Friday, November 6, 2009

Spanish Civil Warriors

Maybe time to take another look at that infamous disaster that so diverted the international left wing. Because certain have claimed that this war that was really a revolution was just an opportunity for Soviet insurrection, or for the aggrandizement of Ernest Hemingway.

James Neugass' recent memoir puts the human cost at the forefront. Like Orwell's famous missive, Homage to Catalonia, he has no specific agenda other than his own truth. Also like Orwell, he was way in front of Britain and the United States in recognizing the global threat of fascism. Even if World War II was worth fighting (it was), the '30s and '40s contained a level of political violence that would seem atrocious to anyone born afterward.

For example: Franco's first point of order upon seizing power was to assassinate the greatest poet in Spain. It wouldn't be long before he would suppress all Spanish fiestas and send all independent-thinking people in his nation fleeing to the Americas. His long-lasting brutality makes this story all the harder to believe, recounted to me by my American friend who lives near Madrid:

I was riding my bike in the same little plaza in our town where I ride every day. There was the usual assortment of local seniors enjoying the weather and in general treating the public square as their own living room, in the authentic manner of Spaniards. The difference today was that the street had been monopolized by a fashion magazine's photo shoot. Barriers blocked traffic and our usually calm space was disturbed. I was commiserating with the old-timers about the unfortunate circumstance, and one of them muttered: "This never would have happened under Franco!" I found myself reflexively agreeing, and it took me a minute to realize that this guy was nostalgic for fascism.

Totalitarianism has its perks, after all, but we should be willing to endure the decadent fashion industry if it means no Franco.