Post-Civil War executions vs contemporary road deaths

Xavier Caballé quotes a bit where the notoriously unreliable Catalan historian Josep Benet overstates post-war executions in what he calls “the Valencian Country” by factor 10. (I could have sworn that my comment appeared before footnote 2 did, but it’s been a confusing day.) The actual figure, taken over the period in question (1939-1953), is, if true, of a similar order of magnitude to, for example, contemporary road deaths in the US:

  • (Valencian provinces) executions/population/(1953-1939) = 4,714/1,896,738/14 = 0.0178%
  • (US) road deaths/population/year = 13.61/100,000/[2007] = 0.0136%

Terrible as both figures may seem–Xavier describes the first as “horrendous”–they’re not demographically significant. Which is not, of course, to imply that the many innocent victims in both cases deserved to die.

Nothing special about the US, but they’re the first useful data I came across. The Spanish state agency, the DGT, considerably undercounts fatalities by only including deaths within 24 hours, while the Americans’ Fatality Analysis Reporting System generously gives you up to 30 days to weaken, perish and be counted.

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  1. Some comments:

    * Valencian Country is used in the preamble of the current Valencian Estatute of Autonomy.

    * Why do you divide by 14 when calculating the percentage of the Valencian casualties?

    * The numbers are taken from Vicent Gabarda’s book (Els afusellaments al País Valencià (1938-1956). I don’t have that book, so I can’t check if there’re misspelled.

    * Using 0,2361% (4479*100/1.896.738) as the percentage of Valencian people killed during the Franco’s repression, these numbers are much equivalent to Stalin’s Purge (0,48% of Russian population were killed during 1937-1938).

  2. Currently the official and the only legally valid term according to the Statute is “Valencian Community” (which I find equally absurd), and in the 30s there was no such entity. I think the use of “Valencian Country” in connection with executions is designed to enable the claim that there was an assault on the Nation.

    I divide by 14 because afaik executions took place between 1939 and 1953. Someone who drinks a bottle of wine a day has a different kind of problem from one who drinks a bottle a week.

    The current estimate is that Stalin killed roughly 1,000,000/162,000,000 = 0.71% of total population during 1937-8. Moreover, while many of the shootings in Spain were of (nominal) left-wingers who had participated in the mass killings of 1936-7 (I haven’t got the number here, but I think about four times as many Catalans were taken out and shot by the left as by the right), I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that Stalin’s killings in 37-8 were motivated by anything other than political paranoia.

    Finally, Franco effectively stopped in 1953 having shot over 100,000 (as against the left’s 50,000–numbers from memory, but I’ll look them up if you want), but Stalin’s total haul–which should form the basis of any comparison between the two–is estimated by Mathew White at 20,000,000 in the period 1924-53, or somewhere up around 10% of total base population. That’s a rate roughly 40 times higher than Franco’s in Valencia according to your means of calculation, and roughly 20 times higher using my per annum method. There’s simply no comparison

    Perhaps the most important benefit for Spain of Franco having beaten the Stalinists was the reconciliation with the US, but it’s conceivable that had the war gone the other way, subsequent executions would have been much higher.

    I’m never quite sure what people are trying to achieve when they liken Franco to Stalin etc–to make Stalin look good, or Franco bad?–but the comparison is unfair. Which is not to say I’d like to have either of them round for tea.

  3. Hang on… why are you dividing these amounts by arbitary years? Surely the population and executions/year changed year on year, so you cna’t divide by 14 to get an answer.
    Certainly not unless you compare the US figures over a 14 year average.

    Also – why Valencia? Surely Andalucia or the Pais Vasco suffered far more than Valencia?

  4. Executions took place roughly between 1939 and 1953, but you’re right in a way: there was a big bunch at the beginning and then things calmed down. But we’re still talking about a similar scale of tragedy to motoring deaths.

    The Valencia focus comes from Xavier. I haven’t read very much about Andalusia so I’d be distinctly nervous about venturing opinions. Or perhaps not.

  5. Still not sure why anybody would compare a violent regime change to a car crash, but hey.
    Have them round for tea? They were both rather wimpy specimens, but it could be fun in a sort of “What historical character would you have a drink with?” way… as long as their respective bodyguards stayed at home.

  6. Trevor dixit: “I haven’t read very much about Andalusia so I’d be distinctly nervous about venturing opinions.”

    Ignorance has not stopped you from writing revisionist nonsensical crap in the past…don’t stop just because someone has spare time to counter your twisted claims.

  7. If I weren’t ignorant I’d be teaching at some classy institution like the University of Tarragona. Blogging is my leg-up, and I’m relying on smart people like you to help me out of my hole, Rabid.

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