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World Association of International Studies

PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post More Thoughts on "Ranking" the Evil of Totalitarian Regimes
Created by John Eipper on 02/13/20 8:35 AM

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More Thoughts on "Ranking" the Evil of Totalitarian Regimes (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 02/13/20 8:35 am)

I couldn't agree more with Barbara Molas in her comments (February 12th) that "ranking" totalitarianism victims is a fruitless exercise. I've actually always argued the same thing in the past. But perhaps Barbara misunderstood my comments on the draft law to prohibit Francoism from Spain's socialist-communist (I underline both!) government, for reasons of human rights violations and mass murder, without including communism for the same reasons.

What I really want to emphasize is that the draft is again evidence of the hypocrisy of left-wing politicians about historical facts and historical memory. The implication is perhaps that socialism and communism are morally superior to any other ideology. The Spanish left does not like to admit the crimes committed during the Civil War by the Republicans. For them it is better to forget them, much less the crimes committed by the Communist Party of Spain or other regions of the world. Some crimes of this type are still being committed.

By the way, I recently found a 2019 European Parliament resolution condemning the Nazi and Communist regimes and calling for the rejection of those ideologies. I mostly agree with this resolution:

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2019-0021_ES.html

Articles 3 and 10 of that resolution related to the subject that I found worthy of mention:

3. Recalls that the Nazi and Communist regimes committed mass murder, genocide and deportation, and caused a loss of human life and freedom in the 20th century on a scale hitherto never seen in human history; also recalls the heinous crimes of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi regime; condemns in the strongest terms the acts of aggression, crimes against humanity and the massive human rights violations perpetrated by the Communist regimes, Nazi and other totalitarian regimes.

10. Calls for a common culture of historical memory that rejects the crimes of the Fascist and Stalinist regimes, and other totalitarian and authoritarian regimes of the past, as a means of encouraging, in particular among the younger generations; resilience to modern threats to democracy; encourages Member States to promote, through culture in general, education about the diversity of our society and our common history; including teaching about the atrocities of the Second World War, such as the Holocaust, and the systematic dehumanization of its victims for years.

JE comments:  Shouldn't the particulars of a nation's history count for something?  It makes sense to proscribe Francoism in Spain, just as it would make equal sense to do the same thing with Stalinism in Russia.  One likewise can envision efforts to outlaw Chavismo-Madurismo in a future (democratic) Venezuelan government.

The case of Spain and communism is tricky, inasmuch as the all-out war on "bolcheviques," real or imagined, was a centerpiece of Franco's repression.  To outlaw communism might therefore be perceived as a Francoist act in itself.


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  • Proscribing Francoist Symbols (Paul Preston, UK 02/14/20 4:09 AM)
    Expanding on John Eipper's response to José Ignacio Soler (February 13th), this discussion is about Spain, not Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia.

    The basis for the recent proposals is to stop the glorification of a) the atrocities committed by the Francoists during the Spanish Civil War (three times those committed by a variety of anarchists, Communists and common criminals [150,000 to 50,000]), and b) the fact that the Franco dictatorship, based on terror and pillage, ruled Spain for nearly four decades. The left, not just Communists, was vilified and punished in terms of executions and mass imprisonment.


    All of this being the case, what does José Ignacio see as the equivalent left-wing symbols to those it is now proposed to remove? As far as I know, there is no equivalent on the left of the Fundación Nacional Francisco Franco.


    JE comments:  I am always awed to hear from Paul Preston, but especially these days, nearly 500 pages into his spectacular book, Un pueblo traicionado.  I am humbled when Sir Paul claims to "expand" on a point I've made, as a great deal of what I know about 20th-century Spanish political history comes from...you guessed it, Paul Preston.


    Should Francoist symbols be prohibited?  Can anyone walk us through what the government proposal would look like in practice?  Is it mostly a "position" statement, or would the law have teeth, with fines or even imprisonment?

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    • Ergodic Theory and History (Jordi Molins, Spain 02/15/20 11:47 AM)
      Sir Paul Preston wrote on February 14th: "this discussion is about Spain, not Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia."

      His comment has reminded me of a trendy concept in finance: ergodicity.


      As an example, let me ask WAISers if they would play a game whereby there is a 50% probability to gain 50%, and a 50% probability to lose 40%.


      The expected gain, if we gamble $100, is $5 (0.5 * 50 - 0.5 * 40). In fact, if we repeat this gamble indefinitely, the expected gain grows exponentially, with a 5% growth rate.


      So intuitively it seems we should play the game. Of course, we know that due to randomness we will not gain exactly the expected value ... but our wealth will be relatively close to the expected value, especially if we play many times, right?


      Wrong! It is easy, using a computer statistical package, to realize that almost all trials in the game end up with huge losses. Instead, only a very few participants of the game will end up making money. But those making money will make an enormous profit (much more than a 5% exponential growth). In fact, the 5% exponential growth is basically the average of almost -100% losses for almost all players, and almost infinite gains for close to 0% of players.


      So, no, it is better not to play such a game.


      Let me recall that the preferred stochastic process in finance, the Geometric Brownian Motion, is basically the same as the process I have just described. So, inequality is deeply embedded in finance, through pure randomness.


      Ergodicity means that the results obtained from playing a game by say one million players once, should be the same as the results obtained from playing such game by one player, one million times.


      While it is true that if we throw a fair coin one million times, we will have the same statistics as if one million people throw that fair coin once, it is not true that a player in the game I have described above will have the same wealth as one million people playing such game: the statistics of one million people will be very close to the expected value, but the statistics of a single person, playing one million times, will be almost surely close to $0. So, this process is not ergodic.


      Now, to history: Ole Peters, a researcher in ergodic theory applied to finance, argued that "ergodics is history without stories." For that, he meant that for ergodic processes, individual stories do not matter. We just need to calculate the total average, and we have a precise description of our system. It does not matter what happens to individual components of the system.


      But history is usually not ergodic. Stories do matter. So, here is my question related to Sir Paul's comment: due to the fact that the stories of the Spanish Communists are of repression by the Francoists, should we consider they have no responsibility for the actions by Communists elsewhere? According to the "stories" viewpoint, Spanish Communists suffered a lot, and they should not be held responsible for the actions of other Communists, in other countries. According to the "expected value" approach, it does not matter if some Communists did not do harm, since on average, they did (and a lot!).


      I do not have a good answer for such a question.


      JE comments:  Ever the curious sort, I (attempted to) read the Wikipedia article on Ergodic theory.  How do you spell the sound of something zooming over your head--whoooosh?  Jordi Molins (both a physicist and a finance guru) has done a far better job of explaining it in lay terms.  Most of us are better at understanding stories.  And this leads Jordi to a question as thought-provoking as it is unanswerable.  How much can we lay the "collective guilt" on Spain's Communists--given the horrific record of their coreligionists elsewhere?

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      • Spanish Communists and Culpability (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/16/20 3:59 AM)

        In response to Jordi Molins, Paul Preston, and John E, oh my goodness.  The Spanish Communists have enough criminal guilt without looking for collective guilt from Italy, Yugoslavia, the USSR, Vietnam and so on. Moreover, they started first, and the others reacted.


        JE comments:  The "who started it" argument has a schoolyard ring to it, but there is ample evidence that the Falange, the military, the church, and others were undermining the Republic far earlier than 1936.  Most alarmingly, it was not the communists they were scheming against, but rather a democratic (however imperfect) government.


        Granted, the "victor's justice" imposed on the Italian people after WWII was largely carried out by the communist ex-partisans.  Franco's wrath was from the opposite political camp, lasted far longer, and was backed up by the full power of the state.

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        • Murdered Spanish Falangists; Largo Caballero as the "Spanish Lenin" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/21/20 3:14 AM)
          John E took issue with my statement of February 16th; namely, that the "[Spanish Communists] acted first." John described the Republican government as "rather democratic."  My response:

          1) The Falange was founded on 29 October 1933 as a normal political party which embraced a social policy, as in the original and final versions of Italian fascism, in favor of the producers oppressed by the suppliers of capital, but at the same time seeking a collaboration among the classes under national direction.


          On 2 November 1933, the "rojos" killed their first Falangist victim, José Luis de la Hermosa. On 19 November José Antonio Primo de Rivera was the only Falangist elected to Parliament.  Another three Falangists were killed when promoting their new newspaper. Again on 9 February 1934 a Falangist student was killed by supporters of the Socialist party (PSOE).


          Finally on 20 November 1936 José Antonio after being arrested was assassinated by the rojos.


          2) Francisco Largo Caballero, whose followers called him the "Lenin español," was minister of Labor and Security 1931-1933, then leader in 1934 of the rebellion in Asturias. He finally was Prime Minister of the Spanish Republic from 4 September 1936 until 17 May 1937.


          Among many other statements, he is remembered for the following two quotes:


          a) "I want a Republic without class conflict, but to achieve this one class shall disappear."

          b) In Cadiz in May 1936 he stated, "I want a dictatorship of the proletariat."


          So much for a "rather democratic" government!


          JE comments:  We'll never resolve the "who started it" argument to everyone's satisfaction.


          A question about "rojos/reds":  it's derogatory and certainly old-fashioned.  Eugenio, is the term still widely understood as "leftist" in Italy?  I would venture that my Millennial students no longer make the connection, especially because "Red State" in the US has come to mean Republican.

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          • The Spanish Civil War Had No "Franz Ferdinand" Moment (Jordi Molins, Spain 02/21/20 7:43 AM)
            WAISers have been discussing who the culprit of the Spanish Civil War was.

            I do not know who the "Archduke Franz Ferdinand" equivalent was. What I know is that the normal average Spaniard was poor and oppressed by a minority of people, who had massive and undeserved power. In my family, and from many others, I heard many stories of unnecessary and intense pain, in order for the privileged to keep their positions. It was a society of extractive institutions, institutions created to artificially keep the economic and social differentiation between an elite and the rest.


            As a consequence, the seeds of conflict were already planted. And in that regard, the culprit was one side of the conflict, not both. Who killed first is of little interest, in the same way that usually we do not care who pushes the first piece in a domino, but only who and how put the dominoes were set up in the first place.


            Just for transparency: I believe the Communists did exactly the same thing in Eastern Europe. The problem is not Fascism, Francoism or Communism. The problem is collectivism.


            JE comments:  This irenic interpretation from Jordi Molins is just what Dr Eipper ordered!  Can we declare a short truce in Spain? 


            Interestingly, when it comes to Franz Ferdinand moments, almost no conflicts in history had such a thing--an individual death (well, two deaths) leading to a cataclysmic war.  To be sure, even the Franz Ferdinand and Sophie assassinations did not "demand" war.  As the brilliant Barbara Tuchman wrote, war broke out in 1914 because peace had become intolerable.  (I've put this quote on WAIS before.  It bears repeating from time to time.)


            Is the problem collectivism, or totalitarianism?  How about simple injustice?


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    • Communist Crimes in Spain, Revisited (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 02/16/20 7:35 AM)
      In his February 14th post on the subject of banning Francoism in Spain, Paul Preston asked me how I see equivalences between the symbols and atrocities committed by Francoism and by left-wing Republicans or the Communist party.



      I have offered an answer in previous WAIS posts, in particular in my comment of February 13th, where I stated that I agreed that ranking the number of victims does not make one more villain or criminal than others. I was referring to the crimes committed by the left-wing parties, socialists and communists, before and during the Spanish Civil War. Paul as a Hispanic historian should know more accurately than I that there were hundreds, but thousands of crimes, summary trials, unjust imprisonments, tortures, executions and violations of human rights by these people. Are these crimes not as heinous as those of Francoism? Does Paul believe that the war justifies these acts and consequently they are not condemnable? By the way, and this is my speculation, the reason the communists did not to commit more crimes after the war is because they lost it.



      Now, the argument of justifying banning Francoism in Spain is a bit far-fetched. In reality, crimes against universal human rights must obviously be of a universal nature, and therefore if any ideology is to be banned (which I do not agree with), both Francoism and communism should be. It seems a clear example of this universality is the declaration from the European Union that I cite in my last post, where both Nazism, fascism and communism are declared undesirable doctrines throughout the Union.

      JE comments: Let's look closer at José Ignacio Soler's hypothetical: The reason the communists did not to commit more crimes after the Spanish Civil War is because they lost it. This claim relies on two assumptions: 1) that a "communist" victory in Spain would have unleashed Stalinesque levels of terror, and 2) that the "reds" and the Republicans are one and the same. Possibly. But as with all hypotheticals, we'll never know what would have happened. We do, however, know what did happen.

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      • The Spanish Communists Were Not in Line with the Soviets (Carmen Negrin, France 02/17/20 3:46 AM)
        In response to José Ignacio Soler (February 16th), we also know that the Communists were not governing during the Spanish Civil War. That, to quote Santiago Carrillo, they followed the government and not vice versa.

        We also know that prior to the war there was a great deal of both frustration and provocation and that the Spanish Communists were not in line with the Soviets.


        Perhaps it is time to discuss basing arguments on facts.


        JE comments: Carmen, could you elaborate on what you mean by "not in line" with the Soviets?  I always understood Carrillo to be an obedient acolyte of Stalin.  We do know, however, that Stalin gave up on the Republic when victory was no longer possible.



        It won't be that long before the centennial of the Spanish Civil War (2036), and one thing is certain:  WAIS will be there!  In the meantime, let's hear from Ángel Viñas.

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        • Stalin Wanted Spain to Remain a Bourgeois Democracy; Santiago Carrillo (Paul Preston, UK 02/17/20 10:33 AM)
          Just a couple of points on the discussion about Santiago Carrillo:

          Carrillo was a member of the Socialist party (PSOE) until November 1936, although he was secretly linked to the Communists from his visit to Moscow in the spring of 1936.


          The Communist Party (PCE) was tiny and of virtually no influence in Spanish politics until it joined the Popular Front electoral coalition in time for the elections of February 1936.


          In so far as the PCE was following Soviet instructions, they were to ensure that Spain remained a bourgeois democracy. This was because the principal objective of Soviet foreign policy was to secure an alliance with France against a resurgent Germany. A revolutionary Spain would have scared the French (as indeed it did after July 1936).


          JE comments: As we know, Sir Paul Preston wrote the book on Carrillo (El zorro rojo, 2013).  Sometimes my mind wanders off-topic, but I've always been curious from the cover of Paul's book:  did Carrillo smoke until the bitter end, at 97?  If so, that would put him in the very elite club of smoking nonagenarian statesmen (I can think only of one other member:  Helmut Schmidt).

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          • Smoking Nonagenarians: Santiago Carrillo (Paul Preston, UK 02/18/20 7:07 AM)

            Carrillo, as far as I know, continued to smoke heavily until the end (age 97). I once asked him, during an interview, how he survived his indulgence with no apparent ill effects. He proclaimed proudly that it was because a Soviet doctor had told him to take 500 mg of aspirin every day.


            JE comments:  After considerable head-scratching, I filed this one under "medicine."  Carrillo's great nemesis, Franco, never smoked (I learned this detail from Sir Paul Preston), but they had one thing in common:  a cockroach-like ability to survive.  There's a Spanish aphorism for every occasion, but here's the one that fits:  hierba mala nunca muere (the bad weed never dies).


            Carrillo's coreligionist, Dolores Ibárruri/La Pasionaria, reportedly neither smoked nor drank.  She lived to the ripe old age of 93.


            On the other side, Fredie Blom of South Africa, the world's oldest man, turned 115 last May.  He smokes every day...and also takes aspirin (Disprin).

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          • Santiago Carrillo in 1936 (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/18/20 7:51 AM)
            Santiago Carrillo was a young fellow of 21 years in 1936, and more or less responsible only for the massacre of Paracuellos.

            After 1968 he became the darling of the (supposed) democrats when with Berlinguer (Italy), and Georges Marchais (France), he founded Eurocommunism. All the BS he said was then taken as gold.


            There was no great difference between socialists and communists. Both were "rojos," Marxist-Leninist. Consider the marchers in the squares carrying photos of Stalin, Lenin and the "Lenin de España" (Largo Caballero).


            Maybe the Spanish Communists were not in line with the Soviets, so it is for this reason that Stalin sent Palmiro Togliatti to oversee the rape of España by the so-called legal, rather democratic, government.


            JE comments:  Eugenio, why the "so-called" with the legality of the 1936 government?  I understand that the February '36 elections were the least irregular of any that had been held in Spain up to that time.  Proof of this:  the Popular Front emerged as the victors, even though they were not in power when the elections took place.

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            • Spain's February 1936 Elections: Were They Legitimate? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 02/19/20 3:39 AM)
              I don't know if WAISers have become weary of the topic of banning Francoism or Communism. I am a little tired of this myself, but the comments that have arisen invite me to continue the discussion. I refer to the comment of our dear editor in latest post of Eugenio Battaglia. John says that "[Spain's] February 1936 elections were the least irregular any that had been held in Spain up to that time."

              Naturally, I have a great deal of respect for John's opinion, but I would like to know the sources that support that statement. For my part, I understand that this was not the case. But history depends on who writes it and what you like to believe. I remember having commented not so long ago on a book titled Fraud and Violence in the Elections of 1936, written by two renowned Spanish historians, which I invite all those interested to read. According to these historians, the elections were full of violence, coercion, manipulations and fraud that should make anyone doubt the results. They moreover show ample documents and facts. Now if you decide to disqualify their historical interpretation of those facts because of a different political ideology, as has been the case in this Forum by some respectable colleagues and historians, then you may feel authorized to ignore that version.


              As I have possibly mentioned before, my family was victim of the violence of war. My great-uncle was killed with impunity by Republicans in the most brutal way by throwing him into the sea from a cliff along with dozens of others. This happened just before the war started, only on the suspicion that he was a bourgeois and monarchist. Also my parents despite having fought on different sides of the conflict, were marked by it, and none ever wanted to speak of those terrible years explicitly and openly. In spite of that, they both reconciled and formed a family, in a way that I believe should be symbolically similar in Spanish society, to heal the wounds left by the violence.


              However, the historical memory law that the socialists have promoted, and lately trying to legally ban Francoism by explicitly violating freedom of expression or tacitly exonerating Republican crimes, can only have the effect of opening old wounds to divide Spanish society again as they have seemed to be doing very successfully.


              JE comments:  Sir Paul Preston discusses the Álvarez Tardío and Villa García book on p. 313 of his Un pueblo traicionado.  Paul argues that the authors only partially (at best) support their thesis, especially because they focus only on the second round of elections, by which time the Popular Front had already "won" and would therefore be in a position to cheat.  Álvarez and Villa do not analyze the irregularities of the first round, when the Right was in power, with the same scrutiny.  In any case, Paul argues, even if there was some fraud in the second round, it affected only a very few seats in the Cortes, and did not alter the overall result.


              Though I haven't read it, WAIS discussed this book at some length in 2017.  See, for example, this comment from Ángel Viñas, who also provides links to several reviews:


              https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=113725&objectTypeId=85091&topicId=123


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              • Were Spain's 1936 Elections Legitimate? (Paul Preston, UK 02/20/20 3:56 AM)
                Regarding the special prison in Zamora for priests to which Carmen Negrín refers, there is an interesting book:

                Francesc Amover, Il carcere vaticano: Chiesa e fascismo in Spagna (Milan: Gabriele Mazzotta Editore, 1975)


                On the book by Manuel Álvarez Tardío & Roberto Villa García, 1936. Fraude y violencia en las elecciones del Frente Popular (Barcelona: Espasa, 2017), it is worth saying that is does not seriously add to the classic work of the centrist historian Javier Tusell, Las elecciones del Frente Popular, 2 vols (Madrid: Edicusa, 1971).


                If John Eipper will permit me, I reproduce below some of what I wrote in A People Betrayed about the elections of February 1936, including a comment on the book by Álvarez Tardío & Villa García:


                "In practical terms, the right enjoyed an enormous advantage over the left. Rightist electoral funds dramatically exceeded those of the left. 10,000 posters and 50 million leaflets were printed for the CEDA. Distributed to small villages by fleets of trucks and dropped on remote farms from aircraft, they presented the elections in terms of a life-or-death struggle between good and evil, survival and destruction. Looting and the common ownership of women were predicted in the event of a left-wing victory. The Popular Front based its campaign on the threat of fascism and the need for an amnesty for the prisoners of October.


                "During the campaign, 46 people were killed in clashes either between rival groups or with the forces of order or murdered by gunmen and a further 40 were badly hurt. More than half of the 86 victims were militants of either the PSOE or the PCE. On election day, 16 February, thanks to preventative measures taken by the government, voting was not disrupted by violence. The Popular Front won in all the largest cities--Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia, Zaragoza and Murcia and in all of the principal towns of Extremadura, Asturias, Andalucía (except Granada), Catalonia, the Canary Islands and the coastal towns of Galicia. Even in several very conservative provinces such as Valladolid, León, Ciudad Real and Albacete, the Popular Front won. Out of the total of 473 seats, the Popular Front gained 259. A second round on 4 March to decide places without a decisive result added another 8. Subsequent elections in 41 disputed seats added a further 19 bringing the total to 286.


                "The collapse of the Centre saw the parties of the Right increase their vote by over three-quarters of a million votes. However, despite the expenditure of vast sums by the right, the left increased its support by one million votes. In terms of the amounts spent on propaganda, a vote for the right cost more than five times one for the left. Moreover, all the traditional devices of electoral chicanery had been used on behalf of the right.


                "The legitimacy of the elections and the final result were confirmed in 1971 by a thoroughgoing investigation carried out by a team led by Javier Tusell. Their conclusions have held sway for nearly five decades until challenged recently by a study that has provoked a fierce polemic, 1936. Fraude y violencia by Manuel Álvarez Tardío and Roberto Villa García. The title and conclusions of the book suggest that the Popular Front came to power by dint of fraud and violence although its detailed research does not sustain that thesis. The authors' detailed local research has discovered manipulation of results in some constituencies during the second round of elections when the left was back in power. However, they do not examine in the same detail the manipulation of the vote by the right during the first round--chicanery admitted by Gil Robles himself. He wrote in his memoirs: ‘how else could we prevent our defeat in constituencies with high numbers of voters?' Álvarez Tardío and Villa have not significantly altered Tusell's broad voting figures and they concede that the additional seats gained by manipulations after 19 February did not change the fact that the Popular Front won."


                The book by Álvarez Tardío and Villa stimulated a substantial response. Two very sane analyses can be found in Enrique Moradiellos, "Las elecciones generales de febrero de 1936: una reconsideración historiográfica," Revista de Libros, 13 September 2017, pp. 1-38 and Santos Juliá, "Las cuentas galanas de 1936," El País (Babelia), 1 April 2017.


                JE comments:  There's a lot at stake, historiographically speaking, on this point.  To dismiss the legitimacy of the 1936 elections is a sine qua non for justifying the July rebellion.  Paul Preston uses an interesting metric that we'll no doubt see applied this year in the US:  what was the relative cost of each vote?  With his dizzying personal bankroll, Michael Bloomberg will shatter this record for all time.  So far, he's spent something like $350 million, and has yet to receive a single vote.


                Paul, your translator (Jordi Arnaud) prefers pistolero for gunman.  Is this the term used in Spain at the time these fellows were active?  I would possibly have chosen matón or sicario.  Tell me, how closely did you work with Jordi on the Spanish version of A People Betrayed?

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                • Pistoleros, Sicarios, and Asesinos: A Word on Translation and Translators (Paul Preston, UK 02/21/20 11:05 AM)
                  John E asked about Jordi Arnaud, who translated my A People Betrayed into Spanish.

                  Jordi is a sensational translator. I have total faith in him after his great work translating my books into Catalan. Since he did not make mistakes based on ignorance of the relevant history, I asked my Spanish publishers to give him a go and I haven't been as pleased with a translation since Doves of War, which was translated by my goddaughter. Collaboration with Jordi was minimal, brought into play only when he had a doubt or for the couple of things I disputed when proofs arrived.


                  As for gunmen, pistoleros is the most common term in Spain, where there pistolerismo is used to denote the use of paid assassins by factory owners and the response of amateur gunmen recruited among unemployed anarchists. Matón in Spain tends to mean thug or bully rather than killer. Sicario is more common in Mexico, I think. It does, of course, have the connotation, for educated Spaniards, of hired assassin.


                  JE comments: Sicario is heard most commonly in Colombia, where it has even spawned a literary subgenre:  the sicaresca (a play on picaresca) novel.


                  Jordi Arnaud must be thrilled for such an endorsement from Paul Preston.  Allow my modest voice to join the chorus--it's a masterful translation.  Translators never get enough credit for their valuable and extremely challenging work.  In US academia, translation is not considered research and it yields no "publish or perish" points.  Paul, is this also the case in the UK?


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      • Spain's Civil War: Five Points (Angel Vinas, Belgium 02/17/20 3:59 AM)
        I´m sorry I must intervene in the discussion about Communists, crimes, Civil War, Francoism and so on.

        A few points:


        1. The war was not unavoidable. Someone wanted it and prepared for it.


        2. About figures of crimes and other atrocities:  Apart from Sir Paul Preston, has anyone read Cifras cruentas by González Calleja? Is anyone familiar with the increasing literature on the subject which has poured out in Spain in the last few years?


        3. I have documented that the war ensued out of Monarchist, Fascist, and military conspiracy leading directly to the coup.


        4. In a revised version of my latest book, I will document that some Monarchists knew that they were preparing for war. So did Mussolini and his minions.


        5. What you have read about all this in the books by English language historians I won't mention (unless you press me for it) is pure hogwash.


        I'm off now to military archives, which none of those egregious authors have ever dared to visit.


        JE comments:  Ángel Viñas has spent decades debunking myths of the Spanish Civil War, and perhaps the greatest one is that it was somehow made unavoidable by the violence and anarchy of the Republic.  The Francoist hagiography of "Savior of Spain" would have been moot had the rebellion not been "necessary" in the first place.


        Ángel, I am always excited by archival research.  Tell us, which archives are you visiting, and what are you looking for?  (To be sure, the whole joy of archival research is discovering things you weren't looking for.)


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        • In the Archives (Angel Vinas, Belgium 02/22/20 3:04 AM)
          In reply to John's query of February 17th, I should like to report that I've spent two weeks at the archives in Ávila (Military Archives), AGA (Madrid, diplomatic archives) and Paris (military and diplomatic archives).

          In all I may have photocopied some one thousand documents. Needless to say, I have discovered a lot of things I didn't have any notion of. Not all of them will go into the revision of my latest book about who wanted the Spanish Civil War. Many of them might go into further research about some hotly disputed topics. I'm well aware that I'm basically writing for a Spanish audience, but it is in Spain where the battle for our history is being waged and I want to do my bit about it.


          The new Government has promised to proceed with the declassification of documents relating to the Civil War and Franco dictatorship. I welcome this announcement. The forthcoming generation of historians will be able to write an empirically better history of those fifty years of Spanish history, but some of them will necessarily follow in the steps of Sir Paul Preston and modestly my own.  Evidence will prevail upon legends, such as those still predominant in English language literature. Not to speak of French and German contributions.


          Now it will take me some time to decrypt the new masses of documentation.


          JE comments:  Archival research can be tedious work, but the potential discoveries are thrilling.  Ángel, for us scholars of more humble achievement, please tell us your
          secret for how to stay focused while digging through archives.


          I'm frankly surprised there's any aspect of modern Spanish history you didn't already know!  Could you share an example or two of your recent findings?

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          • How Reliable are Primary Sources? (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 02/23/20 8:43 AM)
            Ángel Viñas's toiling in the archives obviously deserves every praise and yes (answering JE's query in his 22 February comment on Ángel's post), there's a lot of new things on virtually every aspect of history that one can find in the archives, especially in such countries as Spain, France, Germany, UK and of course Russia.



            However, there exists one serious problem. After having worked for about ten years in the National Archives in Kew, Richmond; Vienna, Austria; and much shorter time in Costa Rica, Stanford, Budapest, Minsk, Berlin, Koblenz, Munich, Paris, Rome, and a few other places, I must say that virtually all so-called primary sources are absolutely unreliable. In the files of the British Security Service (MI5), for example, regularly declassified to the great joy of intelligence historians, writers and journalist, only about 50% of information is of any value while virtually every analytics or conclusion should be taken with a grain of salt.



            What you get in the archives is factual information: who was there, when, how long, with whom and so on, but almost never anything else of value. Thus, famous secret interviews with the Soviet defector known as "Walter Krivitsky" in London in 1940, conducted by the best MI5 interrogators of the time, are absolute nonsense. The whole information so much praised by 99.99% of all historians (who base their works on it) and even by both Official Historians of MI5 (Professor Christopher Andrew) and MI6 (Professor Keith Jeffery) respectfully, is sheer fantasy, Krivitsky's inventions aimed at justifying his invented rank of general and the so-called chief of Soviet military intelligence in Western Europe, a position that never existed and is also invented.



            Regarding the Spanish Civil War, I have recently received a two-volume collection of all intelligence reports from Spain from a Russian archive. It is a very interesting collection that I am using to a considerable extent in my new book Between Stalin and Franco, now in preparation. But after reviewing all published and unpublished memoirs of Russian (both Soviet and White Russian) participants in the war in Spain, all books and articles published in Russia on the topic during the last 80 years, I can state with assurance that all of them are terribly biased and contain only a few snippets of useful information. And what is more, intelligence reports in the archives are also often false, incorrect, and always "tailor-made" for those who would receive and assess them in Moscow.



            Another good example is the famous book by my late friend (I hope I can say so about Hugh Thomas, Lord Thomas) about the Spanish Civil War that had enjoyed gratifying success and many editions in all main languages. Alas, it is terribly obsolete today. Much the same I find in the books written by the no less famous specialist in the Spanish Freemasonry, Professor José Antonio Ferrer Benimeli. His works, written and published two or three decades ago, are terribly obsolete and are of considerably less value today when academic institutions and academics in several countries are meticulously working on many aspects of the history of Spanish Freemasonry, albeit not on the period of the civil war in Spain. The topic, for John's interest, remains absolutely uncovered until this day, especially in the English language publications. As a matter of fact, there exists only one article entitled "Freemasonry in the Spanish Civil War" published several years ago in a little-known professional newspaper and, as expected, it contains many factual errors and errors of judgement. Like an academic article by Julius Ruiz published about ten years ago, it is all about the Francoist persecution of Freemasonry but not about Freemasonry in the crucial period of the Spanish 20-century history.



            So, when such an eminent historian of the Spanish Civil War as Ángel Viñas is saying that he has discovered a lot of things he didn't have any notion of, one can only expect surprises and new extraordinary revelations.

            JE comments:  A most important observation.  Primary sources are assumed to be the end-all of factual information.  But Boris Volodarsky reminds us that they can be inaccurate and often self-serving.  Consider the universal goal of all bureaucrats:  make yourself look good--or at the very least, CYA (cover your backside).


            As for Ángel Viñas's recent archival revelations, stay tuned for a sample.


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          • Some Recent Archival Discoveries (Angel Vinas, Belgium 02/23/20 10:02 AM)
            In reply to John Eipper's latest query, I'm sharing a couple of my archival discoveries:

            I don't know or I haven't found any book dealing with the fact that the chief of the Republican Government Manuel Azaña (highly reviled by the Right) issued secret legislation to deal with "extremist" activities in the Army and Navy as far back as 1932. It created an office in the War Ministry (he was the Minister in charge) within the General Staff Office to follow Anarchist, Socialist and Communist shenanigans. It didn't appear in the public organigram. It reported directly to the Chief of Staff, at that time General Masquelet. This was the post filled by Franco in 1935. It follows that Franco was able to be kept abreast of those activities which at that time included those carried out by right-wing officers. It seems innocent enough. It wasn't.


            Secondly, historians have followed without questioning some testimonies that the Government knew the extent of the military conspiracy. This is doubtful, although it did know some movements in the Army. It didn't decapitate the conspiracy. Views diverge about why. I think I may make a contribution based on primary evidence about the reasons. Some historians will be disappointed.


            In general, the theses I presented in my latest book will be reinforced in, let's say, concrete. Some of the conspirators were well aware that with Italian assistance they were heading towards civil war, irrespective of what the Left were doing. The origins of the Civil War must be rewritten.


            JE comments: The Republic's biggest mistake (of several) was its refusal to realize the oncoming rebellion in the military ranks. Nipping the uprising in the bud would have saved thousands of lives, infinite treasure, and the Republic itself.  My understanding (from Paul Preston in particular) is that the Republic did not cashier the rebellious officers out of fear of sparking a rebellion by doing so.  Ángel, are you saying the officials knew less than we originally thought?

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      • A Priest in Republican Spain during the Civil War: My Great Uncle (Enrique Torner, USA 02/18/20 4:30 AM)
        José Ignacio Soler (February 16th) offers a very good, but terrifying, question: what would have been the consequences of a Republican victory in the Spanish Civil War?

        I would really like to hear what Paul Preston, David Pike, and others think they would have been. I say "terrifying," because it makes me wonder if I would have known my great uncle, who was a priest and had to hide in Barcelona during the war (I already told previously how his apartment was ravaged, and all his religious images destroyed but one that my family managed to rescue), and one of my aunts, who was a nun, and, at 92, is still living, and am still having nice though short conversations with her. She's my last link to my family in Spain since my parents passed away; my other aunt (96) doesn't recognize anybody anymore.


        I loved my great uncle: he taught me how to play chess, and enjoyed playing games with him, even though he always beat me.  (Actually, I never saw him lose a chess game to anybody, since he was a great player!)  I can tell you one thing: the few times I have spoken with my aunt about the war, each time she ended the conversation saying (in Catalan) "I don't even want to think of what would have happened to us (referring to her relatives in general, but especially to her uncle and herself) if the Reds had won the war." The times she said that face-to-face to me while I was living in Spain, I could see her face, pale as snow and with an expression of fear and horror; when she said it over the phone after I had moved to the US, I could still perceive the fear in the trembling of her voice and would remember her face when we had that same conversation in Spain.


        So, here is the question for our dear WAIS historians, some of them great experts in the SCW: What would have happened to all those priests, nuns, bishops, and other church-related people if the Republicans had won the war? One of the reasons cited by the Nationals for the "alzamiento" was to stop all the atrocities done to church-related people. Would Spain have reverted to that? Would the Republicans have executed them all?


        A different question is the one posted by José Ignacio, and put in question by our dear editor: what ideology would have prevailed if the Republicans had won? We know that the Republican side included all kinds of left-wing and anarchist parties, but which one would have prevailed? And then, what kind of Spain would have resulted from a Republican victory? I know we are dealing with hypotheticals--hypothetically--but there is no hypothetical in my aunt's mind, or would have been in my great uncle's, who never wanted to say a single word about the SCW, not even when asked. One question was enough to alter his demeanor, and he was the calmest, most serene and placid person I ever met: I never saw him lose his temper, or even raise his voice, except for the very few times when one of my older brothers asked him about the war. Those two or three times (I have three older brothers, and they would have asked that question to him only once), he did raise his voice and was very close to losing his temper: I must have been between 7 and 12 when that happened (he died when I was 12, I think), and I can still see his face as if it were today.


        I wonder what he went through: I will never know.


        JE comments:  Nothing brings the horrors of war to life more clearly than a personal story.  Enrique Torner's family experience validates Stalin's maxim:  one death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic.  (Forgive me for picking nits, Enrique, but didn't your aunt become a nun after the war?  If she's 92 now, this would place her birth in 1927 or 1928, which would make her only eight or nine when the rebellion broke out.)

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        • My Great Uncle, Father Heriberto Negrin (Carmen Negrin, France 02/19/20 4:24 AM)
          I thought Enrique Torner (February 18th) might be interested in knowing that my grandfather's brother was also a priest (he became a priest long before the Spanish War), and his sister had made chastity vows, also before the war.

          According to my grandfather, priests in his own religious congregation tried to kill him. Later on, anarchists also tried to kill him while crossing the Catalan boarder to go into exile, with his mother, aunt and sister. He never returned to his country where he, of course, lost everything he had--like the rest of the family. He was also a lot of fun to be with, played chess, enjoyed speaking Latin to my brother and me, etc. The priest and historian Julio Sánchez wrote a book about him a few years ago, entitled El padre Heriberto Negrín y su familia.


          In other words, being a priest didn't make it better or worse during the war or after the war; it just depended on what side you were on. As far as I know, following an agreement with Rome, Franco had special prisons for priests and nuns. Not very kind ones either, and as we all know a number of priests, Basques in particular, were shot. So at least as far as Franco was concerned, we know what he did with those he didn't like, even though hardly anybody seems to want to remember or acknowledge that it was not because one was openly Christian that one was any safer. His "crusade" was just another myth and excuse, the main one being that he was fighting Communism. From what I read, that myth still seems to have many years of life left, unfortunately.


          JE comments:  I'm going to look for that book, Carmen.  There was a time not so long ago when nearly every family in Spain (Latin America, too) had a priest, a nun, or both.  It's certainly not the case today.


          Paul Preston's Un pueblo traicionado discusses at some length the friction between Franco and the Church, especially in the wake of Vatican II.  Briefly stated, Rome became way too interested in social justice, and started to sympathize with the working class and the poor.  For El Caudillo, this smacked of a vast Masonic-Communist conspiracy.  (Masonry was a very popular WAIS topic in the Prof. Hilton days.  We seem to have lost interest.)

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          • Father Hidalgo, Freemason (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 02/19/20 3:58 PM)

            Gary Moore writes:



            To coax a bit the doused WAIS Masonry spark that JE lamented (February 19):


            What about Padre Hidalgo of Mexican Independence in 1810, who was
            rebelling against Napoleon's short-lived remake of Spain? Hidalgo was
            said to have imbibed (despite his cassock), the heady, secretive elixir
            of Masonry's Enlightenment deism. Only a bit more than a generation
            had passed since the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767--for reasons
            stubbornly inscrutable, but sounding a bit like the Masonic bete noire
            of progressivist meddling.


            Plenty there for WAIS to set me straight on.
            https://www.jstor.org/stable/44209112?seq=1



            JE comments:  Gary, I think it's time to revive a WAIS discussion of Freemasonry.  I have never been able to answer the question about Freemasonry and Catholicism.  How is it that many notable Catholic statesmen have been Masons, if the order is ostensibly anti-Catholic?  If this is a very naive question, please indulge me.


            And was Napoleon I a Mason?  Some sources say yes, others no.


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          • Priests During the Spanish Civil War, and a Word on the Rojos (Enrique Torner, USA 02/24/20 3:41 AM)
            I would like to address in this post several comments and questions addressed in recent WAIS comments on Francoism.

            First all, I would like to thank Carmen Negrín (February 19th) for sharing the story of her great uncle, Father Heriberto Negrín. I can't imagine a worse scenario than his: being a Republican priest in National Spain first, as a result of which he was beaten almost to death by other priests because of his ideology; then crossing into Republican Catalonia with his family to escape to France, only to almost be killed again there by anarchists because he was a priest. I find his story horrific and fascinating at the same time, so I am placing his biography on my list of books to order for my University library.


            Next, I would like to answer John Eipper's question about my aunt. Yes, my aunt was a child during the Spanish Civil War, so she couldn't have been a nun at that time. However, my family was very close together at that time, so they were all in danger because of being Nationals and because of my great uncle being a priest. Besides, there were plenty of religious works of art in the apartments where my family lived. My aunt became a nun as a late teenager, not long after the end of the war. I wonder if Franco's victory led to many men and women joining Catholic religious orders. Could anybody answer that?


            Continuing with my book order for my college library, all the praiseworthy comments our dear editor written about Un pueblo traicionado made me wonder if my library had already received it, so I checked, and there it was: it had just arrived, so I checked it out. I have Paul Preston's 4th edition, and its publication date is 2019! Congratulations, Sir Paul! One question for you: Why does your book place "franquismo" between 1945 and 1969, when Franco won the war in 1939 and didn't die until 1975? After the "franquismo" chapter, why does the march toward democracy go between 1969 and 1982?


            And my final comment: All the members of my family and their friends who lived through the war who were nationals called the other side "rojos," and I never felt the pejorative sense JE mentions.


            JE comments:  Enrique, thank you for supporting our WAIS authors!  Sir Paul's A People Betrayed comes out in the US in June.  If you can't wait that long, the UK edition is only a couple of weeks away (March 5th):


            https://www.amazon.com/People-Betrayed-Corruption-Political-Incompetence/dp/0871408686/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=a+people+betrayed+preston&qid=1582544683&sr=8-1


            Enrique's final point is fascinating.  To American ears, "rojo/Red" cannot be construed as anything other than an insult.  Possibly it's the legacy of McCarthyism and the specter of Red China?  Americans of my vintage and older learned to prefer death over "redth."  Wouldn't it have been the same in Franco's Spain?


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  • Can You "Make" People Remember...or Forget? (Enrique Torner, USA 02/14/20 11:02 AM)

    I believe that this discussion on Francoism needs to start with its definition: what does each person discussing this understand by this term?


    I understand and empathize with Eugenio Battaglia's puzzlement: how can you forbid people from remembering, whatever it is, Francoism, Communism, or anything else? The Spanish pacts of "olvidar" first (right after Franco's death, when the Democracy started in 1975 or 1978, whenever you want to date it) and "recordar" (what came to become the "Ley de la Memoria Histórica") later are paradoxical: you can't keep anybody from remembering or forgetting. What matters is forgiveness and justice. The first one comes from above; the second one should come from a neutral justice system, if that even exists, because, as Aristotle said: "Man is a political animal."


    That means that everybody has an ideology that will interfere in their judgment of anybody or anything else. Practically speaking, if we take, for example, the Supreme Court, the result of any case having anything to do with politics will depend on what party has the majority in the Tribunal. The justices, whether they admit it or not, lean towards conservatism or left-wing liberalism. Therefore, there is really no such thing as neutral justice.


    JE comments:  A thought-provoking question from Enrique Torner:  Can you force a society to forget its past?  It is easier to sustain memory, or more precisely create memory, through the media, education, and political propaganda.  But forgetfulness?  I am reminded of Harry Papasotiriou's brilliant characterization of the Cyprus quandary:  the Greek Cypriots cannot remember their pre-1974 history, and the Turkish Cypriots cannot forget.  (Wow!  Can that have been over six years ago?  At the time I quipped:  the more "Western" a society, the shorter its memory span.  At the time nobody commented on my aphorism, but much has changed since 2013.)


    https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=80184&objectTypeId=69531&topicId=6187


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