Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory:
Looking back on the Spanish War 1 First of all the physical memories, the sounds, the smells and the surfaces of things.
It is curious that more vividly than anything that came afterwards in the Spanish war I remember the week of so-called training that we received before being sent to the front — the huge cavalry barracks in Barcelona with its draughty stables and cobbled yards, the icy cold of the pump where one washed, the filthy meals made tolerable by pannikins of wine, the Trousered militia-women chopping firewood, and the roll-call in the early mornings where my prosaic English name made a sort of comic interlude among the resounding Spanish ones, Manuel Gonzalez, Pedro Aguilar, Ramon Fenellosa, Roque Ballaster, Jaime Domenech, Sebastian Viltron, Ramon Nuvo Bosch.
I name those particular men because I remember the faces of all of them. Except for two who were mere riff-raff and have The nanking massacre essay become good Falangists by this time, it is probable that all of them are dead.
Two of them I know to be dead.
The eldest would have been about twenty-five, the youngest sixteen. One of the essential experiences of war is never being able to escape from disgusting smells of human origin.
Latrines are an overworked subject in war literature, and I would not mention them if it were not that the latrine in our barracks did its necessary bit towards puncturing my own illusions about the Spanish civil war.
The Latin type of latrine, at which you have to squat, is bad enough at its best, but these were made of some kind of polished stone so slippery that it was all you could do to keep on your feet.
In addition they were always blocked. Now I have plenty of other disgusting things in my memory, but I believe it was these latrines that first brought home to me the thought, so often to recur: The essential horror of army life whoever has been a soldier will know what I mean by the essential horror of army life is barely affected by the nature of the war you happen to be fighting in.
Discipline, for instance, is ultimately the same in all armies. Orders have to be obeyed and enforced by punishment if necessary, the relationship of officer and man has to be the relationship of superior and inferior. The picture of war set forth in books like All Quiet on the Western Front is substantially true.
Bullets hurt, corpses stink, men under fire are often so frightened that they wet their trousers. It is true that the social background from which an army springs will colour its training, tactics and general efficiency, and also that the consciousness of being in the right can bolster up morale, though this affects the civilian population more than the troops.
People forget that a soldier anywhere near the front line is usually too hungry, or frightened, or cold, or, above all, too tired to bother about the political origins of the war.
A louse is a louse and a bomb is a bomb, even though the cause you are fighting for happens to be just. Why is it worth while to point out anything so obvious? Because the bulk of the British and American intelligentsia were manifestly unaware of it then, and are now.
Our memories are short nowadays, but look back a bit, dig out the files of New Masses or the Daily Worker, and just have a look at the romantic warmongering muck that our left-wingers were spilling at that time. All the stale old phrases! And the unimaginative callousness of it! The sang-froid with which London faced the bombing of Madrid!
Here I am not bothering about the counter-propagandists of the Right, the Lunns, Garvins ethoc genus; they go without saying. If there was one thing that the British intelligentsia were committed to, it was the debunking version of war, the theory that war is all corpses and latrines and never leads to any good result.
Well, the same people who in sniggered pityingly if you said that in certain circumstances you would fight for your country, in were denouncing you as a Trotsky-Fascist if you suggested that the stories in New Masses about freshly wounded men clamouring to get back into the fighting might be exaggerated.
Later the bulk of them were to make other transitions equally violent.
As far as the mass of the people go, the extraordinary swings of opinion which occur nowadays, the emotions which can be turned on and off like a tap, are the result of newspaper and radio hypnosis.
In the intelligentsia I should say they result rather from money and mere physical safety. When they enthused over the Spanish war they knew, of course, that people were being killed and that to be killed is unpleasant, but they did feel that for a soldier in the Spanish Republican army the experience of war was somehow not degrading.
Somehow the latrines stank less, discipline was less irksome. You have only to glance at the New Statesman to see that they believed that; exactly similar blah is being written about the Red Army at this moment. We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple.
To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil.Rosewood Massacre The Rosewood massacre was a violent, racially motivated conflict that took place during the first week of January in rural Levy County, Florida, United States.
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