Monday, October 31, 2011

'Vote for Moises!'

My father informed me last night that his boyhood friend Winston Peters is about to hold an election rally out Franklin way, in some war memorial hall or bowls club. "Busloads of old people are coming up here from Tauranga" Dad reported. "The buses will have a reduced capacity, of course, because of all those wheelchairs and oxygen machines they'll have to fit in. And I guess Winston will have to organise ambulances to wait outside the venue, because some of his supporters are liable to collapse with excitement or fatigue."

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]


Anonymous curious observer said...

what is mark d's position on catalan nationalism?

is he aware that the catalan socialists call for a new confederation of 'catalan countries' that would include andorra and parts of italy as well as catalonian spain and bits of aragon?

this new entity would redraw the map of southern europe.

is it what mark wants?


what about the UNITY of the left?

7:58 pm  
Anonymous curious observer said...

here is a map of the new state the ctalaonian socialists want to create -
if this new state becomes a reality it will entail the redrawing of european reality.

8:00 pm  
Anonymous curious observer said...

not many people suspect that catalan is the official language of andorra. but does that make andorra the natural ally of the caltaln nationalists? what if andorra fell under the domination of barcelona in anew ctalan nation?

and where does the basque nation fit into all this?

has mark d thought all this through?

is his position or apparent position of support for ctalan nationalism just the product of historical nostalgia/sentimentalism/romanticisim??

8:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A victory was achieved by the anti-memorandum, anti-government movement on
October 28.

It was commemoration day of the resistance to the German occupation of
Greece, which started in 1940. Across the whole country, the traditional
student and military march was turned into an event of protest against the
new occupation of Greece being enforced by the “troika” of the
International Monetary Fund, the European Central and and the European

There were chants, banners, black ribbons signifying mourning etc. Many
marching students turned their faces away from the government officials
watching the march.

Unions joined the protests in many cities.

It was heartening to see officials forced to leave by the people’s anger in
many cities, such as Thessaloniki and Iraklio. The protesters kept chanting
that the politicians were unwelcome, calling them “traitors”.

12:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Scott.

All power to any Left Republican who, at 103, is still as anti-Fascist as he was in 1936.
However, let's not get carried away with admiration and imagine the Left Republicans have ever had anything to do with Orwell's Catalan workers, or any kind of socialism, whether libertarian or Labourish. The Left Republicans have always been about as left as... er, NZ First, and during the Civil War were about as excited by revolution as Winston Peters would be. "Leftish moderate nationalist" would be a more accurate way of describing Moises' party.
And, I am not sure how old your Da is, Scott but Winston barely qualifies for a Gold Card at 66.


9:07 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

I see what you're getting at Farrell, but wasn't Broggi's party involved in the Republican Popular Front government in 1936, and thus a part of the anti-fascist forces, albeit a component which was less radical and more compromised than the likes of the POUM?

Is there any party involved in the Spanish revolution which has not been linked to the failure of that revolution in one way or another by somebody or other? Trotsky slagged off the POUM as effectively counter-revolutionary because their programme was not radical enough for him, and anarchist-autonomist scholar Michael Seidman attacks the leading anarchists as bourgeois bureaucrats...

It is frightening to learn that my father is older than Winston Peters: I'll correct the post...

9:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Scott. You've got me Wikipediaing all over the place. I am presuming Moises is a candidate for ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya/Republican Left of Catalonia) not to be confused with the IR (Izquierda Republicana), er the Left Republicans, led by Azanya in the 30s.
ERC was certainly on the side of the angels when the Popular Pront won the 1936 elections. However, from the time the revolution began, the ERC-led government in Catalonia was clearly on the other side of the barricades from the revolutionary workers who identified mainly with the UGT (Socialist)and CNT(Anarcho-syndicalist)union federations and of course the POUM.
ERC was and is nationalist, yes, anti-fascist, yes, but not socialist and certainly not to be confused with the revolutionary workers Orwell admired so much.

I quite agree with your comments about the endless grounds for arguments re the Civil War and revolution.


8:13 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Fair point, Farrell - and I would have been on the side of Orwell and the POUM in 1936/37, although I don't know if I'd have had the guts to confront the bureaucrats of the Communist Party and the Popular Front like Orwell and co did (I think I'd probably run away and write blog posts denouncing the bureaucrats).

I suppose that many anarchists look to the Friends of Durrutti as the purest faction in the Catalan revolution in 1936/37, on account of their never having joined the PF? Trotsky I think was inclined to champion a tiny group, whose name I forget, which operated on the fringes of POUM.

I've read that there was an ultra-left group, associated with the Bordigaist Communist Party in Italy, which handed out leaflets denouncing all sides of the Civil War, and called for workers to desert even from the anarchist/POUM militia!

I do find Broggi's emphasis on Catalan cultural identity interesting.

9:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on you for admitting your doubts, Scot. Living in Spain (78-82), I was amazed by how many of my friends parents had survived that war by getting as far away from the front lines as they could. I've been a pacifist since I was at school (after seeing the BBC doco. series on WWI) and was gratified to see that the 103 year old Moises describes himself as a pacifist (Wikipedia). And he may well be more of a revolutianary socialist than his ERC affiliation would suggest, given the following--my rough summary/translation of an interview he gave in May last year with the "Vanguardia":

Broggi: "...The world situation then [before the Civil War/Revolution] was similar to what it is now.
--Don’t you think that’s a bit exaggerated?
- Capitalism was in crisis. The factories were virtually inactive. Many people were without work, defenceless--in those days there was no unemployment benefit nor public assistance. Many of the unemployed came from the South of Spain, where people were still living in a state of semi-slavery. Those people came [to Catalonia] to work but ended up by taking advantage of the crisis and the the country became a nucleus of revolution.
- That’s terrible.
- These days, we live in similar times, although it has to be accepted that now there are more ways of dealing with the situation, and more solidarity.
--But, according to you, we could end up having a social revolution?
--Yes, yes, it could happen."
And the good Dr. Broggi does not seem alarmed by the prospect.


11:46 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Thanks very much for that translation Farrell - I admire your skills!

12:17 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rest in peace Dr. Broggi

Visca Catalunya!

7:42 am  
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