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Spanish Civil War
Alfonso XIII of Spain assumed power in 1902. Alfonso XIII became increasingly autocratic and in 1909 was condemned for ordering the execution of the radical leader, Ferrer Guardia, in Barcelona. He also prevented liberal reforms being introduced before the First World War.
Blamed for the Spanish defeat in the Moroccan War (1921) Alfonso was in constant conflict with Spanish politicians. His anti-democratic views encouraged Miguel Primo de Rivera to lead a military coup in 1923. He promised to eliminate corruption and to regenerate Spain. In order to do this he suspended the constitution, established martial law and imposed a strict system of censorship.
Miguel Primo de Rivera initially said he would rule for only 90 days, however, he broke this promise and remained in power. Little social reform took place but he tried to reduce unemployment by spending money on public works. To pay for this Primo de Rivera introduced higher taxes on the rich. When they complained he changed his policies and attempted to raise money by public loans. This caused rapid inflation and after losing support of the army was forced to resign in January 1930.
In 1931 Alfonso XIII agreed to democratic elections. It was the first time for nearly sixty years that free elections had been allowed in Spain. When the Spanish people voted overwhelmingly for a republic, Alfonso was advised that the only way to avoid large-scale violence was to go into exile. Alfonso agreed and left the country on 14th April, 1931.
The provisional government of the Second Republic called a general election for June 1931. The Socialist Party (PSOE) and other left wing parties won an overwhelming victory. Niceto Alcala Zamora, a moderate Republican, became prime minister, but included in his cabinet several radical figures such as Manuel Azaña, Francisco Largo Caballero and Indalecio Prieto.
On 16th October 1931, Azaña replaced Niceto Alcala Zamora as prime minister. With the support of the Socialist Party (PSOE) he attempted to introduce agrarian reform and regional autonomy. However, these measures were blocked in the Cortes.
Azaña believed that the Catholic Church was responsible for Spain's backwardness. He defended the elimination of special privileges for the Church on the grounds that Spain had ceased to be Catholic. Azaña was criticized by the Catholic Church for not doing more to stop the burning of religious buildings in May 1931. He controversially remarked that burning of "all the convents in Spain was not worth the life of a single Republican".
The failed military coup led by José Sanjurjo on 10th August, 1932, rallied support for Azaña's government. It was now possible for him to get the Agrarian Reform Bill and the Catalan Statute passed by the Cortes. However, the modernization programme of the Azaña administration was undermined by a lack of financial resources.
The November 1933 elections saw the right-wing CEDA party win 115 seats whereas the Socialist Party only managed 58. CEDA now formed a parliamentary alliance with the Radical Party. Over the next two years the new administration demolished the reforms that had been introduced by Manuel Azaña and his government.
This led to a general strike on 4th October 1934 and an armed rising in Asturias. Azaña was accused of encouraging these disturbances and on 7th October he was arrested and interned on a ship in Barcelona Harbour. However, no evidence could be found against him and he was released on 18th December.
Azaña was also accused of supplying arms to the Asturias insurrectionaries. In March 1935, the matter was debated in the Cortes, where Azaña defended himself in a three-hour speech. On 6th April, 1935, the Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees acquitted Azaña.
On 15th January 1936, Manuel Azaña helped to establish a coalition of parties on the political left to fight the national elections due to take place the following month. This included the Socialist Party (PSOE), Communist Party ( PCE), Esquerra Party and the Republican Union Party.
The Popular Front, as the coalition became known, advocated the restoration of Catalan autonomy, amnesty for political prisoners, agrarian reform, an end to political blacklists and the payment of damages for property owners who suffered during the revolt of 1934. The Anarchists refused to support the coalition and instead urged people not to vote.
Right-wing groups in Spain formed the National Front. This included the CEDA and the Carlists. The Falange Española did not officially join but most of its members supported the aims of the National Front.
The Spanish people voted on Sunday, 16th February, 1936. Out of a possible 13.5 million voters, over 9,870,000 participated in the 1936 General Election. 4,654,116 people (34.3) voted for the Popular Front, whereas the National Front obtained 4,503,505 (33.2) and the centre parties got 526,615 (5.4). The Popular Front, with 263 seats out of the 473 in the Cortes formed the new government.
The Popular Front government immediately upset the conservatives by releasing all left-wing political prisoners. The government also introduced agrarian reforms that penalized the landed aristocracy. Other measures included transferring right-wing military leaders such as Francisco Franco to posts outside Spain, outlawing the Falange Española and granting Catalonia political and administrative autonomy.
In February 1936 Franco joined other Spanish Army officers, such as Emilio Mola, Juan Yague, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano and José Sanjurjo, in talking about what they should do about the Popular Front government. Mola became leader of this group and at this stage Franco was unwilling to fully commit himself to joining any possible uprising.
As a result of the government's policies the wealthy took vast sums of capital out of the country. This created an economic crisis and the value of the peseta declined which damaged trade and tourism. With prices rising workers demanded higher wages. This situation led to a series of strikes in Spain.
On the 10th May 1936 the conservative Niceto Alcala Zamora was ousted as president and replaced by the left-wing Manuel Azaña. Soon afterwards Spanish Army officers began plotting to overthrow the Popular Front government.
President Manuel Azaña appointed Diego Martinez Barrio as prime minister on 18th July 1936 and asked him to negotiate with the rebels. He contacted Emilio Mola and offered him the post of Minister of War in his government. He refused and when Azaña realized that the Nationalists were unwilling to compromise, he sacked Martinez Barrio and replaced him with José Giral. To protect the Popular Front government, Giral gave orders for arms to be distributed to left-wing organizations that opposed the military uprising.
General Emilio Mola issued his proclamation of revolt in Navarre on 19th July, 1936. The coup got off to a bad start with José Sanjurjo being killed in an air crash on 20th July. The uprising was a failure in most parts of Spain but Mola's forces were successful in the Canary Islands, Morocco, Seville and Aragon. Francisco Franco, now commander of the Army of Africa, joined the revolt and began to conquer southern Spain.
Manuel Azaña had no desire to be head of a government that was trying to militarily defeat another group of Spaniards. He attempted to resign but was persuaded to stay on by the Socialist Party and Communist Party who hoped that he was the best person to persuade foreign governments not to support the military uprising.
Socialists and Communists all over Europe formed International Brigades and went to Spain to protect the Popular Front government. Men who fought with the Republican Army included George Orwell, André Marty, Christopher Caudwell, Jack Jones, Len Crome, Oliver Law, Tom Winteringham, Joe Garber, Lou Kenton, Bill Alexander, David Marshall, Alfred Sherman, William Aalto, Hans Amlie, Bill Bailey, Robert Merriman, Steve Nelson, Walter Grant, Alvah Bessie, Joe Dallet, David Doran, John Gates, Harry Haywood, Oliver Law, Edwin Rolfe, Milton Wolff, Hans Beimler, Frank Ryan, Emilo Kléber, Ludwig Renn, Gustav Regler, Ralph Fox, Sam Wild and John Cornford.
Men came from a variety of left-wing groups but the International Brigades were nearly always led by Communists. This created problems with other Republican groups such as the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) and the Anarchists.
In 1936 the Spanish Army had two distinct forces: The Peninsular Army and the Army of Africa. The Peninsular Army had 8,851 officers and 112,228 men. It was considered to be poorly trained force and on the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War over 40,000 men were on leave. It is estimated that 4,660 officers and 19,000 men joined the Nationalist forces in the struggle with the Republicans. Of the remaining 4,191 officers, around 2,000 supported the Popular Front government.
The Army of Africa was considered to be superior to the Peninsular Army. It consisted of those Spanish Army units based in Morocco. In 1936 the force numbered 34,047 men and was composed of regular Spanish Army units and the Spanish Foreign Legion.
On 19th July, 1936, General Francisco Franco assumed command of this force and organized its airlift to Spain. During the first two months of the war, around 10,500 men were flown across the Straits of Gibraltar by aircraft owned by the Luftwaffe. Others followed and the Army of Africa played an important role in gaining Nationalist control of South-Western Spain.
There were also two internal paramilitary police forces: the Civil Guard and the Assault Guard. The Civil Guard, an elite paramilitary police force, had 69,000 men and officers. It is estimated that 42,000 joined the Nationalists and 27,000 remained with the Popular Front government. The Assault Guard had around 30,000 men. Of these, only 3,500 refused to join the Nationalist uprising.
It is estimated that the Republican government retained the loyalty of about half the soldiers in the Spanish Army. However, only a small percentage of the officers refused to fight with the Nationalist Army. These were often members of the left-wing Union Militar Republican Antifascisca (UMRA).
Soon after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War the Republican Army was about one-third larger than the Nationalist Army. However, by the time the rest of the Army of Africa arrived in mainland Spain, the figures were close to equal. In the early stages of the war, members of the Falange Española, Carlists and other right-wing political parties joined the Nationalist Army.
After the first few weeks of the war the Nationalist Army controlled in the north of Spain the provinces of Galicia, León, Navarre and large parts of Old Castile and Aragón. In the south they held Cádiz, Seville, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva and Cáceres. Overall, the Nationalists controlled about a third of the land in Spain.
In the summer of 1936 General Emilio Mola calculated that the Nationalist Army had 100,000 in the northern sector and 60,000 in the south. On 26th August, 1936, the Nationalist authorities introduced conscription. This enabled them to recruit some 270,000 men during the next six months.
On the outbreak of the war Madrid was under the control of the Popular Front government. Emilio Mola and Francisco Franco were anxious to capture the capital city of Spain as soon as possible. The first bombing raids by the Nationalist airforce began on 28th August, 1936.
In September 1936, Lieutenant Colonel Walther Warlimont of the German General Staff arrived as the German commander and military adviser to General Francisco Franco. The following month Warlimont suggested that a German Condor Legion should be formed to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
The initial force consisted a Bomber Group of three squadrons of Ju-52 bombers; a Fighter Group with three squadrons of He-51 fighters; a Reconnaissance Group with two squadrons of He-99 and He-70 reconnaissance bombers; and a Seaplane Squadron of He-59 and He-60 floatplanes.
General Hugo Sperrle was appointed commander of the Condor Legion in November 1936. His chief of staff was Wolfram von Richthofen, the cousin of the First World War flying ace, Manfred von Richthofen. Wilhelm von Thoma was placed in charge of all German ground troops in the war. The Condor Legion was initially equipped with around 100 aircraft and 5,136 men but by the end of the war over 19,000 Germans had fought alongside the Nationalist Army.
Badajoz, a Spanish province on the border with Portugal, was controlled by the Republican Army during the early days of the Spanish Civil War. General Juan de Yagüe and 3,000 troops attacked Badajoz City, in August, 1936. Bitter street fighting took place when the Nationalist Army entered the city. Losses were heavy on both sides and when the Nationalists took control of Badajoz it was claimed they massacred around 1,800 people. He also encouraged his troops to rape supporters of the Popular Front government. As a result Yagüe became known as "The Butcher of Badajoz".
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War the President Antonio Salazar of Portugal immediately supported the Nationalists in the struggle against the Popular Front government in Spain. Salazar feared that if the Republicans won the war his own authoritarian government would be under threat.
Salazar, concerned about the effect the events in Spain would have on his country, established a new militia that could serve as an auxiliary police. This new police force arrested dissidents and removed politically unreliable people from educational and governmental institutions. Salazar's police also arrested supporters of the Popular Front government living in Portugal. He also sealed off the Portuguese frontier to Republicans.
Although he came under considerable pressure from Britain and France, Salazar refused to allow international observers being stationed on the Portugal-Spain border. Officially he claimed that it would be a violation of Portugal sovereignty while in reality he did not want the world to know about the large amounts of military aid that was crossing into Spain.
In September 1936, President Azaña appointed the left-wing socialist, Francisco Largo Caballero as prime minister. Largo Caballero also took over the important role of war minister. Largo Caballero brought into his government two left-wing radicals, Angel Galarza (minister of the interior) and Alvarez del Vayo (minister of foreign affairs). He also included four anarchists, Juan Garcia Oliver (Justice), Juan López Sánchez (Commerce), Federica Montseny (Health) and Juan Peiró (Industry) and two right-wing socialists, Juan Negrin (Finance) and Indalecio Prieto (Navy and Air) in his government. Largo Caballero also gave two ministries to the Communist Party (PCE): Jesus Hernández (Education) and Vicente Uribe (Agriculture).
After taking power Francisco Largo Caballero concentrated on winning the war and did not pursue his policy of social revolution. In an effort to gain the support of foreign governments, he announced that his administration was "not fighting for socialism but for democracy and constitutional rule."
Largo Caballero introduced changes that upset the left in Spain. This included conscription, the reintroduction of ranks and insignia into the militia, and the abolition of workers' and soldiers' councils. He also established a new police force, the National Republican Guard. He also agreed for Juan Negrin to be given control of the Carabineros.
By the end of September 1936, the generals involved in the military uprising came to the conclusion that Francisco Franco should become commander of the Nationalist Army. He was also appointed chief of state. General Emilio Mola agreed to serve under him and was placed in charge of the Army of the North.
Franco now began to remove all his main rivals for the leadership of the Nationalist forces. Some were forced into exile and nothing was done to help rescue José Antonio Primo de Rivera from captivity. However, when José Antonio was shot by the Republicans in November 1936, Franco exploited his death by making him a mythological saint of the fascist movement.
By the 1st November 1936, 25,000 Nationalist troops under General Jose Varela had reached the western and southern suburbs of Madrid. Five days later he was joined by General Hugo Sperrle and the Condor Legion. This began the siege of Madrid that was to last for nearly three years.
Francisco Largo Caballero and his government decided to leave Madrid on 6th November, 1936. This decision was criticized by the four anarchists in his cabinet who regarded leaving the capital as cowardice. At first they refused to go but were eventually persuaded to move to Valencia with the rest of the government.
Largo Caballero appointed General José Miaja as commander of the Republican Army in Madrid. He was given instructions to set up a Junta de Defensa (Defence Council), made up of all the parties of the Popular Front, and to defend Madrid "at all costs". He was aided by his chief of staff, Vicente Rojo.
Miaja's task was helped by the arrival of the International Brigades. The first units reached Madrid on 8th November. Led by the Soviet General, Emilo Kléber, the 11th International Brigade was to play an important role in the defence of the city. The Thaelmann Battalion, a volunteer unit that mainly consisted of members of the German Communist Party and the British Communist Party, was also deployed to defend the city.
On 14th November Buenaventura Durruti arrived in Madrid from Aragón with his Anarchist Brigade. Within a week of arriving Durruti was killed while fighting on the outskirts of the city. Durruti's supporters in the CNT were quick to complain that he had been murdered by members of the Communist Party (PCE).
On 13th December 1936, the Nationalists attempted to cut the Madrid-La Coruna road to the north-east of Madrid. After suffering heavy losses the offensive was brought to an end over Christmas. On 5th January 1937, the attack was resumed. During the next four days the Nationalist gained ten kilometres of road and lost around 15,000 men. The International Brigades, defending the road, also suffered heavy losses during this battle.
In December 1936, Benito Mussolini also began to supply the Nationalists with men and equipment. This included 30,000 men from the Blue Shirts militia and 20,000 soldiers serving with the Italian Army. In March 1937 these men were incorporated into the Italian Corps (CTV).
After failing to take Madrid by frontal assault General Francisco Franco gave orders for the road that linked the city to the rest of Republican Spain to be cut. A Nationalist force of 40,000 men, including men from the Army of Africa, crossed the Jarama River on 11th February.
General José Miaja sent three International Brigades including the Dimitrov Battalion and the British Battalion to the Jarama Valley to block the advance. On 12th February, at what became known as Suicide Hill, the Republicans suffered heavy casualties. Tom Winteringham, the British commander, was forced to order a retreat back to the next ridge. The Nationalist then advanced up Suicide Hill and were then routed by Republican machine-gun fire.
However, on the right flank, the Nationalists forced the Dimitrov Battalion to retreat. This enabled the Nationalists to virtually surround the British Battalion. Coming under heavy fire the British, now only 160 out of the original 600, had to establish defensive positions along a sunken road. Unwilling to attack again, the Nationalist Army retreated.
General Francisco Franco came under pressure from Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to obtain a quick victory by taking Madrid. He eventually decided to use 30,000 Italians and 20,000 legionnaires to attack Guadalajara, forty miles northeast of the capital. On 8th March the Italian Corps took Guadalajara and began moving rapidly towards Madrid. Four days later the Republican Army with Soviet tanks counter-attacked. The Italians suffered heavy losses and those left alive were forced to retreat on 17th March. The Republicans also captured documents which proved that the Italians were regular soldiers and not volunteers. However, the Non-Intervention Committee refused to accept the evidence and the Italian government boldly announced that no Italian soldiers would be withdrawn until the Nationalist Army was victorious.
On 19th April 1937, Franco forced the unification of the Falange Española and the Carlists with other small right-wing parties to form the Falange Española Tradicionalista. Franco then had himself appointed as leader of the new organisation. Imitating the tactics of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, giant posters of Franco and the dead José Antonio were displayed along with the slogan, "One State! One Country! One Chief! Franco! Franco! Franco!" all over Spain.
Francisco Largo Caballero came under increasing pressure from the Communist Party to promote its members to senior posts in the government. He also refused their demands to suppress the Worker's Party (POUM) in May 1937. The Communists now withdrew from the government. In an attempt to maintain a coalition government, President Manuel Azaña sacked Largo Caballero and asked Juan Negrin to form a new cabinet.
Negrin now began appointing members of the Communist Party (PCE) to important military and civilian posts. This included Marcelino Fernandez, a communist, to head the Carabineros. Communists were also given control of propaganda, finance and foreign affairs. The socialist, Luis Araquistain, described Negrin's government as the "most cynical and despotic in Spanish history."
During the Spanish Civil War the National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT), the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI) and the Worker's Party (POUM) played an important role in running Barcelona. This brought them into conflict with other left-wing groups in the city including the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT), the Catalan Socialist Party (PSUC) and the Communist Party (PCE).
On the 3rd May 1937, Rodriguez Salas, the Chief of Police, ordered the Civil Guard and the Assault Guard to take over the Telephone Exchange, which had been operated by the CNT since the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Members of the CNT in the Telephone Exchange were armed and refused to give up the building. Members of the CNT, FAI and POUM became convinced that this was the start of an attack on them by the UGT, PSUC and the PCE and that night barricades were built all over the city.
Fighting broke out on the 4th May. Later that day the anarchist ministers, Federica Montseny and Juan Garcia Oliver, arrived in Barcelona and attempted to negotiate a ceasefire. When this proved to be unsuccessful, Juan Negrin, Vicente Uribe and Jesus Hernández called on Francisco Largo Caballero to use government troops to takeover the city. Largo Caballero also came under pressure from Luis Companys not to take this action, fearing that this would breach Catalan autonomy.
On 6th May death squads assassinated a number of prominent anarchists in their homes. The following day over 6,000 Assault Guards arrived from Valencia and gradually took control of Barcelona. It is estimated that about 400 people were killed during what became known as the May Riots.
These events in Barcelona severely damaged the Popular Front government. Communist members of the Cabinet were highly critical of the way Francisco Largo Caballero handled the May Riots. President Manuel Azaña agreed and on 17th May he asked Juan Negrin to form a new government. Negrin was a communist sympathizer and from this date Joseph Stalin obtained more control over the policies of the Republican government
Negrin's government now attempted to bring the Anarchist Brigades under the control of the Republican Army. At first the Anarcho-Syndicalists resisted and attempted to retain hegemony over their units. This proved impossible when the government made the decision to only pay and supply militias that subjected themselves to unified command and structure.
Negrin also began appointing members of the Communist Party (PCE) to important military and civilian posts. This included Marcelino Fernandez, a communist, to head the Carabineros. Communists were also given control of propaganda, finance and foreign affairs. The socialist, Luis Araquistain, described Negrin's government as the "most cynical and despotic in Spanish history."
In the Asturias campaign in September 1937, Adolf Galland of the Condor Legion experimented with new bombing tactics. This became known as carpet bombing (dropping all bombs on the enemy from every aircraft at one time for maximum damage).
In April 1938 the Nationalist Army broke through the Republican defences and reached the sea. General Francisco Franco now moved his troops towards Valencia with the objective of encircling Madrid and the central front.
Juan Negrin, in an attempt to relieve the pressure on the Spanish capital, ordered an attack across the fast-flowing Ebro. General Juan Modesto, a member of the Communist Party (PCE), was placed in charge of the offensive. Over 80,000 Republican troops, including the 15th International Brigade and the British Battalion, began crossing the river in boats on 25th July. The men then moved forward towards Corbera and Gandesa.
On 26th July the Republican Army attempted to capture Hill 481, a key position at Gandesa. Hill 481 was well protected with barbed wire, trenches and bunkers. The Republicans suffered heavy casualties and after six days was forced to retreat to Hill 666 on the Sierra Pandols. It successfully defended the hill from a Nationalist offensive on 23rd September but once again large numbers were killed.
The following day, Juan Negrin, head of the Republican government, announced that the International Brigades would be unilaterally withdrawn from Spain. That night the volunteers moved back across the River Ebro and began their journey out of the country.
The rest of the Republican Army remained and had to endure continuous attacks from the Condor Legion. General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano also brought forward 500 cannon which fired an average of 13,500 rounds a day at the Republicans. By the middle of November, the Republicans were forced to retreat.
During the battle of Ebro the Nationalist Army had 6,500 killed and nearly 30,000 wounded. These were the worst casualties of the war but it finally destroyed the Republican Army as an effective fighting force.
Juan Negrin attempted to gain the support of western governments by announcing his plan to decollectivize industries. On 1st May 1938 Negrin published a thirteen-point program that included the promise of full civil and political rights and freedom of religion.
In August 1938 President Manuel Azaña attempted to oust Juan Negrin. However, he no longer had the power he once had and with the support of the communists in the government and armed forces, Negrin was able to survive.
On 26th January, 1939, Barcelona fell to the Nationalist Army. Azaña and his government now moved to Perelada, close to the French border. With the nationalist forces still advancing, Azaña and his colleagues crossed into France.
On 27th February, 1939, the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain recognized the Nationalist government headed by General Francisco Franco. Later that day Manuel Azaña resigned from office, declaring that the war was lost and that he did not want Spaniards to make anymore useless sacrifices.
Juan Negrin now promoted communist leaders such as Antonio Cordon, Juan Modesto and Enrique Lister to senior posts in the army. Segismundo Casado, commander of the Republican Army of the Centre, now became convinced that Negrin was planning a communist coup. On 4th March, Casedo, with the support of the socialist leader, Julián Besteiro and disillusioned anarchist leaders, established an anti-Negrin National Defence Junta.
On 6th March José Miaja in Madrid joined the rebellion by ordering the arrests of Communists in the city. Negrin, about to leave for France, ordered Luis Barceló, commander of the First Corps of the Army of the Centre, to try and regain control of the capital. His troops entered Madrid and there was fierce fighting for several days in the city. Anarchists troops led by Cipriano Mera, managed to defeat the First Corps and Barceló was captured and executed.
Segismundo Casado now tried to negotiate a peace settlement with General Francisco Franco. However, he refused demanding an unconditional surrender. Members of the Republican Army still left alive, were no longer willing to fight and the Nationalist Army entered Madrid virtually unopposed on 27th March. Four days later Francisco Franco announced the end of the Spanish Civil War.
Available information suggests that there were about 500,000 deaths from all causes during the Spanish Civil War. An estimated 200,000 died from combat-related causes. Of these, 110,000 fought for the Republicans and 90,000 for the Nationalists. This implies that 10 per cent of all soldiers who fought in the war were killed.
It has been calculated that the Nationalist Army executed 75,000 people in the war whereas the Republican Army accounted for 55,000. These deaths takes into account the murders of members of rival political groups.
It is estimated that about 5,300 foreign soldiers died while fighting for the Nationalists (4,000 Italians, 300 Germans, 1,000 others). The International Brigades also suffered heavy losses during the war. Approximately 4,900 soldiers died fighting for the Republicans (2,000 Germans, 1,000 French, 900 Americans, 500 British and 500 others).
Around 10,000 Spanish people were killed in bombing raids. The vast majority of these were victims of the German Condor Legion.
The economic blockade of Republican controlled areas caused malnutrition in the civilian population. It is believed that this caused the deaths of around 25,000 people. All told, about 3.3 per cent of the Spanish population died during the war with another 7.5 per cent being injured.
After the war it is believed that the government of General Francisco Franco arranged the executions of 100,000 Republican prisoners. It is estimated that another 35,000 Republicans died in concentration camps in the years that followed the war.
(1) Salvador de Madariaga, a member of the Republican Union Party, commented on the clash between Francisco Largo Caballero and Indalecio Prieto.
What made the Spanish Civil War inevitable was the civil war within the Socialist party. No wonder Fascism grew. Let no one argue that it was fascist violence that developed socialist violence. It was not at the Fascists that Largo Caballero's gunmen shot but at their brother socialists. It was (Largo Caballero's) avowed, nay, his proclaimed policy to rush Spain on to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus pushed on the road to violence, the nation, always prone to it, became more violent than ever. This suited the fascists admirably, for they are nothing if not lovers and adepts of violence.
(2) Claude Cockburn, Reporter in Spain (1936)
On 12th July 1936 gunmen in a touring car nosed slowly through sparse traffic under the arc lamps of a Madrid street, opened fire with a sub-machine-gun at the defenceless back of a man standing chatting on his doorstep, and roared off among the tram-lines, leaving him dying in a puddle of his young blood on the pavement.
That in a manner of speaking was the Sarajevo of the Spanish war. The young man they killed was Jose Castillo, Lieutenant of Assault Guards. I never saw Castillo, but afterwards I heard all sorts of people speak of him with a kind of urgency and heartbreak, as though it were impossible that you too should not have known, and therefore loved, so fine a young man.
In a corps which in the five years of its existence had already acquired a high military reputation, Castillo was already distinguished, and already loved, by men who are not very easy pleased nor easy fooled.
In the working-class districts of Madrid he was equally well known and liked. He was declared a gallant and patriotic young officer, as dauntless a defender of the Republic as you could wish to see, and a man - as a Madrid workman said to me afterwards - "who made the culture and the progress we were after seem more real to us".
(3) Francisco Franco, speech (17th July 1936)
Spaniards! The nation calls to her defense all those of you who hear the holy name of Spain, those in the ranks of the Army and Navy who have made a profession of faith in the service of the Motherland, all those who swore to defend her to the death against her enemies. The situation in Spain grows more critical every day; anarchy reigns in most of the countryside and towns; government-appointed authorities encourage revolts, when they do not actually lead them; murderers use pistols and machine guns to settle their differences and to treacherously assassinate innocent people, while the public authorities fail to impose law and order. Revolutionary strikes of all kinds paralyze the life of the nation, destroying its sources of wealth and creating hunger, forcing working men to the point of desperation. The most savage attacks are made upon national monuments and artistic treasures by revolutionary hordes who obey the orders of foreign governments, with the complicity and negligence of local authorities. The most serious crimes are committed in the cities and countryside, while the forces that should defend public order remain in their barracks, bound by blind obedience to those governing authorities that are intent on dishonoring them. The Army, Navy, and other armed forces are the target of the most obscene and slanderous attacks, which are carried out by the very people who should be protecting their prestige. Meanwhile, martial law is imposed to gag the nation, to hide what is happening in its towns and cities, and to imprison alleged political opponents.
(4) Mikhail Koltzov, the Soviet journalist, recorded the evacuation of Madrid by the Popular Front government on 6th November 1936.
I made my way to the War Ministry, to the Commissariat of War. Hardly anyone was there. I went to the offices of the Prime Minister. The building was locked. I went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was deserted. In the Foreign Press Censorship an official told me that the government, two hours earlier, had recognized that the situation of Madrid was hopeless and had already left. Largo Caballero had forbidden the publication of any news about the evacuation "in order to avoid panic". I went to the Ministry of the Interior. The building was nearly empty. I went to the central committee of the Communist Party. A plenary meeting of the Politburo was being held. They told me that this very day Largo Caballero had suddenly decided to evacuate. His decision had been approved by the majority of the cabinet. The Communist ministers wanted to remain, but it was made clear to them that such a step would discredit the government and that they were obliged to leave like all the others. Not even the most prominent leaders of the various organizations, nor the departments and agencies of the state, had been informed of the government's departure. Only at the last moment had the Minister told the Chief of the Central General Staff that the government was leaving. The Minister of the Interior, Galarza, and his aide, the Director of Security Munoz, had left the capital before anyone else. The staff of General Pozas, the commander of the central front, had scurried off. Once again I went to the War Ministry. I climbed the stairs to the lobby. Not a soul! On the landing two old employees are seated like wax figures wearing livery and neatly shaven waiting to be called by the Minister at the sound of his bell! It would be just the same if the Minister were the previous one or a new one. Rows of offices! All the doors are wide open. I enter the War Minister's office. Not a soul! Further down, a row of offices - the Central General Staff, with its sections; the General Staff with its sections; the General Staff of the Central Front, with its sections; the Quartermaster Corps with its sections; the Personnel Department, with its sections. All the doors are wide open. The ceiling lamps shine brightly. On the desks there are abandoned maps, documents communiqués, pencils, pads filled with notes. Not a soul!
(5) Jack Jones went to fight in the Spanish Civil War in 1937. He wrote about his experiences in the International Brigade in his autobiography, Union Man (1986)
The focal point for the mobilization of the International Brigades was in Paris; understandably so, because underground activities against Fascism had been concentrated there for some years. I led a group of volunteers to the headquarters there, proceeding with the greatest caution because of the laws against recruitment in foreign armies and the non-intervention policies of both Britain and France. From London onwards it was a clandestine operation until we arrived on Spanish soil.
While in Paris we were housed in workers' homes in one of the poorest quarters of the city. But it wasn't long before we were on our way, by train, to a town near the Pyrenees. From there we travelled by coach to a rambling old farmhouse in the foothills of the Pyrenees. After a rough country meal in a barn we met our guide who led us through the mountain passes into Spain.
In the light of the morning we could see Spanish territory. After five hours or so, stumbling down the mountainside (I found it almost as hard going down as climbing up), we came to an outpost and from there were taken by truck to a fortress at Figueras. This was a reception centre for the volunteers. The atmosphere of old Spain was very apparent in the ancient castle. For the first day or so we felt exhausted after the long climb. The food was pretty awful. We ate it because we were hungry but without relish.
For some the first lessons about the use of a rifle were given before we moved off to the base. I at least could dismantle and assemble a rifle bolt and knew something about firing and the care of a weapon. But my first shock came when I was told of the shortage of weapons and the fact that the rifles (let alone other weapons) were in many cases antiquated and inaccurate.
Training at the base was quick, elementary but effective. For me life was hectic, meeting good companions and experiencing a genuine international atmosphere. There were no conscripts or paid mercenaries. I got to know a German Jew who had escaped the clutches of Hitler's hordes and was then a captain in the XII Brigade. He had hopes of going on ultimately to Palestine and striving for a free state of Israel. He was not only a good soldier but a brave one too. That was also true of a smart young Mexican whom I met. He had been an officer in the Mexican Army and was a member of the National Revolutionary Party of his country.
(6) Bill Bailey wrote to his mother explaining why he was fighting in the Spanish Civil War (1937)
You see Mom, there are things that one must do in this life that are a little more than just living. In Spain there are thousands of mothers like yourself who never had a fair shake in life. They got together and elected a government that really gave meaning to their life. But a bunch of bullies decided to crush this wonderful thing. That's why I went to Spain, Mom, to help these poor people win this battle, then one day it would be easier for you and the mothers of the future. Don't let anyone mislead you by telling you that all this had something to do with Communism. The Hitlers and Mussolinis of this world are killing Spanish people who don't know the difference between Communism and rheumatism. And it's not to set up some Communist government either. The only thing the Communists did here was show the people how to fight and try to win what is rightfully theirs.
(7) Bill Alexander, Memorials of the Spanish Civil War (1996)
Around 2,400 volunteered from the British Isles and the then British Empire. There can be no exact figure because the Conservative Government, in its support for the Nonintervention Agreement, threatened to use the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1875 which they declared made volunteering illegal. Keeping records and lists of names was dangerous and difficult. However, no-passport weekend trips to Paris provided a way round for all who left these shores en route for Spain. In France active support from French people opened the paths over the Pyrenees.
The British volunteers came from all walks of life, all parts of the British Isles and the then British Empire. The great majority were from the industrial areas, especially those of heavy industry They were accustomed to the discipline associated with working in factories and pits. They learnt from the organization, democracy and solidarity of trade unionism.
Intellectuals, academics, writers and poets were an important force in the early groups of volunteers. They had the means to get to Spain and were accustomed to travelling, whereas very few workers had left British shores. They went because of their growing alienation from a society that had failed miserably to meet the needs of so many people and because of their deep repugnance at the burning of books in Nazi Germany, the persecution of individuals, the glorification of war and the whole philosophy of fascism.
The International Brigades and the British volunteers were, numerically, only a small part of the Republican forces, but nearly all had accepted the need for organization and order in civilian life. Many already knew how to lead in the trade unions, demonstrations and people's organizations, the need to set an example and lead from the front if necessary They were united in their aims and prepared to fight for them. The International Brigades provided a shock force while the Republic trained and organized an army from an assemblage of individuals. The Spanish people knew they were not fighting alone.
(8) Peter Kemp, a graduate of Cambridge University, joined the Carlists during the Spanish Civil War. He wrote about his experiences in his book, Mine Were of Trouble (1957)
I was ordered to report to Cancela. I found him talking with some legionaries who had brought in a deserter from the International Brigades - an Irishman from Belfast; he had given himself up to one of our patrols down by the river. Cancela wanted me to interrogate him. The man explained that he had been a seaman on a British ship trading to Valencia, where he had got very drunk one night, missed his ship and been picked up by the police. The next thing he knew, he was in Albacete, impressed into the International Brigades. He knew that if he tried to escape in Republican Spain he would certainly be retaken and shot; and so he had bided his time until he reached the front, when he had taken the first opportunity to desert. He had been wandering around for two days before he found our patrol.
I was not absolutely sure that he was telling the truth; but I knew that if I seemed to doubt his story he would be shot, and I was resolved to do everything in my power to save his life. Translating his account to Cancela, I urged that this was indeed a special case; the man was a deserter, not a prisoner, and we should be unwise as well as unjust to shoot him. Moved either by my arguments, or by consideration for my feelings. Cancela agreed to spare him, subject to de Mora's consent; I had better go and see de Mora at once while Cancela would see that the deserter had something to eat.
De Mora was sympathetic. "You seem to have a good case," he said. "Unfortunately my orders from Colonel Penaredonda are to shoot all foreigners. If you can get his consent I'll be delighted to let the man off. You'll find the Colonel over there, on the highest of those hills. Take the prisoner with you, in case there are any questions, and your two runners as escort.'
It was an exhausting walk of nearly a mile with the midday sun blazing on our backs. "Does it get any hotter in this country?" the deserter asked as we panted up the steep sides of a ravine, the sweat pouring down our faces and backs.
"You haven't seen the half of it yet. Wait another three months," I answered, wondering grimly whether I should be able to win him even another three hours of life.
I found Colonel Penaredonda sitting cross-legged with a plate of fried eggs on his knee. He greeted me amiably enough as I stepped forward and saluted; I had taken care to leave the prisoner well out of earshot. I repeated his story, adding my own plea at the end, as I had with Cancela and de Mora. "I have the fellow here, sir," I concluded, "in case you wish to ask him any questions." The Colonel did not look up from his plate: "No, Peter," he said casually, his mouth full of egg, "I don't want to ask him anything. Just take him away and shoot him.'
I was so astonished that my mouth dropped open; my heart seemed to stop beating. Penaredonda looked up, his eyes full of hatred:
"Get out!" he snarled. "You heard what I said." As I withdrew he shouted after me: "I warn you, I intend to see that this order is carried out."
Motioning the prisoner and escort to follow, I started down the hill; I would not walk with them, for I knew that he would question me and I could not bring myself to speak. I decided not to tell him until the last possible moment, so that at least he might be spared the agony of waiting. I even thought of telling him to try to make a break for it while I distracted the escorts' attention; then I remembered Penaredonda's parting words and, looking back, saw a pair of legionaries following us at a distance. I was so numb with misery and anger that I didn't notice where I was going until I found myself in front of de Mora once more. When I told him the news he bit his lip:
"Then I'm afraid there's nothing we can do," he said gently. "You had better carry out the execution yourself. Someone has got to do it, and it will be easier for him to have a fellow-countryman around. After all, he knows that you have tried to save him. Try to get it over quickly."
It was almost more than I could bear to face the prisoner, where he stood between my two runners. As I approached they dropped back a few paces, leaving us alone; they were good men and understood what I was feeling. I forced myself to look at him. I am sure he knew what I was going to say.
"I've got to shoot you." A barely audible "Oh my God!" escaped him.
Briefly I told him how I had tried to save him. I asked him if he wanted a priest, or a few minutes by himself, and if there were any messages he wanted me to deliver.
"Nothing," he whispered, "please make it quick."
"That I can promise you. Turn round and start walking straight ahead."
He held out his hand and looked me in the eyes, saying only "Thank you."
"God bless you!" I murmured.
As he turned his back and walked away I said to my two runners:
"I beg you to aim true. He must not feel anything." They nodded, and raised their rifles. I looked away. The two shots exploded simultaneously.
"On our honour, sir," the senior of the two said to me, "he could not have felt a thing."
(9) Millán Astray, speech in Salamanca (12th October 1936)
Catalonia and the Basque Country are two cancers in the body of the nation! Fascism, Spain's remedy, comes to exterminate them, slicing healthy, living flesh like a scalpel.
(10) Miguel de Unamuno, reply to speech made by Millán Astray, in Salamanca (12th October 1936)
Much has been said here about the international war in defence of Christian civilization; I have done the same myself on other occasions. But no, our war is only an uncivil war. To win is not to convince, and it is necessary to convince and that cannot be done by the hatred which has no place for compassion. There has been talk too of Catalans and Basques, calling them the anti-Spain. Well, with the same justification could they say the same of you. Here is the Bishop, himself a Catalan, who teaches you Christian doctrine which you don't want to learn. And I, who am a Basque, I have spent my life teaching you the Spanish language, which you do not know.
General Millan Astray is a war invalid. It is not necessary to say this in a whisper. Cervantes was too. But extremes cannot be taken as the norm. Unfortunately, today there are too many invalids. And soon there will be more if God does not help us. It pains me to think that General Millan Astray might dictate the norms of mass psychology. An invalid who lacks the spiritual grandeur of Cervantes, who was a man, not a superman, virile and complete despite his mutilations, an invalid, as I said, who lacks that superiority of spirit, is often made to feel better by seeing the number of cripples around him grow. General Millan Astray would like to create a new Spain in his own image, a negative creation without doubt. And so he would like to see a mutilated Spain
You will win but you will not convince. You will win because you have more than enough brute force; but you will not convince, because to convince means to persuade. And to persuade you need something that you lack: reason and right in the struggle. It seems to me useless to beg you to think of Spain.
(11) George E. Steer, The Times (28th April, 1937)
Guernica, the most ancient town of the Basques and the centre of their cultural tradition, was completely destroyed yesterday afternoon by insurgent raiders. The bombardment of this open town far behind the lines occupied precisely three hours and a quarter, during which a powerful fleet of aeroplanes did not cease in unloading on the town bombs weighing from 1000Ib downwards. The fighters meanwhile plunged low from above to machine gun those of the civilian population who had taken refuge in the fields.
(12) Manchester Guardian (28th April 1937)
Guernica, till 1876 capital of the Basque country, has been reduced to ruins by rebel planes of German make. The bombardment, which lasted for three and a half hours on Monday afternoon, killed hundreds of the 10,000 inhabitants, and yesterday only a few of the buildings remained standing. Many of the ruins were still burning.
In Guernica itself it is not known how many hundreds of people - men, women, and children - have been killed; it may indeed never be known. The town is in ruins. The buildings left standing can be counted almost on the fingers of one had. Among them is, remarkably enough, the Basque Parliament building, with its famous oak tree.
The church of St. John was destroyed, but the principal church, St. Mary's, is almost intact, except for the chapter-house and part of the tower. The convent of Santa Clara, which was being used as a hospital, was destroyed, with many of its inmates. Another small hospital, with 42 beds, was completely wiped out together with its 42 wounded occupants. Yet a third hospital was wrecked with many victims.
The raid occurred on market-day when the town was full of peasants who had come into sell their produce. The bombers, all of them said to be German, came over in waves of seven at a time. Many of the people who raced desperately for the open fields were systematically pursued and machine-gunned from the air by swooping fighters.
The survivors spent a night of horror sleeping where and if they could, awaiting with resignation their evacuation today. Since early this morning the roads leading to the rear have been thronged with long streams of peasants whose whole remaining possessions are dumped on ox-carts.
Today I visited what remains of the town. I was taken to the entrance of a street like a furnace which no one had been able to approach since the raid. I was shown a bomb shelter in which over fifty women and children were trapped and burned alive. Everywhere is a chaos of charred beams, twisted girders, broken masonry, and smouldering ashes, with forlorn groups of inhabitants wandering in search of missing relatives.
I picked up an incendiary shell which failed to explode. It was made of aluminum, weighed nearly two pounds, and was liberally stamped with German eagles.
Guernica, like the other Basque country towns, was absolutely defenceless, and was provided with neither anti-aircraft guns nor planes.
General Mola, who is in charge of the rebel offensive on the Basque front, is apparently trying to carry out his threat "to destroy the whole of Biscay Province" if the Basques do not immediately surrender. When he made the threat early in April he added, "We have the means of carrying out our intentions." Yesterday the Basque Government alleged that Germans were piloting the German bombers that carried out the raid.
It is reported that General Mola has now warned the Basque Government that he will raze Bilbao to the ground unless the town surrenders. But the Government states that after the destruction of Guernica surrender of the Basque capital is less than ever possible. A report that the Argentine Ambassador at Hendaye had been asked to act as intermediary to arrange for the surrender is denied.
It seems, in fact, that the vicious bombing of Guernica will stiffen the Basque resistance. The Basques were last night claiming that the rebel offensive in the region of Durango had been "brilliantly repulsed" and that the rebels were being held back form the Eibar sector to the coast.
Senor Aguirre, the Basque President, last night published a decree reorganising the regular army into battalions, brigades, and divisions under a new commander-in-chief. Under another decree all industries catering for the needs of war are militarised and mobilised.
(13) Father Alberto de Onaindia, witnessed the bombing of Guernica on 26th April 1937. He was interviewed by the author, Robert Payne, for his book, The Civil War in Spain (1963)
Late in the afternoon of April 26th I was going by car to rescue my mother and my sisters, then living in Marquina, a town about to fall into the hands of Franco. It was one of those magnificently clear days, the sky soft and serene. We reached the outskirts of Guernica just before five o'clock. The streets were busy with the traffic of market day. Suddenly we heard the siren, and trembled. People were running about in all directions, abandoning everything they possessed, some hurrying into the shelters, others running into the hills. Soon an enemy aeroplane appeared over Guernica. A peasant was passing by. 'It's nothing, only one of the 'white' ones,' he said. 'He'll drop a few bombs, and then he'll go away.' The Basques had learned to distinguish between the twin-engined 'whites' and the three-engined 'blacks.' The 'white' aeroplane made a reconnaissance over the town, and when he was directly over the centre he dropped three bombs. Immediately afterwards he saw a squadron of seven planes followed a little later by six more, and this in turn by a third squadron of five more. All of them were Junkers. Meanwhile Guernica was seized with a terrible panic.
I left the car by the side of the road and took refuge with five milicianos in a sewer. The water came up to our ankles. From our hiding-place we could see everything that happened without being seen. The aeroplanes came low, flying at two hundred metres. As soon as we could leave our shelter, we ran into the woods, hoping to put a safe distance between us and the enemy. But the airmen saw us and went after us. The leaves hid us. As they did not know exactly where we were, they aimed their machine-guns in the direction they thought we were travelling. We heard the bullets ripping through branches, and the sinister sound of splintering wood. The milicianos and I followed the flight patterns of the aeroplanes; and we made a crazy journey through the trees, trying to avoid them.
Meanwhile women, children and old men were falling in heaps, like flies, and everywhere we saw lakes of blood.
I saw an old peasant standing alone in a field: a machine-gun bullet killed him. For more than an hour these eighteen planes, never more than a few hundred metres in altitude, dropped bomb after bomb on Guernica. The sound of the explosions and of the crumbling houses cannot be imagined. Always they traced on the air the same tragic flight pattern, as they flew over all the streets of Guernica. Bombs fell by thousands. Later we saw the bomb craters. Some were sixteen metres in diameter and eight metres deep.
The aeroplanes left around seven o'clock, and then there came another wave of them, this time flying at an immense altitude. They were dropping incendiary bombs on our martyred city. The new bombardment lasted thirty-five minutes, sufficient to transform the town into an enormous furnace. Even then I realized the terrible purpose of this new act of vandalism. They were dropping incendiary bombs to try to convince the world that the Basques had fired their own city.
(14) Luis Bolin was the Nationalist press chief in charge of propaganda and censorship during the Spanish Civil War. Bolin wrote about Guernica in his memoirs, Spain, the Vital Years (1967)
During the advance on Bilbao, Guernica became part of the front line. It contained several small factories, one of them engaged in the manufacture of arms and ammunition. It was an important road junction and a depot of substantial size for the massing of reserves on their way to the trenches. The Republicans in Bilbao needed a sensational story to offset their reverses. They dispatched Asturian miners to dynamite Guernica and set fire to its buildings and swore that they had been blown to smithereens by German bombs. To destroy an entire small town, not hundreds but thousands of bombs would be required. The resources for such wholesale destruction are entirely lacking to either side in this war. It should be noted that the destruction though involving many buildings spared the Guernica tree and adjoining structure. Basque separatists took great care not to damage the tree which they held in special veneration.
(15) Edward Heath, radio broadcast from Barcelona (17th July, 1938)
I did not quite know what I was going to find, as this was our first experience of actual warfare. I imagined we might come to a wrecked city and find a terror-stricken people, haggard and worn... with rioting and looting and feelings running high... What we did find surprised us all... Everything is perfectly normal, life is going on almost as usual... people thronging the streets, sitting in cafes, laughing and talking with far from long faces... the liberty of the individual has impressed me greatly... There are no secret courts here. During the raids the same calmness and normal behaviour continues... people go quietly to a shelter, there is no sign of panic. But they realise what it all means, as people who have never seen them never can realise the destruction of defenceless men, women, and children, bombed in unprotected villages, is most ghastly. I have seen the planes 200 feet above my head, heard the bombs, and the village I had passed through five minutes before was in ruins. Yet still the morale of the people is untouched.
(16) Franz Borkenau, Spanish Cockpit: An Eyewitness Account of the Political and Social Conflicts of the Political and Social Conflicts of the Spanish Civil War (1937)
It must be explained, in order to make intelligible the attitude of the communist police, that Trotskyism is an obsession with the communists in Spain. As to real Trotskyism, as embodied in one section of the POUM, it definitely does not deserve the attention it gets, being quite a minor element of Spanish political life. Were it only for the real forces of the Trotskyists, the best thing for the communists to do would certainly be not to talk about them, as nobody else would pay any attention to this small and congenitally sectarian group. But the communists have to take account not only of the Spanish situation but of what is the official view about Trotskyism in Russia. Still, this is only one of the aspects of Trotskyism in Spain which has been artificially worked up by the communists. The peculiar atmosphere which today exists about Trotskyism in Spain is created, not by the importance of the Trotskyists themselves, nor even by the reflex of Russian events upon Spain; it derives from the fact that the communists have got into the habit of denouncing as a Trotskyist everybody who disagrees with them about anything. For in communist mentality, every disagreement in political matters is a major crime, and every political criminal is a Trotskyist. A Trotskyist, in communist vocabulary, is synonymous with a man who deserves to be killed. But as usually happens in such cases, people get caught themselves by their own demagogic propaganda. The communists, in Spain at least, are getting into the habit of believing that people whom they decided to call Trotskyists, for the sake of insulting them, are Trotskyists in the sense of co-operating with the Trotskyist political party. In this respect the Spanish communists do not differ in any way from the German Nazis. The Nazis call everybody who dislikes their political regime a 'communist' and finish by actually believing that all their adversaries are communists; the same happens with the communist propaganda against the Trotskyists. It is an atmosphere of suspicion and denunciation, whose unpleasantness it is difficult to convey to those who have not lived through it. Thus, in my case, I have no doubt that all the communists who took care to make things unpleasant for me in Spain were genuinely convinced that I actually was a Trotskyist.
(17) John Langdon-Davies, Daily Chronicle (8th May, 1937)
This has not been an Anarchist uprising. It is a frustrated putsch of the "Trotskyist" P.O.U.M., working through their controlled organizations, "Friends of Durruti" and Liberation Youth. The tragedy began on Monday afternoon when the Government sent armed police into the Telephone Building, to disarm the workers there, mostly C.N.T. men. Grave irregularities in the service had been a scandal for some time.
A large crowd gathered in the Plaza de Catalunya outside, while the C.N.T. Men resisted, retreating floor by floor to the top of the building. The incident was very obscure, but word went round that the Government was out against the Anarchists. The streets filled with armed men. By nightfall every workers' centre and Government building was barricaded, and at ten o'clock the first volleys were fired and the first ambulances began ringing their way through the streets. By dawn all Barcelona was under fire.
As the day wore on and the dead mounted to over a hundred, one could make a guess at what was happening. The Anarchist C.N.T. and Socialist U.G.T. were not technically "out in the street". So long as they remained behind the barricades they were merely watchfully waiting, an attitude which included the right to shoot at anything armed in the open street the general bursts were invariably aggravated by pacos - hidden solitary men, usually Fascists, shooting from roof-tops at nothing in particular, but doing all they could to add to the general panic.
By Wednesday evening, however, it began to be clear who was behind the revolt. All the walls had been plastered with an inflammatory poster calling for an immediate revolution and for the shooting of Republican and Socialist leaders. It was signed by the "Friends of Durruti". On Thursday morning the Anarchist daily denied all knowledge or sympathy with it, but La Batalla, the P.O.U.M. paper, reprinted the document with the highest praise. Barcelona, the first city of Spain, was plunged into bloodshed by agents provocateurs using this subversive organization.
(18) Claude Cockburn, The Daily Worker (11th May, 1937)
Thousands of loudspeakers, set up in every public place in the towns and villages of Republican Spain, in the trenches all along the battlefront of the Republic, brought the message of the Communist Party at this fateful hour, straight to the soldiers and the struggling people of this hard-pressed hard-fighting Republic.
The speakers were Valdes, former Councillor of Public Works in the Catalan government, Uribe, Minister of Agriculture in the government of Spain, Diaz, Secretary of the Communist Party of Spain, Pasionaria, and Hemandez, Minister of Education.
Then, as now, in the forefront of everything stand the Fascist menace to Bilbao and Catalonia.
There is a specially dangerous feature about the situation in Catalonia. We know now that the German and Italian agents, who poured into Barcelona ostensibly in order to "prepare" the notorious 'Congress of the Fourth International', had one big task. It was this:
They were - in co-operation with the local Trotskyists - to prepare a situation of disorder and bloodshed, in which it would be possible for the Germans and Italians to declare that they were "unable to exercise naval control on the Catalan coasts effectively" because of "the disorder prevailing in Barcelona", and were, therefore, "unable to do otherwise" than land forces in Barcelona.
In other words, what was being prepared was a situation in which the Italian and German governments could land troops or marines quite openly on the Catalan coasts, declaring that they were doing so "in order to preserve order".
That was the aim. Probably that is still the aim. The instrument for all this lay ready to hand for the Germans and Italians in the shape of the Trotskyist organisation known as the POUM.
The POUM, acting in cooperation with well-known criminal elements, and with certain other deluded persons in the anarchist organisations, planned, organised and led the attack in the rearguard, accurately timed to coincide with the attack on the front at Bilbao.
In the past, the leaders of the POUM have frequently sought to deny their complicity as agents of a Fascist cause against the People's Front. This time they are convicted out of their own mouths as clearly as their allies, operating in the Soviet Union, who confessed to the crimes of espionage, sabotage, and attempted murder against the government of the Soviet Union.
Copies of La Batalla, issued on and after 2 May, and the leaflets issued by the POUM before and during the killings in Barcelona, set down the position in cold print.
In the plainest terms the POUM declares it is the enemy of the People's Government. In the plainest terms it calls upon its followers to turn their arms in the same direction as the Fascists, namely, against the government of the People's Front and the anti-fascist fighters.
900 dead and 2,500 wounded is the figure officially given by Diaz as the total in terms of human slaughter of the POUM attack in Barcelona.
It was not, by any means, Diaz pointed out, the first of such attacks. Why was it, for instance, that at the moment of the big Italian drive at Guadalajara, the Trotskyists and their deluded anarchist friends attempted a similar rising in another district? Why was it that the same thing happened two months before at the time of the heavy Fascist attack at Jarama, when, while Spaniards and Englishmen, and honest anti-fascists of every nation in Europe, were being killed holding Arganda Bridge the Trotskyist swine suddenly produced their arms 200 kilometres from the front, and attacked in the rear?
(19) Claude Cockburn, The Daily Worker (17th May, 1937)
Tomorrow the antifascist forces of the Republic will start rounding up all those scores of concealed weapons which ought to be at the front and are not.
The decree ordering this action affects the whole of the Republic. It is, however, in Catalonia that its effects are likely to be the most interesting and important.
With it, the struggle to "put Catalonia on a war footing", which has been going on for months and was resisted with open violence by the POUM and its friends in the first week of May, enters a new phase.
This weekend may well be a turning-point. If the decree is successfully carried out it means:
First: That the groups led by the POUM who rose against the government last week will lose their main source of strength, namely, their arms.
Second: That, as a result of this, their ability to hamper by terrorism the efforts of the antifascist workers to get the war factories on to a satisfactory basis will be sharply reduced.
Third: That the arms at present hidden will be available for use on the front, where they are badly needed.
Fourth: That in future those who steal arms from the front or steal arms in transit to the front will be liable to immediate arrest and trial as ally of the fascist enemy.
Included in the weapons which have to be turned in are rifles, carbines, machine-guns, machine-pistols, trench mortars, field guns, armoured cars, hand-grenades, and all other sorts of bombs.
The list gives you an idea of the sort of armaments accumulated by the Fascist conspirators and brought into the open for the first time last week.
(20) George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)
A tremendous dust was kicked up in the foreign antifascist press, but, as usual only one side of the case has had anything like a hearing. As a result the Barcelona fighting has been represented as an insurrection by disloyal Anarchists and Trotskyists who were "stabbing the Spanish Government in the back" and so forth. The issue was not quite so simple as that. Undoubtedly when you are at war with a deadly enemy it is better not to begin fighting among yourselves - but it is worth remembering that it takes two to make a quarrel and that people do not begin building barricades unless they have received samething that they regard as a provocation.
In the Communist and pro-Communist press the entire blame for the Barcelona fighting was laid upon the P.O.U.M. The affair was represented not as a spontaneous outbreak, but as a deliberate, planned insurrection against the Government, engineered solely by the P.O.U.M. with the aid of a few misguided 'uncontrollables'. More than this, it was definitely a Fascist plot, carried out under Fascist orders with the idea of starting civil war in the rear and thus paralysing the Government. The P.O.U.M. was 'Franco's Fifth Column' - a 'Trotskyist' organization working in league with the Fascists.
(21) Raymond Sender, The War in Spain (1937)
The rebels sowed desolation during the seven days in which the village was in their hands. There was not a single peasant's house in which some relation had not been murdered. The chiefs of the syndicate were marched on foot to the cemetery, where they were forced to dig their own graves. Whilst they were digging, the gentry of the Falange taunted them: "Don't you say that the earth is for those who labour in it? Now you see you are going to get your share. You can keep that piece of land over you until the Day of Judgement." Others of them said: "You needn't dig so deep; it is
already deep enough for a dog's grave.' Or they would advise them to leave a little step where the head would lie, "so that they would be more comfortable." The peasants went on digging in silence. One of them tried to escape, but they caught him after wounding him in the leg. They compelled the unfortunate man to open a grave, telling him that it was for someone else, and when that was done they made him lie down at full length in it, "to see if it would hold a human body." When he had done so, they fired on him and without seeing if he had been killed, ordered the grave-digger to fill in the grave. He said to them: "He seems to be moving still." The Falangists pointed their revolvers at him and warned him to take care, because "many a man is hung by his tongue."
(22) Wilhelm von Thoma was interviewed by Basil Liddell Hart after the war for his book The Other Side of the Hill (1948)
I was in command of all the German ground troops in Spain during the war. Their numbers were greatly exaggerated in newspaper reports - they were never more than 600 at a time. They were used to train Franco's tank force and to get battle experience themselves.
Our main help to Franco was in machines-aircraft and tanks. At the start he had nothing beyond a few obsolete machines. The first batch of German tanks arrived in September, followed by a larger batch in October. They were the Panzer I.
Russian tanks began to arrive on the other side even quicker - at the end of July. They were of a heavier type than ours, which were armed only with machine-guns, and I offered a reward of 500 pesetas for every one that was captured, as I was only too glad to convert them to my own use.
By a carefully organized dilution of the German personnel I was soon able to train a large number of Spanish tank-crews. I found the Spanish quick to learn though also quick to forget. By 1938 I had four tank battalions under my command - each of three companies, with fifteen tanks in a company. Four of the companies were equipped with Russian tanks. I also had thirty anti-tank companies, with six 37 mm guns apiece.
General Franco wished to parcel out the tanks among the infantry-in the usual way of generals who belong to the old school. I had to fight this tendency constantly in the endeavour to use the tanks in a concentrated way. The Francoists' successes were largely due to this.
I came back from Spain in June, 1939, after the end of the war, and wrote out my experiences and the lessons learned.
(23) Manchester Guardian (19th April 1938)
"We have won the war," announced General Franco in a broadcast this afternoon on the occasion of the first anniversary of the uniting of his supporters in one party.
"Our Navy, Army, and Air Force are now fighting in the last days of the reconquest of Spain," he added.
The Generalissimo began by outlining the achievements of his regime in the social and economic spheres since the outbreak of the revolution and dwelt on the successes of the Nationalist Army, ending in the march to the sea.
In a long and vigorous denunciation of "Red" Spain he accused the Republicans of murdering more than 400,000 persons and told them that they would be called to account for the long list of their crimes.
Outlining the programme of the new Spain after the war, General Franco mentioned his determination to have a powerful Army and Navy and to make Spain once again a great Power. He also mentioned the reform of the press and the attraction of tourists to Spain as part of his plan.
(24) Edwin Rolfe, New Masses (13th September, 1938)
The war has ripped all illusions from even the youngest of the volunteers, leaving only the reality. That reality is harder than anyone who has never been under machine-gun fire and bombs and artillery fire can ever know. Yet the men of the Lincoln brigade, knowing it well, chose and continue to choose to fight for Spain's free existence. To be true to themselves and their innermost convictions.
(25) Dolores Ibárruri, speech in Barcelona on 29th October 1938.
Comrades of the International Brigades! Political reasons, reasons of state, the good of that same cause for which you offered your blood with limitless generosity, send some of you back to your countries and some to forced exile. You can go with pride. You are history. You are legend. You are the heroic example of the solidarity and the universality of democracy. We will not forget you; and, when the olive tree of peace puts forth its leaves, entwined with the laurels of the Spanish Republic's victory, come back! Come back to us and here you will find a homeland.
(26) A member of the Labour Party, Emanuel Shinwell initially argued that the British government should give support to the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. He wrote about his visit to Spain in his autobiography, Conflict Without Malice (1955)
While the war was at its height several of us were invited to visit Spain to see how things were going with the Republican Army. The fiery little Ellen Wilkinson met us in Paris, and was full of excitement and assurance that the Government would win. Included in the party were Jack Lawson, George Strauss, Aneurin Bevan, Sydney Silverman, and Hannen Swaffer. We went by train to the border at Perpignan, and thence by car to Barcelona where Bevan left for another part of the front.
We travelled to Madrid - a distance of three hundred miles over the sierras - by night for security reasons as the road passed through hostile or doubtful territory. It was winter-time and snowing hard. Although our car had skid chains we had many anxious moments before we arrived in the capital just after dawn. The capital was suffering badly from war wounds. The University City had been almost destroyed by shell fire during the earlier and most bitter fighting of the war.
We walked along the miles of trenches which surrounded the city. At the end of the communicating trenches came the actual defence lines, dug within a few feet of the enemy's trenches. We could hear the conversation of the Fascist troops crouching down in their trench across the narrow street. Desultory firing continued everywhere, with snipers on both sides trying to pick off the enemy as he crossed exposed areas. We had little need to obey the orders to duck when we had to traverse the same areas. At night the Fascist artillery would open up, and what with the physical effects of the food and the expectation of a shell exploding in the bedroom I did not find my nights in Madrid particularly pleasant.
It is sad and tragic to realize that most of the splendid men and women, fighting so obstinately in a hopeless battle, whom we met have since been executed, killed in action - or still linger in prison and in exile. The reason for the defeat of the Spanish Government was not in the hearts and minds of the Spanish people. They had a few brief weeks of democracy with a glimpse of all that it might mean for the country they loved. The disaster came because the Great Powers of the West preferred to see in Spain a dictatorial Government of the right rather than a legally elected body chosen by the people. The Spanish War encouraged the Nazis both politically and as a proof of the efficiency of their newly devised methods of waging war. In the blitzkrieg of Guernica and the victory by the well-armed Fascists over the helpless People's Army were sown the seeds for a still greater Nazi experiment which began when German armies swooped into Poland on 1st September, 1939.
It has been said that the Spanish Civil War was in any event an experimental battle between Communist Russia and Nazi Germany. My own careful observations suggest that the Soviet Union gave no help of any real value to the Republicans. They had observers there and were eager enough to study the Nazi methods. But they had no intention of helping a Government which, was controlled by Socialists and Liberals. If Hitler and Mussolini fought in the arena of Spain as a try-out for world war Stalin remained in the audience. The former were brutal; the latter was callous. Unfortunately the latter charge must also be laid at the feet of the capitalist countries as well.