Veterans of Spanish Civil War condemn "LAND AND FREEDOM" film
Press Statement, Issued 30.1.96
At Garter Lane, Waterford, on Monday, two Irish veterans of the Spanish Civil War had some strong words to say about the film "Land and Freedom", which concerns the war in which they fought.
The film, made by British film-maker Ken Loach, was shown by Waterford Film Society and depicts events in Spain in 1936-39. The two veterans were Waterford man Peter O'Connor and Michael O'Riordan, originally from Cork.
The two veterans have issued the following a joint statement, because they consider the film to be misleading.
"The war in Spain was all about preventing fascist rebels, overwhelmingly aided by Hitler and Mussolini, from overthrowing the elected government; if the Spanish people, aided by the International Brigaders from 54 countries, had succeeded in this then it is probable that Hitler would not have had the encouragement he needed to start World War Two. This film gives the impression that the war was all about having a "red" revolution with strong anarchist and anti-Catholic overtones; it wasn't. The anarchists and Trotskyists depicted in the film were doing their own thing in a corner of Spain which was far from the war, and their activities presented no threat to Franco's rebellion as they served to divert resources from the real issue and undermined the vital task of uniting all anti-fascists. To stage a "revolution" in Barcelona, one week after the Nazi air force bombed Guernica, was a real stab in the back, yet this film glamourises it. The film tries to blame the Soviet Union for the victory of Franco, despite the fact that the USSR gave more help to the Spanish Government than any other state, and did so in the face of a blockade by Britain and France on the pretext of 'non-intervention'.
"The film also gives the false impression that 'no pasaran' (they shall not pass) was a slogan of the pseudo-revolutionary POUM organisation which was playing at revolution when the task was to defend democratic government. The slogan was coined by the Communist leader Dolores Ibarruri (known as La Passionaria) and was the slogan of the the pro-government forces, not a POUM slogan. Finally, the film gives a totally misleading picture of the experiences of the 45,000 volunteers, 145 of them from Ireland, who fought in the International Brigade."
Michael O'Riordan is a former Chairperson of the Communist Party of Ireland. Peter O'Connor, a former Waterford Corporation Councillor, is the last of ten Waterford International Brigaders. Both were recently offered Spanish citizenship in recognition of their services in defence of democracy in Spain.
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