Anthony Beevor is a military historian; and his book is mainly a record of armies and battles. The forces that destabilized the government and created so much tension within the country are quickly summarized; and the aftermath of the war—its legacy, its lingering effects in Spanish political life, its wider significance in 20th century political history—all this is hinted at, but not delved into. Like any historian, Beevor needs to set limits to his material. He focuses on the Iberian peninsula in the years between
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Anthony Beevor is a military historian; and his book is mainly a record of armies and battles. The forces that destabilized the government and created so much tension within the country are quickly summarized; and the aftermath of the war—its legacy, its lingering effects in Spanish political life, its wider significance in 20th century political history—all this is hinted at, but not delved into.
Like any historian, Beevor needs to set limits to his material. He focuses on the Iberian peninsula in the years between Beevor is an excellent writer. His paragraphs are mines of information; he summarizes, offers statistics, gives striking examples. He surveys the battlefield like an aerial observer; he reports power struggles like an investigative journalist. He never lets the material run away from him, but compresses complex events into well-turned sentences.
His focus is more on large-scale movements than on individual stories. So many actors are involved, all with different motives—communists, anarchists, republicans, trade unionists, conservatives, falangists, carlists, monarchists, Basques, Catalans, Germans, Italians, Soviets, Americans, British, French—that presenting the war as a clean story is impossible. This is an effective strategy, but it comes at the price of a certain unpleasant fragmentation.
The grand sweep of the narrative is obscured. Nevertheless, this book does what I hoped it would: provide an overview of the conflict, the immediate causes, the principal actors, and the course of the war. Having said this, I must admit that the military history of the conflict—the battles, the strategies, the armaments—is only of passing interest to me. What I really want to know is—Why? Why did a country decide to tear itself apart? Why did countrymen, neighbors, relatives decide to kill each other in mass numbers?
Why did radicalism triumph on both the left and the right? Why did a democracy fail and a repressive regime seize power? In the meantime, I am left with little more than a picture of moral collapse. At the outbreak of the military coup, there are spontaneous slaughters of clergymen, monks, bishops, in the hundreds and thousands; and the Spanish Church, for its part, was too often complicit in repression and tyranny.
Mass murders and executions were perpetrated on each side. In the first week after its conquest by the nationalists, over 3, people were killed; and by , another 16, had been put to death.
On the republican side, important military decisions were made for political reasons; political propaganda was so pervasive that leaders felt blindly sure they would win, and tried to act to justify their boastful predictions. Brave volunteers from all over the world rushed into Spain, most to fight against the fascists; and yet their zeal was squandered by careless leadership.
Eventually, of course, Franco won. Those on the losing side had few options. Many fled to France, where they were imprisoned in what amounted to concentration camps, in which they were forced to live on insufficient food, in unhygienic housing, and in freezing temperatures. After initial outrage, the French press promptly forgot the plight of these Spanish refugees. One thing that repeatedly struck me as I read through this book was the contrast in efficiency between the nationalists and the republicans.
This seems to show us a persistent feature of both the left and the right. Equality and authority are two ideals at odds with one another; and most governments concern themselves with finding a balance between these two values. When the right becomes extreme, it gravitates towards extreme authority at the expense of equality; and when the left is radicalized, the reverse happens, and equality is fetishized.
Thus we see the nationalist army consolidating itself under Franco, while the republican side devolved into warring factions, more concerned with their utopian schemes than with winning the war. Equality without authority produces justice without power. Authority without equality, power without justice. The first is morally preferable in its ends and totally inadequate in its means; while the latter uses brutally efficient means to achieve brutally unjust ends.
In practice, this means that, in direct contests, the extreme right will most often triumph over the extreme left, at least in the short-term; and yet in the long-term their emphasis on authority, obedience, and discipline produces unfair societies and unhappy populaces.
Some middle-path is needed to navigate between these two ideals. I suppose this is one of the oldest questions of human societies. In any case, as I put down this book, I am left with a dark picture lightened by very few bright patches. Beevor es un escritor excelente. No deja que su material le agobie, pero condesa eventos complicados hasta formar frases elegantes. A pesar de su habilidad de escribir, Beevor no puede cambiar el hecho que esta guerra es complicada.
Estas son grandes preguntas, que este libro no dirigirse. Mientras tanto, me han dejando con una imagen de un derrumbe moral. Se cometieron masacres y ejecuciones en los dos lados. Unos escaparon a las colinas, y otros lucharon en bandas de guerrillas; pero normalmente no duraron mucho. La igualdad sin la autoridad crea justicia sin poder.
La autoridad sin la igualdad, poder sin justicia. El primero es preferable moralmente y totalmente inadecuado en sus medios; y el segundo usa medios eficaces para cumplir objetivos injustos.
Un camino en el medio es necesario para navegar entre estos valores.
The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939
Published on Sat 24 Jun Religious fanaticism, political separatism and foreign intervention inflamed the violence in both cases. But it was aggravated in Spain by other factors, notably virulent class hatred. Half the nation went to bed hungry each night and anarchists said that "the sins of the old corrupt system can only be washed away in blood". The affluent were no less ferocious. One Salamanca landowner boasted that on the opening day of the civil war he lined up all his labourers and shot six of them "pour encourager les autres".
The battle for Spain: The Spanish civil war 1936-1939 - Anthony Beevor