It is, first, the great good fortune of all students of modern Spain that Franz Borkenau traveled widely in Republican Spain and, second, that the University of Michigan has seen fit to reprint the book which records those travels. In 1936 Borkenau was a German ex-Communist who had not, however, become obsessed with anti-Communism. He had been brought up as a Catholic; he was well-versed in both Marxist and anarchist doctrine; and he had visited Spain during the 1920’s and had some speaking knowledge of the language. The heart of the present book is Borkenau’s diary of two journeys to Spain, one from August 5 to September 15, 1936, and the second from mid-January to February 25, 1937. His keen powers of observation, together with his personal background, made for the accurate reporting of significant detail. Borkenau sensed immediately the existence of a “dual regime” in Catalonia: that of the Generalitat and that of the Popular Front militia committees. After a brief visit to the front in Aragon, he was aware of the absurdity of the widely held expectation of his companions that Saragossa would soon fall. In sketching politics both for Madrid and Barcelona, Borkenau saw the important cleavage between those who favored the militia system (anarchists, POUM, and Left Socialists) and those who favored the organization of a regular army (Esquerra, Left Republicans, Prieto Socialists, and Communists). With only two days in Valencia he nevertheless sensed the differences between it and Barcelona: the importance of a rich, conservative peasantry; the lesser force of the regional movement in comparison with Catalan nationalism; the less dogmatic, utopian nature of local anarchist thinking. Borkenau’s chapter of conclusions, written in April, 1937, has several brilliant paragraphs, notably those on pp. 282-283, developing parallels between the early phases of the Puritan, Jacobin, and Bolshevik revolutions and the first months of the Spanish War. On the whole, however, the diary observations are much more valuable than the background and concluding chapters. Hasty writing naturally led to a number of small errors which no editor has corrected. Thus Durruti’s name is consistently misspelled. The “Major Farrar” referred to (96) is Major Pérez Farras. The “General Molta” in Valencia (114) should be General Martínez Monje. Joaquín Maurín (302), was indeed reported shot in the Franco zone, but actually was only imprisoned there, and now lives peaceably in New York City.
The Spanish Cockpit. An Eye-Witness Account of the Political and Social Conflicts of the Spanish Civil War
Gabriel Jackson; The Spanish Cockpit. An Eye-Witness Account of the Political and Social Conflicts of the Spanish Civil War. Hispanic American Historical Review 1 August 1964; 44 (3): 450–451. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182168-44.3.450
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