The Charlotte News

Sunday, December 12, 1937


Site Ed. Note: This editorial appeared as a rare by-lined piece on the regular editorial page. The other editorials of that date are printed here. Cash also contributed a book-page piece for this day's News, "Babel in the South" on the South's several languages as heard through the eyes of City Editor, John Dixon.

And, Jetta, there is a lot more to it than just that, but you will need to explore it on your own, by the hints, should you already not have done so in these 70 years since your letter WAS.

About The War In Spain


Editorial Writer for The News

THIS is a reply to a letter which came to our desk in the Editor's Mail last week. It said:

Dear Sir:

Please send me any information about the war going on in Spain now. Any information will be greatly appreciated.

Charlotte, Route 4.

To tell you the truth, Jetta, we don't really know all about the war going on in Spain. You see, we haven't been there. Once upon a time, indeed, we did look at a segment of the Spanish shore from the French shore. But that was a long time ago, when Spain was a still, quiet, sleepy land under the yellow sun. And so we have to take what we know about the war in Spain from what other people report to us, and since most of them are mad about it one way or the other, it isn't always easy to make out precisely what the fact may be. Still, we do know a few things about it, and we have some opinions... And so in our devotion to service, we'll do our best for you.

To begin with, there is really no war in Spain. Really there isn't. We have the word of Signor Mussolini, Herr Hitler, the British, the French, and practically everybody else including the Portuguese, the Scandinavians and the Greeks--and our own State Department at Washington. A war, you see, is something which is first declared. And nobody has declared anything in Spain first--or yet.

* * *

To be sure, they are fighting in Spain, Jetta. According to the Associated Press, in which we put some faith, they have killed off about 100,000 soldiers over there since July 1936. But they are doing worse than that. They have also killed off about one million civilians in the same period. Civilians, Jetta, are old men, women, babies. They line 'em up in long lines and shoot them. They drop bombs on them from the air. And you might think, just as we think, that this is really quite indistinguishable from war--and a particularly atrocious kind of war. But perhaps that is only our natural simplicity.

Anyhow, Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler--not to say the Pope--agree that what is going on is "pacification." Along back in 1934, you know, Jetta, they had a revolution in Spain which set up a republic after a period of dictatorship under a man named Ribera. In 1935, they held an election. Well, Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler say that election was engineered from Moscow, the capital of Communism, as you have heard. Moscow gold, Moscow intrigue, and Moscow intimidation resulted in the election to the chief posts in the Spanish government of a gang of Reds, who immediately, and under the direction of Moscow, launched into a program for the murder of everybody who would not turn Communist and particularly the priests, and for the abolition of property and the burning down of all churches. So, to save his beloved country from chaos, up rose General Franco, wise, good, gentle, and deeply religious. And seeing that he needed aid, and that Italy and Germany were determined that the Red monster should not engulf Western Europe, why, they sent him a few troops and some guns and things.

* * *

Those million dead civilians? The Red government of Spain killed them all. And it's that which Italy and Germany and Senor Franco are determined once for all to make impossible. They fight--they fight for law and order and true patriotism and the love of God in Heaven. (That's what they say, Jetta.)

As for the rest of the nations--they argue, when they argue at all, that the trouble in Spain is "a purely local conflict."

* * *

But there's a third view which we ought not fail to tell you about, Jetta. It isn't official. It doesn't come from any government, not directly at least, but from all sorts of private persons ranging from Mr. Ernest Hemingway, the novelist who dotes on bull flights, to the Dean of Canterbury and the correspondents for the Manchester Guardian and the Christian Science Monitor, and the bigwig historians of the Foreign Policy Association, with Dr. Charles A. Beard at their head.

What they say is that in reality Spain is a country which has not succeeded in throwing off that incubus of medieval feudalism (the lord and vassal system, Jetta) which was got off the neck of the other European nations by the French Revolution and its repercussions. They say that the Spanish people have been fighting to throw off that yoke for a hundred years.

They deny that the 1935 election was engineered by Moscow. They insist that on the contrary there was not a single genuine Communist in any post of first importance in Spain at the time the revolution broke out. They say the government was not taking over land without compensating owners, and that, though a few mobs had committed outrages against hated landlords and churches and priests, there was not any organized campaign against the church.

They say that Franco's revolution was, to begin with, simply a revolution of reactionary militarists, and that it was dead in two days--until Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler suddenly chose to revive it, to send Italian troops and arms and German troops and arms to back him up. And why should Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler do that? Well, Jetta, these people we are talking about point to the fact that both Il Duce and his boy friend have announced many times that they propose to build up great empires and to make their nations the greatest in the world. They say that these two came to Franco's aid because they wanted to turn Spain into a puppet Fascist state--to conquer it, in a word. And the chief reason that they want to do that is that they could never really build up their empires without first encircling France and breaking the back of the British Empire. And Spain, you understand Jetta, commands the entry to the Mediterranean,--and Britain's "life line" lies through the Mediterranean.

* * *

They admit, these historians, if you press them, that the Spanish government actually did have some truck with the Reds in the earlier days of the conflict, and that for the first six months of the struggle it was probably about as murderous as the other side. But the first, they say, was due to the fact that the Reds of Spain offered to fight, and because Moscow would furnish the arms they couldn't get otherwise. And the second was ill-considered anger. Moreover, they assert, that's over now. Lately, they maintain, the Spanish government has practically broken with the Communists. And they insist that for the last year it has been General Franco and his Italian and German allies who have perpetrated nearly all the murders of civilians. They point to Guernica, where 700 men, women, and children--all civilians, were mowed down by machine gun bullets from German airplanes flying Franco's flag, and they flatly defy you to find anything in the Associated Press reports of the last year which suggest that the Spanish government has been guilty in that time of anything comparable.

* * *

This view of the case is probably not free of propaganda and distortion, Jetta. The people who tell us these things are awfully mad about it, too. And when people are mad, they lose something of perspective, inevitably. It is entirely possible, for instance, that they unduly minimize the alliance between the Spanish government and the Spanish Communists and Moscow. Nevertheless, we should be less than candid if we did not tell you that we believe that view to be the one which most closely approaches the truth.

But that, of course, is only our opinion. We have told you about what we know and think now, and so we'll have to leave you to make up your mind for yourself.

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