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The author and critic Bernard Knox once wrote about the time, just after World War II, when he was applying to a graduate program at Yale University. He and the professor interviewing him got to talking about Knox’s war record, and it came out that even before the war began he’d fought with a French battalion in the Spanish Civil War. “Oh,” said the professor. “You were a premature anti-Fascist.”

This got Knox to thinking. He would write:

How, I wondered, could anyone be a premature anti-Fascist? Could there be anything such as a premature antidote to a poison? A premature antiseptic? A premature antitoxin? A premature anti-racist? If you were not premature, what sort of anti-Fascist were you supposed to be? A punctual anti-Fascist? A timely one?

Perhaps, he more or less idly wondered, if there’d been a few prematurely anti-Fascist governments in Europe, rather than governments that decided to be anti-Fascist when Hitler invaded Poland, World War II might have been avoided.

We’ll never know.