Information

Italy and the Spanish Civil War


When Benito Mussolini gained power in Italy he began to develop contacts with right-wing forces in Spain. In March 1934 Mussolini met a group of Spanish politicians and generals in Rome who were opposed to the Second Republic. At the meeting Mussolini promised the group 10,000 rifles, 10,000 hand grenades, 200 machine-guns and a million pesetas in cash in event of a military uprising.

On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Mussolini failed to keep his promise of immediate aid. After a week of negotiations he agreed to sell the Nationalists twelve Savoia S81 bombers.

Leon Blum, the prime minister of the Popular Front government in France, initially agreed to send aircraft and artillery to help the Republican Army. However, after coming under pressure from Stanley Baldwin and Anthony Eden in Britain, and more right-wing members of his own cabinet, he changed his mind.

Baldwin and Blum now called for all countries in Europe not to intervene in the Spanish Civil War. In September 1936 a Non-Intervention Agreement was drawn-up and signed by 27 countries including Germany, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and Italy.

Benito Mussolini continued to give aid to General Francisco Franco and his Nationalist forces and during the first three months of the Nonintervention Agreement sent 90 Italian aircraft and refitted the cruiser Canaris, the largest ship owned by the Nationalists.

On 28th November the Italian government signed a secret treaty with the Spanish Nationalists. In return for military aid, the Nationalist agreed to allow Italy to establish bases in Spain if there was a war with France. Over the next three months Mussolini sent to Spain 130 aircraft, 2,500 tons of bombs, 500 cannons, 700 mortars, 12,000 machine-guns, 50 whippet tanks and 3,800 motor vehicles.

In December Benito Mussolini began sending large numbers of Black Shirts to Spain. By the end of 1936 there were 3,000 members of the Black Shirts in Spain. They took part in the fighting around Madrid and participated in the fall of Málaga in February 1937. By this time their numbers had increased to 30,000. There were also 20,000 members of the Italian Army fighting in Spain.

The Italians also played a prominent role in the offensive at Guadalajara. Mussolini insisted that his forces should be used as a single unit. General Francisco Franco was unhappy about this as he wanted the Italians dispersed among his own Spanish units.

On 8th March over 35,000 Italian soldiers and 81 whippet tanks and a company of machine-gunners, went into action at Guadalajara. The Italians failed to breakthrough on the first day and on the 9th March the Republican Army reinforced the frontline with over 20,000 soldiers.

The Republicans held the Nationalist for over a week before launching its own counter-offensive on 18th March. Using its best troops, including the International Brigades, the Republicans were able to force the Italians to retreat.

During the failed offensive at Guadalajara, the Italians had 400 killed, 1,800 wounded and had 500 men taken prisoner. The Italians also lost significant quantities of arms and supplies, including 25 artillery pieces, 10 mortars, 85 machine-guns and 67 trucks.

General Francisco Franco blamed the Italians for the Nationalist defeat and banned them from operating again as an independent unit in Spain. He insisted that in future the Italians would have to operate in larger units made up primarily of Spanish troops and commanded by Spanish generals.

In August 1937 Italian submarines began torpedoing ships heading for Republican ports. The governments of Britain and France both made protests at this action and the following month Benito Mussolini brought an end to these attacks on shipping.

During the Spanish Civil War Italy sent 80,000 men, of whom almost 6,000 belonged to the Italian Air Force, 45,000 to the army and 29,000 to the fascist militia. Italy also supplied 1,800 cannon, 1,400 mortars, 3,400 machine-guns, 6,800 motor vehicles, 157 tanks, 213 bombers, 44 assault planes and 414 fighters.

Though German aid to Franco never equalled that given by Italy, which dispatched between sixty and seventy thousand troops as well as vast supplies of arms and planes, it was considerable. The Germans estimated later that they spent half a billion marks on the venture 37 besides furnishing planes, tanks, technicians and the Condor Legion, an Air Force unit which distinguished itself by the obliteration of the Spanish town of Guernica and its civilian inhabitants. Relative to Germany's own massive rearmament it was not much, but it paid handsome dividends to Hitler.

It gave France a third unfriendly fascist power on its borders. It exacerbated the internal strife in France between Right and Left and thus weakened Germany's principal rival in the West. Above all it rendered impossible a rapprochement of Britain and France with Italy, which the Paris and London governments had hoped for after the termination of the Abyssinian War, and thus drove Mussolini into the arms of Hitler.

From the very beginning the Fuehrer's Spanish policy was shrewd, calculated and far-seeing. A perusal of the captured German documents makes plain that one of Hitler's purposes was to prolong the Spanish Civil War in order to keep the Western democracies and Italy at loggerheads and draw Mussolini toward him.

Italian losses (at Guadalajara) included considerable stocks of equipment, among which 16,000 shells, 12,000 hand grenades, and 628 boxes of rifle ammunition. Their casualties, according to C.T.V. headquarters, amounted to 3,000 killed and wounded. In an article published in the review Ejercito, January 1945, Lieutenant-Colonel Lago, of the Spanish General Staff, gave approximate figures of the total losses in the battle: Nationalists, 148 killed, 300 wounded; Italians, 1,000 killed, 2,500 wounded, 800 missing. Republicans, 6,500 killed and wounded, 900 prisoners.

Guadalajara was a setback for our side, which failed to attain its objectives. But it was not a disaster, as our adversaries proclaimed. Republican losses onset those suffered by the Nationalists, and the equipment captured by the enemy was rapidly replaced. The twelve miles or so which we finally gained on the road to Madrid lacked miles or so which we finally gained on the road to Madrid lacked strategic value, but this also was the case with the territory re-won by the Republicans. Neither stretch of ground could influence the future conduct of the war or its outcome. Our opponents did not exploit the seized counter-offensive, as they would have done had they seized Alcolea del Pmar and Medinaceli, only twenty-five miles away from the points where they finally established their lines. They did not destroy the morale of our troops nor depress our rearguard unduly. But their victory made an impact on foreign public opinion which time has tailed to erase.

On our side the lessons of Guadalajara were not wasted. Before the battle was fought Franco had pointed out that Italian contingents, made up of militias officered by men who were not always professional soldiers, needed reorganization and training. Co-ordination and liaison services had to be established or speeded up to assure a fuller understanding between the respective Staffs, and to keep commanding officers suitably informed. This was done, systematically and fully Italian brigades and their commanders accepted in due course the idea of being flanked on the field by Spanish effectives.

A pessimistic view is taken here of events in Spain. There is no indication yet whether the Government or the insurgents are likely to prevail. Everything points to a protracted and sanguinary civil war.

The insurgents have the advantage of getting outside help whereas the Government is getting none. The latter has applied to the French Government for permission to import arms from France, but so far at least permission has not been given. The insurgents, on the other hand, are being assisted by the Italians and Germans.

During the last few weeks large numbers of Italian and German agents have arrived in Morocco and the Balearic Islands. These agents are taking part in military activities and are also exercising a certain political influence.

For the insurgents the belief that they have the support of the two great 'Fascist Powers' is an immense encouragement.

But it is also more than an encouragement, for many of the weapons now in their hands are of Italian origin. This is particularly so in Morocco.

The German influence is strongest in the Balearic Islands. Germany has a great interest in the victory of the insurgents.

Apparently she hopes to secure concession in the Balearic Islands from them when they are in power. These islands play an important part in German plans for the future development of sea-power in the Mediterranean.

The civil war is of particular interest to Germany because the victory of the insurgents would open the prospect (closed

by Anglo-French collaboration and by the existence of a pro-British, pro-French, and pro-League Spanish Republic) of action in Western Europe. That is to say, a 'Fascist' Spain would, for Germany, be a means of 'turning the French flank' and of playing a part in the Mediterranean.

On the Spanish mainland Germany disposed of a numerous and extremely well-organised branch of the National Socialist party. This branch has been strongly reinforced by newcomers from Germany during the last few weeks. She also disposes of a powerful organization for political and military espionage, which works behind a diplomatic and educational facade. Barcelona in particular has a large German population, the greater part of which is at the disposal of the National Socialists.

The fate of Morocco is naturally of the highest interest to Germany, for if the insurgents are victorious she may hope to secure territorial concessions in Morocco and therefore a foothold in Northern Africa.

At Valencia the first thing we saw was one of the schools for refugee children, which showed clearly the interest in education taken by the Republican government. Next came a visit to a prison for political prisoners, until lately occupied by the present President and Prime Minister.

The prison consisted of a large well-lit building with a central hall from which radiated staircases to various galleries. Outside these there was a good-sized gravelled recreation ground in which some fifty men were standing about, looking well clothed and fed. We were allowed to call out for men who could speak French or English, and any who could do so were hastily pushed forward. In reply to our questions they said that little was wrong with the food, and that letters and gifts from friends were received regularly. The only complaint made to us was that no visitors had been allowed for a month.

In another prison we visited, two hundred Italian prisoners-of-war, Mussolini's so-called 'volunteers', were confined. We were allowed to talk to them freely and we asked them how they came to be here. Several replied that they had thought they were being taken to one of the Italian colonies. Others had come with their own officers, as a regiment. When we asked them how they were being treated, several ran off to fetch samples of the bread they were getting, which they obviously found satisfactory. They looked well cared for, and happy to be out of the fighting.

Further detachments of Italian troops arrived last week in Spain just before the prohibition of volunteers came into force. Their total strength is estimated at about 10,000, so that there are now at least 70,000 Italian troops in Spain. Some 5,000 French volunteers also succeeded in reaching Spain just before closing time.

Amongst the war material shipped to Spain from Italy this month was a consignment of 100 Caproni bombers, which arrived in an aircraft-carrier. It does not seem that any Russian volunteers or war material have reached Spain during the last few weeks. Instead, it would seem that Russia has given up her intervention altogether.

All figures relating to numbers of troops - whether Spanish or foreign - in Spain are conjectural, but as far as can 'be judged at the moment there would seem to be between 30,000 and 60,000 volunteers on the Government side and between 80,000 and 100,000 on the rebel side, the latter, of course, bring supplies with an incomparably superior armament.


The Catholic Church and the Spanish Civil War.

The Catholic Church and the Spanish Civil War.
The Spanish Civil War (July 1936 to April 1939) was fought between the legitimately elected left-wing coalition government of the Second Republic and Nationalist insurgents under the command of Francisco Franco.

The Civil War was brutal, and reaction to it, especially in Europe, was complicated by intense rivalries amongst the European powers: Britain and France, Germany and Italy, the Soviet Union all eyed each other with increasing distrust. Against this background, both Republican and Nationalists sought to influence international perception of their role in the Civil War. The Nationalists, however, had a powerful ally with both international influence and moral authority: the Catholic Church.

Early on the Republic had antagonised the Church with measures aimed to remove its influence from public life, e.g. Article 1 of the new Constitution declared that El Estado español no tiene religión oficial (“The Spanish State has no official religion”) or the removal of religious orders (e.g. Jesuits, nuns) from public education, which became secular (Article 48).

As a result, the Republic was odious to the Church, and almost all the clergy –with the exception of those in the Basque provinces– threw their weight behind the Nationalist rebels from the beginning. Priests hurled hatred against the “Reds” from their pulpits, blessed the troops and flags before battle and adopted the fascist salute.

The ideological word that resonated increasingly in Nationalist propaganda was “Crusade.” Franco himself recognised its emotional power to conjure up Spain’s medieval role as a crusading nation as early as July 1936, when he observed that we are faced with a war that is taking on each day the character of a Crusade (Sueiro I 71).

The church hierarchy needed no encouragement to employ it. In a pastoral letter to his churchgoers in September, 1936, the Bishop of Salamanca emphasised that the war was really a Crusade for religion, for the fatherland, for civilisation … a Crusade against communism in order to save religion (Sueiro I 71).

Other bishops used the word like a mantra (Sueiro I 71), echoing the call to Holy War of the medieval church militant. Some priests even fought in the Nationalist ranks. The enemy now was not the Moor (the Spanish word for the Muslim** invaders of 711), but communists, anarchists, freemasons, liberals, Jews, sometimes all rolled together.

On the same day that the Bishop of Salamanca issued his pastoral, the Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Gomá denounced the Republicans as the sons of Moscow … the Jews and the freemasons … the dark societies controlled by the Semite International (Preston History 158).

For Gomá –the most powerful figure in the Spanish church– the war took on apocalyptic overtones as the rebels –favoured by divine help– undertook a true Crusade in defence of the Catholic religion … Christ and the Anti-Christ are battling on our soil (Sueiro 1 72).

Although the Republican government was legitimate and democratically elected, the Church portrayed it as illegitimate in origin … usurper of power … traitor to the Fatherland … enemy of God (Sueiro I 73, 75). By doing so, the Church provided moral and spiritual justification for the Nationalist insurgency, and further defended it as divine intervention. The war was likened to a surgical operation directed by God, a divine therapy for a country that had strayed off its godly path the cure was painful but all the more efficacious for the suffering (Sueiro I 74).

The man entrusted with administering the cure was Francisco Franco who, like a saviour sent from heaven, rescued Christianity from the godless hordes: At a moment of grave danger and fierce attacks against the Catholic Church there came a man, Franco, who defended on Spanish soil the eternal rights of Christianity. And History will have to add, in justice, that thanks to the Spanish Crusade the torrent of the godless was stopped in Europe (Sueiro I 74).

On July 1, 1937, the Spanish church went one step further. Following the brutal attack on Guernica by German planes (April 26, 1937) and subsequent world reaction condemning it, the Nationalists needed a public relations spin.

Cover of letter penned by the Spanish Church to justify its support for the Nationalist cause.

In response to a request by Franco for a public declaration of support from the church hierarchy, one cardinal, seven archbishops, thirty-five bishops and five vicars-general signed a Joint Letter … to the Catholic Bishops Throughout the World: The Spanish Situation. A Survey. Significant exceptions were the Cardinal-Archbishop of Tarragona in Catalunya (Catalonia) and the Bishop of Vitoria in the Basque Country (now Euskadi).

Claiming an imminent communist revolution (Pp. 13, 15), the Spanish bishops asserted the right –authorised by St Thomas– of defensive resistance by force (P. 14) after having exhausted every legal means (P. 15). The uprising was described not only as a military undertaking, but a combined civil-military movement (P. 17), an armed plebiscite (P. 19) against forces that were anti-divine (P. 18). In such circumstances, the Church could not be indifferent (P. 20). Only the Nationalist movement could win back peace and justice (P. 21).

What exactly were the Nationalists crusading against, according to the bishops? Communism. Spain was, they argued, a target for powers … (which) had decided to overthrow constitutional order and with violence set up Communism (P. 15).

Predictably, then, the Bishops spared no pain in attacking the Soviet Union for its intervention in the Spanish Civil War on behalf of the Republic, but were silent on the help given to the Nationalists by Germany and Italy. There was a brief allusion to arms and men of other foreign countries (P.19), but an outright declaration of fascist help would undoubtedly prove embarrassing.

To further the “truth,” the bishops also called on fully proved facts (P. 22) to demonstrate with numerous examples the barbarity and inhumanity of the Republicans (Pp. 22-29). Nationalist victims were characterised as martyrs (P. 31), and Nationalist excesses glossed over as a loss of serenity, or a mistake, or committed by subordinates: no one maintains complete serenity while defending himself against the mad onslaughts of an enemy that knows no mercy. In the name of justice and Christian charity we reprove any atrocities that may have been committed by mistake or by subordinates…(P. 37).

Both the massacre of Badajoz (Aug 1936), and the brutal destruction of Guernica –to name only two Nationalist atrocities– were attributed presumably to a momentary loss of serenity or to a mistake!

No doubt the Church suffered humiliation and loss of influence under the Republic, and Republicans also committed atrocities during the War.**

But what is questionable is the explanation given by an institution that claimed that she has bound herself to no one, to no party, person or cause (P. 34). Words of peace, charity, forgiveness rang hollow when the bishops clearly took a belligerent stance in other declarations.

For instance, a speech by Cardinal Gomá in Budapest in 1938, when it was already evident that the Nationalists had the upper hand, made it clear that reconciliation was not forthcoming: Indeed, it is necessary to end the war. But do not let it end with a compromise, with an agreement nor with reconciliation. It is necessary to take hostilities to the point of achieving victory at the point of a sword. Let the reds surrender, since they have been beaten. There is no pacification possible other than through arms. In order to organise peace within a Christian constitution it is vital to uproot all the rot of secular legislation (Sueiro I 72-3).

The collective letter to the Bishops of the World was written for external consumption and was an attempt to manipulate world opinion and whitewash Nationalist atrocities. It painted a church under threat of extinction in Spain, a church forced to resist, but one that nevertheless showed Christian fortitude in suffering and charity towards its oppressors.

Perhaps there is nothing more telling of the cynical manipulation than the absence of that one word that had become a mantra in religious circles in Spain: Crusade. At no time did these same bishops, who had preached a Crusade in their pastorals to their parishioners, use the word to describe their circumstances in the collective letter to the world.

Indeed, the only time the word appears in their collective letter is to contextualise the past (Therefore the Church, even while she is the daughter of the Prince of Peace, has blessed emblems of war, has founded military Orders, and has organised Crusades against the enemies of the Faith. This is not our case (P. 8). The bloody connotations of a Crusade were undoubtedly clear to the bishops it was not appropriate for the outside world and therefore was not be used.

As an international institution, the Catholic Church could expect a sympathetic ear within Catholic circles abroad. There were dissenting voices (attributed to false Catholics Sueiro I 75), but Catholics generally reacted supportively to the lurid tales broadcast in Nationalist news bulletins and publications.

In the Vatican, Pope Pius XI was more circumspect in that he did not endorse the rebellion, but his decision to officially name those murdered by the Republic as martyrs, and his recognition of Franco in August 1937 left no doubt where his sympathy lay. His successor, Pius XII, was more openly supportive.

At the end of the war, he sent the victorious Franco a message in which he singled Spain as a nation historically chosen by God to spread the message to the New World and as an invincible bulwark of the faith. Spain provided the clearest proof that, above everything else, the eternal values of religion and the soul still survive(Sueiro I 81).


Spanish Civil War and the Catholic Church

How can so many church goers blindly support Trump although Trump is the antithesis of Christianity? Many Christians who feel alone in their opposition find hope in this editorial of the leading magazine Christianity Today:
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-should-be-removed-from-office.html

We have written blogs on why many Catholics and Protestants supported Fascist regimes in Mussolini’s Italy and Vichy France in the World War II era and before, and how also how many German Christians either supported or tacitly tolerated the Nazi regime, enabling and tolerating Hitler’s rise to power and the Nazi German nationalism during his dictatorship. These historical inquiries always lead back to the Spanish Civil War, fought between 1936 and 1939, where the communists persecuted the Catholic Church, systematically murdering many priests, monks and nuns in the regions they controlled. This happened before, after Lenin overthrew the Czar’s government in the Russian Revolution the communists martyred millions of Christians as a matter of state policy. By far, there have been more Christian martyrs in the twentieth century than in the prior nineteen centuries combined. The Pope and many Catholics were very willing to give the Fascist and Nazi parties the benefit of the doubt because the Fascists were enemies of the godless communists. Although Hitler was the enemy of both Catholics and Protestants from the moment he was elevated to the rank of Fuhrer, the Fascist regimes of Italy, Spain and Vichy France openly supported Catholic policies in their countries.

We will investigate primarily the history of Catholicism the Spanish Civil War as reported by one of the leading histories of that period. The Spanish Civil War has inspired many other excellent histories available and literary works include Ernest Hemingway’s “For Who the Bells Toll” and George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia,” which may be topics for future blogs.

Terminology: In the Spanish Civil War, the socialists and communists were called Republicans, while the rebelling Fascist generals were called Nationalists.

First we need to understand the unique history of Catholicism in the centuries leading up to the Civil War.

PRE-WAR HISTORY OF CATHOLIC CATHOLICISM

The Spanish crown was always a stalwart champion of Catholicism. Spanish Catholicism profoundly influenced medieval Catholicism, both for better and worse, both for Spain and Catholicism. Spain was the only European region that fell to the Muslim armies, the Reconquista struggle to defeat the Muslims, ending in 1492, lasted for seven centuries. This unique struggle helps explain why Spain is unique. Although this was a long and complicated process, often slowed by alliances between local Christian and Muslim rulers, the Reconquista meant that the Spanish nobles were weaker and the monarchy stronger than in other European regions. Also, there were closer ties historically between the Spanish armies and the Catholic Church, which persisted into the age of Spanish colonialism. Since the Reconquista ended shortly before Luther was born, Spain was less affected by the Protestant Reformation.

Spain was economically backward, the Spanish colonial system was more exploitative and less concerned with trade than other European countries. The vast amounts of gold and silver mined in Mexico and Peru and the Catholic prejudice against usury also helped to hinder the development of a Spanish merchant class. Spain was much slower to abandon feudalism where nobles were not only not expected to work, they were derided if they did any productive work. In contrast, the peasant serfs both paid the taxes and performed the back-breaking agricultural tasks to feed the country while living lives of destitution and sometimes starvation. A period joke was that half of Spain eats but does not work, while the other half works but does not eat.

The mountains of the Pyrenees helped to isolate Spain from the rest of Europe, but they did not prevent Napoleon from invading Spain and infecting Spanish society with the liberal ideas of the French Enlightenment and the legal egalitarian legal principles of the Napoleonic Code. Under enlightenment philosophy the development of liberalism led to anti-clerical sentiments in the small but growing middle class, particularly in the reign of the very capable King Charles III half a century after Napoleon.

In the decades after Charles III Spain was less stable politically, between 1814 and 1875 there were 37 attempted military coups, of which a dozen were successful. In 1873 the Spanish monarch abdicated shortly before the short-lived First Spanish Republic, and the House of Savoy were constitutional monarchs from 1874 to 1931, shortly before the Spanish Civil War. The trinity of army, monarchy and Catholic Church presided both over the Spanish Empire and its final collapse after the Spanish American War of 1989 when the young American nation humiliated the Spanish forces in Cuba and the Philippines, ceding both those territories and Puerto Rico to the United States.

Since Spain took longer to evolve away from a feudal agricultural society than the rest of Europe, it was was less prosperous and more backward than its neighbors. Spain was so impoverished that half a million Spaniards from a total population of 18 million emigrated to their former colonies in the New World. Two thirds of Spanish citizens were illiterate agricultural peasants. Church and the landlord class worked together to keep the peasants impoverished, the ballot box and judicial system were rigged to deny justice to the peasant class. Just as in France the “Church” was not monolithic, as the local village priest was just as impoverished as his peasant parishioners, and was more sympathetic to their plight than his superiors. Since Spain was neutral in World War I, these war and post-war years were a welcome period of prosperity for all of Spain due to rising agricultural, raw material, and industrial exports.[1]

Although the Great Depression did not affect Spain as much as more developed countries, it did lead to a dramatic fall in exports and economic hardships. The monarchy was tied too closely to the military dictatorship, and King Alfonso XIII abdicated in 1931 soon after the Republicans won the municipal elections that year. Although only five to twenty percent of Spain’s population attended Catholic mass, this anti-clericalism was deeply resented by the traditional Catholic clergy and believers, landowners, and conservative members of the army.

In Spain, the socialists and communists were called Republicans, while the rebelling Fascist generals were called Nationalists. The Spanish Civil War was really two civil wars. One was the larger civil war between the Republicans and the Nationalists. The other civil war was between the Socialists and the Communists, and this conflict helped sparked the larger civil war. In early 1934 the socialist executive committee pushed a program to nationalize all land, dissolve religious orders and seize their property, and dissolve the army, replacing it with a national militia. These proposals strengthened the Bolshevik party over the other socialist parties.

Largo Caballero, a leading socialist, sowed discord when he started encouraging a violent overthrow of the social order by the vanguard of the proletariat and shouting communist mantras while condemning the fascist wolf, which led to a self-fulfilling prophecy when general strikes sometimes coupled with armed revolt were staged in several regions of Spain. The government was forced to declare a state of war against the armed workers, historians estimate that between 15,000 and 30,000 workers participated in these violent uprisings that also took the lives of about forty priests and the wealthy.[2]

Compromise in the 1930’s was impossible between the far-left communists and socialists who shouted for violent revolution and the army and Civil Guard who cruelly repressed their protests and rebellions. This guaranteed that the last elections in Franco’s lifetime were held in 1936. The Nationalists refused to support a government that refused to protect the interests of the Catholic Church. Although the leftist parties won the election by a small margin, they acted as if they were handed an electoral mandate for revolutionary change.

The Falange Española, or Spanish Phalanx, the Spanish Fascist Party, was born in a Madrid meeting in 1933 that attracted student, fascist intellectuals, and conservatives from the wealthy and middle class threatened by the radical leftists. The Falange was deeply conservative, supporting the Church and the army and the historical traditions of Spain. Like their fascist counterparts they were eager to battle their leftist enemies in street fighting. Some thought the ideal Falangist was half-monk, half-soldier, like modern Reconquistas.[3]

In hindsight, the Republicans were doomed to lose the Civil War. The Great Stalinist Purge Trials that decimated the officer corps and political and bureaucratic class of Russia occurred at the same time in history, being a lackey of Stalin was valued far more highly than professional competence. This attitude also affected only intensified the inflexible ideology of the far-left in the Spanish Civil War, battles were valued more for their propaganda victories than for their actual military victories. Strategic retreats were ideologically suspect, once you committed troops to a battle you never retreated, you just kept committing more troops until your armies were either victorious or all dead or captured. And after all battles the dead always leave their guns and trucks and tanks behind.

The Republicans always had fewer and older guns and trucks and tanks, Stalin was always stingy and often did not live up to his commitments to supply the Republican armies, stinginess that only increased as the Bolshevik intimidation of the more moderate socialist parties increased. Early in the war the Republicans made the mistake of depositing the government reserves in Moscow, Stalin was quick to oblige but would never account for them. Stalin gained propaganda victories by simply promising aid, and the Western democratic allies were neutral, refusing military aid to both sides. Prime Minister Chamberlains’ policy was to appease the Nazis. In contrast, the Germans and Italians were eager to test and supply weapons to their Fascist friend Franco, as Spain potentially had great strategic importance. The German Luftwaffe pilots were eager to try out their blitzkrieg bombing tactics, while the Russian pilots were far more timid and were less willing to risk defeat, preferring patrols to aggressive combat. Unlike the later Cold War conflicts, in the Spanish Civil War there were few Spanish pilots.

Both sides in the Spanish Civil War were guilty of committing civilian and military massacres. What frightened the Pope and Catholics all over Europe was the Republicans targeted priests and monks and nuns for massacres and sometimes brutal tortures. Since the Nationalists were friends of the Church, they tended to only massacre the priests who served either as chaplains or soldiers in the Republican armies, although sometimes priests simply suspected of firing on troops were also executed. Instead, the Nationalists massacred liberal school teachers. Sometimes the public executions were public events. Also the German Luftwaffe pilots practicing their new blitzkrieg bombing strategies. In the infamous bombing of Guernica the German pilots destroyed a church and then circled back for target practice on those who were fleeing from the church. In the years immediately after the war Franco continued his massacres of Republicans.

Although the Luftwaffe blitzkrieg bombing campaigns of the Spanish Civil War definitely served as practice for the dive-bombing in the Nazi invasions of Poland and France, the Spanish Civil War was really more like the Battle of Stalingrad that helped turned the tide of war in Europe. In both of these conflicts both sides stubbornly fought just viciously for a propaganda victory, never willing to strategically retreat, readily accepting massive military and civilian casualties. The Fascist Nationalists always had a manpower advantage, starting the war with 40,000 battle hardened troops from Morocco and greener 60,000 troops in Spain, in time the Republicans were able to recruit armies whose lack of experience was often overcome by ideological enthusiasm, enthusiasm which faded as the fatalities of war mounted. By late 1937 both sides had between 650,000 and 700,000 troops each.

The most competent Nationalist general was Francisco Franco, although he was quite conservative in his strategic decisions. Many historians speculate that Franco’s battlefield caution was purposeful, more numerous the casualties of war, the fewer are his political opponents after the war. In this Civil War the plodding McClellans were always preferred over the decisive Grants.[4]

THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR GRINDS ON AND ON

Most military coups are quick, either they succeed in a week or two, or they fail. The Spanish Civil War is an outlier, it is the military coup that lasted four bloody years. The coup quickly succeeded in some conservative regions but drug on in Republican regions, including the key capital of Spain, Madrid. Though the Nationalist Falange quickly won over regions bordering Madrid, Madrid itself would not surrender until the dying days of the war.

This was a coup that was attempted in the various regions of Spain by multiple generals. Although most of the Spanish generals and officers were Falange sympathizers, there were some generals loyal to the Republican government, some generals were socialists, some generals sided with the socialists due to local political reasons and the initial failure of the Falangist coup in their region.

Just as there was general anticipation of the initial communist uprising, likewise many also anticipated the Nationalist Falange uprising, there were too many people and publicity involved to keep these political events secret. In the beginning of the war it seemed that much of the Spanish Navy was initially loyal to the Republican government, so the Nazi Luftwaffe did achieve surprise in the first airlift of Spanish Nationalist troops from Spanish Morocco to central Spain. This was also the first coup where the military tried to quickly seize the radio stations, telephone exchanges and airports.

The Falange generals did not anticipate the determination of the union members and many members of the Civil Guard to oppose the coup. Often soldiers were attacked with unexpected furor with homemade weapons and bombs and snipers. The coup was successful in Seville, near Madrid, but there was unexpected resistance in Barcelona, since the unionist movement was strong in the surrounding region of Catalonia.[5] In his book Anthony Beever provides more details on the suffering and atrocities on both sides in chapters titled Red Terror, White Terror, the Nationalist Zone, and the Republican Zone if you want more gory details.

The maps in Wikipedia show that the Nationalists started the war in 1937 controlling more of the territory in the north and west of Spain, bordering Portugal and the Atlantic, while the Republicans controlled Madrid and central and eastern Spain, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The maps illustrate the slow slogging campaigns of the war. In 1938 the Republican regions were cut in two when the Nationalists a large corridor to the Mediterranean Sea. In 1939 the small Republican Catalonian pocket was captured, while the bulk of the Republican held territories did not collapse until the very end of the war. The estimates of total casualties range from 250,000 to two million, most historians agree they exceeded a million lives.[6]

The Spanish Republicans were the winners in the arena of public opinion and the liberal international press. Early in the war many idealistic young socialists flocked to join the International Brigades to battle the fascists, during the war over 30,000 foreigners from over fifty countries volunteered to serve in these brigades, and most of the foreign press reported from Republican territory. Many foreign socialists, like George Orwell, became disillusioned by the murderous Bolsheviks who struggled to increase their control over all the socialist parties. Orwell came to fear that he was much more likely to shot by communist conspirators than enemy fascist soldiers.[7] When these volunteers tried to return home, they sometimes found they were not allowed to leave, and were sometimes forced to fight senseless blood-letting battles at the point of a pistol. Sometimes socialists who refused to join the communist party were shot. If foreign volunteers were foolish enough to surrender their passports, the passports were often sent to Moscow in diplomatic pouches so Soviet NKVD agents could steal their identity. If the foreign volunteers did manage to escape to their home countries, they were often blacklisted by left-wing publishers if they dared to criticize the Bolsheviks.[8]

TOTAL VICTORY AND FOUNDING THE TOTALITARIAN CATHOLIC STATE

In the beginning of the Civil War, Franco’s constitutional formula was to establish a monarchy without a monarch, with Franco as the ruling strongman. This avoided both the unpopularity of the deposed King Alphonse and establishing a monarch that could later depose him, as King Victor Emmanuel would later depose Mussolini when Sicily was invaded.[9]

In the Spanish Civil War General Franco sought the total destruction of his enemies, the transformation of Spain, turning it back to its traditional Catholic values, and the establishment of a totalitarian regime. When eventual victory became certain in early 1938, Franco formalized the structure of his totalitarian government. While government ministers were bound to swear allegiance to head of state rather than Franco personally. Was this personal allegiance to the leader required of ordinary citizen as it was required in Germany and Italy? My sources are silent on this question.

In Franco’s government the key ministries of defense, public order, and foreign affairs were all controlled by generals. Abolished were the liberties of meeting and public association. The ministries of justice and education were mandated to reverse all Republican legislation related to church affairs and education, crucifixes would once again hang in every Spanish classroom. The new Law of the Press forbade the press from criticizing the government or the prestige of the nation. The official language would be Castilian, Basque or Catalan could no longer be spoken in public.

Also abolished was the pretense of class struggle, to be replaced by a government sponsored association of bosses and workers. Surprisingly, Fuero del Trabajo or Right of Work decree combined Falange political doctrines with the progressive pro-labor papal encyclical Rerum Novarum. This encyclical was the start of the Catholic doctrine of social justice which would also influence the formulation of FDR’s New Deal policies.

The Republicans had foolishly trusted the Spanish foreign reserves to Stalin’s regime, so Franco was forced to mortgage the country’s mineral wealth to pay Germany for its military aid during the war. Hitler was the stricter creditor, Mussolini let Franco slide on his Italian war debts.[10]

THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR FINALLY ENDS

When the Spanish Civil War ended the economy was in ruins, there was massive destruction of railways, roads, bridges, ports, power lines, and telephone systems. Half a million buildings were either destroyed or severely damaged. One of the regime’s first priorities was returning farms and land seized by Republican forces during the war and in the agrarian reforms of the Spanish Republic. Both wages and prices were fixed controlled by the state, strikes were outlawed, and the business profits of owners were limited.

Prison camps were established all over the country, holding close to half a million former Republicans, although executions, suicides and escapes reduced the totals. Although conditions were quite brutal in the prisons and prison camps, my sources suggest that the camp conditions did not approach those in the Nazi death and labor camps in Germany. These prisoners were available to assist in rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed by the war. Only at the end of World War II would Franco pardon the political prisoners of the Spanish Civil War.

Ominously, in 1943 over 12,000 children were forcibly stolen from their Republican mothers and handed to Catholic orphanages for adoption by more politically correct couples. The military dictators of Argentina would copy this practice thirty years later.

Republicans were purged from the schools and universities and were obliged to submit to the authority of the Church and the new state. Neighbors were encouraged to spy on their neighbors, continued vigilance for approved ideology was considered to be patriotic. Women were encouraged to work at home to tend to housework and be always obedient to their husbands. Marxism, the Enlightenment, and Freemasonry had been defeated by the virtuous fascist forces of the Phalange.[11]

FRANCO DECLARES SPANISH NEUTRALITY IN WORLD WAR II

When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 Franco was quick to declare that Spain would be a neutral nation in the upcoming conflict. The Spanish Civil War had ended only a few months before, Spain was in no condition to fight in another war so soon. After the fall of France Franco hedged his bets, rather being a neutral nation, Spain would now be a “non-belligerent” nation. Franco offered to assist Hitler if Spain’s assistance was needed.

Hitler took him up on his offer, so Franco offered to enter the war on the Axis side. Spain only required generous supplies of arms, fuel, ammunition, food, Morocco, Oran, a large portion of the Sahara, and also some French colonies in Africa, including Guinea.

Hitler saw Franco as a hard bargainer, so he decided to have a personal meeting with Franco on the French frontier. Hitler wanted Franco to seize the strategic British outpost of Gibraltar that guarded the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, but Franco worried that the British would then seize the Spanish Canary Islands. Afterwards the Franco government sent a detailed list of the military supplies needed if Spain were to enter the war. This wish list of military supplies exceeded the supply capacity of Germany.[12] Hitler confided to Mussolini that he “would rather have four of my teeth pulled rather than have to talk to that man again.”[13]

An interesting question remains: How did the Fascist Falange totalitarian support of the Catholic Church damage the reputation of the Church in the long run? This question is no doubt partially answered by a history of the Catholic Church in Spain through the entire modern era by Stanley Pope, “Spanish Catholicism: An Historical Overview.” How comparable this Spanish Catholic history is comparable to the American experience is hard to say, not to mention how hard it would be for an outsider to truly understand a general religious history. So perhaps this interesting history will be the topic of a future blog.

[1] Anthony Beevor, “The Battle for Spain” (New York: Penguin Books, 1982, 2006), pp. 4-10.

[2] Anthony Beevor, “The Battle for Spain”, pp. 21-33, 263-273.

[3] Anthony Beevor, “The Battle for Spain”, pp. 33-43.

[4] Anthony Beevor, “The Battle for Spain”, pp. 49-50, 69, 133-140, 150-156, 285-286, 303-304, 313-314, 345, 428.


2. George Orwell

George Orwell on BBC Radio, 1941.

Eric Arthur Blair, or better known by his pen name, George Orwell, author of the classic novel 1984, survived his formative experiences in Spain. He arrived in 1936, eager to combat fascism, but had soon started to realize that the united front opposing General Franco was consisted of loosely tied factions with deep ideological differences. Among them were communists, socialists, anarchists, Trotskyst, Leninists and others. Orwell was a trained policeman before Spain and he worked for the Indian Imperial Police Force in Burma.

He quickly advanced through the ranks and became an Assistant District Superintendant for the city of Syriam. His training gave him an advantage in Spain and he was immediately ranked Corporal of the Republic’s Army. Franco basically managed to separate the former army from the state and the men who defended the Republic were rarely professional soldiers, but rather workers, peasants, and foreign volunteers.

After spending time on the front, Orwell got caught up in a faction dispute in 1937 and was even called a fascist by the members of the Communist Party in Spain who were under the direct influence of the Soviet political police, the NKVD. The NKVD in Spain was trying to centralize the Republic’s forces into a puppet army that would only defend the interests of the Stalin’s Soviet Union and not the interests of the Republic. This caused many purges among the Republican’s and a general disappointment in the Soviet Union among the fighters.

After being slandered and witnessing such blind rivalry between factions, Orwell was disappointed in the cause and left home for Britain. His later novels reflected this experience in describing totalitarian regimes in an allegorical fashion.


Italy and the Spanish Civil War - History

Failures of Democracy Led to the Rise of Communism during the Spanish Civil War
By Robert C. Daniels

On the surface the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War was a civil war fought between the rebel Nationalist forces and those of the Republic. However, any serious study of the war itself will reveal that it was not just a simple civil war, but a convoluted and complex war that was indeed a prelude of the World War that was soon to come. Both sides of the civil war were made up of complicated political factions, all with their separate agendas. Both sides were also supported, although in differing degrees, by various outside entities and nations.

The Nationalists had the overt support of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, while other European countries, and even the United States, gave covert support by giving a blind eye as many European and American based companies sold the Nationalists fuel, vehicles, and other needed materials. On the other hand, with the exception of Mexico and Russia, the outside world openly shunned the Republic.

Although communist parties did exist in Spain at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil war, they were relatively small in size and wielded varied amounts of influence. Once the war began, however, communism spread throughout the Republic held territories both in size and influence to the point where the communist party eventually held more sway than the Republic government. This essay will explore how the lack of support for the Spanish Republic by the world’s leading democratic nations directly led to the rapid growth of communism in 1936-1939 Spain.

At the outbreak of the war, while some factional differences existed among the Nationalists, Generalissimo Francisco Franco was able to control these differences and aptly organize and control the Nationalist army and militias almost from the beginning. Franco and his fascist based uprising were also able to quickly gain valuable assistance in both war materials and military aid overtly from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, along with eventual covert assistance from the world’s major democratic countries. This assistance kept Franco’s Nationalists well stocked, supplied, and supported throughout the war.

In contrast, the Spanish Republic, a democratically elected government, was hindered from the beginning of the revolt by regionalism and suffered from nearly continual infighting between the many political factions within Republican Spain. Included among these rival political factions were the communist and socialist parties of the Partido Comunista de España (PCE)—the Spanish Communist Party the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM)—a Marxist Socialist Party, founded in 1935 and independent of the PCE and Stalinists the Partido Socialista Obrero España (PSOE)—the socialist party the Partido Socialista Unificado de Cataluña (PSUC)—a pro-Stalin Marxist party founded in July 1936 in Catalonia and the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT)—the socialist trade union organization.[1] At the beginning of the revolt, each of these communist and socialistic parties taken separately had little more than a voice in the government. However, if these parties combined into one, the strong potential existed that they could rise to a power that could greatly affect the running of the government, forming another European communist state.

Rivaling these communist and socialist parties for Republican power were the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT)—the anarcho-syndicalist trade union the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI)—the militant revolutionary wing of the anarchist movement and the Unión Militar Republicana Antifascista (UMRA)—[a] junior officer group in opposition to the Unión Militar Española (UME)—a political organization loyal to the Nationalists.[2]

From the outset and throughout the war, the Spanish Republic hoped to receive aid from its democratic neighbors, England and France, and for good reasons. According to historian Harry Browne, “The position in international law was clear: a constitutional government had an undisputed right to buy arms to suppress an internal revolt.”[3] Franco’s, and his cohorts,’ insurrection certainly met the definition of an internal revolt. At first, on 22 July 1936, just five days after the uprising, when the newly appointed Republican Prime Minister, Jóse Giral, appealed to the French Prime Minister, Léon Blum, for arms, Blum “promised to allow the sale of arms to Spain.”[4] As Browne states,

There were sound strategic reasons [for this] as well. If the rebellion was successful, France would be caught in a vice between three fascist powers. A hostile Spain, furthermore, could threaten France’s lifeline to her colonies in North and West Africa.”[5]

In the case of England, the “British Left was committed to neutrality, yet strongly supported the sale of arms to Spain’s legal government.”[6] Nonetheless, in the end the English Government “came to see neutrality as requiring a ban on the sale of arms to both sides in the conflict.”[7] This decision, as Browne suggests, was not, however, just a neutrality issue at stake with the British, it was also the fear of the spread of communism. As already stated, although fragmented in separate, and for the most part, feuding parties, several communist and socialist parties did exist at the outbreak of hostilities in the volatile and unstable Spanish Republic, including its equally volatile and unstable government. With this said,

To the British ruling class in the 1930s, Communism—and behind that the Soviet Union—seemed always to pose more of a threat than a resurgent Germany or an Italy vying with Britain for control of the Mediterranean.[8]

Jill Edwards furthers this fear in stating that “‘in the first weeks of the rebellion, it was the thread of anti-communism which formed the warp of British government attitudes.’”[9] According to Antony Beevor, the British

Admiral Lord Chatfield, the First Sea Lord, was an admirer of General Franco and his officers in the Bay of Biscay had an undoubted sympathy for their Nationalist counterparts. Sir Henry Chilton, the ambassador at Hendaye, who still had the ear of the Foreign Office though he was not on the scene, acted as a mouthpiece for the Nationalists.[10]

In addition, Browne quotes Edwards as saying, “By turning a blind eye both to the intervention of the dictators and to the need to protect British shipping to Spain, the British government aided Franco as decisively as if it had sent arms to him.”[11] Therefore, not only did Great Britain refuse to give aid to the Spanish Republic from the onset of the war, England also, at least covertly, seemed to support the Nationalist side.

Only a short time after Great Britain refused to aid the Spanish Republic, the French government began to come under strong opposition to lending its support to the Republic as well. Under great pressure from not only the British government, but also the French President and even his own Cabinet, on 8 August 1936, “as an alternative to supplying arms to the Madrid government, Blum proposed that the major powers should collectively agree to take no part in the Civil War and to ban the sale of armaments to either side.”[12] Although after stating several influencing factors why Blum’s government backed away from aiding Spain, Browne contends that it was fear of a French civil war breaking out when he writes,

Perhaps the most influential factor was that fear, voiced by the President, of a similar civil war breaking out in France, where the political balance was extremely delicate and political rivalries as intense as in Spain. The way would then be open to intervention from Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union—a danger Blum could in no circumstances risk.[13]

The Americans, the remaining major democratic country, also refused to sell arms to the Republic. This, even against the “vocal sympathy of Claud Bowers, the American Ambassador to Spain.”[14] According to Browne, President Roosevelt announced “‘a moral embargo’ on arms sales to either side,”[15] although the “Texaco Oil Company gave long-term credits to the Nationalists.”[16] Beevor contends, much like Edwards did in the case of Great Britain, that the United States’ actions actually aided the Nationalists when he states, “The isolationism of the United States helped the Nationalists, who were aided by many influential sympathizers in Washington.”[17] He furthers that in May of 1938, after the United States embargo had been repealed, a

group led by the [United States] ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Kennedy, managed to frighten Congressmen who depended on the Catholic vote into opposing the repeal of the arms embargo. They did so even though no more than 20 per cent of the country and 40 per cent of the Catholics supported the Nationalists.[18]

It became apparent that like in Great Britain, the Nationalists also had their American admirers, and powerful ones at that. This left the Republic with few friends to count on for aid. With Franco’s Nationalists soundly being defended and supported by the Nazis, Fascists, and even, at least covertly, the democratic nations, who then was the Republic to turn to?

Two of the major reasons for the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War were the Republic’s hatred of being ruled and oppressed by both the Catholic Church and the Spanish aristocratic minority. As Hugh Thomas states, “The Mexican government from the start supported the Spanish republic, as might be expected from a country whose constitution was itself a protest of clerical and aristocratic privilege.”[19] Mexican President Cárdenas announced in “September [1938] that he had sent 20,000 rifles and 20 million rounds of ammunition to the Spanish government.”[20] Thomas later states that Mexico also sent “8 artillery [batteries] with some lorries and aircraft…even though much of this equipment was second-rate.”[21] This was help, but not nearly what was needed by the Republic if they were to sustain the fight, not to mention any hope of eventually winning the war against Franco’s nazi and fascist backed Nationalists.

The Republic’s only other source of aid came from Stalin’s Soviet Union. Against some popular beliefs and fears of many of those in the major democratic nations it can be argued that Stalin did not actually intend to turn Spain into a communist country. Les Evans contends that

Stalin was above all concerned with securing a military alliance with the imperialist democracies against Nazi Germany. In Spain he aimed to prove to his prospective allies that he was uninterested in promoting the spread of revolution and was willing to use his influence to contain the workers’ movement within the limits of bourgeois democracy.[22]

Browne echoes this when he writes, “By the end of August 1936 Stalin had decided to send arms to Spain as part of a long-term Soviet policy to build a united front against Nazi Germany.”[23] Even the English writer George Orwell, who fought on the Republican side as a member of a POUM militia unit, relates that the Communist Party was not intending to turn Spain into a communist state. As Lionel Trilling states,

Orwell’s disaffection from the Communist Party was not the result of a difference of opinion over whether the revolution should be instituted during the war or after it. It was the result of his discovery that the Communist Party’s real intention was to prevent the revolution from ever being instituted at all.[24]

Russian aid to the Republic soon began arriving in the way of weapons, tanks, aircraft, and military and political advisors. In addition, the Comintern began recruiting volunteers throughout Europe and America to fight for the Republican cause in the form of International Brigades. Michael Jackson estimates that “about 36,000 foreigners had served in the International Brigades, 32,000 of them men in the ranks.”[25] Although it is true that many of these International Brigade members were communists, not all were. As Thomas relates, “About 60 percent were communist before volunteering, and a further 20 percent probably became communists during their experiences in Spain.”[26]

Although the Russians may not have intended to turn Spain into a communist state, they definitely did want to control both the Republican’s military and how the war was fought. They soon took steps to ensure this outcome. One of the first of these steps was to begin organizing the International Brigades in the manner in which the Soviet military was structured back home in Russia. Besides assigning military commanders at every level, the Soviets instituted the use of political commissars at every command level, not only to indoctrinate the troops with Stalinist communism propaganda, but also to maintain dual authority with the military commanders. Browne confirms this when he states,

Within Republican Spain, communist influence was reflected in the system of political commissars, and within the International Brigades, the rigorous party line, which it was unwise, often dangerous, to dissent from.[27]

It wasn’t, however, just in the International Brigades that this communist influence took hold. As Browne writes concerning the Popular Army, which the many militia units were eventually incorporated into,

The stand of Communist political commissars ran down through every level of the Popular Army, and at the top were Russian advisors who had to be conciliated, for on them depended, in the last resort, the flow of equipment.[28]

Through use of this flow of military equipment, doling it out to only those units and commanders who submitted to the communist party line, the Russians quickly began commanding a wide area of control over both the Spanish military and political organizations. As Browne states, “Dependence for arms upon the Soviet Union affected both politics and military strategy.”[29]

In addition, the Russians also

cultivated [the police and military] officers, most of whom were already impressed by the Party’s discipline, with plans to reconstitute a formal army. They sought out the ambitious, presenting themselves as the experts of power.[30]

As Beevor points out,

Being supreme statists, Lenin’s followers understood the mechanism of bureaucracy best of all. Stalin had demonstrated what could be achieved by placing a few picked men in key posts. In the army the communists managed to have Antonio Cordón appointed to control pay, discipline, supply and personnel in the war ministry.[31]

The communists also “sounded out senior officers, and removed those who were obviously unsympathetic, like Colonel Segismundo Casado,…His replacement was a Party supporter.[32] According to Beevor, “Every time there was a shake-up after a defeat, more and more vital posts in the army were taken over by communist appointees.”[33] The use of these ploys slowly gained the communists’ power to the point that “during the second half of 1937 and 1938,…Criticism of the [Republic] prime minister [Juan Negrin] and the Communist Party virtually became an act of treason” throughout Republican Spain.[34] Even the separate “militia armies, denied arms by the democratic nations, were forced into dependence on the Soviet Union.”[35] As Browne writes, “What is remarkable is that such military dependence did not produce in the Republic Soviet-style governments under pallid democratic forms.”[36]

Throughout the war the Republican Prime Minister continually hoped for help from the democratic nations. As Browne points out,

Negrín’s belief, continuously expressed to his supporters, was that it could only be a matter of time before the Western democracies abandoned their ill-starred policy of appeasement, and that when this happened the Spanish Republic would benefit immediately and be brought within the perimeters of Western defence [sic].[37]

But this help never materialized. Once the Republic accepted help from the only major power that would initially help them, the communist Soviet Union, the deck was stacked even more against them for gaining assistance from the democratic nations. To help insure this, the Nationalists under Franco concentrated their war propaganda

on a select and powerful audience in Britain and the United States. They played on the fear of communism in an appeal to conservative and religious feelings, and their sympathizers’ mistrust of the Republic was only confirmed by Russian military aid.[38]

From the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Republic, the democratically elected government of Spain, asked for military aid and assistance from the other democratic nations in squashing the Nationalist rebellion. These nations, all powerful in their own right to differing degrees, not only declined to help a fellow democratic government, but covertly assisted that democratic government’s usurper. Whether the reasons each country had for failing to support the duly elected Spanish government stemmed from the fear of antagonizing Hitler and his Nazi Germany, from the fear of helping communism spread, a combination of both, or other reasons, democratic Spain was left with only two alternatives—accepting aid from the communist Soviet Union or admitting defeat and surrendering to the Nationalists. Since the latter was not seen as an option, Spain turned to the Soviet Union, and once Spain was forced to accept Stalin’s help, she was also forced to accept the communist influence that came with it.

This communist influence, backed by Stalin’s “supreme statists,” eventually overwhelmed the Republic’s politics and military organizations. The only way to extricate themselves from the ever-growing communist control and influence was to refuse to accept additional Russian military aid, which, without aid from the democratic nations, would have meant quick and certain defeat by Franco’s fascist backed Nationalists. As Beevor so aptly sums it up, “Appeasement and the Western boycott of the Republic greatly strengthened the power of the Comintern, which was able to present itself as the only effective force to combat fascism.”[39]

Ironically, the fears and failures of the more powerful democratic nations of the world to support a fellow democratically elected government led not only to the eventual overthrow of that government, but also resulted in that same democratically elected government having to convert, in many ways, to a communist state during its futile fight for survival. As Browne summarizes,

In 1936. British policy was more influenced by the possible threat of the expansion of Soviet power. It is therefore. given Britain’s underlying concerns, her policy of non-intervention produced in some degree the result which she most feared.[40]

* * *

Show Footnotes and Bibliography

[1]. Definitions taken from Harry Browne’s, Spain’s Civil War, 2d ed. (New York: Longman, 1996), 133-134.

[9]. Jill Edwards, The British Government and the Spanish Civil War 1936-9 (Macmillan, 1979), 3 quoted in Harry Browne, Spain’s Civil War, 2d ed. (New York: Longman, 1996), 49, n. 61.

[10]. Antony Beevor, The Spanish Civil War (London: Cassel Military Press, 1999), 165.

[16]. Richard P. Traina, American Diplomacy and the Spanish Civil War (Indiana University Press, 1968) quoted in Harry Browne, Spain’s Civil War, 2d ed. (New York: Longman, 1996), 52, n. 87.

[19]. Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, (New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1994.), 348-349.

[22]. Les Evans, foreword to The Spanish Revolution (1931-39), by Leon Trotsky (New York: Pathfinder, 1973), 42.

[24]. Lionel Trilling, foreword to Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell (San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1969), xx.

[25]. Michael Jackson, Fallen Sparrows: The International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War (Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society, 1994) 1.

Beevor, Antony. The Spanish Civil War. London: Cassel Military Press, 1999.

Browne, Harry. Spain’s Civil War, 2nd ed. White Plains, NY: Longmans Publishing Group, 1996.

Edwards, Jill. The British Government and the Spanish Civil War 1936-9. Macmillan, 1979, 3. Quoted in Harry Browne, Spain’s Civil War, 2d ed., 49, n. 61. New York: Longman, 1996.

Evans, Les. Foreword to The Spanish Revolution (1931-39), by Leon Trotsky. New York: Pathfinder, 1973.

Jackson, Michael. Fallen Sparrows: The International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society, 1994.

Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Traina, Richard P. American Diplomacy and the Spanish Civil War. Indiana University Press, 1968. Quoted in Harry Browne, Spain’s Civil War, 2d ed. (New York: Longman, 1996), 52, n. 87.

Trilling, Lionel. Foreword to Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1969.


Spanish life before the civil war and what happened when Spain declared war on itself??

19th century Spain where it all began, Spanish life has been conflict driven ever since they adopted new political methods of running the government. Pre-civil conflict the Spanish government was run under a monarchy, this brought about multiple uprisings and rebel takeovers 1868, queen Isabella was overrun and replaced by king Amandeo who brought the first republican view into the Spanish government. Conflict in Spanish history is all heavily related to political power and new parties attempting to obtain it. In the time leading up to the Spanish civil war the government was run in a democratic way where there were multiple parties and the general public had their vote in who was to be elected. Hence the Spanish civil war was a revolt entirely against this political structure.

Franco Francisco ran the nationalist party that obtained military support to revolt against the currently running democratically elected republican government, represented by Manuel Azaña. This revolt started in 1936 and kick started the Spanish civil war. This war was entirely revolved around the political future of Spain and a disagreement between powerful parties. Franco Francisco want the government of Spain to be run under a dictatorial fascist system underlying him as their leader. Many people believed and followed him for this reason, they also believed he would be a fair, honest leader.

(LIBCOM.ORG, 2018)

(The above picture shows Francisco Franco walking with Hitler.)

When Germany, Portugal, Italy, the Soviet Union, Mexico and France heard the news of this political rebel going rogue they began to choose sides based on their own political system and beliefs. Franco, Mexico and the Soviet Union supported the republican party and Germany, Italy and Portugal supported the nationalist based on their communistic fascist beliefs. Foreign powers had a strong influence on the result of the Spanish civil war. Taking it from a closed border political disagreement to a bloody 500,000 death war. Commonly stated to be the kickstarted to world war II…


THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR: A BRIEF HISTORY

On 17 July 1936 General Francisco Franco launched a military uprising against the Republican government elected that spring. Mobilising troops from Spanish Morocco – the so-called Army of Africa – the Nationalist forces quickly took control of Seville and other areas in the south. The plotters claimed to be acting in defence of traditional Catholic Spain and to restore order to the country. Their treatment of the opposition was brutal.

REPUBLICAN MILITIAS MOBILISE
Civilians join militias and prepare to fight to defend the Republic. In Barcelona, anarchist workers put down the Nationalist insurgency and launch a social revolution of their own. Factories are collectivised, and in some parts of Catalonia money is abolished. The Ritz hotel in Barcelona is renamed Hotel Gastronómico No 1 and serves as a workers’ canteen. A short-lived euphoria sweeps the left as the belief takes hold that Franco’s uprising could be the catalyst for a socialist revolution. In Madrid, the Republican government, which hopes to build a popular front including moderates and liberals to combat the Nationalist threat, will become increasingly concerned at the growing radicalism.

GEORGE ORWELL JOINS UP
On Boxing Day 1936, the writer arrives in Barcelona and joins up with the Poum, a revolutionary socialist party. Orwell goes to the Zaragoza front to fight and will subsequently write the classic war memoir Homage to Catalonia about his experiences. In May 1937, as tensions mount between communist, socialist and anarchist forces behind the Republican lines, Orwell becomes involved in street battles in Barcelona. His experiences will inform his indictment of Stalinism in the book Nineteen Eighty-Four.

GUERNICA
Bombed in April 1937, the fate of the ancient Basque town of Guernica was to become a symbol of the devastation caused by war. Raids by aircraft from Nazi Germany and fascist Italy constituted one of the first systematic aerial bombing campaigns to be conducted against civilians. In January that year, the Republican government had commissioned Pablo Picasso to create a mural for the World’s Fair. After the bombings, that mural became the one depicting the horror and suffering of the town. The artwork remains the most famous ever produced on the subject of war. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died during the civil war as a result of bombings and executions. There is now a museum dedicated to peace in Guernica.

BATTLE FOR MADRID
The Spanish capital endured what amounted to a two-and-a-half-year siege during the civil war. After invading from the south in the summer of 1936, Franco’s forces, assisted by German and Italian air power, came close to taking Madrid towards the end of the year. A heroic resistance saw the Nationalist forces beaten back. But the government eventually decamped first to Valencia, then to Barcelona. By the winter of 1938 Madrid was freezing, starving, and more or less out of arms and ammunition.

On 26 March 1939 Franco ordered his troops to advance on Madrid after fighting there between Republican factions. Two days later the city had fallen. Thousands of its defenders were executed.

EXILE
For hundreds of thousands of Spaniards, Franco’s victory meant exile. As the Nationalist forces advanced through Catalonia, a steady flow of refugees headed to France. In the winter of 1939 more than 450,000 are estimated to have crossed the border. Some Republicans went on to fight for the French Resistance against the Nazis. The refugees hoped to be welcomed by the French, but they were treated with suspicion and hostility.

THE DICTATORSHIP
From the end of the civil war in 1939 to his death in 1975, Franco ruled Spain. His regime, particularly in the early years, was cruel, repressive and vengeful towards the defeated enemy. Near Madrid a huge monument to the Nationalist dead, the Valley of the Fallen, was erected. Meanwhile the executions of Republican sympathisers continued well into the 1950s, and thousands languished in prison for years.


The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936 to 1939, is largely remembered today, if at all, merely as a military prelude to the Second World War, in which the newly-rearmed Nazi Germany was able to test out its weapons and military tactics. But the Spanish Civil War was also a social revolution, and marks the first time that anarchists were able to maintain political control over a large territory.

In 1931, the Spanish King Alfonso XIII was deposed and fled the country, and Spain became a Republic. After years of political infighting, the political sphere separated into two poles: the Popular Front was an alliance of democratic republicans and leftists, including the Esquerra (Left Republican) Party, the Socialist Party, the stalinist-aligned Communist Party, and the trotskyite Workers Party of Marxist Unity (POUM). On the right, the National Front was a collection of royalist Carlists, the Confederation of Autonomous Rightist Groups (CEDA), the Falange Fascists, and the Catholic Church. The leftist labor unions in the General Workers Union (UGT) supported the Popular Front. The much larger anarchist-oriented National Confederation of Labor (CNT), allied with the Anarchist Federation of Iberia (FAI), refused to participate in the elections.

In February 1936 the Popular Front won the elections, and introduced a program of land reform along with attempts to limit the power of the Catholic Church. The province of Catalonia was granted autonomy, and formed its own regional government under Luis Companys.

Fearing a military coup (there had already been a number of attempts), the Popular Front republican government also outlawed the Falange Fascist party and transferred a number of suspect military officers to posts in North Africa, including the former commander of the military academy, General Francisco Franco.

It was not enough. On July 18, 1936, a group of military officers led by General José Sanjurjo launched a rebellion, first in Morocco under General Franco, then across Spain. A week later, Sanjurjo was killed in a plane crash, and Franco assumed leadership of the coup. While Franco was successful in controlling the Spanish military forces in Morocco, the Fascist uprisings in Spain itself were nearly all beaten back by a hastily-organized force of militias led by the leftist parties, including the anarchist CNT. The Fascists managed to capture the city of Seville, but the rest of Spain was still under the nominal control of the republican government (though in reality actual power on the ground was held by whatever local militia happened to be in control of a particular area). Franco, with the help of Nazi Germany, airlifted troops from Morocco to invade southern Spain, beginning the Civil War. Within a few weeks, the Fascists controlled about one-third of Spain.

During the war, the Spanish Fascists received military and economic aid from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Germans sent in about 20,000 troops and the Italians about 50,000, under the guise of “volunteers”. In addition to troops, Hitler and Mussolini sent tanks and airplanes to Franco. The Germans established the Condor Legion, consisting entirely of Luftwaffe personnel and including the new Messerschmitt fighters and Heinkel bombers.

The Soviet Union provided military aid to the republican side, but never at as high a level as the Nazis were providing to the Fascists, and Stalin limited his aid for the most part to Communist-controlled groups within Spain. Globally, the Spanish Civil War became a galvanizing event for the radical left, and volunteers from around the world flocked to Spain to join “International Brigades” to help defend democracy and socialism from the Fascists. The American contingent in Spain was known as the “Abraham Lincoln Brigade”. British writer and socialist George Orwell also fought in Spain with the International Brigades, later documenting the experience in his book Homage to Catalonia. In all, over 40,000 volunteers from 52 countries, including almost 3000 Americans, fought for the republicans in Spain. Meanwhile, France, Britain and the United States all declared their non-intervention.

Although in theory the republican forces were all unified into a single Popular Front commanded by the government in Valencia, under the socialist Francisco Largo Caballero, in reality the leftist groups in the Popular Front could not get along with each other stalinists feuded with trotskyites, who both feuded with anarchists and democratic republicans. Each faction tended to impose its own programs and policies in whatever area they controlled. This lack of unity crippled the republican side throughout the war, and contributed greatly to its ultimate defeat.

The largest of the militias was that of the anarchist CNT, which controlled the province of Catalonia. The Anarchists organized local Anti-Fascist Militias to defend against attack, with about 100,000 men in total. One of the largest of these was the 3,000 men in Aragón led by Buenaventura Durutti. In Madrid, the CNT militia was commanded by Cipriano Mara.

Unlike most of Europe, where the labor movement was dominated by Marxist socialists and communists, in Spain it was the anarchists who had built up the most powerful trade unions. In the areas under its authority, then, the CNT was the best-organized and most strongly supported political group, and it carried out its own social and economic revolution, nationalizing the economy and replacing the governmental structure with a network of elected councils and committees, all organized on anarchist principles. It was remarkably successful.

In May 1937, in what became known as the “May Riots”, open fighting broke out between the communists and the anarchists when troops tried to seize the telephone exchange on Barcelona which was held by the CNT. Fighting quickly spread throughout the city, several prominent CNT supporters were killed by the communists, and government troops from Madrid were sent in to restore calm. After that, Largo Caballero was replaced as Prime Minister by communist sympathizer Juan Negrin, and the Communist Party, bolstered by aid from the Soviet Union, began to increase its power within the republican government, using its position to cripple its anarchist and trotskyite political opponents. On orders from Moscow, Negrin put the CNT and POUM militias under government control, and unilaterally withdrew all of the International Brigades and removed them from the country.

The Nazis, meanwhile, began to use the tactic of carpet-bombing civilian cities, beginning with an air attack on the city of Guernica in April 1937. In February 1937 the city of Malaga was captured by Franco, with Bilbao, Santander and Gijon following in June, August and October. By the end of 1938, the Fascists had retaken most of Spain. In January 1939, the republican stronghold of Barcelona fell. In February, the British Prime Minister officially recognized the government of Franco. In March 1939, the remnants of the republican government tried to negotiate a ceasefire, but Franco declared he would accept only an unconditional surrender. On March 27 the Fascist troops entered Madrid, and the republicans surrendered four days later.

In the aftermath of the war, Franco established a brutal dictatorship that would rule Spain for almost forty years. Immediately after the civil war, some 100,000 republican prisoners, mostly anarchists, socialists and communists, were summarily executed, and another 35,000 died in prison camps. About 5,000 were deported to Germany, where most of them died in concentration camps.

When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Spain was still shattered from the Civil War, and declined to join on the side of the Axis. Franco did send a group of soldiers, the Blue Division, to fight alongside the Nazis on the Russian front. But in 1943, when the Nazis began to lose the war, Franco, ever the opportunist, began to lean to the Allies, where his staunch anti-communist stand won him friends in the US and Europe during the Cold War. When Spain allowed NATO to maintain military bases on its territory, the US in turn kept silent about Franco’s brutal human rights violations. Democracy was not restored to Spain again until after Franco’s death in 1975.


Foreign Intervention in Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936-1939, is often thought of as a prelude to the Second World War, a testing ground used by the Great Powers in the great war to come. Spain had seen some major political, social and economic turmoil during the first few decades of the 20th century. Catalonian and Basque nationalism, rise of socialist and anarchist groups, a costly war in North Africa, a short lived dictatorship from 1923-30 led by General Primo de Rivera, end of monarchy, failure of second republic all contributed to the turmoil. After gaining majority by leftist coalition in 1936 election, the situation became unstable politically, and anarchy broke out in many parts of the country , with the burning of churches and violence on the streets. The right became convinced that they were in the midst if a revolution and began to plan a counter-revolution with the military. The murder of a prominent member of the CEDA (a right wing party) on the 13th of July set off the Civil War .

The country was soon split between Nationalist and Republican (Popular Front) strongholds. North Africa and northern Spain were soon under Nationalist control. Already in the early stages of the war, General Franco and his force were transported with the help of tge Germans and Italians over from N. Africa to Spain. Without their help , Franco would not have been able to move his troops. Italy and Germany were main backers of Nationalist Spain, as the stated some ideological similarities, and Spain provided good testing grounds for their new weaponry and tactics.


Leftist Mythology of the Spanish Civil War

Seventy-five years ago today, on July 17, 1936, Francisco Franco led the Army of Africa against the Popular Front government in Madrid. The long Spanish Civil War began. According to the left, this was a classic conflict between socialism and fascism. Orwell, and others, saw Bolsheviks in Spain murderously purge all rivals on the left during the war. The greater lesson of this war is that the "left" is simply a gang of corrupt power-junkies. The politically correct history given us is grotesquely false.

The Popular Front was not popular

Did the Popular Front win the 1936 Spanish general election? Not really: it lost the popular vote by 4.91 million to 4.36 million for the Popular Front, and only gross gerrymandering allowed this Popular Front minority to elect even a tiny majority of the seats in the Cortes, and the Popular Front padded its numbers in the Cortes by blatantly partisan election certification. [i]

Franco's left-wing movement

Both sides in this war hated capitalism. Foss and Gerahty during the war wrote of Franco: "He was in no sense a 'Fascist' leader. At the outside, when the present struggle broke out, there were not more than 8,000 Falangistas in Spain, and even that party was not 'Fascist'" [ii] and they note that if Franco wins: "Spain. will be in essence a Socialist State." [iii] Steton-Watson in his 1939 book Britain and the Dictators notes: "To suggest that the issue is one between Fascism and Communism, between Black and Red, is to overly-simplify to a dangerous degree." [iv] The Council on Foreign Relations in its 1950 Political Handbook of the World described the Falange, this presumed Spanish "fascism," as a party of the left , not the right. Franco's forces rejected the very description of fascist, as Hamilton writes in his 1943 book, Appeasement's Child: "The Spanish fascists object to being called fascists." [v] (Why would they, if they were fascists?)

Hamilton writes of Falangist icon Primo de Rivera: "[His] views on the Church, the landowners, the age-old problems of Spain, were decidedly Left-wing . Even making allowance for the fact that such radical views are a customary part of fascist tactics, the similarity of his views to those of extreme Leftists was remarkable. In the spring of 1936, for example, when he was contesting a by-election at Cuenca against a Socialist candidate, he professed complete agreement with the views of his opposition on all except one point - autonomy for Catalonia and the Basque provinces" [vi] and Hamilton observes that "Many extreme Leftists in fact had joined the Phalanx." [vii] Cardozo wrote in his 1937 book, The March of a Nation: "There are Falangists. little different from the Socialists they have been fighting" [viii] and quotes Franco: "I want Labour to be protected in every way against the abuses of Capitalism."

Was the war about religion?

Was this a religious war? The Bolsheviks raped nuns, murdered priests and burned churches, but the notion that the Falangists and Franco were tools of the Catholic Church was roundly rejected by Franco's own enemies. Hamilton wrote: "The Phalanx was considerably less than enthusiastic about the Church. the party leaders recognized that they would have to drive the firmly established Church from its position before they could make a true fascist state" [ix] and "Serrano Suner's censors did not allow the Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, to circulate. and when he [Serrano] visited Rome in the fall of 1940 he violated all the rules of conduct laid down for a Catholic statesman." [x] Hamilton notes that Franco established a Youth Front intended to replace Catholic youth organizations. [xi]

Not a war between Soviets and Nazis

Was a contest between Nazis and Soviets? Sometimes, but sometimes it was a struggle between Fascists and Nazis. Ernest Hambloch wrote in his 1939 book Germany Rampant that the reason Italy was unwilling to quit Spain in 1938 was not only to sate Mussolini's imperial ambitions, but also because he did not want to leave Germany in control of Spain . [xii] Garratt noted in his 1938 book: "From the summer of 1937 onwards we can trace a definite conflict of interests between Italy and Germany in Spain." [xiii] Garratt noted that when Mussolini failed in 1936, he approached the English to help him out, using the argument that unless he won quickly, the Nazis would move into the conflict. [xiv] Marcel Fodor noted in 1940 that the Nazis did not like Mussolini in Spain and that they also did not want to share power with him in Iberia. Nazis wanted the pro-Nazi wing of the Falange with its pro-German generals , to gain power instead of the pro-Fascist wing of the Falange, [xv] and the Gestapo and Fascist secret service were rivals in Spain. Italy watched nervously as the Nazis tried to overthrow Franco and the pro-Italian Ramon Serrano Suñer from power in Spain and to overthrow pro-Italian Antonio de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal to replace them with Nazi puppets. [xvi]

Hamilton wrote: "If Hitler and Mussolini had desired to do so, in fact, they could have won the war for Franco at least a year earlier. The fact that they rationed their aid so carefully, and that the Nazis even sold arms to the Republicans , seems to confirm that they were deliberately using the civil war to produce disunion in the democracies." [xvii]

The war was not even a geopolitical battle between Fascism and Bolshevism. Eugene Lyons noted in his 1941 classic The Red Decade "All through the Spanish wars Russian oil, by way of Italy , helped to fuel Franco's planes and tanks" [xviii] and Lyons observes that on at least three occasions, at Guadalajara, Pozoblanco and Aragon, the Bolsheviks arbitrarily shut off munitions to the anti-Franco forces when those forces were about to finish off Franco. [xix]

What was it about?

The Spanish Civil War was about geopolitical power. Hitler thought (wrongly) that if he backed Franco then Franco would back him in confrontations with Britain and France. In one of those wild ironies of history, if the Popular Front (whose non-Soviet leaders were being systematically exterminated at Stalin's orders) had won, Hitler might not have been defeated. Franco, famously, refused to enter the war on Hitler's side or to allow German special military forces to seize Gibraltar. A Soviet-ruled Spain, in July 1940, very closely allied with Nazi Germany, would have permitted the transit of such forces and North Africa would have been an Axis strategic victory.

The Spanish Civil War was also, very much, about the myth of an ideological spectrum which so hobbles those of us who prefer to use ideas like liberty, law, impartial justice, representative democracy, and so forth to describe what we believe (and those who oppose those beliefs.) The myth of ideology still haunts the minds of well-intentioned people. The reality of the Spanish Civil War should dispel that myth forever. (Consider that when Franco died, Castro declared a day of mourning in Cuba.)

Try talking about politics, policies, and government to someone we would call a leftist without either of you using "right-wing," "progressive," "conservative," or "socialist" and see how quickly the discussion melts into red-faced screaming. That was the Spanish Civil War. Who won that war? The easier question to answer is: Who lost the Spanish Civil War: the people of Spain.

[i] [i] The March of a Nation, p. 1.

[iv] Britain and the Dictators, p. 379-381.

[v] Appeasement's Child, p. 60, footnote 1.

[vi] Appeasement's Child, pp. 62 -63.

[viii] The March of a Nation, p. 307.

[xiii] Shadow of the Swastika, p. 205.

[xiv] What Has Happened to Europe, pp. 250 - 254.

[xv] The Revolution is On!, p. 217.

[xvi] The Revolution is On!, pp. 204 - 206.

Seventy-five years ago today, on July 17, 1936, Francisco Franco led the Army of Africa against the Popular Front government in Madrid. The long Spanish Civil War began. According to the left, this was a classic conflict between socialism and fascism. Orwell, and others, saw Bolsheviks in Spain murderously purge all rivals on the left during the war. The greater lesson of this war is that the "left" is simply a gang of corrupt power-junkies. The politically correct history given us is grotesquely false.

The Popular Front was not popular

Did the Popular Front win the 1936 Spanish general election? Not really: it lost the popular vote by 4.91 million to 4.36 million for the Popular Front, and only gross gerrymandering allowed this Popular Front minority to elect even a tiny majority of the seats in the Cortes, and the Popular Front padded its numbers in the Cortes by blatantly partisan election certification. [i]

Franco's left-wing movement

Both sides in this war hated capitalism. Foss and Gerahty during the war wrote of Franco: "He was in no sense a 'Fascist' leader. At the outside, when the present struggle broke out, there were not more than 8,000 Falangistas in Spain, and even that party was not 'Fascist'" [ii] and they note that if Franco wins: "Spain. will be in essence a Socialist State." [iii] Steton-Watson in his 1939 book Britain and the Dictators notes: "To suggest that the issue is one between Fascism and Communism, between Black and Red, is to overly-simplify to a dangerous degree." [iv] The Council on Foreign Relations in its 1950 Political Handbook of the World described the Falange, this presumed Spanish "fascism," as a party of the left , not the right. Franco's forces rejected the very description of fascist, as Hamilton writes in his 1943 book, Appeasement's Child: "The Spanish fascists object to being called fascists." [v] (Why would they, if they were fascists?)

Hamilton writes of Falangist icon Primo de Rivera: "[His] views on the Church, the landowners, the age-old problems of Spain, were decidedly Left-wing . Even making allowance for the fact that such radical views are a customary part of fascist tactics, the similarity of his views to those of extreme Leftists was remarkable. In the spring of 1936, for example, when he was contesting a by-election at Cuenca against a Socialist candidate, he professed complete agreement with the views of his opposition on all except one point - autonomy for Catalonia and the Basque provinces" [vi] and Hamilton observes that "Many extreme Leftists in fact had joined the Phalanx." [vii] Cardozo wrote in his 1937 book, The March of a Nation: "There are Falangists. little different from the Socialists they have been fighting" [viii] and quotes Franco: "I want Labour to be protected in every way against the abuses of Capitalism."

Was the war about religion?

Was this a religious war? The Bolsheviks raped nuns, murdered priests and burned churches, but the notion that the Falangists and Franco were tools of the Catholic Church was roundly rejected by Franco's own enemies. Hamilton wrote: "The Phalanx was considerably less than enthusiastic about the Church. the party leaders recognized that they would have to drive the firmly established Church from its position before they could make a true fascist state" [ix] and "Serrano Suner's censors did not allow the Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, to circulate. and when he [Serrano] visited Rome in the fall of 1940 he violated all the rules of conduct laid down for a Catholic statesman." [x] Hamilton notes that Franco established a Youth Front intended to replace Catholic youth organizations. [xi]

Not a war between Soviets and Nazis

Was a contest between Nazis and Soviets? Sometimes, but sometimes it was a struggle between Fascists and Nazis. Ernest Hambloch wrote in his 1939 book Germany Rampant that the reason Italy was unwilling to quit Spain in 1938 was not only to sate Mussolini's imperial ambitions, but also because he did not want to leave Germany in control of Spain . [xii] Garratt noted in his 1938 book: "From the summer of 1937 onwards we can trace a definite conflict of interests between Italy and Germany in Spain." [xiii] Garratt noted that when Mussolini failed in 1936, he approached the English to help him out, using the argument that unless he won quickly, the Nazis would move into the conflict. [xiv] Marcel Fodor noted in 1940 that the Nazis did not like Mussolini in Spain and that they also did not want to share power with him in Iberia. Nazis wanted the pro-Nazi wing of the Falange with its pro-German generals , to gain power instead of the pro-Fascist wing of the Falange, [xv] and the Gestapo and Fascist secret service were rivals in Spain. Italy watched nervously as the Nazis tried to overthrow Franco and the pro-Italian Ramon Serrano Suñer from power in Spain and to overthrow pro-Italian Antonio de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal to replace them with Nazi puppets. [xvi]

Hamilton wrote: "If Hitler and Mussolini had desired to do so, in fact, they could have won the war for Franco at least a year earlier. The fact that they rationed their aid so carefully, and that the Nazis even sold arms to the Republicans , seems to confirm that they were deliberately using the civil war to produce disunion in the democracies." [xvii]

The war was not even a geopolitical battle between Fascism and Bolshevism. Eugene Lyons noted in his 1941 classic The Red Decade "All through the Spanish wars Russian oil, by way of Italy , helped to fuel Franco's planes and tanks" [xviii] and Lyons observes that on at least three occasions, at Guadalajara, Pozoblanco and Aragon, the Bolsheviks arbitrarily shut off munitions to the anti-Franco forces when those forces were about to finish off Franco. [xix]

What was it about?

The Spanish Civil War was about geopolitical power. Hitler thought (wrongly) that if he backed Franco then Franco would back him in confrontations with Britain and France. In one of those wild ironies of history, if the Popular Front (whose non-Soviet leaders were being systematically exterminated at Stalin's orders) had won, Hitler might not have been defeated. Franco, famously, refused to enter the war on Hitler's side or to allow German special military forces to seize Gibraltar. A Soviet-ruled Spain, in July 1940, very closely allied with Nazi Germany, would have permitted the transit of such forces and North Africa would have been an Axis strategic victory.

The Spanish Civil War was also, very much, about the myth of an ideological spectrum which so hobbles those of us who prefer to use ideas like liberty, law, impartial justice, representative democracy, and so forth to describe what we believe (and those who oppose those beliefs.) The myth of ideology still haunts the minds of well-intentioned people. The reality of the Spanish Civil War should dispel that myth forever. (Consider that when Franco died, Castro declared a day of mourning in Cuba.)

Try talking about politics, policies, and government to someone we would call a leftist without either of you using "right-wing," "progressive," "conservative," or "socialist" and see how quickly the discussion melts into red-faced screaming. That was the Spanish Civil War. Who won that war? The easier question to answer is: Who lost the Spanish Civil War: the people of Spain.


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