Re. [Marxism] re: Books on the Spanish Civil War

Ed George edgeorge at
Mon Apr 19 10:26:54 MDT 2004

To the comments already made on this list, and without wanting to spark
off any debate on this historical issue, I would add as indispensable
Felix Morrow's contemporary account Spain: Revolution and
Counterrevolution (London, 1976). Morrow was of course a leader of the
US SWP; the book, is in two parts, published originally in 1936 and
1938. Also fundamental is the relevant section of Fernando Claudín's The
Communist Movement: Form Comintern to Cominform (London, 1975) 210-42
(but use the index). (Claudín was a central leader of the Spanish
Communist Party until his expulsion - along  with others - in 1964 for
expressing disagreement with the line of the then Santiago Carrillo
leadership. Claudín and his supporters argued that Francoism was a
political regime which represented the general interests of the dominant
classes, and, since a part of these classes could support a democratic
solution without affecting the capitalist character of the
socio-economic structure, the fall of Francoism could give birth to a
democratic regime similar to that found in the other western countries.
As a consequence, a change of the political regime must not be confused
with the social revolution. The leadership around Carrillo, on the other
hand, insisted that the Franco regime only represented the interests of
the big banks and the landowners: the defeat of Franco, which was seen
as imminent, supposed the beginning of 'an antifeudal and antimonopolist
democratic revolution' which would take on a series of measures such as
the nationalisation of the banks and of large-scale industry, land
reform, an anti-US foreign policy, etc. The fall of Francoism would thus
suggest the beginning of the transition to socialism. As I have written
elsewhere, it is Claudín's analysis of recent Spanish history that has
been proved right over practically anyone else's. Fundamental to
understanding present-day Spanish state politics are Claudín's Santiago
Carrillo - Cronica de un Secretaria General (Barcelona, 1983) and his
then collaborator Jorge Semprún's Autobiografía de Federico Sánchez
(Barcelona, 1977) - I am not aware of them having been translated into
English - which deal with these fundamental debates within Spanish
Communism.) But I digress. With respect to 'bourgeois commentators,
clearly the best pick is Paul Preston, although is work is flawed in my
view by his view, more apparent in his more mature work, of the civil
war as essentially an international conflict played out on a domestic
plane, an interpretation which leads him to underestimate the 'Spanish'
elements in the course of the struggle. Which prompts me to recommend a
book I think is also indispensable: Adrian Shubert's The Road to
Revolution in Spain: The Coal Miners of Asturias 1860-1934 (Urbana,
1987), which ends by dealing with the uprising in Asturias in 1934, as a
necessary corrective to the common view on the left (then and since)
that the Republican side deserved to be supported because it was the
legal government under attack from Franco, forgetting, of course, that
in the Asturian Commune of 1934 the left had in fact tried to overthrow
the 'legal' Republic: the fundamental aim of Franco's 1936 coup being to
pre-empt what the bourgeoisie felt would soon be a Spanish-wide a repeat
of the Asturian rising.

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