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Post POUM, Andreu Nin, Trotsky
Created by John Eipper on 03/29/15 3:44 AM

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POUM, Andreu Nin, Trotsky (Paul Preston, UK, 03/29/15 3:44 am)

I think that the minutiae of the question of "how Trotskyist was Andreu Nin?" is one for specialists in Marxist variants. Nin was certainly an anti-Stalinist communist and, in that sense, broadly sympathetic to the Fourth International line. I tend to use the broad brush label "semi- or quasi-Trotskyist" because, outside of a detailed discussion, one rarely has time or space to go into the theoretical specifics of the case.

As for Anthony D'Agostino's summary of the reasons behind Stalin's intervention in Spain (28 March), I agree with the latter part of his statement but not with the first part. Whatever Stalin's murderous intentions towards his perceived enemies, Trotsky, Bukharin, Zhdanov, Radek et al., they were not the motivation for his involvement in Spain and taking the risk of a European war.

The great expert on this is Ángel Viñas and I hope that, if he is reading this, he might be tempted to comment. Until then, I would just say that the initial response of the Soviet Union to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War was to keep clear. The main priority of Soviet policy in Western Europe was to maintain the alliance with France and not to provoke the anti-Communism of the British. However, things changed when it became apparent that Germany and Italy were getting heavily involved. The Kremlin feared that a third fascist state on French borders would encourage the right in France and undermine the alliance. So, aid was given reluctantly.

As Boris Volodarsky has demonstrated in his magisterial work on Soviet security services in Spain (and I hope that Boris too might be tempted to intervene in this debate), the main targets of NKVD activity in Spain were foreign collaborators of Trotsky, such as Mark Rein, the son of the Russian Menshevik leader Rafail Abramovich, Erwin Wolf, who had become Trotsky's secretary in Norway, the Austrian Kurt Landau, and Nin. The broader assault on anarchists and the POUM was carried out by Spanish Communists, with the support of liberal Republicans and Socialists because of the perception that their revolutionary ambitions stood in the way of an effective war effort.

JE comments: Ángel Viñas has already heeded Paul Preston's call! Stay tuned.

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  • Why Did the Soviets Enter the Spanish Civil War? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/30/15 1:07 AM)
    I cannot remain in silence and must heed Paul Preston's kind invitation (29 March) to join the debate.

    Up to 15 years ago the motives for Soviet intervention in the Spanish Civil War were shrouded in secrecy and myth. This was because the relevant documentary evidence was lacking. The situation started changing with the publication of a book about the Comintern and Spain by Antonio Elorza and Marta Bizcarrondo based on the Comintern archives then recently opened in Moscow. It was followed by the PhD theses of Frank Schauff and Daniel Kowalsky based on Soviet primary documents as well.

    I had started dabbling with some aspects of the Soviet intervention in 1976 with a first book on the shipment of Spanish gold reserves to both France and the Soviet Union. In 2006 I began what turned out to become a four-volume work about the Republic and the SCW within the European context. I crossed documentation from British, German, Italian, French, Spanish and Soviet archives plus Francoist, Republican and private archives as well. A brief summary of my findings about the reasons for Soviet intervention was published in both Spanish and English. I can upload the Spanish version if WAISers so wish. The English version appeared in London in a book under copyright edited by Jim Jump a few years ago.

    Obviously, more books have since been published. I´d like to mention the works by Yuri Rybalkin (in Russian and Spanish), Josep Puigsech Farras, Rafael Cruz, Ricardo Miralles. and obviously Boris Volodarsky.

    I´m sorry to say that the interpretation given by Prof. Ronald Radosh to a minuscule collection of Soviet documents (Spain Betrayed) is simply trash. Another book by Stanley G. Payne, who did not do research in Soviet archives, has been superseded. To assert that the Spanish Republic was a Soviet pawn is to overlook, willingly or unwillingly, a lot of effort deployed by a substantial number of historians of four or five nationalities who have shed light on a very controversial but also Cold War-clouded subject. Some WAISers will note that I haven´t mentioned Pierre Broué nor many others.

    JE comments:  This literature survey reads like Who's Whos of WAISdom!  Besides the more familiar names mentioned above, Daniel Kowalsky in Belfast is also a WAISer, although he hasn't posted in several years. 


    There certainly is interest in Ángel's findings on the Soviet intervention.  We can upload the text to our "publications" section, which I hope to expand significantly in the coming months.

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  • Why Did the Soviets Enter the Spanish Civil War? Molotov and Bukharin (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 03/30/15 1:29 AM)
    WAIS has been from the first a Forum for discussion of the Spanish Civil War, an intellectual minefield but a most fascinating one. It is good to hear from the experts and to note JE's comments and extensions of thoughts.

    I wonder if the question of the origins of the Soviet intervention in Spain can be answered without considering the struggle that went on in the Politburo leadership, a kind of struggle for Stalin's soul, between the supporters of the pro-French Bukharin and the anti-war Molotov.

    When the war in Spain broke out, Stalin was still clinging to the alliance with France, but it was only ratified by the French Assembly in March 1936, when Hitler responded by invading the Rhineland. France could do nothing. The alliance seemed a dead letter. What was Stalin to think?

    Molotov's views gained in force and those of Bukharin weakened. When Zinoviev and the Leningraders were tried in August, they were accused of pro-fascist connections and, surprisingly, Bukharin, the spokesman for anti-fascism, was also implicated. But the Politburo rose up and came to Bukharin's defense, as it had in the Riutin case in 1932. Just a few weeks later, in fall 1936, Soviet weapons arrived in Spain. Bukharin was "saved" for the moment and the pro-French line still seemed viable.

    Over the winter Stalin and Molotov dug in. They replaced the NKVD leadership. The intervention in Spain was wound down. By March 1938 they had shot Bukharin. By 1939, they "achieved" their attempt to avoid war, with the Hitler-Stalin pact. This is not even a Kremlinological interpretation, nor does it require guesswork. Bukharin, Radek, Molotov, and others made their views well known in Izvestiia and Pravda.

    JE comments:  I'm no expert on Molotov, but it's surprising, given his legendary cocktail, to learn that he was anti-war.  Molotov also embodied the concept of the wily survivor, as he was one of the very few Old Bolsheviks to evade Stalin's firing squad.  He died in 1986 at the age of 96.

    Prof. Hilton met Molotov at the UN founding conference in San Francisco, 1945.  Neither he nor Gromyko, in Our Founder's inimitable words, were "much fun":


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  • Spanish Civil War, Stalin, Bukharin, and Molotov (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 05/04/15 3:49 AM)
    It has been a fascinating exchange on the Spanish Civil War. I hope WAISers will tolerate a little addendum from me at this late date. I was guilty of waiting for something more on the Soviet intervention, and then I got waylaid by my teaching duties.

    In response to my paragraph on the relation of the purges in the USSR to the Soviet intervention, Paul Preston (29 March 2015) wrote that he agreed with the "latter part of the statement but not the first part." The latter part was my view that Soviet action was primarily meant to prompt a rally of Britain and France to the anti-fascist cause. As to the first part, Paul wrote that Stalin's "murderous intentions" toward his opponents in Russia "were not the motivation for his involvement in Spain." I am not sure how he got the idea that I had said this, but I certainly never suggested that Stalin launched the intervention in order to settle scores in the Soviet Union. No doubt this is what prompted Boris Volodarsky to call my view "absolutely incorrect."

    My view is that the foreign policy struggle between the anti-fascist position of Bukharin and the war avoidance position of Molotov is the heart of the matter. The purge trial of summer 1936 featured accusations that Zinoviev was plotting with Germany and Japan to partition the USSR. Surprisingly, It was said that Bukharin participated. The purge was shifting fire from the left to the right. But a little later the charges against Bukharin were dropped for lack of evidence. Bukharin was saved for the moment. This was when the decision was made to intervene in Spain, in pursuit of the Bukharinist vision of a global struggle against the "bestial idea" of fascism.

    Stalin and Molotov fought back. Eventually they got their way. The intervention in Spain was wound down. In March 1938 Bukharin was shot. In his trial there were accusations that he was hampering the effort to improve relations between Germany and the Soviets. Quite different from the charges in the Zinoviev trial. The Molotov position of war avoidance, that is, agreement with Germany, had won out. The intervention in Spain had been the result of a momentary tilt toward the Bukharinist anti-fascist position, one which was soon corrected.

    Boris Volodarsky will surely agree that this view is not something that Pierre Broue would ever endorse. Boris pointedly asserted that he did not think that Broue was "a reliable compass" on things Trotsky (actually I had only said "a usually reliable compass"). I don't think it so odd that one who has written so many volumes on Trotsky should have some idea about him. Of course, my own views on Trotsky are to be found in my own books. So far, I have not found a single Trotskyist who agrees with them. In any case, the hero in this part of world history is not Trotsky but Franklin Roosevelt.

    JE comments:  Bukharin experienced the "damned if you do; damned if you don't" phenomenon.  But logic or consistency was never a principle of Soviet justice.

    I've always been fascinated by Kremlinology.  I hope Anthony D'Agostino's comment will inspire further discussion.

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    • Spanish Civil War, Stalin, Bukharin, and Molotov (Paul Preston, UK 05/04/15 7:51 AM)
      I apologize to Anthony D'Agostino (4 May) if I misunderstood his words. I merely wished to suggest that whatever Stalin's motivation--and it doubtless had many elements--Realpolitik probably played a larger part than internal issues within the Kremlin.

      The initial response of Stalin to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War was to steer clear. He changed his mind only when German and Italian aid was tipping the scales to the point that it was likely to secure an early victory for Franco and thus put a third fascist (or pro-fascist) state on France's borders, to the detriment of Russian defence interests.

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      • Why Did Stalin Intervene in Spanish Civil War? (Anthony J Candil, USA 05/06/15 2:47 AM)
        While risking a scolding from our masters on Spanish Civil War history, here is my view:

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

        On the Soviet Union side, Stalin didn't decide to aid Spain until late in September, 1936. The blueprint for the support operation to the Republic was presented to him by the NKVD on September 14, and approved by the Politburo on September 29, culminating in a detailed plan for military intervention. The Soviet Union then sent more than 3,000 personnel, mainly tank crewmen and pilots, who actively participated in combat on the Republican side. The first ship carrying Soviet arms, the Komsomol, arrived in Cartagena on October 12, 1936. By November 5, NKVD had already overseen a massive mobilization of Soviet weaponry for sale to the Republic. This materiel initially included 187 aircraft, 147 tanks and armored vehicles, 114 artillery guns, 3,703 machine-guns, 60,183 rifles, 95,528,860 rounds of ammunition, and 150 tons of gunpowder, most of which was either en route or already in action near Madrid by the time. Sizable amounts of Soviet equipment, including the latest-model tanks, accompanied by numerous Soviet advisers and specialized personnel, helped to turn the tide in the Civil War by November, 1936.

        Another different problem was that the Soviet Union exacted a harsh price from the Spanish Republic for the delivery of that military aid. The British historian Gerald Howson has furnished overwhelming evidence showing the extent to which Stalin shortchanged and double-crossed the Spanish Republic. The Soviet Union, which was soon to supply arms and "advisers" to the Republic, pursued a dual goal. Any intervention was to take place within the framework of the overall Soviet policy of seeking alliances with France and Britain. Hence, Stalin would provide enough military aid to allow the Republic to defend itself, but not enough to frighten or outrage the West. It is unclear exactly why the Soviets determined to help the Spanish, and the available documents are not helpful on this point. A desire to aid ideological comrades, fears about encouraging aggression if the Nationalists were not stopped, and a willingness to support France's strategic position, all may have played their part in the decision. But it was not Western inaction that forced the Spanish government into the Soviet sphere; the Republicans had already decided to request Soviet aid, not realizing how dependent they would become on the Russian Bear. As for the Soviet response to this request, the general consensus among scholars has been that Stalin determined to intervene only in late September.

        In addition, military dispatches from the front lines suggested that the Republicans would collapse if they did not receive immediate and massive aid. Then there were the reports from the first Soviet advisers on the scene, which emphasized the lack of modern technology in Spain and the dangers that this represented. All these considerations, added to the blatant disregard that Hitler and Mussolini showed for the agreement, may have convinced Stalin to push beyond small arms and begin sending tanks, airplanes, and greater numbers of men in early October.

        As fellow WAISer Stanley Payne clearly explains, at least through the summer of 1937 the Soviet intention was to enable the Republic to win a military victory, even though major intervention was delayed so long that the initial concern was simply to avoid defeat. Stalin however, made "haste slowly, as he always did."  In the end Stalin wanted to be sure first that there would be no quick and easy Franco victory.

        There is some indication that in the initial concept of the operation, General Voroshilov proposed to Stalin to send regular combat units of the Soviet Army, but top military commanders, including Marshall Tukhachevsky, argued successfully that this would be too difficult and too risky. The Soviet Union however, responded to the Spanish request for aid with more than just weaponry. In August and September, the first men arrived in Spain to help organize the war against the Nationalists. By late November, 1936, there were more than seven hundred Soviet military advisers (most of which doubled as GRU workers), NKVD agents, diplomatic representatives, and economic experts in Spain.

        The military advisers were under the leadership of Yan Berzin (real name, Pavel Ivanovich Kiuzis Peteris), who was the head of the Soviet Military Intelligence GRU until he left for Spain. He was aided by others and among them by Semyon Krivoshein, the commander of the tank units. They complained about the incompetence of the Spanish, expected them to follow Soviet advice entirely, and would force out of power those who stood in the way.

        JE comments:  We have scrutinized every conceivable aspect of the SCW, but I don't think this hypothetical has ever been raised:  what would the probably outcome have been if neither side had received foreign aid?

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        • Spanish Civil War was Internationalized from the Start (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/06/15 8:51 AM)
          I´ve read with interest Anthony Candil´s cogitations on the USSR and the Spanish Civil War. Also some of the exchanges about the motives for Soviet intervention. At the moment I don´t have time to launch into a long answer. I´ve written seven books (one of them with a colleague) where the USSR-Spanish relationship figures prominently. I also have spent some time in Soviet archives and made good use of Soviet and Republican evidence, including Negrín´s, Prieto´s and Largo Caballero´s papers. Additionally I´ve consulted German, Italian, and Francoist documents. I am not aware of many historians who have gone to such lengths. I certainly don´t agree with Stanley G. Payne in most aspects. Even more, I don´t consider him to be a great authority on the matter, stressing that I mean on purely technical--never personal--terms.

          Some of Anthony´s statements require qualification. Others are plain wrong. Among the latter I strongly object to Anthony´s misrepresentation that the Republic had unilaterally decided to request aid from the Soviet Union. It did so within a comprehensive effort to get military supplies from France, the UK, the US, the Third Reich, Belgium and Switzerland. The only major country not addressed was Italy.

          My late friend Gerald Howson was wrong in his assessment of Soviet price policies. I told him so many times, sent him papers and eventually I brought him around to a different view. Unfortunately he died before updating his seminal book. One of my students, Miguel Iñiguez, is writing a PhD dissertation on Republican efforts to get war matériel by circumventing the non-intervention policy, a purely political act without basis in international law at that time. Anthony is referred to my books El escudo de la República and the first and last chapters of Las armas y el oro for a thorough discussion of those aspects. Suffice it to say that Gerald overlooked two fundamental tenets of Soviet economic policy: it was not a market-based one and a system of multiple exchange rates was applied.

          Stalin followed a consistent policy throughout the SCW. Furthermore he kept the Republicans informed about his wishes, possibilities and limitations. More about it in El escudo and El honor de la República.

          The major reason (although not the only one) why Stalin´s aid slackened in 1937 was his personal assessment that the USSR could not sustain its involvement in Spain while at the same time supporting Chang Kai Shek in his struggle against the Japanese and keeping up the desired level of deterrence against the Third Reich. Against his assessment, the ones made by Vorochilov, Maisky, and some of his envoys in Spain could not prevail. Massive Soviet support resumed after Munich but it arrived too late.

          The assistance with personnel has been studied by Yuri Rybalkin. It was minute in comparison to the Italian CTV, the Nazi Legion Condor and the Moroccan contingents. The International Brigades reached a peak of 35,000 men. At the end of 1937 General Rojo was pondering whether it would better to give them up. Not for military but for political reasons. Franco´s structural dependence on the Nazi-Fascist coalition only deepened.

          Francoist and right-wing historians had been very shy about analysing the comments made by Italians and Germans about the military competence of their protegees.

          For the reasons about Soviet intervention in the Summer 1936 I refer to my book La soledad de la República.

          In response to John´s question, I might add the following. The SCW became an international war before it broke out. It was the Monarchists who got Mussolini involved in the rebellion by previously ensuring the provision of modern aircraft. This has been demonstrated beyond any doubt. Therefore, Mussolini at least would have entered the war.

          The Republic did what it could do: request limited military aid from France. It turned out that this was in agreement with a secret pact of December 1935 (under a right-wing Government) by which the French committed themselves to provide war matériel. It was the fascist and Nazi commitment to assist the rebels which internationalized the war. On the other hand, nothing in international law prohibited any internationally recognized government from requesting war material from other governments.

          JE comments:  Could we go one step further, and say that had Mussolini not promised aid to the Monarchists, there would have been no rebellion?

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          • What if Mussolini Had Not Offered Help to the Spanish Rebellion? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/07/15 11:57 AM)
            My goodness, John E is insatiable. When commenting on my post of May 6th, he asked whether the Spanish rebellion would have taken place if Mussolini hadn't promised aid. I believe it would not have.  [JE:  I made an editing mistake here; see correction below.] The Monarchists were looking for weapons but the Carlists as well. Some of the CEDA people were making remonstrances to the new British Ambassador already in 1935 about impending dangers. The civilian side of the conspiracy tried to prevent the UK from helping the Government.

            Madariaga, when he was Ambassador in Paris during the first biennium, already reported to Madrid about some of the external ramifications of the conspiracy. The coup could have only been prevented if the Government had taken a far more forceful stance. But they were too legalistic, too timid and too afraid of the Anarchists. The Army was the last redoubt of the Republic, and they didn´t want to antagonize it too much. They consistently underestimated the nature of the conspiracy and believed it would be a repetition of the 1932 coup. In my book La conspiración del General Franco, I've brought to light some of the warnings given to Azaña which were ignored. They also believed in the military honor of the generals and colonels contacted. In general, this is a well known subject. A sad history.

            JE comments:  Insatiable curiosity is a virtue!  As with World War I, there are probably a dozen ways the Spanish Civil War could have been avoided.  These hypotheticals make for interesting discussion, but ultimately we have to accept that what happened, happened.

            Either way, gracias, Ángel.

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            • Salvador de Madariaga, Lorca, and WAIS (John Heelan, UK 05/08/15 4:23 AM)
              Angel Viñas (7 May) mentions Salvador de Madariaga. In 1929 Lorca and Fernando de Ríos stayed with Madariaga in Oxford on their way to New York when Federico was escaping claustrophobic Spanish society in Granada and Madrid on his way to emerging from his sexual closet.

              After Lorca's death, Madariaga wrote the elegy that can be found at http://www.portaldepoesia.com/Madariaga.htm . Having powerful friends like Madariaga, de los Ríos and Azaña was one of the reasons Lorca was assassinated.

              JE comments:  And importantly for us, Madariaga was the maestro at Oxford who inspired Ronald Hilton to shift from French to Spanish.  This unleashed the chain of events that led to Stanford, Bolívar House, and in 1965, CIIS/WAIS.  In this classic Hilton comment from 1997, Our Founder compares Madariaga to Herbert Hoover:  two idealists who did not get a fair shake from History.  Nonetheless, RH speculates that the gregarious Madariaga did not care for the somber Hoover.  This post is not to be missed:


              Now to shift gears.  The big news from the UK is David Cameron's outright victory in the national elections, which will allow the Tories to govern without a coalition (if I understand correctly).  Ed Milliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats), and Nigel Farage (UKIP) have all resigned as leaders of their respective parties.  With the Conservative victory, there will be a referendum on Britain's future in the EU.  I expect the financial markets to be jittery today.

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              • Salvador de Madariaga and Lorca (Paul Preston, UK 05/09/15 8:24 AM)
                I enjoy John Heelan's posts enormously and usually learn an awful lot from them. I acknowledge his expertise regarding the life of Federico García Lorca. However, I disagree with his take (8 May) on the influence of Salvador de Madariaga. I wrote a short biography of Madariaga, whom I knew in Oxford. It was the centre-piece of my book ¡Comrades! Portraits from the Spanish Civil War, which attempted to illustrate the war via nine lives from extreme left to extreme right with Madariaga in the centre.

                I do not think that Madariaga was a figure of any great political influence either inside or outside Spain. In this case, my understanding is that it was Fernando de los Ríos, a professor in the University of Granada, a Socialist and one-time Minister of Justice, who was a friend of Madariaga. There is no reason to think that Lorca was. De los Ríos and Lorca visited Madariaga's house in Oxford unannounced and he was out. His wife Constance gave them tea and Madariaga arrived later and then escorted them to the train station. I don't think that they stayed overnight.

                The reasons for Lorca's assassination are many, ranging from his sympathy for the poor and his homosexuality to land disputes concerning his father. Friendship with Fernando de los Ríos certainly confirmed that he was a man of the left. I doubt that his assassins had any notion of his being associated with Madariaga, a right-of-centre liberal. Even if they did, they would have been far more aware of the many Socialists who were his friends.

                JE comments: But we still can celebrate Madariaga's impact on Ronald Hilton! "It was Madariaga who influenced me [at Oxford] to move over to Spanish, and I recall him with admiration and affection," he writes in his Memoirs. A lengthy section of Chapter Two is devoted to "Don Salvador."  Here's the full text:


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                • In Praise of Paul Preston (Henry Levin, USA 05/09/15 10:24 AM)
                  I like the insights from important scholars who had direct contact with the principal actors. I hope that Paul Preston (9 May) keeps these insights, glimpses, and interpretations coming.

                  JE comments: WAIS doesn't publish "attaboys," except for the (occasional) occasion when it does. I'm 100% in agreement with Henry Levin, and will only add that it's even more significant when one important scholar (Levin) praises another (Preston).

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                • Madariaga and Lorca (John Heelan, UK 05/10/15 6:42 AM)
                  Of course Paul Preston is correct (9 May) to question that Madariaga was a friend of Lorca. Fernando de los Ríos was hated by the right wing in Granada, especially by Ruiz Alonso, the leader of the squad that arrested Lorca. One of the accusations against Federico is that he was Don Fernando's secretary.

                  Regarding Madariaga, In a letter to his family from New York (dated 6 July 1929), Lorca mentions that in England he had met Helen Grant again. Don Fernando had hosted her when she was studying in Granada.  A note to that letter by editors Andrew Anderson and Christopher Maurer comments, using Gibson as a source, "Arriving in Oxford in the summer of 1929, Fernando los Ríos wanted to greet (Helen Grant) again and for that reason he was invited to dine with Don Salvador."

                  JE comments:  Andrew Anderson, now at U Virginia, was at Michigan during my grad school days.  I somehow never had the chance to take a course with him.

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            • Correction to Angel Vinas's post of 7 May (John Eipper, USA 05/08/15 5:09 AM)

              I incorrectly edited Ángel Viñas's post of 7 May.  Ángel wrote to say that he believes the Spanish insurrection would have taken place even if Mussolini had not offered material aid to the rebels.  I got my wires crossed, and published the exact opposite conclusion.

              I've made the correction to the original post.  My apologies to Ángel.

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        • What if Neither Side in Spanish Civil War Had Received Foreign Aid? (Anthony J Candil, USA 05/08/15 5:54 AM)
          To respond to John E's hypothetical on foreign aid and the Spanish Civil War (see my post of 6 May), my view on this is that if no aid of any sort had been provided to the warring parties, then in principle the Republic should have won.

          The Republic had the biggest portion of territory, manpower, industrial assets and financial resources in July, 1936.

          There was no way Franco could have ferried the Army of Africa to the Spanish mainland without outside aid. And the rest of the Spanish military where the uprising was successful could not have sustained its struggle for very long.

          However in my view the Republic didn't lose just because and only Franco got German and Italian aid. Soviet aid to the Republic was more than substantial and in some fields, such as tanks and armor, was far better than anything provided by the Italians and the Germans.

          The Republic lost because of its lousy organization, almost no discipline whatsoever, internal rivalries, lack of a unified military command in spite of Soviet efforts to improve leadership, and an awfully bad logistical system.

          In the end the Republican Popular Army lost because it was a militias army, without good training, with bad leadership and bad management, against a solid professional and disciplined army.

          On the other hand, we can say that the Nationalist Army sometimes was no better. I believe it was a Nationalist Army general, who at the peak of the Battle of the Ebro, sometime in September-October, 1938 dared to say: "Fortunately the Reds are far worse than we are," or something like that. Surely Paul Preston knows which general that was.

          Maybe in the end the Nationalists would have won too or Spain would have split in several tiny republics, like the former Yugoslavia did after Tito.

          The answer is in the wind.

          JE comments: You are correct, my friend, as it is with all hypotheticals. These questions offer irresistible topics for conversation, though.

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          • What if Neither Side in Spanish Civil War Had Received Foreign Aid? (Carmen Negrin, France 05/08/15 2:36 PM)
            It is obviously difficult to say what would have happened without foreign intervention in the Spanish Civil War, in particular Italian, German and in a minor way Portuguese.

            But in response to Anthony Candil (8 May), the Republicans leaders must not have been so bad if, in spite of the lack of a professional army--at least at the beginning--in spite of their internal disagreements and fights, in spite of the non intervention, they managed to resist for almost three years against the Italian and the Germans armies, while the professional and trained French Army resisted only one of these enemies for barely 10 months.

            As for the soldiers or "untrained militia" as Anthony calls them, Leclerc was quite happy to have them with him, as were the Americans and the British as one can judge by the names of those in the military cemeteries in France and elsewhere.

            JE comments:  Excellent points.

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          • What if Neither Side in Spanish Civil War Had Received Foreign Aid? (Paul Preston, UK 05/10/15 7:24 AM)

            The historian's equivalent of the Hippocratic oath is an undertaking not to get involved in counter-factual speculation.

            I am not getting involved now in this particular one, but I would say simply that one of the reasons for the Spanish Republic's defeat was the non-intervention policy of Britain and France, which severely undermined the Republic's ability to defend itself.

            JE comments:  I understand that counterfactuals are no-nos, but they're so irresistible!  A question for Professor Preston:  I've found counterfactual exercises to be useful in the classroom, as they teach critical thinking and argumentation skills.  Does Paul agree?

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            • Historians and Counterfactual Speculation (Robert Whealey, USA 05/11/15 4:56 AM)
              For purposes of publication, Paul Preston is 100% correct with his disdain for counterfactual speculation. Historians explain what happened--who, when, where, how and last of all why. On the question of why, the historian is very discreet and writes a very cautious conclusion, putting a specific event into a wider historical framework.

              Two questions about the Spanish Civil War: did the unresolved problems from the First World War lead to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War? And did the British-French non-interventionist policy lead to the Second World War? A more pointed conclusion might be, was the Spanish Civil War the first or second round of World War II?

              Counterfactual speculations are fun to raise when teaching, but the historians should spend no more than 3-5 minutes on these questions. He or she should it leave to the students to do more research.

              JE comments: I don't see how WWI led to Civil War for neutral Spain, but Robert Whealey's second question is rich ground for speculation: had France and Britain stood up to Hitler/Mussolini in Spain, would Hitler have been less impetuous in 1939?

              It's been a couple of years since my feldgrau Doppelgänger last appeared in WAIS.  Here I am (at left) in 1914, contemplating Spanish neutrality:

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            • Counterfactual Scenarios as Teaching Tools (Paul Preston, UK 05/13/15 4:19 AM)
              To answer John E's question of 10 May, I occasionally throw in quite outrageous counterfactual questions in the hope of forcing students to put their brains into gear.

              JE comments: For literary exams, I like to mash up two characters from different works and eras to have them discuss social issues.  And someday I'll find the occasion for this one: What if Montezuma had the Bomb?

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