The Spanish Civil War, by Gabriel Jackson
In some ways, it is nice to know that the New York Times has long had garbage-tier thoughts when it came to political matters. This book is written by someone whose biases against the Nationalist side and in favor of the socialist and Communist elements of the Republican side that he manages to find himself cheering on the cadres of “volunteers” in the inaptly-named Lincoln Brigade that fought and largely died in Spain’s bloody civil war. This book is made up of the writings of the NYT’s biased and not very shrewd or wise correspondents, who should have been embarrassed at what they wrote. Admittedly, not all of what the authors have to say ends up being in favor of the left–William Carney’s uncensored report on the siege of Madrid being one source that looks particularly bad for the Republicans of Spain–but by and large this particular book is written by those whose critical facilities have been harmed by virtue of their partisan political commitments and it shows badly here. This is not a book that can be appreciated as representing a high standard of journalistic integrity, but a book that contains journalism that follows the corrupt and debased standard of our own place and time.
This book is a bit more than 200 pages long. It begins with an introduction and then some articles that discuss the background to the conflict in Spain (1), including party struggles and discussions of a class battle. After that comes a discussion of the beginning of war and the destruction it caused, where most of the correspondents predictably focus on the big cities like Madrid and Barcelona (2). Quite a few of the posts focus on a single battle, namely the Battle of Brunete, which marked a key failure for the Republicans in that it had initial success and then defeat and even further attritional losses. After that there are some posts on internal politics which, equally predictably, focus on the internal politics of the left, including the damage the Republicans did to themselves through anarchism (3). There is a discussion of foreign repercussions, including a discussion of the bombing of the Deutschland as well as concerns about “piracy”(4). Finally, the book discusses the development of Nationalist Spain in a couple of essays at the end. This is followed by some suggested reading, which can be taken with a very large grain of salt, as well as an index.
Journos gotta journo, and it is noteworthy about this book that this was as true in the 1930’s as it is today. In many ways, the sharp pro-Republican bias of the writing hinders the ability of the book to provide insight on Republican Spain. As it is, there are few articles that deal with it at all except through the fevered nightmares of the leftist columnists tittering about fears of Fascist influence in Nationalist Spain or notes that seem pro-Franco such as the note that Franco was able to finance the Nationalist victory without a loan, while Republican Spain ended up giving most of Spain’s gold to the USSR in what had to have been the most treacherous conduct conducted by any nation that viewed itself as legitimate. All in all, this is a book that is so far into its own perspective that it does not recognize how that perspective looks to those who are outside of it, and that definitely makes this volume less enjoyable than it should have been had it been written by people who had some idea of the truth of what they were writing about.