The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, AUGUST 23, 1936
It Doesn't Thrill To Communism
By W. J. Cash
Site ed. note: Cash takes a look at the Spanish Civil War, analyzing the choice between Fascist and Communist regimes ultimately taking over the government, and concluding the Communist to be preferable, no matter how disagreeable, and coming to the final analysis that such a Communist regime would not last, for, Cash posits, the Spaniard is very much akin to the Southerner, strongly individualistic and independent. 'Twouldn't last a minute in the South, he concludes. (Is this last comment a back-handed way of suggesting by analogy that Southerners would not for long tolerate the Fascism inherent in the racist mentality of the KKK and such similar groups still very much at large in the South at that time? (See Cash's concluding remark in "Papa Franz Boas" - July 12, 1936.)) The hope was that eventually a Liberal regime would arise out of stale Communism to establish a democratic form of government in Spain.
The Spanish revolt had simmered since 1931, after the forced abdication of King Alfonso, representing a monarchy in place for fifteen hundred years. The poles were the landed interests and the Catholic Church on the one side seeking to regain their redistributed land and possessions, the redistribution having occurred with the newly elected reform government in 1931, and the peasants and workers on the other, seeking continued reform and redistribution of land and goods. Attempts by several moderate regimes to balance the interests proved unsuccessful during the period 1931 to 1936. Eventually, a Socialist government was formed. The Spanish Civil War broke out in July, 1936 with the insurgent forces of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, representing the former ruling classes and Fascists, taking control of city after city until the Socialist government in Madrid finally fell in April, 1939. Franco established what most historians consider to have been a fascist regime and, while proclaiming neutrality in World War II, Franco sent Spanish troops to fight with Germany against Russia in 1941 and provided aid for espionage activities of the Axis during the War. Cash thus plainly had the better of the argument at the time.
See also "Blessing and Blood", September 20, 1936, "Fuehrer and Duce Stumped", April 25, 1937, and "Blockade in Boston", July 24, 1938, for further commentary by Cash on the Spanish civil war and Franco.
I HAVE been surprised and not a little peeved of late by the flood of utterances from presumably intelligent and even liberal quarters which seem to indicate a strong sympathy for the Spanish rebels in the struggle presently raging in the Iberian peninsula.
The notions behind these utterances seem to be that the matter boils down to a choice between Communism and Fascism, and that under such circumstances Fascism is indubitably preferable.
But such notions are as completely dubious as were those which lay behind the hysteria over Belgium in 1914-1917.
But It Wasn't Communistic
For all I know--and for all anybody else outside the country is able to know at the moment--the Spanish government may actually by this time have gone Communist. But nothing is more certain than that it was not a Communist government when the rebellion began. The idea that it was is simply a child of the confusion of the term Leftist with Communist. But the equation is far from being a true one. Leftism, as a matter of fact, is a very broad and vague term, and means no more than dissent from the High Toryism of the given time and place. In these United States in the year 1800, a follower of Thomas Jefferson was emphatically a Leftist, but he lacked one hell of a lot being a Communist, though, then as always, the High Tories industriously spent their breath attempting to make it appear that his Leftism came inexorably to that.
No. The Spanish government was not a Communist government when this rebellion began. It was Leftist and Radical--but only for Spain, only in relation to one of the most damnably corrupt political and economic systems the modern world has known. A system under which ten thousand or so nobles and the Catholic church owned four-fifths of the land of the nation. A system under which the great mass of the Spanish people lived in virtual peonage. A system in which peasant and workman went half-starved from cradle to the grave, while fat priests, multiplying on superstition as maggots multiply on rotten meat, dined on capon and swarmed and caroused in every wine-shop--yes, and while absentee landlords idled away their days in such luxuries as the starveling cities could afford, in the most callous indifference to the condition of their dependents, in the most contemptuous disregard for the common welfare of their country--yes, and while one of the most of appalling armies of governmental parasites ever heard of avidly ferreted out and gobbled up such last crumbs of tribute as had been overlooked by the cupidity of priest and landlord.
This Was Spain
Such was Spain when Alfonso was booted out and the Republic established. And such is the Spain against which the government which existed at the time the rebellion began is to be measured as having been Leftist and Radical.
As a matter of fact, that government was simply a Liberal one, attempting more or less cautiously to inject some sense and justice into the Spanish system. The most radical thing it was doing was the condemnation of land in favor of the people who had been tilling it for a thousand years. But (saving in the case of some of the royal estates and those of a few nobles convicted of high treason) it was nowhere resorting to outright confiscation, was in every case paying for the land, though not of course at the rates the landlords demanded. Nor was it giving anything to the peasants. Merely, it was making it possible for them to buy it on terms which they could reasonably hope to meet, much after the fashion of our own Re-settlement administration. In view of all the facts, the policy was both equitable and rational.
And if today this government is at least flirting with the Communists? Then it is simply because the rebellion has forced it to that pass. These rebels consist of the beneficiaries of the old order, of such of the masses as are so superstition-ridden that they imagine to halt the crimes of the cynical priesthood is to offend God, or so custom-bound that they are ready to believe that any departure from the past constitutes a Red Peril. Their objective? The restoration of the old brutal regime in toto, and its solidification by the use of force and systematic terrorism. They are extremely numerous and well-organized, these rebels, and what is more, they undoubtedly have the backing of Mussolini and Hitler. To have any chance of victory against them, the government has imperatively to have united support of all Liberal and Radical groups. Hence the play to the Communists and extreme Socialists, who number nearly ten million people in the country.
Fascism or Communism
But the result of that may be--perhaps already is--that the Communists will come--are perhaps already coming--to command the government. And so we still come eventually to a choice between Fascism and Communism?
Even if that were so, I am far from being able to see that Fascism is preferable. I have no hesitancy in saying, indeed, if I had to choose between the two, my vote would go to the Comrades. For on the whole, I prefer a bloody tyranny which is actuated by an essentially humane intention, however mistaken that intention may seem to me, however blind to the facts of human nature--I prefer this to a bloody tyranny which openly and cynically sets out to elevate the beast in man and has for its single purpose the blocking of all rational reform.
But I do not think we have actually to choose between the two in Spain. It is quite possible that (and particularly if the war is extended) a victory for the government might eventuate in the establishment of a Soviet regime in Spain. But, unless all the writers who have portrayed the Spanish character for us have been totally wrong, there is not a chance that such a regime would last for any great length of time. For from George Borrow and Theophile Gautier down to Havelock Ellis and John Langdon-Davis, the universal account has it that these Spaniards, from the lowest to the highest, are pre-eminently distinguished by a bold independence and proud individualism, that they insist above everything on the right to command their own lives, and that they are greatly addicted to the little amenities of life which are quite impossible under Communism. In a great many respects, indeed, the Spaniard is very much the same sort of person as our Southerner here in the United States. And anybody who imagines that a Soviet regime could exist in this South so long as six months is plain damn crazy.
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