Previous posts in this discussion:
PostDid the Spanish Left Manipulate the 1936 Elections? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 08/02/16 4:34 am)
Paul Preston (22 July) asked me to present some evidence for the electoral manipulations by the Popular Front in the 1936 Spanish elections that I mentioned in my earlier post. I am sorry, Paul. If I were a historian like you, maybe I could keep evidence or documents to support such a statement. In fact this statement was not intended to be the central theme of my post! Ever since I was a young boy in Spain, I was taught that the manipulations took place, but unfortunately I cannot support all my opinions and beliefs with documents or historical facts; no one can I suppose.
Is it, as you suggest, a "falsification perpetrated by the Spanish right"? Was it part of the rightist propaganda of the Franco regime to justify his coup? Perhaps this is only another myth of the Civil War; but being now older (much older) and skeptical, I would not be surprised if such an event was perpetrated by the left. Or can we really believe that the leftist political parties were incapable of such manipulations or falsifications?
You and John E both noted that "since the Popular Front was not in power, its capacity of manipulating the elections was minimal," or that "fraud is only possible when you control power." I agree with this in principle, but unfortunately there might be many ways to "manipulate" elections when control of official power is precarious or nonexistent, as it likely might have happened in Spain in 1936.
Anyway, I do not pretend to contradict such reputable and respected historians, but Paul's challenge inspired me to research a bit on this subject. This is what I found.
First, consider the fact that the social and political atmosphere in Spain in 1936 during the election period was very disturbed and in turmoil. Many historians (rightist historians? Maybe; I do not know) say the chaos was caused by leftist political parties, some also blame the Falangists, and a very weak government. As a consequence, the conditions for the election process were not properly secured by the authorities during those days and afterward. This lack of control over the process gave room for intimidation, threats, violence, aggression, doubtful legality, coercion and electoral falsification.
Second, the electoral system in Spain was cumbersome and complex. It still is--a parliamentary representation, in which it was impossible to identify how many votes were obtained by each candidate. Also, the list with the most votes by region obtained disproportionately more representatives. Apparently the Popular Front obtained 236 deputies, with only 48% of the votes, and the center-right parties had only 153 with 52% of the votes; actually the final official result were never fully published and it is impossible to verify.
According to sources of the time, there were reported irregularities in many regions and specific locations (sorry, I do not have evidence!) against rightist candidates, in Cáceres, La Coruña, Lugo, Pontevedra, Granada, Cuenca, Orense, Salamanca, Burgos, Jaén, Almería, Valencia y Albacete, among others. Apparently, Niceto Alcalá Zamora, the former Spanish prime minister, a respectable intellectual, in his declarations to the Journal de Geneve in 1937, revealed and denounced the irregularities on the elections (sorry; again I do not have evidence!). I hope interested WAISers can understand Spanish version:
"A pesar de los refuerzos sindicalistas, el Frente Popular obtenía solamente un poco más, muy poco, de 200 actas, en un Parlamento de 473 diputados. Resultó la minoría más importante, pero la mayoría absoluta se le escapaba. Sin embargo, logró conquistarla consumiendo dos etapas a toda velocidad, violando todos los escrúpulos de legalidad y de conciencia.
"Primera etapa: desde el 17 de febrero, incluso desde la noche del 16, el Frente Popular, sin esperar el fin del recuento del escrutinio y la proclamación de los resultados, la que debería haber tenido lugar ante las Juntas Provinciales del Censo en el jueves 20, desencadenó en la calle la ofensiva del desorden, reclamó el Poder por medio de la violencia. Crisis: algunos Gobernadores Civiles dimitieron. A instigación de dirigentes irresponsables, la muchedumbre se apoderó de los documentos electorales: en muchas localidades los resultados pudieron ser falsificados.
"Segunda etapa: conquistada la mayoría de este modo, fue fácil hacerla aplastante. Reforzada con una extraña alianza con los reaccionarios vascos, el Frente Popular eligió la Comisión de validez de las actas parlamentarias, la que procedió de una manera arbitraria. Se anularon todas las actas de ciertas provincias donde la oposición resultó victoriosa; se proclamó diputados a candidatos amigos vencidos. Se expulsó de las Cortes a varios diputados de las minorías. No se trataba solamente de una ciega pasión sectaria; hacer en la Cámara una convención, aplastar a la oposición y sujetar al grupo menos exaltado del Frente Popular. Desde el momento en que la mayoría de izquierdas pudiera prescindir de él, este grupo no era sino el juguete de las peores locuras."
Manuel Azaña, the newly elected leftist prime minister, also gave testimony of the irregularities and coercion by the leftist militants. In a letter to Cipriano Rivas Cherif, his brother-in-law (3-19-36), he wrote:
"Los gobernadores de provincia de Portela (current prime minister at the time) habían huido casi todos. Nadie mandaba en ninguna parte y empezaron los motines," [Note: The gobernadores or Governors were responsible for the legitimacy of the election process.]
"En La Coruña íbamos a sacar cinco o seis (diputados). Pero antes del escrutinio surgió la crisis, y entonces los poseedores de 90.000 votos en blanco se asustaron ante las iras populares, y hemos ganado los trece puestos... ¡Veleidades del sufragio!... Han sacado al otro... para que no saliera Emiliano, a quien metimos preso la misma noche de formarse el gobierno, para salvarle la vida, decían los de allí... hemos sacado... otro en Guipúzcoa... y no tenemos dos, porque los comunistas se llevaron las actas pistola en mano."
Finally I just want to quote a statement by Winston Churchill, in the British newspaper Evening Standard of August 10, 1936 (sorry I do not have the English version) in which he apparently suggested a common leftist strategy for using the elections to reach power at all cost:
"¿Cómo sucedió? Sucedió 'de acuerdo con el plan.' Lenin afirmó que los comunistas debían prestar su ayuda a todo movimiento hacia la izquierda y promover la implantación de gobiernos constitucionales débiles, de signo radical o socialista. Después socavarían esos gobiernos y les arrancarían de sus manos vacilantes el poder absoluto instituyendo un estado marxista. El procedimiento es bien conocido y ha sido comprobado. Forma parte de la doctrina y táctica comunistas. Ha sido seguido de manera casi literal por los comunistas de España. [...] Desde las elecciones celebradas a principios de este año, hemos asistido a una reproducción casi perfecta en España, mutatis mutandis del período de Kerensky en Rusia."
I have found some other such testimonies of this apparently fraudulent event in Spain. However I do not want to make this post longer than it is, and actually I do not pretend to be right. After all, history is not my field; I am only an occasional amateur. But why I am not surprised by what might have happened in Spain in 1936? I have been in Venezuela for a long time now where such electoral abusive strategies had been applied--where fraud, coercion and intimidation have been reiteratively used by the left to legitimate an antidemocratic regime. I would be also fascinated if Paul could provide me some evidence to prove that such Popular Front electoral manipulations were fantasies of the right--in order to change my beliefs.
JE comments: Few things justify an uprising more than accusations of electoral fraud. I still find it counterintuitive that a group in power would allow its opposition to manipulate an election, but José Ignacio Soler paints a damning picture of election-day irregularities and chaos.
Just a thought: the Democrats were in power in 2000, when GW Bush was declared the winner in Florida.
New Book on Election Fraud in Spain, 1936
(José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela
03/23/17 1:54 PM)
Back on 2 August 2016, in my response to Paul Preston's inquiry about presenting evidence of electoral manipulations by the Popular Front in Spain's elections of 1936, I commented on my own research results on that historical incident which suggested the electoral fraud was real.
I recall this post because a new book was published in Spain (1936: Fraude y violencia en las elecciones del Frente Popular, by Manuel Álvarez Tardío and Roberto Villa García), which presents apparently rigorous historical research from the two academic authors. They present evidence of the facts I mentioned in my post, and many others, but in a more concise, factual and rigorous way.
I believed what John E very aptly commented, "Few things justify an uprising more than accusations of electoral fraud." In this case there are more than mere "accusations." While John is correct about it being "counterintuitive that a group in power would allow its opposition to manipulate an election," the evidence of manipulation presented in this book seems to be strong and decisive.
Just for the record, in general I still do not support any military or popular uprisings, though maybe sometimes it might be the only way to "correct" political abuses such as electoral fraud or tyrannical regimes. The latest being the case and perhaps the only feasible way to get rid of Venezuela's current situation.
I would kindly ask Ángel Viñas, and perhaps some other Spanish historical experts, for their opinion on the credibility of this work.
JE comments: Since August we've seen another case of the opposition capturing a major election...
A lot of water has flowed under WAIS Bridge since José Ignacio Soler's original post. Here is is again:
New Book on Election Fraud in Spain, 1936
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
03/25/17 7:56 AM)
In response to the kind invitation by José Ignacio Soler (March 23rd) to comment on a new book in Spanish about the 1936 elections which ended with the victory of the Popular Front (Fraude y violencia en las elecciones del Frente Popular):
1. I´ll buy the book this coming week in Madrid. I´ve been invited by a popular history magazine to write a 350-word comment. I´ll translate it and post it to WAIS when it appears, presumably in June.
2. The thesis of the fraud isn't new. It was sculpted in gold letters by the Dictamen sobre la ilegitimidad de los poderes actuantes el 18 de julio de 1936. It was written by an ad hoc committee at Franco's request by the then minister of the Interior and published in February, 1939. Hardly a scholarly study.
3. Since Xavier Tusell published his path-breaking study 40 years ago, much has been written on the 1936 elections. In Spanish historiography, monographs on the electoral process in practically every province are nowadays available.
4. A useful summary can be found in the collective work on the history of the Second Republic by Eduardo González Calleja et al. It was published just two years ago.
5. At least one of the authors works with Aznar´s Foundation FAES. I wouldn´t expect a scholarly treatment from that organization.
JE comments: I've made a pledge to our readers to translate our Spanish references when possible. The new book concerns fraud and violence in the '36 elections, but that's rather obvious. The 1939 treatise was about the "illegitimacy" of the Popular Front government in 1936. The title, I assume, pretty much gives away the thesis.
Aznar's FAES is the Fundación para el Análisis y los Estudios Sociales. Its mission statement promises to "enrich thinking of the reformist liberal center." Knowing Aznar, I presume it's a rightist think tank, although to Yanqui ears the name gives a different impression.
Francoist Historians Alvarez Tardio and Villa Garcia
(Carmen Negrin, France
03/26/17 5:04 AM)
A quick comment on the authors mentioned by José Ignacio Soler (23 March). The preface of one of Álvarez Tardío's books was written by Rafael Arias-Salgado, Minister of Aznar and the son of a Minister of Franco.
As for Roberto Villa García, one of his books was coordinated by Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza, a recognized neo-Francoist, specialized in Carlismo and is in the line of Ricardo de la Cierva.
JE comments: I'd be interested in a discussion on Neo-Francoism today. In a similar vein, it's been a long time since WAIS did an update on Carlism. The current candidate is Archduke Dominic von Habsburg, a US citizen living in New York. To his credit, he doesn't pursue the claim.
Is the Left-Right Political Distinction Still Valid?
(José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela
03/28/17 9:53 AM)
I have read Carmen Negrin's post (26 March) about the authors of the book I mentioned in my earlier post over the apparently fraudulent 1936 elections in Spain.
I did not quite understand the purpose of her comments. Carmen seems to suggest that because the authors are linked to certain people, who are also connected to Francoists or parties from the "right" (Aznar belongs to the Partido Popular in Spain), they should be discredited or disqualified. I believe the book should be valued on its historical merits, its thoroughness and the credibility of its historical documentation, not on the authors' alleged political background. To be of a particular "leftist" doctrine does not guarantee objectivity, and their supposedly "leftist morality" is not necessarily bulletproof or beyond questioning.
In this regard I would like to use this opportunity to discuss the concepts of the political "right" and "left" as opposite concepts, as I believe they are not. For a long time I have questioned this disjunction as a simplistic way to describe a particular ideology.
The terms are very often used by politicians, particularly of the leftist parties in Europe and elsewhere. I believe these labels should be eradicated from the political rhetoric. In today´s world they have lost perhaps most of their original meaning and are in many ways indistinct. They are no longer adequate to define political identities, despite the fact that politicians of the "left" too often use them because they believe the "left" is associated with progress, and they have won the moral right to do so, or because the "right" is associated with fascism or other extreme democratic-autocratic or more conservative doctrines. This belief is wrong.
Let´s recall that the terms originated in 1789 in France, during the French Revolution, where the Girondins (rightist, seated at the right of the National Assembly Presidency), who advocated the right to vote exclusive for the wealthiest classes, were closest to the king and the nobility, and the Jacobins (seated at the left) who promoted the right to vote for all social classes.
This distinction was eventually propagated worldwide to today´s traditional political parties: In France, Republicans and Socialists; in Great Britain, Labor and Conservative; Germany, Christian Democrats vs Social Democrats; in Belgium, Liberals and Socialist; in Spain Popular Party vs. Socialist; in Canada, Conservatives vs. Liberals, etc.--besides other minority radical parties from one side or the other, Communist, Neo-Nazi, Ultra nationalist, Populist, Greens, and many others.
The original distinction had both a philosophical and political foundation for their doctrines. The right was oriented to individuality and self-realization; the left oriented to community, the collective and wider society. Traditionally, the values of tradition, conservatism, authority, order or national identity are related to the right, while values of social equality, progress, solidarity, unruliness, rebelliousness, reformism and collectivism are associated to the leftist political movements. Values such as work, freedom, justice or merits, and human rights, are more common and apply to both sides.
More "recent" modern economic and social values and concepts were included in these basic foundational doctrinal concepts; such as a Capitalist or Socialist economy, Market Freedom, free enterprise, private property, cooperatives, global markets, centralized economy, collective property, unions, classes struggle, federations, cooperatives, democracies, fascism, representative monarchies, central control and government intervention, etc.
However, in recent times, I have observed that all these values are used indistinctly and often by parties in all kinds of rhetoric, and this is central for my reflection about there being no significant difference between right and left. The modern Realpolitik concept and political pragmatism transforms these original values into very volatile, flexible, pragmatic and fragile concepts. It is common to notice in all kinds of political messages, rhetoric, discourses or political programs, the use and abuse of pretty much the same concepts or implicit values, interchanged according to one's particular interests and the political momentum.
I believe radicals from the "right" and radicals from the "left" have more in common than differences. They both are often autocratic, authoritarian, despotic, nepotistic, nationalistic, bureaucratic and corrupt, and they might call themselves democratic. It is true that leftist parties promote social equality, although to achieve this purpose they often override the basic human rights of private property, freedom of speech, and use tyrannical methods, torture, crime, etc. Is it not confusing, for instance, that fascism in its origins was a kind of socialist doctrine?
Parties of the so-called "center," because of political and ideological pragmatism, are even less distinct. It is very difficult to distinguish, for example, in Spain, Portugal, France or even Germany, and in general worldwide, between a center-leftist and center-rightist politician´s program, except for their demagogic rhetoric, language used and formal or informal manners.
Conservative Liberals, traditionally from the right, as well as leftist parties might be progressive in many aspects such as abortion laws and same-sex marriage, but Christian Social Democrats are against it.
From my view, it is hard to say if the US Democrats or Republicans are on the left or the right, if they are interchangeably centralist or federative, or which one is more or less progressive, whether any of them promote real social welfare and human rights, or which one is more or less interventionist in people´s lives. In China, it is even harder to say whether the Communist party is promoting a capitalist way of production or a Communist centralized form of production.
I certainly suppose there might be many other examples in other places of the world, but that is precisely my point. The left should not be credited for its moral virtue, as much as the right not by its immorality. They are more alike than many would like to think.
JE comments: A thought-provoking essay from José Ignacio Soler. The US has largely discarded the "left-right" terminology, at least among politicians themselves. Political players prefer to call themselves "conservatives" or "progressives," and cast epithets like "out of the mainstream" and "tax-and-spend liberal" at their opponents.
Perhaps we could talk about Centrist vs Extreme politics?
Keep in mind that Venezuela is presently suffering under a populist, nationalist, and profoundly dysfunctional government.
Thoughts on Francoist Historians
(Paul Preston, UK
03/29/17 3:20 AM)
José Ignacio Soler (29 March) writes with regard to the book by Roberto Villa and Manuel Álvarez Tardío, "I believe the book should be valued on its historical merits, its thoroughness and the credibility of its historical documentation, not on the authors' alleged political background." Indeed it should.
Here we have a book that purports to demonstrate that the elections of February 1936 that led to the victory of the Popular Front were rigged and that, in consequence, the Popular Front government was illegitimate. To this end, they have uncovered a number of examples of results being altered in favour of the left in some small towns. This, however, is far from justifying their conclusions. They have conveniently forgotten some crucial contextual points. First of all, elections in Spain traditionally (and some would say, to this day) favoured the party in government that arranged them. That was certainly the case in Spain in February 1936, where they were arranged by the notoriously corrupt Manuel Portela Valladares. This led to surprising results in his favour in the provinces of Pontevedra, La Coruña and Orense.
Villa and Álvarez Tardío have also ignored some major social realities. Outside of the major towns, the big landowners could swing elections in several ways--by withdrawing work from starving day-labourers, by offering food and/or blankets to labourers, by having thugs prevent left-wing election meetings by setting up road blocks to prevent speakers reaching the villages, on election day by stationing thugs next to the glass voting urns to make sure the votes went their way, by using the feared Civil Guard.
To give some specific examples, in the province of Granada the legal representatives of the Popular Front had been imprisoned during the elections, that armed gangs had controlled voting booths and that people had been forced at gun-point to vote for the Right. In Salamanca, results were rather more complex. All six of the victorious right-wing candidates were implicated in improperly soliciting the votes of the province's wheat-growers by offering to buy up their surplus stocks.
In the spring of 1936, the Popular Front had a majority on the committee for examining electoral validity, the Comisión de Actas. The committee acted with a punctilious legalism which, by excluding much evidence of falsification, frequently favoured the Right. In Santander, for instance, allegations of intimidation of Republicans were ignored for lack of proofs witnessed by notaries, and the rightist victory was confirmed. Other decisions went in favour of the Right in the provinces of Ciudad Real, Toledo and Ávila, for similar reasons. In Zaragoza province, evidence of intimidation aside, the results for seventy-eight villages were simply made up by the civil governor. Nevertheless, the rightist victory was approved because of a lack of legally acceptable documentary proofs.
To judge the validity of this book by authors who have made a career out of impugning the democratic Republic and justifying the Francoist military coup requires that it not be read in isolation but in the context of the dozens of local studies of elections that give a rather different picture.
JE comments: Today in my 10 AM class I'll be delivering a one-hour quickie on the Spanish Civil War. I've learned so much over the WAISyears from Paul Preston, Ángel Viñas, David Pike, Carmen Negrín (and others) that I don't even have to prepare!
Thank you for this critique, Paul. A question: did Spain in 1936 practice the "public urn" method of voting--i.e., put your ballot in the box corresponding to your preferred candidate? Otherwise, the thugs wouldn't know how you voted.
Next, Ángel Viñas sends his response.
- Francoist Historiography of the Second Republic (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/29/17 3:37 AM)
In reply to José Ignacio Soler (28 March), I would like to make the following comments:
1. Carmen Negrín is cognizant of the issue of Studia Historica in which the first chapter deals with Francoist historiography about the Second Republic. José Ignacio is invited to visit my blog where he can download the whole issue. That first chapter has been enlarged and updated in the e-book I have co-directed. The author is a colleague of mine, Professor Ricardo Robledo. He has dissected the arguments of a curious school of thought in Spain that proclaims its cult of "objectivity" while disguising their obvious right-wing tendencies. The exalted contributions of one of the two authors of the book in question are duly noted in both chapters.
2. José Ignacio is obviously entitled to his opinions. WAISers write in free countries. However, in a mixup of arguments for which I have no much sympathy, he quickly goes on to comment on the distinction to be abolished between right and left. This is a much broader subject and I am not going to address it now. I simply don´t share his views. I am a firm believer in the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, whose concrete implementation is one of the themes of history.
3. I will return to first principles. If José Ignacio is able or willing to deny that there still exists in Spain a pro-Francoist, right-wing school of thought, I challenge him to prove it.
4. I hasten to add that Spain is not the only country in which such tendencies flourish. There are historians in France who defend Vichy. There are historians in the UK who defend the long-gone British Empire on the basis of its alleged contributions to the welfare of the indigenous populations over which a benign class of overlords benevolently ruled. In Germany, however, you would have difficulties in finding well regarded pro-Nazi historians. On the other hand, I hear that history is maltreated in Poland and Hungary. Why would Spain be different?
5. And please José Ignacio, don´t believe for a minute that in order to be a good historian one has to be au dessus de la mêlée ideologically. All historians have a value-laden approach. We are not after all shellfish. How one disciplines his/her values by evidence is, I submit, one of the criteria to facilitate a judicious approach.
6. I will read the book in question and I will report.
JE comments: Regarding Ángel Viñas's first point, we should always be suspicious when a historian claims too much "objectivity." The most honest approach is to state explicitly one's political beliefs. (You have me scratching my head with your "we are not shellfish" quote, Ángel. Is it a direct translation from French or Spanish? In English I can't think of any shellfish expressions, perhaps because the word sounds too much like "selfish." However, we do clam up, feel crabby, and turn into lobsters after a long day on the beach.)
Ideology and Objectivity of the Historian
(José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela
03/30/17 3:19 PM)
In response to Ángel Viñas's post of March 29th, I feel obliged to add some comments.
1. First, when I commented on Carmen Negrin's post, the whole question I was trying to pose was precisely that she seemed to be discrediting a book only because the authors were linked to the "right," and I do not consider this approach to be a proper way to proceed. I wrote, "To be of a particular 'leftist' doctrine does not guarantee objectivity, and one's supposedly 'leftist morality' is not necessarily bulletproof or beyond questioning." By the same logic, to be of a particular "rightist" doctrine does not disqualify the authors. Or does it?
2. Regarding Ángel's disagreement with my opinion that there is very little distinction between "right" and "left" in modern politics, I have nothing to add. These were my opinions and I was not trying to convince him or anyone else for that matter. My argument on the "mixing-up" of right and left could perhaps have been more rigorous, but this probably would have taken more space than this kind of Forum allows. One final matter: I fully agree with Ángel, because I am also a "firm believer in the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity" and some other humans right he did not mention.
That being said, I profoundly disagree with an ideological argument that connects the "leftist" doctrine with moral superiority. In my real-world experience this view is difficult to support.
3. I will not dare to challenge Ángel to prove the existence, or nonexistence, of the Francoist, "right-wing" historical school. This was never my intention. Of course there are currently hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands, of people in Spain with sympathies for Franco, although I am not in that number.
Finally, for Ángel: of course I do not believe that historians should be free of doctrines, ideologies, or intellectual bias, but in principle this personal burden should not necessarily disqualify a historian's work as Carmen Negrin tried to suggest. As John E accurately commented, "The most honest approach is to state explicitly one's political beliefs," perhaps that should be the correct attitude of historians currently writing about the Spanish Civil War, and I mean all of them.
JE comments: Breaking news: José Ignacio Soler has written on yesterday's "self-coup" or "court coup" in Caracas. I'll edit and post as soon as time allows.
Alvarez Tardio and Villa Book on Spain's 1936 Elections
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
04/04/17 6:34 AM)
I´ve just returned from Madrid/Alicante, where I gave two papers. As promised, I bought a copy of the Álvarez Tardío/Villa book about the alleged fraud in the Spanish elections of February 1936. (See José Ignacio Soler, 30 March.)
On the plane I read the first chapter, some 50 pages out of over 500 pages. It was enough to get the general drift of the book. Fortunately, Santos Juliá published a review in El País. Interested WAISers can find the review in https://dedona.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/las-cuentas-galanas-de-1936-santos-julia/
Whatever our colleague Professor Stanley Payne may say, we aren't seeing the demolition of one of the most enduring political myths of the 20th Century (in his own words, "El fin del último de los grandes mitos políticos del siglo XX"). The book is rather a clumsy attempt to provide with a thin veneer of academic respectability one of the enduring myths of right-wing historiography in Spain.
This won't prevent me from writing my own review, which I´ll be happy to share with other WAISers.
JE comments: The real fraud ("vía engañosa") was carried out by the book's authors, in the pull-no-punches words of reviewer Santos Juliá. I look forward to Ángel Viñas's thoughts on the book.
Spanish Elections of 1936, Revisited
(José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela
04/13/17 7:40 AM)
In his post of April 4th, Angel Viñas (regarding the Álvarez Tardío/Villa book on the alleged fraud in the Spanish elections of February 1936) brings up several interesting points.
First, I must thank Ángel for the effort to read the book and give us an objective opinion, though I suspect this must be a difficult task for him due to the fact that after reading only "50 pages out of over 500 pages. It was enough to get the general drift of the book," or because he formed a judgment before finishing it. Ángel wrote, "The book is rather a clumsy attempt to provide with a thin veneer of academic respectability one of the enduring myths of right-wing historiography in Spain." Notwithstanding this opinion, I look forward to Ángel's objective conclusions.
I should not prejudge Ángel's respected opinion and professional reputation, but he quotes from a review by Santos Juliá, also a very respected and acknowledged academic, historian and intellectual. Apparently, if I understood correctly, Santos Juliá's main criticism of the book is that Álvarez Tardío and Villa erroneously argue that the left Frente Popular won the elections just because of the fraud and this eventually justified the military uprising, or that the book is wrong for consolidating all the votes of the right parties comparative to the fact that the left coalition was really unified, or that the congressional representation was illegitimate.
Again, Ángel is probably right. I have not read the book yet and have no reason to doubt his respectable opinion; however, I also noticed that in the article, he does not deny the fact that during the 1936 elections the Popular Front supporters committed outrages, harassment, irregularities, violence, and very likely fraud in many regions. Is this also part of the alleged myth? Considering the worldwide traditional political behaviors of the extremist Left (and extreme Right to be fair), I would not be surprised.
Finally, and perhaps also relevant, the article does not mention that Santos Juliá is most likely a respectable leftist intellectual, as much as I suspect Ángel Viñas is, or Carmen Negrín as she admitted recently. I wonder why authors such as our colleague Professor Stanley Payne, also a very respectable academic, have opinions that contradict theirs in this matter.
JE comments: From what I've gathered in this discussion, the key question is whether election irregularities (and they happened on both sides) can be "justification" for the July uprising/rebellion. Is it responsible history to make this argument? And forgive me if I have this wrong, but weren't the rebels making preparations for war even before the elections?
José Ignacio poses a question for wider discussion: what percentage of a book do you need to read before you can pronounce judgment? No one would deny, say, that 60% is enough. What about 10%? With Sebastian Gorka's Defeating Jihad, I haven't gotten past the jacket blurbs. I do plan to read it when the semester is over...really.
"1936: Fraude y Violencia": A Review
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
04/15/17 8:46 AM)
I thank José Ignacio Soler for his comments of April 13th. I can now report about the book by Álvarez Tardío and Villa on the February 1936 Spanish elections. I've read 90 per cent of it. I am not interested in political developments after March. I'm writing a book with other colleagues about Franco and the military conspiracy which is due to be published next year. The reason for the delay is logistical: for six months we've been trying to get access to some files in the Supreme Court archives. So far without any result. We intend to persist and, if necessary, to take legal action.
The authors had no such problems. Their sources are basically the media of the times plus a scattered number of memoirs and occasionally a glimpse at a small amount of archival material.
1. The most important feature of their book is their complete disregard for a number of works which do not sustain their thesis. Some of those works are mentioned in the bibliography, but the references to them are to say the least very thin. Most importantly, a fair amount of substantial and unavoidable books are utterly ignored, even though they´ve also treated the subject, admittedly in less comprehensive length. To my mind, this a disqualifying point.
2. The second most important feature is their obsession with the political discourse of the times strictly on its own terms--i. e., without any attempt to explain why it was used and for what ends. This feature is utterly incomprehensible for many historians.
3. No attempt is made to penetrate below this superficial level. People behave in certain ways in order to try to achieve some ends. Their behaviour must be made understandable within the constraints of the times and the activities of the previous governments. These were led until December 1935 by a coalition dominated by reactionary forces. This is what it was to many people at the time, and to many other historians today.
4. The 1930s in Spain were crushed by a serious economic crisis, a time of convulsions. As it also happened in France, Germany, Austria. A time of clashes between Communism, Fascism, Liberalism and, in the Spanish case, backward-looking economic, political and religious elites. There was a fight for modernizing the country. All this disappears in their book. As a result the convulsions are never explained.
5. The thesis of the book isn't new. It has been around since Franco´s victory in 1939. It was a mainstay of Francoist historiography. Even the obsession with the violence of the left and the supposed frauds carried out by the left is old vintage.
6. And who has attempted to draw the logical political conclusion? The "scientifically" minded Francisco Franco National Foundation. I invite José Ignacio and others to consult their website (www.fnff.es). The Republic? An abomination. The Popular Front? A bunch of bullies and lies. I've written a 450-word review of the book for La aventura de la Historia. Once it's published I'll forward it to WAIS.
I, however, remind WAISers that the conspiracies against the Republic started as soon as it was proclaimed in April 1931.
JE comments: Best of luck with the fight to gain access to the Supreme Court archives, Ángel. I understand that this is a delicate process, but I hope you'll keep us updated as much as the circumstances allow.
"1936: Fraude y Violencia": More Reviews
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
05/11/17 9:45 AM)
I've been to Gernika on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the 1937 bombing and destruction. Its impact on the Spanish right-wing media has been such that I've started a new series of posts on my blog to teach them how to explore some relevant documentation. Then I went on to Sicily for an urgent holiday.
Upon my return home, the Spanish historiographic scene has been enlightened by some reactions to the Álvarez Tardío/Villa book I commented upon previously. For those interested in learning how right-wing historians usually distort and manipulate the Spanish past, I´m uploading the links to three learned reviews. I hope WAISers might learn something about the politico-historiographical culture of today´s Spain.
JE comments: These three reviews are unanimous in accusing Álvarez Tardío and Villa of cherry-picking their sources--namely, stressing the Left's incidents of electoral fraud in 1936, while ignoring similar or worse acts from the Right.
I've also heard from WAISer Stanley Payne, who published a far more positive review in the Madrid daily ABC. Stay tuned.
(I appreciate the concept of an "urgent holiday," Ángel! At present I'm enjoying a "staycation" at WAIS HQ. Splendid.)
Spain's Left and Right Historiography; Death of Hugh Thomas
(José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela
05/12/17 10:59 AM)
This is in response to Ángel Viñas's post (May 11th), where he quotes three articles critiquing the Álvarez Tardío/Villa book 1936: Fraude y Violencia and adds that "right-wing historians usually distort and manipulate the Spanish past." I just wonder why only the left-wing historians have a higher moral superiority to avoid such manipulations and distortions. I am also interested why the articles quoted are from left-wing historians, and other historians such as Stanley Payne (whose review John E forwarded) for example are not quoted. Is it perhaps a biased interest in some way?.
I do not pretend to judge whether their opinions are good or right, or whether the book in question is legitimate or historically accurate. I certainly do not support the supposed argument of the book that a 1936 election fraud justifies Franco's uprising, but I believe, as I said before on this Forum, that historians have greater responsibility of trying to be less ideologically biased and more objective.
By the way, the famous British historian Hugh Thomas passed away on May 6th. I believe nothing has been said so far on WAIS. He wrote a very famous work on the Spanish War, La Guerra Civil Española, which I read a long time ago and would recommend from the foreigner's point of view. I was an admirer of his work because I liked his writing style as well as his explicit anti-nationalist and anti-Brexit political positions.
JE comments: Hugh Thomas was also my introduction to the SCW, sometime in the late 1980s. His history of the Mexican conquest, titled Conquest, is also a beautifully written and sweeping narrative.
Prof. Hilton called Thomas a WAIS Fellow on at least two occasions, but I am not aware of him ever posting to the Forum. Regardless, Baron Thomas was a historical titan.
Returning to Stanley Payne's review of the Álvarez Tardío/Villa book, I also have a response from Ángel Viñas (next).
Hugh Thomas, My Mentor
(Paul Preston, UK
05/13/17 6:18 AM)
I'm probably the only person on WAIS who knew Hugh Thomas well. I was taught by him for my MA, was subsequently his research assistant and then stood in for him while he was on sabbatical. Hugh and I stayed in touch for over forty-five years. I saw him a couple of weeks before he died. I attach the obituary that I did for the Guardian and also a longer version that includes a little about my relationship with him.
JE comments: Click below for Paul Preston's Guardian piece, which appeared on May 9th. It's an intimate and touching portrait of a legendary historian, written by another legendary historian:
Here is the longer version of Paul's tribute:
I first met Hugh Thomas in 1968 when I
arrived at the University of Reading to study for a Masters degree in
Contemporary European Studies. I had
previously been at Oxford where I was deeply disappointed by the lack of
opportunity to work on contemporary history.
The opportunity to concentrate on the period that most interested me made
a welcome change. What I had not
realised was that working with Hugh Thomas would change my life. At the time, of course, I knew little about
him other than that he was the author of the great book on the Spanish Civil
War published seven years earlier. The
course on the war that I took with him led to subsequent work both as his
research assistant and as temporary lecturer when he was on sabbatical. It was what opened the way to a lifetime of
study of twentieth-century Spain.
Born in 1931, Hugh Thomas was the only
son a British colonial officer in what was then the Gold Coast, now Ghana. His uncle Sir Shenton Thomas was the governor
of Singapore who surrendered to the Japanese invaders in 1942. Hugh studied history, not very assiduously,
at Queen’s College Cambridge but did attain prominence as a swashbuckling Tory president
of the Union. When he came down, he led
a champagne-fuelled life as a man-about-London.
He was locally recruited for the Paris Embassy thanks, it was said, to
the influence of Harold Nicholson who was a friend of the then Ambassador Sir
Gladwyn Jebb. He left in early 1957
claiming that he did so because of disgust with the British role in the Suez
crisis. However, he may have jumped
before he was pushed. Rumours swirled around
about important documents inadvertently left on the Metro and/or an affair with
the wife of a French Minister. The
publicity given to his clash with the Foreign Office made him an attractive
catch for the Labour Party. He stood,
unsuccessfully, as parliamentary candidate in 1957-1958 for Ruislip and Norwood. His altered allegiance was cemented when he
edited an attack on political élite in The Establishment in 1959.
this did not solve the issue of an income.
A brief stint as a lecturer at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst
did not satisfy him. He tried his hand
as a novelist but The Oxygen Age (1958) did not sell. However, the previous year’s equally
unsuccessful The World’s Game
would change his life. Dedicated to Gladwyn Jebb’s friend Nancy
Mitford, it cemented an already key connection.
More importantly, it had been read by the gentleman-publisher, James
McGibbon, then a literary agent with Curtis Brown. McGibbon invited him to lunch and told him
that the scene in his novel where the hero went to fight in Israel had reminded
him of volunteers in the Spanish Civil War.
Remarking that the time was ripe for a broad survey of the war, he urged
Hugh to make a pitch. It was taken up by
Eyre and Spottiswood - perhaps surprisingly given that his editor there was Douglas
Jerrold, the fervent right-winger who had helped arrange Franco’s flight from
the Canary Islands to Morocco at the beginning of the war. Although he did not know any Spanish, Hugh
set to reading voraciously and ruthlessly picking the brains of innumerable participants
from both sides as well as of the war correspondent Henry Buckley and the great
expert on the conflict, Herbert Southworth.
Published in 1961, it was quickly
established in the popular mind as the
book on the Spanish war. Eulogistic
reviews from liberal pundits like Cyril Connolly and Michael Foot saw the book
widely accepted as a classic and it would go on to sell nearly a million copies
throughout the world. Not only was it written
in a colourful and highly readable
style but The Spanish Civil War was
the first attempt at an objective general view of a struggle which still
excited the passions of right and left.
Although banned in General Franco’s
Spain, the translation by an exiled Spanish publishing house in Paris, Ruedo
Ibérico, became a clandestine best-seller. The dictator’s propagandists had never
ceased proclaiming that the war had been a crusade against communist barbarism. However, the impact of foreign works by
Thomas and Southworth, smuggled in despite the efforts of the frontier police,
entirely discredited the standard regime line. An example of the regime’s efforts to stifle
the impact of Hugh’s book was the case of Octavio Jordá, a 31-year old
working-class Valencian who was arrested at the French frontier with two
suitcases packed with copies of The Spanish Civil War. At his subsequent trial, he was found guilty
of ‘illegal propaganda’ and ‘spreading communism’ and sentenced to two years imprisonment.
In response to Thomas and Southworth, Franco’s
then Minister of Information, Manuel Fraga, set up an official centre for civil
war studies to streamline crusade historiography. It was too late. So successful was the book that even Franco
himself was regularly asked to comment on statements in the book. The Caudillo largely dismissed it all as
lies, denying that civilians were killed when he bombed Barcelona or that there
were mass executions. The notoriety of
Thomas’s book success would underlay colossal sales after the dictator’s death
in 1975. In frustration, the Centre’s
director Ricardo de la Cierva called Thomas’s book a ‘Vademecum for simpletons’.
Now financially more secure, in 1962,
he married the beautiful Honorable Vanessa Jebb, daughter of Lord Gladwyn
Jebb. They had three children, Inigo,
Isambard and Isabella. A serene
influence on her sometimes irascible husband, Vanessa was the jewel of the
glittering social circle that met at their home in Ladbroke Grove. In 1966, he was made Professor of History at the University of Reading. He was a thoroughly entertaining and popular
teacher, as I saw for myself as a Masters student. He was never comfortable with the creeping
administrative demands of academic life and I substituted for him when he took
a sabbatical to concentrate on his writing.
Before this time, I had been his research assistant on the third edition
Spanish Civil War. My good
fortune in working with him meant that I was often invited to his home and met
hugely interesting people. Thanks to
that, I met and became friends with the great Cuban writer, Guillermo Cabrera
Infante, and made the contact with Ramón Serrano Súñer which opened the door to
my many later interviews with him while I was working on my biography of
Franco. He resigned his chair in
1976. Whether in intellectual or social circles, he
could be charming and generous but he was quite thin-skinned. He did not take criticism lightly or, indeed,
at all, as a bitter polemic with Herbert Southworth in the TLS demonstrated.
Even before going to Reading, he had begun
research for his gigantic history Cuba or the Pursuit of Freedom. At nearly 1700 pages, it was not a
success. Its long early survey of the
Island’s history beginning with the British occupation of Havana was found to
be hard going by many readers. Only when
it reached Castro’s revolution did it match the confident sweep of the Spanish
book. After Cuba, he was commissioned to
do a similar job on Venezuela but never really got started. Moreover, he felt constrained after spending,
as he put it, ‘seven years in the study of a short period in the history of a
small society and it is, therefore, natural that I should wish to write on a
more generous scale.’ The result was An Unfinished History of the World
published in 1979.
At the behest of his friend Roy
Jenkins, he had another unsuccessful attempt to secure a Labour seat, in North
Kensington, but was thwarted by members of the Militant Tendency on the
selection committee. Thereafter, if not
in consequence, he publicly declared his abandonment of the Labour Party and
his embrace of Thatcherist free-market economics. The bombshell came in an article in the Daily
Mail on 23 November 1976. Under
the headline ‘Why I’ve changed sides’, he announced that the Conservative party
was no longer the party of privilege, denounced the ‘grey sea of state
socialism’ and praised ‘the more turbulent but brighter waters of free
enterprise’. He became one of Thatcher’s
unofficial advisers and was made Chairman of her think-tank, the Centre for
Policy Studies in succession to Keith Joseph.
In line with his new political vocation, when An Unfinished History of the
World was awarded a £7,500 Arts Council Literary Award in April 1980,
he refused to take the cheque. Saying
that his bank manager would be aghast, he made the gesture on the grounds that the
final chapters of the book argued that ‘the intervention of the state (leads)
to the decay of civilisation and the collapse of societies.’ In History, Capitalism and Freedom, a
pamphlet published with a foreword by Mrs Thatcher, he argued that the decline
of Britain was the consequence of the encroachment of the state. At the Centre for Policy Studies, he tried to
help Keith Joseph, now Minister of Education, to re-establish a sense of the glories
of English history which they both believed had been obscured by the works of
Eric Hobsbawm, E.P. Thompson and others.
It was a project that belied his own works on Spain and Cuba and led to
accusations that a first-class historian was trying to turn a subject on which
he had never worked into ‘hollow, pseudo-patriotic indoctrination’. In his 1983 pamphlet Our Place in the World,
he attributed the decline of Britain to the transformation of ‘the old England
of individualism and laissez-faire
into an England organised from above’.
He was rewarded by being ennobled as Lord Thomas of Swynnerton and there
were rumours that he might be sent him to Madrid as ambassador although the
deficiencies of his Spanish might have rendered the job difficult.
After the defeat of Mrs Thatcher in
1990, his prominence in the Tory Party diminished and he was increasingly
disillusioned by what he saw as a festering Euro-scepticism. Finally, in November 1997, he crossed the
floor of the House of Lords to the Liberal-Democrat benches. He announced: ‘I have resigned the
Conservative whip in the House of Lords because since the election of May 1st
last, its attitudes towards the European Union as it is presently constituted,
and as it is likely to develop, have become ever more critical and sceptical.’ Finally free of the politics that had never
really fulfilled him, he returned to his real metier and began to write a
series of flamboyant works on imperial Spain.
The sparkling narrative drive of his work on Spain was carried over
first into The Conquest of Mexico (1993) and then The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440–1870 (1997). They were followed by what was his crowning
achievement, a trilogy about the Spanish Empire consisting
of Rivers of Gold (2003); The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles
V (2010) and World Without End: The Global Empire of
Philip II (2014). When I last spoke to him a couple of weeks
before his death, he was fulminating about Brexit.
Meeting Hugh Thomas
(Boris Volodarsky, Austria
05/18/17 12:41 AM)
Further to Paul Preston's fascinating essay about his mentor, the late British historian Hugh Thomas (Lord Thomas of Swynnerton), as well as Paul's equally excellent and touching tribute to this legendary personality published in The Guardian, I'd love to add my modest recollections about Lord Thomas, as I always used to call him.
Having started to work on the book dealing with the Civil War in Spain, I naturally wanted to meet the renowned author of The Spanish Civil War first published in 1961 with several following editions. So, as soon as I joined WAIS I asked Professor Hilton how to arrange such a meeting. I was told (and hopefully JE has a copy of our correspondence) to write directly to the House of Lords, which I did. To my great surprise and joy, I soon received a personal letter from Lord Thomas that I still have, suggesting a meeting at the House of Lords on 24 November 2006. It was the next day after Sasha Litvinenko died in a London hospital and two days after my article "Russian Venom" was published in The Wall Street Journal (http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB116416400977930364 ) mentioning the radioactive poison long before it was actually detected in Sasha's body.
Lord Thomas and I met as agreed and he was very kind to give me the latest edition of his book with a very friendly inscription. Then, we had a tour of the House of Lords and a tea at the Peers' Dining Room. We also discussed the Litvinenko case and my new book about Orlov that finally came out as Stalin's Agent (2015) published by Oxford University Press with a foreword by Paul Preston.
After that first meeting we started corresponding, and I met with Lord Thomas several times always in the House of Lords. The last time we came together with my wife Valentina and Lord Thomas was very kind to invite us for a drink of sherry and a snack while we had a long discussion about the Spanish Civil War and the Russian secret services' role in it.
In his essay, Paul mentions James McGibbon, "then a literary agent with Curtis Brown. McGibbon invited him [Hugh Thomas] to lunch and told him that the scene in his novel where the hero went to fight in Israel had reminded him of volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. Remarking that the time was ripe for a broad survey of the war, he urged Hugh to make a pitch."
Before my book Stalin's Agent came out, Lord Thomas, as he himself told me, did not know that James MacGibbon used to be a Soviet agent. Before James died, he admitted in his twelve-page affidavit that he had spied for the Russians while working in the War Office. Mr. MacGibbon was recruited after he became a Communist in 1934. Information from a secret source in late 1937 indicated, as seen in the declassified Security Service files, that MacGibbon had performed "a service" for the Soviets, for which he was rewarded. He was subsequently investigated and interviewed by MI5 but denied the allegation. When the war broke out, he volunteered to join the Royal Fusiliers and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Because of his knowledge of German, MacGibbon was posted into the Intelligence Corps and later to the War Office Military Operations, Section 3, where he was involved in planning Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. MacGibbon, whose son Hamish followed in his career footsteps, finally became a publisher, head of MacGibbon & Kee, who were the first to publish Philby's My Silent War in 1961, the same years when the first edition of Hugh Thomas's celebrated book appeared.
Paul names all major works written and published by Hugh Thomas, but does not mention his Foreword to the very interesting book by Jill Edwards, The British Government and the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (London: Macmillan, 1979). About a year ago I asked Hugh and he eagerly agreed to write an introduction to my own book, Between Stalin and Franco: Freemasons, Communists and Secret Services in the Spanish Civil War to be published next year. A few months before Lord Thomas passed away, I received his most kind and lively written piece that will, unfortunately, appear as this great historian's posthumous contribution to the Spanish Civil War historiography.
JE comments: Lord Thomas was a legend--I am sorry I didn't have the chance to meet him. Thank you for this fascinating perspective, Boris. I have no record of Prof. Hilton's e-mails. although his hard-copy correspondence is meticulously archived in the RH papers at the Hoover Institution. It was rather eerie, for example, to go through boxes of documents only to stumble upon a letter handwritten in the early 2000s, by me. Had I known posterity would be involved, I might have been more eloquent.
Keep us updated on Between Stalin and Franco, Boris. I hope to be one of the first to read it.
- Historical Objectivity vs Historical Impartiality (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/13/17 9:24 AM)
I would like to respond to José Ignacio Soler (May 12) on historiography and ideology. My use of a binary formula (right-wing vs left-wing historians) is for simplicity's sake. I happen to believe though that as far as the Spanish Republic and the Spanish Civil War go, it is a valid one. Obviously, another one could be used--i.e. bad vs good historians--but I fear the value judgments therein implied might lead to more acrimony. José Ignacio may rest assured that I don't claim any kind of moral superiority of left over right or vice versa.
Furthermore, one should not confound objectivity (which is an aim to strive for in any historian) and impartiality. Objectivity means striving to write a fact-based history, applying the rules and techniques of the historical method. Impartiality is quite different and implies an explicit value judgement. My history writing is to the extent possible based on facts (documents, testimonies, memories) which are all critically examined and contextualized to the best of my ability but in accordance with a widely accepted methodology.
I´m not impartial. I don´t put on the same level the defense of a democracy (which might have been weak, imperfect, crisis-ridden) and the defense of those who wanted to abolish it altogether.
Would José Ignacio find facts (documents, testimonies, memories) among the insurgents of July 1936 in favour of democratic values? And more importantly, would he prove that those alleged values were in fact adhered to?
As far as ideology is concerned: would José Ignacio prove that the analysis of the Fascist dictatorships of the 20th century which has been carried out by a lot of historians is ideology-free? Would he find respected historians of the Third Reich or Vichy France who are at the same time pro-National Socialist or Pétainist?
On distinguished professor and fellow WAIS Fellow Stanley G. Payne: whenever in any of my books I´ve come across his theses in opposition to my arguments, I´ve never failed to mention him. I may not share his views but I don´t disguise them. This academic procedure isn´t followed by Alvarez Tardio/Villa in their magnus opum.
As far as Hugh Thomas is concerned, perhaps Paul Preston would like to say a few words. I found his recent obituary in The Guardian very instructive.
JE comments: Ángel Viñas's Pétainist/National Socialist analogy gets one thinking. Is the only difference from Franco the fact that Pétain, together with Fascist Germany and Italy, was defeated in war?
Earlier today, Paul Preston posted a masterful tribute to his mentor Hugh Thomas. Don't miss it.
Holding Out an Olive Branch
(Enrique Torner, USA
05/14/17 4:13 AM)
The topic of historical objectivity vs historical impartiality is a hot and controversial one, and I liked and appreciated Ángel Viñas's post about it (May 13th).
In academia, there is the motto "publish or perish," which puts a great deal of pressure on non-tenured college faculty, at least in the US. I would like to restate the motto in the following way: "If you don't publish, you'll perish; if you do, you will too."
Academia is a cruel field. After many years of doctoral study and a lot of effort sending out applications, if you are talented, hard-working, lucky and blessed, you land a tenure-track teaching job as an assistant professor. Then, the dean will tell you that, to keep your job ("if you don't want to perish"), not only you have to demonstrate excellence in teaching, but also serve in all kinds of committees, and, above all, publish in peer-refereed journals or publishing companies. So then, in order to survive, we publish journal articles, and, as much as we can, books.
Aha! You say then, "I did it!" I published, "ergo" I survived! Except that, later, the book reviews come out, and you get curious, so you check them out: most are pretty positive, but it seems that there is always somebody who "kills" your publication. Of course, your first reaction is to focus on this one and despair, and it really hurts, doesn't it? Now, this was only a journal review. Just imagine several "experts" in your field get together and publish a whole book devoted to debunking all your ideas. How would you feel? You have spent a lifetime doing research, published over 20 books in refereed publishing companies, are ready to retire or retired, you have even been the object of a tribute to your publications, all of this, to end with a reprieve like this?
I don't know about you, Dear WAISers, but something is rotten in Denmark! I consider Stanley Payne a kind friend and a great, prestigious, honest scholar. I also have great admiration for Ángel Viñas and Paul Preston. Why can't the Spanish Civil War historians end their war? How on earth are students going to learn what's right and wrong, what's truth and falsehood, if prestigious historians disagree to such an extreme? Why can't we all get along? Who would want to publish anything, if somebody is going to criticize it, demonize it, and demolish it? From what I have seen online, our three "monstruos de la naturaleza" on the Spanish Civil War are loved by some, and hated by others. D'Artagnan (my friend David Pike) is another "monstruo de la naturaleza," but he seems to be more on the safe side. At least, I haven't seen any "ideological" attacks on him.
JE comments: Blessed are the peacemakers, so bless you, Enrique! For those just joining us, the present SCW battle is being waged over the Álvarez Tardío/Villa book on Spain's February '36 elections. José Ignacio Soler (23 March) was the first to mention it.
Pitfalls of Academic Life
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
05/15/17 3:56 AM)
Enrique Torner (May 14th) has my fullest sympathy regarding his concerns about the cruelty of academic life.
I became a full professor in 1975, but went into Government service as a director general in charge of university policy in 1981. All my efforts (sustained by the Education Minister of the time, Juan Antonio Ortega y Díaz-Ambrona) to reform the legal cadre of Spanish Universities met with a resounding failure. I know by bitter experience what an academic career involves. I also know from first-hand experience other professional domains. I can assure Enrique that academia isn't the only awful one.
As far as I understand it, in order to explain many of the acerbic polemics concerning the Spanish Civil War, one has to keep in mind that there are two kinds of historians. Those who write about the past from the point of view of the political and ideological struggles of the present, and those who try to escape them. This is, of course, difficult but, in my view, it can be achieved.
I try to keep in the perspective of the past the political, social, economic, and international of their time. To the extent possible I look for documentary evidence which can illuminate that same past. Many other colleagues do the same. Others don´t. One could write an essay about these different approaches, but at the end of the day the relevant issue remains the same. Was the military and right-wing coup in July 1936 justified? In the wake of Herbert Southworth, much of my writing is now being directed to demonstrate that the justifications alleged by the victors were self-serving. If the coup wasn´t justified, how can a hideous dictatorship be? And what happens to the beliefs of that great part of the Spanish population which is impervious to a critical review of the past?
In Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway similar issues have arisen in connection with WWII and their own domestic Nazi-Fascist movements. They have been more or less solved. The same applies to neutral Portugal. Not so in Spain. Why?
I´m going to Valencia to give a speech on the 80th anniversary of the coming to the prime ministership of Juan Negrín, one of the bêtes noires. I won´t be able to read emails. So long.
JE comments: Ángel Viñas has also sent a reply to Anthony Candil, which I'll post later today. Finally, probably tomorrow, look for a report on the 80th anniversary observation of the Guernica/Gernika bombing, which Ángel attended on April 26th. WAISer Paul Preston was there, too.
Do I understand correctly from the above that very few Salazar apologists remain in Portugal? Why would Spain's situation with Franco be different? Perhaps, paradoxically, because Salazar's coming to power was comparatively benign?
Joys of Academic Life
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
05/16/17 5:48 AM)
After I got my Bachelor's and MBA from CalState Los Angeles, I had a choice to make: go into industry, which at the time seemed to have a large number of positions for MBA students with background from South America, or become a professor in the USA. Given that I was born to be a perpetual student and teacher, it was an easy choice. I realized that I would be paid less money but would be paid twice (money and knowledge with freedom to learn); also the more I learned the greater my value to society, theoretically speaking.
One day the Dean jokingly showed me an instructor's position in St. Cloud, Minnesota, saying why don't you go there and freeze your arse? The position needed someone to teach introduction to computers and basic statistics. The salary range seemed reasonable and I had a good feeling about it. I applied, and got the position. After a few years, the Dean told me all about AACSB accreditation and that I would have to get a PhD or be a second-class citizen.
By coincidence, the first and absolutely best PhD program in MIS in the world had been started at the University of Minnesota a few years earlier. I applied and was turned down. Later found out that one of the professors rejected me for coming from a "lesser" university. And so started a long and challenging process of transformation from a Brazilian happy seat-of-the-pants intellectual to an obsessive-compulsive researcher. I went to the most senior widely respected professor and struck a deal: I would take the first few required courses and if my grades were mostly A's with nothing below a B, they would accept me. Otherwise I would walk away quietly. Once in, I learned a great deal about academia: the students are the raw material, the professors are the manufacturing equipment; most of this equipment is very competent but some are not, some are dumb, some are lazy, just like people in general. The most important lesson was that they can get you started with some knowledge and tools, but ultimate success depends on your own ability to grow yourself in the areas and activities that you want to be good at. You are free to choose.
With PhD in hand (1981), my first job was at Case Western, with strong faculty from many prestigious universities and tremendous business community and government support. Working with industry was a great experience, which enabled a higher-level performance in teaching and research. After 4 years my wife missed her family so we moved back to St. Cloud State University in her home town. Some of my U of Minnesota professors thought I was destroying my research career but I knew they were wrong and managed to find partners and complete many research projects.
In 1991 I saw the add for the Jesse E. Owen Chair at Tennessee Tech and was very interested. I got the job, which called for my transformation from a very competitive professional, perfectly willing to run over obstacles and people, to being a research faculty mentor, putting junior faculty names as first co-authors, while also providing some free consulting to the community on request.
I am still here, and at the risk of sounding sappy, it has been like a good marriage. Thus, while mildly sympathizing with Enrique Torner regarding the cruelty of academic life, I don't really share his feelings. It has been a bumpy but wonderful ride for me. I thank God the Universe.
JE comments: I've always been curious, Tor: Who was Jesse E. Owen? He must get confused a lot with Jesse Owens, the legendary Olympian.
Jesse E. Owen (not Jesse Owens)
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
05/18/17 3:21 AM)
In response to John Eipper's question about the Jesse E. Owen name, it is not related to the great athlete. Our Mr. Owen's family/estate was the largest contributor ($250K) to the Chair's endowment (total $1.2 million). He was a local entrepreneur, the owner and manager of the local Pepsi-Cola company. The total Chair endowment is quite small for the grandiose ideas that I had in mind. To enable all the research projects that we planned and executed over the years since 1991, I had to implement a virtual organization which existed only in terms of specific research projects supported by their corresponding research partners. Thus, in most cases, each project drew on the resources of the participating partners, including the Owen Chair, the only common denominator.
In total, the virtual organization was quite impressive because it encompassed a potentially very long list (dozens) of partners interested in participating in a particular project. Once a research study was initiated, the potential partners likely to be the most knowledgeable and/or able to ensure project success were invited to participate. These partners were/have been the best in the world on specific areas of knowledge, have access to essential information or other special resources, for some projects their organizations were keenly interested in answering the specific research question, etc. The partners have come from academia and/or industry, from anywhere in the world. Correspondingly, one cannot overemphasize their contribution to specific project success. Overall, they have been literally instrumental in accomplishing the total results we have today: over 150 research reports published, dozens of national and international presentations, all focused on the management of technology for more successful business innovation.
According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, "the Chairs of Excellence program began in the midst of the education reform and improvement measures passed by the General Assembly in the mid-1980s. This program brings eminent scholars to Tennessee public institutions and attracts research initiatives and private funding to our state. The program has resulted in an unprecedented level of donations to higher education from private and corporate sources."
Finally, our web page summarizes: "The J.E. Owen Chair is dedicated to the discovery and validation of new knowledge regarding the use and management of new technology, particularly information technology, in a wide variety of areas including manufacturing, health care, and financial services. The many research projects the Owen Chair has undertaken in the past and present are in partnership with many leading companies, universities, and research centers throughout the world. The research reports since 1991 have been categorized into four not mutually exclusive categories: Emerging Technologies, System Management, IT Human Resources and Strategic Management."
JE comments: Most impressive. You must have to answer the Jesse Owens question a lot, Tor. I have a question of my own: What percentage of your time, more or less, do you devote to fundraising? Another question: What is the most surprising (or unexpected) source of research support you've encountered?
Reflections on Fundraising and Project Teams
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
05/19/17 8:11 AM)
Our distinguished editor's commentary on my last post about the Jesse E. Owen Chair included two questions: "What percentage of your time, more or less, do you devote to fundraising?" The answer: zero time. The second question: "what is the most surprising (or unexpected) source of research support you've encountered?"
Regarding research support, the enormous team effort required by some research projects created some very big surprises, which taught me firsthand about four important things: 1. The power of personal trust. 2. Managers can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers. 3. Don't try to do everything yourself; pick the right partners and you can move mountains. 4. Students can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers.
1. The power of personal trust: I started to learn about this phenomenon when I noticed that my first meetings with prospective partners had to be face to face for me to feel the "chemistry" between us. If the chemistry was good, we were immediately in business and in every case, after a few projects, we became close personal friends. If the chemistry was not good, no matter how famous, clever, or wealthy the person, I learned that we should not work together. It would not be very productive in the long run. In summary, I learned that good chemistry turns into trust, and hearts and minds really come together to get the job done. More than once, partners who were the best in the world at something but were not involved in a particular project, dropped what they were doing to help. They had faith (trusted) that sooner or later they would also benefit from their generosity.
2. Managers can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers: We have completed projects that without the active participation of top managers from major companies could not have been carried out. For example, they provided mailing lists, or sometimes used corporate email systems to collect company data for projects directly from employees. On one occasion after project completion we had a meeting to get permission to publish the research results from a study based on DuPont's Expert Systems portfolio. To my great surprise, at the end of the meeting a manager and co-author said "what project are we going to do next?" I was embarrassed not to be prepared with a good answer.
3. Don't try to do everything yourself. Pick the right partners and you can move mountains much easier: Many if not most research projects can be quite complex when done properly. Many unrelated skills are involved in following the necessary research steps: Defining relevant questions important in practice and literature-supported hypotheses to be tested, choosing the research design and experiments set up, choose appropriate construct measures, questionnaire construction, data collection, data analysis, writing reports. The likelihood that anyone is world class in all the skills is rather low. Different studies require deeper expertise in different areas and partners need to be picked from the best available.
4. Students can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers: Academics have used students as subjects for a long time. I have used students for collecting data from companies, whereby the students are reasonably prepared to show how smart, competent, well-groomed they are, hoping that the experience will turn into an internship or a real job. The students provide useful and reasonably good research support. However, only lately because our university is promoting student inquiry as a means for learning, I have noticed student enthusiasm about actually trying to follow the required research steps listed above under item 3. Unbelievably, under appropriate instructor guidance, they seem to actually like "doing research" better that the more traditional lecture/discussion format.
It would be right for me to say that because of my meager budget for research support, I was forced into creating the virtual organization mentioned earlier. Perhaps I have been fortunate to become independent from external sources of funds, which in return define the issues to be studied and the research questions.
JE comments: Personal trust is Tor Guimaraes's #1 factor, and WAIS is an excellent example. We can be adversarial in our on-line discussions, but after the face-to-face time of a conference, ideological squabbles go out the window.
- Memories of a Historian (Robert Whealey, USA 05/16/17 6:51 AM)
As an American historian on Spanish Civil War, I have met Ángel Viñas and his friend Herbert Southworth many times. As a historian who became anti-Franco through research, I agree with their major thrust.
I first heard of the Spanish Civil War in May 1938, when I was eight years old. At that time, as a kid I began flipping "war cards" rather than saving the popular baseball cards.
Card# 1 in the set began when General Tojo invaded the Marco Polo bridge in Beijing in July 1937. Most of the cards dealt with combat between the Japanese and Chinese. One of these cards showed the Rape of Nanking (Nanjing).
Card# 19 launched a series on the Spanish Civil War and that showed the assassination of Calvo Sotelo. The series ended in September 1938 and the last 10 cards dealt with Hitler's Germany. I think it was Card #286 which showed Neville Chamberlain meeting Adolf Hitler, Prime Minister Daladier, and Benito Mussolini at the Munich Conference. There were about 20 cards dealing with the SCW and 12 showed Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-1936.
In 1938, all of the kids agreed that Hitler was a bad man. My Italian-American friends had fathers who did not like Mussolini and they were first-generation Americans. The comments on the SCW were confused and vague. Most of my friends were Catholic and leaned towards the Rebels. A minority supported the Loyalists, but 90% could not tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. One day, I asked my great uncle Robert A. Whealey, a professional carpenter, whose side he was on and he answered neither. He was an isolationist like my father, who did not want FDR to inch into another war.
In October 1940, when Mussolini and Hitler invaded Greece, Greek children were starving and their pictures in the newspaper showed bloated bellies. My father showed the pictures to me and told me how bad war is. I have previously mentioned that my father served on the French front in World War I with the rank of Private. In April 1941, as we drove from Florida to New York in an orange truck, we stopped at a gasoline station in South Carolina and my father asked, what is the latest news? The gas station attendant relied it's the same old story about Hitler winning in Yugoslavia. My father made no comment because it didn't fit in with his isolationist faith.
In 1951, in the second half of my junior year, I was thinking of majoring in Political Science or History. I finally decided my BA would be in History. In 1951-1952, I thought that "Communism" was the major threat to the United States, as did 90% of the American people.
In my high school Social Studies classes, I was an A+ student and understood that the balance of power led to the outbreak of World War I.
Back in 1938 when I was still flipping the war cards, my Italian classmate, who was anti-Mussolini, made the comment, "there is one good thing about the Russians, they are helping the Chinese." (I later discovered this was an undeclared Russo-Japanese war in Mongolia and Manchurian frontier.)
After Pearl Harbor, my father became an anti-German patriot and gave up any political comments. He was confident that the Americans and Winston Churchill would win World War II. My father was a fan of Winston Churchill and the slogan "Blood, Sweat and Tears." Of course, my father was a great fan of conservatism. He also backed Democratic Governor of New York Al Smith, who repudiated the New Deal in 1936.
At the University of Michigan, I began to research the SCW from State Department archives published in FRUS (Foreign Relations of the US). There were many books published in US on "Communism and the SCW," including those of Stanley Payne. I published my PhD rather late in 1989 on Hitler in the SCW.
JE comments: Robert, I know you were just ten, but what do you recall from the trip in the orange truck? I presume it was a truck loaded with Florida oranges, not an orange-colored truck. Do you have any memories of the Old South in the early 1940s? For a young Long Islander, it must have felt like a different planet.
My Father's Orange Truck
(Robert Whealey, USA
05/17/17 4:19 AM)
John E asked about my father's orange truck.
My parents were married in 1923, and my father, a Republican, worked for the Harding, Coolidge and
Hoover administrations as a patronage Postmaster in Baldwin, Long Island, NY, from
1923 until September 1935. It took Jim Farley, Roosevelt's Postmaster
General, to fire my father.
So my father bought a 1935 Ford truck and hauled oranges, pecans, cantaloupes,
watermelons, and trotting horses, following the seasons. Hauling oranges from Florida to Baldwin
was the most profitable. He sold them by the crate, half-crate and quarter-crate to his
friends in Baldwin.
From 1936 to 1941, every Christmas and every Easter, my mother, brother and I had about 10 or 11 trips to Florida. My father bought wholesale melons from Laurel, Delaware in the summer. The orange business is good from Christmas to Easter. It was a cheap vacation.
JE comments: I found this image of a '35 Ford one-ton. With an entire family in the cramped cab, it must have been a bonding experience! How many days did the NYC-Florida trip take? Around three? I presume the destination was the orange country of Central Florida. Orlando was an orange town before it embraced Mickey Mouse.
I have to keep peppering you with questions, Robert. What did your father do when fuel rationing kicked in during WWII?
More on My Father's Trucking Business, pre-WWII
(Robert Whealey, USA
05/19/17 4:40 AM)
The photograph John E posted on May 17th shows the 1935 truck as it was produced by the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Most of the truck drivers bought only a chassis, and they built a bigger body to suit the weight of their loads. My father had one truck from 1935, two 1937s, and his last truck was a 1939 model which he sold in 1942. So the trucks going to Florida were taller to hold the oranges.
In the summer my father put on taller stilts and raised the body even higher for hauling horses. A driver could also extend the length of the trucks another three feet, with planks on the tailboard. With two canvases one could carry a load of light furniture.
Most of the ton-and-a-half trucks were built in the Seaford Body Shop, Delaware, for the Ford and the Chevrolet trucks which were driving from Boston to Florida. These trucks were good only from New York to Chicago. The tractor-trailer business from Chicago to San Francisco was redesigned for the Rocky Mountains. The East Coast Ford-Chevrolet trucks had 70 hp.
John also asked what my father did once gasoline rationing was enacted during WWIU. On New Year's day 1942, he sold his 1939 Ford truck to a potato farmer in Riverhead, Long Island, NY, the county seat of Suffolk County. The Office of Defense Transportation to ration gasoline was set up in the spring of 1942, so the trip to Florida and South Carolina was the last un-rationed trip possible. The orange season in October was closed for long-distance trucks. Freighters could carry more boxes of oranges from Jacksonville to NY Harbor, cheaper.
In June 1941 my father took a racehorse to Chatham NY, near the Massachusetts border. I was his passenger and it was my first ride to upstate New York.
JE comments: Racehorses are a delicate cargo, and must have required special care in shipment (watering, periodic stops, and the like). What are your memories of that process, Robert?
I'm enjoying this series on Truckin' through the '30s.
- Academic Collaboration and Academic Competition (Marga Jann, UK 05/16/17 11:28 AM)
Enrique Torner (14 May) describes an academic culture of competitiveness rather than collaboration. This is typical, and sad.
JE comments: Does this situation depend on the discipline? Scholarship in the Humanities, the name notwithstanding, largely involves isolating yourself from other humans.
Greetings, Marga! Where are your travels taking you this summer?
- Historical Objectivity vs Historical Impartiality (Robert Whealey, USA 05/14/17 2:12 PM)
Objectivity is the great ideal of honest historians. But in real life, the
Truth is hard to find. Remember the ancient Hindu parable of the three blind men trying to describe
Since the 1st century, millions of people have read the Bible, and no two people have remembered
the text the same way.
JE comments: A curiosity: did millions of people, or more like tens of thousands, read the Bible prior to the Reformation? The overwhelming majority of medieval Christians could not read, and in any case, Biblical exegesis was left in the hands of the clergy.
on Writing History
(Timothy Brown, USA
05/15/17 4:33 AM)
History is lived by all, but written by few. No matter how impartial or objective an historian tries to be, they rarely can write about things they saw, heard or lived. And even when they did, they need to remember that what they only saw, heard or experienced was just a sliver of all that happened around them.
All historians can do is their best and all their readers can do is disbelieve or believe what they write. Readers should always respect what they've written. But they should always read it with at least some skepticism--and then read on, just in case they're right.
JE comments: "History is written by few," but far more than a few WAISers write it. What is it that drives them to do so? Maybe Tim Brown can get the ball rolling on this question.
Why Do Historians Write? Toynbee's "Ethereality"; From Gary Moore
(John Eipper, USA
05/15/17 3:07 PM)
Gary Moore writes:
JE asked a a great question (Tim Brown, 15 May), with maybe a key to the future:
What drives WAISers to contribute our small bits to discussion--and hence to history (the outside world does read it: I was recently
found by a documentary project that saw me on WAIS, and
I originally found WAIS in a similar way).
The profundity in John's question is not in any answer, but in the mere
presence of the phenomenon. In the 1940s, historian Arnold Toynbee
noted something that the science fiction writers and futurists massively
missed--the implication that technological progress does not tend toward
more and better of the same (like bigger Jetson flying Super-Cars with fins,
or Flash Gordon ray guns that are only better versions of the Colt 45).
Instead, Toynbee pointed out "ethereality." The more the technology
boom snowballs, the smaller and more invisible become the advances.
And he was writing this before the computer, or even the transistor--the biggest proofs of all.
There is indeed a mystical-seeming element
in the human journey that would seem to both confirm and refute religion,
a forward-moving synergy between the devices we create and that
inexplicable x-factor called self-expression. As the Information Age caught fire,
who would ever have predicted advances like... karaoke, where the machine
sophistication is wedded to that old x-factor, the human desire to express,
to embody some idea of the beautiful or to feel the swelling importance of
communication--however one phrases it. And who would have predicted,
as the Information Superhighway went into overdrive, the incredible potency
of....YouTube, where the sheer force of millions of individual wills enshrines
a historical archive of video images--not for material profit, often not even
for personal fame, but because the essence drives the contributors to contribute, an essence that pulses at the interface where our individual selves spark with the
great collective. This synergy is outside our knowledge constructs, something
we can only marvel at as it unfolds, like watching the blooming of a rose. Toynbee's "ethereality" implies (and the cyber-age has proved his prescience)
that the eventual direction might lead to the final, "smallest" leap--beyond any
kind of gadgets and into real understanding of the workings of the mind.
But then, euphoric futurists have been wrong a thousand times before.
There is the suggestion in this explosion we are undergoing, as outwardly
invisible and unruffled as an individual face lost in thought--that human evolution
is something beyond the simplistic mechanisms of the most doctrinaire Darwinism.
How is it that, as if by pre-arranged signal (or by the meeting of maturational
milestones), we are creating all these things for the benefit of powers in ourselves
that we don't even comprehend?
Within this great flood of questions lies the thrill
of participating in WAIS.
JE comments: Yes! I'm going to crib some of Gary Moore's thoughts for a Why WAIS? section on our homepage.
Personal fame does come to some YouTubers (Justin Bieber), but Wikipedia illustrates Gary Moore's point even more clearly. How many famous Wikipedians can you name? Exactly. I've made the point before that Wikipedia is as close to a Utopian project as humanity has ever seen: that people will catalog all human knowledge not for personal gain, but for the enrichment of all.
- Historical Objectivity and Historical Impartiality; Prof. Roberto Villa (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 05/15/17 5:31 AM)
I am grateful to Ángel Viñas (13 May) for explaining some concepts he used to clarify the differences between objectivity, impartiality or Right vs Left viewpoints in his posts, but with apologies, I am still confused by Ángel's distinctions.
If I understand correctly, objectivity implies addressing, studying, and analyzing topics in a way not distorted by emotions or biased ideas, thereby judging the quality of the topic independently of individual prejudices and values. Impartial means not to be prejudiced towards or against any particular side or party. Please correct me if I understand this wrong, but It seems to me then that to be objective and impartial are practically equivalents. I just wonder how it is possible to be objective and not impartial at the same time, unless of course these concepts are used in a particularly biased way.
Ángel also explained "My use of a binary formula (right-wing vs left-wing historians) is for simplicity's sake. I happen to believe though that as far as the Spanish Republic and the Spanish Civil War go, it is a valid one. Obviously, another one could be used--i.e. bad vs good historians." Angel's binary formula would be acceptable for the sake of simplicity, if it were not for the fact that in all his statements so far he seems to imply or even accuse the right-wing historians of being the "bad historians." Of course this is explainable just as a sample of Angel's declared partiality.
Ángel asked me, "As far as ideology is concerned: would José Ignacio prove that the analysis of the Fascist dictatorships of the 20th century which has been carried out by a lot of historians is ideology-free?" Of course I cannot, as much as I can't prove that the analysis of the radical left-wing dictatorships of the 20th century carried out by historians is ideology-free. That is precisely the point. When you are a professional historian you have the ethical obligation to admit in your work that you are not impartial and therefore your judgments and interpretations of the historical facts might not be completely objective or unbiased. You should not try to disguise biased historical interpretations behind a supposedly objective scientific historical methodology.
He further asked me, "Would José Ignacio find facts (documents, testimonies, memories) among the insurgents of July 1936 in favor of democratic values? And more importantly, would he prove that those alleged values were in fact adhered to?" To answer this question in a rigorous way would demand from me more historical knowledge than what I have, and of course I would need to begin with the definition of democracy currently in use at the time. However, from an intuitive point of view I believe that it would also be very difficult to find clear modern democratic values in Spain's left-wing parties, very much inspired and supported by extremist socialist, trade unions, anarchist or communist ideologies and Stalin's autocratic and corrupt communist regime, which attempted to export by all means possible its revolution and to reach political power over Spain's still immature democratic institutions at the time.
Finally regarding Ángel's quotes on fellow WAISer Stanley Payne, I regret he did not mention Stanley's respected opinion on the Álvarez Tardío/Villa book. It would have been a more objective way of presenting contrasting opinions on the subject.
With this discussion now I fell very much obliged to read this book as soon as possible.
JE comments: Me, too--although I almost feel I've already read it!
José Ignacio Soler forwarded an e-mail he received from one of the book's authors, Prof. Roberto Villa García, who has been following our discussion of his book. While I do not (yet) have permission to publish Prof. Villa's letter, I will contact him and ask for a comment.
- Stanley Payne Reviews "1936: Fraude y Violencia" (John Eipper, USA 05/11/17 1:31 PM)
WAISer Stanley Payne has forwarded his review of the Álvarez Tardío and Villa book, 1936: Fraude y violencia. It originally appeared in the Madrid daily ABC on May 7th.
Stanley gives a different appraisal of the book, which he summarizes thus: "Es riguroso y objetivo en su análisis, y ofrece conclusiones nuevas y convincentes" (It is rigorous and objective in its analysis, and offers new and convincing conclusions).
1936 is causing quite a stir. WAISers who read Spanish will appreciate that Spain's Civil War is flaring up again. The matter of the February '36 elections ultimately boils down to the Right's claim that fraud gives a justification for the July coup and ensuing war.
Spanish Civil War Historiography; Response to Stanley Payne
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
05/12/17 11:24 AM)
I'm sorry to have to remind WAISers that the right-wing conspiracies against the democratic experiment which was the Second Republic in Spain started as soon as it was proclaimed in 1931.
I don't consider Stanley Payne (11 May) to be unbiased on this subject. In order to test his theses, as stated in Stanley's Franco biography, I assembled a group of Spanish historians. We found his arguments wanting.
In a book, due to be published in February 2017, a group of four authors will show Payne and other right-wing historians how to do original research on the conspiracy which led to war.
JE comments: February 2018? Just to be clear, I did ask Stanley Payne for permission to republish his review of 1936: Fraude y violencia. WAISer Anthony Candil first drew my attention to Stanley's essay. Now I'm convinced. I have to read the book myself.
Don't I understand correctly that the insurrection was in the works well before the February '36 elections? Another point to keep in mind is that the Right was in power, and presumably in a better position to control the vote, when the elections took place.
Was the Spanish Insurrection in the Works Prior to the February Elections?
(Anthony J Candil, USA
05/14/17 3:37 AM)
When commenting on Ángel Viñas's post of May 14th, John Eipper asked: "Wasn't [the Spanish Right's insurrection] in the works well before the February '36 elections?"
Monarchist conspiracies started as soon as April 14, 1931, but not sooner than Republican conspiracies which led to the failure of the military uprising in the city of Jaca in 1930. Or the conspiracy which had led also to the "Semana Trágica" much earlier in 1909.
The Left was much better experienced in conspiracies than the Right.
Ángel Viñas can consider whatever he wants, but he is the one entirely biased as one may expect from a Socialist Party membership cardholder. And I'd like very much to see the list and affiliation of those declared "Spanish historians" of whom he's talking about.
I don't agree either with John Eipper about the military uprising being in the works well before the February 1936 elections. The main uprising and conspiracy before then was to my knowledge the Asturias Revolution in 1934, fully instigated by the Socialist Party (PSOE), the same to which our WAISer friend Angel Viñas belongs.
JE comments: The Spanish Civil War flares up once a year or so on WAIS, and we're now seeing the opening skirmishes. Enrique Torner (next) asks why we cannot just get along.
This post from Anthony Candil has elements of an ad hominem argument--namely, that Ángel Viñas is biased as a historian because of his political affiliation. Please, WAISers, no ad hominems!
From our "What is WAIS?" Mission Statement:
"Our only requirement is that correspondents make a good-faith effort to convey an informed Truth ('veritas' is the third part of our motto--Pax, Lux et Veritas), and that they avoid ad hominem attacks on other WAIS members. Discuss ideas, not people, we say. Yet given the spectrum of ideas represented by our membership, it is no surprise that WAIS discussions can occasionally get heated."
Timing of the Spanish Insurrection, 1936: Response to Anthony Candil
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
05/16/17 7:16 AM)
I see that Anthony Candil (14 May) is getting personal. I will not follow this path. (I´d be ashamed to do so).
But just to set the record straight, I recommend that Anthony and other WAISers interested in the subject take a look at just three books (there are more and I´m willing to provide a list, if necessary).
The first one is Ricardo de la Cierva´s Historia de la guerra civil española. Antecedentes. Monarquía y República. 1898-1936, Madrid: 1969. This author was Franco´s court historian. I don´t share his views.
Although this book has become vastly obsolete, the reader can find on pp. 761-763 a small reference to military conspiracies before 1936 (the one leading to the attempted coup of 1932, the Sanjurjada is on pp. 231-235).
The second one is Eduardo González Calleja´s Contrarrevolucionarios. Radicalización violenta de las derechas durante la Segunda República, Madrid: Alianza. (See Chapter 2 and pp. 285-305).
The third one is the very recent analysis of General José García Rodríguez, Conspiración para la rebelión militar del 18 de julio de 1936, Madrid: Silex, 2013 (Cap. III, pp. 243-309).
Anthony´s statement, "I don't agree either with John Eipper about the military uprising being in the works well before the February 1936 elections" can only be attributed to ignorance or mauvaise foi.
His remaining comments don´t deserve any response. He is invited to produce any documentary evidence to refute my next book when it comes out in February 2018.
JE comments: This mortal always has to say "sheesh!" How does Ángel Viñas write so many books?
Yesterday I mentioned that I've heard (indirectly) from Prof. Roberto Villa García, one of the authors of the book that started this discussion: 1936: Fraude y violencia. I will give him the chance to offer his perspective. So the SCW skirmishes will continue.
"1936: Fraude y Violencia"; from Roberto Villa Garcia
(John Eipper, USA
05/30/17 3:20 PM)
JE: In the past two months, WAIS has published a number of reviews and comments on the new book 1936: Fraude y violencia en las elecciones del Frente Popular, by Manuel Álvarez Tardío and Roberto Villa García. I have communicated with one of the authors, Prof. Roberto Villa of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (Madrid), who sent the following response. The English translation is mine:
My thanks to John Eipper for allowing me to participate in the WAIS Forum. I prefer to be as polite as possible and don't care to address the criticism that was made against me on WAIS. It is painful to have to introduce yourself by refuting the label of "Francoist" or being associated with "Nazism" or "Petainism." Nor have I ever written a book sponsored by Bullón, as I am accused of doing, although I would have no problem associating myself with Bullón because I have nothing against him and do not consider him shameful.
I do not even care for the labels of "left-wing" or "right-wing" historian. We historians vote in elections and of course have our personal principles and beliefs. But we do not have an ideological code to tell us how to analyze our sources or to interpret every historical fact. Nor are we robots. There is such a thing as empathy, which allows us to overcome our own ideas and put ourselves in the place of others.
Beyond all this, I want only to encourage WAISers interested in the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War not to allow themselves to get carried away by prejudices. My book [1936: Fraude y violencia en las elecciones del Frente Popular] is not an updated version of the Francoist agenda, nor does it present a one-sided "right-wing" vision, for good or bad. Rather, it is full of nuances and complex explanations. Historians have the responsibility of studying the 1936 elections, after the publication of the diary of the president of the Second Republic, Alcalá Zamora, to determine if his accusations of electoral fraud are true or not.
However, the book is much more than that. It is a political history of the final months prior to the Civil War, written from the theoretical perspective of a "Crisis of Democracy" as outlined by Juan José Linz. We did intensive research in twenty archives, and all the sources we used date from prior to the Civil War. Anyone who reads the book will see the enormous distance between our arguments and some of the things that have been said about it in the WAIS Forum.
JE comments: I am struck by Roberto Villa's youth. He told me off-Forum that he was born in 1978. Co-author Manuel Álvarez Tardío is just six years older, which places the authors in the post-Franco generation. I cannot say if it's an advantage or disadvantage for a historian to have no personal memory of an event, but it definitely gives a different perspective. The same thing was probably said about German or Japanese (or US, British or Soviet) WWII historians born after 1945.
In any case, I am grateful to Roberto for his interest in WAIS. His book is on my summer reading list.
- Francoist Historians, and Elections in France (Carmen Negrin, France 03/30/17 3:56 AM)
I would fully agree with José Ignacio Soler (28 March), regarding the ideal and most theoretical objectivity of historians, be they right or left--if we were not talking about Spain, nor for this matter about a number of other countries as Ángel Viñas so rightly noted, and thanks to whom I will shorten my own reply.
Spain has been flooded by "fake news" to use modern terminology, for over 40 years. I say "over" because the school textbooks went on merely, for quite a few years after Franco's death and, as opposed to Nazism, Francoism has never been officially questioned, especially not by Aznar or Rajoy, which is why one has to be aware of who is writing and their sources.
To be the son of a Minister of Franco to me is not necessarily proof of anything but, a priori, I would read very carefully between the lines anything that comes from or more particularly under him.
This skepticism comes directly from my own experience about my grandfather, whose politics and personality were totally reinvented (to put it mildly) by Francoist "historians." Fortunately his archive helped contradict many of these myths.
The problem in Spain is that even when facts are available, certain "historians" will not acknowledge them. Because in Spain, again as Ángel underlined, you do have Francoist "historians" whose goal is not history but propaganda.
One recent example of "(fake) news," which I might have already mentioned, and which will eventually be picked up by one of these historians, is that Franco supposedly told his wife that had he known that starting the war would have caused so many deaths, he would never had started it (quote from his grandson in El Mundo), note in passing that this contradicts the fact that many Francoists maintain that the war started in '34, not in '36 with the coup; I have no reason to question whether Franco actually said this or not, but in that case, I ask why did he go on killing after the war was over and won?
The only real message that the grandson was trying to convey, was that Franco was a great human being and that of course whatever he did was profoundly good. Extending this premise, the "great man" could only do what his heart told him to, thus, like Pinochet: "save the country at whatever cost," thus justifying the coup and mainly, the deaths/murders.
Regarding the 1936 elections, I would only ask why the King did not return if there was any doubt about the reality of the results or the slightest possibility for him to return? Isn't putting the results in doubt simply and also a way to legitimize Franco and his coup (which, if really legitimate, should have had as a consequence the immediate return of the king)?
As far as the rest of José Ignacio's comment on left versus right, this is a matter at the center of the present electoral campaign in France. Fillon (right) being quite close to Le Pen (extreme right) except for the European question (which is more of a left-wing concept although Europe is more right-wing than ever at this point, and nationalist right-wingers are the ones wanting to leave), Mélenchon (extreme left) also having some (superficial) points in common with Le Pen, Hamon (left) with some points in common with Mélenchon, and Macron supposedly in the centre, with points in common with the left of the right and the right of the left. And, last but not least, the ecologists who could be nor left nor right, or left and right, are neither on the left nor on the right, although more left than right.
However, even if I consider that it is almost impossible to say at this point what will be the outcome of these elections, it seems to me that it will be very difficult to go forward in the near future without a clear distinction between the progressive/left and the conservative/right. It seems to me that these two concepts are still very valid and distinct. Pretending that there is no difference is mere populism. Indeed capitalist wealth does not trickle down, unless you impose a redistribution through taxes and then it ceases to be pure capitalism, or unless you have a dictatorial government such as China's and even then it doesn't really trickle down. The demands are simply not the same ones: when you don't have a roof, private property is simply not a priority!
JE comments: One of José Ignacio Soler's observations was that populism on the right and the left have many traits in common. Carmen Negrín suggests the same thing about Mélenchon sharing some points with Le Pen. (All four of the male presidential candidates end in '-on." Bizarre.)
Carmen Negrín's family has been villainized by Francoist historians more than any other, so she knows of what she speaks.
- Endurance of Francoist Myths (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/31/17 3:56 AM)
In reply to John Eipper´s question about neo-Francoism today (see Carmen Negrín, 26 March), I can add the reference to my own article "The endurance of Francoist Myths in Democratic Spain," International Journal of Iberian Studies, vol. 25, 2012, no. 3, pp. 201-214.
Unfortunately I have no text in my computer and I don't know whether this journal is free on line or not.
In the new e-book on bibliography regarding the Civil War, the chapter written by Ricardo Robledo is entirely dedicated to that subject. To think of some of the authors mentioned by Carmen as bona fide historians would stretch credulity a little bit.
JE comments: Try this link here, which requires a sign-in through your local library. It may work for some WAISers.
Here's the post with links to Ángel Viñas's e-book bibliography:
- Francoist Historians, and Elections in France (Carmen Negrin, France 03/30/17 3:56 AM)
- "1936: Fraude y Violencia"; from Roberto Villa Garcia (John Eipper, USA 05/30/17 3:20 PM)
- Timing of the Spanish Insurrection, 1936: Response to Anthony Candil (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/16/17 7:16 AM)
- Was the Spanish Insurrection in the Works Prior to the February Elections? (Anthony J Candil, USA 05/14/17 3:37 AM)
- Historical Objectivity and Historical Impartiality; Prof. Roberto Villa (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 05/15/17 5:31 AM)
- Why Do Historians Write? Toynbee's "Ethereality"; From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 05/15/17 3:07 PM)
- Academic Collaboration and Academic Competition (Marga Jann, UK 05/16/17 11:28 AM)
- More on My Father's Trucking Business, pre-WWII (Robert Whealey, USA 05/19/17 4:40 AM)
- Memories of a Historian (Robert Whealey, USA 05/16/17 6:51 AM)
- Reflections on Fundraising and Project Teams (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/19/17 8:11 AM)
- Jesse E. Owen (not Jesse Owens) (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/18/17 3:21 AM)
- Joys of Academic Life (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/16/17 5:48 AM)
- Pitfalls of Academic Life (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/15/17 3:56 AM)
- Historical Objectivity vs Historical Impartiality (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/13/17 9:24 AM)
- Meeting Hugh Thomas (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 05/18/17 12:41 AM)
- Hugh Thomas, My Mentor (Paul Preston, UK 05/13/17 6:18 AM)
- Spain's Left and Right Historiography; Death of Hugh Thomas (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 05/12/17 10:59 AM)
- "1936: Fraude y Violencia": More Reviews (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/11/17 9:45 AM)
- "1936: Fraude y Violencia": A Review (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/15/17 8:46 AM)
- Spanish Elections of 1936, Revisited (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 04/13/17 7:40 AM)
- Alvarez Tardio and Villa Book on Spain's 1936 Elections (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/04/17 6:34 AM)
- Francoist Historiography of the Second Republic (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/29/17 3:37 AM)
- Thoughts on Francoist Historians (Paul Preston, UK 03/29/17 3:20 AM)
- Is the Left-Right Political Distinction Still Valid? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 03/28/17 9:53 AM)
- Francoist Historians Alvarez Tardio and Villa Garcia (Carmen Negrin, France 03/26/17 5:04 AM)
- New Book on Election Fraud in Spain, 1936 (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/25/17 7:56 AM)