Friday, January 18, 2008

Milton Wolff, the last commander of the Washington-Lincoln Battalion of American Communist volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, died at age 92.

There is no question that Wolff was courageous.

That's about the only good thing I have to say about him.

He was a lifetime Stalinist, and served his master well in Spain, where he was eventually promoted to major in the Comintern's army. That is, he enforced the Party line. Each batallion had a Party political commissar, in charge of ideological purity. Of course, Stalin purged the International Brigades, just as he did the entire Comintern, and at least 500 men were executed, probably many more. Wolff not only knew this was going on, but actively participated, as is demonstrated by his survival and promotion.

The Lincoln Battalion did not particularly distinguish itself in combat; it mutinied after being thrown into the line at the battle of the Jarama valley in February 1937 and losing 120 men. The men blamed their officers, who were chosen by the Comintern for political reasons; one commander, Oliver Law, may have been murdered by his own troops. Wolff took over the batallion in April 1938 at the Battle of the Ebro.

Though Wolff served in Burma and Italy during the Second World War, he had no sympathy for the Allied cause until the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, as is seen in this quote:

"We fight against the involvement of our country in an imperialist war from which the great majority of the American people can derive only misery, suffering, and death."

Milton Wolff,
Volunteer, Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Speech, Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Convention, May 1941

In the same speech, Wolff called President Roosevelt "a red-baiting, union-busting, alien-hunting, anti-Negro, anti-Semitic president on a jingoistic road to Fascism in America."

A few months later Wolff's opinions on the US entering the war changed for obvious reasons, and "Wild Bill" Donovan, the founder of the OSS, asked Wolff to recommend some of his men. Wolff was a Comintern agent controlled by Eugene Dennis, a member of the Party Politburo, and Dennis gave Wolff clearance from Moscow to recruit some thirty Lincoln battalion veterans to infiltrate OSS. Several of these people, including Jack Bjoze, Morris Cohen, and George Wuchinich, were proven to be Soviet agents by the Venona transcripts.

Wolff's postwar career included taking the Fifth Amendment before the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security when asked whether he was a Communist Party member; mouthing pro-Soviet propaganda for the rest of his life; personally volunteering the services of the Lincoln Battalion veterans' organization to Ho Chi Minh; and raising money for both Castro and the Sandinistas. In addition, he probably invented and definitely spread the myth that members of the Lincoln Battalion were later classified by the War Department as unreliable "premature anti-Fascists.

Those who still sympathize with Stalin may consider Wolff a hero. I certainly don't.

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