'Vote for Moises!'
Apparently forgetting temporarily about his own advancing age, my father went on to joke about "the stroller and rest home vote", and to mock the way Winston's billboards airbrush his face to make him look younger than his sixty-six years.
Winston Peters may be one of the older players in New Zealand's political game, but he is a mere spring chicken compared to Moises Broggi, a senatorial candidate for the Republican Left of Catalan ticket in Spain's upcoming general election. Mark Derby, the Poneke-based historian whose works include a study of New Zealand's links with the Spanish Civil War, recently sent me an e mail about the extraordinary Broggi:
Moises Broggi is 103 years old...I spoke with him (through an interpreter - he doesn't speak English and my Spanish is embryonic) by phone a few years ago, because he worked as a surgeon with the International Brigades side during the Spanish Civil War. One of his medical colleagues and close friends in that period was Doug Jolly, the New Zealand-born surgeon later described as "perhaps the most important volunteer to come to Spain from the British Commonwealth". Moises remembered Jolly warmly and vividly and gave me a great deal of useful information about him. His information came too late for inclusion in the English-language version of my book, but has been incorporated into the forthcoming Spanish-language version...
The global economic crisis which began in 2008 has had a fateful impact on Spain, leaving both businesses and local governments heavily indebted, and making nearly a fifth of the working age population jobless. As protesters fill the centres of Madrid and other cities, the more radical parts of the Spanish left are suddenly getting a hearing from the public.
While Spain's shaky social democratic government is responding to the the country's economic malaise with measures borrowed from the political right, like cuts in the public sector and attacks on trade unions, its radical left is calling for a fundamental shift in power away from business and towards what the Occupy movement calls 'the 99%'. The protesters on the streets and outfits like the Catalan Republican Left are calling for the nationalisation of businesses threatened with bankruptcy, and for a punitive tax on the bankers who helped create the disaster of 2008.
Mark Derby sees a partial parallel between the unstable political situation in contemporary Spain and the turmoil of the 1930s. Back in the '30s the radical left won massive support from Spanish workers and peasants tired of living under the yoke of a semi-feudal landowning class and a deeply conservative Catholic church. When a left-wing government was elected in 1936 the forces of reaction responded with war, but this only radicalised the Spanish people. In Moises Broggi's beloved Catalan region, workers and peasants seized virtually all the factories and farms from the old ruling class and began to run them collectively. Arriving in the Catalonian capital Barcelona in 1936, George Orwell found 'a town where the working class was in the saddle'.
With the help of Hitler and Mussolini the Spanish right eventually won their war against democracy, but the memory of the radical 1930s has been kept alive by men like Moises Broggi.
As my father is all too well aware, Winston Peters has reinvented himself again and again over the decades, adopting and dropping political ideologies and allies with an ease that has sometimes seemed contemptuous. Moises Broggi, by contrast, has remained steadfast in his beliefs. For Catalan socialists, he is a living link between the present and a past which is at once distant and urgently relevant. As Mark wrote, at the end of his message to me:
Who could believe that events and individuals that appear irrevocably buried in the somewhat distant past could reappear to play a part in the exhilarating present? Vote for Moises!
[Posted by Maps]