HALF OF SPAIN DIED: A Reappraisal of the Spanish Civil War by Herbert L. Matthews

HALF OF SPAIN DIED: A Reappraisal of the Spanish Civil War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Matthews' firsthand experiences of the Spanish Civil War as a New York Times correspondent behind Loyalist lines are recorded in his memoir A Worm in Revolution, published earlier this year (p. 1297, 1971). This book, which draws fully and critically on academic studies, is a strong popular history of the conflict. Matthews starts with a dear, concise mapping of the war's military course, stressing the Loyalists' inability to exploit their advances. This is followed by an unromantic appraisal of the Republican government, which, he insists, always remained in control and was never taken over by the Communist Party, despite the latter's commanders in the field. Similarly it was always Franco and the generals, not the fascist Falange, who led the anti-Republican side. Matthews makes no bones about Franco's ""calculated, unremitting, callous use of terror from the beginning to the end of the war,"" a significant reminder in view of the various apologetic biographies which have appeared in the last five years. The book's discussion of the international context also makes a wholesome contribution in reviving the common knowledge of the '30's -- e.g., that Ambassador Joseph Kennedy threw U.S. support behind the British refusal to help (or allow France to help) the Republicans; and Matthews is also sound in underlining the selfish and short-sighted motives for Stalin's limited Soviet support. In this connection Matthews deems German aid -- and U.S. tacit aid -- decisive in the Franco victory. Earlier in the book, however, he blames divisions among the Republicans, especially the left, for that victory. But, given his own claim that it was the Republic's pre-1936 failure to consummate social change which enabled the Right to launch its insurgency, and given his repeated emphasis on the Communists' unqualified ""counter-revolutionary"" support of the Republican government, should the other left groups have abandoned their own conviction of a proper alternative strategy? This, along with the feeble summons to view the conflict as a uniquely Spanish event (though the same process can now be observed in Chile for instance), deprives the book of complete analytic stability. But it remains an excellent introduction for younger people and a telling retrospection for older ones.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1972
Publisher: Scribners