Spain 1931-1936 Spain in WW II

The Spanish Civil War

Spain's republicans, radicals, socialists and communists have, for decades been treated as parties not fit to govern, mistrusted by the political establishment, as have been the Basque and Catalan regionalists. The Canovite system had deprived them of an opportunity to compete in fair elections. Police and the army again and again had been employed to suppress popular unrest, usually organized by the political forces aforelisted. The result had been disappointment with the democratic system in general and deep distrust in the politicians and parties of the old establishment - the conservatives and the liberals - and in the forces traditionally supporting that system, the army, and, to some extent, the Catholic church. Spain was polarized.
Since 1890, the Canovite system had given way to free democratic elections, and, most remarkably since World War I, the political landscape had changed, the parties of the left having gained much strength. Without experience in government, enthusiastic about news from Russia where the Revolution had succeeded in establishing a Soviet Republic and a socialist society, the PSOE (socialists) under LARGO CABALLERO in speeches and party program announced their intention to transform Spain into a socialist state once in power.
In the Second Republic (since 1931), the parties once regarded by the establishment as suspicious and unfit to govern now found themselves in charge of forming a coalition government. This government, led by the republicans (Zamora), suffered from the coalition partners' mutual distrust. To make matters worse, politically motivated assassinations continued.
When a conservative government was established in October 1934, Oviedo, Gijon, Barcelona broke out in revolution, mainly supported by socialists, communists, anarcho-syndicalists. It was suppressed by the army (Chief of Staff General FRANCISCO FRANCO) and confirmed the establishment's deep suspicion of the leftist parties and politicians.

In 1936 AZANA's POPULAR FRONT, a coalition of the republicans, the radicals, the socialists and communists, won a narrow parliamentary majority. Now elected president, he found it more and more difficult to control Largo Caballero and it's PSOE, openly propagating a socialist society.
In July 1936 traditional forces - disaffected generals (SANJURJO, Franco), supported by the Catholic church, welcomed by the conservatives , staged an insurgency. Franco, mistrusted by Azana and posted on the Canary Islands, landed in the Rif where he won the support of the Spanish troops stationed there. In many provinces, the regional military commanders were able to secure the area for the insurgents, at times by the use of deceit. However, the industrial centers of the Basque country, Catalonia and much of Aragon, Valencia and the central region around Madrid remained in the hands of forces loyal to the republic.

The insurgency only partially having succeeded, Spain found itself in a state of Civil War. The republican side was assisted by the Soviet Union, the Falangists (insurgents) by Germany and Italy. International brigades, consisting mostly of French, German etc. socialists and communists volunteering to fight in Spain, joined the republican side. The European forces - France, Britain, Germany and Italy - agreed to block Spain's coasts and to prevent the import of arms into Spain, in order to contain the conflict. Nazi Germany and Faschist Italy, despite that agreement, continued to supply the Falangists. An event that caught international attention was the bombarding of GUERNICA, a peaceful town of 18.000 in Spain's Basque country, by the German Luftwaffe, in 1937. Picasso's famous painting featuring Guernica under the impact of air bombardment was shown on an exhibition in Paris and elsewhere in 1938. Slowly the Falangists gained the upper hand. The republican government had been relocated from besieged Madrid to Valencia in 1937. In April 1938, Falangist forces reached the Mediterranean south of the Ebro, separating republican Catalonia from republican Madrid. In January 1939, Barcelona fell, in March Madrid.
The Civil War had turned into a bloody affair, with summary executions of suspected enemies on both sides. Suspected enemies included leftist activists on the Falangist side, those who were regarded opposed to a socialist society, such as clergymen, on the republican side.

Links to the Spanish Civil War, from the Canadian Forces College,
The Spanish Civil War, from Library of Congress, country Studies : Spain
La Cucaracha. The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, by Tomas Capdevila Cavero, civil war diary etc., illustrated
De Spaanse Burgeroorlog (The Spanish Civil War), from Pienternet, in Dutch
Comte Rodolphe de Hemricourt de Grunne, Flying Officier, (Belgian) Royal Air Force (Volunteer in Spanish Civil War), from De "Vieilles Tiges" van de Belgische Luchtvaart; bilingual French/Flemish language page
La Guerra d'Espanya, 1936-1939, from La Pagina de la Historia, in Catalan
DOCUMENTS Posters of the Spanish Civil War, from UCSD
Illustrations of the Spanish Civil War, from World War II Timeline at acusd, and from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive
Spanish Propaganda Posters, from : Miscellaneous Propaganda Posters, posted by Earth Station #1, scroll down
Menschheit, an Dich geht der Ruf - Kunst und Propaganda im Spanischen Buergerkrieg, from DHM (humanity, the call is upon you - art and propaganda in Spain's civil war)
Spanish Civil War Postcards, from, commercial site
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Spain : Government Propaganda Poster; Gen. Francisco Franco y Bahamonde, 1936; Span. President Manuel Azana y Diaz, 1936; Federico Garcia Lorca; Civil War in Spain; Gen. Varela and Franco in the conquered Alcazar of Toledo, July 18th 1936; Salvador Dali, Presentiment of the Civil War, 1936; Toledo; Gen. Francisco Franco; A bomber of Legion Condor is loaded with ammunition; A Legion Condor Formation over Burgos, Dec. 1936; Pablo Picasso : Guernica, 1937; Francisco Franco in Burgos, July 30th 1936
Souvenirs of Spain, 32-page pamphlet published anonymously, probably by a Spaniard
Yelah Bildarkivet, Swedish language collection of historical photos, a number of them on the 'Spanish Revolution' (Spanish Civil War)
Image : Dutch Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, on Dordrecht Railway Station, 1938, from Hollandse Hoogte, comment in Dutch
Image : Arrival of Basque children, refugees from Spanish Civil War, in Antwerpen, from GVA
Image : Homeless children, Spanish Civil War 1936, from IISG
REFERENCE Peter Pierson, Republic and Civil War, 1931-1939, in : P. Pierson, The History of Spain, London : Greenwood 1999
Gerald Brenan, The Spanish Labyrinth. The social and political background of the Spanish Civil War, Cambridge : UP (1943) 2001 [G]
Chapter XIV : The Spanish Civil War, pp.213-234 in : John Gunther, Inside Europe, 1940 war edition [G]
Article : Spain, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1937 pp.1318-1336 (data of 1935-1937) [G]
Article : Spain, in : Americana Annual 1936 pp.681-683, 1937 pp.654-656, 1938 pp.648-649, 1939 pp.712-713 [G]
Article : Spanish Civil War, in : Americana Annual 1939 pp.718-719 [G]
Article : Spain, in : New International Year Book 1938 pp.686-690, 1939 pp.716-721 [G]
Article : Spain, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1937 pp.458-465, 1938 pp.463-467, 1939 pp.482-486 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on March 19th 2007

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