The Spanish Civil War began 75 years ago. The historian Stephen Payne blames the Left. They murdered rightist leaders hoping to provoke the army into rebellion. Then the Left could crush the army and have a free hand in reconstructing Spain and eliminating the right. It didn’t work out that way. The Right won and crushed the Left. Political leaders, from antiquity to the present, have never learned that wars rarely go according to plan. They also have never learned that it is easier to start a war than to stop one.
Payne thinks that the Nationalists and Republicans killed about the same number of people – and the Nationalists won and had the Left at their mercy. If the Left had one, the Right would have been slaughtered.
Some bishops, many bishops have recently disgraced their office. But all the bishops who were in the Republican zone were murdered. They stayed with their flock and died. The only two who survived were outside of the country and could not get back to their sees. One in four priests in the Republican zone were murdered, many tortured to death. The Italians bombed Barcelona and killed hundreds of civilians in a foretaste of Dresden and Hiroshima. And the children above all suffered.
Payne thinks that Spain has changed radically and such violence could never be repeated. The dispossessed rural working class of the south is gone; the devout small holders of the north have abandoned their villages, which are in ruins. A Socialist government is doing the bidding of international bankers. Catholicism has dried up. All ideologies are discredited. The conflicts are still there, but they are a shadow of their former selves, and no one thinks that Spain can be saved from its problems by the Right or Left. In fact, the young think that the economic situation is hopeless and would like to emigrate.
Yet is still a beautiful and deeply moving country, and to me it feels like the Roman Empire never really ended. To sit in the sun on a patio above the vineyards and grain fields, in front of a stone Romanesque church, drinking the red wine of Rioja – the Romans would have felt comfortable. They would think that the locals mangled Latin, but they would recognize the local language as Latin. I hope that Hispania endures.