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Burnett Bolloten and Herbert Southworth
WAISers not familiar with Burnett Bolloten and Herbert Southworth are puzzled, since they know nothing about the former, while Paul Preston has informed us amply about the latter. Their confrontation was sad. Unlike many professors for whom teaching is essentially a job, both were devoted intellectuals working outside the academic world. Both made enormous personal sacrifices to pursue their passion for the truth. They were about the same age, and both grew up during the depression.
Both started out on the extreme left. Burnett was an avid reader of Marx, although never a Communist Party member. He covered the Civil War from Spain and thus saw himself the nasty struggles and the misery. He became disillusioned when he became aware of Communist intrigues, and he moved to the center. Southworth, who saw the Civil War from the outside, was less affected by it personally. He remained faithful to his leftist ideas. Personally, they were quite different. Southworth had much more self-assurance. Burnett was more sensitive, and Southworth's criticism hurt him. In his last days he had an attack of paranoia. It was very sad.
I have written a book on Spain, 1931-36 (the Spain both he and I saw), and I have dedicated it to Burnett. Here is the dedication:
This book is dedicated to the memory of
My long friendship with Burnett Bolloten began in an odd way. I knew his book about the Spanish Civil War, The Grand Camouflage: The Communist Conspiracy in the Spanish Civil War, which had appeared with, on the dust-jacket, a map of Spain painted red, but crossed out with black slashes symbolizing its defeat by the church-backed forces of Franco.. I dismissed it as propaganda, and thought no more about it or him; I assumed he was living in his native England. At Stanford, where I had founded the Institute of Hispanic American and Luso-Brazilian Studies, I had an assistant who disappeared for a while each day. I asked her if she had another job. She admitted she had. “With whom?” I asked. To my amazement she replied “Burnett Bolloten.” “Where does he live?” I asked, even more confused. “Down the highway.” she replied. Still bewildered, I said I would like to meet him. She told him, and one day he appeared in my office. For a while we stared at each other suspiciously, but then he told me his story. I later recorded it on tape just before his death.
He was the restless son of a Liverpool jeweler, but he had no desire to take over the business, so he began traveling around the Mediterranean. He had just lined up a job with the Associated Press when, on vacation in Barcelona, he was shocked by the outbreak of the Civil War. He phoned AP and asked them if they wanted a correspondent in Barcelona. AP accepted, and thus began his life devoted to the Spanish Civil War. The outbreak of the Civil War was as bloody in Barcelona as in Madrid. Factory owners were shot or fled, as did my hosts, the Pujol family. May 1937 was especially vicious. Officially, there were 400 killed and 1,000 wounded, but observers gave the figures as 900 dead and 2,500 wounded. Burnett’s account of those days was published the year of his death (1987) by the Freedom Press of London under the title The May Days: Barcelona, 1937. It was then that Communist treachery first became evident.
Intellectually very curious, Burnett had actually read Das Kapital of Marx, and, although never a Marxist, he was sympathetic to Communist ideals. This led him to follow with extreme care the various factions on the Republican side, and, when the Republic fell, many of its leaders migrated to Mexico. Burnett followed them there in order to interview them and to collect documentation. He came to the conclusion that the Communists had betrayed the Republic, which did not endear him to them. His life was threatened. It was an exacting, difficult life; his wife could not stand it, and they had a friendly divorce. He dedicated The Grand Camouflage “To Gladys, whose unremitting labours and self-sacrifice made this book possible.”
Burnett was married to Betty Bolloten when I met him. They had come to California to allow him to write in peace. It was still a life of sacrifice. He sold encyclopedias from door to door, and later real estate, to have some income. I have never seen such dedication to scholarship, combined with such intellectual integrity. At the same time, their home was most hospitable. They entertained my wife and me, as well as other friends, with graceful hospitality.
Burnett’s account of the Civil War, which grew from edition to edition, was scrupulous but not exciting, as were other more journalistic accounts. He had difficulty in finding a publisher. His book was first published in 1961 in London by Hollis and Carter under the aforementioned title The Grand Camouflage: The Communist Conspiracy in the Spanish Civil War. The title and the dust-jacket were the publisher’s idea, and Burnett was unhappy, since it damaged his reputation for scholarly. objectivity. Herbert Southworth led the attacks on the book, first in El Mito de la cruzada de Franco (1963) and later in “Julián Gorkin, Burnett Bolloten and the Spanish Civil War,” in The Republic Besieged, edited by Paul Preston and Ann L. Mackenzie (1996). Burnett was properly obsessed with this concern, and he even did not want the Hoover Institution Press to publish the book, since it had the reputation of being hard-line anti-communist. To make matters worse, Hollis and Carter, without consulting Burnett sold the Spanish translation rights to Caralt of Barcelona, which published it in 1967 under the title El Gran engaño, with a foreword by Franco’s propaganda minister, Manuel Fraga Iribarne. To make things worse, the words were deliberately mistranslated, for example “the Republicans” was translated as “the Reds.” Burnett sent a letter of protest to Fraga Iribarne, who replied haughtily that he should consider himself lucky that his book had been honored with a foreword by such an important official. Burnett almost went out of his mind. Since I was about to go to Barcelona, he asked me to do what I could. I did, but I was simply told that nothing could be done, since it involved the powerful Fraga Iribarne.
When I returned to Stanford, Burnett was dejected. The situation became intolerable for him when Franco’s Ambassador to Washington came to Stanford and I was asked to host a luncheon for him. I invited a dozen colleagues, among them Burnett. They stood in a circle while I went around introducing them to the Ambassador, who gave each one a protocol handshake. Burnett got one, then suddenly the Ambassador’s face lit up, he rushed back to Burnett, embraced him and said in a loud voice “You are the author of that splendid book! We always recommend it when Americans ask us the truth about the Civil War!” I doubt that Burnett slept that night.
We agreed that he must find a publisher for an authorized Spanish translation. With a Spanish team from my institute, a translation approved by Burnett was prepared. Since Spain was Franco land, Mexico, where so many Spaniards had taken refuge, seemed the obvious place of publication. One day Burnett appeared in my office with a radiant face. He said he had found a Mexican publisher. “The Fondo de Cultura Económica?” I asked, since that prestigious publisher would have been an excellent choice. “No,” said Burnett, ”Some publisher called Jus.” I was dismayed, since Jus was known as a Catholic, conservative publisher. Sure enough, the translation appeared in 1962 with a red and yellow cover --the colors of old Spain, which Franco had revived, deleting the purple stripe which symbolized the republic. In the corner was the dome of St. Peter’s. This was especially inappropriate since Burnett was a secularized Jew, although he died in the faith and a rabbi officiated at his funeral. The Spanish title read The Spanish Revolution, but there was a subtitle The Left and the Struggle for Power.
We had to take action to save Burnett’s sanity, so we imported several hundred copies from Mexico, and replaced the cover and the title page with ones giving the publisher as Stanford University’s Institute of Hispanic American and Luso-Brazilian Studies, of which I was director. Moreover I wrote a special foreword stressing that Burnett was an objective scholar.
At last the sky was blue and the sun was shining. In 1968 Frederick A. Praeger reissued the English original with a foreword by the Oxford Regius Professor of Modern History, Hugh Redwald Trevor-Roper, listed in Who’s Who as Baron Dacre of Glanton. Burnett, who never went to university (he went to a finishing school in Switzerland) could not have had a more august blessing. In 1977, Ruedo Ibérico published a French translation entitled La Révolution espagnole: la gauche et la lutte pour le pouvoir. European leftists were still suspicious.
Meanwhile, Burnett was busy revising and enlarging his work. The University of North Carolina Press, which had grown in stature, published in 1979 the latest version entitled The Spanish Revolution: The Left and the Struggle for Power during the Civil War. It was prefaced by Raymond Carr, the distinguished British Hispanist at Oxford University where he served as Director of the Latin American Centre. His publications include among many others the massive volume Spain, 1808-1939 (1966) in the series “Oxford History of Modern Europe,” and The Spanish Civil War (1971), His works have been translated into Spanish and other languages. He is a Fellow of the California Institute of International Studies. He visited Burnett and me in Stanford.
Barcelona is Spain’s main publishing center, and after the death of Franco Grijalbo published there in 1980 a translation of the 1979 volume with a foreword by the Hispanist Gabriel Jackson. The final, expanded edition of Burnett’s book was published in 1991 by the University of North Carolina Press under the title The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution. It had a preface by America’s leading specialist on modern Spain, Stanley Payne (whose e-mail nickname is spayn!). A Spanish version was published in 1989 by Alianza of Madrid under the title La Guerra Civil Española: Revolución y Contrarrevolución. It carried the old preface by Trevor Roper as well as the new one by Stanley Payne. Unfortunately Burnett died in 1987, just after he had finished the last chapter of the final version, which he dedicated “To Betty and Gregory” (his son). He did not live to see the publication of the English or the Spanish versions. In the course of his research, Burnett had assembled an enormous archive on the Spanish Civil War. Part of it is now in the Hoover Institution Archives, part in Harvard University Library.
This account of the English originals and the Spanish translations gives only the basic information, without the details of the various editions and the changes introduced as time went on. The book grew like a coral reef. The history of the translations is equally confusing. In addition to the Spanish translations, there was an Italian translation in 1966 and a Japanese one in 1991.Other translations presumably appeared, but I have been unable to trace them. A revised French translation had a strange story. Gérard Lebovici, editor of a series called Champ Libre, a great admirer of Burnett’s book, had a translation prepared, even the index having been completed when he was mysteriously assassinated in 1984. Then his publishing enterprise disappeared. His family showed no interest in continuing his work and did not heed requests to produce the translation, which presumably still exists.
At my invitation, Burnett regularly gave seminars on the Spanish Civil War at Bolivar House. Since we had no funds for this purpose, he did it on an honorary basis--another example of his generosity. Among his students was David Wingeate Pike, who collaborated with him for twenty five years. David went to the American College in Paris, which he almost single-handedly transformed into the American University of Paris. He has become a leading scholar on modern Spain, with special reference to the Civil War.
In October 1996 CIIS held at Stanford a conference on “War Crimes and War Criminals.” Its success was due in large measure to the work of David as co-chairman. On October 12, a luncheon was held to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Stanford’s Institute of Hispanic American and Luso Brazilian Studies and of its home Bolivar House. I am the only living survivor of the founding faculty.. We honored those no longer with us, among them Burnett Bolloten. Among the tributes were ones from his friends David Pike and Stanley Payne. Burnett’s friends were deeply moved. He remains for us the embodiment of the old ideal of a devoted, disinterested scholar.
Ronald Hilton - 11/26/99