The Last Stalinist: The Life of Santiago Carrillo

William Collins. 2015. 448p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780007558407. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780007591824. HIST
OrangeReviewStarThis is a devastating indictment of one of 20th-century Spain's leading communists and elder statesmen. Santiago Carrillo (1915–2012) entered politics as a socialist youth leader, defected to communism during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), and by 1960 had climbed to the highest echelon of the exiled Spanish Communist Party. According to Preston (history, London Sch. of Economics; The Spanish Holocaust), Carrillo proved a ruthless, power-hungry Stalinist who sanctioned mass executions, crushed intraparty dissent, betrayed his comrades, and opportunistically reinvented himself as an anti-Soviet democrat during the 1970s. In this capacity, the statesman negotiated with a right-wing regime to legalize the Communist Party and restore democracy to Spain. Eventually revered as a "national treasure," Carrillo covered up previous ineptitudes and iniquities with what his biographer terms nauseating lies. Other observers might regard some of Carrillo's actions not as betrayals but rather as adaptations to changing circumstances or indeed as calumnies from his rivals. But each claim the author makes is amazingly well argued and researched (he offers 745 endnotes) and comes from a top historian who is sympathetic to the Spanish left.
VERDICT A probing, powerful work of scholarship and passion, this study will enthrall anyone drawn to international politics, political biography, or Spanish history.
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