Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Guest Post on "The Road to Revolution" and the Spanish Civil War

Spain (1931 - 1939) and the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) are valuable models for understanding the communist revolution that is unfolding in the United States. Two of the best writers about the Spanish Civil War are Hugh Swynnerton Thomas, Baron Thomas of Swynnerton (21 October 1931 – 7 May 2017) and Stanley G. Payne (born September 9, 1934), American historian of modern Spain and European Fascism, and Professor Emeritus at its Department of History, the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

I was born after the end of the Spanish Civil War. I began reading about the Spanish Civil War during college. I started with Thomas. Lately, I read a lot of Payne and other writers, especially writers who were Spanish Civil War observers or participants. I see parallels between Spain and the US. Here are two sections from a current article by Payne.

The Road to Revolution
by Stanley G. Payne
January 2021

"A threshold was crossed at the beginning of October 1934, when the centrist minority government broadened to include four moderate ministers from the Catholic CEDA, establishing rule by a parliamentary majority and respecting civil guarantees. The socialists responded by launching a revolutionary insurrection in fifteen of the fifty provinces of Spain. This insurrection, much more serious than the activities of the anarchists, produced martial law and two weeks of fighting in the mining province of Asturias. Nearly 1,400 people were killed in the conflict, much of the center of Oviedo was destroyed, large sums were stolen from the city’s banks, and about fifty people were murdered by the revolutionaries, including a group of Catholic seminarians. The troops who put down the revolt also shot a number of prisoners out of hand. More than fifteen thousand revolutionaries were arrested, doubling the country’s modest prison population, though many were soon released. Full constitutional guarantees would not be restored for fifteen months.

This was the most violent, broad-based revolt in the turbulent history of Europe from 1924 to 1939, and it drew considerable international attention. A massive campaign, financed partly by the Comintern, denounced not the wanton violence and destruction by the insurrection but the repression that followed it. In fact, the republican government enforced the mildest repression after a major revolt in Europe since the Paris Commune of 1871. But the revolutionary insurrection was justified in the press as an act of defending democracy against fascism. This agitation, international in scope, marked the beginning of the mythification of the revolutionary process in Spain, an attitude that persists in some quarters to the present day. The portrayal of revolutionary insurrection as a defense of democracy followed Trotsky’s maxim in his History of the Russian Revolution: To have the best chance, revolutionaries must appear to act on the defensive when seizing power.

The failure of direct insurrection required a change in strategy. The left began to seize absolute power through the democratic process itself, advancing revolutionary aims under the cover of legality."

"The elections of February 1936 registered extreme polarization. The liberal center was virtually wiped out, with most of the vote divided almost evenly between the Popular Front and the Catholic right, which, despite renewed violence from the left, continued to respect the rules of the game. The voting was calm and regular at first, but on the evening of election day Popular Front mobs began to gather in the larger cities, in some cases breaking into polling places. Disturbances continued for the next three days. A recent study by Manuel Álvarez Tardío and Roberto Villa García has shown that the results were falsified in at least ten provinces, handing a decisive victory to the left. The centrist caretaker government in charge of elections resigned precipitously, and the hapless Alcalá Zamora, his plans in ruins, found no other way of controlling the rioting than to hand power to a minority government of Azaña and the republican left. Electoral fraud was the decisive step in renewing the revolutionary process. It was followed by three further phases of electoral manipulation, which by May had secured an overwhelming Popular Front majority in parliament."

Forty-thousand foreigners went to Spain to fight in its civil war. Most of these foreigners were leftists. The ones from the United States showed a nostalgia about the Spanish Civil War in US mass media that lasted until the mid-1990s and beyond. Ernest Hemingway made a career of it.

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