The American right and Franco (blast from the past)

by Chris Bertram on December 2, 2021

For just over a year before Crooked Timber started, I had a blog called Junius. As the American right get more and more attracted by “natcon” views, I remember how shocked I was that even back then they could be quite sympathetic to the Franco regime. And I remembered I posted this (from May 2003):

Sasha Volokh, in the middle of a trip to Spain, comments on the Spanish Civil War and, frankly, shocks me:

…with every revolutionary construction of the war, Franco becomes more and more palatable to people like me, which means losing the support of any of the middle class or landowners and possibly even getting some of the Western democracies to intervene on Franco’s side. (I don’t know whether those countries would have the ability or desire to do that, but at least I, as a potential 1930s French or English voter (or Spanish resident), would have little difficulty choosing between Communists and Franco.)

This from someone who styles himself as a “libertarian” (I suspect these remarks reveal a greater concern for private property than for liberty). There were brutal massacres on both sides in the civil war, but the numbers slaughtered by the Francoists far exceeded those killed by the Republic and the graves of those executed are still being discovered today. What of the Francoist vision of society? Here’s Antony Beevor from his The Spanish Civil War, describing the social order imposed by the Francoists:

Every Spaniard was decreed to be a Catholic; divorce and civil marriage had been instantly abolished in Nationalist territory; and the penalty for abortion was made even greater than under the monarchy. The orphans of Republicans killed in the purges were forcibly baptized and given new Christian names. The church was in a position to establish a thorough control of public morals. One of their posters ordered: ‘No immoral dances, no indecent frocks, no bare legs, no heathen beaches.’ (The Falange, meanwhile, seized girls on the street whom they considered to be immodestly dressed and cropped their hair forcibly.(p. 385)….

According the the Falange, the state would only be ‘strong if the woman at home is healthy, fecund, hard-working and happy.’ She was therefore liberated ‘from having to work outside the home’, which meant that she was barred from practically all jobs except that of a domestic servant.(p. 387)

There are pages of this kind of thing. I realize that Mr Volokh may have good reasons for hostility to the Communist Party, but in the passage I quoted from him he is explicitly imagining himself as an English, French or Spanish person of the 1930s (I wonder how he can be so sure of what his reactions would have been?). The regime imposed by the Francoists had many Taliban-like features and even middle-class voters with property have daughters! Of course, the Taliban (not to mention many other brutal dictatorships) owed their success to a similar anyone-but-the-communists attitude.

{ 49 comments }

1

J, not that one 12.02.21 at 6:24 pm

I find Volokh’s version of Orwell very confusing. Is it possible he doesn’t know that Communist policy toward the West was to foment Revolution but not to permit Communist administrations without submission to Moscow? He keeps taking their position in Spain as ideological rather than pragmatic. Since Orwell is very, very clear that it was pragmatic, this is still confusing.

2

Alex SL 12.02.21 at 7:50 pm

(I suspect these remarks reveal a greater concern for private property than for liberty)

From what I have seen, that is what defines libertarian and, indeed, historically many liberals. Anyone-but-the-communists is what happened at the end of the Weimar Republic, for example, when all parties in parliament except the Social Democrats and the Communists voted for to give Hitler the powers allowing him to erect a dictatorship. The former were the only ones to vote against, while the latter “abstained” because they were already in prison, but all non-socialist parties voted in favour.

3

Barry Cotter 12.02.21 at 10:17 pm

What’s so puzzling? In choosing between Fascists and Communists there are no morally grey choices. We’re talking about shades of black here. They’re both quite open monsters. The Soviet Red Terror was an open, official and honest act of policy. They tortured and killed people publicly, had organized mass rape of class ensues, killed priests, the wrong kinds of intellectuals and eventually stole everyone’s property. And no Soviet approved Communist party did or could condemn it. People knew this had happened. There were Russian refugees all over Europe. As soon as the civil war began there was going to be organized mass murder. It’s not like there are any examples post WW2 of Communist regimes where that didn’t happen. There were many, many Spaniards who knew that in the event of a Communist victory they would be lucky to not be killed and a large majority were quite devout. Given the antipathy of all the left wing parties to the Church how surprising is it that many people chose the right wing monster over the left wing ones?

In the Yugoslav wars there were likewise mass atrocities on all sides though the Serbs did more and worse, given their greater capabilities. So if you see civil war coming run.

4

Timothy Scriven 12.02.21 at 10:43 pm

I’m very unsurprised. There’s an old communist saying “scratch a liberal and a fascist bleeds”. I’ve always thought this is a little unfair, true of some liberals, but not most, and certainly not the best.

But it is 100% true of a very good portion of libertarians. It’s a form of “freedom” which is compatible with almost all forms of non-freedom. It cares only for property. As many have pointed out, feudalism, so long as it is conceived in terms of property relations, is perfectly compatible with libertarianism and especially anarcho-capitalism.

5

Chetan Murthy 12.03.21 at 1:51 am

When a man tells you he’s a Fascist, believe him. I don’t understand why we need to go further.

6

J-D 12.03.21 at 2:39 am

Sasha Volokh, in the middle of a trip to Spain, comments on the Spanish Civil War and, frankly, shocks me:

…with every revolutionary construction of the war, Franco becomes more and more palatable to people like me, which means losing the support of any of the middle class or landowners and possibly even getting some of the Western democracies to intervene on Franco’s side. (I don’t know whether those countries would have the ability or desire to do that, but at least I, as a potential 1930s French or English voter (or Spanish resident), would have little difficulty choosing between Communists and Franco.)

Sasha Volokh had it backwards. The failure of the democratic powers to support the Spanish Republicans was a cause, not a consequence, of Communist influence on the Republican side. The democracies did not provide support for the Republican Government (except for Mexico, which was not in a position to do more than a little); the Soviet Union provided some, and that gave the Spanish Communists clout which they would never have attained if the democratic powers had provided support for the Spanish Government.

7

J-D 12.03.21 at 6:20 am

There’s an old communist saying “scratch a liberal and a fascist bleeds”. I’ve always thought this is a little unfair, true of some liberals, but not most, and certainly not the best.

Given the relationship of this discussion to the Spanish Civil War, it seems worth pointing out that there were liberals on the Republican Government side in that war, opposing the fascists.

8

Fake Dave 12.03.21 at 6:31 am

Yeah, arguments like this are based on judging parties by their rhetoric and political affinities rather than actions and power relations. Once an authoritarian regime has established itself above the law, the only form of popular pressure it is obligated to respond to is direct threats to its own existence and the typical response is not to mollify the populace (and thereby “show weakness” in the midst of a crisis), but rather to bolster the myth of its own impunity and invulnerability through legal abuse and exemplary violence while shifting the blame onto “troublemakers” who refuse to follow the rules.

These perverse incentives to slide deeper into tyranny apply equally to any party that rules through force without demonstrable popular support, so it essentially doesn’t matter who the regime’s friends and enemies were at the start of its reign. Once The Party becomes The State, any threat, real or imagined, becomes fair game and there’s no limit to who can be targeted or what can be done to them beyond a vague sense that the worst atrocities ought to be covered up for the sake of appearances. It’s a fallacy to think that picking the “less scary” dictatorship will do anything but further erode popular sovereignty and the rule of law and ultimately make governments less accountable and citizens (and their property) less safe.

Whether it’s Reds vs. Whites, Radicals vs. Fascists, or Jihadis vs. Baathists, it’s never rational to hand absolute power to your “friends” simply because you’re afraid of it falling to your enemies. It’s better to refuse to pick sides and hope to live long enough to see better days than commit yourself to a cause that will happily consume you. If joining the winning team were any guarantee of safety, a lot more “Old Bolsheviks” would have lived to become old Bolsheviks.

9

MFB 12.03.21 at 7:14 am

Roosevelt ordered the U.S. oil companies to break their contracts with the Spanish government after the attempted coup and either stop supplying oil to the government or redirect the ships to Franco territory instead.

I’ve been rereading Thomas Frank’s The Wrecking Crew, and he makes quite a lot out of the Republican right’s ties with the apartheid regime in my country (via such wondrous organisations as the International Freedom Foundation, which was headed by an apartheid secret police officer). Perhaps the point is that the right wing loves to play with entities abroad which represent what it really would love to see at home.

10

Tm 12.03.21 at 9:14 am

The American Right (and that mostly includes self-styled libertarians) has gone full fascist and doesn’t bother to even hide this any more. Anybody still surprised hasn’t been paying attention.

This is one of the most telling but by no means the most egregious example, and it hardly elicits any outrage any more.
https://www.businessinsider.com/virginia-school-board-members-call-for-books-to-be-burned-2021-11?r=US&IR=T

Re „scratch a liberal“: Sure, and it was Roosevelt, not Stalin, who made an alliance with Hitler. Please do we still have to go through this nonsense. Let’s put it this way: if you don’t oppose fascism, you aren’t liberal. If you don’t oppose illiberalism, you aren’t on the left.

11

J-D 12.03.21 at 9:40 am

These perverse incentives to slide deeper into tyranny apply equally to any party that rules through force without demonstrable popular support, so it essentially doesn’t matter who the regime’s friends and enemies were at the start of its reign. Once The Party becomes The State, any threat, real or imagined, becomes fair game and there’s no limit to who can be targeted or what can be done to them beyond a vague sense that the worst atrocities ought to be covered up for the sake of appearances. It’s a fallacy to think that picking the “less scary” dictatorship will do anything but further erode popular sovereignty and the rule of law and ultimately make governments less accountable and citizens (and their property) less safe.

The Spanish Republican Government in 1936 was democratically elected; it had not come to power by force but by demonstrating popular support in a (recent) election; no party had become the state and no dictatorship had been established.

12

J-D 12.03.21 at 9:45 am

Roosevelt ordered the U.S. oil companies to break their contracts with the Spanish government after the attempted coup and either stop supplying oil to the government or redirect the ships to Franco territory instead.

Do you have a source for this information? It’s not fully compatible with the account I find in Wikipedia.

13

Fake Dave 12.03.21 at 10:49 pm

@ J-D 11

I was actually talking about Franco, not the Republicans. Sorry about the vagueness. Plenty of people who joined him thought they were preserving their freedom/security against the threat of Communist dictatorship, but the point I was trying to make is that even if they’d been right, trying to prevent the rise of Bolshevism by supporting groups that act just like the Bolsheviks is not rational. Having the benefit of hindsight and still sympathizing with the brutal dictatorship because the other side might have become even worse makes even less sense. People who are that quick to embrace “lesser evil” arguments are showing that they can’t tell the difference between pragmatic politics and blinkered tribalism.

14

Rapier 12.04.21 at 1:24 am

Once one realizes that 70% of white Americans and probably 70% of the rest of the English speaking world are basically in agreement with fascist ideas and ideals as set out by Eco, as summarized here https://medium.com/nonzerosum/umberto-eco-ur-facism-9d9cc1e9f317, then one can stop being surprised about these matters. My take has always been it’s a fluke that the US didn’t go fascist by the 40’s and by golly it would have, but Hitler went too far.

Fiona Hill in her famous testimony said “we” meaning the US and Britain fought fascism in WWII. No we didn’t. We fought German ultra nationalist, atheistic Nazism. Fascisms would have been fine, but then Hitler went too far.

Next year is the 100th anniversary of fascism. The only surprise is that it took 75 years to recover, but now it has.

15

Eric 12.04.21 at 1:49 am

It’s worth remembering that the Spanish Civil War was sort of a 3-way affair, with Fascists and Communists and Anarchists (the latter often labeled “Libertarians,” but in the non-US sense of that word). My understanding is that the Communists had it out for the Anarchists even more than they did for the Fascists. Broadly speaking, Orwell viewed the Anarchists as the good guys fighting in opposition to two different groups of bad guys.

16

Barry 12.04.21 at 3:01 am

Chris, how many prominent libertarians have come out against the GOP now that supporting them is supporting open Fascists?

17

Tm 12.04.21 at 10:51 am

Another example would be the openly expressed admiration of US right wing libertarians (e g the Mises crowd) for that famous defender of human rights Augusto Pinochet.

18

Stephen 12.04.21 at 12:44 pm

Three minor comments

CB: “the numbers slaughtered by the Francoists far exceeded those killed by the Republic”
This is very true, but how far was it simply a result of the Francoists being the winning side, rather than being the more inherently evil of the two?

MFB@9: “the right wing loves to play with entities abroad which represent what it really would love to see at home.”
I’m sure this is true for some, but by no means all right wingers. But would you not agree that some, though by no means all left wingers have loved to play with repulsive entities abroad, for example the late Soviet Union, precisely because they would have loved to see the same at home? Sauce for goose, sauce for gander.

Tm@10: “it was Roosevelt, not Stalin, who made an alliance with Hitler.”
Please assure me this was meant to be sarcastic, not a remarkable distortion of history.
“If you don’t oppose illiberalism, you aren’t on the left.” Why then, a considerable number of socialists and communists who did not oppose Soviet illiberalism were not on the left. Who would’ve thought it?

19

Seekonk 12.04.21 at 3:05 pm

Orwell fought with the militia of POUM, a socialist but ultra-left group which believed that a necessary precondition for defeating Franco’s Falangists was the overthrow of the ‘bourgeois’ Republican government by a proletarian revolution.

The Falange was backed by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy; the Falangist victory was greatly aided by the UK/France embargo of military supplies to Republican Spain.

The USSR and volunteers from the communist-led International Brigades supported the (capitalist social democratic) government of the Spanish Republic as part of a ‘united front’ against fascism.

A survivor of that period said that ‘We hated each other so much that we had to have a war.’ Today, polarized Americans may be moving in the same direction.

20

J, not that one 12.04.21 at 6:49 pm

@19

It’s more accurate to say that the Communists within the Republican Government set themselves to expelling POUM from the popular front because POUM opposed Stalin and represented a rival far-left faction.

21

J, not that one 12.04.21 at 8:02 pm

I’m curious where this “the Communists always supported the bourgeois regime” narrative is coming from but I’ve been online long enough to give the odds as 50-50 that it was made up in this very comments section just yesterday.

22

Chetan Murthy 12.04.21 at 9:30 pm

Seekonk: now I’m wondering what are the seminal histories of the Spanish Civil War. B/c maybe it’s time to read one or two.

23

J-D 12.05.21 at 12:48 am

Tm@10: “it was Roosevelt, not Stalin, who made an alliance with Hitler.”
Please assure me this was meant to be sarcastic, not a remarkable distortion of history.

Will you accept the requested assurance from me, on Tm’s behalf?

Timothy Scriven wrote this:

There’s an old communist saying “scratch a liberal and a fascist bleeds”. I’ve always thought this is a little unfair, true of some liberals, but not most, and certainly not the best.

Tm commented in response:

Re „scratch a liberal“: Sure, and it was Roosevelt, not Stalin, who made an alliance with Hitler.

That ‘Sure’ should be read Ssuuurrree

24

Austin George Loomis 12.05.21 at 3:45 am

My take has always been it’s a fluke that the US didn’t go fascist by the 40’s and by golly it would have, but Hitler went Smedley Butler flipped on the Business Plotters before they could go too far.

Fixed that for you.

25

John Quiggin 12.05.21 at 6:40 pm

Barry @10 Most of the libertarians who seemed worth talking to pre-Trump (not a large number) have joined the Niskanen group, and dumped the libertarian label in the process.

Stephen @18 TM should have added irony alerts, but I’m confident that this is meant as a slap at people like Jonah Goldberg. whose book Liberal Fascism pushes this line. TBF, Goldberg has turned up as one of the more surprising Never-Trumpers

26

Tm 12.05.21 at 9:52 pm

I was parodying the „old communist saying “scratch a liberal and a fascist bleeds”“ (offered @4).

Re 18: The SPD slogan at the end of the Weimar Republic was „Gegen Papen Hitler Thälmann“. Little wonder they lost: the political forces willing to defend the Republic were outnumbered by its many enemies. I have no time for leftist fractions that are willing
to abandon liberal democracy – „we need to overturn the rotten system yada yada yada“. Because the result is never going to be socialism, it’s always fascism. And today’s useful idiots on the left don’t have the excuse of not knowing better.

27

nastywoman 12.06.21 at 12:19 am

and about ‘the American Right’ –
the reason why so many people of ‘the American Right’ die –
or to be more precise: Why so many more of ‘the American Right’ than of ‘the American’ left are currently dying from ‘the Virus’ –
indeed –
might be… ‘political’?
As do you guys think – if Franco would have told his followers: If y’all follow me – y’alls children children will have a much higher risk to die than if y’all don’t follow me?

28

J-D 12.06.21 at 11:28 am

Seekonk: now I’m wondering what are the seminal histories of the Spanish Civil War. B/c maybe it’s time to read one or two.

You could check the lists of references and of further reading in the Wikipedia article–there are plenty of sources there to choose from (although only some of them are comprehensive histories).

29

John Quiggin 12.07.21 at 6:15 am

@Chetan The Spanish Civil War by Hugh Thomas is the standard reference, I think. Very good, although Thomas was all over the shop politically in his later years.

30

lurker 12.07.21 at 10:45 am

‘As soon as the civil war began there was going to be organized mass murder.’ (Barry Cotter, 3)
Note the use of the passive voice: ‘there was going to be organized mass murder’, instead of the more accurate ‘the people who started the civil war began organized mass murder on day one’.
I rarely see anyone from the right making the case for supporting a left-wing dicatorship on equivalent grounds. Like, the Russian Whites were not just horrible reactionaries, they were hopelessly incompetent, corrupt, undisclipined and their deepest political thoughts consisted of the Protocols of of the Elders of Zion. There’s a reason more ex-tsarist officers joined the Red Army than the Whites. Perfectly bougie people developed ideas like National Bolshevism, because they tried to work with what seemed like best option available to them, at the time.

31

tm 12.07.21 at 1:07 pm

Not really on topic but since nastywoman brings this up from time to time:

NPR has an excellent new analysis where you can look at individual counties:
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/12/05/1059828993/data-vaccine-misinformation-trump-counties-covid-death-rate

Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden.

32

tm 12.07.21 at 1:42 pm

Also not on topic but the other thread is closed…

JQ might enjoy this one: https://existentialcomics.com/comic/423

33

PeteW 12.07.21 at 4:56 pm

Chetan @22: It’s by no means a seminal history as it focuses on only one aspect of the war, but The International Brigades by Giles Tremlett is a cracking read.

34

Seekonk 12.07.21 at 7:24 pm

‘the people who started the civil war began organized mass murder on day one’

I agree. Anti-communists have never preached non-violence. Capitalism’s response to socialism has always been homicidal.

Marxist socialism was a response to a pre-existing capitalist system that has always been ‘red in tooth and claw’.

Many of the victims attributed to communism can be seen as casualties in the ongoing war for capitalism waged by the greed-is-good ideologues who had drenched the planet in blood long before Marx or Stalin arrived on the scene.

35

John Quiggin 12.08.21 at 5:29 am

TM @32 (and @31) Thanks!

36

J-D 12.08.21 at 5:33 am

The Spanish Civil War by Hugh Thomas is the standard reference, I think.

I recognised that one on the Wikipedia reference list because I read it years ago, but so many years ago that I can’t comment on it now. There are more recent works on the Wikipedia reference list which therefore might have superseded it as a standard reference, but I haven’t read them.

37

passer-by 12.08.21 at 1:36 pm

It’s not “seminal”, but very new, and I wish he would write a history of the civil war for a broader public, but you may still find Angel Alcalde’s research interesting. He has been arguing for a transnational history of fascism in interwar Europe, starting from his core specialization on the history of the Spanish civil war (if you don’t want to start with his book, you could check out his review article published last year to get a feel for the field: Alcalde, Ángel. “The Transnational Consensus: Fascism and Nazism in Current Research”. Contemporary European History 29, nᵒ 2 (May 2020): 243‑52).
The just published collective volume he has co-edited (“The Crucible of Francoism. Combat, Violence and Ideology in the Spanish Civil War”) should be really interesting. But again, not a seminal / general history.

38

Daragh McDowell 12.08.21 at 3:51 pm

Of course, the Taliban (not to mention many other brutal dictatorships) owed their success to a similar anyone-but-the-communists attitude.

Erm, no, they really don’t. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was initially prompted by Brezhnev et al realising Hafizullah Amin and his faction of the PDPA were destabilising the country through their embrace of Stalinist brutality, and trying to put a lid back on the situation. The Taliban enter the equation long after the Soviets left (and the Soviet Union itself fell apart) due to a combination of opportunism on the part of various warlords and Pakistani intelligence harnessing ethnic Pashtun nationalism among Afghan refugees (refugees created as a result of the aforementioned Soviet invasion). Their biggest opponents were factions that eventually became the northern alliance (the core of which was Ahmad Shah Massoud’s faction, who was one of the most dedicated and effective anti-Soviet fighters). In other words, the circumstances that allowed the Taliban to develop and to take power are more the result of communist political and military activity, not the reaction to it.

39

Roger Gathmann 12.08.21 at 9:55 pm

The failure of the democracies to support the democratically elected Spanish republic against a fascist coup was the proof, for Stalin, that they could be pushed by Hitler to do anything. The Ribbentrop – Molotov agreement was the outcome of the nasty policies of the UK and especially France. Frances Stonor Saunders has an interesting essay on the MI6 relationship to the Gestapo – it was extremely chummy https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v37/n07/frances-stonor-saunders/stuck-on-the-flypaper. And of course as soon as WWII was over, the Brits and the Yanks recruited, massively, among some of the nastiest Nazi war criminals – the hiring of Kurt Blome to help the U.S. biowarfare criminals make ever more inhuman weapons is a case in point.
Franco did represent a genuine rightwing impulse, that I think became most powerful in the military and intelligence parts of the Western states in the Cold War period. We are still counting the victims and dealing with the aftermath of that, on a global scale. Libertarians are, for the most part, stamped with the same stamp.

40

Roger Gathmann 12.08.21 at 9:58 pm

I meant – “France and especially the UK”.

41

J-D 12.09.21 at 1:18 am

The failure of the democracies to support the democratically elected Spanish republic against a fascist coup was the proof, for Stalin, that they could be pushed by Hitler to do anything. The Ribbentrop – Molotov agreement was the outcome of the nasty policies of [France and especially the UK].

Obviously the (bad) policies pursued by the Western powers were a key part of the situation that prompted Stalin to deal with Hitler. That doesn’t make Stalin’s responses good ones. The UK and France (and also the US) made a lot of bad moves–and this is not merely hindsight, but was widely perceived at the time–but their indefensibility doesn’t exculpate Stalin for the USSR’s bad moves. (If Stalin was of the opinion that the UK and France would never resist Hitler, he was wrong. Res ipsa loquitur.)

42

Chetan Murthy 12.09.21 at 4:39 am

Roger Gathmann: Roger, thank you for this. I’m avidly reading the LRB link now. We Americans, we’re so …. naive. I remember being fed “the commies are our enemies, you don’t wanna be a commie!” with my mother’s milk, so to speak.

It’s embarrassing to have gotten to my age, without actually learning the real history of the 20th century, with all its iniquity. Instead, I got fed some fairy tale where the US and UK were the good guys, and the Nazis and Nips [sic] were the bad guys. And then the Commies, well, maybe they were even worse, maybe we shoulda teamed up with the Nazis to take ’em out, you betcha!

Sigh. Again, thank you.

43

Daragh McDowell 12.09.21 at 11:57 am

J-D @41

Correct – a lot of the revisionism about the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (and tankie-adjacent ‘akshually Stalin beat Hitler’ WWII historiography generally) ignores the fact that Soviet coal and iron ore shipments from 39-41 were vital to the Nazi war effort (and this is before we get to the Comintern’s disruption of attempts to form united anti-fascist fronts).

44

Stephen 12.09.21 at 12:11 pm

Roger Gathmann @39: “Frances Stonor Saunders has an interesting essay on the MI6 relationship to the Gestapo – it was extremely chummy “.

Thanks for an interesting link. I was, however, slightly surprised that the essay is almost entirely about the relationship between MI5, which is different from MI6, and the lifelong Communist Party member Eric Hobsbawm, pointing out that MI5 regarded him as likely to act in the Soviet interest, which he was, and kept tabs on him accordingly.

The only point at which an MI6/Gestapo collaboration definitely appears is the statement that in March 1933 Guy Liddell, MI5’s deputy head of counter-espionage, assisted by Frank Foley, MI6’s Berlin station chief, visited the head of the German Political Police, Abteilung 1A (which later became the Gestapo) and were allowed to copy numerous documents recently seized from the German Communist Party, relevant to Communist activities in the UK. It is not obvious, even with hindsight, that Liddell and Foley were entirely wrong to do that. Nothing more is said about later MI6 (or MI5) contacts with the Gestapo, except that nobody can prove they didn’t happen.

It is worth noting that, according to Stonor Saunders, “Guy Liddell disapproved of the Nazis’ methods – ‘Apart from the moral aspect … [they] do not pay in the long run,’ he later wrote in his diary’ “; and he noted in 1933 that ‘Jews, communists and even social democrats’ were being ‘submitted to every kind of outrage’; and hoped that the current ‘rather hysterical atmosphere of sentiment and brutality dies down’. I wouldn’t call that an extremely chummy relationship.

Hobsbawm’s relationship with Stalinist Russia, however, was very chummy indeed.

45

rogergathmann 12.09.21 at 2:31 pm

J-D, mind, I am saying that Stalin was being rational, not that he was right. It wasn’t just Spain. The Anglo-German navel treaty of 1935 (which does not get the press of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact) was an astonishing bit of British foreign policy, in which the British, unilaterally – that is, without consulting France or the U.S. – just tore up the Versailles treaty and ratified German re-armament. In France, the Popular Front – which would have armed the Republicans and had started to – was opposed by the open and covert forces of the right, and never into place a policy of arming the legitimate Spanish government. The British actively opposed that policy. And we all know about Munich. Hilariously, in the postwar period, after the Right had done its best in the pre-war period to undermine resistance to fascism (seeing the real enemy as communism) they pretended they were all with Churchill and had to, once again, opposed “Soviet expansionism”. Weirdly, looking back, after the war the Soviets didn’t really act on an expansionist impulse, didn’t try to take Austria or Iran. The American led Nato allies had no such qualms.

46

Dave Heasman 12.09.21 at 3:18 pm

The Spanish Civil War by Hugh Thomas is the standard reference, I think

Paul Preston has written a highly-regarded one.

47

steven t johnson 12.09.21 at 3:49 pm

Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia explicitly refuses to discuss the politics openly. He covertly attacks the Loyalist government as betraying the revolution (that never occurred as it was the Nationalists who rebelled!) on the grounds that people in Barcelona weren’t as joyous (despite losing the war.) His primary theme is the betrayal of the fighting man by politicians. In other contexts, this would have been labeled “defeatism.” Whatever Orwell’s real politics were there, he is not a reliable observer. Any insights he may have had into the politics, he kept to himself.

Most historiography on the Spanish Civil War is dominated by anti-Communist ideology. So far as valid understanding goes, an assessment of the CNT-FAI is absolutely essential. Any interpretation that focuses on the CP, or even less the POUM et al., is very much like those books on Gettysburg that don’t pay much attention to the Yankees, but mostly focus on Stuart or Ewell or Longstreet.

The Falange was not the Nationalist government. As in Ukraine, the fascists were merely a part of the movement.

Two ignored issues on violence in Spain are the uprising in Asturias in 1934, which indicates that bourgeois democratic parties in Spain accepted the use of violence. The other is the role of colonial troops. This is if I remember correctly particularly relevant to Franco’s career, why he took over the movement after Mola died.

The rehabilitation of Francoism has a direct political relevance to current international politics, Ukraine and the EU’s commitment to national sovereignty re Catalunya. A possible motive?

Neutrality previously was regarded as not taking sides in a war between states. For the US reader, the claim that “neutrality” applies to a struggle of the legal government against rebels calls to mind (or should) the English pose of neutrality in the Civil War. As it turned out, the temptation to deem the US naval blockade of the rebel coasts a real blockade, not a so-called paper blockade, ended up working more to the US’ ultimate advantage. The formidable military challenges of the US, even an embattled one, having been demonstrated in the Revolution and in the (supposedly useless) War of 1812, I suspect played more of a role.

The US government quite properly viewed this “neutrality” as quite hostile, provoking thoughts of war (Seward, for one,) especially in the Trent affair. This “neutrality” was correctly seen as a preliminary to active intervention on behalf of the CSA, a way to keep options open.

The “neutrality” of Roosevelt, and England and France, in the Spanish Civil War, was a de facto hostility to the Popular Front government, its legitimacy be damned. Insofar as WWII was the struggle against fascism, WWII of course began in 1936, if not 1931 in Manchuria. Thus, de facto, the lineup was Franco, Germany, Italy, France, England and the US versus the Popular Front and the USSR. [If WWII is claimed to be merely a continuation of WWI, then it is just another interimperialist war. And all views of either as some sort of crusade/holy war/jihad merely propaganda.] The supposed jab about FDR allying with Hitler is a pointed irony, but self-inflicted.

Side issues: Afghanistan was destabilized by the tyranny of a government that tried to abolish bride price! The violent resistance to this Stalinist atrocity was funded and armed by the US. The Soviet intervention was requested by part of the Afghan government, unlike the US interventions. But it is true that the Taliban arose in opposition to the US favorites. It is unclear how this is favorable to either the Talban or the US.

The thing does indeed speak for itself. But what is the “thing?” Why, it’s the Sitzkrieg, the Vichy government, the attempt to go to war with the USSR over Finland, the refusal to launch a second front in favor of defense of colonies, the neutrality of the US until literally attacked. For itself…but against J-D.

Guy Liddell’s belief that the Nazis were having a fit of hysteria strikes me as more evidence for my belief that praising with faint damns really is a thing.

The real economic support for a war machine is not coal and iron but oil. US exports to Nazi Germany via third parties like Spain count too. I guarantee you that Hitler did not regard the westward extension of Soviet frontiers as alliance but covert hostility. The Nazi assault on the USSR failed within weeks. Unlike the French, the Soviets didn’t give up. Misspelling “actually” is not an argument. It appears to me that anyone who uses “tanky” as a pejorative is as careless a thinker as anyone who uses “totalitarian.”

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Daragh McDowell 12.09.21 at 9:50 pm

steven t johnson @47

Gosh you’ve really provided an embarrassment of riches here haven’t you? Let’s start in Afghanistan shall we –

“Side issues: Afghanistan was destabilized by the tyranny of a government that tried to abolish bride price!”

Yes, that’s the only thing that Hafizullah Amin did in government. It was just that those stupid peasants didn’t know what was good for them.

” The violent resistance to this Stalinist atrocity was funded and armed by the US.”

Again, those witless peasants clearly had no idea what was good for them and only rose up when the CIA told them to.

“The Soviet intervention was requested by part of the Afghan government, unlike the US interventions.”

Translation – it’s not imperialism if some of your local proxies need you to help you fight some of your other local proxies! Though if you’re genuinely committed to this theory, you might note that the Northern Alliance were pretty enthusiastic about US intervention all things considered.

“But it is true that the Taliban arose in opposition to the US favorites.”

Sorry I thought they were funded and created by the US?

Onto WW2…

“the attempt to go to war with the USSR over Finland, ”

Those dastardly Finns, allowing themselves to be invaded by the Soviets in an imperialist attempt to thwart the revolution.

“The real economic support for a war machine is not coal and iron but oil.”

Allow me to introduce you to a little compound called ‘steel’. But even IF we accept your point, the Soviets also exported massive quantities of oil to the Nazis as well.

“US exports to Nazi Germany via third parties like Spain count too.”

The Roosevelt administration famously having precisely the same control over American commerce and foreign trade as the Kremlin did in Stalins’

“I guarantee you that Hitler did not regard the westward extension of Soviet frontiers as alliance but covert hostility.”

Which is why the joint annexation of Poland was a key part of the Molotov-Ribbentropp pact – because Hitler wanted to avoid it! What fiendish machiavellian manouevres.

” The Nazi assault on the USSR failed within weeks. Unlike the French, the Soviets didn’t give up.”

Yes, none of this had anything to do with geography, resources, the weather or the fact that the Nazis very quickly showed their objectives were genocidal in nature inadvertently stiffening the spine of Soviet forces. No, the superior anti-fascist dedication of communist forces beat the Nazis in weeks, which is why WW2 ended in 1942.

“It appears to me that anyone who uses “tanky” as a pejorative is as careless a thinker as anyone who uses “totalitarian.””

Perhaps because tankies engage in a truly profound series of mental and moral gymnastics to defend totalitarianism.

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J-D 12.09.21 at 10:00 pm

J-D, mind, I am saying that Stalin was being rational, not that he was right.

I can’t figure any way it was more rational for Stalin to trust Hitler to keep his word than it was for Chamberlain to trust Hitler to keep his word.

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