Spain’s Civil War: The Opening Act 1

Marina Ginesta 17

A history of the first head-on collision between Europe’s major conflicting ideologies–The Spanish civil war, which began in 1936, three years before the second world war, was far more than a local scrap between reactionary Roman Catholic traditionalists and domestic left-wingers of multiple shades. To say it was the Vietnam, Korea or Afghanistan of its time is to sell it short. Yet the global war that followed drowned out the echoes of what was, in effect, one of its principal opening acts.

Richard Rhodes, a Pulitzer prize-winning American popular historian, reminds readers that this was an international war from the start. Hitler and Mussolini made decisive contributions of arms and men to the future dictator, General Francisco Franco, a man who boasted of preferring blood and bayonets to “hypocritical elections”. Stalin, with less enthusiasm, backed the republic, while the Soviet-controlled Comintern channelled communism’s global ambitions. The most shameful absence was of the eventual victors in the 20th century’s long war of ideologies—the fence-sitting liberal democracies led by Britain, France and America that failed to support an elected republican government against Franco’s military rebels, thereby emboldening their backers.



The Relentless Vision of an Old Spanish Anarchist Reply

Spanish Civil War

Huffington–Federico Arcos — “Fede” as he’s known — is 94 years old and currently in a Windsor, Ontario, hospital recovering from a recent heart attack. Federico, an anarcho-syndicalist, is a living link to one of history’s Federico Arc osmost remarkable episodes, the Spanish Civil War, and one of the most remarkable stories within this history: How the Spanish Anarchists, with a sizable following, were able to run a number of towns, villages, agrarian collectives and the entire city of Barcelona along anarchist lines, subscribing to anti-authoritarian principles. It didn’t last long — barely a year and wasn’t entirely successful — but it demonstrated some possibilities: If you removed the coercion inherent in any modern state (for example, cops) folks wouldn’t necessarily be at each others throat.

Federico Arcos anarchist


IBMT Annual Commemoration – London 2014 Reply

International Brigades Spain

The annual commemoration by the International Brigades Memorial Trust for the 2500 volunteers from Great Britain and Ireland who went to Spain to fight fascism and support democracy between 1936 and 1939, was held at the International Brigades memorial, Jubilee Gardens, South Bank, London on 5th July 2014. Three hundred people gathered on London’s South Bank to commemorate the men and women from Great Britain and Ireland who went to Spain to support the Spanish Republic – 526 British and Irish volunteers died.


The Private Life Of A Masterpiece – Goya’s Third of May 1808 (4/4) Reply

Saturn_devouring_sonThe fourth and last part of the BBC’s Goya’s Third of May series brings the story up to our own time, citing examples of contemporary artists inspired by Goya to evoke the horrors of our own wars, beginning with Picasso, whose Spanish Civil War work, Guernika in 1937, was the most important historical painting of the 20th century. This chapter also discusses the Irish artist Robert Ballagh’s emulation of Goya with his Third of May,1970 painting that points up the parallels between the Napoleonic troops in Spain and the British in Northern Ireland.


The Spanish Civil War – Victory and Defeat (6/6) 1

Spanish Republican refugeesThe fate of the Spanish Republic was sealed at the battle of the Rio Ebro, which was a battle not only for ground, but for time. If the Republic could hold out long enough it might be rescued by the anti-Fascist forces in a forseeable European war, but the appeasement of HItler at Munich in September of 1938 dashed those hopes.

The Battle of the Ebro was the most costly confrontation of the Civil War, doubly so for the Republicans, as it came on the heels of two years of bitter-but-unsuccessful fighting, The confrontation on the Ebro looked promising at the beginning, as the Republican troops succeeded in crossing the river and advancing 25 kilometers.

But a counter attack by the Franco forces converted the struggle into a static battle of attrition, in which the Republican forces were destined to lose to Franco’s professional army. More…

The Spanish Civil War – Inside the Revolution (5/6) Reply

Spanish Civil RevolutionAt the outbreak of the war the revolution burst out spontaneously in most of Republican Spain. But the Republican government was hopeless and would later face a confrontation with the revolution, to the detriment of both. In the first weeks of the war the militias offered the only real defense of the Republic.

Wildly optimistic and recklessly confident, they lacked however the coordination necessary for an army. Socialists, Communists, Anarchists and moderate Republicans all marched together in the beginning. Then relations deteriorated and each group went its own way. The Anarchists prevailed in Catalonia but their battle was debilitated insofar as it was not just against the army rebels, but against Capitalism itself. More…

The Spanish Civil War – Franco and the Nationalists (4/6) 2

Franco and NazisAt the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 came exile, prison, and firing squads for the losers and glory for the winners. Franco ordered the construction of el Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen) a Pharaonic monument–actually a funeral crypt–to the nationalist dead. The gigantic tomb was chiseled out of a mountain by Republican slave laborers. Today it remains a pilgrimage destination for Spanish Fascists.

This historical review of the Spanish nationalists begins with Franco himself–shown here flirting with the Nazis in World War II–who grew up in the shadow of the collapse of the Spanish empire: notably Cuba and the Philippines. More…

The Spanish Civil War – Battleground for Idealists (3/6) Reply

International Brigades SpainSpain in the 1930s was just emerging from the 19th century but it found itself the first major battlefield for the ideologies of the 20th. People from all over the world fought for their dreams of democracy or Communism or Fascism. This was to be the antechamber of the Second World War. The Spanish people are forced to take sides early on. Some considered it their duty to defend democracy, others Christianity, with disastrous results for everybody, some more than others.

European fascism considered the Spanish war a dress rehearsal for world domination. The scales were tipped from the beginning, with first German and then Italian forces massively taking the side of the nationalist insurrectionists, while Western democracies hid their heads behind a policy of “non-intervention,” ever fearful of possibly aiding the Communists. More…

The Spanish Civil War – Revolution Counter-Revolution and Terror (2/6) Reply

Spain rough justiceIn the summer of 1936 Spain had been a democratic republic for five years but the republic was desperately fragile. A group of right-wing army officers, headed y Generals Sanjuro and Mola mounted an initiative to overthrow the government. Their first thrust was to call the Colonial Army of Africa, a force made up of Spanish and Moorish troops–the dreaded “Moros”–and headed by Gen. Francisco Franco, from Morocco. They were flown across the Straits of Gibraltar by German planes. Early in the war both Sanjuro and Mola were killed in plane crashes, leaving the way clear for Franco to lead the nationalist coup. He held the reins until his death of old age, 39 years later.

The nationalist uprising gave rise to revolutionary fervor in the Spanish cities–especially Madrid and Barcelona–while most of the Catholic rural peasantry took the side of the nationalists. There ensued an escalation of terrible abuses on both sides–burned churches, summary executions of all resistors to the coup, assassinations and massacres. More…

The Spanish Civil War – Prelude to Tragedy (1/6) Reply

Español: Reemplazo de voluntarios del ejercito...Photo by Wikipedia–This is the first one-hour program of a six-part documentary series on the Spanish Civil War produced by British Granada Television in 1983. This series is required viewing for anyone who wants to know Spain better, as it touches upon issues and ideologies that are still current in Spain today. The Spanish Civil War uses film and eyewitness accounts from both sides of the conflict that divided Spain in the years leading up to World War II, also placing it in its international context. HIghlights include live commentary from some of the protagonists who were still alive in  1983 when the documentary was made: More…