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Spanish Civil War

Spanish Civil War

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The
Spanish
Civil
War:
the
continuing
controversy:
I
The
historiographicalearthquake
by
Mark
Falcoff
Only
recently,
with the
virtual passing
of
an
entire
generation,
has
the
Spanish
Civil
War
(1936-39)
ceased
to
be
a
subject
of
pas-
sionate
historical
and
ideological
debate.
Even
so,
themarrvrdom
of
the
Second
Republic
(I93I-39) has
inspired
the
con-
struction
of
a
remarkably
enduring
histori-
ographical
edifice.
Its
main
lines are well
known-that
in
Spain,
the democratic
Westfailed
to
meet
the
earliest challenges
of
Eur-
opean
fascism
in
the
guise
of
General
Fran-cisco
Franco's
military
uprising
against
thegovernment
of
the Popular Front.
In
so
doing, it
presumably
emboldened
Hitder
and Mussolini
to
venture
on
to
what
be-
came
the
Second
World
War.
At the
same
time, the
Spanish
conflict
occupies
a
particularly
important
role
in
the
apparently
endless
apologetics
for
Stalin
and the
Soviet
Union.
Whatever
horrors the
former
may
have
inflicted
on
the
latter,
so
the argument
runs,
in
Spain
at
least
the
Soviets
put
Britain,
France,
and the
United
States
to
shame by
expeditious
support of
the
embattled
republic.
If
the
Soviets
came
to
occupy
a
disproportionately important
role in
Spanish politics
by
1939-again,
we
are
told-the
cause
lay
not
in
Moscowsambitions
so
much
as
in
the
failure
of
countrieswho should
have
hastened
to
the
aid
of
one
of
theirown,ratherthan
crouch-
ing
behind
a
hypocritical
posture
of
"non-
intervention
'
To
be
sure,
almost
from
the
very
begin-
ning
this
view
of
Spanish
events
was chal-
lengedby
historians and participants
alike.
One
such
was
George
Orwell
in
Homage
to
Catalonia
(1938),
a
book
whose
literary
ex-
cellence
perhaps
eclipses its crucial
political
message.
Another
was
Walter
Krivitsky,
a
defector
from
Soviet intelligence
who
died
under
mysterious
circumstances
in Wash-
ington
shortly
after
publishing
In
Stalin's
Secret
Service
(1939). Yet
another
was Jesus
Hernandez,
a
former member
of
the
central
committee
of
the
Spanish
Communist
partywhose memoirs
(evocatively
titled
Yo
fui
un
ministro
de
Stalin)
originally
appeared
in
1953.
In
later
years
what
might
be called
the
Revised
Standard
Version
was likewise
at-
tacked
by
historians
left
and
right-from
Trotskyists
like
Pierre
Broue
and Emile
Temimeto
liberals
like
Stanley
Payne,
but
also
by
E.
H.
Carr, generally
known
for
his
Soviet
sympathies, and
by
Ricardo
de
la
Cierva,
perhaps
the
most
accomplished
of
Spain's
franquista
historians.'
Forreasons
probably more
cultural
and
ideological
than
historical, however,
the
field has
been
dom-
inated
by
people
like
Paul
Preston,
a
Britishacademic
known
among
other
things for
a
massive
biography
of
Generalissimo
Fran-
cisco
Franco.
As
Prestonhimselfpointsout
i
Also
worthy
of
mention
is
La
gunr
ciaril
espanola:
una
historia
diferrte
(Plaza
y
lanes,
1996),
by the
heterodox
Argentine-Spanish
leftist
historian
Ho-
racio Vasquez-Rial,
which
has
not
received
any
thing
like
the
attention
it deserves.
58
The New
Criterion
September
Z001
---
r----*-
 
Thehistoriographicalearthquake
by
Mark
Fakoff
in
a
survey
of
several
recent
monographs
(The Times
Literary
Supplement,
June
29),
in
recent
years
themain
thrust
of
CivilWar
historiography
inSpain
has
shiftedto doc-
umenting
the
horrors
of
theFranco
regime,
bothduring
andafter
the
war.'
This
serves
a
number
of
useful
purposes, the
most
im-
portant
of
which
is
todivert
attention
from
the
troubling
questions
that
persist
con-
cerning
the republic
itselfAlas
for Prestonand
the
Spanish
histori-
ans
of
whom
he
happens
to
approve,
these
issues
will
not
go
away.
After
the
demise
of
the
Soviet
Union,
in
1991
and
1992,
its
military
archives,
as
well
as
those
of
the
Communist
International,
were
suddenly
made
available
to
Western
researchers.
For
some
years
now
the
Yale
University
Press has
been
publishing
selections
from
this
un-precedented
source
in
its
Annals
of
Com-munism
series,
much
to the
discomfiture
of
someextremely
well-placed
members
of
the
American
and
British historical
professions.
Now
comes
RonaldRadosh,
assisted
by
two
scholar-archivists,
to
reveal
what
light
such
materials shed
on
Spanish
events.:
The
task
itself
was
daunting,
since
it
re-
quired
the
translation
and
careful
perusal
of
hundreds
of
documents
inseveral
lang-
uages.
Thisvolume
includes some
eighty-one
of
them,
together with
a
running
com-
mentaryandnotes. Some
are very
long;others
are
tedious
in
therecitation
of
their
detail.
A
few
provide
particularly
vivid
pic-
tures
of
a
country
in
themidst
of
con-
siderablepolitical
and
military
confusion.
But
taken
together,
they
constitute
some-
thing
of
a
historiographicalearthquake,
2
"An
awareness
of
guilt: Repression,
vengeanceand
thedestruction
of
incriminating
evidence
in
Fran-
co's
Spain.
By
way
of
a
preemptive
strike,
Preston
begins
the piece
by
aacking
thestraw
man
of
Western apotogistsfor
Franco-nowadays,
at
least,
a
species
as
rare
as
the
unicorn-before
bludgeon-
ing
readers
with
the
Revised
Standard
Version.
3Spain
Betrayed:
The
Soviet
Union
in
the Spanish
Civil
War,
editedbyRonaldRadosh,
Mary
W
Harbeck,
and
Grigory
Scvostianov;
Yale
University
Press,
.537
pages,
535.
vastly
undercutting
the
long-standingargu-ments
of
generations
of
apologistsfor
Sta-
lin,
the
Comintern,
the
Spanish
Communist
party,and
the republic's
final
primeminis-
ter,
Dr.
Juan
Negrfn.
Prior
to
the
outbreak
of
the
war,
the
Spanish
Communist
party
was
the
smallest
and
least
significant
of
the
left-wing political
groupings
in
Spain.
In
spite
of
nearly
two
decades
of
patient
effort,
the
party
had
failed
to
make
significant
inroads
in the
hold
exercised
by
the
socialists
and
the
an-
archists,
particularlyover
the
two
groupsmost
likely
to
support
a
social
revolution
in
Spain-the
urban
workersandthe
landless
peasantrv.
Indeed,
as
late
as
1936
Madrid
did
not
even
maintaindiplomaticrelations
withthe
Soviet
Union!
Three
years
later,
how-
ever,
Moscow
was
invirtual
control
of
the
Spanish
government
and
was welladvanced
in its
plans
to
convert
the
country
into
a
precursor
of
the
"peoples' democracies"
thatsprangup
in
Eastern
Europeunder
RedArmy
protection
after
I945.
How
did
this
remarkable
turn
of
eventscome
to
pass?
Conventionalwisdom
has
it
that
the
rise
of
Communist
influencein
Spain
was
the
product
of
Stalin's
decision
toprovision
the
embattledrepublic
with
arms,
particularly
after
Hitler
andMussolinipoured
arms
and "volunteers"
into
the
in-
surgent
side.
On
the
face
of
it, the proposi-
tion
seems
to
makesense.
Unfortunately,
it
falls
somewhat
short
of
the
truth.
A
letterfromPrimeMinister
JoseGiral
to
the
Soviet
ambassador
in Paris,
dated
July
15,
1936,
establishes
that
the
republic
sought
to
acquire
arms
from Moscowwhenthere
was
still
a
possibility
that
France
would
honor
its
commitments
to
War
Ministry
pur-
chases.
Moreover,
other
documents
reveal
that
the
Soviet
Union-far
from
"giving"
weaponsto
the
embattled
republic,
swin-
dled
it
out
of
hundreds
of
millions
of
dol-
lars.
This
it
accomplished
by
demanding
the
prior deposit
of
a
good
part
of
the
country's
gold
reserve
in
Moscow,andthen,
through
theimposition
of
exaggeratedexchange
rates,
charged
almost
double what
guns,
The
New
Criterion
September
200I
 
The
Spanish
Civil War:
the
continuing
controversy
I
tanks,
and
planes
should
have
cost.
(On
twoaircraft
alone,
the
Sovietsbilked
the
repub-
lic
out
of
$50
million-in
the
dollars
of
those
days!)
Much
of
the
equipment
was
old
and unusable,and some
of
the weapons
were
dispatched
without
ammunition.The
Soviets
also
chargedagainst
the
totalthe
costs
of
feeding,
transporting,
and
main-
taining
militaryadvisers in
the
peninsula.
It is
true
that
the
Soviets set
up
dummy
companies
in
many parts
of
Europe
(and
also
in
the
United
States)
to
buy weapons
that
were
supposedlv
destined
for
trans-
shipment
to
unnamedSouth
American
re-
publics.
But,
in
fact,
some
ofthese-inclu-
ding
two
airplanes
ordered
fromthe
Doug-
las
plant
in
the
United
States-though
charged
to
the
SpanishRepublic,
were
sent
to China
to
assist
Mao Zedong.
Unques-
tionably the
perception-assiduously
re-
tailed in
the
Spanish
Communist
press,
which
mysteriously
ballooned
in
size
and
importance
after
July
1936-that
the
Soviets
were
providing what the
British,French,
and
Americans
were
cynically
denving
through
the
charade
of
"non-intervention"obscured the
facts
of
the
case.
Rather,
the
Soviets were
able
to
advance
theircontrol
of
the
republic
through
con-
ventional Leninist
means-by
manipulating
key
government
ministers
like
Julio
Alvarezdel
Vayo,
by
creating
a
network
of
political
commissars
to
control the
armed
forces,
and
by
identifying
and
advancing
the
careers
of
compliant
officers
and
effectively
destroyingthose who
resisted party
and Soviet
"ad-
vice."
This
was
not
always
easy,
and much
of
the
book
chronicles
the
difficulties
encoun-tered
by
theSoviet
embassy,
a
bloated
mili-
tary
mission, and
the
Communist
party
in
their
dealings
with
Spaniards
whose
loyalty
was first
and foremost
to
their
owncoun-
try-Prime
Minister
Francisco
Largo
Ca-
ballero,
or
Naval
and
Air
Minister
Indalecio
Prieto,
or
Army
Chief
of
Staff
JoseAsencio.
By
1938,
however,
all
three
had
been
re-
placed
with
officials
more
to
the
taste
of
Moscow,
so
that
as
the
actual
territory
of
the
republic
gradually
shrunk,
and
the
capi-
tal
moved
first
from Madrid
to
Valencia and
then
to
Barcelona,
the
Soviets
were
increas-ingly
in
control
of
the
cabinet,
the
armed
forces,
and
the
police.
The
process
of
getting rid
of
"uncooper-
ative"
Spanish
officials was
in
some
ways
remarkablvsimilar
to
what
was
going on
in
Russia
itself
during
these
years;
those
hos-
tile
to
Stalin's
rule,
orwhom
Stalin
im-
agined
might
become
so,
were
accused
not
merely
of
Trotskyism
and
"wrecking"'
but
actually
of
being agents
of
Hitler or
Mus-
solini.
Thus
General
Asencio
could
not
be
merely
wrong
or incompetent
but
a
covert
agent
of
Franco.
Ironically,
many
of
the
verypeople
Stalin
dispatched
to
Spain
to
applythese
techniques
themselves
fell
into
the
same
maw
when,
one
by
one,
they
were
recalled
to
Moscow.
One
of
the
few
excep-
tions,
Alexander
Orlov,
escaped
to
the
Uni-
ted
States,
later
to
provideone
of
the
ear-
liest
authoritativetestimonies
of
Stalin's
activities
in Spain.
The
Stalinist
purge
carried
on
behind
the
lines
of
the
Civil
War
was
not
merely
aboutthe
need
to get
rid
of
ministers and
generalsinsufficientlv
obedient
to
their
Soviet
advis-
ers; it
also
responded to
the
need
to
elimin-
ate
other
revolutionarv
forces in
Spain,
those
of
a
differentideological
hue
particularly
in
Catalonia,
where anarchistswere deeply
rooted
in
the
local
political
cul-
ture.
The
five-day
street battle
between
Communists
and
anarchists in Barcelona
in
1937
has
alreadybeen
told
bv
George
Or-
well.
What
is
new, however,
are
the
docu-ments(numbers
49-52 in
Spain
Betrayed)
that
reveal
that
the Spanish
Communist
l'arty,
with
the
support
and knowledge
of
theCominternand
Moscow,
deliberately
provokedthe
clash
to
eliminate
their op-
ponents.
In
theory
the
struggle
between
Communists
and
anarchists
(and
also
the
semi-Trotskyist
POUM)
turned
on
differ-ences
overgrand
strategy-whether
it
was
best,
as
the
Communists
insisted,
that
the
flames
of
revolutionaryenthusiasm
be
dampened
until
after
victory-presumably
for
fear
of
alienatingthe English and
French
governments
-or
whether,
as
the
anarchists
6o
The
New Critcrion
September
2001
r

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