For those who came in late – this is another in a series of conversations I have with people who have passed over to the other side. I have found that at least seemingly we can connect with anyone we have a reason to connect with. I call it The Cosmic Internet. The process has been described by some as Active Imagination, which is not the same thing as fantasy. I suggest that you read this not trying to decide whether it is Hemingway speaking, or my idea of Hemingway, or whatever. Instead, feel whether the material resonates, in and of itself. Truth is great, and will prevail, but you have to be open to the possibility before it can do so. This particular interaction took place on June 14, 2007.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Oh, papa, your For Whom the Bell Tolls! Does it not tell the truth! Such a relief from political lying, even by those on our side – so to speak. Upton Sinclair did not tell the truth as you did.
Upton Sinclair told the truth as Claude Bowers told it – as a form of weapon, as a club to beat the fascists and reactionaries with. But I was trying to do a deeper thing than that.
I know – and yours surely had a wider appeal.
You think wider because you think that fewer people would discount it as merely the result of propaganda, or a political agenda. But that isn’t as true as saying that it offended everyone because it attacked their stereotypes, but it got by them because it also seemed to attack their enemies. What was not so easily seen for some reason was that it was a portrait of the idealistic American who genuinely knew and loved Spain. He was in a place that didn’t even see him as an American, in a way: they called him ingles even after he corrected them, even though he spoke their language to them, and could think inside their heads. He was very much a product of America, an America they could never be brought to understand. He was forced to use the terms of the left – which quickly hardened into Stalinist cant – but he knew that he wasn’t really one of them. He just knew that he hated injustice and that while the Russians might not be trusted to hate injustice, at least they pretended to be, and said they were, and they were providing real material assistance to those who were fighting the fascists – and about the fascists there could be no mistake.
So Roberto Jordan was in no man’s land, and by 1937 he was used to it, and saw no way forward but to continue with the only allies he had, or rather to subordinate himself to the only armed organized force that opposed all he opposed.
I liked that you showed what the peasants did in 1936, the complications of their reactions. [In other words, that he had showed the bad as well as the good.]
A story about their war was no place for whitewashing or for the creation of two-dimensional pictures that time would reveal as false. I tried to write it as true as I knew it, because it was already clear that this was going to be an elegy.
I liked that you suffused it with the total foreshadowing of defeat.
It is a very Spanish sentiment. The people know defeat, and they know how to endure. But don’t forget, nobody who read the book in 1940 could be ignorant that the Republic had been doomed, no matter what they felt about it. No, nor in 1941 or 1942 or for a long time afterward, until other events buried the cause with its partisans.
Do you think – from your vantage point now – that the endurance of the Spanish did help defeat the Nazis?
Spain was to be taken in a coup in the month of July, and Calvo Sotelo was to have been the new caudillo. Unlike Franco he understood politics and would have been with Muso and Hitler in a way that might have been very damaging among the Spanish American republics. But more, it would have disheartened the French left – which was a major goal of the enterprise, from the German viewpoint. If the frente popular could be defeated so quickly, how much faith could the workers have in the frente popular of France? [I don’t know the French words and had hoped that Hemingway could put them in. Basically he said, don’t worry about it.]
Much more to the point, the Spanish resistance put the fascist intervention on the world’s front pages – and kept it there. It was supposed to happen in the dark, you see. It was to be a three days’ wonder, not even a nine days’ wonder, and then be done but for the killing. But when the workers took over cities, and the Air Force didn’t come over, and the Navy, suddenly the coup was in trouble. A coup that doesn’t succeed in a few days is doomed, because it means that it has shot its bolt, no surprise remains, and it has not met response. So it could not be presented as the will of the people, even by the boldest lying, which of course was immediately employed.
So then if Muso wouldn’t provide troops and equipment – equipment particularly – the fascists were going to lose.
They couldn’t afford to lose, and Mussolini thought anyway he was going to get another cheap victory. It was the next step up from Ethiopia, you see. First the niggers of Africa – that is how he would see it – then the played-out Spanish, with their reds like the ones he had put down at home, and then who knows? Spain had a big empire and who knows? Also, it would show the frightening upstart to his north that Italy too could play at empire building.
So when the Republic didn’t fall to a coup, it provided an opportunity for Muso to show what his troops could do (which, too bad for him, it did) and for Hitler to give his Air Force practice in actual war conditions, which the British and French later paid for, as did the Poles and Russians who had nothing to do with letting him in there.
All this helped wake up the West, because you have to understand the situation in 1936. The Liberals were paralyzed even more than usual, the Conservatives were firmly against doing anything to stop Hitler, and everybody had their eye firmly fixed either backwards or on the past. [This last clause seems a little garbled to me, but that’s how it came.]
Liberals were split between their anti-fascism and their pacifism. This rendered them totally ineffective against Hitler the master politician who used that masterfully. Conservatives in England and France were not happy to see Germany growing so strong so quickly but they were more afraid of Russia which might be geographically more remote but was actively meddling in politics everywhere and seemed to have, in the poor, a vast fifth column in every country.
If Spain had not resisted – if Spain had not shown that the Republic had not fallen from lack of support but was being murdered, all the clarifying of position that took place between July of 1936 and March of 1939 would not have taken place in the same way. Hitler would have been enabled to do much more perhaps, and have gotten even further entrenched, before the West awoke.
This is a complicated subject because what also happened is that the world saw Russia come to the aid of the Spanish Republic with arms and equipment and experienced officers – but it also saw it bring, commissars and purges and little Stalins, and so there was concrete evidence too that Spain might become a Soviet republic at the gates of the Mediterranean. It wasn’t a chimera. So that hardened the domestic lines as well, and confused the situation.
Still – the war started, and continued. The Western governments refused to sell arms to the Republic, and the peoples of the West gradually learned outrage. The British left in particular learned that their government was their enemy – and they did not forget it in 1945 when they got the chance to overthrow the government and the social system. The Labour government of 1945 and its various socialist reforms is one direct result of the Spanish resistance in 1936, and should be seen as such but generally isn’t.
Politically, too, the war discredited a lot of anti-Communist slogans that otherwise might have gotten quite a bit more use. After three years of lies about Spain resulted in a fascist victory at the time that Czechoslovakia had been swallowed up, people weren’t as willing to hear all the same fairy tales yet again. Truth can get tiresome, but it prevails, though it take forever. Lies though have a definite half-life and after a while people see through them.
See it this way. Suppose Spain had been lost in July 1936. No Soviet intervention. No German Air Force training grounds. No Italian Army fiasco. No Neutrality Act debate at home (in the United States, I mean.) No clarity to the British opposition to the Spanish or the French weakness in the face of threats. Continued pacifism in France without correction by facts. Continued pacifism, in fact, all through the West on the left – leaving a clear field for the fascists.
With Spain absorbed into their coalition, Hitler and Muso [would have] had France surrounded by hostile neighbors as in 1870, and a little before it actually occurred. Hitler’s moves against Czechoslovakia and Poland would have proceeded against a far more tranquil background.
No, don’t ever doubt it. Spain bought time. Time for liberals to decide between anti-fascist and anti-militarism; time for Western statesmen particularly in England to reveal themselves as hopelessly unable to combine with workers against fascists; time for the world’s populations to have their attention fixed on the snake-like advance of fascism. That time was bought with Spanish blood. They didn’t die for that purpose, but that was the result. Also – but it didn’t do as much good – the Civil War showed clearly what Stalinism was, if any in the West on the left were willing to see and didn’t already know. And so it helped to prepare for the impact of Darkness at Noon that, as you know, saved France from going communist after the war.
Thank you. That was quite an interesting discussion. It isn’t where I had thought we would go. I thought it was just one question. But that will have to do for now.