GIVE ME COMBAT: The Memoirs of Julio Alvarez del Vayo by Julio Alvarez del Vayo

GIVE ME COMBAT: The Memoirs of Julio Alvarez del Vayo

Age Range: 1957 - 67
Email this review


Del Vayo, the pro-Soviet foreign minister of Republican Spain during 1936-39, is a worshipper of the ""organic masses"" and their power but in fact merely a confidant of poets and princes, some of them Communist; also a passionate opponent of dictators and fascists, even if their unconscious admirer. These reminiscences embrace his meetings with or comments on virtually every political and artistic personality of prominence since his debut as a public-spirited young grandee. In London before World War I there were Shaw, Wells, Conrad, the Webbs, and Lloyd George, a ""great man of principle."" In Leipzig he disparages German chauvinism but is drawn to study Bismarck. In the U.S. he calls Wilson the heir of Washington; in France he calls Clemenceau ""always a Jacobin."" The exiled Lenin wins his admiration as ""an example of how to fight for one's country from the outside."" In postwar Berlin del Vayo reports the Kapp putsch for a Buenos Aires paper, then goes off to Russia on a League of Nations mercy mission with Vidkun Quisling. Del Vayo is an unabashed defender of Stalin: he alibis the Nazi-Soviet pact, applauds Stalin's defeat of Trotsky, and gives diehard support to the Popular Front tactic which disarmed the Spanish people. He even excuses the failure of French Popular Front leader Leon Blum to aid the Loyalists! Reminiscences, always adulatory, of Republican leaders and del Vayo's three trips to China (1957-67) are followed by ramblings on the relation of art to revolution, sifting through Malraux, Eisenstein, Brecht, Arthur Miller, Edward Arroyo, and Jane Fonda. So complaisant toward dubious friends and so lacking in passion against his enemies, one wonders how this man ever succeeded in fighting the fascists, not to say how or why he expects to ""return to a Madrid without Franco."" As for the ""masses"". . . he doesn't seem to remember even one face in the crowd.

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 1973
Publisher: Little, Brown