The Spanish Civil War: A Product of Appeasement

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  1. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    Another great book about the Spanish Civil War, which focuses on Stalin’s betrayal of the Loyalists, is Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.Report

  2. Avatar Pinky
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    I don’t think the history has been consciously scrubbed. It’s just something that no “side” wants to talk about, and from which there aren’t many lessons to be learned. The primary lesson is the nearly-universal truth than in any alliance of movements, the one with the worst morals is going to become the most powerful during a conflict. (The American Revolution is one of the rare exceptions, which I think is why Americans are naive about wartime and post-war politics.) The Spanish Civil War had decent people with palatable beliefs on both sides, but the factions that exploited it for their own sakes were the kind of factions who would do something like that.Report

    • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Pinky
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      I have been thinking on something similar to this for several days. As absolute power is created in a state, absolute corruption arises. The absolute corruption of morals, truth, etc. I suppose this is because absolute power only manifests as the highest stakes condition that no one can afford to lose.

      The current question I have is if the corruption leads or follows the march toward absolute power.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal in reply to JoeSal
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        I guess looking at how/when the gold was moved out of the Bank of Spain, it happens before.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to JoeSal
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        says:

        I think it is rare for the obviously evil to be capable of leading. Even the worst ideologies that manage to catch on do so for a reason, and usually there is at least some kernal of truth or a legitimately identified problem fueling the movement.

        My own view is therefore that the path to hell is paved with good intentions and corruption tends to follow rather than lead. Of course I’m sure someone can point out exceptions.Report

        • Avatar JoeSal in reply to InMD
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          I used to think that way also, and as I look back into history, it may have been true in the case of some monarchs, and some constructs of classical liberalism (the good intention was first, then came the corruption). I don’t think it continues to the modern world.

          The democides that have taken place, and the current strategies. The one I find most in contempt is:

          “to create a environment in society where the only solution will be (insert ideology)”

          This some what creates the initial absolute corruptions before the march into absolute power.

          I offer that, but I really hope I’m wrong on this one.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to JoeSal
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        I wouldn’t limit it to “absolute” power. In the case of revolutions and civil wars, there are often multiple contenders, but it’s almost always guys like the Muslim Brotherhood or Lenin who make it down to the last two. I see it as a kind of natural selection. If there’s one seat on the life raft, and you have two monks and a convict on the sinking boat, odds are not in the monks’ favor. But any power is going to both attract exploiters and tempt those who hold it to become more exploitative. In fairness, there’s probably something like nostalgia that goes on, where you assume that the guys who didn’t get the power would have been more decent rulers.Report

        • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Pinky
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          Well said.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Pinky
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          US policy in Africa went through a great many decades of supporting some freedom-fighting rebel movement, or supporting an embattled democrat who was fighting a communist rebel movement. It was always good guys (social reformers, true democrats, enlightened Western inspired generals) vs bad guys.

          Then “our” guy would turn out to be a tyrannical autocrat or divisive and quasi-genocidal corrupt nutcase, which fired up a revolutionary movement to overthrow him, often led by a “true reformer”, who we then support, who wins and turns out to be as bad as the guy he deposed.

          Our conclusion is that strong and successful leaders who rise to the top during a period of chaos and intense and brutal war have the wrong skill set and mindset to do anything but cause more trouble.

          They rise because they’re good at motivating large numbers of people to engage in violence. They’re well supplied because they’re good at squeezing every last drop of money and food out of the locals they control, or at arranging black market deals with international arms merchants, and causing mayhem among their enemies. They’re in charge of their faction because they’re good at sidelining or killing their rivals.

          The leaders who are the most successful in chaotic environments are optimized for at creating and maximally exploiting chaos. Poorly organized grass-roots civil wars with rampant street violence are extremely poor types of contests for choosing peacetime leaders, since the choice comes down to selecting among thugs. The winner will either be the Crips, the Bloods, Latin Kings, MS-13, Hell’s Angels, or the Sicilian mafia, and those are your choices.Report

    • John-Pierre John-Pierre in reply to Pinky
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      To be fair, the Spanish Civil War is more multifaceted than “evil always wins” or simple conceptions of power and corruption.

      Would Stalin have influenced the war so much if France and other ally nations had contributed support to the Republicans? Would the crackdowns happened?

      Stalin was playing a double faced game of courting western favor by suffocating the revolutionary anarchist and various communist forces, AND expunging those revolutionary groups who threatened the disguise. To make it worse, Soviet Russia was the only nation who would support the Republicans.

      A lot of the preceding comments are approaching Stalin’s influence and related power plays as inevitable. A mindset of “this is how it always happens” because of some invisible rule of the universe is dangerous. I see the lesson of the Spanish Civil War as this: economic and diplomatic interests will trump moral guidance, even when the smallest of action would’ve altered the war.

      The Spanish Civil War luckily enough, for the allies, didn’t turn into a WWII. Yet the same positioning was taken toward Hitler, and that did end in one.Report

    • Avatar Zac Black in reply to Pinky
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      says:

      “The American Revolution is one of the rare exceptions[…]”

      If you’re white, sure.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Zac Black
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        says:

        Not really. I mean, I understand your point. The Founders could have done better, if they’d been willing to push on slavery (which was, at the time, not solely an issue of race). And the Indians weren’t going to fare well no matter what. But in both the cases of the black and the Indian, treatment got worse as the Revolutionary generation passed.

        I just don’t think you can claim that the Founders were thugs. Once they gained power, their main priority was creating a limited government which stuck to their original principles. That’s a rare thing.Report

        • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Pinky
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          I’m inclined to say that the limited government option worked very much in favor to the slave owners. But that’s tangential to the point I made below, and you could offer a good argument that the system set up, eventually, in 1787-1789 constituted something like a challenge to slavery and set the course for its eventual abolition in North America.

          I do believe, however, the founders were thugs and succeeded through thuggery. The Theirs was a might makes right mentality, in my opinion. They (with some help from the French) had the might, and they were therefore “right,” however much they tried to dress their willingness to go against prior oaths of allegiance to the king as something else.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to gabriel conroy
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            I get what you’re saying but I think this analysis itself suffers from a similar present-ism as pithy, and ultimately quite shallow statements like Zac’s. We need to be clear eyed about the founding. There were ideals in there that I think are still useful and worth cherishing but there was also opportunism, gross hypocrisy, and it was done by people with life experiences and moral compasses quite different from ours.

            The way to understand history isn’t picking an arbitrary point in time (the late 18th century) and assessing it through the sensibilities of another arbitrary point in time (our own). History is a vector, and the path to the founding of the United States as we know it really starts in the Renaissance. Determining whether it constitutes progress requires assing it from those times immediately preceding it, and the world that existed then.

            We can and should acknowledge what the founding didn’t do, and I’m not into hagiography or the cult of the founders. Hell we can even wring our hands a bit about the destruction of native populations wrought as much by the introduction of old world pathogens as anything else. But it was also an important step on the path to introducing civil liberties, modern conceptions of government, and the benefits of rapid technological advancements to more and more people.

            So what to do with the founders and their dirty hands and hypocrisy? I say appreciate them for taking a step forward within the bounds of what was possible in their place in time,. Don’t pretend that they were saints or that there were no warts or compromises, but remember the virtues too. Anything else strikes me as at best childish and at worst totally lacking in perspective sadly typical of modern American culture.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Pinky
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      While I wouldn’t characterize the “patriot,” so-called, side of the American Revolution as having the “worst” morals ever, I think their morals were suspect.

      Their cause was, I admit, principled, in a sense, just not in a way that I’m willing to endorse.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq
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    The Spanish people were badly divided over the legitimacy of the Republic. The devote Catholics in the population didn’t like how Republican leaders went after the Church. There were lots of devote Spanish Catholics. The Republican leaders saw the Church as part of the bad old regime, they had to go after it. Allowing it to exist and function as it did under the Monarchy would be impossible to them.Report

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