THE NINETEENTH OF JULY
RENATO REDENTOR CONSTANTINO
July 19, 2004
The memories of another day - missing ruminations of generations. Will we ever remember? Will we ever learn? Who's to say?
Elvis Presley's first single was released on this day in 1954. It was "That's all right" with "Blue Moon Kentucky." The single was a minor hit and one and a half years later, Presley would explode to superstardom with "Heartbreak Hotel."
One and a half years later, on July 19, 1957, the first rocket with a nuclear warhead is launched at Yucca Flat, Nevada. That's all right, said the smiling rocket engineers. What heartbreak.
Five Massachusetts women were hanged on July 19, 1692 - for witchcraft. Hundreds of years later, on July 19, 1948, a similar witch-hunt opens its first inquiry at the University of Washington in Seattle under the banner of the Un-American Activities Committee chaired by Rep. Albert Canwell. The purpose of the Canwell Committee: to weed-out witches - local Communist subversives - and to hang their souls.
On July 19, 1979, massive celebrations take place in the streets of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Anastacio Somoza Debayle - the last Somoza of the 46-year US puppet dynasty - is overthrown. Four years earlier, on July 19, 1975, the psychologist Carl Jung wrote in the London Observer, "Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you." Maybe Don Anastacio should have met Carl earlier?
On July 19, 1998, the General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation issued the Fifth declaration of the Lacandon Jungle: "Brothers and sisters, it is the time for the silent weapons which we have carried for centuries to flourish in words again. It is time for peace to speak; it is time for the word of life. It is our time."
Ninety year earlier, on July 19, 1908, eminent revolutionary Emma Goldman shook her fist at militarists and wrote in the New York World: "Go and do your own killing. We have sacrificed ourselves and our loved ones long enough fighting your battles. In return, you have made parasites and criminals of us in times of peace and brutalized us in times of war. You have separated us from our brothers and have made of the world a human slaughterhouse. No, we will not do your killing or fight for the country that you have stolen from us."
How poorly the world remembers your words dear Emma.
On July 19, 1971, William Colby testified before the US Senate subcommittee how the CIA operation Phoenix killed 21,587 Vietnamese citizens between 1968 and 1971. On the same day in 1985, Brooke Kroeger of Newsday wrote: "The U.S. Seventh Fleet, Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base saturate the Philippines with servicemen who constitute the highest percentage of customers seeking prostitution in the country."
The Entarte Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition opened in Munich on July 19, 1937. "A culmination of Hitler and Goebbels' purge of all remaining modern art held in both public and private collections in the Reich, the exhibit was designed to ridicule and denigrate creative works not upholding 'correct' Nazi virtues." On the same day in the same year, Joris Ivens' "The Spanish Earth" premiered in Hollywood - "the film that set the standard for the cinema of international solidarity."
According to Peter Steven of the New Internationalist, "Ernest Hemingway's script and his dramatic yet measured voice added its own poetry and partisan anger" to the powerful imagery of the Spanish Civil War - the doomed cause that ushered in the brutal 40-year fascist regime of Franco and, more importantly, "formed the ominous prelude to Hitler's full-scale onslaught."
Ominous prelude. If the fascist monstrosity was slain there and then in Spain, would the course of history have been any different? Who's to know?
A year before the premier of Ivens' film, on July 19, 1936, fascists under the leadership of Franco trigger the Spanish Civil War when they attempt to overthrow the elected Popular Front government in Spain and take the garrisons in Barcelona. Workers, soldiers, civil guards and policemen faithful to the Spanish republic fight back and attack the barracks and successfully drive out the fascists. Many celebrate but the celebrations do not last. Franco's marauders are already pressing their assault on the Republic from other fronts and they have been lent the iron helping hand of Germany and Italy.
Free people all over the world take up Spain's cause and many arrive to fight for Spain as members of the International Brigades. Leaders of the so-called free world, on the other hand, stand by and watch as fascist forces literally slaughter the Spanish Republic.
On July 19, 1937, in a speech delivered at the House of Commons, Winston Churchill virtually absolves the fascist elements and outrageously blames instead "the swift, stealthy and deadly advance of the extreme communist or anarchist factions" for the outbreak of violence in Spain.
"I hope if Franco wins, he will establish a liberal regime," said US President Franklin Roosevelt in the summer of 1936. Ahem. The Roosevelt administration would enforce soon thereafter an arms embargo against the beleaguered Spanish republic - an embargo "prohibiting even private shipments in support of the republic." The US government even looked the other way when "the devoutly pro-fascist" Thorkild Rieber, the head of the American oil giant Texaco, "supplied - on unsecured credit - 1,866,000 tons of oil" to Franco and his war machine.
The nineteenth day of the seventh month - thanks for the memories.
1. I drew material and much insight again from the very stimulating website The Daily Bleed.
2. "What I believe, Emma Goldman, July 19, 1908, The New York World.
3. For the actual speech (very interesting, in the morbid sense of course), see Entartete Kunst exhibition opening speech, Adolf Hitler, July 19, 1937. For the statement quoted in the article, click on this link.
4. The Classic: The Spanish Earth, Peter Steven, New Internationalist, Issue 281, 1996.
5. "A new form of abolitionism: women organize to fight 'sexual slavery' around the world," Brooke Kroeger, Newsday, July 19, 1985.
6. "CIA and Operation Phoenix in Vietnam," Ralph McGhee, Februray 19, 1996.
7. Picasso's War: The destruction of Guernica, and the masterpiece that changed the world, Russell Martin, Plume, 2002. If you can get hold of a copy, do read Martin's book. It is a most fascinating rewarding weave.