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World Association of International Studies

PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Venezuela Update: Three Weeks in Limbo
Created by John Eipper on 04/16/19 9:48 AM

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Venezuela Update: Three Weeks in Limbo (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 04/16/19 9:48 am)

I have spent more than three weeks in isolation without Internet, energy or potable water, or any basic general services, due to several blackouts and the severe energy crisis in Venezuela. Now I am in Spain, enjoying again of some basic comforts and able to get in touch with the Forum.

I have read the WAIS discussion about coups d'état, military coups, putschs, or what the Spanish-speaking countries call golpes de estado, cuartelazos (barracks revolts) or pronunciamientos (pronouncements). They are different names for similar events, although each has its own singularities.

If I understood correctly, the debate addressed several questions. Whether a coup is always of military nature, a violent confrontation, and if this is the case whether the event is always malignant, of temporary or of permanent consequences. Also whether a coup is always against democratic governments or not, to prevent a potential autocratic regime or to resolve social turmoil, anarchy and chaos. Finally, there is the notion of replacing a current government by a dictatorship. So for the sake of our discussion, the terms should be clarified to judge if a coup might be a feasible option to resolve social crises and whether they are in some cases morally or politically acceptable.

First it is clear that a coup must always involve some violence, or extreme confrontation.  At the very minimum it involves the threat of violence. Of course the most frequent actors are military for obvious reasons, though their motivations may vary. Typically it is pure ambition for power, but there also might be a political need to resolve a social crisis.

Now, just to give my opinion in the debate, I should always disagree with coups, military or not, to overthrow a democratic government. However I must agree with Nigel Jones (despite my disagreement with him on other issues, particularly the EU) that a coup is often necessary to bring down an illegitimate autocratic or dictatorial regime, as might currently be the case in Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, etc., and in the case that social crisis, anarchy, chaos, and violence are so severe that there is no other way to restore peace.

At the same time, I am inclined to disagree with Carmen Negrín when she suggests that the chaotic social unrest in Spain was part of the conspiracy set up to justify the 1936 coup, and not a root cause due to misgovernment or most likely, to subversive revolutionary tactics to eventually implant autocratic communism along Marxist theories.

We should remember the important influence of the Stalinist communist party in Spain's politics and the Spanish Frente Popular at the time. Their strategies for seizing power are well known, such as discrediting political and social institutions, persecuting political rivals, creating social unrest, political turmoil, etc.

Finally I would like to address two particular events on the Forum, first the passing of Randy Black; I never had the chance to meet him but from what I read of him I must pay my respects to his memory and his family. My sincere condolences. Second, I note the addition of Samuel Abrams to WAIS.  A warm welcome to Sam.

JE comments:  So good to hear from you, Nacho.  In your next post, can you go into greater detail about how Venezuelans are coping with the current chaos?  For starters, how is urban life even possible without electricity and water?


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  • In 1936, There Was No Communist Conspiracy in Spain (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/17/19 2:26 PM)
    Without trying to draw parallels or analogies for widely divergent historical situations (Venezuela and the Arab countries, among others), I take issue with José Ignacio Soler concerning Spain in 1936. (See his post of April 16th.)

    There was no Communist conspiracy, and there was no Socialist conspiracy to disrupt the Popular Front Government and bring about a Stalinist or similar dictatorship. What was happening was the implementation of a coolly calculated conspiracy by the extreme right, which had told Mussolini six months before about its implementation.


    Now that José Ignacio is happily in Spain, perhaps he would have the time to glance at my book ¿Quién quiso la Guerra Civil? (Who Wanted the Civil War?). If he's able and willing to disprove it, he should step forward and do so.


    JE comments: Ángel Viñas kindly "visited" (via Skype) my Spanish literature and culture seminar this morning, and was a tremendous success!  My students were glued to his every word.  To think, when we were young in the pre-Internet days, of having a world-class historian teach you from 3999 miles away (that's the exact distance from Brussels to Adrian--I should move a few blocks to the west to make it 4K.)


    Sometimes technology isn't threatening or alienating.  Sometimes it's just really cool.  And Ángel Viñas is a natural in the classroom.

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    • Teaching from 4000 Miles Away (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/18/19 8:48 AM)
      When I left the University in 2011 the possibility of participating via Internet in a class at the not-inconsiderable distance of several thousand miles was not an everyday occurrence. Perhaps it was done in the US but not in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Thus it was with some trepidation that I accepted John E´s invitation to address his Adrian College Spanish class on April 17th.

      I'm happy that John´s students and himself found the experience an exhilarating one.


      As for me, I can say that I was very happy to try answering the students´ questions. I left the classroom in the 1980s for the diplomatic floor. I didn't return to teaching until 2007 although, I may safely say, with a vengeance.


      In Athens Professor Fernando Hernandez gave a presentation on the relative weight of deaths in the Republican years in comparison with the Civil War. If WAISERs think that those dreary statistics may be of some use I could reelaborate them because I´m a bit fed up with the distortions still abounding in American literature on the topic.


      JE comments:  Thank you 3999 times, Ángel, once for every mile that separates Brussels and Adrian!  Even more than your 20+ books, including one out this month, my seminar students were awestruck by your mastery of four languages (Spanish, French, German and English).  They know first-hand the tremendous amount of work and dedication it takes to learn even one new language.


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    • 1936: There Was No Communist Conspiracy in Spain (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/19/19 1:56 PM)
      Sometimes I've been in disagreement with Ángel Viñas, but this time (April 17th) he is right.

      There was no Communist conspiracy in Spain in 1936, and without having yet read Angel's book, I can add that it was even the opposite. Stalin didn't want a confrontation in Spain and the Comintern was advising the Spanish communist party--which in any case was a minority--to do its best to avoid a war, precisely for the reason that the left-wing parties could be defeated and then a fascist dictatorship could emerge in Spain, among other reasons. Another thing is that once war started, the Soviet Union helped the Republic.


      The Socialists didn't conspire either, but they knew perfectly that the military, especially Mola, were conspiring and were about to rise. Santiago Carrillo in his papers explains this very clearly. My question is: if they knew beforehand, why they didn't they stop the uprising? Were they so confident that the military would fail? Or that the Republic would crush the rebellion? If so, that was their mistake at underestimating the uprising.


      Certainly the only conspiracy was the one set up by the military or the monarchists--or both. But it is also true that the radical left-wing parties were committed to start a full revolution in Spain, of unforeseen consequences, and a revolution that the war in a way helped to start. That was another mistake as well and perhaps among the main reasons why the Republic ultimately lost.


      Anyway, congratulations to Ángel on his latest, ¿Quién quiso la Guerra Civil? How many books in total have you written about the Civil War?


      JE comments:  Twenty-five?  It's hard to say whether some of Ángel's books on the Franco years should be included or not.  Exclusively on the SCW, Ángel has at least twenty.  Wow.

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