The Spanish Civil War 1936 - 1939 (1) Nationalist Forces (Osprey Men-at-Arms 495)

Review :

Histories of wars, particularly ones involving contested political domains, tend to focus either on the battles, the personalities, the international struggles, or other specific aspects. While Beevor's 'Battle for Spain' isn't perfect, I give this book five stars because the mix is just right. And for one of the most disputed wars in modern history, that is a major accomplishment.

We can find any number of anarchist or Trotskyist reviews of the Spanish Civil War that heap blame on the Russians and the Comintern, and such blame is properly placed. But Beevor gives us the proper context by letting us know how everyone contributed to Spain's dissolution. He clearly is sympathetic to the anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist cause, yet he raises some interesting issues of the CNT and FAI in Catalonia. Even when anarchists are handed responsibility on a silver platter, they shy away from it because it means recognizing authority. So one can give anarchists a proper chiding, as well.

Nevertheless, Beevor shows us just how despicable Stalin's Russia was, and the global Comintern movement, as represented by the NKVD and other agencies. Even the International Brigades, which were often considered in a romantic light as a way for radicals around the world to help Spain, come in for some deserved criticism - though in many instances, members of the International Brigades were thrown into prison camps run by the NKVD!

Beevor shows how fascist Italy and Nazi Germany used the Spanish Civil War to test out new weapons like the Stuka fighter plane. He also shows the duplicity of Hermann Goring and other Nazis, selling weapons to the Republicans while wiping them out with the Luftwaffe. And he also mentions how U.S. officials like John Foster Dulles came to Franco's aid - no surprise there.

If there was one suggestion I'd make to Beevor, it would be to add a few pages to talk about the declining years of Franco leading to his death in 1975. Even if the book's main focus is 1937-39, it would be useful to see how the Spanish Catholic-fascists served NATO and CIA interests through the Cold War, only to be undone by the cultural trends of modern secular life. But that's a minor quibble. Beevor has done a fine job.

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