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Post Calvo Sotelo's Assassination was an Excuse for the Insurrectionists
Created by John Eipper on 02/27/21 3:24 AM

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Calvo Sotelo's Assassination was an Excuse for the Insurrectionists (Paul Preston, -UK, 02/27/21 3:24 am)

In response to Francisco Wong-Díaz (February 25th), the planning for the military uprising of July 1936 began in the afternoon of 14 April 1931, the day the Second Republic was established. It was a meeting of supporters of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship. It took place in the home of the Conde de Guadalhorce, Rafael Benjumea y Burín, who had been Primo's Minister of Development. Calvo Sotelo was not present because he had fled into exile. The first and failed effort took place on 10 August 1932. After that, preparation began more seriously.

In 1936, Calvo Sotelo, back in Spain, was to be the civilian leader of the planned coup. Apart from involvement in the clandestine planning, he contributed publicly with several provocative speeches in the Cortes to fomenting the atmosphere that facilitated the coup. His assassination was deplorable but it was not remotely the cause of the Spanish Civil War. Rather, it provided a splendid excuse to what had been in the works for over five years.

JE comments:  Sir Paul, if I may add a follow-on question.  Calvo's death did not "cause" the uprising, but is there any way to gauge or speculate if the assassination swayed enough public opinion against the Republic to make a difference?  Granted, "make a difference" is a murky concept.  Much closer to home, did the events of January 6th, 2021, "make a difference" for Trump's support or legacy?  Few opinions were changed, but the existing ones gained more conviction.

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  • Did the Calvo Sotelo Assassination Sway Public Opinion towards Insurrection? (Paul Preston, -UK 03/01/21 4:15 AM)
    In response to John E's question, there is no way to know exactly what the public opinion impact of the Calvo Sotelo murder was. It took place merely four days before a coup that was long in the making. I am pretty sure that the effects on different groups would have been as follows--although, it goes without saying, these are crude generalisations.

    For those on the Catholic right who already loathed the Republic, it would merely have consolidated their loathing. It would have confirmed the belief, fomented by Calvo Sotelo and the principal right-wing politician, José María Gil Robles, in the Cortes, and by the right-wing press that the Republic was in the grip of uncontrollable violence, was a puppet of Moscow and was the instrument of a Jewish-Masonic-Bolshevik conspiracy.

    For those on the far left, many in the anarchist, Socialist and Communist movements, few tears would have been shed for Calvo Sotelo.

    Moderates of the centre left and the centre right were utterly appalled and terrified that it would precipitate the uprising. As I have said, that was going to happen anyway. However, the errors made, both before and after the assassination--brilliantly analysed in Ángel Viñas' new book--did little to stop it.

    JE comments:  Paul Preston has identified a truism:  such violent events rarely change public opinion, but only strengthen existing positions.

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    • In Spain, Might the Uprising Have Occurred too Late? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/02/21 4:05 AM)
      Maybe the planning for Spain's military uprising of July 1936 did not begin on 14 April 1931 but started when the people of that nation realized what was going to face with the Republic and the following chaos:  for instance the Seville strike of 6 July 1931 and then the riots and deaths of the following general strike, for which the new Republican government proclaimed a state of siege.

      Following the Left's defeat in the election of 19 November 1933, the government was in the hands of Alejandro Lerroux of the Radical Republican party with external support from the CEDA nationalists.  The Socialists under the leadership of the "Spanish Lenin" Francisco Largo Caballero started to arm in preparation for an insurrection along Russian lines, the Proletarian Dictatorship, while the FAI-CNT took control of several small towns.

      On 4 October 1934 second Lerroux government with CEDA ministers was met immediately with new general strikes proclaimed by anarchists and Marxists (the PSOE under Caballero was for sure Marxist-Leninist) which culminated with the revolt in Asturias.

      Being the usual Bastian Contrario let me say: with such democratic fellows on the Left, the uprising arrived even too late.

      JE comments:  Eugenio, I'm generally sympathetic to your Bastian Contrario alter ego, but in my view a civil war can never arrive too late.  Not at all is always the best option.  How can a few riots and general strikes justify mass-scale fratricide?

      Of course, this begs the question of whether the American Civil War could have been averted.  I really cannot give an answer to this one, short of allowing the slaveholding South to secede peacefully.

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      • Spain's Civil War Didn't Arrive Soon Enough? Nonsense (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/02/21 9:38 AM)
        In response to Eugenio Battaglia's post of today I have two points to make:

        Firstly, when I comment on other countries' history I try to be sure of my command of the relevant historiography.

        Secondly, what Eugenio says about the Spanish Republic is a lot of nonsense which shows to me one of two possibilities: he mixes propaganda (right-wing propaganda at least) and comics.  I have to conclude he doesn't know what he is writing about.

        Trying to dismantle this argument would be futile.

        However, I would recommend to Eugenio some of Sir Paul Preston's books or for the vexing matter of the disturbances, shootings, killings and so on, as well as the book by Eduardo González Calleja, Cifras cruentas, which I have mentioned several times in this chat. Or alternatively to take a stroll to the relevant Italian and Spanish archives which I have duly identified.

        JE comments:  I am not in the mood today for polemic, so I will shift gears.  The proverbial little bird told me it's Ángel Viñas's birthday!  Hooray to a great scholar, loyal WAISer and fellow Pisces.  Feliz cumpleaños, amigo Ángel.

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        • The Italian "Reds" Learned Their Brutal Business in the Spanish Civil War (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/04/21 10:30 AM)
          I wish to thank Ángel Viñas (March 2nd) for immediately taking the time to answer my provocative post of that same day.  The first part of Ángel's response was a bit brutal, but I can understand it very well.

          About the books of Sir Paul Preston, the first one that I read was Concise History of the Spanish Civil War in the 1999 Italian translation.  It was a very "British politically correct" book. Just see Paul's dedication, which I reproduce below.

          Of course, I do not know the history and the archives of the Spanish Republic as Ángel does.  Nevertheless, I have a good point: I saw the Italian "Reds" in action, and they learned their unsavory business from the Italian Veterans of the International Brigades in SCW.  Therefore I do not need any right-wing propaganda to inform my views.

          Furthermore, as you know by previous posts, I do not like Franco.  In 1936 nobody knew what he could become but in 1936 many knew that in a government where the Bolsheviks are predominant, by numbers or force, they are the leaders while the others are considered, as Lenin supposedly said, useful idiots or fellow travelers.

          The dedication says:

          This book is dedicated

          to the men and to the women

          who have fought and are dead

          in the fight against fascism

          Am I wrong or does this sound a little bit biased for a history book? Furthermore, we know how widely the word fascism is used, but Franco was not a fascist.

          JE comments:  If Eugenio Battaglia has taught us anything, it's not to use the word fascism lightly!  I am now extremely careful to apply the strictest precision to my isms.  Francoism?  A parallel question for Eugenio:  during Soviet times, the Russians used "Fascist Germany" to refer to the Nazi regime.  I don't know if this is still the case after 1991.  Did Hitler himself ever describe his ideology/movement as fascist?  I think not, but possibly you can clarify.

          For this numismatist, a coin speaks a thousand words--or at least five or six (words):

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          • In 1936, Spain Had No Communist Ministers (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/04/21 4:00 PM)
            I take exception to the following phrase in Eugenio Battaglia's post (March 4th).

            "In 1936 nobody knew what [Franco] could become but in 1936 many knew that in a government where the Bolsheviks are predominant, by numbers or force, they are the leaders while the others are considered, as Lenin supposedly said, useful idiots or fellow travelers."

            The 1936 Government, prior to the military rebellion, had no communist ministers. The Spanish Communist Party was almost a marginal force in Parliament. It was under strict orders of the Komintern to defend the bourgeois Republic.

            On the other hand, subversion in the Army was predicated on the need to prevent an imaginary Communist-led revolution to start in August 1936. This stupid excuse was one of the tenets of the Franco dictatorship. It was the basis for the postwar repression. The Communists have now been replaced by the Socialists in right-wing historiography.

            As to what the "Reds" did or did not do in Italy before Mussolini took power, we can discuss some other time.

            JE comments:  Several responses to Eugenio's post have come in.  Next:  Carmen Negrín.  The disagreement is unanswerable, in the sense that we cannot know what might have happened if Franco hadn't rebelled.  Fast-forward a generation, and we could ask the same question about Chile's Pinochet.  Had Allende stayed in power, would Chile now be like Cuba?  Or more like Denmark...or California?

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          • Did Mussolini's Armed Forces Learn about Brutality in Spain? (Carmen Negrin, -France 03/05/21 11:46 AM)
            I would like to add to Eugenio Battaglia's note on the Spanish Civil War, that he should not forget that Mussolini's pilots, sailors and soldiers also learned how to fight a brutal war in Spain, while also testing their armaments side by side with Hitler's troops.

            Also note that it would more scientific to simply count how many communists were in the Republican governments before jumping to conclusions about who was pulling the strings. Eugenio could also check what percentage of militants were in the Communist Party when the coup was unleashed.

            Facts do count for something.

            JE comments:  As for communists in the July 1936 government, Ángel Viñas just gave us the number:  zero.  But I have a question on military "competence."  I hope Eugenio Battaglia can answer:  did the Italians "learn" more about warfare in Ethiopia, or Spain?  Perhaps the answer is they learned the wrong lessons in both.

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            • Italians Fighting in Ethiopia, Spain, Libya... (Roy Domenico, USA 03/06/21 3:56 PM)

              Regarding where the Italians learned how to fight--of course you can carry that back at least to the Romans. They weren't too bad at it--and in 1176 they defeated the Emperor Barbarossa's force at Legnano.

              But in the immediate past--and before either Ethiopia or Spain--the Italians were able to practice the art of war with some brutality during the pacification of Libya, which lasted until the early 1930s.

              JE comments: "Pacification" is a loaded term, which seems to have reached its vilest depths in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The ruthless General Weyler was Spain's hatchet-man for the "pacification" of Cuba, and then the Americans conducted similar nasty business in the Philippines.  Oh Pacification, how many atrocities have occurred in thy name!

              Roy, great to hear from you.  Tell us, how are Covid-era classes going at the U of Scranton?

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              • Covid-Era Instruction at the U of Scranton (Roy Domenico, USA 03/08/21 4:00 AM)
                Regarding JE's question about Covid and the University of Scranton--I think we're getting through this reasonably well.

                I'm teaching three courses in person. I gave an in-person quiz the other day and was thanked for it. It was the first time in about a year that my students had one. Tomorrow as the faculty rep to the men's soccer team, I'll be on the sidelines (masked) with the team for the 1st game of the extraordinary spring season.

                I had an interesting exchange the other day during a Zoom meeting between our provost and the arts and sciences faculty. A young professor (who I don't know) said that she saw a group of 5 or 6 students having lunch and an animated conversation without masks. She said that we had to do something about this and the provost said yes, we'll have to educate the students to get rid of these bad old habits. I piped in on the chat room to say that enjoying good times with friends was not a bad old habit. The provost, to his credit, saw my statement and agreed with me.

                JE comments: At Adrian we've been on Spring Break for the last week, but I return to my three face-to-face classes today. Roy, you point out a generational shift in teaching philosophies. The younger faculty are more willing to accept virtual class as the norm. A few months ago I had a conversation with a junior colleague who said that on-line classes are actually "better"--not just in the hygienic, but also in the pedagogical sense. I cannot agree.

                Ultimately, the youngsters will have their way, much to the joy of administrators who welcome the cost benefits of no infrastructure beyond some laptops.  But what about the lost sense of an intellectual community?  Or the main benefit of going to college--finally becoming (almost) an adult, and living and interacting with your equals?  Can you find make lifelong friends, or find a mate, while Zooming?

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                • Are Students Happy with Online Classes? (Roy Domenico, USA 03/09/21 3:18 AM)
                  Regarding JE's point on Zooming and the generation divide, I agree--the older faculty are keeping as best as they can to live classrooms and the younger folks seem at least to be more comfortable with Zooming.

                  But I'd add another layer. I don't get the impression that the students are happy. Maybe because they've been looking at screens since they were toddlers, they have no interest in replacing the college experience with them. And it's a question of money--neither they nor their parents paid to have Zoom meetings replace the experience. Once in a while you hear about parents who say that they want their child protected (understandable), but at a certain point enough is enough--especially with the vaccines. I don't see how we continue this into the coming fall semester.

                  JE comments: Agreed and agreed, Roy. We are primarily f2f at Adrian, but over at Oakland University, Aldona is one of the few professors holding "presencial" classes this semester. Her students are grateful, and tell her so.

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          • I Do Not Consider Franco a Fascist (Paul Preston, -UK 03/05/21 3:35 PM)
            It is galling, after spending a lifetime studying a subject, as both Ángel Viñas and I have done, to have to respond to the misplaced jibes of those who have not done so.

            In response to Eugenio Battaglia (March 4th), the dedication to my book in English (i.e. not retranslated back from an Italian translation) was, and indeed is, in the currently substantially revised and amplified version: "This book is dedicated to the memory of David Marshall and to the other men and women of the International Brigades who fought and died fighting fascism in Spain."

            I stand by that statement. The volunteers of the International Brigades, including the Garibaldini from Italy and the Thaelmann battalion from Germany, did not go to Spain to fight Franco. They went in the hope of one day being able to return to their homes. Most have them had never heard of Franco before setting off. The British, French and Americans went to fight fascism in the sense that they knew that, if what Hitler, Mussolini and the Spanish rebels were doing in Spain was not stopped, they would soon be attacking their countries too.

            I have regularly stated that Franco was not a fascist, he was something equally pernicious, an Africanista. If anyone really wants to know what I think of Franco, it requires a bit of effort in the form of reading my biography of him (available in Italian) and my book The Spanish Holocaust.

            I would welcome chapter and verse on the alleged links between the Garibaldini and the Brigate Rosse.

            JE comments:  My editorial apologies to Sir Paul Preston.  I should have checked the original dedication of his Concise History of the Spanish Civil War.  My only (flimsy) excuse is that the exhaustive Preston library at WAIS HQ is missing this key volume...

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            • Italian Anti-Fascists in Spain and Italy: Is There a Connection? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/09/21 11:28 AM)
              Sir Paul Preston in his post 5 March (6 March Italian time) wrote, "I would welcome chapter and verse on the alleged links between the Garibaldini and the Brigate Rosse."

              There is not any direct link between the Garibaldini of Spain and the Italian "Brigate Rosse" of the 1970s.  We may see only a hereditary link, broadly speaking. However, the veterans of the Spanish Garibaldini in the fall of 1943 created the bloodthirsty communist Brigate Garibaldi.

              In September 1938 Juan Negrín at the League of the Nations in Geneva reported that the International Brigades would be withdrawn from the front lines and their men repatriated. The foreign volunteers tried to refuse while some nations, in primis France, tried to refuse them as well.  However, they later let them in and placed them in concentration camps.  This is what happened to the almost 500,000 displaced Spaniards escaping from Spain.

              For instance, 500 Italians were placed in the camp at Saint Cyprien, 650 in Ageles-sur-Mer, etc. Their conditions were poor.  The communist Antonio Roasio, expatriated for killing his employer, was the political commissar of the Brigata Garibaldi in Spain, later the leader of the Resistance for NW Italy and senator of the Italian Republic, wrote about the camps: "The volunteers are confined to concentration camps and under conditions which are worse than those imposed on the antifascists by Mussolini in Italy."

              Following the armistice with France in July 1940, Italy wanted all the Italian volunteers in the International Brigades to be delivered to the Italian Fascist Authorities, including those in the hands of the Germans, therefore saving their lives. For the socialist leader Pietro Nenni, who was taken by the German Gestapo on his birthday in April 1943, it is reported that Mussolini immediately acted in defense of his old friend and transferred him to the island of Ponza from where Nenni would later see Mussolini from afar, when the latter was arrested and transferred to Ponza on 27 July 1943. 

              Giuliano Pajetta, later a great communist member of the Italian Parliament, spent one and half years in a French Camp.

              Those who were repatriated to Italy were immediately condemned to 3 years of "confino" (a quasi-vacation) on the small islands of Italy.  After 25 July 1943, the new PM Badoglio started liberating them, but the Anarchists were released only after 8 September 1943.

              From 8 September 1943, the ex Garibaldini of the Spanish International Brigades worked to organize the new Garibaldi Brigades in the Italian resistance. Luigi Longo, the famous commander Gallo in Spain, was the Supreme Chief of the partisans.  Later he became secretary of the Communist party upon the death of Palmiro Togliatti.

              The historian Claudio Pavone, in his monumental work on the resistance Una Guerra Civile and other books, remembers the song: "We are young Garibaldini, we come from Spain and we are fighting against the fascists."

              The possibility of a strong Italian communist resistance was only due to the experience and leadership of the veterans of the Spanish International Brigades. Without them, we would have had much less mourning and the war would have ended the same way regardless.

              JE comments:  Eugenio, several times you've written about the confino as a relatively luxurious imprisonment.  Doing time on a Mediterranean island does seem far better than most alternatives, such as a Siberian gulag. Could you recommend a book or two on the subject--hopefully in English?

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              • Life in Mussolini's Confino (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/12/21 2:59 AM)
                Immediately after WWII a "History of the Italian Communist Party" was published, and a first cousin of my mother gave it to me in a (failed) attempt at political indoctrination. 

                The cousin was a die-hard Marxist, but during the 1943-45 civil war he worked in the port of Savona without any problems in spite of his well-known ideas.  At that time, those who were not engaged in any act of war or sabotage were left in peace.

                In the said book I found a chapter about the "confino," and I was surprised to read that the communists at the confino were free to meet and have political conferences while strolling on the beaches.  They also received political publications, one way or another from the mainland or from abroad.

                The confino was devised in 1889 and was used by the Fascist regime after 1926.  It was used against antifascist activists, some Slovenians and Croats seeking annexation to Yugoslavia.  After the 1938 "defense of the race" law the confino was extended to some gays, as well as some disgraced fascists as such as Curzio Malaparte.

                The people deported to the small islands, for a maximum of 5 years (recidivists could be sent a second time).  They were not confined in a prison but were free on the island with the following limitations:

                1) Find a job (if possible)

                2) Do not go leave the village without permission.

                3) Return to his lodgings (collective barracks or personal) at the curfew, generally at 19:00 in winter and 21:00 in summer.

                Each person received 10 lire per day.  However, those with money from work or from his own could rent a house and have his family stay with him.  After the escape by boat from the island of Lipari by Emilio Lussu, Carlo Rosselli, and Francesco Nitti, the use of boats was prohibited.

                The total number of deported is believed to be around 10,000.

                As far as I know, there are no books in English about the confino, although they are discussed by De Felice in his monumental work. Practically every island where there was a confino has some publication about it.  Two books have appeared in recent years:

                Il Confino Fascista: L'arma Silenziosa del Regime, by Camilla Poesio, 2011.

                Gli Antifascisti al Confino:  Storie di Uomini e donne contro la dittatura, by C. Ghini and A. Dal Pont, 2013.

                Both books, especially the second, are probably extremely biased, considering their enthusiastic endorsements from the ANPI (Associazione Nazionale Partigiani Italiani), I have not read them. Oh, by the way, according to the ANPI the number of "confinati" was 12,330.  How they got such a number I do not know.

                JE comments:  Eugenio, where do I sign up?  Seems like a vacation, as long as Wi-Fi is included in the package, and from time to time, a bottle of Chianti.

                Seriously now, the confino doesn't sound so bad.  For us literature folks, the most famous confinato was the political theorist Antonio Gramsci, banished to the island of Ustica (off Sicily).  He did manage to write prolifically while imprisoned, yet Wikipedia tells us that many died on the island from malnutrition and tuberculosis.  Gramsci himself never recovered from the illnesses he contracted in prison.  Eugenio, what say you?

                Finally, if I calculate correctly, you were reading Marxist theory at the tender age of...eight?

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                • Carlo Levi's "Christ Stopped at Eboli": Life in the Confino (Roy Domenico, USA 03/12/21 10:51 AM)

                  Carlo Levi's Christ Stopped at Eboli may be the classic tale of Italian confino. Not on an island, Levi is "condemned" to a small town in southern Italy--I think near Matera. I don't think I'd like to have been there in confino, but compared to a lot of other places, it wasn't terribly bad. In fact, I think it can be argued that Levi becomes one of the village's leading citizens.

                  Along that line, I was discussing the case of Leandro Arpinati of Bologna with a colleague who specializes in 20th-century Russia. I told him that Arpinati was a loyal but renegade Fascist who had pushed the Duce a bit too far so Mussolini had him arrested (for a while). But Mussolini also sent a note to the Party boss in Bologna with orders that Arpinati's wife and family not suffer and be provided for. When I told this to my colleague he scoffed, saying "Stalin would have just shot the whole family!"

                  We have to be careful, however, in that we might romanticize Mussolini's punishments too much--but to me, that shows a basic humanity in traditional Italian culture that obviously predates Fascism and survived in spite of it.

                  JE comments:  Yes, Stalin would have killed them all.  If I had to suffer political persecution from any of Europe's early 20th-century despots, Mussolini would be my choice.  But as Roy Domenico reminds us, any political imprisonment is an egregious violation of human rights.  Or if you prefer, of plain old decency.

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                  • The Most "Benign" Dictatorship? This is a Fool's Game (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 03/13/21 3:20 AM)
                    Unlike me and some others in WAIS, John E never suffered any sort of political or religious persecution or imprisonment and should thank God for it. Comparing the best dictatorships to suffer under is a fool's game.

                    Hopefully those in their middle age and other younger WAISers might start seriously reconsidering the reasons why some of us old timers are ringing bells and red-flagging current domestic and global events. Some still live following the airheads' credo, "a gozar, a gozar que la vida es corta!" [loosely translated into Latin, Carpe Diem--JE]

                    Time is short for everyone and when the time comes to return to dust, what will remain of your passing through? Who will care and for how long?

                    JE comments:  Francisco, point well taken.  In your years of contributing to WAIS, you never shared your recollections of growing up in the Batista dictatorship.  Let's try to put ideology aside and focus on how a regime impacts the daily life of the citizenry:  wouldn't you consider the Batista regime relatively "benign" compared, say, to Trujillo next door (Dominican Republic)?  Of course, we're all well-versed on what happened once Castro took over.

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                    • Havana Life in Batista Times (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 03/14/21 4:20 AM)
                      Since I am not very familiar with life under the older Trujillo, except that he was not well spoken or liked by many in my teen years, this very short post focuses on just a few of my Batista-era recollections.

                      Havana was a super active city in which to live and grow up. Lots of noise from all kinds of vehicles, street sellers, people, bodegas blaring music, etc. I grew up in the city of Havana itself so learned to live with it. Freedom of expression seemed to be open but with a smell of self-censorship when it came to Batista himself. I avidly read many newspapers and magazines and was regularly impressed by the amount of crimes reported. One notable recollection is of "El Colorado," a renowned common criminal who ran circles around the police until he was finally shot and killed.

                      My middle/working class barrio was mostly two- or three-story cement or concrete buildings and I do not recall seen many trees on our streets. Politics were discussed openly at home, and on radio and television but most were mostly very careful in not criticizing "el hombre"(Batista) in public. Yet there were critics like Pardo Llada. The most influential anti-Batista people were the Auténticos and many considered them to be a democratic opposition to his PAU (Partido de Acción Unitaria). The Auténticos had a charismatic but unstable leader Eddy Chivas who threw politics into disarray when he committed suicide in the middle of his radio program! His funeral was a national event and was televised. I recall being impressed by the mass of people on the streets walking behind the hearse.

                      In particular, after Castro's 26th of July attack on the military barracks in Oriente province, it became palpable that mouths had to more carefully managed. Some TV programs were cancelled or modified. In retrospect my overall quick summary is that if you got involved in the political arena during Batista's time you had to be careful but if you did not then you could live a fairly normal life.

                      Unlike the Batista years, however, under the Castros from the very first days politics intruded into everyone's lives. You couldn't avoid the constant activism, parades, marches, propaganda, indoctrination, etc. It is was inescapable. You could not stay away from the total intrusion into your daily life. If you were apolitical and refused to participate you were soon stigmatized as a counterrevolutionary. This became institutionalized with the darned Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) which were in my particular community composed of poorly educated, loud, aggressive people turned rabid revolutionaries. Many I knew had been rabid Batista supporters until he fled the island!

                      JE comments: Fascinating vignettes, Francisco! I'd never be one for Batista nostalgia (or for that matter, Castro nostalgia), but we tend to assume the absolute backwardness of Cuba in the 1950s.  In fact (see the State Dept charts below), Cuba in 1959 was at or near the top in some metrics, such as infant mortality (lowest in Latin America), literacy (second in Latin America), and the one that always strikes me, TV ownership (highest in LA and fifth in the world).  Not sure if that a sign of progress.


                      About the Batista supporters-turned-CDRistas, this is a constant in every society:  those who surrender their "values" to jump on the winning horse.  Are they opportunists or pragmatists?  You decide.

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                      • How Has the Cuban Regime Managed to Survive? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/15/21 2:59 AM)
                        Interesting recollections from Francisco Wong-Díaz (March 14th). I guess the Cuban people had a choice, either remain as a playground for tourists and organized crime, or become a totalitarian dictatorship. The questions about Cuba that I have never been able to answer to my satisfaction are many:

                        1. How could the US government have been caught so flat-footed by a revolution in a small island so close to our nation? I heard stories about preliminary discussions between Castro and the US government, but ...

                        2. What forces precluded another invasion of Cuba after the Bay of Pigs fiasco?

                        3. Despite the US strangulation of this relatively small and poor nation, how have they managed to survive and project such a strong image in medicine?

                        I cannot help but feel some admiration for the Cuban people's ability to survive for so long living next door to a powerful enemy. It would make me proud to be a Cubano.

                        JE comments:  Tor, your second question reaches deep into the WAIS DNA.  As we know, Ronald Hilton in his Hispanic American Report (our predecessor publication) "broke" the story of the imminent invasion at Playa Girón.  It was later picked up by the New York Times.  Even JFK got involved. 

                        As I understand it, the quick answer to your question is that the US agreed not to sponsor further invasions in exchange for the Soviets removing their missiles from the island.  Possibly this is an overly simplistic explanation.

                        As for the Cubans' pride for standing up to Goliath, during my visits I have perceived this sentiment.  There is also the more urgent matter of the daily search for sustenance and minimal consumer goods.  Do these dual realities make the Cuban people embrace their regime, or curse it?  Paradoxically, both at the same time, and often in the same breath.

                        I'm confident that Francisco Wong-Díaz will have more emphatic answers to your questions.

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                        • How Has the Cuban Regime Survived? The "Ley Mordaza" (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 03/20/21 3:52 AM)
                          Tor Guimaraes (March 15th) asked how Cuba has managed to survive for so many years, despite the embargo and sanctions by the United States. Since so far it seems that the question has not been answered, I dare to offer my thoughts.

                          Like any dictatorial regime that for example I have experienced in Venezuela, or from what my son who visited North Korea has told me, the answer is relatively simple: systematic repression, the lack of freedom of the press and expression, a monopoly on education and its brainwashing effect, and finally the country's cultural and informational isolation.

                          Precisely just two days ago it has been 18 years since March 18, 2003, which saw one of the most representative repressive episodes of the Cuban regime, La Primavera Negra Cubana, the Black Spring. That day Fidel Castro arrested a large number of dissidents, who were themselves called prisoners of conscience.  They were subjected to summary trials and sentenced to long prison sentences, under the so-called justice of the Law for the Protection of National Independence. This law is better known as la Ley Mordaza, the Gag Law. It is a repressive instrument still in force that represents a "legal" threat to any Cuban dissident of the regime.

                          JE comments:  Read further on the 2003 "Black Spring," in which 75 pro-democracy activists were arrested and sentenced:


                          How do authoritarian regimes stay in power?  More specifically, why do some disappear and others endure?  On this first day of (Northern Hemisphere) spring, how is it that we're seeing no "springs" along the lines of a decade ago?  Look, for starters, at Belarus, Syria, and even Venezuela, all of which are rife with unrest.  Yet the regimes continue to be as entrenched as they ever were.

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                          • Foreign Tourists Who Visit Cuba are Helping to Support the Regime (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 03/21/21 6:43 AM)
                            Many WAISers hold mostly favorable views of the Castro family dictatorship, so I do not waste my valuable time. All I can add to José Ignacio Soler's comments are the 60+ years of murderous criminality, human rights abuses, repression and destruction of lives and morals.

                            American tourists who go to Cuba seeking the sun, rum, and fun they could get elsewhere in the USA (Miami/Puerto Rico) and should know better are in fact aiding and abetting the normalization of Castroite crimes and trample over the souls of those victims of Marxist Socialism. Now the same type of despicables want to bring it here to the USA, too.

                            See what has happened to the once beautiful and successful Venezuela and what the good people of that country are suffering through due to the dastardly Castros and their supporters. Shame on all those bastards!

                            JE comments: Francisco, message received loud and clear. Is visiting a nation with an unsavory regime the same thing as endorsing that regime?  During our travels to Cuba, we have taken (literally) suitcases full of clothes and toothpaste for the people.  As animal lovers, we even pack cat and dog food.  A question for the WAISitudes:  is this the misplaced idealism of dupes or the legendary "useful idiots"?  In my defense, I feel strongly that human need is human need, regardless of ideology.  And even more pointedly:  sixty-plus years of embargo haven't brought a lick of change to the island.  Einstein had a strong opinion about doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

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                            • For Cuba, 62 Years of Sanctions Have Not Worked (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/22/21 3:19 AM)
                              Very interesting and understandable post from Francisco Wong-Díaz, 21 March.

                              All WAISers know my enmity (to phrase it mildly) to the policies of Marxism-Socialism, Stalinism, and useful idiots, but not necessarily towards the persons embracing such ideologies, with whom I may even have a good personal friendship.

                              The US policy of sanctions against Cuba has not been the solution. After 62 years we may say that it has been a great failure with a lot of pain and death as collateral damage. The sanctions are an act of war against the Cuban people as a whole, but the Castro circle is not suffering because of them.

                              Most probably if a wise policy had been implemented by the US from the very beginning, there is the theoretical possibility that Fidel would not have sided with the USSR, but this is another old story.

                              On the contrary, by abandoning sanctions and opening a policy of fair commerce and exchange of visitors, the political situation could improve considerably. The policy of the good American carried out by some enlightened persons is the correct, extremely commendable attitude.

                              Furthermore, if I were a Cuban living in Cuba, first I would fight against the foreign imperialism that places sanctions, and then against the internal dictator (granted, this is not easy). I assume that Cubans may have the same feelings; therefore it confirms that the sanctions are always wrong.

                              Furthermore, never ask for foreign bayonets to solve your internal political problems, as with their arrival the problems are not solved but in the long run, become worse.

                              JE comments:  The age-old question of diplomacy:  Do sanctions hurt the people they are supposed to?  Or on the other hand, is engagement the most effective instrument of change?  Francisco Wong-Díaz, next, is a strong advocate of the first approach.

                              A counterexample to Cuba sanctions has been the world's policy towards China.  No amount of "opening up," even allowing that nation to make the world's stuff, has brought democracy or lessened the regime's iron grip on its citizens.

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                            • For Cuba, Individual Acts of Charity Help the Regime (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 03/22/21 3:39 AM)
                              The shortest answer to John E's question is that such acts of charity are feel-good actions and help the regime to stay in power.

                              Cubans in exile send remittances to their families and have kept them alive for decades while the Castros and their criminal gangs continued to enrich themselves and live the good life. That is their way.

                              Marxist regimes cannot be defeated without a fight.

                              JE comments:   Indeed, charity may benefit the giver more than the recipient.  Herein lies the paradox of charity:  by lessening suffering on an individual level, it works against the systemic change that could eliminate the suffering to begin with.

                              Francisco, what kind of "fight" would be successful against the Cuban regime?  I note that with very few exceptions (possibly Chile in 1973), the world's former Marxist regimes were defeated peacefully (Eastern Europe in particular).  Afghanistan provides another case study of the military "solution," but the result was worse.

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                            • If You Condemn One Dictator, You Should Condemn Them All (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/22/21 6:36 AM)
                              Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, and I have no doubt that the dictators who took over countries like Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc. ad nauseam must have been ruthless, violent, and willing to do nasty things to their opponents.

                              However, if someone like Francisco Wong-Díaz who hates dictators like I do, expects to sound credible, (s)he must criticize all dictatorships of US foes and puppets alike. With his recent postings on Cuba, Francisco is revealing a one-track mind in a freeway with multiple lanes.

                              Having so much hate for someone or some ideology is very bad for your digestion. True, it is hard to comprehend how someone as despised in the West as the North Korean dictator might deserve any respect, let alone praise. But when you talk about Fidel Castro, he was from a wealthy family.  Why did he not do what most of us would have done, go back and forth to Miami with his wealth, live the high life, instead of going to risk death in the wilderness for an impossible dream: getting rid of another dictator puppet of the mighty USA?

                              Once Fidel Castro became dictator, what would have happened if the US government instead of trying to destroy his government now representing Cuba, would have thought: you are a little island deciding to misguidedly adopt some form of Marxism/Leninism right next door to me. I can crush you with my little finger. It is not going to work out for Castro because next to Cuba lives a giant nation of free people with a great standard of living, forever improving under democracy and Capitalism. In comparison the Cuban people will look terrible in a few years, just like the Chinese people have looked so terrible for a long time before looking so much better now.

                              No, the US government went the Francisco way: kill all the bastards, suffocate the Cuban people to destroy the dictatorial government. How many times did we try to assassinate Castro? How many tourists from all over the world or innocent Cubans got killed in Cuba by terrorists paid by external sources? Now we will never know if Cuba has suffered all these years because of these external efforts or because the Cuban government implemented a bad transition of power from the prior dictatorship. Of course, after reading some of his WAIS posts, Francisco might think that Batista was a great Presidente, not a bastard like the Castros.

                              JE comments:  Ah, the classic Our Bastard phenomenon...

                              Francisco Wong-Díaz recently wrote about Havana in the Batista years.  From this post, it's clear that Francisco was no admirer of El Hombre, although I'm sure he preferred Batista to what came after.



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                            • Comparing Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Cuba (Massoud Malek, USA 03/24/21 4:18 AM)
                              In response to Francisco Wong-Díaz (March 21st), I have been to Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.

                              Haiti, a non-Marxist country with a population of a little over 9 million, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, where eighty percent of residents live in poverty, according to the CIA World Factbook. The latest official poverty estimate (2012) suggested that over 6 million Haitians lived below the poverty line of US $2.41 per day, and more than 2.5 million fell below the extreme poverty line of US $1.12 per day.


                              Puerto Rico, a United States territory, is not a Marxist country, but according to a study by the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, roughly 40 percent of Puerto Ricans aged 65 and older, who make up around 16 percent of the Caribbean island's population, live in extreme poverty. According to the Kids Count Puerto Rico Profile of 2019, 58.3 percent or almost 6 out of every 10 children in Puerto Rico live in poverty (Youth Development Institute, 2019). If you walk around the non-touristy areas of San Juan, you immediately witness abject poverty.

                              The citizens of Puerto Rico do not have any voting representation in Washington. On March 1, 2021, the US Supreme Court announced that it will consider the constitutionality of excluding those living in Puerto Rico from a federal retirement benefit known as Supplemental Social Security Income.

                              Cuba, a Marxist nation, has no problem with student loans or homelessness. Thanks to Fidel Castro, higher education is free to all citizens and if a Cuban has a headache, he or she can see a doctor without paying a peso. I met a university professor in Holguín, who told me that he was offered a position at an American university, but he decided to stay in Cuba, because of his wife who had cancer and was treated for four months in a hospital in Havana. He didn't pay even a peso for her treatment.

                              On March 22nd, Cuba started the vaccination of 150,000 frontline workers as part of the final phase of a clinical trial of the country's leading COVID-19 vaccine, called Soberana 2. The only other country in the American continent that produces covid-19 vaccine is the United States.

                              During Hurricane Irma in September 2017, which left one million people in Puerto Rico without power, I was in Cuba. After three days the electricity on the island was restored.

                              During Christmas 2019, for two weeks in Santiago de Cuba, every night in various parks, they performed ballet, modern dance, opera, jazz, fashion shows and other types of entertainments. How many Americans in Miami have watched Boléro of Ravel or Swan Lake of Tchaikovsky in a park without paying a penny?

                              Instead of fighting the Marxist regime of Castro, we should help the residents of Puerto Rico in obtaining a voice in their destiny and eradicating poverty.

                              JE comments:  In Cuba, everyone (except a handful of the regime's elites) lives in poverty.  Massoud, lately I've been reading the gritty vignettes of the "Cuban Bukowski," Pedro Juan Gutiérrez.  I think you'd find them intriguing.  Gutiérrez describes a world of vile communal toilets, bathtub rum, and scraping by on rice and beans.  The women are often forced to choose between extreme deprivation or life as a "jinetera" (prostitution).

                              Yet in fairness, Cuba has achieved much in education, culture, and even medicine, despite the scarcity of almost everything.

                              What do we know about the Soberana 02 Covid vaccine?  I found this piece (below) that says the results are promising, despite the lack of peer review.  What I do know is that in the US, with the world's wealthiest health system by far, this frontline worker (me) remains unvaccinated.  Just two days ago I was made eligible, though, so I hope to get the jab in a week or so.


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                • My Childhood Books in WWII Italy (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/15/21 3:29 AM)
                  In the spring of 1946, when I received the book History of the Partito Comunista Italiano, I was just ten years old, having been born on 18 February 1936.

                  Anyway I never liked or read children's books like Pinocchio, too silly and unsuited to my interests.  At that time there was a Company "La Scala d'Oro" that published a series of books "graded" by age, 6 to 13. Most were dedicated to the old heroes of Italy from the Roman Orazi e Curiazi, Muzio Scevola, then La Disfida di Barletta (13 Italian chevaliers against 13 French in 1503), Francesco Ferrucci, famous in 1530 for saying to Maramaldo, "Coward you kill a dead man," Marcantonio Bragadin defender of Famagosta in 1571, and so on. I had all 92 volumes of the series, and as a stupid fool I gave them away for space reasons during a house move.

                  During the war, there wasn't enough food but I never remained without good books.

                  I read Marx's Das Kapital at the age of 16 but I found him unsatisfactory, as he only considers the Homo Oeconomicus and not also the Homo Spiritualis.

                  The Publisher Scala d'Oro (UTET) still exists.

                  JE comments:  This comment opens the wider question of book production during times of crisis.  As a journalist by trade, Mussolini may have been more supportive of the publishing industry than most dictators--presumably, as long as the content was not critical of the regime.  How do you justify a vibrant publishing industry, and its demand on resources, during wartime?  It's a fine line, as (the biggest?) part of every war effort is maintaining morale on the Home Front.

                  There's much more to be said on this topic.  What about Nazi Germany?  The USSR?  Newspapers and sundry "organs" of course, but did either of these regimes publish many books during WWII?

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          • The "Bolsheviks" Never Dominated the Spanish Republicans (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 03/08/21 3:27 AM)
            A very brief response to Eugenio Battaglia's post of 4 March (because both Sir Paul Preston and Ángel Viñas have already commented).

            There has never been any time, either in 1934, 1936 or even in 1937, when the "Bolsheviks" were predominant, as Eugenio says, in the Spanish Republican government. At a certain point after 1936 and for only a short period there were two communists in the government, but that was all.

            At the same time, I would be interested in hearing more from Eugenio about the Italian "Reds in action" and their direct links to the International Brigades volunteers from Italy.

            After 1999 Sir Paul published many wonderful books, most of them about the war in Spain, including The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution and Revenge (2016), but even in his 1999 dedication (cited by Eugenio) I do not see any bias at all. These true and sincere words could perfectly serve as a dedication in any good book about the war.

            Finally, both terms "useful idiots" and "fellow travelers" are used in a totally different context and never--even in the first Soviet government that consisted of the representatives of several political parties, including the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs)--in the sense suggested here by Eugenio.

            JE comments:  "Fellow travelers" and "useful idiots," especially the former, are tried-and-true epithets in political discussions of all types.  Might we subject them to WAISly scrutiny?  FT (poputchik) is attributed to Trotsky, while the Useful Idiot is believed to be a Leninism, although no one can pinpoint when or if he actually said it.  The term came into popular use in the West during the Cold War.  Undoubtedly, much more can be said about this. 

            Has anyone ever proudly self-defined as a Useful Idiot?

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