My son Joel who lives in London and his in-laws are aficionados of Irish folk music. Recently Joel gave me a delightful CD with songs written and performed by Irish folk singer and writer, Christy Moore. I was especially fascinated by a ballad called “Vive la Quinte Brigada.” (Christy Moore’s version of the Spanish - “Viva la Quinta Brigada” – Hail the Fifth Brigade.)
The song, relates the story of Irish volunteers who traveled to Spain to fight the Fascist General Franco to prevent him from taking over the Spanish Republic in 1936. The Spanish civil war was a prelude to WW II. The song narrative also relates that the Irish Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Irish media supported Franco. With the encouragement of the Bishops and the newspapers, Ireland also sent troops to the aid of Franco. After claiming infallibility in faith and morals, (Vatican I – 1869-1870) the Vatican supported Franco whose Fascist cause was facilitated by troops, arms, and bombing raids by Hitler and Mussolini. Franco prevailed in his “golpe del estado” In 1939. Adam Hochschild writes in his book, Spain in Our Hearts:
“In Madrid, Nationalist troops, plus units of their German and Italian allies, marched through the city in a victory parade, while war planes were arrayed in formation to spell out Viva Franco in the sky. The exodus of refugees, mostly on foot, grew to half a million. ‘Lifting our hearts to God,’ said a telegram of congratulations to Franco from Pope Pius XII, ‘we give sincere thanks with your Excellency for the victory of Catholic Spain.”
The Fascist tendencies of the U.S. Republican Party, such as extreme nationalism, racism, attacks on voter rights, and a militant anti-labor stance make Christy Moore’s “Vive la Quinte Brigada,” in the current political milieu of the U.S., more than just a delightful ballad. The megalomania of the Republican Party’s candidate for President is an alarm clock to wake us to the possibility of a Fascist type of government in the U.S.
For me Christy Moore’s ballad is enjoyable Irish music, but it is also historically interesting and politically relevant. Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address indicated that U.S. Democracy is a work in progress. We constantly need a politics of adjustment in every historical situation to make our democracy more a rule “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” But Fascism is not the answer.