Spanish Civil War

By | September 6, 2021

Spanish Civil War, 1936–39 armed conflict as a result of the uprising of nationalist, authoritarian and conservative-traditionalist forces led by the Spanish military against the Second Republic.

In the Spanish Civil War, the tensions between autonomist and centralist state thinking, between traditional Catholic and liberal-socialist views erupted. Added to this were the contrasts between large landowners and entrepreneurs on the one hand and farmers and workers on the other. Strikes, politically motivated murders and attacks on churches and monasteries intensified the social differences. The Spanish Civil War was immediately triggered by the assassination of the conservative member of Cortes, J. Calvo Sotelo, on July 13, 1936.

The military course

The first phase (July 1936 to January 1937): based on the Spanish Foreign Legion and the Moorish (Moroccan) »Regulares«, which were flown in from Spanish Morocco to Spain with the help of German planes, General F. Franco Bahamonde directed on July 17th. 1936 the uprising against the Second Republic. Since July 18, insurgent troop leaders, mostly supported by armed Falangists (Falange) and Carlist, tried to bring the local and regional administrative organs under their control. Favored by the military power and the surprise effect of the uprising, the rebels succeeded in bringing large parts of Spain under their control by September 1936. Under general Gonzalo Queipo de Llano (* 1875, † 1951), to whom Francolater joined his troops, the rebels were able to conquer western Andalusia and under General Emilio Mola Vidal (* 1887, † 1937) large areas of western and northern Spain under theirs Bring domination. They also built a corridor between their Andalusian and western Spanish spheres of power. With the occupation of San Sebastián and Irún in September 1936, an important route from republican Spain to France was blocked. After the beginning of the civil war, the rebels set up an insurgent government (military junta) in Burgos on July 24, 1936, headed by General Franco on October 1, 1936kicked. – In the republican part of Spain, the government of the Popular Front under Prime Minister J. Giral y Pereira let arms to republican-minded civilians, especially trade unionists of the anarchist CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, German »National Labor League«) and the socialist UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores, German for “General Union of Workers”), since most of the regular army had gone over to the rebels. Defense committees and militias were formed, which in the first phase of the Spanish Civil War mainly defended the republic. As the uprising progressed, the government succeeded, since September 1936 under the leadership of the socialist F. Largo Caballero to build a republican army (Commander in Chief General José Miaja Menant, * 1878, † 1958).

With the beginning of the civil war, both parties turned to other countries for help. While National Socialist Germany and Fascist Italy supported the rebels with troops (Germany with the Condor Legion) and heavy military equipment (e.g. with fighter planes) from the start, the states sympathizing with the republic (especially France, Great Britain and the USSR), with the exception of the USSR, to keep out of the conflict; The latter began after some hesitation with extensive arms deliveries (especially tanks). The International Brigades were formed on the part of the Republic on a voluntary basis. – With the siege of Madrid (November 1936 to January 1937) the first phase of the civil war reached its climax. On November 7, 1936, the rebels under the command of General Molas began the attack on Madrid. Mola hoped for the support of the supporters of the uprising in the capital itself (fifth column). However, the conquest of Madrid failed due to the determined resistance of the besieged and their support by the International Brigades.

The second phase (January 1937 to March 1938): after the nationalists failed to conquer Madrid, they sought to expand the territory they controlled in the south-east and north of Spain. In February 1937 they conquered Malaga. In the Battle of Guadalajara (March 18, 1937), however, Italian volunteer organizations suffered a heavy defeat. The attack on the Basque Country in the north met with determined resistance from the people fighting for their autonomy. On April 26, 1937, planes of the Condor Legion destroyed the city of Guernica y Luno, causing worldwide outrage. On June 18, 1937, the insurgents took Bilbao. The conquest of Santander followed in August and Asturias in autumn 1937.

In the third phase (March to December 1938) the rebels succeeded in conquering the province of Castellón, penetrating as far as the Mediterranean and thus dividing the territory of the republic. In the Battle of the Ebro in July 1938 the republican forces achieved another victory, but had to give up their positions in November and suffered a final defeat in the fourth phase (December 1938 to March 1939). With surprising speed, Franco’s troops took Catalonia, one of the main pillars of the republic. On January 26, 1939, Barcelona fell. Insurgent troops occupied the Pyrenees border on February 10, and Madrid on March 28, 1939 without a fight. On April 1, 1939, Franco announcedthe end of the civil war. Led by both sides with extreme severity, it claimed 270,000 deaths (according to rough estimates), around half of whom were civilians. After his victory, Franco murdered tens of thousands of Republican supporters.

Domestic issues

At the same time as the arming of the unions, where the uprising had initially been suppressed, committees were formed alongside the constitutional legislative and governmental organs, most of which were identical to the defense committees. These committees, led either by the socialist UGT (e.g. in Madrid) or the anarchist CNT (e.g. in Barcelona), set up v. a. With the abolition of private ownership of the means of production and the expropriation of large estates (especially the Catholic Church), a social revolution began; differing views on its implementation led to tensions between the political groups and thus contributed to the gradual disintegration of the republic (anarchist uprising in Barcelona on May 4, 1937). Largo Caballero, later J. Negrín), but was often at odds over questions of warfare. In the course of the defense of Madrid, the communists, especially functionaries of the Comintern (including P. Togliatti, E. Gerő), gained considerable influence in the political leadership of the republic. Against the background of Stalin’s political purgesin the USSR (1934–39) the communists initiated a wave of persecution against the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM, German “Workers’ Party of the Marxist Association”), which was also supported by foreign partisans of the republic and suspected of Trotskyism. In early March 1939, a junta seized power in republican Madrid that wanted to negotiate with the insurgents. – Only the Falange and the Carlists were permitted as political organizations in the insurrectionary area, and in April 1937 they merged into a unity party under Franco’s leadership. The insurgents represented a traditionalism that was based on the traditional social order and the state-supporting function of the military and the Catholic Church.

Spanish Civil War

Foreign policy aspects

From the beginning, the Spanish Civil War aroused strong sympathy among the international public, ranging from literary and journalistic partisanship to personal military service, v. a. on the part of the republic, submitted: E. Hemingway, E. E. Kisch, A. Koestler, A. Malraux, G. Orwell, G. Regulator, L. Renn, E. Weinert. Determined by the fear that the major European powers might be drawn into the Spanish Civil War, the British and French governments proposed the establishment of a “non-interference committee” which met for the first time on September 9, 1936 and which would bring together 25 states (including France, Great Britain, the USSR, Germany and Italy). While France and Great Britain adhered to the principle of “non-intervention,” Germany and Italy supported the insurgents from the start, and the USSR, after some hesitation, supported the republican side. B. Mussolini pursued long-term imperialist interests in Spain in the western Mediterranean. Likewise, the German-Italian cooperation in the Spanish Civil War led to the establishment of the Berlin-Rome axis. In the discussion of the German intervention, the motives and goals of the intervention are still controversial. The most important ones include: Italy’s solution from British influence, strategic alliance considerations, basic anti-communist attitudes, the chance to test new weapon systems (e.g. aircraft), economic interests (e.g. expansion of the raw material base, e.g. with regard to tungsten and iron ore). According to zipcodesexplorerStalin’s original interest about Spain was not of an offensive and strategic nature, but was related to the policy of collective security it pursued in the 1930s. In October 1936 he changed the course of his Spain policy in favor of intervention, in November 1938 in favor of a political retreat from Spain. The USA followed a strict line of neutrality.

Historical work-up

The historical memory of the victims of the Spanish Civil War intensified in autumn 2007 with the beatification of 498 Catholic clergy, religious and lay people who had been murdered by Republicans, and the “Law on Historical Memory”, the court rulings from the time of the dictatorship overrides and regulates the removal of symbols of the Franco regime from public life.