THE COMINTERN AND THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR by E. H. Carr

THE COMINTERN AND THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This brief review of Comintern involvement in the Spanish Civil War, a spin-off from Carr's 14-volume History of Soviet Russia, takes up the vicissitudes of the ""united front"" strategy adopted at the close of Twilight of the Comintern, 19301935. Carr's fastidious and formal approach, with its concentration on documents (resolutions, reports, programs), can be helpful when a historical record needs to be established; but in the case of the Spanish Civil War, it merely reconstitutes well-known material, of limited interest in any case. Thus, following the travails of Comintern agent Palmiro Togliatti, Carr traces the course of united-front strategy (allying the Communists with other leftist parties against fascism) in Spain, where the small size of the Spanish Communist Party (PSE), relative to socialists and anarchists, made the united front a desirable tactic; and where, once the Civil War broke out, Soviet military aid to the Republic further enhanced the position of the PSE. But the strategy soon evolved into a ""popular front"" path, as the Comintern tried to enlist nonsocialist groups; then, when the war situation deteriorated, it moved further toward a ""national front"" strategy, incorporating anyone who could be persuaded that Franco's victory was being bought by outside forces. Meanwhile, hostility toward the PSE grew among anarchists and socialists, angered by what they saw as a Communist shift to the right; and in fact the PSE became a conservative force, dismissing talk of revolution for what they saw as the pragmatic requirements of defeating Franco. The strategy was part-and-parcel of Soviet foreign policy, aimed at not offending France and Britain. By the end of the Civil War, the Munich Agreement had been reached and the Hitler-Stalin Pact was not far off: Spain, in sum, was eclipsed by other developments. None of this will be new to those with some knowledge of the Spanish Civil War, and Carr never gets down to the social level where hostility to the PSE was bred and where the real history of the Civil War is located. The old classics by Orwell and Borkenau, and the new one by Fraser (Blood of Spain), leave little room--little space or place--for this view from the top.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1984
Publisher: Pantheon