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Post Orwell and Barcelona's "May Days"
Created by John Eipper on 03/26/15 4:49 AM

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Orwell and Barcelona's "May Days" (Paul Preston, UK, 03/26/15 4:49 am)

John Heelan (25 March) is probably right about the factors that inspired Orwell's anti-Communism. However, I do not think that Orwell understood what John calls "the real truth of [what was] happening in Barcelona."

The "May Days" had their origin in a major food crisis. By December 1936, the population of Catalonia had been swelled by the arrival of 300,000 refugees. This constituted ten per cent of the population of the entire region and probably nearer 40% of the population of Barcelona itself. After the fall of Málaga in February 1937, the numbers soared even more. The strain of housing and feeding the new arrivals, with the attendant problems of shortages and inflation, had embittered existing conflicts.

Until December 1936, during which time the anarcho-syndicalist CNT had controlled the supply ministry, their solution had been to requisition food at artificially low prices. This provoked shortages as farmers resisted by hoarding stocks. After the mid-December cabinet crisis, the Catalan Communist (PSUC) leader Joan Comorera had taken over the supply portfolio and introduced a more market-based approach. This infuriated the anarchists but did not solve the problem. Moreover, Catalonia also needed imported food but lacked the foreign exchange to buy it. The consequent shortages and food price inflation led to bread riots in Barcelona, as well armed clashes for control of food stores between the CNT-FAI and the PSUC. There were also clashed as the Republican authorities tried to curb the activities of uncontrolled militia groups which had carried out atrocities against right-wingers. In addition, there is an argument that the anti-Stalinist POUM, by attacking and insulting the Republic's only powerful ally, was effectively guilty of treachery. One can only imagine how Churchill's government would have reacted against a group attacking Britain's American ally in the same way.

Orwell accepted the POUM view that the "fets de maig" (May events) were the result of a carefully laid Stalinist plot. However, the conflict between the advocates of revolution and those who believed that priority should be given to the war effort was, in the context of the food crisis, much more complicated than that.

JE comments:  Interesting.  Political intrigue is a much more attractive explanation for a novelist than food shortages caused by basic supply and demand.

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  • Orwell and Barcelona's "May Days" (Nigel Jones, UK 03/26/15 8:32 AM)
    Whatever the inaccuracies and partialities of Orwell's account of his eyewitness part in the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia, he has two inestimable advantages over the historians who have subsequently sought to criticise his book (cf. Paul Preston, 26 March):

    1) He was the greatest political writer in English in the 20th century, whose fundamental characteristic is honesty.

    2) He was there and they were not.

    Orwell may well, as Paul says, have missed the subtle underlying causes of the May days in Barcelona, but the essential message he drew from his experiences remains valid and helps to explain the massive sales not only of Homage to Catalonia, but also of Animal Farm and 1984--that Communism is a malign and mistaken doctrine that did fatal damage to the Spanish Republic when Stalinist Russia became the Republic's chief backer.

    After his recent superb biography of the Spanish Communist leader Santiago Carrillo (which took no prisoners in denouncing this loathsome and treacherous mass murderer for what he was), I would have thought that Paul would have come round to sharing Orwell's view.

    JE comments:  Eyewitness accounts and academic history are totally different animals.  We can prefer one over the other, but does it make sense to talk about "advantages"?

    Let me try to be conciliatory, and praise two recent additions to the WAIS library:  Paul Preston's The Last Stalinist (about Carrillo), and Nigel Jones's Peace and War:  Britain in 1914.  I'm about halfway through both.  Four thumbs up (two apiece).  I'll have more to say by May or so.

    Here are the latest WAISer titles, and a new use for our piano:

    Hall Gardner, The Failure to Prevent WWI; Tim Brown, Diplomarine; Noël Valis, The Labor of Longing; Paul Preston, The Last Stalinist; Nigel Jones, Peace and War.


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    • Orwell, History, and Memory (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/28/15 8:46 AM)
      Following the latest debate on the Spanish Civil War which followed the electoral victory of the Left (48% Left - 46% Right), it seems that some writers fall in love with a special "memory" of the Spanish Republic (and of course of other events).

      But the Stalinists were a bunch of bloodthirsty malefactors. In Italy we had the chance to see these criminals at work during and after our own Civil War.

      If the great Alain de Benoist will allow me, I wish to quote him:

      "It is the work of 'memory,' which today is made a substitute for morality. At the same time it is a kind of religion which is the exact opposite of the work of a historian."

      JE comments: Memory is not the same thing as what happened, but in a sense it's more meaningful. It (memory) is the significance an event has for us today.  Lessons to be learned and such.

      Franco's side had no shortage of bloodthirsty malefactors, either.

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      • Orwell, History, Memory: Who Started the War? (Carmen Negrin, France 03/28/15 1:57 PM)
        In response to Eugenio Battaglia, first of all the Spanish Republicans were not bloodthirsty, and second, they mainly were not Stalinists. As my grandfather would say, "who started the war?"

        One thing is history, facts, figures, documents. The rest is propaganda. Facts exists now, so no need to keep the propaganda going on forever.

        JE comments:  Yes, who started it.  With most wars of modern times, the party that started it tends to lose.  The Spanish Civil War was an exception.  And likewise with most wars, the majority of historians side with the victors.  Once again, Spain is an exception.

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        • Were the Spanish Republicans "Bloodthirsty"? (Nigel Jones, UK 03/29/15 4:13 AM)
          Carmen Negrin's statement (28 March 2015) that "Spanish Republicans were not bloodthirsty" is demonstrable nonsense.

          Even historians sympathetic to the Republic such as WAIS's own Paul Preston (In his book The Spanish Holocaust) accept that 50,000 civilians were murdered by Republicans during the Civil War. Others put the figure considerably higher still.

          These include nearly 7,000 members of the Spanish clergy, (headed by 13 Bishops), nearly 500 of whom were beatified by the Catholic Church as martyrs as recently as 2007.

          In the Paracuellos massacres carried out near Madrid in November-December 1936, between 1000-4000 people were slaughtered in a systematic massacre partly organised by the disgusting murderer Santiago Carrillo, later leader of the Stalinist Spanish Communist party.

          In the small Andalusian town of Ronda (population 15,000 in 1936), 500 were killed before the town was liberated by the Nationalists in September 1936.

          These are just a couple of examples of the Red Terror that swept Republican Spain in the early months of the Civil War. Later the killings became more targeted, and later still as the "revolution devoured its children" and the Stalinists seized full control (contra Carmen), the victims were the Stalinists' fellow leftists, such as the leader of Orwell's POUM, Nin, who was tortured to death.

          Not bloodthirsty? Tell that to the birds

          JE comments: Civil wars are always nasty affairs, but I believe Carmen was making the argument that Franco's side had the Republicans beat in the bloodthirstiness department.  (Bloodthirstier?) In any case, her main point was that Franco started the war.  To this I would add, which side murdered García Lorca?  Just think of the plays and poetry we would have if Lorca had lived another 40 or 50 years.

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          • Were the Spanish Republicans "Bloodthirsty"? (Carmen Negrin, France 03/29/15 7:17 AM)
            In response to Nigel Jones (29 March), one thing is government-sanctioned violence, and another the uncontrolled people avenging years of submission and abuse by the church and others.

            Moreover, these people were controlled as soon and as much as possible given the circumstances. And remember that the circumstances were created by those Nigel describes as "liberators."  Liberators from what? From democracy!

            If Franco was the suave peace-loving liberator that Nigel seems to think, why were there more people killed after the war was over than during the war itself? Was there a need to preserve his concept of peace? The peace of the cemeteries, no doubt!

            JE comments:  The Spanish Civil War flares up about twice a year on WAIS.  I hope our less-interested colleagues will be indulgent this time, as starting tomorrow I will be teaching the SCW at the College.  My central message, even more than the causes and developments of the actual war, will be simple:  the war divides Spain to this day.

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            • on "Bloodthirstiness" (Nigel Jones, UK 03/30/15 1:57 AM)
              So Carmen Negrín (29 March) believes that "government-sanctioned" killings are terrible, but killings by "uncontrolled people" are not so bad?

              I'll leave it to logicians to sort that one out.

              She also believes that Ronda, in the months when it was ruled by brutal anarchist gangs who killed 500 people out of the town's 15,000 population, was a "democracy"? Well, if it was, give me dictatorship any day.

              I am old enough to have experienced life in Spain under the Franco dictatorship, and life in Soviet Russia and other socialist paradises in eastern Europe that socialists hanker after so nostalgically. Franco's Spain was freer, more prosperous, and happier than any of them.

              I note that Carmen lives today in France, a country where President Hollande's Socialist party has made the usual almighty socialist mess of everything, and which is being punished by France's sorely tried voters in Sunday's local elections as a result.

              Communism and Socialism was and is a disastrous failure wherever it has been attempted. It cost an estimated 100 million lives in the 20th century. If you don't believe me, take a look at Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea or any other country which still calls itself "socialist."

              JE comments: I'd like to piggyback on Nigel Jones's post to raise a question: is there any substantive difference between mob violence and systematic violence from a government? If you're on the receiving end, there is not.

              Still, "history," "public opinion" or what have you, judges far more harshly the calculated violence that comes from a repressive regime. Couldn't we draw an analogy between reckless manslaughter and first-degree murder?

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              • on "Bloodthirstiness" in Spanish Civil War (Paul Preston, UK 03/31/15 3:31 AM)
                In response to Carmen Negrín, Nigel Jones (30 March) wrote, "So Carmen Negrín believes that 'government-sanctioned' killings are terrible, but killings by 'uncontrolled people' are not so bad?"

                I do not think that this is what Carmen said at all. Moreover, to take the activities of anarchists and common criminals as representative of "Republicans" is unjustified. This is an immensely complex subject. While it is true that the anarchist movement was hostile to the Franco military coup, it is also true that large parts of the movement were hostile to the democratic Republic. Moreover, during the war, the movement's lax (not to say virtually non-existent) membership regulations made it easy for fifth columnist agents provocateurs to take refuge therein.

                Furthermore, it should be remembered, in distinguishing between the two sides in the Spanish Civil War, that the use of terror was enshrined in the instructions issued to rebel officers before the coup. The coup led to a collapse of civilian authority, prisons were opened by the anarchists and reports of the atrocities being committed by the military rebels provoked a desire for revenge. By the end of 1936, the Republican authorities had managed to re-establish order and put a stop to the worst of the atrocities. On the other side, the killing went on well into the 1940s.

                I would like to respond to another comment by Nigel Jones. A couple of days ago, he said, in praise of Orwell, "Whatever the inaccuracies and partialities of Orwell's account of his eyewitness part in the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia, he has two inestimable advantages over the historians who have subsequently sought to criticise his book (cf. Paul Preston, 26 March): 1) He was the greatest political writer in English in the 20th century, whose fundamental characteristic is honesty. 2) He was there and they were not."

                Nigel's high opinion of Orwell is perfectly justified, but I am astounded by the view that the coincidence of being in a place during a historically important event trumps years of research. I was in Spain during several important historical moments and that gave me a "feel" for the atmosphere of the time, but lengthy subsequent research permitted me to write far more sensibly about those events.

                A case in point is my biography of Santiago Carrillo. I knew him quite well as an affable and apparently open individual always ready to share his memories. It was only research in the archives that revealed the scale of his crimes against both rightists and his own comrades.

                JE comments:  Yes.  I have a close friend (from Asturias, like Carrillo) who to this day admires Carrillo, although I sense she's primarily enamored of his avuncular, senior statesman side.  Her birthday is in a few months:  a copy of Paul Preston's El zorro rojo is in order...

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                • More on SCW (Nigel Jones, UK 03/31/15 3:40 PM)
                  Since they both criticise me, I would like to take issue with Paul Preston and Ángel Viñas on several points in their respective posts on the Spanish Civil War (31 March).

                  Paul disputes that Carmen Negrín had drawn a distinction between mass murders carried out by "governments" and those carried out by "uncontrolled people."

                  So let's see what Carmen wrote: "One thing is government-sanctioned violence, and another is uncontrolled people avenging years of submission and abuse" (sic).

                  If this isn't drawing a logic-defying distinction between two sorts of mass murder, I don't know what it is.

                  It is unworthy for Republican apologists to try and justify or excuse mass murder by "their" side while condemning it when committed by the side they dislike. Murder is murder, no matter who commits it and in whatever circumstances.

                  Secondly, Paul, like many academic historians, puts, in my view, an inflated value on written documents preserved in archives and correspondingly disparages such sources as oral and eye-witness testimony.

                  Many--if not most--significant historical events were never written down.

                  But just because they were not recorded does not mean that they did not happen. (To take a huge example, Hitler's authorisation for the Holocaust.) I maintain that Orwell's testimony on the immediate cause of the May Days--the seizure of the Barcelona Telephone Exchange--is as valid, if not more valid, than Paul's more leisurely analysis based on documents of what he thinks were the more significant long-term causes (food shortages and a rise in refugees).

                  I repeat: Orwell was there.

                  I welcome Paul's discovery of Santiago Carrillo's true murderous nature in his documentary research. This is all the more honourable of him considering his own left-wing sympathies. It is hard, I suppose, for anyone to abandon positions first held in youth with all the invested emotional capital (and socialism was all the rage when Paul was young). So all the more honour to him for revealing what a monster Carrillo was.

                  Rather patronisingly, Ángel assumes my relative ignorance of Spanish affairs, although I have been visiting the country since my childhood, and it holds my mother's bones. (Like Lorca, she died in Granada.)

                  I have no doubt that Franco was a terrible man, and corruptly enriched himself. Sadly that is a characteristic of dictators, though I would be surprised if his wealth and personal luxuries exceeded that of such heroes of the Left as Allende, the Castro brothers, Tito, Zhivkov, and the Kim dynasty in North Korea.

                  The main point, though, is that for all his crimes and corruption Franco saved Spain from the murderous anarchy that menaced it under the Republic in 1936 (and we must remember that political opinion in the February 1936 elections was almost equally divided between Left and Right); he saved it from the Stalinists like Carrillo who had taken control of the Republic by 1939; he kept it out of the Second World War--despite pressure from Hitler himself to join at the hour of Nazi victory; and he gave his war-torn, fractured country more than three decades of ever-increasing prosperity and freedom. For all his flaws, this was no mean achievement.

                  Franco or Azaña: it really is a no-brainer!

                  JE comments: I would have taken Azaña, but Nigel knows we'll agree to disagree here. We're still friends. Two little quibbles: the Kim boys are heroes of the Left? And Franco gave Spain three decades of...freedom? Gradually increasingly prosperity, yes, but consider the starvation of the 1940s. The only way to go was up.

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                  • More on SCW (Carmen Negrin, France 04/01/15 2:08 AM)
                    Nigel Jones (31 March) perfectly understands what I perhaps didn't express clearly enough. The difference concerning the murders, mass murders, conducted between 1936 and '39 in Spain under the officially, legally and democratically elected government and the coup-born dictatorship of Franco, is very simple: at no point did the government encourage mass murder. On the contrary, those who were responsible for them were prosecuted, when possible, given the circumstances; whilst on the Franco side it was part of the officially established strategy.  This is in written and oral witnessed history.

                    If Nigel prefers non-democratic systems, which supposedly boost the economy, that is his problem and conscious. But facts are facts. He reminds me of the lesson I learned while working for Palestinians. You can know things, objectively, know you know and yet reject them because of faith motives. ¡No hay peor sordo que el que no quiere oir! And this is, of course, a real problem. How can one go forward when there is no will? How are we ever going to write a history of Europe for instance?

                    JE comments: "The deafest person of all is the one who doesn't want to hear."

                    Remember, dear friends, that today we celebrate the WAIS Dove of Peace, brought to you courtesy of Tetiana, our multi-talented web artist in Ukraine.  I love this image, so I'll run it again.  Thanks, Tetiana!

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                    • More on SCW; Response to Carmen Negrin (Nigel Jones, UK 04/01/15 4:42 PM)
                      I am sorry, but despite John Eipper's pleas for peace on WAIS I cannot let Carmen Negrín get away with misrepresentations of what I say and think--and of history itself (1 April 2015).

                      Carmen falsely claims that the Republican Government opposed illegal murders and prosecuted those responsible. Once again, this is demonstrably untrue: why else were the notorious Paracuellos massacres carried out under the auspices of the Republican authorities in Madrid, and how is it that one of their chief organisers, Santiago Carrillo, continued to hold high office during the SCW and in exile?

                      Carmen also accuses me of opposing democracy. Again, this is untrue. I support the rising of the Spanish Army in 1936 because the Republican Government had lost control, the country was in murderous anarchy, and the Republic was even encouraging the murder of its leading Parliamentary opponents (cf. Calvo Sotelo). The choice was between order or chaos followed by Communist rule.

                      Anthony Candil's post of today incidentally was one of the most sensible and thoughtful readings of the Spanish Civil War I have read on WAIS. I completely agree with him that too many posts here from Republican sympathisers simply assume that their position is the only one possible to take.

                      This is arrogant nonsense, and I beg to differ.

                      JE comments: This flareup of the Spanish Civil War has been particularly acrimonious. The WAIS dove of peace has already returned to the roost. I'll see if I can coax him (or her?) back.  At the very least, the dove will anchor our homepage for another day (waisworld.org).

                      Anthony Candil has written to remind us that today, April 1st, was the day in 1939 that armed hostilities in Spain actually stopped. I hope to get to Anthony's post before midnight.

                      The pigeons are itching to fly...

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                      • Paracuellos, Calvo Sotelo: Response to Nigel Jones (Carmen Negrin, France 04/03/15 4:17 AM)
                        In reply to Nigel Jones (1 April), the interpretations vary but the facts don't. A lot has been written about Paracuellos and the death figures (lower than those mentioned by Nigel) have also been given by ... the Red Cross. Paracuellos was a horrible event certainly, but not the only one.

                        At least they have graves! As for Calvo Sotelo, he had a trial and was plotting against the legal government before and while being in prison, part of the disorder (?) that Nigel criticises.  He was not killed by government orders.

                        The question I ask Nigel is simple: freedom and temporary disorder or order and no freedom? Follow the voice of the disordered majority or the order of the imposed minority?

                        By the way, about communist countries and their success, what does Nigel have to say about China or even Vietnam, officially two very communist countries?

                        JE comments: Nigel has criticized China several times in his writings over the years, but I don't recall him ever touching on Vietnam.  Communist China in any case is probably the most "capitalist" of the world's nations. Paradoxes are what make life interesting. I am reminded of Mark Twain, who said the coldest winter he ever experienced was summer in San Francisco.

                        I invite WAISers to send their responses to Carmen Negrín's question:  freedom and disorder, or order without freedom?  Latin American history has been defined by this choice--for example the "Ordem e Progresso" on Brazil's flag.

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                        • Paracuellos, Calvo Sotelo (Nigel Jones, UK 04/03/15 10:15 AM)
                          Yet again, Carmen Negrin (3 April) seeks to excuse or play down the massacres and murders carried out in Republican Spain, though she at least at last admits that the Paracuellos massacre took place.

                          Carmen puzzlingly claims that Jose Calvo Sotelo "had a trial." Not so, he was dragged out of his home in front of his wife and children in the early hours of 13 July 1936 by a squad of the Republic's thuggish Assault Guards. The gunman who then shot him in the back of the neck, one Luis Cuenca (not to be confused of the actor of the same name) was the bodyguard of the Socialist leader Indalecio Prieto, giving the lie to Carmen's claim that the murder of the Opposition leader did not originate from the very top. The murderers were never brought to official justice but were killed in the Civil War.

                          As I have said before on WAIS: the murder of the Opposition Leader after he was abducted from his home by the state's police proves that the Republic had lost control and in itself fully justifies the army's rising.

                          Carmen asks me whether I prefer freedom and temporary disorder or order and no freedom. If she is asking about Spain in 1936 and thereafter, it is a false choice. There was no freedom in Republican Spain in the Civil War, but murderous anarchy morphing into repressive Stalinism. And although the Franco regime was certainly brutal and oppressive in its early days, it gradually liberalised and by the 1960s was a lot freer than the Communist countries Carmen so much admires.

                          That admiration is clear in her praise of China and Vietnam. But the recent economic progress in those countries has come about only because these two "socialist" countries have enthusiastically embraced capitalism! If and when the stultifying grip of their geriatric Communist parties was loosened, they would be freer, happier and more prosperous still.

                          Socialism and Communism go against the grain of human nature. They have always failed, and will always fail.

                          JE comments: I did not detect any admiration for China and Vietnam in Carmen Negrín's comment.  Her intention was to ask why Nigel did not include these countries in his list of "impoverished" communist regimes.

                          I'll keep posting 'em as they come in, but I hope we can call a ceasefire soon on the SCW.

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                          • When Did the Spanish Civil War Begin? (John Heelan, UK 04/04/15 3:44 AM)
                            JE asked a little time ago the difficult question, "When did the Spanish Civil War start?"

                            The Calvo Sotelo murder discussion is a good example of the way a nation salami-slices its way to civil war with tit-for-tat street fighting and assassinations. Prior events saw Guardia Civil lieutenant Anastasio de los Reyes gunned down on 14 April 1936. His funeral was interrupted by shots fired by gunmen believed to be from the Falange. José Castillo was the Assault Guard officer that violently put down the riots generated by the funeral. This marked him down for death in turn and he was killed by Falangist gunmen three months later (the second one within five weeks). Apparently his enraged colleagues decided to kill Gil Robles but, unable to find him, they "arrested" and assassinated Calvo Sotelo instead. (Like Lorca, he was unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.)

                            So how far back should one go to find the "start of SCW"? Anthony J. Candil put this point eloquently in his post dated 1 April, in which he went back to Castilblanco (1931), Casa Viejas (1933) and the Asturian Revolution (1934).

                            JE comments: Perhaps we should go back much further, to the Napoleonic invasion and Spain's division into traditionalists and reformists. Carlism, from at least the 1830s, was another factor.  Or how about anti-clericalism, already visible in literary works from the 16th century?

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                            • When Did the Spanish Civil War Begin? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/04/15 9:50 AM)
                              In response to John Heelan (4 April), the SCW as a civil war began in September/October 1936, not in July.

                              What happened in July was a military uprising which did not meet with the expectations of the rebels. A momentary stalemate was shattered by two lines of evolution: the beginning of a massive assistance to Franco by the Fascist powers and the non-intervention policy by the democratic ones. The combination of both factors condemned the Republic. Manuel Azaña saw this clearly in September. He passed his views to a number of politicians (among whom Álvarez del Vayo, Giral and Besteiro). All agreed with him, but what could the government do?

                              Under normal circumstances the war could have ended a few months later. It did not because of the massive Soviet assistance which began arriving in mid-October.

                              Note that the military and civil conspirators had envisaged the possibility of a short civil war. That´s why they had ensured proportionate Italian assistance prior to the uprising. It hasn´t been demonstrated that Hitler had entered into any kind of commitment with the conspirators. Nor had they achieved anything in France. However it´s abundantly clear that they had been trying to secure the non-intervention of the UK Government. In this they were eminently successful. WAISers are again referred to chapter II of my book Conspiración del General Franco.

                              Please note that all of my assertions are based on primary evidence, not on colportages.

                              As a brief response to Eugenio Battaglia (3 April), I´m in the UK presently and don't have any reference book at hand.  However, I have written a long essay on the comparative support given to the Republic and Franco by the foreign powers in the SCW.  I can categorically state that Eugenio´s statistics on Soviet personnel sent to the Spanish Republic are absolutely wrong.

                              JE comments:  Ángel Viñas has already been very generous with his explanations, but I'm confident WAISers would be interested in a short overview of Franco's lobbying to ensure UK non-intervention.

                              Regarding the number of Soviet personnel in Spain, I presume they are much higher than the 557 cited by Eugenio?

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                              • When Did the Spanish Civil War Begin? What is Meant by "Massive Aid"? (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/06/15 2:53 PM)
                                No offense intended, but I find it strange that Ángel Viñas (4 April) considers that the Spanish Civil War started in September/October 1936 and not earlier.

                                Do we have to assume therefore that the crossing of the Straits of Gibraltar by the Army of Africa was not an act of war? That the first airlift of troops in history was not an act of war?

                                Do we have to assume the same about the capture of Badajoz on August 14, 1936?

                                That the captures of Irún and San Sebastián were not acts of war?

                                That the attacks on the Republican Navy by Italian and German aircraft were not acts of war?

                                To deny or to support matters in a categorical way is something I cannot do, but when talking of "massive military aid" received by the Nationalists as Ángel Viñas suggests, I have my doubts, as it is a fact that by the end of August 1936 the Nationalists had received only the following:

                                • 20 Junkers Ju-52 transport planes and 6 Heinkel He-51 fighters, from Germany

                                • 9 Savoia SM-81 bomber aircraft from Italy

                                • 5 Fiat L3 CV/33 light tankettes

                                It is true that it was probably more than whatever aid the Republicans had received so far from France (Soviet aid didn't arrive until mid-October), but I don't consider this amount to be "massive."  It depends certainly on what one can consider "massive."

                                At the end of August/early September another shipment from Italy arrived in Spain, this time with 10 more Fiat tanks L3, artillery guns and ammunition. This shipment was led by the Italian Captain Oreste Fortuna, who became later a general in the Regio Esercito. (I met his son in Italy at the Italian War School, at Civitavecchia in the mid-1980s, so I speak based on primary evidence.)

                                As a whole we can consider the aid received by Franco to be "massive," but not in the early days. Aid received by the Republicans can also be considered "massive" as a whole by the end of the war.

                                JE comments:  Where one marks the "beginning" of the war is in essence a political statement.  I believe Ángel Viñas was denying war status to what started out as a rebellion by a faction (however large) of the armed forces.

                                A Fiat "tankette":  this doesn't inspire confidence if you're assigned to one in battle.

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                                • When Did the Spanish Civil War Begin? What is Meant by "Massive Aid"? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/07/15 8:30 AM)
                                  I thank Anthony Candil for his commentary of 7 April. In my earlier post I suggested that by September 1936 the Republic had lost the war. I should have added a caeteris paribus--i. e. if the context hadn't changed.

                                  The context was defined internationally by the non-intervention policy (one of my students, Miguel Iñiguez, after a couple of months in French archives and two years in Spanish archives, is reconstructing the difficulties sustained by the Republic to obtain arms from abroad) and the support given to Franco by the Axis powers. Internally, it was defined by the rapid advance of the rebel forces both in the North (conquest of San Sebastián and the closing of the frontier to the Basque Government and assorted Republican forces) and in the South in front of futile resistance by workers, farmers, and dispirited troops.

                                  Anthony is a bit behind with his data about Axis support. At the end of August 1936 the Third Reich had provided 26 Junkers, 15 Heinkel, 20 big guns, 50 machine guns, 8000 rifles, bombs and munitions galore plus 5000 gas masks. Italy had sent 12 bombers, 27 fighters, 12 anti-aircraft guns, 40 machine guns, five tanks, masses of munitions and bombs, and 11 tons of oil. All the aircraft were fully operational and were flown by their own crews (data from DDI, IV, doc. 819). In September Mussolini played with the idea of sending a fully provisioned brigade. Lt Col Warlimont suggested that Franco accept modern tanks. Immediately, preparations for the setting up of an interarms group, the Condor Legion, started in Berlin.

                                  The conspirators had provided for the possibility of having to wage a short war (it depends, of course, on what one understands under "war") and were on the verge of winning it. The pre-coup Republican Government had never contemplated such a possibility.

                                  Soviet assistance provided the muscle that the democratic powers had denied to the Republic. The short war turned out to be an illusion. Real war started.

                                  JE comments:  It would be intriguing to assemble a survey of all the "short wars" that were anything but.  We'd have to include just about every war throughout history, except maybe Franco-Prussia (1870-'71) and the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War of 1967.

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                                • The Fiat "Tankette" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/08/15 1:14 AM)
                                  The Fiat tankette L3/33 (see Anthony Candil, 7 April) according to Wikipedia, was generally called "scatola di sardine."

                                  JE comments: I see a resemblance.  Note that the Fiat baby tank has no turret.  It may have been effective against street rioters, but not in warfare.


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                          • Death of Calvo Sotelo (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/06/15 2:16 PM)
                            Were I to resort to the kind of comments that Nigel Jones often makes when referring to the Spanish Civil War, I´d take the violent death of Calvo Sotelo as a prop.

                            Under the Criminal Code then in force in Spain, a distinction was made between homicidio and asesinato. I think in the US the distinction is made between murder in the second and in the first degree. Forgive me if I´m wrong. I´m in deepest Somerset and have no reference books here.

                            Anyway homicidio is a kind of impromptu killing. Asesinato a killing which has been carefully planned. The legal phraseology in Spanish is with premeditación y alevosía. Asesinato was usually punished with the death penalty.

                            The Code of Military Justice provided for speedy court procedures. Thus General Goded among others was brought to a court martial and quickly sentenced to be executed.

                            Calvo Sotelo´s death was a second choice. The murderers wanted to kill Gil Robles in retaliation for the killing of Lt. Castillo by a right-wing gunman a few days before. Gil Robles had left Madrid and wasn´t available. Calvo Sotelo was about to leave Madrid, but the killers didn´t know this. They went to his place, took him out and killed him in cold blood in a van.

                            I don´t condone this killing, technically a homicidio.

                            Let´s now go and have a peep behind the facts. Calvo Sotelo was helping the military to prepare their coup. Twelve days before his killing his number three in Renovacion Española, Pedro Sainz Rodríguez, has signed in Rome several contracts for the provision of five and half scores of war planes (fighters, bombers, and hydroplanes) for the future military rebellion. He paid cash with Juan March´s money. The first shipment was to be sent to Spain most urgently that same July. It was duly prepared and a score of fighters was moved from the Northern airports to the South.

                            Sainz Rodríguez was amongst those who left Madrid after Calvo Sotelo´s killing.

                            Question: what would Calvo Sotelo´s fate have been if the Government had known above his involvement in the coup?

                            Let´s us look now at Franco´s actions. On 16 July General Balmes, military commander of the Las Palmas garrison, met with "an accident." He shot himself on the range while trying to fix his own pistol. He was such a good shot that he pressed his pistol against his stomach to get a better grip and, oh! miracle, he inadvertently fired his own weapon.

                            I have written a long essay showing that this event didn´t happen as portrayed in the media, that Franco was behind this "accident," that one of his men shot Balmes, that he was amply rewarded by Franco afterwards and that Franco was waiting for Balmes´ assassination to set his own uprising in motion counting on the arrival of the Dragon Rapide plane from London.

                            Thus while the non-premeditated killing of Calvo Sotelo is allegedly the spur to the uprising for many, the premeditated killing of Balmes was the sign that Franco had crossed his particular Rubicon to rise against the Government. On the one hand homicidio, on the other asesinato.

                            WAISers could read more about both cases in my contribution to Francisco Pérez Sánchez´s Los mitos del 18 de julio and in my La conspiración del General Franco, both in Crítica, Barcelona. Balmes´ killer is known. I didn´t give his name upon my lawyers´ instruction. Any historian can, however, identify him rather easily.

                            I´ve tried, and go on trying, to demonstrate that Franco´s mythology about the Civil War is based on the working of a mechanism well-known to analysts, that of projection. The attribution to the adversary of one´s behavior. Believe me it fits the facts. Necessary for the identification of the episodes concerned is of course to dedicate some time to the study and analysis of primary evidence, not to the ragoûts de commère usually portrayed in neo-Francoist mythology.

                            JE comments:  We can be quite certain that a military officer would never shoot himself while unjamming a pistol.

                            Would revealing the name of Balmes's killer still provoke a lawsuit?  We're already two generations removed from the responsible party.  This is another example of how the Spanish Civil War has never really ended.

                            My apologies to Ángel Viñas for the delay in posting this response to Nigel Jones (3 April).  I unilaterally declared an Easter truce to the SCW.  It seemed to be in spirit with the season.

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                            • Death of General Balmes; Debates on the SCW (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/08/15 12:42 AM)
                              John E is right about the Spanish Civil War and the occasional "hot temperatures" it still creates, but I think it is clear who is boiling the water here no matter what. And Robert Gibbs (7 April) is right also. Civil conflicts never really go away. Maybe the English civil war is already long forgotten, but probably it is the only one.

                              Nevertheless I found it curious that Ángel Viñas has mentioned the "accident" that killed General Balmes when precisely in Spain, in recent days the conservative newspaper ABC has reopened the issue after a historian or someone researching the matter stated "categorically" that it certainly was an accident and Franco, for once, had nothing to do with it. I'm not sure what to believe.

                              But let me point out something to WAISers who have an interest in handguns.

                              Perhaps the perfect "smoking gun" in this issue is the gun itself. The Astra 400 (or M1921 in the Spanish Army) in 9mm Largo (Bergman-Bayard--9 x 23), was the standard sidearm of the Spanish Army from 1921 to WWII and even beyond.

                              I used to have one and it's a single action. The hammer is inside the slide so you can't tell that it's cocked. It has a manual safety on the frame and a grip safety on the back like the US M1911. The pistol won't fire unless it's gripped and the magazine is inserted. As it's single action, it only takes like 5 pounds or less of pressure on the trigger to fire it. He was probably "coon fingering" the pistol, as my instructor used to call it. It was easy to have an "accident" with that gun. I never liked that weapon; it was bulky and heavy.

                              Balmes according to the latest research, shot himself in the gut at "quema ropa" range, so he probably shot himself in the liver or intestine. He lived for 15-20 minutes and apparently was even talking to several people before dying and never mentioned any attacker or killer, according to what ABC is now saying.

                              Balmes was small fish however. To me what really smells are the deaths of General Sanjurjo, the same day the military uprising started, in an aviation accident and later on, in 1937, of General Emilio Mola, the real brains of the uprising, in another aviation accident. There were no black boxes then, but I can hardly believe that these were just accidents.

                              Has Ángel Viñas done any research on these events? It will be interesting to hear his views.

                              In the above I forgot to mention that the Astra 400 pistol was the same model of weapon that was used to assassinate Jose Calvo Sotelo or to kill him, whichever way Ángel Viñas prefers.

                              The actual pistol is at the Army Museum in Toledo, I think, but it was previously in Madrid. I have no idea how the gun was found.

                              It is interesting to see, anyway, that Ángel considers the death of General Balmes a planned and premeditated assassination, and the death of Calvo Sotelo a non-premeditated killing.

                              How can an event that required going by car, for no fewer than 16 people, all led by a Guardia Civil captain, stopping in the middle of the night, and knocking at the door of a private home, be non-premeditated? Did they arrive at Calvo Sotelo's home just by chance?

                              Sorry but this sounds unbelievable.

                              JE comments:  Mob violence? 

                              To "coonfinger" is to touch something, turning it over and over, as raccoons typically do.  It's not an expression you'd want to use in polite company:


                              Regarding the Balmes death, who were the eyewitnesses who spoke with him in his final minutes?  If it was only 1-2 people, they conceivably could have concocted a cover story.  Or not.

                              Finally, Ángel Viñas last year sent this informative post on Sanjurjo and Mola, but it does not address their deaths:


                              See also this 2012 comment from Ángel:


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                              • Theories About the Death of General Balmes (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/08/15 12:11 PM)
                                In response to Anthony Candil (8 April), I must say that I´ll be curious about that new evidence regarding Balmes's death.

                                My thesis is based among other things on the extraordinary favors Franco granted to whom I believe was the killer. If I didn´t provide his name and personal record, this was on the advice of several lawyers. I have no compunction in saying that his heirs run a law firm in Spain. I also was surprised that the Dragon Rapide was ordered around July 11 to divert to Las Palmas when it could have easily picked up Franco at Los Rodeos. There´s a lot of nonsense about the impossibility of landing there but one of my first cousins, a former pilot, was flying all kinds of old planes to Los Rodeos without any problem. I also talked to Balmes's family and explored local records.

                                The post mortem might give some additional clues except for the possibility that it was done as a convenient coverup. The historian referred to in ABC belongs to the Catholic extreme right. Paul Preston has been kind enough to send me four of this author's articles, two of which were published in a highly suspected blog called Sancta Missa or something like that.

                                Balmes was no small fry. He commanded the most powerful garrison in the Canaries, and I didn´t find a single clue showing that he was ready to rise against the Government. Franco and Balmes had a secret meeting at the beginning of July and it seems that they didn´t agree. It´s also very strange that Franco was against giving his widow a full pension as befitted a fellow conspirator and no memorial or acknowledgement of any sort was ever set up in his honor. I recommend that Anthony read my work for which I drew on a considerable number of locals and experts. He might be interested in knowing that the colonel who investigated the Dragon Rapide´s flight ran into a lot of problems because he gave the exact date of the landing at Las Palmas. It was an article of faith in the Francoist Air Force that the landing took place the following day, so as to avoid any connection with Balmes's killing. If WAISers are interested I´ll check my book for further details.

                                There is nothing suspicious about Sanjurjo´s death. It was an accident caused by his pilot, a staunch Monarchist as well.

                                As far as Mola´s death is concerned, I´m aware that a lot of rumors abound. No proof for a murder has ever produced. My cousin tells me that Mola´s pilot wasn´t veryy good and that he was prone to making mistakes.

                                JE comments:  The pension matter is another smoking gun.  Yet if there really were a coverup, wouldn't Franco be especially sure to give Balmes's widow the pension?

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                                • Franco was a Cold and Mean Fish (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/09/15 2:49 AM)
                                  I gladly reply to John´s question about Franco and the pension in the Balmes case (8 April).

                                  Franco was a very cold and mean fish. This is no disrespect, simply a statement of fact. One of Franco´s fellow conspirators but also rival who preceded Franco in seniority was General Goded. Goded was in the Balearic Islands as military commander and took over the task to making the Barcelona garrison rebel. The rebellion was a failure. Goded was court-martialed and executed in August 1936.

                                  After the Civil War the question arose about what to do with his corpse, which had been interred in no exalted place. Franco was against spending any money on the exhumation and new burial. Fair enough. General Varela, a close friend to Franco and Goded, paid for it with funds of his Ministry of the Army. Franco dared not interfere. He took another kind of retaliation.

                                  When Goded´s widow asked for employment as administrator of a lottery and tobacco shop (this kind of thing was subject to official approval and a very sure way of making some money), Franco put his foot down. Nothing for any Goded.

                                  This is a typical venganza del pollo case (the revenge of the chicken). Who said that Franco was forgiving and generous?

                                  Returning to Balmes. It took three years for several friends of his to convince Franco to give Balmes's wife a full pension. Source: Balmes´s daughter, who still remembers a completely abandoned family.

                                  JE comments:  The tobacco monopoly in Spain goes back some 400 years, and estancos (tobacco/lottery shops) were awarded as de facto pensions to widows, disabled veterans, and the blind.  Is this still the case today?


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                            • Material Aid to Nationalists in SCW; a Correction (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/09/15 9:27 AM)
                              With apologies to WAISers I should like to rectify some incorrect information I transmitted on 6 April, regarding the contracts signed by Señor Pedro Sainz Rodríguez in Rome on July 1, 1936. I wrote from memory while I was in Somerset; now I am back home in Brussels. The more exact information is as follows:

                              War material to be delivered to the Nationalists in July 1936: 12 Savoia 81; 10,600 bombs of different weights from 2 to 250 kilos; 30,200 metric tons of high-octane gasoline, sundry other supplies. In total 1,846,750.55 lire.

                              Another three contracts followed for material to be delivered in August. Each had several annexes where the material was detailed to the last ounce. Contract no. 2 involved, for example, 31 Fiat CR 32 and 33 supplementary engines and a lot of sundry elements for a total price of 15,167,225.85 lire. Contract no. 3 covered 3 CR 32 and 3 M 41, 8 additional engines for an amount of 2,257,210 lire. Finally, contract no 4 involved a hydro, 4 engines and lots and lots of ammunition and parts for 2,015,689,97. The total amount of 39.3 million lire (some 616,000 Pounds Sterling at the time) is equivalent to 339 million euros today. The lists of ammunition and other elements are enormous and prove that all the planes were meant to become fully operational from the first moments and operated by Italian crews.

                              None would need all that stuff to wage a coup d´etat.

                              Sorry for my previous mistakes.

                              JE comments:  No apologies needed, Ángel!  The €339 million puts things in perspective.  How much of this did Mussolini extend on credit?

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                              • Juan March and Italian Arms for Spanish Nationalists (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/11/15 8:45 AM)
                                In response to John´s question (9 April), my understanding is that the Italian armaments for the Spanish Nationalists were paid for immediately.

                                Juan March was quick about transferring currency and gold to Italy. There are documents covering some of his actions in this regard. All of this means that there were continuous contacts between the conspirators, military and civilian, and between the Monarchists and March. Unfortunately I haven´t been able to find out more documentation in these areas.

                                If Pedro Sainz Rodríguez hadn´t left a copy of the contracts in his files, not even these previous contacts with the Italians would have become known. In his memoirs, published after Franco's death, he studiously omitted any reference to the contracts. Progress in history is contingent upon new discoveries. A truism but with operational effects.

                                JE comments:  In two weeks' time, our dear colleague Ángel Viñas will be giving a lecture at U Buffalo.  More details to follow, but I plan to make the trip to meet him.

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                                • Juan March and Italian Arms for Spanish Nationalists (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/12/15 3:23 AM)
                                  I agree entirely with Ángel Viñas's post of 11 April.

                                  As I have understood, the initial shipment of 12 bombers and five light tanks was paid up front in Italy by Juan March, probably one of the most conspicuous and immoral merchants on this globe, but later shipments and supplies were paid on "generous" credits given by the Italian government which have lasted until the mid 1960s if I have learned correctly. No matter that it was no longer a Fascist government in Italy.

                                  I wish Angel a good trip to the US. Buffalo in springtime is a very nice place. Have fun!

                                  JE comments:  Juan March made his wealth through tobacco smuggling and other shady practices.  Wikipedia tells us that he was once the sixth-wealthiest person in the world.  Here's a historical item I don't think we've ever pointed out on WAIS:  in 1941 the British government paid March $10,000,000 in order to bribe/influence top Spanish generals.  It was wartime, and any port in a storm.

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                                  • Juan March (Sasha Pack, USA 04/12/15 10:52 AM)
                                    It seems to me that some WAISer (was it Anthony Candil?), once mentioned Juan March's role in managing the accounts used to bribe members of Franco's staff to promote pro-British positions. I have come to believe that, whatever his dealings with the Italians in 1936, March always represented an Anglophile element of the Francoist constituency.

                                    March was a classic frontier robber-baron (as the historian Mercedes Cabrera aptly describes him), and there are those who will insist his only loyalty was to his business. But his smuggling empire was based on a model that assumed weak and uncoordinated law enforcement, and it had him dealing with sovereign powers routinely. He had his own intelligence networks, his own "protégés," "treaties" with states, and occasionally conflicts with states. Like other quasi-independent potentates of the Western Mediterranean, he consistently worked best with the British.

                                    In World War I, his network dealt commercially with both Entente and Central Powers: he sold fuel to German U-Boats, and probably helped the Germans send arms to Moroccan warlords to tie down French forces there. But I believe March provided his most valuable good, naval intelligence, only to Britain; and only Britain could provide him with the cover of the Union Jack, which flew over many of his vessels.

                                    Fast forward two decades: March detested the Spanish Republic, which attempted to prosecute him for accumulated collusion and corruption, and which represented all the Spanish day laborers who worked in Gibraltar and smuggled home a little tobacco on their way home each evening--cutting into March's profits. He turned to the age-old Mediterranean practice of financing an insurgent political movement in the hopes of a payoff--only on a far larger scale. But it's difficult for me to believe that March desired to see an Axis revolution in the Western Mediterranean in the way Franco did (though March surely could have accommodated himself to such a world).

                                    Franco calculated (correctly) that only with the prestige of a German alliance could he win over the Moroccan populace; and he calculated (incorrectly) that Spanish territorial ambitions in Gibraltar and Morocco somehow aligned with some broad Axis vision. March wanted the environment that provided the most flexibility to his shady businesses and his international financial operations, and British Gibraltar had always given him that.

                                    I am looking forward to seeing Ángel Viñas here in Buffalo in a few weeks. Officially speaking, he will come wearing his "Brussels insider" hat, but I hope he also packs his Spanish Civil War historian hat.

                                    JE comments: And beside Ángel, I'll have the chance to meet Sasha Pack.  I'm looking forward immensely to the 24th's WAIS mini-summit.

                                    And thank you, Sasha, for this insight on what made Juan March tick.  Answer:  the interests of Juan March.

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                                  • Juan March and Arms for the Nationalists (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/13/15 1:57 AM)
                                    Just a little precision to Anthony Candil's statement on Juan March (12 April).

                                    In my book Las armas y el oro I argued that, according to new documents seen by Prof. José Ángel Sánchez Asiain and Prof. Mercedes Cabrera, it is very likely that March paid up front for the weapons bought by the Monarchists in July ´36. On that basis I also argued that the money and gold mobilized by March at the beginning of the rebellion would have been more or less equivalent to the amount of gold sent by the Republican government to France till February/March 1937.

                                    To put it in another context: March may have put at Franco's disposal the equivalent of a quarter of the Bank of Spain´s gold reserves. If this is correct, March ranks with Mussolini and Hitler amongst the greatest of Franco´s benefactors. It´s unknown how he was paid back his credits except for those channeled though the London Kleinwort Bank and the Geneva Swiss Bank Corporation.

                                    Italy and Germany negotiated completely separated with Franco. Those negotiations have been reconstructed by Sánchez Asiain and Yours Truly.

                                    JE comments:  A Super PAC avant la lettre? 

                                    Juan March was one of History's foremost éminences grises.  It might not be an exaggeration to say that his money played a crucial role in sustaining the early uprising.

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                        • Communism and Capitalism: Plus ca Change (Timothy Brown, USA 04/04/15 4:08 AM)
                          How roles change!

                          Yesterday's Marxists described the ideal world as one in which the proletarian masses, having vanquished their bourgeoisie exploiters, live in dictatorships of the proletariat. But in today's Marxist countries--China, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua--the Marxist nomenclatura have merely become the new bourgeoisie, albeit dressed rhetorically in proletarian costumes, while the "victorious" masses continue to toil.

                          As always, rhetoric continues to trump reality.

                          Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!

                          JE comments: Remember the old Soviet anekdot? Capitalism is a system in which man exploits man. Communism is the other way around.

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                  • In Praise of Paul Preston (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 04/01/15 12:48 PM)
                    To reply to Nigel Jones's post of 31 March:

                    I want to defend Paul Preston, who is an academic historian of the first, but better to say of the very upper league. And, as I explained in my recent lecture at the Saffron Walden Festival (https://www.facebook.com/WordsinWalden ), both archival documents and eyewitness accounts often turn out to be absolutely unreliable, so we should better rely on Paul Preston's well-informed analysis than on Orwell. I shall also like to remind Nigel of an excellent quotation cited by my late friend Pete Bagley in his foreword to my latest book. As Winston Churchill said, "the actual facts in many cases were in every respect equal to the most fantastic inventions of romance and melodrama. Tangle within tangle, plot and counterplot, ruse and treachery, cross and double-cross, true agent, false agent, double agent, gold and steel, the bomb, the dagger and the firing party were interwoven in many a texture so intricate as to be incredible and yet true."

                    JE comments: WAISers will never agree on politics, but we are all in awe of Paul Preston as a historian. Nigel Jones even went out of his way to praise Paul's Carrillo biography, The Last Stalinist.

                    Next up:  a further comment from Nigel.

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              • Violence in the Spanish Civil War; on Franco's Wealth (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/31/15 3:52 AM)
                I beg to disagree with Nigel Jones (30 March). Please do not mix chestnuts and ducks. They don´t belong necessarily together. I was taught when I was a freshman that historical analogies must be treated with care.

                Violence in the Spanish Civil War is one of the most vibrant chapters in Spanish historiography. Paul Preston has made it known to a wider public in his magisterial book [The Spanish Holocaust--JE].

                I presume that Nigel is not familiar with Spanish authors as well, because I don´t understand his propos if this were the case. If WAISers so wish I can easily draw up a list of available titles on the subject.

                Nigel's opinions remind me, with all due respect, of those prevailing in the upper echelons of Whitehall during the Civil War itself and the yearning for a strongman, though obviously not for the UK. They are well documented and a number of Spanish and British historians have highlighted them.

                I am also old enough to have experienced and compared life under Franco and in the Eastern bloc countries since 1963 when I started, as a student in Berlin, traveling through the area extensively. I agree with Nigel that at that time life in Spain was less harsh. However I wonder whether this would have been the case in the 1940s.

                Just to spoil any WAISer´s digestion I would recommend an even cursory reading of Francisco Gómez Moreno´s book La venganza sangrienta. It was published last year and I posted some of his findings in my blog.

                A couple of days ago, John E asked me for an overview on Franco's finances. The conventional wisdom about Franco´s financial probity is just that, "conventional," even though it has been categorically defended in a Franco biography recently published in English. I won´t get tired of saying that both the SCW and Franco´s dictatorship must be studied with same scientific methods that are used with the Nazi or Soviet regimes. Although there´s still a long way to go until all the Spanish archives are opened, we´ve reached a point when generalities, prejudices and Cold War-inspired theories can be verified with reference to primary documentation or not.

                Returning to Franco. He had become a multimillionaire by the summer of 1940--i.e. in the years enshrined in blood, repression and hunger. I've reconstructed some of the methods how he did it. You wouldn´t believe it.

                JE comments: I presume some of these methods involved confiscating the property of murdered political enemies?

                Ángel Viñas also forwarded to me a lengthy article on Stalin's decision to enter the SCW on the Republican side. I'll post it to the Forum in the coming days.

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                • Violence in the Spanish Civil War (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/01/15 1:32 AM)
                  It's always difficult to engage the issue of the Spanish Civil War without hurting someone, no matter how much care one takes. But it is even more difficult when some WAISers take what I call "dogmatic" positions claiming they, and only they, know the truth. I don't believe in dogma, and I don't believe in those claiming to have found the truth. History is about facts, and contemporary facts are not so difficult to find, and they cannot be hidden for long.

                  The Spanish Civil War was a tragedy and in tragedy people die. All civil wars are full of heinous crimes and all sides commit them.

                  But before examining who killed more and why, maybe it's worthy to start examining who started the killing and when. Spain's civil war didn't start in reality in 1936. In my view started much earlier, maybe on the Tragic Week of Barcelona, in 1909, a real confrontation between the Spanish military and the working classes, or in 1923 with the Dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera, or even on the very first day the inept King Alfonso XIII left the country by his own decision.

                  Again, before we see the actual killing in the Civil War, we should stop at seeing what happened at the Massacres of Castilblanco in 1931, and Casas Viejas in 1933, already under the "democratic Republic," without entering into the Asturias Revolution, in 1934, and without even taking into account the so many indiscriminate killings of conservative people, priests or nuns, and the burning and looting of so many churches and monasteries.

                  Maybe the military uprising wasn't justified but it is a blatant truth that injustice and social disorder call for radical attitudes. It happened in Russia in 1917, in France in 1789, and it will happen again and again. At first the military was not against the Republic, especially generals such as Mola, Cabanellas and Queipo de Llano; their flag was the Republican and even Colonel Yagüe, the "butcher of Badajoz," in his speech at Badajoz cried "long live to the Republic." What happened after October 1, 1936 with Franco taking over is another history.

                  The blatant truth is that the Republic failed to deliver, failed to be truly democratic and failed to provide justice and order. In my view, it was highly responsible for what happened.

                  I don't like to disagree with my friend Carmen Negrín (I consider her my friend), but not all killings on the Republican side were conducted by uncontrollable masses or disobedient people. The massacres at Paracuellos de Jarama, in November, 1936, were conducted on order of the Republican authorities. (I'm not going to argue if Carrillo was responsible or not.) As I said war calls for atrocities and injustice, and all sides commit them.

                  Certainly what happened after the war is execrable and maybe history would have spoken different of Franco if he had established some kind of general amnesty and allowed everybody to work together rebuilding the country, even stepping down and re-establishing the Republic, but I'm trying to understand that times were difficult and with Germany at the Pyrenees it wasn't so easy. Nevertheless to me the worst sin Franco ever committed was not to step down and not to restore the Republic, and to name as his successor a corrupt and Machiavellian person such as Juan Carlos has proven to be, helping the infamous Bourbon kings to return.

                  That a person who is not a king, neither a nobleman by birth, and whose only merit is just to have conducted a rebellion and won a war against a legal government, appoints as his successor, with the title of King, a third person, is just something never seen before in constitutional law anywhere in the civilized world.

                  As a final remark, yes, after the war the killing went on and on, even I will say until mid-fifties but is there anyone who can tell me what would have happened if the Republic had won the war instead?

                  Is there anyone who dares to say that no killings at all would have taken place?

                  Taking into account the high proportion of Soviet and Communist influence at all levels of the Republic by the end of the war, it is likely that massacres and "political cleansing" would have taken place on a scale never seen before.

                  The sad thing is that, as John Eipper says, the Civil War is still pretty much alive in the mind of many Spaniards. That goes without saying.

                  Antonio Machado's poem is always valid:

                  "Españolito que vienes

                  al mundo te guarde Dios.

                  una de las dos Españas

                  ha de helarte el corazon."

                  JE comments: Yes, the two Spains.  April Fools' or not, we dutifully re-mobilize two or three times a year to re-fight the Civil War.

                  Anthony Candil stresses the universal truth that war is Hell.  Anyone care to take a stab on the alternate outcome--a Republican victory?  To my mind, this never could have happened, for this simple reason that Italy and Germany were willing to do whatever it took to win, the Soviets already received Spain's gold, and the Western allies had no stomach for war.

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                  • Abraham Lincoln Brigade (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/02/15 3:22 AM)
                    On April 1st, 1939, the Spanish Civil War officially ended as the armed struggle came stopped. What started then led Spain to what it is today.

                    No matter what, I want to pay a homage to the young Americans who went to Spain to fight for their beliefs and in defense of freedom and democracy.

                    Neither side was democratic nor free, unfortunately.

                    The Lincoln battalion, also known as Abraham Lincoln Brigade, was formed by a group of volunteers from the United States, who served in the Civil War as soldiers, technicians, medical personnel and aviators fighting for the Republican forces.

                    Of the approximately 2,800 American volunteers, between 750 and 800 were killed in action or died.

                    Americans volunteered and arrived in Spain in 1937. The Lincoln Battalion was organized in January 1937 and initially fielded three infantry companies, two rifle companies and one machine gun company.

                    On February 27, 1937, at the Battle of Jarama, near Madrid, the unit lost two-thirds of its strength, including their commander, Robert H. Merriman (who was badly wounded), in a futile assault on Nationalist positions. The battalion remained in combat and was slowly rebuilt while maintaining its front-line positions.

                    On April 2, 1938, at the Aragón front, Merriman and his executive officer, Edgar James Cody, were either killed in action or captured and executed some hours later by Nationalist troops.

                    Merriman made his way through the University of Nevada and joined ROTC. He was reportedly a friend of Robert Oppenheimer. He was professor of economics at the University of California, at Berkeley.

                    Most American volunteers returned to the US between December 1938 and January 1939. American POWs, not many, were released after the fall of the Republican government, although the last POWs did not arrive in the United States until September 1939.

                    Currently, there are four memorials dedicated to the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, as far as I know:

                    The first is located on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle.

                    The second is located in James Madison Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

                    A third memorial to the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was dedicated on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, California.

                    The fourth memorial commemorates the students and faculty of The City College of New York (CCNY) who fought in the Spanish Civil War, including the thirteen alumni who died in that war. The memorial is located in the North Academic Center of CCNY.

                    All my respects to them.

                    JE comments: Detroit with its tradition of labor activism was home to several brigadistas. As late as the 1990s the survivors appeared at commemorative events.  According to Wikipedia, only one member of the brigade is left, 99 year-old Delmer Berg of California:


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                    • Abraham Lincoln Brigade Veterans: David McKelvy White (Robert Whealey, USA 04/03/15 8:46 AM)
                      To follow up on Anthony Candil (2 April), I have met four or five veterans of the Lincoln Brigade. I published a short biography of their first Commander, David McKelvy White of Marietta Ohio. I never met David, but I met his pallbearer, who came to Marietta from Brooklyn to bury White.

                      James Norman (pen name) published his autobiography as a novel The Fell of Dark. His real name was James Norman Schmitt (born in Chicago). The plot of the novel was about the departure of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade after the Casado coup of March 1939. James Norman taught English at Ohio University in 1960s up to early 1970. I first heard of the term "premature anti-fascists" from him. He served in World War II in the Aleutian Islands, far removed from Europe. This stamp PAF on one's personnel folder was up to each Company Commander or Battalion Commander to promote or transfer the each GI at his discretion.

                      J. Edgar Hoover, State Department Passport Division and HUAC regarded the ALB as "subversives" from 1936 until Hoover's death in 1972.

                      JE comments: "Premature anti-fascist" is one of history's silliest political categories, but those who came up with it during WWII saw no irony.

                      I found this image of David M. White's grave in Marietta, Ohio.  Ironically, Marietta is one of the most conservative towns in the state.  According to the ALBA archives, White committed suicide in 1945 because the Communist Party threatened to expel him for his openly gay lifestyle.


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                  • Some Additional Points on the SCW (Carmen Negrin, France 04/02/15 3:48 AM)
                    Thank you Anthony Candil (1 April); you give me hope for some possible entente!

                    Just a few points.  The Republican government's instructions for the Paracuellos prisonners was to take them to a prison in Valencia.

                    The programme for the end of the war on the Republican side was summarized in the so-called thirteen points, which were later reduced to three, basically foreigners out, amnesty, and free elections.

                    And last but not least, for John E, the gold went to USSR but came back to Spain in the form of arms, food, etc.

                    As far as the Soviet influence goes, we have already discussed this many times. All I can say is that I have personally meet few communists from that period. They were rare in the circles of exiles that my grandfather continued seeing. The few exiles we knew who went to Cuba, for instance, ended up in Mexico when Fidel got into the picture. Not only that but the few who were, became socialists with time (including Carrillo, who left the PCE).

                    So much for the Stalinist influence among at least one of the leaders!

                    JE comments:  That was always my understanding about the Spanish gold.  The fundamental difference between Stalin's support of the Republic and Mussolini and Hitler's support of the Nationalists is that the latter extended credit:  to get repaid they had to win the war.

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                    • Spanish Civil War Today (Enrique Torner, USA 04/03/15 6:38 AM)
                      I have been exercising a lot of self-restraint during the latest, and very intense, discussion on the Spanish Civil War, because I am really behind on my grading. However, it has been hard!

                      I'd like to limit myself to praise Nigel Jones for not letting himself be intimidated by the rest of WAISers, who have been defending the Republican side. I get very emotional when discussing the Spanish Civil War, as do most Spaniards, so I will limit myself to a conclusion that I share with Stanley Payne: that the Nationals killed more people than the Republicans, but the Republicans tortured more, despite what the movies portray. I wish Stanley Payne would join this discussion and balance the scales. Does he participate in WAIS discussions any more?

                      Finally, a few comment/questions: Don't you see a parallel between the Spanish Civil War, the war against Islamist terrorism, and the internal, strong division, between Republicans and Democrats in the US? Could the US end up in a Civil War too? Isn't this nation equally divided?

                      JE comments:  Stanley Payne is a steadfast patron of WAIS, including this year (thanks, Stanley!), but it's been a couple of years since his last post. 

                      We'd love to hear from you, Stanley!

                      I don't see any parallels between the SCW and the present Clash of Civilizations, as the former was a contest of ideologies (not of identities--although if we think about it, identity is ideological).  The US already had its civil war, as did Spain.  I'm pretty sure both nations learned their lesson and won't try another.

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                      • Spanish Civil War; Thoughts on Civil War in General (Robert Gibbs, USA 04/07/15 5:56 AM)

                        I do not have a dog in this fight, but I'd like to add an observation regarding the Spanish Civil War, and by extension the US Civil War, as John mentioned in Enrique Torner's posting of 3 April.

                        I confess the only real knowledge I have on this subject comes from WAIS, although I taught ordinance and bomb tech courses to Spanish National Police/soldiers in the 1970s. And perhaps the only foreign film I was forced to watch in college that was not total trash was To Die In Madrid (Mourir à Madrid).

                        This film started by showing a farmer going to his field in the fog, and after showing the SCW and atrocities on both sides, who joined and who slaughtered whom and the carnage, it concluded while rolling the credits with the same farmer going to his fields in the fog. His life and that of most Spaniards did not change one bit. Only who governed.

                        I am never sure that any nation has learned any lesson from a Civil War--I remember being stationed at Ft Sill and spending more that a few Friday and Saturday nights partaking in and separating men in cowboy bars re-fighting the US Civil War. Usually it was over the causes of the war. And as I mentioned in a previous WAIS post, I have even seen fights break out outside Oxford over the cause and who was worse in the English Civil War--who committed the most atrocities, Royalist or Roundheads.

                        What I suggest is Civil Wars are never resolved (and, as with most wars in general and civil wars, especially civil wars, the truth is murdered first). After the 50th anniversary they should be confined to history books and discussions such as this to once a year for two week max. No one will change their minds, and only animosity results.

                        PS: I trust WAISers had the very best of Easter and all that it represents.

                        JE comments:  I've sensed SCW fatigue from a number of WAISers, but the 1936-'39 period is probably the single strongest area of our historical expertise.  I agree 100% with Robert Gibbs that no one changes her/his mind, but this lack of resolution is precisely the reason the topic remains so vital today.  If there were consensus, then the war wouldn't flare up every few months.  And I never fail to learn something during our skirmishes.

                        Bob Gibbs and I had a nice phone conversation yesterday.  Bob will be traveling soon to London, Prague, and Budapest.  I'll definitely be pestering him for comments and photos!

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                    • Italy in SCW (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/03/15 7:04 AM)
                      Considering that the Spanish Civil War is once again on the WAIS agenda, let me present some information on the Italian participation in this cruel war.

                      Initially Italy supplied only armaments to the Nationalists. The first dozen S.81 airplanes arrived on 25 July 1936, then 12 GR.32 fighter planes arrived in August, along with five tanks. But after November 1936, the flow of Italian volunteers began, from the CTV (Corpo Truppe Volontarie).

                      The Italian Air Force deployed 6000 men (including some civilian employees), the total planes used were 760, the destroyed enemy planes 700, and there were 175 casualties.

                      The Italian Navy deployed 16 submarines (4 used by the Spaniards), 2 cruisers Eugenio di Savoia and Emanuele Filiberto, plus the cruiser Barletta that bombed the port at Palma de Mallorca. The Navy suffered 6 casualties, as its involvement was minor.

                      With the Italian Army (CTV) a total of 75,000 served in Spain, with 3320 casualties. They dead remain in the military cemetery of Zaragoza.

                      Being an army of "volunteers," some were unsatisfactory, and 591 were repatriated for disciplinary action and 3128 were repatriated because they were not physically fit.

                      The CTV took about 20,000 prisoners, and this caused some controversy with the Nationalists.

                      In fact, in order to protect the lives of the prisoners, the Italians refused to hand them over to the Nationalists except for some accused of war crimes. The same protection later in WWII was granted to the Jews. Anyway, this does not show the good side of the Franco forces.

                      Some 3350 volunteers from Italy fought on the Republican side (600 became casualties). These included some future big shots in Italian politics, socialists such as Nenni (former close friend of Mussolini) and Bogoni, republicans such as Pacciard and Angeloni, and the anarchist Bernìeri. But most were communists such as Togliatti, Longo, Vidali, Di Vittorio, etc.

                      By August 1936 two fighting groups were already in the lines. By the way, only 557 Soviet citizens (mostly political commissars) were in Spain.

                      Some of these volunteers for the Republicans were common criminals escaping from the Italian jails.

                      A friend of mine who wrote a book about the volunteers from Savona got in trouble because he refused to overlook the past criminal record of some of these "heroes."

                      The captured communist volunteers were deported to Italy and put in the "confino" on some small Italian islands. On 8 September 1943 they were freed and could start their bloodthirsty terrorism within the partisan forces, which after all were mostly dominated by them.

                      In the SCW Italy threw away 12 billion lire and many lives, just to hand Spain over to a small man like Franco.

                      JE comments:  Very informative. I wonder if Eugenio could give us an idea of the number of "volunteers" who were actually conscripts?

                      Does anyone know about the present state of the Italian cemetery in Zaragoza?  At least through 1975, they probably received the best care of any of Mussolini's war dead.

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                      • Italy in Spanish Civil War (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/04/15 4:18 AM)
                        I'm not going to pretend to know more than our friend Eugenio Battaglia (3 April) on the Italian intervention in Spain, but I can recommend a book from John F Coverdale: Italian Intervention in the Spanish Civil War (Princeton Legacy Library) and certainly from our fellow WAISer Paul Preston in his book The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge. Ángel Viñas has written extensively on the issue as well.

                        My own interpretation: Mussolini's response to appeals for armed assistance from the Spanish insurgents following their failed military coup of July 17-18, 1936, which precipitated the civil war in Spain, was initially cautious. Only when he had assured himself, on the basis of reports from Italian diplomats, that neither France nor Britain nor Soviet Russia intended to intervene, did the Italian dictator give the green light, on July 27, for the dispatch of aircraft to assist in the airlift of pro-rebel Spanish Moroccan forces to the Spanish mainland, and arms and munitions to those fighting in Spain. His decision to intervene was made in the expectation that a small amount of Italian war material would be decisive for the rebellion. It was based, partly at least, on Franco's personal assurances to the Italian authorities, that victory for the rebels would be certain and quick, provided some outside assistance was forthcoming, and that with victory he intended to establish "a republican government in the Fascist style adopted for the Spanish people."

                        Nevertheless the request for aid that finally provoked Italy's intervention in Spain came from the mastermind of the military uprising, General Emilio Mola. His envoys met with Count Ciano in Rome on July 24, 1936 and asked for urgent assistance, advising the Italians about the danger of French support to the Republic. On the other hand Mussolini assured former Spanish King Alfonso XIII that "Italy would not permit the establishment of a Soviet regime in Spain."

                        With the recent election victory in Spain of the French Popular Front movement--in February, 1936--in mind, Mussolini was certainly worried that a victory for the left in Spain might encourage revolutionaries in France and Western Europe, including Italy. As he told his wife, Rachele: "Bolshevism in Spain would mean Bolshevism in France, Bolshevism at Italy's back and the danger of [the] Bolshevisation of Europe."  The Duce and Ciano continued throughout the civil war to regard their intervention in Spain as safeguarding Fascism in Italy, and as Count Ciano reflected later, in October, 1937: "At Málaga, at Guadalajara, at Santander, we were fighting in defense of our civilization and revolution."

                        All along, Mussolini recognized and understood that Italy was providing more aid to Franco than was Germany. In supporting Franco by the commitment of military personnel, Italy far outdid their German collaborators. While sharing common ideological concerns over the Spanish conflict with Italy, the Germans during its course invested less in terms of military support for Franco both in terms of the number of personnel involved in Spain and in armaments supplied. In this connection, it has been variously estimated that the total cost of Italian war material amounted to between 6 billion and 8.5 billion lire ($120-$180 million) while for Germany the cost is variously estimated at between 412 million and 540 million Reichmarks ($70 million and $90 million).

                        Throughout the duration of the civil war more than 16,000 Germans helped the Nationalist forces, although the maximum in Spain at any one time was 10,000. These forces included the "Condor Legion" dispatched in December 1936, which consisted of 5,000 tank and air personnel. At their maximum, Italian forces in Spain numbered between 40,000 and 70,000 troops, including air personnel, though more than 80,000 actually went to Spain. German casualties were very slight, amounting to no more than 300 dead. Italian losses were far heavier with around 4,000 dead and 11,000-12000 wounded.

                        All during the Civil War Italy sent more than 70,000 men, as I said, of whom almost 6,000 belonged to the Italian Air Force, 45,000 to the army and 29,000 to the Fascist militia. Italy also supplied 1,800 cannons, 1,400 mortars, 3,400 machine guns, 6,800 motor vehicles, 155 light tanks, 213 bombers, 44 assault planes and 414 fighter planes. Mussolini became fully committed to the Spanish conflict, primarily for geostrategic reasons. The spectacle of a leftist revolutionary Spanish Republic, oriented towards France and the Soviet Union, would constitute an intolerable challenge to the Fascist concept of "Mare Nostrum."

                        With regard to the conduct and progress of the war, both the Italians and the Germans experienced increasing exasperation with the attritional strategy of Franco and his military command. After the debacle of Guadalajara in March, 1937 contemptuously referred to as a "Spanish Caporetto" by critics of the Fascist regime, Mussolini, in particular, was highly critical of Franco's failure, as he saw it, to bring the Red forces in Spain to a decisive confrontation. Yet, in October he complained to the German Ambassador, Von Faupel, that while the Spaniards were very good soldiers they had no idea of modern warfare and were making "exceedingly slow progress" on the Asturian Front. Ciano was equally critical of Franco's military leadership, accusing him in December, 1937, in light of the Republican offensive to capture the city of Teruel, of missing "the most opportune moments and of giving the Reds the opportunity to rally again."

                        From the outset both Hitler and Mussolini concentrated their support through Franco rather than any of the other Spanish generals. In intervening in the civil war in Spain both the Italians and Germans were highly motivated by ideological, strategic and economic considerations, but it was the first of these that initially drove their intervention and sustained it thereafter. The common struggle against Bolshevism, above all preventing a victorious communist republic emerging from the Spanish conflict, with its consequent encouragement for international communism and its negative ramifications for the advance of Fascism in Europe, produced in the words of Ulrich von Hassell, German Ambassador to Italy, "a sudden increase in the warmth of German-Italian cooperation."

                        Franco's failure to break the stubborn resistance of the Republicans on the Ebro, during the summer of 1938, was a source of increasing concern to the Axis powers, particularly Italy. According to Ciano, Mussolini used violent language about Franco for "his flabby conduct of the war" and letting victory slip when he already had it in his grasp. He accused the Spanish leader of "serene optimism" in the way he conducted the war and advised that serene optimists "find themselves under a tram as soon as they leave home."  At one point Mussolini was inclined to withdraw all his ground forces but with Franco's agreement arrangements were begun to withdraw 10,000 Italian soldiers from Spain, a decision made easier by the withdrawal of the International Brigades on the Republican side during September, 1938.

                        However the substantial arms deliveries provided by Germany in late 1938, along with further Italian reinforcements during the winter of 1938-1939 contributed to Franco's victory in Catalonia, and the capture of Barcelona in January, 1939 and eventually the fall of Madrid at the end of March, 1939.

                        The intervention of Germany and Italy certainly prevented Franco's defeat, even if Soviet military aid gave initially to the Republic the means to beat back the initial advance by Franco's forces.

                        The Spanish Civil War was important not only to Spain but also to the whole of Europe. Germany's involvement in that war was crucial to helping Franco's Nationalists claim control of Spain. Despite some historians' views as to a functional foreign policy, the evidence suggests that involvement in Spain was perfectly consistent with Hitler's foreign policy goal of distracting Britain and France and driving a rift between them, Italy, and the Soviet Union, all while Hitler was making plans for eastern expansion.

                        The result of Germany's involvement in the Spanish Civil War was just that--Britain and France, although drawing closer together, moved further away from Italy and alienated the Soviet Union.

                        Both Italy and to a lesser extent the USSR were subsequently drawn toward Germany. Furthermore, the Spanish Civil War and Britain and France's Non-Intervention policy led Hitler to begin to believe that he could manipulate the weak democracies to achieve his foreign policy ends. This led to an acceleration of his plans for eastern expansion, which in turn helped accelerate Europe's movement toward World War II.

                        JE comments:  A good synthesis of events.  Franco seems to have frustrated his friends as much as he angered his enemies.  Although he would get the last laugh, outliving his "more competent" European sponsors by three decades.  When discussing Franco, I always return to the term "wily survivor."

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                      • Italian Volunteers and Conscripts in SCW (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/04/15 6:44 AM)
                        In John E's comments to my post of 3 April, he asked if I have an idea of how many conscripts were among the Italian volunteers in Spain.  I have no idea.

                        The Italians at that time were full of patriotism and enthusiasm. The war in Spain was perceived as a "crusade" against the "Reds" who were assassinating political adversaries, bishops, priests and nuns, destroying churches and so on. Furthermore the barbarism of the communists in Italy during the "biennio rosso" 1919-1921 was well remembered.

                        My father applied to volunteer. He had already applied to go to East Africa the year before, but was refused because he had just married with a baby on the way. For this same reason was again refused for Spain.

                        I assume that there were more volunteers than were requested, so it was not necessary to send conscripts, but I really do not know for certain. Probably the higher-ranking officers were obliged to go, but they were happy to do this, expecting glory and promotions.

                        Things were very different at that time.

                        JE comments: I wonder who the baby on the way was? (Ha ha.) Eugenio saved his father from fighting in Spain. For that, I'd be eternally grateful!

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                        • Letters of Italian Combatants in SCW; John Brademas (David Pike, France 04/05/15 10:31 AM)
                          I owe it to John Brademas, whom I first met at Stanford in 1964, and who had interviewed Spanish anarchists in Toulouse before me, for the contact to Federica Montseny that led me to Aurelio Chessa, custodian of the archives of the Federazione Anarchica Italiana held in Genoa. Chessa allowed me to rummage through the suitcases that were left behind by Giovanna Berneri, widow of the Italian philosopher whose murder could never be pinned, either on Mussolini or on Stalin, who had an equal desire to see him dead.

                          In the suitcases I found letters written by Italian soldiers who had been sent to Spain by Mussolini and who had deserted in the field. One of these, written by a soldier to his fiancée, read:

                          "You were right when you told me not to leave home. I thought we were going to work in Africa, as the draft card said. And so I joined up as a volunteer, not to fight but to work and earn 40 lire a day, as everybody in Italy said. Instead of that, it's all been a lot of hogwash."

                          Camillo Berneri said of Guadalajara in 1937, in which Italian fascists were fighting Italian antifascists, that the Italian defeat was a victory of Italian antifascism. The Spanish ambassador to Paris, Luis Araquistain, had this to say about the battle:

                          "The conduct of the Italian army in Spain, far from bringing discredit upon it, does it honor. Mussolini's troops are men first, and soldiers second. Why should they fight? Fighting would be the real crime. Italy can feel proud and not humiliated by such an army. The Latin race cannot produce robot-soldiers, and that is its virtue."

                          JE comments: Presumably the robot-soldier reference was to the Germans.

                          Once a WAISer always a WAISer, and former US Representative (and NYU President) John Brademas is a WAISer. To the best of my knowledge he is still on our mailing list, although I haven't heard from him since 2006.  I would be overjoyed to re-establish contact.

                          Here's a bio from Prof. H, published in 1999:


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                      • Italian Troops and the Taking of Malaga (John Heelan, UK 04/08/15 7:42 AM)
                        It would be interesting to hear the view from Italy of the massacres apparently perpetrated by Italian troops in their taking of Málaga during the Spanish Civil War.

                        JE comments: By "the view from Italy" I presume John Heelan means Eugenio Battaglia.  I'd also like to hear his comment.

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                        • Italian Troops and the Taking of Malaga (Paul Preston, UK 04/08/15 9:10 AM)
                          In response to John Heelan (8 April), Málaga fell to rebel forces in February 1937 in large part thanks to the Italian forces under the command of Mario Roatta. A somewhat piecemeal campaign was turned into a spectacular success by Roatta's use of guerra celere (Blitzkrieg) tactics against the poorly defended city.

                          The massacres that followed were not the work of the Italians but of the Spaniards under the command of General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano. An excellent account of the campaign from the Italian point of view can be found in the book by Roatta's second-in-command Emilio Faldella, Venti mesi di guerra in Spagna (Florence: Le Monnier, 1939). Its publication infuriated Queipo de Llano, who wrote a bitter letter of complaint to Faldella.

                          JE comments:  I've just learned that don Ramón Candil, whom I met last November in Austin, took part in the Málaga campaign.  Son Anthony's account is next.

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                        • My Father at the Taking of Malaga (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/08/15 9:17 AM)
                          My father took part in the capture of Malaga in February, 1937. He hasn't told me about anything perpetrated by the Italians. On the contrary it seems that they behaved always in a very courteously and polite way, certainly not like the Nationalist Army.

                          Most of the massacres everywhere were perpetrated by the Falange and the Guardia Civil anyway.

                          JE comments: And thanks to the remarkable don Ramón Candil, I am but one degree removed from these events:


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                        • Italian Troops and the Taking of Malaga (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/08/15 10:30 AM)
                          It is my pleasure to provide John Heelan (8 April) with a view from Italy about the massacres following the conquest of Málaga, 8 February 1937, by 15,000 Nationalists and 5000 Italians against 40,000 Republicans, mostly anarchists.

                          According to "Il sito Comunista" (http://www.sitocomunista.it/movimentooperaio/spagna/guerradispagna.htm ), a very detailed history of the SCW with many interesting photos, mostly of the International Brigades, all seen from a communist point of view, we read the following:

                          "Alongside the Spaniards, nine motorized battalions of Italian Black Shirts went into action. Thus started a most ferocious manhunt in the half-destroyed town, the worst slaughter Spain had ever seen since the conquest of Badajoz. 4000 men were shot. Thousands of fugitives escaping toward Almeria were attacked by Italian planes.

                          "Ciano, Mussolini's Foreign Minister, worried because his representative in Málaga had telegraphed that the repression by the Spanish Nationalists was of such a massive scale, that the population was angry and the heavy blame could fall on the (Italian) volunteers. Ciano ordered Ambassador Cantalupo to carry out an inquiry, but Franco opposed it. Franco himself was acting very cautiously, the locals (Spaniards) were furiously venting their rage. It was best not to irritate them."

                          If a communist wrote this, I need not add anything else to excuse the Italians from any responsibility in the Málaga massacre. Maybe I can say that the planes attacking the retreating Republicans combatants (not civilians) were Spanish (not Italian). Beside that, I already mentioned in a previous post that the Italians had problems with the Nationalists when they did not hand prisoners over to them, because the Italians were worried about their safety.

                          May I comment that the history of the Spanish Civil War, in primis the battle of Guadalajara, is the history most used (and changed) for propaganda?

                          JE comments:  At least when it comes to Málaga, we have a consensus: Paul Preston, Anthony Candil, and Eugenio Battaglia all agree that the Italians weren't involved.

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                          • Malaga in SCW (John Heelan, UK 04/09/15 4:15 AM)
                            My thanks to Paul Preston, Anthony Candil, and Eugenio Battaglia for clarifying the non-role of Italian forces in the massacres following the taking of Málaga by the Nationalists.

                            My further reading confirms Paul's point that the carnage was caused by Falangist and Guardia Civil squads (encouraged by Queipo de Llano) and as a result of German warships shelling the fleeing citizens.

                            It seems that Málaga was a microcosm of the conflict with assassinations by the left wing prior to the the taking by Nationalist forces followed by countless executions with a minimum of justicial process afterwards. I also read (in agreement with Eugenio) that Italian diplomats were sickened by the massacres and asked Queipo de Llano locally and Franco centrally to stop the bloodshed. They were ignored by both.

                            JE comments:  With slaughter coming from land, sea, and air, the Málaga exodus must have been beyond hellish.

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                            • Norman Bethune and the Malaga Exodus (Paul Preston, UK 04/10/15 2:02 AM)
                              The Málaga exodus was recorded for posterity by the Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune, who was one of the pioneers of battlefield blood transfusion during the Spanish Civil War.

                              He took an ambulance to the road between Málaga and Almería and shuttled back and forth trying to save as many women and children as he could. The horrors that he and his crew witnessed are recorded in an outstanding memoir by his English driver T. C. Worsley, Behind the Battle (London: Robert Hale, 1939). Bethune's photographs were published shortly after in a pamphlet under the title The Crime on the Road:  Málaga-Almería. Anyone who wants to see the photographs of the refugees can download it in various digital formats at:


                              JE comments:  Another excellent resource.  Want more images?  I hope Paul Preston will send us a link or two to the best general website for SCW photos.

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      • More on History and Memory (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/30/15 2:16 AM)
        I do hope that John E will forgive me for the following.

        So far I have always found John's comments excellent and reasonable, but when he wrote the following about the Spanish Civil War (28 March):

        "Memory is not the same thing as what happened, but in a sense it's more meaningful. It (memory) is the significance an event has for us today. Lessons to be learned and such"

        ...these words seem to be not those of a historian of a preacher (maybe of a lay religion) which confirms the ideas of Alain de Benoist.

        I have something also for John's comments on the post of Carmen Negrín, "and likewise with most wars, the majority of historians side with the victors [true--EB]. Once again, Spain is an exception" [not true, as the SCW is considered part of the struggle that ended in 1945--EB].

        Just to lighten the tone, let me tell you a story about war not always being about horrors.  It can be amusing too.

        When Naples was occupied by the Allies, a terrible cholera epidemic began. The port was full of American Navy and merchant ships, including many Liberty ships (I sailed on one of them in 1963). One day a bus with supposed MPs arrived alongside one Liberty ship and ordered the Captain to take the entire crew with him to go for vaccinations. The bus took a long drive, when in the middle of nowhere the driver stopped and disappeared. At the same time another ghost crew boarded the ship and took her off. She was never found.

        Curzio Malaparte in his book La Pelle (a must-read for any American) told the story of a Black GI who presented a Sherman tank to his "girlfriend," and within a couple of hours the only thing left of the tank was an oil spot on the floor.

        Just to confirm how smart the Neapolitans are, many years ago off the coast of Naples during a storm, a ship fully loaded with typewriters sunk. By the time that the owner found a Dutch (it may have been German, as I do not remember exactly) firm able to recover the cargo, the holds of the ships were empty--and Naples was full of new typewriters.

        [The Rev.] JE comments:  No need to beg forgiveness, Eugenio!  A thick skin comes with the job.

        With my earlier reflections on memory, I was trying to say that except for the specialists in a given field, history is "interesting" only insofar as it holds lessons for today.  Thus the perennial debates surrounding the Spanish Civil War.  In a similar fashion, the present Clash of Civilizations between Islam and Christianity has renewed interest in Muslim Spain.

        How is it that the Republic "won" the Spanish Civil War?  Perhaps in a metaphorical sense, given that Republican values are more dominant in today's Spain than Francoism.  But at least through 1975, the Republic by any measure had lost.

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    • David Pike's "Españoles en el Holocausto" (David Pike, France 04/29/15 2:36 PM)
      Looking at the five front covers of WAISer books paraded on John E's piano (http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=92512&objectTypeId=77469&topicId=138 ), I thought colleagues would like to see the cover of my own new edition that came out this month.

      JE comments: Absolutely, and congratulations, David!  Now that our semester is almost over at the College, it is finally time to tackle my pile of reading.


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