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06 July 2019


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There's something here by the daughter of the girl he wrote the poem to!

The barren hills of Aragon. https://adathecadre.blog/tag/heart-of-the-heartless-world


I have fought for both. Mayhap I project my sensibilities. But I will not attempt to kill you because you cross yourself from right to left and I from left to right. Causes and isms such transient ephemeral garments to cover the delight of killing.

Barbara Ann


This guy was the cousin of the better know fighter ace Manfred. See his wiki on his involvement in Guernica:



As I asked: Why were they there?
Much as George 3, the legal ruler of the colonies, had requested Russian troops from Catherine and she demurred; the legal ruler of Spain requested troops from Stalin and he did not demur.
So the German's and the Russians both got to test new weapons and new tactics on the Spanish troops and the Spanish people. The mercenaries on both sides got paid.


Tidewater to Tidewater. I will try to get it right.
'The River Merchant's wife: A Letter.' By Ezra Pound. After Li Po.


Eugene Owens

Tidewater George Orwell was wounded close by the Estrecho Quinto trenches mentioned in your link. There is a road named aftr him there:


Like Cornford, Orwell also fought with the Marxist POUM militia against the fascists. The supression and attack on POUM by the Communists is said to have led to his later authorship of Animal Farm and 1984.

Eugene Owens

Wolfram NOT Manfred. He was a cavalry officer until late in WW1 when he joined his cousin's as a fighter pilot. He flew on the same mission when the Red Baron was shot down.

Eugene Owens

CK -

Much as George III used General von Knyphausen's Hessians and other Germans up to and during the War for American Independence. This was a major resentment even before the war. In the Declaration of Independence it was Grievance #25 against George III: "He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation."

Nobody in the International Brigade was paid other than beans and a blanket. It wasn't just Americans. It was mostly French but also included the Canadian McKenzie/Papineau Battalion, the British Battalion, the Polish Mickiewicz Battalion, the Italian Garibaldi Battalion, many Irish Republicans, and others from perhaps every country in Europe and Latin America.

It was a complex war and the curtain-raiser or opening act of WW2. I suggest you read historian Anthony Beevor's excellent account 'The Battle for Spain' instead of trying to reduce it to talking points:


David Habakkuk

Eugene Owens, Tidewater, CK.

On Cornford. The biography attached to the poems is misleading. He went to Spain to fight, and had already been a deeply committed communist at his ‘public school’ Stowe, a good while before he arrived at Cambridge in 1933.

What one might call ‘aristocratic communism’ – for want of a better word, is an interesting phenomenon.

A great-grandson of Charles Darwin, Cornford was the son of a Cambridge professor of ancient philosophy, and his actual first name, Rupert, came from the poet Rupert Brooke, a family friend, who had died on active service in the Aegean shortly before he was born, in 1915, actually of an infected mosquito bite.

Among many other ‘aristocratic communists’, a particularly interesting example is the Polonised Lithuanian noble Felix Dzerzhinsky.

If anyone believes that ‘metadata’ using that figure’s name establishes that ‘Guccifer 2.0’ was part of a Russian ‘information operation’ practised by the GRU, they are either completely stupid, or utterly ignorant of the complexities of Soviet/Russian history. (‘Round up the usual suspects: Steele, Hannigan, Dearlove, Strzok, Brennan, Jonathan Winer.’)

As my late father was an exact student contemporary at Cambridge of Cornford, although from a completely different social and intellectual background, I have some sense of the way in which the climate at the time was overshadowed, not only be impact of the war, but by the onset of the Depression and the rise of Hitler.

The – very fine – grammar school in the port town of Barry in South Wales of which my father was a product was the creation of Major Edgar Jones, a great Welsh educationalist. As a young woman, his wife, Annie Gwen Jones, had gone out to Ukraine to tutor the grandchildren of John Hughes, the Welsh engineer who created the Donbass.

A delayed result was that their son Gareth, who had graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, some time before Cornford, did the only serious on-the-ground reporting of what is now called the Holodomor. Ironically, he would be killed by bandits in Manchukuo in 1935 – whether at the instigation of the NKVD or not I am unclear.

His reporting from the time has now all been posted by his relatives on the net, see https://www.garethjones.org .

Reading it has been interesting for me, because it is a central part of my own family history.

Shortly before my late father followed Gareth Jones to Cambridge, the latter addressed the chapel my grandparents attended and described what he had seen in Ukraine – gives his own people a condensed version of the materials now available on the website.

Particularly as my grandfather was also a former pupil of Edgar Jones, and as the education officer at the local council a close colleague and friend, my father had rather more confidence in what he was told at that meeting than in the dismissals of the reporting by Jones by his very powerful and influential critics, prominent among whom was Walter Duranty of the ‘New York Times.’

It may partly have been as a result of this that, addressing the student historical society in Cambridge in 1935, my father delivered a pisstake of Marxism-Leninism, suggesting that rather than the eternal conflict between classes, history could be seen as an eternal struggle between the old and the young. He was told by Cornford that no prediction of the creed either had been, or could be, proven wrong.

As it happens, the Spanish Civil War is one of the many instances where I think the actual conflicts involved were incredibly complicated – far too much so for someone who has not studied the subject to have a clear view – and the only thing of which I am reasonably confident is that then as now, all too many people preferred projecting simplistic ideologies onto messy situations.

Interestingly, a couple of years ago a distinguished British historian of modern Spain, Paul Preston, accused George Orwell of doing just this in his immensely influential ‘Homage to Catalonia’. A first point he makes is that the Republicans were forced into seeking arms and support from the Soviet Union – for which they paid – because they could not get these from the British and French.

(A short version of Preston’s argument is at https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/06/george-orwell-homage-to-catalonia-account-spanish-civil-war-wrong ; a longer version, which might disabuse anyone who thinks that the British in the ‘International Brigades’ who went to fight for the Republic were simply there for the money, or because they liked risking their lives to kill people, is at http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/85333/ .)

To have any hope of surviving against the Franco’s professional forces, Preston points out, the defenders of the Republic had to attempt to create a professional army, and build as much of a ‘Popular Front’ as they could.

What they needed like a hole in the head was the kind of revolutionary upheavals championed by the POUM, with which Orwell identified, and Trotskyists more generally – and indeed it was his friends, and the anarchists, who were responsible for a very large share of the atrocities which did the Republican cause immense damage.

According to Preston, the notion that Stalin’s obsession with destroying Trotskyists was responsible for the defeat of the Republic is simply false: indeed close to the reverse of the truth. A central priority of his policy at the time was to maintain France as a central element in a strategy of ‘containment’ of National Socialist Germany, and a central fear that if Spain went France would follow, laying the Soviet Union open to German attack.

There is, here, yet another irony. The study ‘The Revolution Betrayed’ which Trotsky published in 1937 was read carefully in the German Embassy in Moscow. It was quoted at length in a speech drafted by his young subordinate Hans (‘Johnnie’) von Herwarth for his ambassador, Werner von der Schulenberg, to deliver to the General Staff Academy in Berlin in November of that year.

Reading the 1981 memoir ‘Against Two Evils’ which Herwarth wrote in collaboration with the American scholar S. Frederick Starr some years back, I was struck by the ironic parallels between the – actual – view of the German Moscow Embassy diplomats, and the close of ‘Animal Farm.’

At the risk of caricature, the argument made by Herwarth and Schulenberg to Hitler – and he saw no reason to revise it in the intervening decades – might be summarised as follows:

What is the point of risking Germany’s future in a great ‘crusade’ against ‘international Bolshevism’, when the ‘national Bolshevik’ Stalin is busily liquidating all those ‘internationalist’, Bolsheviks from the ‘borderlands’ he can lay his hands on?

Again, if – rightly or wrongly, and Herwarth has interesting things to say about this – Stalin is so afraid of ‘Bonapartism’ that he liquidates the most intellectually sophisticated command group of any country anywhere in the ‘Thirties, and replaces them with unthreatening incompetents like Voroshilov and Budyonny, then that greatly reduces the dangers from Soviet military power.

At the same time, Herwarth and his colleagues tried to warn Hitler that it was unwise to think that the Soviets were so weak that, as the figure they tried unavailingly to persuade put it before he made his crucial disastrous gamble, ‘We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.’

What Hitler was attempting to do would vindicate ‘national Bolshevism’: German armies would then find themselves fighting not on metalled roads in Poland, where there relative strengths were greatest, but on the banks of the Volga in midwinter – where everything favoured the other side.

In relation to the politics of the ‘Thirties, there were rather complicated, and still partly unresolved, questions about who was fooling whom, and who was fooling themselves, by believing what they wanted to believe, and getting lost in their own rhetorics. (It becomes interesting to think what Herwarth’s candid view, alike of Cornford and Orwell, might have been),

‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.’

Eugene Owens

David H -

I've put Herwarth's 'Against Two Evils' on my reading list. A bit pricey though but maybe I can find a used copy. Plus I'm grateful for the other links. I thought that Felix was an ethnic Pole but then I'm sure the bloodlines were mixed during the Union. Even the great Pilsudski had a Polish/Lithuanian identity. I have mongrel ancestry myself, although one of my great, great grandfathers immigrated from South Wales. Perhaps even from the Barry you mention?

Your closing quote is indisputable. Unfortunately we all soon forget that which went on before. As always I am gobsmacked by your erudition. Except perhaps for the 'pisstake' comment. :-) Is that in use at Cambridge?

Eugene Owens

I spoke to fast in calling General Pilsudski 'great'. I know he had a very dark side. I was thinking of his kicking Stalin's and Tukhachevsky's butt in the Battle of Warsaw. I realize he has a darker side.


Thank you for the suggestion, Beever's book has been added to my amazon purchase list.

David Habakkuk

Eugene Owens,

I am very fond of www.bookfinder.com. It searches through all available sites, and often comes up with surprising bargains. A year ago, I wanted to look again at the Herwarth book, and found a decent ex-library copy for £2.49, including postage. Apparently, a good copy can be obtained on your side of the Atlantic for $3.99.

A bit of background to my own interest. Reading the memoirs of George Kennan, a long time ago now, I was struck by a passing reference to the German Moscow Embassy of the ‘Thirties as ‘at all times excellent.’

When I followed this up, I discovered that it was either ignored by Western historians, or incorporated in a ‘narrative’ about the sinister Germans corrupting innocent Americans.

In fact, two memoirs by former officials of the Embassy have been available in English for years.

The first, ‘Incompatible Allies’, written by the long-serving Embassy ‘Legionsrat’ Gustav Hilger in collaboration with a young Jewish refugee, Alfred Gustav Meyer, who had learned Russian courtesy of the U.S. Army, was published as long ago as 1953. It is now available at


The memoir by Herwarth was not published until 1981. The ‘backstory’ is interesting. A Junker with a Jewish grandmother, as well as serving as diplomat in Moscow from 1931-9, and then in the Wehrmact on the Eastern Front, he was involved from early on with the circles in the Foreign Ministry and General Staff where opposition to Hitler was concentrated.

As a result, he realised, as Schulenberg and Hilger did not, that in the wake of the kind of agreement with the Soviet Union which all three of them had been energetically promoting, Germany would get involved in a war with the Western powers. This produced a dramatic ‘volte face.’

In the memoirs of Kennan’s fellow Soviet expert Charles ‘Chip’ Bohlen – a superior analyst in my view – published in 1973, there is a description of how Herwarth warned him of the negotiations leading up to the pact, as he did also with other Western diplomats in Moscow, in a desperate attempt to make them realise that they had to make terms with Stalin before Hitler did.

Then, in 1976, in ‘A Man Called Intrepid’, his wildly inaccurate account of the British Security Co-ordination operation in the United States in the Second World War, William Stevenson gave a distorted account of Herwarth’s role in supplying intelligence to the then commercial attaché in the American Berlin Embassy, Sam Edison Woods, in 1940 on the plans for ‘Operation Barbarossa.’

This included the false – and obviously embarassing – suggestion that Herwarth had been an American spy since 1936.

Actually, this part of the history in one area of the memoirs where I think that Herwarth was a great deal less than candid: I am profoundly sceptical about his claim not to have known that Woods was working for American intelligence, which in this case meant, it appears, being used as a private intelligence gatherer by Roosevelt. A lot about those connections has not I suspect been revealed.

Both Herwarth and Alfred Gustav Meyer thought that Hilger’s long history of close contact with the Soviets – he had been born in Moscow – made his experience invaluable, and that is indeed a good reason for reading his book. Equally however, they both thought him too naive to be a reliable observer.

On the other hand, I think Herwarth was just a terribly good analyst, and also a very brave man.

The history of the connections between the veterans of the American Moscow Embassy of the ‘Thirties and their erstwhile German colleagues is of considerable importance in making sense of the early Cold War.

Unfortunately, a lot of writing on this suffers from a failure to understand the complexities involved.

So, on the one hand, we have John Lewis Gaddis’s 2011 authorised biography of Kennan, which contains three brief references to Herwarth, and apparently none to Hilger.

That it is simply inexcusable to avoid looking seriously at Hilger’s role is evident from materials available on something called the ‘Gustav Hilger Research Library’, which has been started by a research associate at the Hoover Institution, Matt Ellison.

(See https://www.mattellison.org/hilger/ .)

However, the title of a piece he wrote last April – ‘The German Strategic Mastermind Behind America’s Post-War Order’ is I think over way over the top.

To make any sense of these matters, it is necessary to make some attempt to understand how appalling can be the choices that people have to face.

The record of George N. Shuster’s 13 August 1945 conversation with Hilger provides, in essence, a summary of the account given in the book. The German Moscow Embassy view had long been that Stalin was – and would remain – far too fearful of Germany deliberately to initiate, or indeed risk, general war. However, they also thought that if Germany initiated such a war, it would lose.

Once however Hitler had gambled on war, the same logic led to the conclusion that the only way to avoid a cataclysmic defeat had to be to repeat the strategy which Germany had practised to great effect in the First World War – to make maximum use of the internal tensions of the adversary. The 8 November 1946 memorandum about Vlasov does indeed summarise the only strategy by which the Germans could have avoided defeat.

Given that Ribbentrop had been opposed to the attack on the Soviet Union – he wanted to collaborate with it against Britain – it was hardly surprising that Hilger went on desperately trying to use him to influence Hitler.

To make sense of the Hilger-Kennan relationship, I think, one needs to go back to a central point which Herwarth makes, which is also fundamental to the analyses Kennan produced at the end of the war, which are reproduced at the end of the first volume of the memoirs.

It is actually brought up by your very apt comparison of Dzerzhinsky and Pilsudski. As it happens, a play about these two characters, which, according to a report in the ‘Baltic Times’, was ‘written in the genre of tragic farce’, was put on in Vilnius in 2011. The following year saw the publication of the study ‘The Bolsheviks and the Russian Empire’, by an American scholar teaching at Edinburgh, Liliana Riga – its conclusions are summarised in a 2008 paper.

(See https://m.baltictimes.com/article/jcms/id/129506/ ; https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/files/12594418/The_Ethnic_Roots_of_Class_Universalism.pdf .)

The key point is that Bolshevism was only very partly a movement of Russian proletarians – it was also one route which could be taken by non-Russian intellectuals in the ‘borderlands’ who were unhappy with ‘nationalist’ alternatives.

A conclusion which Kennan drew was that Stalin’s attempt to bring under his control not just parts of the ‘borderlands’ which had been part of the Romanov’s empire, but also parts which had been under the Hapsburgs and Ottomans, was liable to create an ultimately unsustainable strategic position. On the one hand, they would run into the same kinds of problems as their Tsarist predecessors, in spades; on the other, if one gave in to ‘nationalists’ outside the Soviet Union, this might precipitate a process of disintegration carrying forward uncontrollably into the Soviet Union.

In a 2010 discussion, a contemporary Russian scholar, Vladimir Pechatnov, noted that this analysis was prescient.

(See http://jhss-khazar.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/01.pdf .)

However, Kennan’s conviction that the Soviet system could be pushed into collapse also meant that he took over a latent tension which had been present both with the strategy the Germans had successfully pursued in the First World War and that which Hilger and his colleagues wanted to pursue in its successor. Of necessity, this involved finessing the conflicts between non-Russians who were both anti-communist and anti-Russian, and Russians who were anti-communist.

As regards the latter group, I think there is some reason to suspect that in documents like the discussion of Vlasov, Hilger was in part telling Kennan what he wanted to hear.

This bears rather directly upon contemporary dilemmas. It was one thing to support anti-Russian nationalists when there was still a Soviet Communist ‘superpower.’

To continue to do so, when what is at issue is a project to exploit the heirs of some of those groups with whom the Germans collaborated in the war and people in London and Washington collaborated after it to wrest the whole of Ukraine, including Crimea and in particular Sevastopol, into an anti-Russian Western 'bloc', is to take large risks. An important one is that of convincing once pro-Western Russians that they were fooled.

A related point comes into sharper focus if one brings into the picture the fact that Pechatnov comes out of the Institute of the USA and Canada, which was one of the ‘nodes’ from which the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking’ spread. What Kennan actually anticipated from the subversion of the Soviet system he believed would result from the successful reconstruction of the West was not a happy ‘transition’ to democracy: it was chaos ‘beyond description.’

As Pechatnov notes, an attentive reader of Kennan would have chosen the path taken by Deng rather than that taken by Gorbachev. That however brings me to a final irony involved in the history of the German Moscow Embassy. The political project of Schulenberg became, in essence, to create an invulnerable ‘continental bloc’ by incorporating in the Anti-Comintern Pact the power against which it had been directed.

A Russia which has lost faith alike in Western intentions and Western political models can be an invaluable asset to the Chinese, in creating a new version of such a world. And an obvious goal would be, over time, to persuade Germans to look again at Schulenberg’s vision.

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