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Spanish Cockpit: An Eyewitness Account of the Spanish Civil War Paperback – 6 Apr 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; New edition edition (6 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842120069
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842120064
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.9 x 2.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 276,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Franz Borkenau (1900 - 1957) was born and grew up in Vienna. In Germany after WW I he became involved in the Communist Party, but broke with them with the advent of Stalinism, emigrating to France and then England on Hitler's rise to power. He returned to Germany after WWII and taught history, then moved into journalism. He was primarily interested in the development of Communism and the origins of Western culture.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
George Orwell's opinion 28 April 2005
By Gene Rhough - Published on
Format: Paperback
George Orwell also recommends this book. In a letter dated August 1, 1937, still energized and deeply emotionally involved in the situation after his stint in the POUM militia, he wrote -

"...I was lucky enough to get out of Spain, but many of my friends and acquaintances are still in jail and I am afraid there is the greatest fear that some of them will be shot, not for any definite offence but for opposition to the Communist Party. If you want to keep in touch with Spanish affairs, the only paper you can more or less rely on [to] tell the truth is the New Leader. Or if you come across it read an excellent book that appeared recently called 'The Spanish Cockpit' by Franz Borkenau."
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A Thoughtful Response to the Spanish Tragedy 26 Mar. 2007
By James E. Egolf - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Franz Borkenau's book titled THE SPANISH COCKPIT is a careful study of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Borkenau's book examines two years of this war (1936-1937),and Borkenau is clear that this book is not a comprehensive study of the entire war. Borkenau is also clear that he was only able to examine the "Republican" side and not the side of Franco's Philangists.

Borkenau stated that he was sympathetic to the "leftest" during the Spanish Civil War. Yet, his account is an honest attempt to examine the Republican side and present their successes, excesses and failures. Borkenau gives a surprising detailed account of the "leftest" opposition in 1936 when many of the lower classes rebelled against the army insurrection to topple the Spanish Republic. This rebellion led to the emergence of various political "leftest" parties who in their opposition to Philangists, also opposed each other.

Borkenau cites the Spanish Anarchists who showed remarkable courage. But Borkenau also documents their poltical, excesses, cruelty, and massacres. He makes the arguement that the Spanish Anarchists may have been their own worst enemy. Their massacres of opponents including Catholic clergy caused other Spaniards to fear the Anarchists. The looting and burning of Catholic churches plus their executions of land owners and businessmen antagonized too many people. Sometimes an uncontrolled zealot is the enemy's best briend.

Borkenau also discusses the chaotic military situation. What surprised this writer is Borkenau's knowledge of "military science." He cites examples of courage as well as chaotic lack of organization. For example, Borkenau is clear that at times the Anarchists showed courage while at other times they unnecessarily retreated and showed cowardice.

Borkenau gives the Soviet Communists and Spanish Communists credit for saving the Republican Government in Spain. The Anarchists were too disorganzied and resented. The Soviet Communists provided the arms and political unity necessary to stand up to Franco's Phalangists. Borkenau is clear that the Spanish and Soviet Communists undermined and eventually purged the Anarthists.

What may surprise readers is that there were times that the foreign supporters of the Spanish Republic were resented by their comrades. One should note that Franco's Phalantists also resented their German and Italian comrades. The Spanish may have considered their civil war as a family affair and dispute. Borkenau was obviously not sure who would win the Spanish Civil, but did offer some reasons why the Spanish Republicans did lose. The Spanish Republicans and their "leftest" supporters were not united, and the purges within the ranks of the "leftists demonstrated such disunity.

Borkenau also makes a case that attacks on the Catholic Church were useless and counterproductive. The Spanish Catholic Church was corrupt and lost support of many Spanish. However, as Borkenau notes, where the Catholic clergy took their vocations seriously and helped the people, the Catholic Church was strong. Considering that many Spanish were Catholic if in name only, purges and executions of the Catholic clergy may have cost the Republican Government valuable support.

Borkenau's book is similiar to Orwell's HOMAGE TO CATALONIA. Both writers had a good understanding of the political problems of the "leftests," and readers have better insight to the Spanish Civil War.
Borkenau hints that all Franco had to do was to wait for the opponents to exhaust their efforts in fighting each other making his victory easier.
Both Borkenau and Orwell left Spain with respect for the Spanish people. They also respected the independent spirit of the Spanish who basically wanted to be left alone. The Spanish were not interested in being ruled by managers, industrialists, etc. and were just as suspicious of these "progressive" forces as they were of big landowners.

On pages 299-300, Borkenau states that the Spanish valued beauty, love, honor, and friendship which were more important than efficiency that mechinization promised. In other words, historians and journalists were unable to give a clear picture because of preconceived notions of what Spain should be rather than what Spain is.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
First-hand horrors of the Spanish Civil War 29 Jun. 2014
By John - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This covers the first months, August 1936 to April 1937. He only saw from the Republican side, not being allowed entry to the Nationalist side. He reports how the anarchists took over towns and villages, killing the priests, landowners, small shop people, and anyone who might have disagreed with them in any way. Of course, the Nationalists did the same with any left sympathizers they caught. It shows how utopians start to build their perfect worlds by killing all who don't fit in the new scheme. For background, read Brenan's Spanish Labyrinth. To see what happened in the next few months (Stalinist purges), Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.
15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Travels in Republican Spain. 3 April 2004
By Kevin M Quigg - Published on
Format: Paperback
For those who have trouble with understanding the political divisions in Republican Spain, this is a great book. One can then understand the Republicans, Anarchists, POUM, Communists, and the Catalan parties because of Borkenau writings. For the vast majority of the general population, this read is very difficult. In addition, factor in Borkenau's leftist leanings, and you have a justification of all the attrocities of the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. During that time, if you were a priest, factory owner or manager, or a significant landowner, the penalty was a firing squad. The author wants to impart on his readership that it was right to execute these people as well as tell how bad Franco's side was. My viewpoint was that neither side were angels, and one was as bad as the other. Only at the end when Borkenau was arrested by the Republican police did he start writing about the terrorism of the state. He should have been writing about it when the various political parties ransacked the churches and killed the priests. At least Franco did not pretend to be what he was not.
I would not recommend this book to the average reader. It is a difficult read with all the political discourse. I did learn a lot about the various political divisions in Republican Spain and in this case, the book was informative.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Recommendation via Orwell 27 Mar. 2012
By Jonathan Harding - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a rather dated, ponderous read. Better read if you come to it with a firm understanding of names, locale, and the players.
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