Book Review: The Spanish Civil War (Purcell)

The Spanish Civil War, by Hugh Percell

Before I review this book, I feel it necessary to point out the perspective by which I judge a book on this particular subject.  If a book views the side of anarchists, Communists, and socialists as being righteous and labels anything right of center as fascist, that book is garbage.  An author who cannot view a civil war between alliances of right and left with fairness and balance is not an author worth respecting or having views worth adopting.  By that standard, how does this book fare?  Not very well.  This author makes the cardinal error viewing the forces of socialism as being beneficial to humanity in stark contrast to its negative impact throughout the entire world anytime it has ever been seen and views Franco, who was a certainly a conservative but by no means a fascist, as a fascist whose victory if repeated elsewhere would be the destruction of worthwhile life, rather than being better than the alternative of anti-Christian radicalism and a permanent state of either anarchy or oppression by leftist elites.  When one has that kind of disagreement, there is not much to appreciate about a book, and that is surely the case here.

This book is mercifully short, its only virtue, and is divided into five chapters.  After an introduction that points out what the author and other leftists felt about the importance of the Spanish Civil War, the author discusses the approach to war, which allows the author to discuss the political context of the Second Republic and the tension and extremism that was formed between right and left over the course of the 20th century leading up to war (1).  This discussion leads to a look at the initial revolt and the division of Spain into two sides, with the Nationalists on one side and the Republicans (a coalition of various leftist parties that did not always get along) on the other (2).  Naturally, of course, Europe intervened in this, some parties wholeheartedly (Germany and Italy on the side of Franco, partly as a way of testing out their military capabilities before trying them out on others) and some with a great deal of division (like the Soviet Union) (3).  A lot of time is spent talking about the siege of Madrid (4) and then the ultimate and triumphant Nationalist victory (5), after which there is a conclusion, table of events, discussion of the people involved, glossary, suggestions for further reading, notes on sources, acknowledgements, picture credits, and an index.

Ultimately, this is not a book that is meant to demonstrate a sober or reasonable or balanced view of history, but a book with clear activist aims and intentions, to inspire a sense of victimhood upon those of the left who got what they deserved when they sought to abuse a narrow and temporary electoral victory by oppressing Christians and stealing and destroying the property of others and found themselves opposed by a military coup which their own lack of military skill and unity in the face of logistical aid from other countries that opportunistically supported the Nationalists was unable to overcome or successfully resist.  We may lament that death and destruction of the war.  We may abhor the extremes that were committed on both sides.  But no one who has seen the evil of the left in the contemporary world and the hatred and intolerance it has for history or for God’s ways or for moral or legal restraint can be under any illusions that Franco was doing both Spain and the world a favor when he led Nationalist Spain to victory.  A work that cannot convey that reality is not a work worth taking seriously, and by that standard this work sadly fails to convey anything approaching the truth about the Spanish Civil War.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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