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.