The Grand Camouflage: The Communist Conspiracy in the Spanish Civil War

By Burnett Bolloten | Go to book overview

6
Hope for the Middle Classes

FROM what has been said in the foregoing chapters, it is easy to understand the pessimism, bordering on despair, that took possession of a large section of the urban and rural middle classes from the outset of the revolution. Confronted by the brute facts, they found cold comfort in the words of the conservative Republican jurist, Angel Ossorio, that in view of the "immense social revolution" that had taken place "the only thing we members of the middle classes can do is to place ourselves alongside the proletariat."1 Nor could they take comfort in the promises held out by the revolutionaries of a new and better world once private property and trade had disappeared into the limbo of things past; for the small manufacturers, artisans, tradesmen, peasant proprietors, and tenant farmers, in their immense majority, placed their hopes of a better life, not in the abolition, but in the accumulation of private property. To develop as they wished, they needed freedom of trade, freedom from the competition of the large concerns now collectivized by the labour unions, freedom to produce goods for personal profit, freedom to cultivate as much land as they pleased, and to employ hired labour without restriction. And above all, they needed, in order to defend that freedom, a régime in their own image, based on their own police corps, their own courts of law, and their own army; a régime in which their own power would be unchallenged and undiluted by revolutionary committees. But now all hope of such a régime had gone, and the middle classes had no alternative but to withdraw into the background. They were far too prudent to swim against the tide, and even adapted their attire to suit the changed conditions. "The appearance of Madrid," observed a rightwing Republican, "was incredible: the bourgeoisie giving the clenched-fist salute.... Men in overalls and rope sandals, imitating the uniform adopted by the [working-class] militia; women bare-headed;

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1
From a radio address reported in Solidaridad Obrera, September 20, 1936.

-79-

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