Magazine article The Spectator

'The Last Stalinist: The Life of Santiago Carrillo', by Paul Preston - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'The Last Stalinist: The Life of Santiago Carrillo', by Paul Preston - Review

Article excerpt

The Last Stalinist: The Life of Santiago Carrillo Paul Preston

William Collins, pp.432, £30, ISBN: 9780007558407

During the Spanish civil war the single greatest atrocity perpetrated by the Republicans was known as 'Paracuellos'. This was the village where an estimated 2,500 prisoners loyal to Franco were executed by leftish militiamen between November and December 1936.

Even though the facts of this massacre are now widely known, one question still remains: who ordered the killings? In his latest bookThe Last Stalinist ,Paul Preston claims that it was Santiago Carrillo who played a crucial role in signing the death warrants. (Carrillo, who died in 2012, always denied any involvement in the incident).

It is worth mentioning this mass murder because history tends to catch up with power-hungry leaders devoid of moral integrity. With Carrillo, however, this hasn't been the case. It is even proposed that a street in Madrid be named after him, for his contribution to the restoration of democracy in Spain.

Santiago Carrillo was the leader of the Spanish Communist Party (Partido Comunista de España) for two decades, and his politics -- with a penchant for authoritarianism, doublespeak, supreme self-confidence, irresponsibility and Soviet-style interrogation methods -- was driven by an unquenchable thirst for power. And while he may have always been the number one enemy of Spain's far right, he shared with Franco, according to Preston, 'a dedication to the constant rewriting and improving of his own life story'.

He was born on 18 January 1915 to a working-class family in Gijón in northern Spain. From his early teens he was steeped in the radical-socialist politics of his father, Wenceslao Carrillo, secretary of the Asturian metalworkers' union. During these years he learnt a valuable lesson about politics while observing his elders -- namely that the organisational structure of how a party works actually matters more than polemics.

In October 1934, as Fascism loomed ever closer, Carrillo was arrested for attempting to stir up socialist revolution and sentenced to 17 months in prison. On his release in February 1936, he was invited to visit the Soviet Union, during which time he became a committed communist and puppet of Moscow. When Stalin commanded, Carrillo obeyed -- seeming entirely comfortable in this submissive role-- and with his incorporation into the Politburo, his transformation into a hardline Stalinist was complete. …

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