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The Spanish Civil War

Discussion in 'World History' started by Volum, Jan 19, 2008.

  1. Volum

    Volum The Zapper

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    Sorry for the long post ;)

    My history teacher asked me to do a small presentation about the Spanish Civil War on tuesday, and since im currently balancing between a good grade and a very good grade (acording to my teacher) i hope to do this good. Other students in my class have done small presentations on different subjects before, but those have usually just been a copy of wikipedia and i plan to go a little more in depth. I'm ofcourse going to talk about how the war went, how it affected civilians and stuff like that.

    However i hoped someone could tell me a little about things i dont feel i know enough about:

    How vital was the aid the Nationalists recived from the Axis? Could they have won without the aid from Germany and Italy? (Yes i know German planes flew Franco's army from Africa to Spain). And i read somewhere that a British agent helped get Franco to Africa, why did the British help him to get to his army?
    And did the Sovjet aid to the Republicans do much good? I know they sent alot of material and some troops, but it also cost alot. Did the good outfavour the bad?

    How much did the Axis learn from the war? Or the Soviets? Did it change thinking about modern warfare much for any of them? I know the Germans got some valuable experience from it (If anyone feel like pointing out specifics here, please go ahead), but i've havent heard much about the Italians or Soviets. (Did the Soviets ignore alot of the things they learned?)

    There was a lot of infighting between the left (Republicans) during the war, but i havent really found out if this was just mostly arguing, or did they often fight each other too? How much of a chance did the Republicans have of winning really? AFAIK the Axis aid didnt actually tip the scale much in favor of the Nationalist, just helped keep it around balance. Was the infighting between the Republicans a large reason for their loss?

    If anyone wants to help me get a little indepth about these areas i'd really apreciate it. I kind of feel the Spanish Civil War has to live in the "shadow" because of World War 2 starting out just after it ended. Also if anyone has anything else they feel i should mention (Guernica is a given ofcourse) feel free to say so. Also other interesting facts are really apreciated, my teacher loves things like that. ("Interesting fact, in the Spanish Civil War....)
     
  2. ArneHD

    ArneHD Just a little bit mad

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    I'm currently reading "Kampen om Spania" By Anthony Beevor, I could try to look for something from that if you can ask about something specific, like who the sides were and what organizations went into them.

    You might want to note that two German pocket battleships were involved in the transport of men from Africa. These two (I haven't got their names right now) prevented the Republican battleships from attacking the transports across to Spain.

    Edit: Found the names: Deutschland and Admiral Scheer. Their role was in protecting the Nationalist transports that went from Africa. The result was that about 2500 men were transported across together with heavy equipment that could not have been taken over by plane (more or less directly from the book).
     
  3. Volum

    Volum The Zapper

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    Really? Thanks for the info, i only heard about the planes. Good thing to mention.
     
  4. ArneHD

    ArneHD Just a little bit mad

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    Ok, I found the relevant chapter:

    The French Government was initially willing to provide arms to the republicans, however, they were in a difficult position: The French government at the time was were relying on the British to support them in the case of a war with Germany. In addition to this, the French government at the time was experiencing street fights between facists and various left wing factions.

    The British were not to any great help, many among them (including, for a while, Anthony Eden, foreign minister at the time) sympathized with the Nationalists who represented, in their view, a better alternative to the communist outcome of a republican victory. They did not directly intervene, but they did put some of their communication equipment to the Nationalists disposal and in one incident blocked the Algeciras bay mouth with HMS Queen Elizabeth to prevent the Republican battleships bombarding the area.

    More later when I am not so tired.

    PS: See if you can find "Kampen om Spania" in your local library, it's a great resource.
     
  5. zjl56

    zjl56 Chieftain

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    OT but what was the ratio of volunteers for the Nationalists compared to the Republicans?
     
  6. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    I don't know the actuall ratio, but the Republicans got way more actuall volunteers. The Nationalists had more professional foreign soldiers, mostly italians and germans, which of course was much more helpful.

    As an interesting sidenote, Ireland is the only country in the world where more volunteers fought for the Nationalists than for the Republicans.
     
  7. Arwon

    Arwon

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    That Anthony Beevor book is really really good. It's the best history of the war I've read.

    As for international influences.

    On the Nationals side, German and Italian equipment and soldiers were some of the best in a war where poorly-trained soldiers and poor equipment was the norm. German air superiority took its toll, in particular. Together with the African troops, the Nationals had the bulk of the elite units and thus the bulk of the offensive capabilities (this didnt stop the the communist commanders from having a nearly suicidal fixation on major breakthrough offensives, however).

    On the Republican side the impact of international influences was threefold. First was the international volunteers, which I think were important but the morale factor probably outweighed their material impact in most cases. Second was the blockade organised by the European powers, which was an absolute farce and in practise was completely pro-National.

    Third was the monopoly the Soviets had on weapons and thus the political power they handed the Communists, previously a relatively small component of a left dominated by socialists and anarchists. The major impact of the "neutrality" pact was to ensure that the Nationals had the best weapons and what filtered through to the Republicans was second-grade and came with a pricetag of creeping Stalinisation.

    ------

    Infighting was extremely damaging to the Republican cause, especially when contrasted with the unity Franco imposed on the nationalists' diverse coalition of interests. Both sides contained numerous contradictions (conservative catholic Basque nationalists fighting for the Republicans, Falangist fascists fighting alongside reactionary catholics and absolute monarchists) but the nationalists were far less riven by divisions due basically to Franco's power to override everybody.

    The communists were essentially against the socialist and anarchist revolutions that were happening in Republican territory, feeling that it was better to centralise the war effort and maintain the image of bourgeois liberalism to gain the support of the non-fascist powers (this was in keeping with the broader European 'popular front' strategy, not motivated by any deep affection for bourgeois liberalism). This, in practise, led pretty directly to suppression and purges of trotskyists, socialists and anarchists. There was open fighting in the streets of Barcelona at one point between the different militias, and obviously the Stalinisation of the war effort crushed morale and made it difficult to change course and avoid some of the stupider blinders (the battle of the Ebro for instance).

    From another angle, this inflighting and rivalry was there from the beginning. The hesitance of the Socialist-dominated government to arm the militias and the trade unions may well have cost them greatly in the early days of the war when more armed bodies would have prevented more parts of the country from being seized by the nationalist rebels.

    There's a whole historiography on the failures of the Republicans to win and survive, these are my views but there are others.

    -----

    Also: the social revolution in the republican territories, its initial successes and later collapse at the hands of communists and of course the Nationals, is one of the other vital, and extremely interesting, stories of the Civil War. Your best source here just to get a feel for it is probably George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, particularly the earlier chapters which contain some of the most impressive and inspiring description of socialist/anarchist revolution ever penned.

    ------

    Finally: The international element was extremely important on both sides, but probably not entirely determinant of the outcome. The impact of the war on the German and Soviet militaries was vital, though. They gained a lot of experience with weaponry and tactical doctrines through their advisors and this was important during WW2. Many of the same names actually pop up among the German and Soviet advisors in the Civil War and later in WW2. It can be said, for example, that the Battle of Teruel was practically a dry-run of Stalingrad in miniature.
     
  8. Ancient Grudge

    Ancient Grudge Its all in this life

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    Got to love the loans that the American banks gave the nationalists.
     
  9. Volum

    Volum The Zapper

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    Thanks alot Arwon! Thats gonna be of great help for me!
     
  10. Verbose

    Verbose Chieftain

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    Snippet of fact also culled from Beevor, which caught my fance upon reading it, to add to Arwon's excellent post:

    Aided and abetted by the Spanish Communists, the Republican government shipped its gold reserve to Moscow. Supposedly for safekeeping, but it's another of these things empowering the Komintern. Suddenly Stalin not only controlled the supply of armaments to the Republicans, he controlled the purse as well. Shipping the gold reserve to Paris or Zürich would have meany greater Republican control over how it was spent.

    But probably Volum would do best to read Beevor for himself.:)
     
  11. jessiecat

    jessiecat Divine Monarch

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    I'd second that, esp. about Arwon's excellent post.
    From a personal point, I was privileged to meet a couple of International
    Brigade veterans in London while at uni in London a few years ago.
    Their stories were pretty interesting. Prob. what inspired my thesis topic,
    which analysed British press influence on the policy of U.K. nonintervention
    in Spain, July-August 1936. I read over 20 newspapers every day for
    that 2 months and the attitudes expressed were pretty chilling for the
    most part. Only 3 papers in Britain supported aid to the republic, incl
    the Manchester Guardian (later the Guardian). The rest urged support
    for Franco and published horror stories about the burning of churchs,
    raping of nuns etc., which were largely fiction. Most rabid was the
    Daily Mail which openly praised Franco, Mussolini and Hitler until 1939.
    Propaganda against the Republic was so intense that it was remarkable
    that so many so many British volunteers fought and died in that struggle.:)
     
  12. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    My greatest advice for anyone writing an essay about the Spanish Civil War is to drop all romantic notions about catalunian anarchists. They were every bit as bad as the communists (and the nationalists for that matter). I know, heresy according the prevailing mythology, but true nonetheless. They have oceans of innocent blood in their hands, and are every bit as disgusting as communists and fascists.

    Stanley Payne wrote some interesting essays regarding the common myths of the Spanish Civil War. Very interesting and well researched texts, whatever your political leanings may be.
     
  13. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    That's actually largely truth.

    About 7,000 priests were killed, and countless churches were indeed burned.

    And have you heard stories about priests beign castrated and having their organs stuffed in their mouths? Republicans did that too, it's true.
     
  14. jessiecat

    jessiecat Divine Monarch

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    I would agree with you overall that the anarchist groups had more blood on
    their hands than anybody else on the Republican side. And of course there
    has been a lot of romantic mythology about revolutionary ideals of every
    kind. But to keep things in perspective, we need to remember that the
    Nationalists murdered over 600,000 people before and after the war. That's
    four times the amount killed by Republicans or their allies. Most left
    atrocities were spontaneous and feuled by extreme anti-Church hatred
    amongst the poorest workers and peasants. Nationalist massacres were
    well organised and planned in an attempt to eradicate not only Socialists,
    Anarchists and Communists, but trade unionists, teachers, intellectuals
    and even those whose relatives were working for the elected Republican
    government. I suggest you visit Ronda in Andalusia where Franco's Moroocan
    troops threw 2000 people alive off the main bridge into a 260 ft. gorge.
    War is hell for everybody and a civil war is worst of all.
     
  15. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    The Nationalists killed more because they had the air power, and most importantly, because they won.

    But to say that the Republican killings were spontaneous is dead wrong. There were many republican newspapers openly endorsing the massacres. The communist and anarchist leadership encouraged and actually practiced attrocities.

    There is no need to remind me of all the attrocities committed by the Nationalists. You'll never see my deny any of them. But you will see many people relativizing or plain denying all the innocent blood spilled by the anarchist and communist scum.
     
  16. Volum

    Volum The Zapper

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    About what you say happened in Ronda. All i have found about that subject is about the Republicans throwing Nationalist sympathizers of the bridge, but i haven't found any confirmation about the nationalists throwing people of the same bridge. What i found on Wiki, and some other sites was this:

     
  17. jessiecat

    jessiecat Divine Monarch

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    I've seen that too and I don't disagree with it. But I've talked to people
    in Ronda about it. I speak enough Spanish to do that. They admit that
    this did happen in the first month of the war. But they also told me what
    happened when Franco's Morrocan Spanish Legion took over the town
    a few months later, lists were drawn up of all socialists, anarchists,
    teachers etc. and all herded onto the bridge and thrown into the gorge.
    This became a regular occurence over a year or more until their enemies
    were dead. People there have put the number killed at between 1500
    and 3000 over a period of time. Some people may have exaggerated and
    maybe it's not widely reported as an atrocity as it was a more gradual
    policy of revenge and political cleansing. But that's what I was told
    and I have no reason to not believe them. What is clear, as I've already
    said, is that atrocities were committed by both sides. It was a civil war.

    BTW It's still a lovely town with great scenary, as well as the birthplace
    of organised bullfighting. Original bullring, 1768 still there. And the bridge
    and gorge too, despite it's gruesome history, is well worth seeing.:)
     
  18. Arwon

    Arwon

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    The thing one has to appreciate about the anti-church violence is just how closely linked the Catholic Church in Spain was linked with the oppression of people there and how, in a deeply polarised society, the Church was absolutely lining up with the conservative and oligarchal forces. It was not some passive and innocent institution in Spain any more than the land-owning oligarchy was, it was in it up to its armpits. This is the same church which railed against land reform and cried 'persecution' when a mildly socialist government tried to eliminate compulsory Catholic education and the Church's control of the education system. I mean, during the war you saw clergymen giving people the last rites and carrying out executions for the Nationalists, and of course the whole thing was endorsed as a crusade by the friggin Pope. It was a partisan participant in a tumultous political process, like any other. Everybody took sides and people on the wrong side were enemies. The Church, as centuries-old chief propagandist for the right-wing cause(s), was not a special case which could expect to be immune to such an all-on-all period of polarisation and violence.

    The idea that the Terror in the Republican camp was all directed from the top is absurd. Nobody on either side could have controlled what happened in that initial period even if they'd wanted to, and it's disingenous to pull out a few atrocity stories from that period in favour of others as if clergy are somehow more valuable than union workers or students or whoever else. On both sides in July 1936, that paroxysm of disorganisation and bloodletting against people caught on both sides was carried-out in a peacemeal and patchy fashion by lots and lots of people on both sides. With regards to the clergy in particular, one thing Anthony Beevor points out in his book is that the fate of the clergy in different towns hung most heavily on their relationship with the people in that town.

    All one needs to do is look at the spontaneous anti-clerical violence in, say, the semana tragica riots in Barcelona in 1909 or the Asturias Revolution in 1934 to see how deeply this feeling ran among ordinary people and how easily it came out. A lot of the atrocity stories are exaggerated or made-up, but they're believable because of the depth of this feeling and the nature of mob violence. Given a nation-wide situation of open revolt, of course mobs of people were going to take out this anger on the church as well as other symbols and perpetrators of their oppression. As for endorsement by leaders... well, what are they - who have no love for this corrupt and decadent old institution either - going to do? Why would they view the church different to any other enemies in a situation of brutal partisan bloodletting?

    Really, the difference between the violence of the two sides is that the Republican Terror died down after the initial phase (well, until the Stalinist machine really took hold and that mostly targetted leftist fellow-travellers) whereas the Nationalist Terror never really stopped and became an organised instrument of eradicating undesirable elements from the Spanish population that lasted well beyond the war.

    I know people really want to find equivalency between the two sides to perpetuate their anti-leftist feelings but there's just not any there in this case. Partly that's a result of the fact that the Nationalists won, because if the Republic as it was governed by 1938 had won, the situation post-war would be fairly similar. Partly, however, it's because organised repression and violence in the Republican side (we're talking about after the initial outburst of mob violence) was mostly directed against Republicans. In comparison to that bit of brutal tragedy, the fact that the Church was caught up in July 1936 -- like everybody else -- in disorganised violence drawn roughly along political/class/interest lines, doesn't exactly excite much anger or shock. It's a red herring drawn straight from Nationalist spin and propaganda.
     
  19. jessiecat

    jessiecat Divine Monarch

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    Well put, and very scholarly too, I might say. I think we clearly share an
    academic interest in the period and an anecdotal experience as well.
    Not to mention a fairly apparent leftist political direction in general.
    I think you've reinforced my belief that much of the Republican violence
    was spontaneous and episodic rather than planned. I also note the severity
    of ordinary working class anger at the oppressive and politically compromised
    Catholic Church. We can't really imagine such extreme hatred for the Church
    and it's adherents which culminated in widespread atrocities against priests,
    nuns and religious buildings. The evidence is clear everywhere.
    That being said, I'm not comfortable with the implication that the death of
    7000 priests, as emphasized by Luiz and others, is somehow more shocking
    than the murder of teachers, trade unionists or anyone else. Nor am I happy
    in a description of anarchist or communist "scum" while the actions of their
    facist equivalents are dismissed as the fortunes of war, or because of the
    fact that "They won". I think that people who emphasize this kind of historical
    imbalance are unwittingly betraying their personal sympathies.:)

    BTW On a personal note, I'm curious. As a Canadian who's lived over half
    his life in England and Spain, What's an Aussie doing in Zaragoza?:)
     
  20. Arwon

    Arwon

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    Studying history, funnily enough. And trying to learn Spanish.

    I should also add, though, for the sake of fairness, that one *could* argue that the reason the White Terror machine took more victims and lasted longer was that as the war progressed they captured new territories to purge and these opportunities forged the rebels' organisational structures into the shape they took - the initial terror and bloodletting got institutionalised. Related to that, also, is the fact that the Republic had pre-existing organisational structures whereas the Nationals were building theirs from scratch and doing so in a time of brutal civil war. It's something of a truism that regimes forged in times of war and revolution tend to carry that military mindset into everything even post war (just look at Cuba or the Soviet Union) and thus Franco's regime followed the same lines.

    How harshly would an advancing Republican army have treated newly taken territories? We don't have much evidence with which to answer that, but I think it would have depended on the political situation in the government and whether it was the regular army or the militias taking an area.
     

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