Ron Ridenour

About Ron Ridenour
Short stories



Democracy Betrayed
[December 14, 2006]
(Morning Star daily UK newspaper version)

Danish International Brigade volunteer Leo Kari wrote the preface to his fellow brigader Gustaf Munch-Petersen's Selected Poems, published posthumously. Gustaf's last written words were jotted down the day before he was killed April 12,1938. He was fighting on the Spanish battlefield by the Ebro river in Aragon. Those words became the foreword to his poems.

"The whole world is one front / for or against that lovely life which humans could live / where one and all, wherever one is, must understand that, despite all strife, (life) is so precious and great that it shall be saved, cost what it must; / that nothing can any longer have meaning if that is lost on earth. / We must learn, at the very least, that that reality, which our life demands, requires the greatest struggle and the biggest sacrifice of us."

This holistic view of the world expresses the consciousness of 60,000 men and women of that generation, those who offered their lives to save Spain from fascism. About one-third of them died in Spain.

Six hundred thousand Spaniards, brigaders and foreign invaders died during the 1936-9 war against Spain's democratic republic. In the first five years of Franco's dictatorial rule, 200,000 Spaniards were murdered by fascist torturers. Several thousand more were murdered by the time Franco died on November 20 1975.

Many of the survivors from the Spanish war continued fighting in their own lands with the knowledge and ideal that "the whole world is one front." But they could not stop the fascist machine alone. Within just one year of the fascist takeover in Spain, nazi Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France.

Denmark was so easily taken that Hitler made it a rest and recuperation area for his troops. Nazism was accepted by all the bourgeois parties and their ally, the Social Democrats (SD).

Already at the end of 1938, when the Danish volunteers were returning from Spain, the Social Democratic government had sent its police to the train station to arrest them.

Not many were arrested or held long in jail because they were embraced as heroes by many Danes. But Denmark was split. Many joined the nazis, even fighting on the Russian front later on.

On the day after Germany occupied Denmark, the mainstream political parties - SD, Radikal Venstre, Venstre and Konservativ - formed a collaborationist coalition government under German ultimate control. Social Democrat Thorvald Stauning was made Prime Minister.

Danish Spanish war veterans and the Communist Party started the first resistance group, KOPA (Communist Partisans). In 1943, the resistance took on the name BOPA (Citizen Partisans), in order to attract a more popular front. Following spontaneous strikes in August, BOPA stepped up its sabotage actions and was able to assist most Danish Jews in fleeing to Sweden.

Kari was one of the first to join the resistance. And three brothers Harald, Kaj and Aage Nielsen were also among the first resisters.

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22 1941, the German "governor" of Denmark demanded of the collaborationist government the names of 67 Spanish war veterans and Communist Party members. They were to be interned at Horserod concentration camp.

So helpful was the Stauning government that, on November 7 1942, it had its police arrest 86 Spanish war vets.

Within a few days, the figure grew to 125. By the end of the war, nearly 1,000 had been interned.

On August 29 1943, the Danish government officially dissolved itself due to the massive uprising of striking Danes. But many of the political party leaders continued collaboration until May 5 1945, victory day.

On September 29 1943, Germans kicked the Danish police out of Horserod, arrested some on suspicion of aiding the resistance and took control of the camp--but not before 92 prisoners managed to escape.

One hundred and fifty prisoners were shipped to Stutthof concentration camp in Germany. Some died there.

Fulgsang was not freed until victory, after he had barely survived the infamous "death march" through Pommern from February to March 1945.

Aage Nielsen was arrested in September 1943 on information provided by an alleged friend.

Nazi guards tortured Aage to get him to name comrades. Instead of complying, he died at their hands. Harald found the informant and shot him dead.

Harald and Kaj continued sabotage actions. Both were wounded in a fire-fight with Danish police in November.

Despite Harald's lung injury and Kaj's leg injury, they were able to make it to Sweden, where Swedish police arrested them and put them under guard in hospital. Upon recovery, they were jailed until the end of the war.

With the formal dissolution of the Danish government, the Frihedsrad (Freedom Council) was formed to direct the underground resistance groups.

A few Social Democrats, Left Radicals and Conservatives had gone underground.

The Communists (DKP) were the main force in the resistance. Frode Jakobsen was chosen as leader, mainly because he was a member of SD. The DKP hoped that this compromise could convince the Social Democrats to form a popular front alliance upon victory.

As it became obvious that the war would be won by the Allies, Denmark's bourgeois parties struck a deal with the Freedom Council.

The deal established 18 ministries to be divided evenly among the two factions. SD took four posts. Inexplicably, Vilhelm Buhl was made Prime Minister. As the nazis' collaborationist Prime Minister, he had called the freedom fighters terrorists and turned them over to the nazis.

The Conservatives and Venstres received two ministry posts each and the Radicals received one. Despite the latter's leftist names, these parties and the Conservatives are solidly capitalist and today stand for neoliberal and war policies.

The four resistance groups' nine ministerial posts included two for the Communist Party - traffic and one without portfolio. Other freedom fighters held the foreign and justice ministries.

Jakobsen was given a ministry post without portfolio as one of the resistance leaders.

Despite an equal number of government ministry posts, the collaborationists were able to neutralise the resistance groups' more radical policies by making compromises on some concrete matters.

Most resistance leaders thereby accepted the collaborationists' desire to be officially considered as "co-fighters" with the resistance under the nazi occupation, claiming to have used their government positions to save Danish lives.

In the first post-war elections on October 28, the DKP won 18 mandates in the parliament, its largest number ever before or since. One of them was Fulgsang. He sat in the parliament until 1960, with a two-year break, and again from 1973 to 1979.

Egon Hojlund, another Danish brigader in Spain, had been a Social Democrat, but, in 1973, came into parliament on the even more conservative Centre Democrat ticket.

Harald Nielsen remained a butcher. Kaj went from job to job and then, in 1954, left Denmark. He travelled around Europe as skipper of a river craft. In 1979, he returned to Denmark sick and soon died.

Kari visited Spain in 1950. Once again, he was shocked to see the brutality of Franco fascism. He took his life in 1976.

Sixty-Seventy million murders, 27 million Russians, are on the hands of fascists and their bourgeois collaborators, the "non-interventionist" governments and those capitalist firms that they represented.

Today, their political progeny maintain the same war-for-profit policies. Anton Nielsen, the leader of the Horserod-Stutthof Association - a support group for those interned in Danish and German concentration camps - said in his October 28 commemoration speech: "Denmark is no longer occupied, but is itself an occupying power.

"Under the pretence of fighting terrorism, they spread terror against the Afghan and Iraqi peoples. The slaughter seems without end, the same as does the hypocrisy that they daily expose us to. Their propaganda drums beat.

"Terrorism shall be fought with all resources, so they establish a police state in Denmark. (They started) the war with lies. Young Danish men are sent to war with lies. They die in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the murderers sit in Christiansborg!"

Those who fought fascism in the 1930s and 1940s fought for a cause greater than themselves.

That idealism is rare in contemporary times in the First World, yet there are some who fight for justice and against oppression and our numbers are growing.

If we didn't fight, we would all live under even more oppression than we do today.

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