How much do I really know about the Spanish Civil War? Well, I've read "Homage to Catalonia" and I've gazed upon Robert Capa's moment-of-death photo of a Republican soldier. Oh, and Philip Knightley's book, "The First Casualty", contains some fascinating detail on the propaganda campaign (of which Capa's picture was, Knightley maintains, a prime example). But that's about it, really. My un-read copy of Paul Preston's enormous Franco biography is staring down at me even more reproachfully than usual.

After finishing Antony ("Stalingrad") Beevor's cover piece in the TLS, I realise I have a lot of catching up to do. I knew that the war had generated its own mythology, but Beevor's debunking still comes as a shock. He argues that most
of the stories we've been told are little more than fiction, filtered through a Comintern lens:

The Spanish Civil War is one of the few modern conflicts whose history has been written more by the losers than the winners. This is unsurprising when one remembers the passions of the time and the ensuing sense of moral outrage increased by the crimes of Nazi Germany, General Franco’s most effective ally. Yet, as Stanley G. Payne points out in his conclusion to The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union and Communism, out of all the ideological myths of the twentieth century, “probably none has been more enduring than the myth of the Spanish Republic”.

Professor Payne’s book is a lucid and important reassessment of the great myth that the Spanish struggle was one of “democracy versus fascism”. Payne comprehensively destroys the liberal Left’s version of events...

It's a compelling piece. And, of course, it's hard to miss the parallels with the war in Iraq. Now, as then, the intelligentsia tended to parrot the same response. Which version of reality will triumph this time?

BTW, in case you think Beevor is out to whitewash Franco's regime, bear this anecdote in mind:

There is nothing in any recent book on the subject to soften the cold brutality of the Nationalists. Asked by an aide during lunch about what should be done with some captured militiawomen, General Franco shocked even Hitler’s ambassador by replying that they should all be shot. He then raised his fork to his mouth without a pause. But more than enough has emerged to confirm that all those who went to fight on behalf of the Republic in the cause of freedom were completely duped.

|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/03/another-era-another-war-how-much-do-i.html|||3/12/2005 02:01:00 pm|||||||||