Half Of Spain Died: A Reappraisal Of The Spanish Civil War, by Herbert L. Matthews
When your title is an obvious and hysterical overstatement of the truth (a lot of people in Spain died, but nowhere near half of the country) and the cover of your book argues that are a “distinguished” New York Times correspondent, your book is going to be garbage. And so it is. Even among the garbage books about the Spanish Civil War, of which there are many, this book has some notable achievements that are worth noting. The author whines about how electoral politics, including the need for Roosevelt to preserve the Catholic component of his electoral coalition, prevented the United States from taking a pro-Socialist and pro-Communist stance and forced it into a neutrality that the author views as lamentable and hypocritical. The author also praises the passion and political consciousness of the “volunteers” who went off to die in the cause of supporting left-wing violence in Spain, although the costs to those young idealists was heavy. We can only hope that when their successors in future generations attempt the same garbage here, which is already starting, that the casualty rate for such reds is even higher and their efforts even more futile.
This book is a somewhat lengthy one at more than 250 pages, lengthy by the standard of the most popular books on the Spanish Civil War at least that I have come across so far, and it is organized in a thematic fashion rather than a chronological or narrative one. The book begins with a preface where the author raises his red flag, and then moves to discuss the military campaigns of the war which eventually led to the defeat and destruction of the Spanish leftist regime (1). This leads to a discussion of the Spaniards and their history and culture (2). The second republic and its tortured history and divide is then discussed (3), after which the author discusses the generals, in particular bemoaning the lack of skill on the part of the leaders of the left (4). The author discusses terror and revolution (5), doing the usual blaming of more violence on the side of the right and trying to minimize and excuse the “spontaneous” violence on the part of the left. The author then discusses intervention (6) and the supposed hypocrisies of non-intervention on the side of France, Britain, and the UK, none of whom was uniformly or even mainly sympathetic to the leftist extremist regime in Spain (one should ponder why) (7). The author spends an entire chapter discussing America’s view on the Spanish Civil War (8), praises the revolutionary fervor of the naive and doomed internationals (9), and then discusses the disgraceful end of the war (10) and Franco keeping the peace for decades afterward (11). This is followed by a bibliography and index.
It is clear that this book’s re-appraisal is not an examination of the author’s own massive leftist biases, which would have been worthwhile to reconsider and overcome, but rather an attempt for the author to whine about the loss of Spain to the side of the left for the decades that Franco kept the peace. It is to be regretted that generations arose that did not remember the follies and errors of the past, although to the credit of the socialists of Spain they have at least remembered that drastic and revolutionary social change sparks massive retaliation from the religious and landowners, and that the international community will only stand afar and wring their hands at the destruction of leftist regimes at the hand of ruthless conservative and reactionary counterrevolutionary foes. This was an important lesson for Spanish leftists to learn and it is to be regretted that more leftists have not profited from the example. At any rate, the Spanish Civil War is surprisingly relevant to contemporary times and books like this remind me of the intellectual dishonesty of the left when it comes to appreciating the limits of consent and minority rights and the way that temporary electoral majorities can have their extremist goals rolled back and not conserved by later regimes.