Why do Social Democrats do what they do?

July 01, 2015

'This New Offensive' (Battle of the Ebro, 1938) by Margot Heinemann, British Communist writer

Margot Claire Heinemann (Born: November 18, 1913-Died: June 10, 1992) was a British Marxist writer, drama scholar, and leading member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. She was the lover of John Cornford, while a student at the University of Cambridge. The historian Eric Hobsbawm, who was also there at the time, wrote "she probably had more influence on me than any other person I have known." Born in London in 1913 herparents were German Jews who were both supporters of the Labour Party.

In 1934 she joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. "We are all, as it were, the natural allies of the working class, it wasn't a question of crossing over from your middle-class background to find yourself a niche in the working-class movement, but of trying to unite all these kinds of people on the basis of a conscious desire to combat fascism and war." After leaving university she taught factory workers at Cadbury's Bournville in Birmingham. During the Spanish Civil War she played an active role in supporting the Republicans. This included selling party pamphlets and organizing solidarity meetings for Spain.

This New Offensibe (Battle of Ebro 1938) ,  Margot Heinemann


This new offensive drugs our old despair,
Though, distant from the battle-line,
We miss that grave indifference to fear
That has so often now saved Spain.

Let fools and children dream that victory
Drifts lightly on the wings of chance,
And all that riveted and smooth-tooled army
Should melt before this proud advance.

Not this war’s weathercock, brave when things go well,
Afraid to think of a retreat,
By turns all singing and all sorrowful:
We’ve not to watch but win this fight.

Offensives must be paid for like defeats,
And cost as dear before they end.
Already the first counter-raids,
Take no positions but they kill our friends.

A miracle is not what we can hope for
To end this war we vainly hate.
We shan’t just read it in the evening paper
And have a drink or two to celebrate.

For two long years now when you sighed for peace
To slip from heaven as an angel drops,
You were confronted with your own sad face,
And once again time holds the mirror up.

It was not a few fields they sought to gain,
But months and maybe years of war.
Time’s on their side: by time we mean
The heirs of time they thought worth fighting for.

This narrow ridge of time their valour won,
Time for us to unite, time to discover
This new offensive is your life and mine,
One nation cannot save the world for ever.


-Margot Heinemann 1938
Published in Poems for Spain 1939 [1]

from : Heinemann, M., 'This New Offensive' (Ebro, 1938), in Poems for Spain, Stephen Spender and J. Lehman, Editors. 1939, The Hogarth Press: London. p. 24-25.
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