Summary of The Spanish Civil War (36-39)
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Long-term causes of the Spanish Civil War: political instability (1920−1931)
- Struggle between conservatism and liberalism.
Weakness of government
- 1871 onwards Spain was a constitutional monarchy with a parliament that retained little power.
- Political control shifted between the wealthy oligarchs and their various cliques.
- Two main parties, Conservatives and Liberals, with very little difference between them.
- Elections were rigged or decided in private.
The role of the Spanish Army
- Army had powerful political position due to imperial past.
- It intervened in politics if a crisis occurred to defend its interests.
- It was unpopular, had a reputation for brutality, and was expensive and required heavy taxes.
- It was ineffective, as proven by the loss of the Spanish Empire during the 19th century, the American war in 1898, and the struggle to keep Morocco between 1906 to 1926.
- It was too big with too many officers and overly middle class.
- Army was conservationist, traditional, nationalistic and 'Africannistas.'
The role of the church
- Catholic church was rich and powerful, with guaranteed role in education and the economy.
- Its wealth was used to gain political and social influence!
- It used its power for economic conservatism and to oppose modernising and liberal forces.
- Defended the upper class as many of the clergy were aristocrats, who helped fund.
- In many urban areas and rural areas there were protests against the church.
- Spain was mainly an agricultural economy, and it was inefficient, thus not providing sufficient food and its work was seasonal.
- Most lived in abject poverty, with an enormous gap between rich and poor.
- Rioting and disorder often broke out in the countryside, with the Civil Guard deployed to ruthlessly repress.
- No support from churches made some groups support the anarchists who argued for land redistribution.
- Many small landholders were conservative, resisted socialist/anarchist ideas, and were exploited by the Catholic Agrarian Federation who provided support for their beliefs, only to later support Franco.
- There was a need for modernisation and reform, and was limited by endemic poverty.
- Workers in towns faced low wages, long hours, unregulated working conditions, poor housing, and little welfare provision.
- This situation led to a growth in trade unionism, which, however, failed to achieve anything substantial.
- The workers' political parties had no real political power, with no legal means and violent uprisings.
- Spain's neutrality during WWI facilitated a short period of economic boom, however the increase in exports only increased inflation and shortages.
- By 1920s, there were major economic problems.
The role of regions
- Tension created by ongoing struggle between the centralist state and Catalonia and Basque provinces, which wanted decentralization and independence.
- The two regions had their own languages, cultures, economies, and churches.
- Primo de Rivera took back the self-governing rights of Catalonia, and separatists forces supported the Republican movement that overthrew Alfonso in 1931
- Liberal movement achieved little in opposing conservative forces, though remained a political force and supported the revolution that ousted the King in 1931.
- Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) had grown in rural areas but had minimal impact.
- General Union of Workers (UGT) was more visible in organizing strikes/protests in rural areas.
- Following the Bolshevik revolution, a Communist Party emerged.
- Anarchists demanded land redistribution; popular with peasants.
- Anarchists argued for revolutionary methods and to boycott democratic processes.
- More extreme anarchists (FAI) perpetrated bombings and assassinations.
The fall of the monarchy and the establishment of the Second Republic
- Post WWI economic depression and social tensions put pressure on King Alfonso XIII, and after 12 unsuccessful governments, a coup was thrown (1931, General Primo de Rivera).
- De Rivera tried to establish an authoritarian right-wing regime; started infrastructure programmes for railways, roads, electrification, irrigation.
- Ended war in Morocco in 1925.
- All his efforts to satisfy various social groups created massive debt and was not good when Wall Street Crashed in 1929.
- Resigned in 1930, and after municipal elections in April 1931, there was support for San Sebastian Pact (republicans, liberals, socialists, Catalans) coalition.
- 'Velvet revolution' occurred and the Second Republic was established as the King went into voluntary exile.
Short-term causes of the Spanish Civil War: political polarisation
- Between 1931 and 1936 Spain became polarised due to the long-term structural problems and clear divisions.
- Paul Preston: "no-one, except a tiny minority on the lunatic fringe on the extreme right or left, believe that Spain's problems could be solved only by war."
The Left Republic (April 1931−November 1933)
- When Manuel Azaña became president he declared a "democratic republic of workers of all classes."
- Key issue of tension before 'velvet revolution' in 1931 was the church's power.
- Azaña removed powers from the Church, prevented its control in education, and state payments to the clergy stopped.
- Army also affected; Azaña offered early retirement and closed military academies - this all backfired as those who remained were hard-core conservatives, nationalists, and Africanistas.
- Depression exacerbated the economic problems; agriculture prices were falling, wine and olive exports fell, peasant unemployment was rising, industrial output fell by as much as a half (steel).
- In 1932, law allowed estates to be taken over and redistributed to peasants, however it was expensive and ineffective; only 7,000 families benefited by 1933.
- Right wing saw all this as a threat and similar to the Soviet-style system.
- Government introduced Assault Guard to increase left-wing military force to deal with civil unrest and violence.
- Both the left and right were rising against the slow pace of change, however these were suppressed as the army were loyal.
- Catalonia given its own parliament, some law-making powers, and dual control over education.
- Right-wing saw this as a threat and the first step to break-up Spain's integrity.
- Each reform was perceived as an attack on right-wing groups, causing new groups to protect against these changes.
- Political divisions increased under Second Republic.
- Historians see the land reforms as the central failing of the government in this period, however Paul Preston argues right-wing were never going to give Azaña a choice.
- Azaña lost left-wing, working-class support and resigned in 1933 after government guards 'smoked out' anarchists, killing 25.
The Right Republic (November 1933−February 1936)
- Republic swung right wing, members of CEDA (largest party) became war ministers.
- These two years are known as the "black years" as right-wing systematically tried to reverse everything; Church regained power, education, and land programme was halted.
- Catalonia declared itself independent when CEDA joined the government, but autonomy was suspended after Asturian miners' uprising 1934.
- Historians argued that violent suppression of left uprising created likelihood for civil war.
- Right lost support from Basques.
- Caballero suggested CEDA was Spanish Nazi party, and seek solution to Soviet-style Spain.
- Gil-Robles demanded shift to an authoritarian approach of control, which led to ...
The Popular Front (February−July 1936)
- February 1936, 'Popular Front' was an anti-fascist pact made up of various left-wing groups including socialists, anarchists and communists.
- Identical front as Stalin's policy in 1935.
- For many, it was final attempt to uphold democracy and peace, others associated it with Stalin and extreme communism.
- Government wanted to restore reforms of 1931-33 regime; political prisoners released.
- Caballero's socialists did not join government and right did not accept restoration of old reforms.
- Increase in violence in the countryside as anarchists encourage peasants to seize land.
Immediate causes of the Spanish Civil War
- Military officers began planning a coup as soon as Popular Front gained power
- Catalyst of the coup was the murder of popular anti-republican, right-wing leading figure Calvo Sotelo on 13 July 1936.
- Azaña knew about the coup and moved key military figures to remote posts.
- When details about the coup were discovered, it was made a day earlier on the 17th of July, from Morocco.
- Spread to mainland, took northern Spain and parts of Andalusia.
- Rising failed to take main industrial areas, or Madrid.
- Half of the army remained loyal to Republic, coup technically unsuccessful.
The course of the Spanish Civil War
- With assistance of Nazi Germany, Franco airlifed 24,000 Spanish troops from Africa to Spain, using a policy of terror has the main force against Madrid.
- Coup aimed to crush the 'left revolution,' but actually politicised and radicalised many Spaniards towards the left.
- Supporters of the Republican regime (1936) were 'Loyalists,' and rebels called themselves 'Nationalists.'
- Workers supported Republic, and middle, upper class and the church supported Nationalists.
- Nationalists did make some progress, but the Republicans controlled major cities, key industrial areas, Spain's gold reserves, and important elements of the military (air force and navy).
- Nationalists, slowly, pushed back the Republic.
Why did the Nationalists win the Spanish Civil War?
- Republicans were politically divided and subscribed to different ideologies; between the Communists and Socialists who both believed the 'revolution' should be postponed until after the war and the Anarchists who argued the war can only be won through a revolution.
- Historians argue that the Anarchists' 'revolution from below' added a crucial hurdle for the Republic to regain centralised control, with more influence in Madrid and Valencia.
- War increased in popularity with communists; July 1936 40,000 members, October 1937 400,000 members.
- Republic had clear foreign support from USSR.
- Communists wanted victory in war, anarchists wanted revolutionary regime.
- Communists used 'terror' tactics.
- Four days of street fighting in Barcelona 1937 - communists and socialists versus the anarchists illustrated the lack of unity.
- After May Days (see above), the Worker's Party of Marxist Revolution took up a authoritarian regime.
- Lacked strong military and no unified command.
- Anarchists and communists would not work together.
- Basques refused to be led by a central command structure and would not permit their forces outside of their own territory.
- Loyal army forces were not trusted by the Republic.
- Military fought series of local battles instead of overall campaign and this meant they could not be supported by the airforces, or to sustain an offensive campaign.
- Only until end of 1939 that Republicans started to replace militias with 'Popular Army'.
- Areas under the anarchists were the industries, public utilities and transport - these were taken over by workers' committees, however they were unable to meet the demands of the war.
- Historians argue that this was not due to a badly run government but due to the war, however the government is partially to blame.
- Production fell by two-thirds between 1936 to 1939, with many food and raw material shortages.
- Inflation was a problem; rose 300% during the war.
- The Non-Intervention Committee (NIC) was set up by France and Britain in 1936.
- Prevented an influx of support for warring parties in Spain, making the Republic lose all credit and USSR was the only willing trader.
- Paul Preston: communist control ultimately improved the situation by centralising control, but too late to save Republic.
- Role of foreign aid was exaggerated, but aid given to Republic was far less than that of the Nationalists.
- Republic's main ally was USSR, who saved them and enabled it to fight the civil war by supplying aircraft (1,000) and tanks (750), but the Republic had to pay for this.
- No Soviet troops were sent.
- International Brigades were another ally, organised by Soviet Comintern, with 35,000 volunteers sent to fight in Spain.
- Had very little overall impact, only in Madrid.
- 1938, Soviets withdrew support and International Brigades went home, major blow for Republic.
- France sent aid initially, but stopped when it joined the NIC - this was driven by anti-communist sentiments.
- Francisco J .Romero Salvadó (on NIC): "preserved consensus [in France] and [avoided] confrontation with Germany and Italy."
- 1936, Nationalists almost dived as Republics; but had a common aim of overthrowing the government.
- Franco assumed political and military control and became head of government and head of state.
- Due to his position in command of the Army of Africa because important German aid came through him.
- Merged two parties into the Spanish Traditionalist Phalanax (FET).
- Franco used a mixture of propaganda and terror in areas under his control.
- Historians argue that Soviet involvemenet led to this, however others suggest it was power and authority gained during the war.
- Supported by the church which denounced atheist communism and called for a crusade to protect Christian civilisation.
- Nationalistic politics of Franco were not undermined by foreign support from Germany or Italy.
- Nationalists had similar problems to the Republicans with regard to 'columns' of militias, however these were quickly put into a regular army unit.
- The Army of Africa fought for the Nationalists and were the most effective force in the Civil War.
- Had unified command and Franco's leadership was accepted by other generals and right-wing parties.
- Italian forces under Nationalist command.
- Successful in pushing on and winning offensives, and adopted effective defensive tactics.
- Had sound communications, and equipped the growing army.
- Franco's concern for his troops ensured the majority were obedient.
- Franco was a sound military and political leader.
- Business communist supported Nationalists; could buy supplies.
- By September 1936, Nationalists in control of main food-producing areas.
- 1937, in control of main industrial areas.
- Benefited from International trade, with the USA giving about $700 million credit to Nationalists.
- Hugh Thomas: conflict 'became an international crisis whose solution was decided by external circumstances.'
- Rebels benefited from more aid, which were better quality than those of the Republicans, and had continuous supply.
- German's airlifted Moroccan soldiers and sent 10,000 troops, 800 aircraft, 200 tanks.
- Italians sent 70,000+ troops, 750 planes, 800 aircraft, 200 tanks.
- Portuguese sent 20,000 troops.
- All aid allowed Nationalists to fight, and gave them air dominance.
- Most of Nationalist army was Spanish, and was modern and equipped.
Overview: foreign intervention
- Foreign intervention lengthened and intensified the war.
- It meant Spanish issues were submerged by wider ideological battles taking place in Europe.
- Feared the war would become a general European conflict so set up the NIC.
- However, 3 key members of the NIC ignored the NIC.
- Britain's not interventionist policies were limited and generally supported the Nationalists.
- December 1936, signed a trade agreement with Nationalists to allow for trade.
- Britain did not want to damage relations with Italy or Portugal.
- Spain was sacrificed to the policy of appeasement like Czechoslovakia.
- Support for Republic was inconsistent, and reflected complexity of its position towards the war.
- French did not want a right-wing border (joining Italy and Germany), but French politics were also polarised, fearing a revolt if it fully supported Spain.
- France was reliant on Britain, which was anti-Republic for its foreign policies.
- France restricted themselves to humanitarian assistance.
- Republic would have benefited from France as it was on its border.
- The Republic's reliance on the Soviet polarised politics and associated it with 'Soviet communism.'
- France did not stop citizens joining the International Brigades, which was organised in France, just like the coordination of Soviet aid.
- Support not just because of ideological reasons.
- Emergence of another fascist state in Europe would strengthen Hitler's position - threat to Stalin.
- Republic victory could panic Britain and France into an alliance with Hitler.
- Wanted to form an alliance with Britain and France to contain Hitler.
- Stalin originally welcomed the NIC, but Germany and Italy's treatment of NIC, Stalin withdrew in October 1936.
- Some historians argue that Franco protracted the war to enhance his power, but Stalin had a tendency to drag fighting out.
- Drained resources from Germany, making it less likely to turn into a general war.
- Stalin withdrew support in June 1938, as the Republic seemed to be losing and Western democracies were appeasing fascist dictaros.
- Stalin wanted to create a block to resist Hitler ended with Czechoslovakia being blocked at Munich agreement, September 1938.
- Germany not ready for general European war and was cautious when rebels appealed for help.
- Hermann Göring decided to support rebels, as he and Hitler wanted to stop the spread of communism, and wanted to test out the Luftwaffe.
- Economic and strategic benefits; raw materials (iron) could be gained, and could hamper Anglo-French maritime communications.
- Hitler thought the war would not last long, committed limited aid.
- Ignored NIC, even though it was a member.
- Germany played a crucial military role at critical times and other governments deterred from getting involved due to its presence.
- Gave most assistance as Mussolini was anti-comminist/-socialist and democratic outlook, he wanted to enhance his influence in Mediterranean, and a fascist victory would weaken France and prevent French left-wing influence.
- Another fascist power would encircle France, pressurising French colonies in North Africa.
- Contributed many planes, tanks, weapons, bombers, and submarines.
- Historians argue that despite massive troop support, its most effective support was air and naval.
- Italy ignored membership of NIC.
- Relationship between Italy and Germany were cemented in Spain.
- Only foreign force not compromised by membership of NIC.
- Sent 20,000 troops and fundamental supplier of rebels in the south-west.
- Provided a base for communications.
- Britain's long-term alliance with Portugal made the British reluctant to count its support for Nationalists.
The nature of the Spanish Civil War
- For foreign powers it was limited, for the Spanish it was total civil war.
- Propaganda was used to dehumanise the enemy.
- Atrocities were common.
- The targeting of civilians was a premonition of what was to come in WWII - no lines drawn between civilian and combatant.
- Some cases, cavalry charges proved effective, such as in Teruel in February 1938.
- Other case, such as the crushing of Republican offensives in 1938 to 1938 with combined arms and air strikes showed the importance of technology.
- Neither side could consistently gain air control.
- Control of sea was important especially for supply routes.
- Battles on land were similar to that of WWI with defense remained easier than attack.
- Casualties were high, with attackers gaining little hand.
- Blitzkrieg was evolving with application of tanks, artillery, and air bombardment.
- It was not a guerrilla war because, from Antony Beevor, "the conditions for a universal guerrilla war simply did not exist."
Effects and results of the Spanish Civil War − Spain
- 100,000 Republicans were killed
- 70,000 Nationalists were killed
- Killing continued after war, as Franco launched terror campaign to eradicate competition (estimated death toll 40,000-200,000).
- Thousands Republicans were held in concentration camps and prisons.
- Republican children were taken from parents to be re-educated. this meant many families were separated
- Divisions and hatred remained in Spanish society for decades.
- 10-15% of wealth was destroyed; per capita income declined 28%; 70% of Madrid's factory machinery need to be replaced.
- Madrid's communication systems, tram network needed rebuilding.
- Two-thirds of merchant ships out of action.
- High inflation.
- Republican land reform reversed.
- Agricultural economy was inefficient and ineffective.
- Labourers tolerated periodic unemployment, and landowners not interested in modernisation.
- Massive debts.
- General labour shortage.
- Economy improved due to outbreak of WW2; Franco began trading with Britain and France again.
- Germany's exploitation of Spain's economy during WWII weakened the economy.
- France and Britain's loan to Spain gave it influence in Spanish politics.
- Suffered a famine in 1946, and was fairly isolated during the war.
- During the Cold War, Spain became less isolated with reforms in the 1950s and 1960s developing a capitalist state.
- Spain industralised and developed a strong service industry.
- Paul Preston: "as if it were a country occupied by a victorious foreign army."
- Franco had declared the country safe of Communism and began White Terror in order to destroy all other traces.
- Exodus of half a million Spaniards and murder of thousands of Republicans.
- Teachers, lawyers, researches, doctors, writers, poets, artists, and musicians fled the country.
- 1939, Law of Political Responsibility made supports of Republic liable to punishment.
- Objective of new regime to restore power to the privileged class and control the working class.
- CNT and UGT destroyed.
- Inequalities of social and working system in rural areas were reversed and preserved by Civil Guard.
- 1950s was an 'era of the national church' as Church reforms were repealed.
- Frances Lannon: "The Catholic Church enjoyed a degree of state support that was much greater than at any time since the 18th century. Government and church combined to preach order, hierarchy, and discipline. The counter-revolution had triumphed."
- Patricia Knight: Church's creation of links to worker's movements was an attempt to infiltrate and prevent any resurgent communist groups.
- Use of Catalan, Basque, and Galician languages were forbidden.
- All power centralised in Madrid.
- Paul Preston: "behind the rhetoric of national and social unity, until the death of Franco every effort was made to maintain the division between the victors and the vanquished."
- Suppression and removal of political opposition created economic stability.
- Army lost its pre-eminence in society after Morocco gained independence in 1946.
- The country became 'frozen in time' as no moderinsation took place for 36 years.
Effects and results of the Spanish Civil War
USSR and communism
- After the Communist defeat in Spain, international credibility had been lost.
- Stalin's contribution caused divisions within the left wing and disillusioned supporters of the USSR.
- Lost intellectual sympathy from West.
- Pushed foreign policy away from potential western alliances against Germany, only one to appease Germany.
- After NIC, obvious that Britain and France would not ally with Hitler's expansionist ambitions.
- Stalin became closer, possible ally by December 1937.
- Munich Agreement in September 1938 was turning point as Britain sacrificed Czechoslovakia and Spain to appease Germany.
Hilter's Germany and Mussolini's Italy
- Importance of air power and effectiveness of applying air cover for ground troops in Blitzkrieg.
- Germans tested bullet-resistant fuel tanks and discovered possible improvements.
- Bombing of civilians was effective.
- All these made differences to Hitler's 1939-40 campaign.
- However, Italians defeated at Guadalajara, Blitzkreig did not work.
- Germany and Italy grew closer.
- The NIC, Britain's pursuit of appeasement, all strengthened Hitler's position.
Britain and France
- Spanish civilians who were bombed made it clear that a general European war would witness horrors unlike the scale seen before.
- Polarised political view of appeasement; some thought warring factions should battle it without dragging democracies into conflict.
- "Weakness" of Britain and France over Spain, and their policy of appeasement, led Hitler to change perception of Britain - 1938 lost respect and the NIC made Hitler more aggressive.
- Remained neutral, yet horrified by the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War.
- The civil war strengthened isolationist sentiment.
- Roosevelt, October 1937: "Quarantine the Aggressors."
- Called for economic sanctions against Franco in 1946. All members broke up diplomatic relations.
- Spain excluded from Marshall Aid.
- 1951, Eisenhower agreed to grant aid to Spain in return for using air base.
- Spain became a US ally and permitted to join the UN.
Was the Spanish Civil War a cause of World War II?
- It emboldened Hitler by increasing his popularity at home and abroad.
- Hitler drew closer to his former enemy, Italy.
- Hitler gained practical military lessons that he would later apply in the campaigns of 1940. It was a distraction for Britain and pushed the USA further into isolation.
- If fostered a new direction for Soviet foreign policy, meaning that there could be no broad alliance in Europe to contain Hitler.
- A. J. P. Taylor: The Spanish Civil War was "without significant effect" in causing WWII.