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Post Organized Religion: Work of the Devil?
Created by John Eipper on 03/06/15 4:22 PM

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Organized Religion: Work of the Devil? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 03/06/15 4:22 pm)

This raging discussion is about the conflict between major religions groups vying for control over the masses, therefore over each other. To me the absurdity of this "intellectual" conflict is very disappointing, amazing, and frustrating; it is surpassed only by the actions of the various religious groups who do not seem to have learned a thing over the centuries. Under the guise of imaginary righteousness granted by their false gods, Christian armies still invade Islamic countries for a variety of reasons, Islamic countries want to destroy the Jewish state, Islamic extremists destroy precious historical monuments and artifacts, Jewish extremists murder innocent Palestinian and other people like Rachel Corrie. If any organized religion had anything to do with God, it should by now have been used to mostly guide wise, ethical, peaceful, productive behavior. Instead it is leading mankind to self-destruction, thus one can correctly conclude that organized religion is the work of the devil.

On the other hand, the Universe, the only God that makes any sense, through evolution has given mankind the gift of reasoning. We have learned how to learn about God through the scientific method. We have developed an impressive body of knowledge which has produced very impressive benefits to mankind. Unfortunately, despite the many organized religions, some people have misused this knowledge for evil deeds because, even though knowledge has expanded, our spirituality has not improved over the centuries.

How much longer before we see the light?

JE comments: Tor Guimaraes is not mincing words. So what do you think: is organized religion leading humanity to self-destruction? The last generation or so has given ample fuel for those who want to make this argument.

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  • Organized Religion; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 03/07/15 7:04 AM)
    Ric Mauricio sends this response to Tor Guimaraes (6 March):

    Yes, I agree with Tor. And it reminds me of the lyrics of John Lennon:

    Imagine there's no countries

    It isn't hard to do

    Nothing to kill or die for

    And no religion too

    Imagine all the people

    Living life in peace...

    You may say I'm a dreamer

    But I'm not the only one

    I hope someday you'll join us

    And the world will be as one

    Boy, did people get pissed off at Lennon for these lyrics. But I believe that John Lennon was an enlightened one. Enlightenment cannot be learned. It is seeing things clearly. The word "sin" means without. In this case, I believe that it is referring to "without enlightenment." Thank you, Tor, for sharing your enlightenment.

    And my thanks too to Anthony Cardil for sharing your revelation on the cultural biases you experienced. I grew up fighting these cultural biases and I applaud your candor. Now, imagine Jeb Bush's quandary when he brought his future wife back to the ranch in Texas. It illustrates Jeb Bush's character for overcoming whatever biases may have existed.

    Heterophobia is spot-on. It is the discomfort of experiencing differences. It could be religious, cultural, or ethnic. It is the root of prejudices. With investing, it is found that most investors will invest in stocks from their own country, whether it be the US, UK, European, Asian, or Latin American, people will invest in what is most comfortable. This is heterophobia in the investing world. Even though the late Sir John Templeton enlightened us with his wisdom on investing beyond national boundaries, investors continue to invest heterophobiatically (ah, a new word, ha ha).

    JE comments:  Shouldn't it be heterophobically?  I would never question Ric Mauricio's wisdom on investing, but I have the impression that investors don't fear the "other"; they fear instability (uncertainty).  Take Japan and China, which are culturally very different from the Anglo West, but are seen as risk-free places to put your money.  For an example of the opposite situation, I give you Argentina.

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  • Organized Religion vs Secular Excesses (Timothy Brown, USA 03/08/15 4:55 AM)

    In decrying organized religion as the "work of the Devil," Tor Guimaraes (6 March) gives a "chicken or egg?" argument that, based on recent history, I do not find persuasive.

    I don't have to go back to the Crusades or the Muslim conquest of North Africa and the Iberian peninsula or invoke the Nazi's anti-Semitic holocaust,
    to find examples of mass violence against entire populations, of which none of them were religious conflicts. Just within the last few decades, several regimes based
    their actions on what they claimed were ideologies that were the products of human reasoning and "scientifically proven certainties" that slaughtered human beings by the tens of millions while pronouncing that no God exists and labeling Christianity and other organized religions the opiate of the masses. The "scientifically proven" Marxist Soviet, Communist Chinese, North Korean and Cambodian regimes, just to name four, slaughtered tens of millions upon millions of fellow humans in the name of an atheist ideology.

    I don't see any evidence whatsoever that atheism or agnosticism are, or ever have been, in any way superior to religions that believe in God. Just the opposite. There are far stronger arguments based only on recent and extremely well-documented historical events that support a conclusion that non-religious ideologies are far more likely to kill off humans by the millions than are religions.

    JE comments:  And Christians have done a pretty thorough job of killing each other over the centuries, with WWI being an all-Christian bloodbath with the exception of the Ottomans.  (WWII involved the officially atheist Soviets, as well as the non-Christian Japanese and Nazi Germany, with its bizarre hybrid of "scientific" racism and Paganism.)  Still, in the larger historical panorama, killing in the name of anti-religion was an aberration lasting only from 1917 until the end of the Cold War.

    Might we conclude that humans will find any excuse to carry out their depravity--be it ideology or identity?

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    • Sacred Texts of Atheism (John Heelan, -UK 03/09/15 2:09 AM)
      In response to Tim Brown (8 March), does not atheism itself have many characteristics also common in religions, for example reliance on books regarded as sacred (in a secular sense), such as writings by Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, Chairman Mao, Hitler's Mein Kampf? How about the modern evangelists of the creed like the "Four Horsemen" (Dawins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett) plus scientists like Hawkings, Pinker, etc?

      The saving grace (an inappropriate metaphor in the circumstances) is that the populist attraction of current atheism is limited to the intellect and does not result in pogroms against believers in religion.

      JE comments:  Historically this was likely the case, but I would venture that the dominant thread of atheism today is of the "secular" variety. No reading required...

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      • Atheism (Luciano Dondero, Italy 03/10/15 4:18 AM)
        I would like to thank John Heelan (JH) for his post of 9 March, because he succeeded in condensing in a few short sentences some of the ways in which non-atheists see atheism.

        JH wrote: "Does not atheism itself have many characteristics also common in religions, for example reliance on books regarded as sacred (in a secular sense), such as writings by Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, Chairman Mao, Hitler's Mein Kampf? How about the modern evangelists of the creed like the "Four Horsemen" (Dawins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett) plus scientists like Hawkings, Pinker, etc?"

        Well, not quite.

        As we all know the A in Atheist is a privative A. Now, if you stop to think about it, most religious people share with atheists one thing: they generally are non-believers (a-theists) when it comes to other religions' gods: Jews and Muslims don't believe in Jesus Christ, Christians don't believe in Allah or Yahweh (they think it had to undergo some refitting in the New Testament before becoming palatable), and so on and so forth. The atheists simply go one god further, and don't believe in that particular one you cherish either!

        Now because atheists have no gods to worship, whatever they think about the world may come from anywhere, or even from nowhere, and thus there is no Atheism (TM).

        And by the way, that's indeed how we are all born: no child is born religious, i.e., believing in this or that deity: usually each one of us end up accepting the religion of our parents (or of the alternative family we are raised in).

        Thus, atheists can't really have any sacred text, especially none that all (or most) atheists would recognise as such. The smorgasbord described by JH is clearly ridiculous: do you know anybody who uses at the same time Marx's and Hitler's writings? Or even Trotsky's and Mao's?

        In the real world, actually, most of the people who stick to Marx or Mao or Hitler are primarily involved with their own particular ideology, and then they may (or may not) be also atheists in public. However, in actual fact, most Hitler-worshipers were/are Christians, and no amount of denying this will wash. Where do you think Hitler got his anti-Semitism from? From paganism? Or from the Catholic Church in his native Austria? Hatred for the Jews used to come from Christianity and Christianity alone; Islam subjugated everybody, but "the people of book" (Jews and Christians alike) were normally tolerated--until 1948 that is.

        With respect to "the modern evangelists of the creed" referred to by JH, I wonder if we are not witnessing here a repeat of what Robert Whealey aptly described in a different context as "American Foreign policy took a turn for the worse in 1945 by preaching anti-Communism without ever reading a word of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin or Joseph Stalin." Except now it's anti-atheism that is preached without probably not reading much written by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Hawking, Pinker, etc. If one did, one would know not only that a great deal of the writings by Dawkins (a scientist), Dennett (a philosopher of science) has no direct connection with atheism. The point is that they, like Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and many other scientists, deal with science, and it is science which has been eroding the stranglehold that religion has on human beings over the centuries--regardless of whether each individual scientist actually regarded him/herself as a deist, a theist, an agnostic or an atheist.

        One thing that JH got almost right is that "the populist attraction of current atheism is limited to the intellect and does not result in pogroms against believers in religion."

        Of course, JH meant to distinguish the current situation from, say, the horrors of Stalin's Russia and other Communist-ruled countries. But "pogroms against believers in religion"? Whenever people were forcibly forbidden from worshiping their chosen deity, this was generally done in violation of the formal laws of the country in question. And the Communists didn't go about burning people at the stake, or within churches. In those instances where repression went a lot further that mere closing down of places of worship, it was in the context of a similar repression being meted our to other parts of the population, and in particular to the very Communists!

        Soviet Russia under Stalin is a case in point, where thousands upon thousands of Trotsky's Communists and other assorted leftists were summarily executed in the Gulags, and where a larger number of normal citizens were also imprisoned under various accusations (from being kulaks/rich peasants to harboring cosmopolitism [an early codeword for "Jews"] to Zionism [a later, more explicit codeword for "Jews"]. Indeed the Jews were repressed not because of their religion as such, but because Stalin and the Soviet bureaucrats after him regarded them as "disloyal citizens."

        Thus it is vastly incorrect to assume that atheists inflicted more suffering on society than religious people. Just take a look at the Old Testament, which is sacred to all monotheistic religions. The god which many people love and admire is, in His (actually, their) own words, a genocidal criminal!

        Little surprise that they went on slaughtering and raping in his holy name, or that they still do, in the Islamist variant.

        Nobody kills (or even threatens to) you if you mock Hitchens or Darwin. That's the hallmark of atheism: live and let live! A militant atheist is best described as someone who lets you enjoy your beer, doesn't care about your sexual mores and whether you're married or not, and only fights back (with words) whenever you try to impose on society what some backward Middle-Age people wrote in a book centuries ago (ie. your religion).

        Come to think of it, some of these notions are enshrined in the American Constitution!

        Bless the Founding Fathers!

        JE comments:  Luciano Dondero's eloquent post can also be read as a response to Tim Brown (8 March).  I'd like to organize a "Religion and Atheism" roundtable discussion at WAIS '15.  For now, my Dream Team would involve Tim, Luciano, Vincent Littrell, and John Heelan.

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    • Organized Religion vs. Secular Excesses (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/09/15 2:52 PM)
      Timothy Brown's post of 8 March requires some clarification. Timothy incorrectly implied that I believe "atheism or agnosticism are, or ever have been, in any way superior to religions that believe in God." Quite to the contrary, I believe that God, the Universe, based on the scientific method, is far superior in terms of results for the benefit of mankind than any other religion, including atheism.

      Further, while I agree with John Eipper's comments, Timothy incorrectly assigned the "chicken or egg?" analogy to my observation that organized religion, based on the fact that it seems to produce more hurt than good, is obviously the Devil's work in comparison with science, which obviously has produced so much benefits for mankind. Timothy's observations, based on a comparison of organized religions with a collection of murderous atheists, concluded that while much evil has been produced by organized religions, they are not nearly as bad as these well-known nasty atheists. I should hope so.

      JE comments:  Tor Guimaraes has shared his theology with us on several occasions, but I have a curiosity:  is his God the Universe a sentient being?  If not, then can it be a God?

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      • Is God the Universe a Sentient Being? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/11/15 12:20 PM)
        In response to my post of 9 March, John Eipper asked, "Is Tor Guimaraes's God, the Universe, a sentient being?"

        This is an interesting and difficult question because of the many very different meanings of "sentient being."

        Per Wikipedia, "Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience). In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations. In Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that requires respect and care." To make things little more confusing, Wikipedia also states that "Water, for example, is a sentient being of the first order, as it is considered to possess only one sense, that of touch."

        The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language equates sentience with consciousness, and feelings as distinguished from perceptions or thoughts.

        The legal definition of a "Sentient Being" only addresses creatures that can suffer and feel pain; mostly animals and humans.

        My own answer is somewhat tentative, basically still a work in progress, because I have been forced to do a great deal of homework about this God-related thing that for many thousands of years people have been calling "souls," only to discover that apparently there are as many definitions/understandings of it as there are or have been people on this world. I find this incredible diversity amazing, given the importance of a soul to the concept of afterlife preached by most religions. Further, even though I see no evidence for any afterlife, my intuition tells me that whatever souls happen to be, they are the connection of each living thing and God, the Universe.

        To me God the Universe is made up of different forms of energy, including some that manifest themselves as sub-atomic particles with or without mass, forming the atomic elements, molecules, and whole organisms. Also, today's scientific knowledge has been sufficient to show evidence that there are some forms of energy yet to be better defined and understood. My understanding of the soul is as a form of energy connecting each living thing with God, the Universe, even though the organism itself (including humans) may not be aware of this connection. That is what I mean by the expression "getting in touch with the Universe," which has transformed my life.

        Following the rationale above, God the Universe is the ultimate "sentient being." The connection with all living things is based on feelings, not thinking. God does not think, because It already knows everything. Further, God has no ethics, because It is always right.

        JE comments: Perhaps God the Universe is all-powerful? I'm not going to give It the benefit of always being right, as this would not explain cancer, earthquakes, meteors, and lightning killing my sixth-grade classmate while he was playing baseball.

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        • God the Universe: Meteors, Lightning, etc. (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/16/15 1:46 AM)
          Commenting on my post of March 11th, John Eipper (happy birthday to you...) expressed his belief that God the Universe is wrong for allowing "cancer, earthquakes, meteors, and lightning killing [his] sixth-grade classmate while he was playing baseball."

          That seems like an extremely narrow-minded and unfair view. It basically assumes God is available as a referee between the comfort of mankind and the forces that drive the Universe from its inception to the creation of mankind. It also assumes God should intervene in the continuous struggle for life between the living organisms. God will not change the Universal rules for anyone. We humans must take responsibility for using our God-given reasoning abilities and the scientific method to learn about the Universe, to make sound decisions, and protect ourselves.

          Here is a framework which might help you see through this issue. Only God the Universe exists, then there is nothing (everything that has never happened). The Universe has gone from a point of unimaginable unstructured density to an expanding infinity in one Big Bang. Out of this Big Bang some energy coalesced into basic matter (Hydrogen atoms) which gravity forced into forming stars converting H into the next element (Helium), creating a huge H-bomb contained by gravity in a continuous struggle between these opposing forces. Eventually gravity will win, and depending on the size of the collapsing star, a mini big bang will occur, creating atomic number elements up to iron from smaller stars, and higher than iron from the larger stars.

          With all these atomic elements floating around in space, gravity did its thing again and started to clump them into things like asteroids/meteors, planets, moons, etc. Would John want God to interfere with its own rules by saying no asteroids/meteors are allowed, because someday some might hit the Earth and wipe out 90 percent of God's living species?

          After a large number of such collisions, the solar system was formed. Without the last major collision with Earth, which was so violent that it squirted out our moon into space, life on Earth would not have been possible. Now John would have to say Earth's collision with a huge (about a third of the Earth's mass?) asteroid is great in this case. Remember: Be careful what you pray for because you might get it; but God is always right.

          After life proliferated on this paradise Earth, through the law of evolution which now seems so obvious, the dinosaurs ruled the Earth and man's ancestors could only survive underground as low-level mammals. Then another major meteor, over John's objection, crashed into the Earth, set it on fire and wiped out the major dinosaurs species. This enabled the mammals to come out of the ground and eventually become the primates and homo erectus.

          Regarding disease, mankind has used their reasoning and the scientific method to identify and cure numerous diseases. There has been great progress, but not enough resources and energy has been invested in this effort. Imagine if instead of trying to manipulate and invade other nations, we used the resources for scientific development, new technologies, and innovation to improve human quality of life? What a hopeful dream! How much better would our world be today instead of widespread ignorance, increasing poverty, and lingering costly civil wars all over the world.

          Regarding any disasters hitting small children. That is a heartbreaker, me being a grandpa. So should we pray to God: please no more lightening strikes? Here is a way to think about this: Just by going from nothing to being born we have won a lottery against incredible odds. Life is precious and we want to prolong it as long as possible. Then we need to learn more about lightening strikes, to avoid them, to survive them, to benefit more from them. Meanwhile we mourn our painful temporary losses and accept that we are part of God just as lightening is.

          JE comments:  Thanks for the birthday wishes, Tor.  It was a restful weekend.  Just what the Doctor ordered.

          I'm also grateful to Tor for fleshing out his theology.  One point I'm unclear about:  does one pray to God the Universe?  To do so might be a comforting exercise, but clearly It would never change Its mind.

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          • God the Universe(s) (John Heelan, -UK 03/17/15 4:40 AM)
            Tor Guimaraes wrote on 16 March: "Only God the Universe exists; [outside of that] there is nothing (everything that has never happened). The Universe has gone from a point of unimaginable unstructured density to an expanding infinity in one Big Bang."

            This assumes that there is only one universe and there has never been a series of past universes or the chance of future universes. As such, is there any difference between this view of theology and those of competing monotheistic theologies? Further if there is the possibility of past, parallel and future universes, are they the same "god" or multiple "gods," as in Hinduism and animistic beliefs?

            JE comments: Deep questions, which remind me of Jorge Luis Borges.  (We do know where JLB is buried--in the very Argentine city of Geneva.)

            Tor Guimaraes has sent a further post on his worldview. WAIS traffic is massive today, but I'll get to Tor's post by tonight.

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            • God the Universe or Universes (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/20/15 12:29 PM)
              My thanks to John Heelan (17 March) for his interesting questions about my statement: "Only God the Universe exists; [outside of that] there is nothing (everything that has never happened). The Universe has gone from a point of unimaginable unstructured density to an expanding infinity in one Big Bang."

              John interprets my statement to mean that "there is only one universe and there has never been a series of past universes or the chance of future universes." That is not my assumption. I only make one assumption: The Universe exists, and it is God itself. Whether it is organized as only one or an infinite number of sub-universes is irrelevant. Similarly, whether the Universe cycles in an infinite sequence of contractions and Big Bangs, or only one Big Bang and an infinite expansion, is also irrelevant.

              In any case, I have great admiration for the scientific method (theoretical mathematical modeling and practical experimentation for validation) astronomers and astrophysicists have used to make amazing progress in understanding how the Universe works and its nature. Nevertheless, the theory that there are parallel or sequential universes is still mostly what I call in a weak theory phase: theoretically possible but there is little evidence to back it up.

              John asked, "is there any difference between this view of theology and those of competing monotheistic theologies?" To me the difference is along two dimensions. First, in terms of results, the difference is striking between: 1) The great benefits science and the scientific method used to discover universal truths have produced for mankind over time; versus 2) The results from man-made gods, which have produced relatively little benefits and considerable conflict and increasing violence, mostly by people disrespecting their own theologies and organized religions. For this big difference in results, guess whose side God is on. The second dimension concerns the sources of the religions: 1) Most organized religions seem to have few things in common: they are made by people claiming to be speaking for their god with little evidence to substantiate their assertions. As with most man-made things, there is confusion, hypocrisy, conflict, and the need for correction of past mistakes.

              2) In God is the Universe, there are no prophets. Science and the scientific method decides over time, as we learn about the Universe, what is true and what is false. That is another huge difference; no one gets burned at the stake, debate over the truth is part of the process, a more robust truth regarding universal laws and phenomena is an integral part of this theology/religion.

              Finally, John asked, "if there is the possibility of past, parallel and future universes, are they the same 'god' or multiple 'gods,' as in Hinduism and animistic beliefs?" One God, one Universe to infinity, regardless if it is organized as one or sub-universes, and regardless if it is one or infinite Big Bangs. Here is a kink for you to ponder. If there are parallel sub-universes, the energy from one may likely pass to another, so maybe one sub-universe may end and another may get started. There is evidence that our Universe is expanding at an increasing speed perhaps into emptiness--or "nothing?" Then what? Don't worry; I am sure God has that one under control.

              How long before the mathematical modeling and experimentation can shed light into these difficult questions seems too long indeed. Today we still have failed to mathematically link the well-known atomic physics with astrophysics (no "theory of everything" yet). Thus, we badly need more scientists and fewer religious extremists.

              JE comments: Scientists do seem to do a better job with quality-of-life issues than religious extremists.  But I would add that as recently as 3-4 centuries ago, theology was considered the "mother" of all sciences (knowledge).

              In Tor's Church of God the Universe, I vote we give prophethood to Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Pasteur, and Einstein--for starters.  Any other nominations?

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              • Thoughts on God the Universe: What will JS (Joe Sixpack) Say? (Richard Hancock, USA 03/21/15 3:12 PM)

                I wish to comment on Tor Guimaraes's concept of the God of the Universe. This is an interesting concept, but one useful only for the mental elite. This is not a religion that will be persuasive to "Joe Sixpack" in America and his cohorts in all other nations. I am an agnostic on the legend of Adam and Eve. I feel that in the early beginnings of mankind, questions arose among the members of the different tribes about creation. I think that it is likely that this story was invented by the prophets to provide the common man an easy understanding of the dawn of humanity. I feel like the later stories of the Bible on Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, John the Baptist and, finally, Jesus and his disciples were all historical. These records can certainly be easily understood by the common man throughout the world. That is why churches have missionaries and and we have an organization like Wycliffe Bible translators, who devote themselves to translating the Bible into hundreds of different languages.

                As I have mentioned previously, I have a set of the Great Books of the Western World, which includes the Bible, although it is not reprinted as a part of the set. Over the years, I have read quite a few of these volumes and have found that reading this whole set could scarcely be accomplished in a single lifetime if all leisure time were to be devoted to these books. Last year I noticed a slim introductory volume called The Great Conversation which had a suggested 10 years of selected readings. I decided that I would do this partly because I will have to live to the age of 99 to successfully complete this program. I am now in the second year of these readings and have found Plato, Aristophanes, Aristotle, Plutarch, etc. to be heavy going. These people are all of the pre-Christian era and their mention of a God or Gods is perplexing, to say the least. It was a great relief to read the New Testament as a part of the list--The Gospel according to Saint Mathew was a beautiful experience when compared to the pre-Christian readings.

                In closing, I will quote from an article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma (Winter 2014-15), published by the Oklahoma Historical Society, which has an article entitled "Prophecies from the Oklahoma Century Chest," a cache of letters of prophecy written in 1913 by important people in religion, journalism, medicine, law, education and banking. These were placed in a Century Chest in a Lutheran church with instructions that they be opened in 2013. These are all very interesting. The concluding words from the quote on religion from the Right Rev. Francis Key Brooke, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Oklahoma (1852-1918), is particularly pertinent to this post:

                "I cannot foresee nor foretell that all will have just the same things and enjoy them in the same way. There

                will still be differences of endowment in taste, capacity, desires, and the things to gratify them.

                But none calling themselves Christian will be discontented, envious, or covetous because each will be

                striving not chiefly to get what he himself wants, but to give his neighbor what that neighbor needs.

                And this I foresee, and as I foresee it, wish and pray for it."

                These inspiring Christian words are meaningful to people in all walks of life, from the most prosperous elite to the most humble manual laborers.

                JE comments:  Yes, charity.  I am reminded that I haven't passed the WAIS hat in a couple of months--so get ready.  (I must stress that Richard and Nancy Hancock have been generous Patrons of WAIS since time immemorial.  Thank you, Richard, and best of luck with your reading program.  I'm doing much the same thing, but in audio format during my long commute.  In my business, it's a treat to be read to.)

                So what do WAISers think:  When it comes to religion, do the world's Joe Sixpacks crave the easy answers?

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                • It's Good to Be Read to: The Great Courses (Enrique Torner, USA 03/23/15 1:32 AM)
                  John Eipper (see Richard Hancock, 21 March) wrote of listening to audio books during his commute. I am glad to see that I am not the only person in this world who likes to be read to, when unable to read by myself.

                  For about 4-5 years, I had to commute one hour and 15 minutes to work, and then back home. I discovered "The Great Courses," a company that is devoted to find the best college professors in the US and beyond, and have them record courses of all kinds in a bunch of different disciplines. I became addicted to them! I went from hating to loving my commute!

                  I must have taken 15-20 courses, at least, in history, literature, philosophy, religion, western civilization, and other subjects! So much to learn! What a joy! Then we ended up moving to Mankato, Minnesota, to be closer to work, and now I only have a 10-15 minute commute, which is nice, but I don't have much time to cover courses any more. The courses may be purchased on CD, DVD, or you may stream them onto your computer. They regularly put some of them on sale (up to 75% off), so you can get them really cheap. Check out their website:


                  JE comments: A great (courses) tip from Enrique Torner.  I've been relying on the ol' Public Library for my audio books.  They are surprisingly expensive to purchase, and when you're done with them, they don't look classy on a shelf like a real book.  It's best just to throw them in the return bin. 

                  In a year or two I'll probably be streaming books directly into my car from the Cloud (whatever that is), so I won't have to deal with physical media at all. 

                  Now all I need is a self-driving car...

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                  • It's Good to Be Read to (John Heelan, -UK 03/23/15 6:51 AM)
                    As I get older and my eyes tire very quickly, I often rely on audio books for entertainment and instruction. Luckily we get them downloaded for free from our local public library via the OneClickDigital service (http://iow.oneclickdigital.eu/Home/Featured.aspx ) so I can listen to them on my iPod at home and when I go to the gym with other coffin-dodgers.

                    My most recent "listen" was Orwell's Homage to Catalonia which, although I have it read several times, I found I understood the internecine politics far better having had it read to me by a professional actor.

                    My other "listens" have ranged from the classics (e.g. War and Peace--some 60 hours worth!), plays (e.g. Ibsen's Hedda Gabler), and various of my favourite crime writers.

                    JE comments: I'm going to tackle W & P one of these days.  Must get my ears prepared. Sixty hours of listening, at a steady 60 MPH, translates to 3600 miles of Tolstoy.  That's farther than Paris to Moscow--and back.

                    Alas and alack, the Royal Oak Public Library doesn't have Homage to Catalonia. I did, however, finish the 13 CDs of 1984 just last month. I had forgotten how brilliant a writer Orwell was.

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                    • Orwell (Paul Preston, -UK 03/24/15 4:12 AM)
                      In response to John Heelan and John Eipper (23 March), it's a pity that Orwell didn't understand the internecine politics inside Spain during the time that he was there as an uninformed observer.

                      JE comments: I might have been more cautious when I said Orwell was "brilliant." Several WAISers (including Robert Gibbs) have mentioned the tendentious and unreadable Road to Wigan Pier.  I've never read it, but the entire text is available on-line:


                      When it comes to the political treatise, I'm still very impressed by Emmanuel Goldstein's Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, two chapters of which are embedded in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

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                      • Orwell (John Heelan, -UK 03/24/15 10:33 AM)
                        Paul Preston (24 March) is of course perfectly correct when he comments, "It's a pity that Orwell didn't understand the internecine politics inside Spain during the time that he was there as an uninformed observer."

                        One can trace the subsequent changes in his naive and perhaps romantic political thinking on arrival in Spain, in the months following his return from Spain, moving from his initial admiration of the Communist policy to an apparent bitter dislike.

                        JE comments: I'd like to add a naive question: at what point did Orwell become disillusioned with Stalinism? Was it in the wake of his service in Spain?

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                        • When Did Orwell Become Disillusioned with Stalinism? (Paul Preston, -UK 03/25/15 1:29 AM)
                          To answer JE's question of 24 March, I'm not sure that Orwell was ever "illusioned" with Stalinism. He was certainly hostile by the time that he left Spain.

                          However, for what it is worth, my view of the problem concerning Orwell's Homage to Catalonia and, by extension, its cinematic version, Ken Loach's film Land and Freedom, lies not so much in what they say but in their audiences and how they are perceived. Orwell's book is an interesting eye-witness account by a partial witness of a tiny fragment of the Spanish Civil War. If I were assembling a list of one hundred or so important books on the war, I would certainly include it. However, I would not do so as a reliable overview of the war nor even of the central debate over whether the Spanish Republic should have made its priority revolution and not a conventional war effort against Franco and his Axis allies. I would include it, just as I would include Spike Milligan's Hitler My Part in his Downfall in a long list of books on the Second World War, as a worm's eye view by a foot soldier.

                          Herbert Matthews, the great New York Times correspondent wrote years after the publication of Homage to Catalonia, "The book did more to blacken the Loyalist cause than any work written by enemies of the Second Republic--a result that Orwell did not intend, as some things he wrote later proved. In Homage, Orwell was writing in white heat about a confused, unimportant, and obscure incident in a war he did not understand. All he saw from December 1936 to May 1937, was a little stretch of the 'phony front' at Huesca, and a bloody clash between Communists and Anarchists in Barcelona. He had volunteered in London through the leftist Independent Labour Party, which had links with the Spanish POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista). This was a dissident, very Marxist, not treacherous, but somewhat subversive revolutionary group that was proving dangerous to the Republican government."

                          The perceived honesty of Orwell's book has been one of the pillars of its success along, of course, with its anti-Communist stance. However, not long after the publication of the book, he himself was questioning some of the things that he had written. On 20 December 1938, in a letter to Frank Jellinek, he wrote about Homage to Catalonia. "I have no doubt I have made a lot of mistakes and misleading statements, but I have tried to indicate all through that the subject is very complicated and that I am extremely fallible as well as biased." He also confessed to Jellinek, "Actually I've given a more sympathetic account of the POUM "line" than I actually felt, because I always told them they were wrong and refused to join the party." Far from believing that the Spanish Republic was turning into a Stalinist dictatorship, he wrote in late 1938 or very early 1939, a hymn of praise for the fact that democratic norms had been maintained: "The war has now lasted two-and-a-half years and caused perhaps a million deaths, besides unheard-of-misery. How much damage has it done to the cause of democracy? One has only to consider the possibilities of modern war, the kind of things that governments will have to do to hold their peoples together, to feel very doubtful whether there will be much democracy left anywhere after several years of ‘all-in' warfare between great nations. Yet it is a fact that the Spanish war, in nearly every way so terrible, has been a hopeful portent in this respect. In Government Spain both the forms and the spirit of democracy have survived to an extent that no one would have foreseen; it would even be true to say that during the first year of the war they were developing."

                          Unfortunately, for thousands of people, Homage to Catalonia is the only book on the Spanish Civil War that they will ever read--its year-on-year sales show that it outsells any other single book on the war. So, it is not a question of denigrating Orwell but rather of raising awareness that his perceptions are often wrong precisely because they are so narrow and so localised. Orwell's book in isolation gives the impression that the key events of the Spanish Civil War took place on the Aragón front and in Barcelona during the May Days of 1937 and, most misleading of all, promotes the idea that the Spanish Republic was defeated because of Communist policy.

                          Orwell's book makes it too easy to forget that the Spanish Republic was defeated by Franco, Hitler, Mussolini, and the pusillanimity and narrow-mindedness of the British, American and French governments. Stalin has a lot to answer for, but not for Franco's victory.

                          JE comments:  Thank you, Paul, for patiently explaining this.  Herbert Matthews and Ronald Hilton were central figures in the "breaking" of the Bay of Pigs story, and I found several correspondences between the two in the RH archives.  Here's a 2006 post on "The Man who Invented Fidel" (that was Matthews, according to biographer Antony DePalma, who would later write Prof. H's obituary in the NYT).


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                        • Orwell and Stalinism (John Heelan, -UK 03/25/15 1:52 AM)
                          JE asked on 24 March: "At what point did Orwell become disillusioned with Stalinism? Was it in the wake of his service in Spain?"

                          Based on my reading of Homage to Catalonia, I suspect that it started with the communists depicting the Trotskyist POUM as a fascist fifth column and then purging it violently. There was a propaganda poster published at the time depicting the Trotskyist POUM pulling off a communist mask to reveal a swastika mask beneath it. (I have tried unsuccessfully to find a copy of the poster on the Internet.)

                          Further, Orwell disliked what he thought was communist influence stopping what he considered the real truth of happening in Barcelona being published in the media. Perhaps this was a source for his creation of the Ministry of Truth in his novel 1984? The book Orwell in Spain, a collection of his articles, book reviews and sundry writings post-Spain, gives a useful insight to the way his view changed.

                          JE comments:  Trotsky was the not-so-veiled inspiration for Orwell's Emmanuel Goldstein, the arch-enemy former member of Big Brother's inner circle in 1984.  Throughout the novel, one suspects that Goldstein had merely been invented by the Oceania regime to give everyone something to hate.

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                          • Orwell and Barcelona's "May Days" (Paul Preston, -UK 03/26/15 4:26 AM)
                            John Heelan (25 March) is probably right about the factors that inspired Orwell's anti-Communism. However, I do not think that Orwell understood what John calls "the real truth of [what was] happening in Barcelona."

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

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

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

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

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

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

                              2) He was there and they were not.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                    Not bloodthirsty? Tell that to the birds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                            I repeat: Orwell was there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                This is arrogant nonsense, and I beg to differ.

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

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

                                                The pigeons are itching to fly...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                          • 9 Savoia SM-81 bomber aircraft from Italy

                                                          • 5 Fiat L3 CV/33 light tankettes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                        Sorry but this sounds unbelievable.

                                                        JE comments:  Mob violence? 

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


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

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


                                                        See also this 2012 comment from Ángel:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

                                                        Sorry for my previous mistakes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                              JE comments:  A Super PAC avant la lettre? 

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

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

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

                                                    As always, rhetoric continues to trump reality.

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

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

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

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

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

                                              Next up:  a further comment from Nigel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                            Antonio Machado's poem is always valid:

                                            "Españolito que vienes

                                            al mundo te guarde Dios.

                                            una de las dos Españas

                                            ha de helarte el corazon."

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

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

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

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

                                              Neither side was democratic nor free, unfortunately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              All my respects to them.

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                We'd love to hear from you, Stanley!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  Things were very different at that time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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                          • Was POUM Trotskyist? Semi-Trotskyist? (David Pike, -France 03/26/15 1:57 PM)
                            John Heelan (25 March) described the POUM as Trotskyist. So do others. And some historians write of the "semi-Trotskyist POUM." But if Trotsky said, "The POUM has nothing to do with me," and the POUM said, "We have nothing to do with Trotsky," I (and Pierre Broué, at U Montpelier) are prepared to believe that they don't belong together.

                            JE comments: I'm especially intrigued by the term "semi-Trotskyist."  That's historical "nuanced discourse" at its finest!

                            I've heard historians argue that Jefferson was not really "Jeffersonian."

                            Luciano Dondero is WAISdom's resident expert on all things Trotsky. I hope he'll comment.

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                            • Was POUM Trotskyist? Semi-Trotskyist? (Luciano Dondero, Italy 03/27/15 2:14 PM)
                              To respond to JE's question (see David Pike, 26 March), at the time of the Spanish Civil War, the term "Trotskyist" was abusive.  At least that's how it was used by Stalinists and their fellow travelers--i.e., the Spanish Republican government in this case.

                              The Moscow Trials took place in 1936, 1937 and 1938. Here below you can see a Soviet poster which captures pretty well the Stalinist approach at the time:

                              The main slogan is "Destroy the vermin."  A working-class type crushes Trotsky, described below as "An enemy of the people" that should be "Made to disappear from the face of the Earth together with his bloody fascist clique!" The French Communist Party used the expression "Hitlero-trotskysme" in the course of the armed Resistance against Nazi occupants and the Vichy government to refer to anybody who disagreed with them from the left. Various leftists were murdered both in France and Italy (as well as in Yugoslavia and Greece) because they did not toe Stalin's line.

                              The POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista--Workers' Party of Marxist Unification) had been born in 1935 when the Bukharinist Bloque Obrero y Campesino (Workers and Peasants' Bloc, BOC) led by Joaquín Maurín and the Trotskyist Izquierda Comunista de España (the Communist Left of Spain, ICE) led by Andreu Nin, joined together.

                              Both Maurín and Nin had been leaders of the Spanish Communist Party. Nin spent many years in Moscow as a leading member of the Profintern (the International association of Trade unions linked to CPs affiliated with the Communist International). He was a supporter of Leon Trotsky, and when he returned to Spain he built the Izquierda Comunista as the local Trotskyist chapter. He and Trotsky had disagreements on various issues, in particular Trotsky argued that the IC should enter the Socialist party and push it to the left. Failure to do so meant that the CP Youth led by Santiago Carrillo fused with the SP youth and basically gobbled it up. In Catalonia the adult parties fused as well, forming the PSUC, which remained well after the return to democracy in Spain the official Catalonian CP.

                              Then the issue of the POUM came up. Trotsky opposed it because the BOC had split from the Spanish CP from the right--that is, they had been against the "Third period" line and were open-minded regarding the possibility of an alliance with the Spanish bourgeoisie--i.e., the Popular Front (or People's Front) against fascism.

                              On this issue basically the POUM and Trotsky's organization, the "Movement for the Fourth International" parted ways. But Maurín found himself behind enemy lines in 1936 (in Galicia), and essentially out of any active role in the POUM. People in fact thought he had died, and the party was to all effects led by Nin. This even though the ICE had numbered 500 at the time of the fusion, while the BOC had some 5,000 members.

                              In the 1936 elections the POUM supported the PF, but did not in fact join the various PF Governments in Republican Spain. It also built its own militia battalions, and opposed most of the Soviet Union's positions both in Spain and internationally.

                              Was the POUM "Trotskyist"? Officially it wasn't. However, within the Communist movement at the time, you either supported Stalin's USSR or you didn't.

                              "La Batalla," POUM's official organ, strongly criticized the Moscow Trials, and was clearly and openly sympathetic toward Leon Trotsky and agreed with many of his criticisms of the Soviet Union, for instance talking about the "bureaucratic and totalitarian degeneration of the USSR."

                              In conclusion, I think that to call the POUM "semi-Trotskyist" is probably the most accurate statement: the reciprocal proclamations of "having nothing to do with the other" were simply false, incorrect and inaccurate polemical remarks. Pierre Broué, although he was a capable historian, was for most of his life a leading member of the French Trotskyist OCI/PCI (led by Pierre Lambert), and his views in the 1970s/1990s were colored by the dogmatic approach of his ideology.

                              Trotsky himself did not really give up on the POUM while Nin was alive--he was murdered by the Stalinists in 1937 after a fake trial--but his criticism of the POUM is occasionally hard to follow. If you want to give it a try, read "The Class, the Party and the Leadership" (see https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1940/xx/party.htm ), where Trotsky polemicized against the pro-POUM critique of a pamphlet by "Casanova" (Mieczyslaw Bortenstein), a leading member of the Trotskyists in Spain. The three texts (Casanova's, the French Que Faire (What is To be Done)'s and Trotsky's own) are intertwined. It took me several readings in many languages, and my own work at translating it into Italian (and a few years) to really get to grips with it.

                              JE comments:  Many thanks to Luciano Dondero for walking us through these complexities.  Here's the poster.  You can see where Orwell got his inspiration for "Hate Week."

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                            • POUM and Trotsky; Stalin's Intervention in Spain (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 03/28/15 3:57 AM)
                              David Pike has a usually reliable compass in Pierre Broue on things Trotsky. Many other historians don't know what to make of Trotsky's relations with the POUM, and they often say "semi-Trotskyist." But Trotsky broke emphatically with Andres Nin. Strictly speaking, Nin and Maurin originally opposed Stalinism from the standpoint of Bukharinism, rather than "Trotskyism," that is, they opposed primarily the Soviet collectivization of agriculture, at a time when Trotsky, from Prinkipo Island, was supporting it.

                              Isaac Deutscher and several others who became sympathetic to Trotsky after his exile also started out as defenders of the Bukharin line. On Spain, Trotsky refused to see any virtue in the Popular Front and saw it as the enemy of the Spanish revolution. To the end he held that world revolution, and not anti-fascism, was the only answer to the fascist threat.

                              I wonder if Paul Preston would object to the following:

                              Stalin only came around to intervening in Spain when the Politburo refused (temporarily) to let him investigate and try (and shoot) Bukharin in the fall of 1936. Anti-fascism was at that time the perspective of Bukharin and Radek. Molotov opposed this and wanted to avoid war with Nazi Germany. Bukharin thought that the war in Spain would rally Britain and France to anti-fascist action. When this expectation failed, Stalin could see the disadvantage of presenting the two western powers with a red republic in Spain. Hence his subsequent action in extending the purge in Russia to Spain, to the POUM, the Trotskyists, and the anarchists.

                              I know this is a different question than asking whether the purge in Spain was the cause of the defeat of the republic.

                              JE comments: It's always a pleasure to hear from veteran WAISer Anthony D'Agostino.  If I understand his description correctly, Anthony suggests that Stalin's purges of POUM et al. were actually an attempt to make the Spanish Republic less unpalatable to Britain and France by eliminating the "reddest" elements.

                              This is a very timely discussion for me:  starting Monday, we'll be covering the Spanish Civil War in my Spanish culture and literature class.  I wish I could bring a few WAISers to campus for a roundtable.

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                              • POUM, Andreu Nin, Trotsky (Paul Preston, -UK 03/29/15 3:44 AM)
                                I think that the minutiae of the question of "how Trotskyist was Andreu Nin?" is one for specialists in Marxist variants. Nin was certainly an anti-Stalinist communist and, in that sense, broadly sympathetic to the Fourth International line. I tend to use the broad brush label "semi- or quasi-Trotskyist" because, outside of a detailed discussion, one rarely has time or space to go into the theoretical specifics of the case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                          Either way, gracias, Ángel.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                        The answer is in the wind.

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

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

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

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

                                          JE comments:  Excellent points.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                              • Stalin's Intervention in Spain (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/29/15 3:52 AM)
                                I apologize for not having participated in the Forum for several months. I have been busy carrying out several projects on the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship.

                                If John Eipper starts a class on this topic he might be interested in knowing that I've coordinated 36 Spanish and non-Spanish historians for a collection of essays about the recent historiography on the SCW both in Spain and abroad. I don´t know how I could upload the result into the WAIS network. It´s a heavy volume of over 500 pages in pdf. Obviously I can send it to any interested WAISer.

                                Much of the discussion in this forum on this topic has proved to me that interested opinion abroad is utterly in the dark about the new publications in Spain which appear almost every week.

                                For those interested in the subject I´ve started a blog on SCW topics mainly. It´s available in my Facebook page. The next posts will be on Guernica, whose destruction happened on 26 April, 1937.

                                I´m putting the finishing touches on a book about five Franco myths. It´ll come out at the end of September. I´ve made a point of honor to demonstrate to most of my colleagues (Paul Preston excepted) and a general audience that the current Franco image in foreign historiography is wide of the mark particularly in relation to the nature of the dictatorship, Franco´s orientation in foreign policy and Franco´s finances.

                                Finally, because a recent Franco biography is historiographically speaking a real shame, I´ve put together a group of historians so as to denounce the scientific turpitude of its authors. We´re dealing in particular with Franco´s repressive activities in the postwar period. The results will hopefully become available on the 40th anniversary of Franco´s death next November.

                                Please forgive me for not participating in this Forum for the time being but I have really no time.

                                JE comments: I'm overjoyed to have you back, Ángel! As a small apéretif on Franco, could you send us a paragraph or two on his finances? The conventional wisdom (at least as far as this not-really-a-specialist understands it) was that Franco did not overly enrich himself at government expense.  I presume I'm wrong about that.

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                              • Stalin's Intervention in Spain (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 03/30/15 6:14 AM)

                                Responding to Anthony D'Agostino's post of 28 March, Pierre Broue is not a "reliable compass on things Trotsky," I am afraid. I am sure Paul Preston will make his own best qualified comment here. I shall simply say that to my mind Anthony's interpretation of Stalin's intervention in Spain is absolutely incorrect.

                                Stalin's plans were rather different in August of 1936, and that had little to do with Spain or fascism. And--we must make this very clear--there was no Stalinist purge in Spain, and there was no action against the anarchists. On the contrary, there was an attempt to collaborate with them. At the time Trotsky was officially announced as the number one enemy of the Russian state, so since 1938 there were plans to murder him, but the POUM was well known not to be the Trotskyite party. However, they extended an invitation to Trotsky to come to Barcelona from Norway (he actually landed in Mexico) and that was what led to the destruction of the party and the death of Andreu Nin.

                                All this is described in detail in Paul Preston's, Ángel Viñas's, Helen Graham's and my own books.

                                With all respect to Nigel Jones, who is my co-author in Salisbury Review and whose publications I always read with great interest--does he have any documentary proof that Andreu Nin was "tortured to death"?

                                JE comments:  As a further question re:  Nin's death, what is the probability that he was taken to the Soviet Union for execution?

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                                • Execution of Andreu Nin (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 03/31/15 7:50 AM)

                                  John E asked about the possibility that Andreu Nin was taken to Moscow for execution. Well, it is never possible to state anything for sure in such matters, but to the best of my knowledge, and I describe it in great detail in my recent Orlov book, Nin was killed in Spain near Madrid by Orlov and his team that included Luis Lacasa, Erich Tacke, Iosif Grigulevich and two Spaniards whose names we cannot identify with 100% probability.

                                  JE comments:  Time and again, we're reminded that Franco didn't win the SCW.  It was the fractious Republic that lost.

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                                • Stalin's Intervention in Spain; Response to Boris Volodarsky (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 04/01/15 6:48 AM)
                                  I was surprised that Boris Volodarsky (30 March) writes that my lines about the internal struggle over the Bukharin case and its relation to the Soviet decision to intervene in Spain are "absolutely incorrect."

                                  That was very quick. I can't help but wonder why they are so absolutely incorrect? Would Boris instruct me a little bit? Where did I go wrong about Bukharin and Molotov?

                                  Not trying to challenge anyone's credentials here, but just trying to have a little discussion.

                                  JE comments: My apologies to Anthony D'Agostino for the delay in posting. P-mail has some teething problems...

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                            • Poem: "Trotsky Explains Lenin to Frida Kahlo" (Luciano Dondero, Italy 03/29/15 4:26 AM)
                              In a website devote to Mennonite poetry, I found this gem by Leonard Neufeldt, which I believe deserves to be reproduced in WAIS:

                              Trotsky Explains Lenin To Frida Kahlo

                              He wore deep learning as disguise,

                              believable, perfect cover

                              for that love of self that burns with a low blue

                              fire you can hold in an open hand,

                              but dare not, the miracle

                              deferred for the flame's fuel,

                              and the mystery of how

                              it sets itself ablaze, burns steadfast

                              as sulfur in a swamp or a people's

                              revolution, the memory

                              its small shapes spark

                              long afterward in those

                              who like to bring past and future round

                              to anthems of praise, every word

                              sweeping its heat skyward,

                              burning the night air black

                              to its very edge, words

                              I passed my hands through,

                              hurting them

                              because Stalin

                              had invented fire so cold

                              it can reach all the way back

                              to Nothing, beyond the last

                              frozen sleeve of stars

                              © Leonard Neufeldt. Queen's Quarterly, Vol. 118 (2011).

                              (from http://www.mennonitepoetry.com/leonardneufeldt/indexframes.html )

                              A few words are needed to understand the context. Trotsky and Frida Kahlo were briefly lovers in 1937, when Trotsky was in exile in Mexico, living in the house of Frida and her husband Diego Rivera.

                              Her side of their love affair can be seen in her painting reproduced below. His side has been so far only expressed in his subsequent, groveling words of regret to his wife Natalia Sedova.

                              But I think that this English poet has managed to capture not only the contents of Trotsky's approach, and his deep admiration for Lenin, but also the form in which to express his own love of self, and love for Frida; and possibly, also capture the way in which he conducted his seduction. Marvelous!

                              The letter in Frida's hands in her self-portrait says: "To Leon Trotsky with affection I dedicate this painting, the 7th of November 1937. Frida Kahlo. In San Angel, Mexico" (The day was the 20th anniversary of the Russian Revolution).

                              JE comments:  Frida-Diego mania is gripping the Motor City at present, as a historic exhibit has opened at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Adrian College's Spanish program will visit this coming Thursday (April 2nd):


                              Today's WAIS features at least two poems about authoritarian world leaders.  Gary Moore sent some original verses on Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, which I'll publish this afternoon.

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                  • Self-Driving Cars (Enrique Torner, USA 03/25/15 2:12 AM)
                    John E's dream of having a self-driving car (23 March) is coming in about 15 years! Mercedes has been working on a "robo-car" for a few years already. This topic was news just yesterday. This is from yesterday's web article:

                    "Two years ago, its [Mercedes] Intelligent Drive research vehicle drove 60 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim, Germany, negotiating urban and highway traffic all by itself. The latest E- and S-Class models already handle themselves in traffic jams using something Mercedes calls Stop&Go pilot. That ability should include autonomous highway driving with a few years."


                    There was even a poll to find out if Americans would trust these self-driving cars, and the result was split: 52% thought they would be dangerous; 48%, reliable. Here is the link to the web article, posted 6 hours ago!:


                    Google has also advertised that there will be autonomous cars in 3-5 years.

                    I can't wait! No more worrying about falling asleep at the wheel. Then we'll be able to read or write while on the road. We could even drink and eat at the same time. Watch television, a DVD, or work on the computer. We'll be able to get more work accomplished. The future is here.

                    JE comments: WAIS IT guru Roman Zhovtulya and I have spoken several times about self-driving cars. I'm not very optimistic.  Although the technology for autonomous vehicles is already quite mature, the obstacles include litigation, snow and ice, and one reality of the IT industry: a computer crash is something we accept and even expect. This is not the case when your life and safety are at stake.

                    Who will be found responsible for the first dozen or so self-driving fatalities?  In the meantime, for my commute, give me a helicopter with a pilot.

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                    • Self-Driving Cars (Roman Zhovtulya, USA 03/27/15 3:45 AM)
                      Just a quick note to put some of John E's concerns to rest about self-driving cars. (See Enrique Torner, 25 March.)

                      1) Litigation

                      It's less of a problem than we might think. There will be a large enough insurance ($10-$100 million) for the first cars (probably commercial fleets), and once the public sees that it's really difficult to get killed around them, the public acceptance will grow exponentially.

                      I think the big positive boost to the popularity of self-driving vehicles will come when (not if) somebody tries to pull insurance scam/tricks (by backing up or throwing themselves under the moving vehicle). Because every millisecond of what's going on around the car is recorded and reported back to HQ, it will be pretty easy to see the truth.

                      When Jeremy Clarkson of Fifth Gear tried to pull a similar trick with a Tesla Roadster, they got publicly humiliated worldwide:


                      Imagine the public outcry when somebody tried to harm one of these cuties:


                      2) Snow and Ice

                      I believe will should be able to deal with it much better than the average driver (orders of magnitude faster reaction time, 360-degree field of view at all times, driving experience exceeding that of thousands of professional drivers, etc.).

                      3) JE wrote about "one reality of the IT industry: a computer crash is something we accept and even expect. This is not the case when your life and safety are at stake."

                      Self-driving cars will not be running on consumer-grade hardware or software. The requirements will probably be akin to those in airline or medical industries.

                      Frankly, I feel like it's the same old story again. We've already gone through this with paper (Cicero fearing we would lose our memory if we wrote everything down), steam engines (people losing jobs), internal combustion (horse-drawn carriages are safer), etc.

                      To put things into perspective, here are the issues/concerns when humanity moved from using scrolls to books for information storage:


                      (original with English subtitles)


                      (English remake)

                      JE comments: I remember that Roman Zhovtulya and I had much the same conversation two years ago, as we rode in a (drive-it-yourself) van from the Detroit airport to Adrian.  Roman's technological exuberance is always a healthy counterpoint to my inner Luddite.

                      Time will tell.  The problem with the airline analogy is that you would have millions of computers communicating with each other on a given morning's commute.  One failure could result in many deaths.  And in America at least, litigation is never less of a problem than you might think.

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          • God the Universe and Prayer (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/17/15 2:01 PM)
            My thanks to John Eipper (16 March) for his interest in my theology. But my theology is much more than just words. I use it in my everyday life to guide my behavior towards God the Universe in all its physical and spiritual manifestations. I am one of these people who tries to do as much as possible what I say, as well as say what I mean.

            Commenting on my post John wrote: "One point I'm unclear about: does one pray to God the Universe? To do so might be a comforting exercise, but clearly It would never change Its mind."

            Yes, I pray to God very often. The prayer is almost standard and very simple. It asks for forgiveness for my relative ignorance and stupidity. It thanks God the Universe for all the wonderful things already received, and asks for more of the same (health, success in my efforts, and happiness). It is indeed a very comforting exercise and one of my greatest fears is that I my lose it for whatever reason.

            John's assumption that besides being comforting, there is no other benefit from my prayers because "clearly [God} would never change Its mind" is very wrong. The true God will not change Universal rules for anyone, but clearly there seems to be a lot of room to work within the rules and to harness the various forms of energy at work. I have experienced a few major miracles ranging from still unexplainable happenings to success against impossible odds in specific cases. In a few cases my prayers saved my life or brought me great personal benefits; and John knows that I am a skeptic by nature.

            For the most part the benefits from my prayers are a reflection of my strong care about the truth and doing things right, and assuming that God demands not doing to others what you don't want others doing to you. Science and the scientific method are critical to learn about God the Universe, but also critical because life is all about being prepared to Identify the real problems and opportunities and making changes for implementing the best solutions. This does not mean you are not going to make mistakes, but reducing the intensity and number of mistakes is critical.

            This is a very serious problem for society in general, because increasingly our leaders are being selected for their good looks or ability to finance extensive propaganda campaigns. How can these people make the complex decisions required of them? Thus, for example, we have the sad situation Eugenio Battaglia discussed today: "As recently as 5 March, US Secretary of State John Kerry was still saying that military pressure may be needed to oust the Syrian president. But now he has finally been struck on the road to Damascus and has agreed that it is necessary to negotiate with Assad. Four years too late, not too bad for a Secretary of State."

            Perhaps our leaders need to care enough to learn more and pray for wisdom.

            JE comments:  I'm ready to steer this conversation back to politics.  What are Tor Guimaraes's thoughts about negotiating with Assad?  Is he saying that Secretary Kerry finally saw the light, or the other way around?

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          • Thoughts on God the Universe; from William Kyburz (John Eipper, USA 03/17/15 4:00 PM)
            Our friend in Rochester, NY, William Kyburz, sends this response to Tor Guimaraes (16 March):

            I am glad Tor Guimaraes responded about that young friend of John E's being struck by lightning, which led John to believe that God was not always right.

            I originally did not want to respond to it, as touching on others' feelings and beliefs is not generally a good idea.

            But I did want John to consider the following.

            The human frailty part of the equation. Who would allow a young boy to play baseball out on a field with a chance of thunderstorms?

            I remember a few years ago a huge storm came through Honduras. It killed many. The ones it killed had built shoddy housing next to a river. I remember an individual who lost his entire family now deciding he did not believe in God.


            God gave us moral responsibility which reduces to a form of free will.

            When we misuse it, we should not hold it against God. Usually when we point the finger at God, three fingers are pointing back at us.

            My understanding of God is pretty close to Tor Guimares's view. Why? Because it makes sense. Comparing the God that I grew up with, my father being Catholic and my mother a Protestant, to an intelligent being is just a myth.

            I remember asking as a young boy, "Who created the Creator?" and the answer was, "He created himself." Really? Why not simplify it and make the claim that the Creator and the Creation are the same thing? And if you do, you get Tor Guimaraes's concept of God.

            Well enough out of me. Happy belated birthday.

            JE comments: Many thanks, Bill. It won't be long now 'till the next one (birthday).

            "Man proposes, God disposes."  With these words Ulysses S. Grant began his Personal Memoirs.  But (no cheating/Googling, please), who knows the origin of this expression?  Hint:  it is not the Bible.

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    • Organized Religion vs Secular Excesses; from Noah Rich (John Eipper, USA 03/10/15 7:43 AM)
      Noah Rich, a student of linguistics and International Studies at Ohio University, introduced himself to WAISworld in February (http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=91305&objectTypeId=76878&topicId=182 ). He sends this response to Timothy Brown's post of 8 March, on "organized religion vs secular excesses."

      I would like to take a look at a comment Tim made:

      "I don't see any evidence whatsoever that atheism or agnosticism are, or ever have been, in any way superior to religions that believe in God. Just the opposite. There are far stronger arguments based only on recent and extremely well-documented historical events that support a conclusion that non-religious ideologies are far more likely to kill off humans by the millions than are religions."

      To begin, I would like for Tim to please highlight which "extremely well-documented historical events" he is referring to. I have a few in mind, but I'd like to see what he is focusing on to better understand his perspective. Especially to see if the events involved both agnostics and atheists, or only atheists, and Tim is simply lumping agnostics in with them.

      Continuing, I do find that agnosticism is superior to extremist views on religion. Two very good, and opposite spectrum, examples are Catholicism and atheism. Why do I believe agnosticism is superior to the extremist views? I myself grew up Catholic, attended Catholic elementary school and high school, and have received the sacraments up through confirmation. I've had plenty of time to learn the Catholic church's teachings, and the large variety of views that today's Catholics have. From the old-school conservative Catholics, to the modern-day progressive "Catholics." I mention this because as I'm sure we're all aware of the large number of people who consider themselves Catholic who do not actually follow or believe Catholic teachings, as there are in any major world religion.

      The Catholic church teaches that through two things, and two things alone, one may determine that the existence and continuing presence of God in our lives is irrefutably set in place by sacred scripture and sacred tradition. So in other words, a main separation between most other Christian denominations (and I use "most" because I don't know the exact beliefs/teachings of all of them) is that Catholics claim they know God exists, whereas many Christian denominations claim they believe God exists. It's the same with the separation between agnosticism and atheism. (This is why I very much dislike when people group them together.) Atheists deny the existence of God. Agnostics do not make any claim other than the real truth cannot be known. God may exist, God may not exist.

      By this, I would say that simply from an ideological perspective, agnostics are superior than both groups because both are claiming to know something which isn't known. It's far more open-minded about the subject than either group has been through history, and continues to be in our modern day.

      JE comments:  A thought exercise:  is it even possible to commit excesses in the name of agnosticism?  I'm not comfortable with the word "superior" in the context of culture or religion, but agnosticism finds its appeal (and strength) in its lack of conviction.  This is an ideal environment for the "live and let live" attitude outlined earlier today by Luciano Dondero (although Luciano was speaking of atheism).

      Thank you, Noah, for your comment.

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