Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Revising History - 6

Another thing that should not be forgotten is the economic and social consequences of the war.

This was how Orwell was thinking shortly after the Barcelona 'May Days' (my emphasis):
It was easy to see that the Caballero Government would fall and be replaced by a more Right-wing Government with a stronger Communist influence (this happened a week or two later), which would set itself to break the power of the trade unions once and for all. And afterwards, when Franco was beaten [..] the prospect was not rosy. As for the newspaper talk about this being a 'war for democracy', it was plain eyewash. No one in his senses supposed that there was any hope of democracy, even as we understand it in England or France, in a country so divided and exhausted as Spain would be when the war was over. It would have to be a dictatorship, and it was clear that the chance of a working-class dictatorship had passed. That meant that the general movement would be in the direction of some kind of Fascism. Fascism called, no doubt, by some politer name [..]

But it did not follow that the Government was not worth fighting for as against the more naked and developed Fascism of Franco and Hitler. Whatever faults the post-war Government might have, Franco's regime would certainly be worse. To the workers--the town proletariat--it might in the end make very little difference who won, but Spain is primarily an agricultural country and the peasants would almost certainly benefit by a Government victory. Some at least of the seized lands would remain in their possession, in which case there would also be a distribution of land in the territory that had been Franco's, and the virtual serfdom that had existed in some parts of Spain was not likely to be restored.
And at the time of writing HtC (about six months later):
I may say that I now think much more highly of the Negrin Government than I did when it came into office. It [..] has shown more political tolerance than anyone expected. But I still believe that [..] the tendency of the post-war Government is bound to be Fascistic. (Chapter 12)
Orwell's predictions of the likely consequences of Franco's victory, of course, turned out to be accurate (Beevor, 1982, P387; Beevor, 2006, P403). Furthermore, 'wages were fixed and in the countryside were reduced to half of what they had been under the Republic. They would not again reach the level of 1931 until 1956.' (In Max Hastings' review this becomes, 'The civil war brought untold misery upon the Spanish. It was 1956 before they regained the standard of living they possessed in 1931.')

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