bristol antifascists film night 15th June

Bristol Antifascists are showing the excellent film “Bash the fash”, by U.S. anarchist DIY media collective, “Trouble”. Thursday 15th June, Kebele social centre, 14 Robertson Road, Easton, Bristol. BS5 6JY.

“Reactionary right-wing politics are on the rise in the west, and events are moving at a dangerous pace. In the wake of Trump’s ascendency to the US presidency, a toxic mix of white nationalism, Islamophobia, transphobia, violent misogyny, and anti-migrant hysteria is rapidly coalescing into a growing movement that has in turn sparked a surge of interest in anti-fascist organizing. Battle lines are being drawn, and street clashes are escalating. In this month’s episode of Trouble, anarchist media collective subMedia interviews a number of individuals from the US, Canada and the UK in order to get a better understanding of just what it is that we’re up against, what a viable strategy for confronting this threat might look like, what steps we can take in order to mount an effective response, and how this all fits into our efforts to build a revolutionary movement against capitalism and the state.”

Snacks and drinks from 7pm. Film showing from 7.30pm, followed by discussion.

Donations for food and film welcome to help fund continuing antifascist organising in Bristol and beyond.

Red And Black Telly: TRUMP BOMBS SYRIA – LIBERALS APPLAUD!

Red & Black Telly: WHY ALL THIS ” JUMP ON TRUMP” ?

Eighty years ago: Malaga, Jarama and Guadalajara.

The story so far: Madrid has been saved a second time by the Working Class, no thanks to the government which  fled to Valencia. Durruti is dead, his column decimated, the remainder face militarisation and dispersal. Prime minister Largo Caballero has devoted his energies to re-establishing the power of the state in the republican zone, and Stalin’s grip tightens on it. The Russians have arrived, and so have thousands of foreign antifascists. The following lines from ‘The Authority of the Bootmaker’ by Mal Content.

The fall of Malaga to Italy on the 8th of February 1937 gave the dictator his excuse to unseat Caballero. Malaga suffered from the same government prejudice as Catalonia, agriculture on the coastal strip was mostly collectivised and the city had been held by Confederal militia, only three-quarters of whom were armed; they had sixteen artillery pieces in total. The government’s military representative was Communist fellow-traveller Colonel Villalba, whose incompetence on the Huesca front had inflicted significant losses on the Durruti Column. Weeks of fascist build-up in the surrounding countryside had been ignored. Mussolini’s Blackshirts, nine mechanised battalions worth, descended from the hills to the North and West in little turretless tanks and armoured cars. They were accompanied by thousands of African legionnaires and Carlist Requetés, supported by a hundred aircraft, three Spanish cruisers and the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee. The city had to be evacuated; some ten thousand prisoners were executed while four thousand refugees died on the hundred and fifty mile march to Almeria, simultaneously bombarded from land, sea and air. A nationalist officer wrote:

“During the first week, when no-one could enter Malaga, four thousand were shot. They were shot down in groups by machine-guns on the Playa del Palo. Later on, courts martial were set up. At dizzying speed, people were tried – if that is the right word – in groups of fifty to seventy. In this fashion, by the third month of Malaga’s liberation (sic) ten thousand people had perished.”

– Antonio Bahamonde y Sanchez de Castro: ‘Un Ano de Queipo: Memorias de un Nacionalista’

The reprisals continued for years, in August 1944 the death toll stood at twenty thousand as reported by the nationalist administration to the British consul. I could speculate that the liberal democracies’ indifference to the systematic extermination of non-combatants may have encouraged the Nazis to press ahead with their own genocide; it certainly did nothing to put them off.

The Communists claimed the defeat was due to treachery, and they may well have been right*. Villalba was arrested but swiftly released; the under-secretary of war, General Asensio, one of the few who had failed to join the party, was variously accused of incompetence and duplicity, and Caballero had defended him. He succumbed to the pressure, but his replacement was a left-wing socialist.

*Was Villalba a ‘fifth columnist’ who regretted getting stuck on the republican side? He was allowed to return to Spain after the war, and claim a Colonel’s pension; had he ever been of any use to the Republic he would undoubtedly have been shot. He seriously undermined the Aragon front from the start, when he prevailed on the anarchists to delay the assault on Zaragoza until it was too late. Did he sacrifice Malaga on Franco’s or Stalin’s orders? Or was he just an arsehole?

The Nationalists then sought to cut the road from Madrid to Valencia, which required skirting the south of the city and crossing the valley of the Jarama River. The action was intended to coincide with an attack on Guadalajara by the Italians but they weren’t ready so Franco went ahead anyway. Beginning on the 5th February the Army of Africa with a German armoured company surprised and overran Republican forces on the West bank. They defended their positions to the death, but by the 8th, the Western heights were in fascist hands. The river crossing on the 11th was led by Moroccan commandos who killed the sentries, immediately followed by cavalry that engaged the XIV International Brigade. Another column crossed the Arganda Bridge, which failed to collapse when its charges were detonated, but was halted by the Garibaldi Battalion of the XII I.B. German and Russian aircraft clashed overhead, the Russians retaining control.

The Eastern side was reinforced by the recently formed XV I.B. of British, Irish, Francophone and Balkan volunteers. The British Battalion went into action here for the first time. Things didn’t get off to an auspicious start; their commander Wilf McCartney was accidentally shot by the Brigade Commissar Peter Kerrigan (the Comintern’s British delegate) before they left their base at Madrigueras. McCartney was invalided out so Tom Wintringham took over. The first deployment of the XV was a cock-up; they were poorly equipped, had no maps and had not been told the enemy had already crossed the river, so they came under fire as soon as they began to descend the valley. The machine-gun company found it had been given the wrong ammunition. The truck carrying the replacement batch broke down, and when it arrived, the cartridges had to be belted by hand. The ridge of land that became known as ‘suicide hill’ was continuously swept with fascist machine gun fire, it was held for hours against terrific odds by one of the three infantry companies, led by I.R.A. veteran Kit Conway, who died there.

“Reaching the crest of the hills overlooking the valley and the river, the three companies of the Battalion met the full force of the Fascist advance. Up the slopes long lines of Moors and Foreign Legionnaires surged forward under cover of artillery and machine gun fire, threatening to sweep all before them. No one in his senses could have conceived that this line of riflemen could hold up that onslaught for more than a few minutes. And behind them? Nothing. A clear field down to Arganda, Morata and the Madrid road.

            But men who had come hundreds of miles to fight, sustained by an understanding of the cause for which they are fighting, do not act in the way prescribed by the military textbooks. Rapidly deploying in open formation, the Battalion went into the attack against the advancing Moors. The Fascist troops faltered, then hastily dropped down to cover. Only the sheer audacity of this handful of men could have achieved this. Had the Fascist officers been aware of the true position on our side, they would have overwhelmed the Battalion by sheer superiority of arms and numbers.”

– George Leeson, antifascist: ‘Spain Today, February 1947.

The ridge was eventually abandoned, but as luck would have it, just as the fascists came over the top the machine-gunners managed to get re-supplied and mowed them all down. The following day’s chaotic infantry retreat left the machine-gun company exposed and most were captured. Forty infantrymen then charged the position, of whom six survived. On the third day fascist tanks pushed the line back to the road, it was ‘shit or bust’. Frank Ryan and Jock Cunningham gathered the survivors to counter attack, leading them in a chorus of the ‘Internationale’:

“Some were still straggling down the slopes from what had been up to an hour ago, the front line. And now, there was no line, nothing between the Madrid road and the Fascists but disorganised groups, of weary, war-wrecked men. After three days of terrific struggle, the superior numbers, the superior armament of the Fascists had routed them. All, as they came back, had similar stories to tell: of comrades dead, of conditions that were more than flesh and blood could stand, of weariness they found hard to resist.

I recognised the young Commissar of the Spanish Company. His hand bloody where a bullet had grazed the palm, he was fumbling nevertheless with his automatic, in turn threatening and pleading with his men. I got Manuel to calm him, and to tell him we would rally everyone in a moment. As I walked along the road to see how many men we had, I found myself deciding that we should go back up the line of the road to San Martín de la Vega, and take the Moors on their left flank. Groups were lying about on the roadside, hungrily eating oranges that had been thrown to them by a passing lorry. This was no time to sort them into units. I noted with satisfaction that some had brought down spare rifles. I found my eyes straying always to the hills we had vacated. I hitched a rifle to my shoulder.

They stumbled to their feet. No time for barrack-square drill. One line of four. ‘Fall in behind us.’ A few were still on the grass bank beside the road, adjusting helmets and rifles. ‘Hurry up!’ came the cry from the ranks. Up the road towards the Cook-House I saw Jock Cunningham assembling another crowd. We hurried up, joined forces. Together we two marched at the head. Whatever popular writers may say, neither your Briton nor your Irishman is an exuberant type. Demonstrativeness is not his dominating trait. The crowd behind us was marching silently. The thoughts in their minds could not be inspiring ones. I remembered a trick of the old days when we were holding banned demonstrations. I jerked my head back: Sing up, ye sons o’guns!

– Frank Ryan: ‘The Book of the 15th Brigade’ 1938.

The one hundred and forty volunteers who marched back up the road to suicide hill did not all speak the same language, but everyone knew the tune; to compensate for their lack of numbers they engaged the enemy with a high rate of fire. Evidently the Fascists had not expected to see the routed Brigaders again, and presuming them to be reinforcements, fell back. The breach in the front was filled overnight and did not move for two years. To their right the Dimitrov and Thälmann Battalions held off the frontal assault on their own positions.

There were several costly counter attacks that failed to shift the Nationalist lines significantly, Lister’s fifth regiment advancing across open ground in broad daylight took fifty percent casualties, the North American and Irish Abraham Lincoln Battalion fared no better under similar conditions, their first engagement immortalised in the last words of poet Charlie Donnelly: “Even the olives are bleeding”. Jarama seriously undermined the morale of the International Brigades; they were used as expendable shock troops by inexperienced Communist generals who wanted propaganda victories. A month of bloodshed left both sides entrenched in a stalemate reminiscent of the Western front.

It’s fair to say the republic suffered from a lack of military experience, the Spanish metropolitan army had been little more than a dining club, only those officers who had been to Africa had ever seen combat, or even been on manouvres. Their tactics were from old French textbooks* or gleaned from the First World War, to which they had been spectators. The Russian officers were mostly young and equally untested, as the Red Army was being purged. Their authoritarian culture stifled initiative and they were under strict instructions not to risk capture. The best of the I.B.s were those like the Irish, with recent battle experience, or veterans of the Great War.

*To the extent that Franco believed they were receiving training from the French armed forces.

Flushed with the carnage at Malaga, Mussolini planned a showcase for fascist Italy’s martial prowess; sending his Blackshirts to cut off Madrid to the North East at Guadalajara. Instead they took such a shafting as to acquire a reputation for military incompetence and retreat that outlived his regime. Instrumental in their downfall was the Garibaldi battalion of the 12th I.B., exiled Italian antifascists with a score to settle. On the 8th of March the motorised infantry swarmed into the pass in their fleet of little tankettes. With about five to one numerical superiority they initially made rapid progress but were slowed by bad weather and boggy ground. The vehicles began to get stuck and their air support was grounded whilst the Republican air force benefitted from the concrete runway at Albacete. The 14th division led by the Madrid bricklayer Cipriano Mera counterattacked. The rout at Guadalajara guaranteed Mussolini’s continued support for Franco, to save face, it also led to the latter rescinding Blackshirt military autonomy and caused observers to re-think their strategy regarding mechanised infantry. At the same time, in their capacity as members of the non-intervention committee, Italian and German navies blockaded the Mediterranean coast; the only supply route left to the Republic was across the Pyrenees, and the French were all over that.

Red & Black Telly: ( GOD ) SAVE THE QUEEN FROM TRUMP ?