Alfonso XII of Spain died three days before his 28th birthday, on 25th November 1885. He had been suffering from tuberculosis, but the immediate cause of his death was a recurrence of dysentery. (1) His only son, Alfonso XIII, was born six months later on 17th May, 1886. His mother, Maria Christina of Austria, served as his regent until his 16th birthday. During the regency, in 1898, Spain lost its colonial rule over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to the United States as a result of the Spanish–American War. (2)
Alfonso became an increasingly autocratic ruler and at the end of July, 1909, there was a series of violent confrontations between the Spanish Army and members of the working classes of Barcelona and other cities of Catalonia, assisted by anarchists, socialists and republicans. Police and army casualties were eight dead and 124 wounded. It is estimated that as many as 150 civilians were killed. Five of the rebels were sentenced to death and executed and 59 received sentences of life imprisonment. (3)
Those executed included Ferrer Guardia, the headmaster and founder of the Escuela Moderna, a progressive school that attempted to provide a secular education and to teach radical social values. He was inspired by the works of William Godwin and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, both of whom firmly rejected the idea of education brought about by means of compulsion. His school attracted international attention and prompted visits from George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Leo Tolstoy. His last words was "Aim well, my friends, you are not responsible. I am innocent; long live la Escuela Moderna". (4)
Alfonso managed to keep Spain neutral during the First World War. He became gravely ill during the 1918 flu pandemic. As the country was under no wartime censorship restrictions, his illness and subsequent recovery were reported to the world, while flu outbreaks in the belligerent countries were concealed. This gave the impression that Spain was the most-affected area and led to the pandemic being dubbed "the Spanish Flu." (5)
In 1920 entered the Rif War, in order to preserve its colonial rule over northern Morocco. Critics of the monarchy thought the war was an unacceptable loss of money and lives. Alfonso was in constant conflict with Spanish politicians. His anti-democratic views encouraged General Miguel Primo de Rivera, with the support of Alfonso, 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. He initially said he would rule for only 90 days, however, he broke this promise and remained in power. (6)
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. As Paul Preston has pointed out: "The Primo de Rivera dictatorship was to be regarded in later years as a golden age by the Spanish middle classes and became a central myth of the reactionary right. Paradoxically, however, its short-term effect was to discredit the very idea of authoritarianism in Spain." (7)
Alfonso XIII 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. A general election was held on 28th June, 1931. It was the first time for nearly sixty years that free elections had been allowed in Spain. 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. (8)
On 16th October 1931, Azaña replaced 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. On 10th December 1931, Alcalá-Zamora was elected President by 362 votes out of the 410 in attendance. One of the government's first acts was to introduce income-tax for the first time. (9)
Manuel 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". (10)
An attempted military coup led by José Sanjurjo took place on 10th August, 1932. Badly planned, it was easily defeated by a General Strike of CNT Union, UGT Union and the Communist Party (PCE). This action rallied support for Azaña's government. "This attack on the Republic by one of the senior members of the old regime, a monarchist general, benefited the government by generating a wave of pro-Republic fervour." It was now possible for him to get the Agrarian Reform Bill passed by the Cortes. (11)
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, under the leadership of José Maria Gil Robles, now formed a parliamentary alliance with the Radical Party. Alejandro Lerroux became the new prime minister. (12)
This led to a general strike on 4th October 1934 and an armed rising in Asturias. Manuel 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. (13)
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. (14)
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. José Maria Gil Robles, the leader of the CEDA, encouraged by the political success of Adolf Hitler in Germany, employed a campaign that suggested he was willing to impose fascist solutions to solve Spain's problems. This was reinforced by a poster campaign that used various autocratic slogans. (15)
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. Popular Front parties won 47.3% (285 seats) and the National Front 46.4% (131 seats) with the centre parties winning 57 seats. Socialists (99 seats), Republican Left (87 seats), Republican Unionists (37 seats), Republican Left Catalonia (21 seats) and Communist (17 seats). Paul Preston has claimed: "The left had won despite the expenditure of vast sums of money - in terms of the amounts spent on propaganda, a vote for the right cost more than five times one for the left." (16)
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. The most controversial decisions concerned the government's relationship with the Catholic Church. Azaña, the new prime minister, who was known for his strong anti-clerical views, announced that state support for the clergy and their involvement in education was brought to an end. Education was to be wholly secular and civil marriage and divorce was introduced. (17)
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. (18)
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 Manuel Azaña. This disturbed the military as Zamora was "a conservative and catholic republican he could be seen as a counterbalance to anti-clerical liberals or reforming socialists." (19)
President 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. (20)
Dolores Ibarruri, the wife of a Spanish miner and a member of the Communist Party (PCE). Known by everybody as (La Pasionaria) she became the chief propagandist for the Republicans. In one speech she declared at a meeting for women: "It is better to be the widows of heroes than the wives of cowards!" On 18th July, 1936, she ended a radio speech with the words: "The fascists shall not pass! No Pasaran". This phrase eventually became the battle cry for the Republican Army. (21)
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 and Morocco. The rebels also made good progress in the conservative regions of Navarre and Castile in northern Spain and in parts of Andalusia. However, Seville was the only city of importance to fall to them. (22)
General Franco, commander of the Army of Africa, joined the revolt and began to conquer southern Spain. This was followed by mass executions. Antony Beevor, the author of The Spanish Civil War (1982), has pointed out: "The local purge committees, usually composed of prominent right-wing citizens like the most prominent local landowner, the senior civil guard officer, a Falangist and, often, the priest... The committees inevitably inspired in neutrals a great fear of denunciation. All known or suspected liberals, freemasons and left-wingers were hauled in front of them... Their wrists were tied behind their backs with cord or wire before they were taken off for execution." (23)
In Andalusia, the revolution was anarchist in inspiration. The socialist agricultural union, the FNTT, despite their numbers, were pushed aside by the extremists: "We in the socialist party were overwhelmed. What could we do? The people who took over thought only of violence. We were the strongest party here and yet we were helpless. We hardly ever met, to tell the truth. Those who took power had so little political consciousness that they robbed smallholders of the little they had." In many places, private property was abolished, along with the payment of debts to shopkeepers. (24)
Anarchists formed committees that took over from the landlord. In some cases large landowners were murdered where in other villages they were just sent away. In Castro del Rio, near Córdoba, the centre of anarchism, all private exchange of goods were banned. Franz Borkenau commented: "They did not want to get the good living of those whom they had expropriated, but to get rid of their luxuries." (25)
Atrocities were also carried out against supporters of the Popular Front government who were living in areas controlled by the Nationalist Army. This included the famous poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, whose home was in Granada. His brother-in-law Manuel Fernandez-Montesinos, was the socialist mayor of Granada. On 20th July, the rebels took control of the city and both men were arrested and soon after executed, along with 2,000 other supporters of the government. "The exact date of Lorca's death and the location of his remains are still disputed, but the cause is no mystery. In a society that was split down the middle Lorca was what we would call today a 'media personality', loved by one faction and hated by the other." (26)
President 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. Georgi Dimitrov, the head of Comintern, sent André Marty and Jacques Duclos to advise the government on forming a coalition government. It was his view that the Western powers would not tolerate a workers' government within their sphere of influence. (27)
On the 19th July, 1936, Spain's prime minister, José Giral, sent a request to Leon Blum, the prime minister of the Popular Front government in France, for aircraft and armaments. The following day the French government decided to help and on 22nd July agreed to send 20 bombers and other arms. This news was criticised by the right-wing press and the non-socialist members of the government began to argue against the aid and therefore Blum decided to see what his British allies were going to do. (28)
Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary, received advice that "apart from foreign intervention, the sides were so evenly balanced that neither could win." Eden warned Blum that he believed that if the French government helped the Spanish government it would only encourage Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to aid the Nationalists. Edouard Daladier, the French war minister, was aware that French armaments were inferior to those that Franco could obtain from the dictators. Eden later recalled: "The French government acted most loyally by us." On 8th August the French cabinet suspended all further arms sales, and four days later it was decided to form an international committee of control "to supervise the agreement and consider further action." (29)
In Britain sympathies were divided. Those on "the Left" saw it as "a Holy war, a Jehad in which the Spanish Government stood embattled against the forces of evil". Whereas "others, no less transported by emotion, who longed for the victory of the insurgents with an equal fervour, and saw in its achievement the conquest of anarchy and godlessness, and the triumphant reassertion of the principles of Christian life". It has been claimed that as a result "both parties ignored or excused the barbarities that were inflicted by their own champions." (30)
Eden told the British prime minister, Stanley Baldwin that "The international situation is so serious that from day to day there was risk of some dangerous incident arising and even an outbreak of war could not be excluded." He argued that the two main aims of British policy should be "to secure peace" and to "keep this country out of war". This was viewed by the left another example of appeasing Hitler and Mussolini. Some historians have claimed that British ministers virtually blackmailed the French into accepting non-intervention. Frank McDonough believes that the "French were reluctant to become involved, not only out of fear of losing British support in a future European war, but because the Blum coalition was weak and feared active French involvement might precipitate a civil war on the streets of France." (31)
Paul Preston, the author of The Spanish Civil War (1986) has argued that "public opinion in Britain was overwhelmingly on the side of the Spanish Republic" and when defeat was certain, 70 per cent of those polled considered the Republic to be the the legitimate government. "However, among the small proportion of those who supported Franco, never more than 14 per cent, and often lower, were those who would make their crucial decisions. Where the Spanish war was concerned, Conservative decision-makers tended to let their class prejudices prevail over the strategic interests of Great Britain." (32)
Baldwin called for all countries in Europe not to intervene in the Spanish Civil War. He also warned the French if they aided the Spanish government and it led to war with Germany, Britain would not help her. The first meeting of the Non-Intervention Committee met in London on 9th September 1936. Eventually 27 countries including Germany, Britain, France, the Soviet Union, Portugal, Sweden and Italy signed the Non-Intervention Agreement. Benito Mussolini continued to give aid to General Francisco Franco and his Nationalist forces and during the first three months of the Non-Intervention Agreement sent 90 Italian aircraft and refitted the cruiser Canaris, the largest ship owned by the Nationalists. (33)
The day after Germany signed the Non-Intervention Agreement, Adolf Hitler told his war minister, Field-Marshal Werner von Blomberg, that he wanted to give substantial aid to General Franco. (34) The British government was aware of this but "so long as non-intervention in Spain was imposed without too obvious infringements, so long as Germany remained less committed, politically and militarily, than Italy in the Civil War, some chance of a détente remained." (35)
Edward Wood, Lord Halifax, the Secretary of State for War, admitted that the government was fully aware that its Non-Intervention policy was unsuccessful. "What however it did do was to keep such intervention as there was entirely unofficial, to be denied or at least deprecated by the responsible spokesmen of the nation concerned, so that there was neither need nor occasion for any official action by Governments to support their nationals." (36)
In August 1936, Harry Pollitt, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain, arranged for Tom Wintringham to go to Spain to represent the CPGB during the Civil War. Wintringham, along with Kenneth Sinclair-Loutit, went out to Spain with the first ambulance unit paid for by the Spanish Medical Aid Committee, a Popular Front organisation supported by the Labour Party. According to the Daily Worker, it left Victoria Station to the cheers of 3,000 supporters who had marched from Hyde Park to see them off led by the Labour mayors from East London boroughs. (37)
While in Barcelona he developed the idea of a volunteer international legion to fight on the side of the Republican Army. He commented: "I believed in the idea of an international legion. Militias can do a lot. But a larger-scale example of military knowledge and discipline, and larger-scale results, are needed too. You have to treat the building of an army as a political problem, a question of propaganda, of ideas soaking in. You need things big enough to be worth putting in the newspapers." (38)
In September 1936, Tom Wintringham wrote to Harry Pollitt that he had arranged for Nat Cohen, a Jewish clothing worker from Stepney, to establish "a Tom Mann centuria which will include 10 or 12 English and can accommodate as many likely lads as you can send out... I propose to join it, provided I can still write for the Daily Worker. I believe that full political value can only be got from it (and that's a lot) if its English contingent becomes stronger. 50 is not too many." (39)
Maurice Thorez, the French Communist Party leader, also had the idea of an international force of volunteers to fight for the Republic. At a meeting of Comintern, in an impassioned speech by Georgi Dimitrov, it was suggested the Communist parties in all countries should establish volunteer battalions. Joseph Stalin agreed and the Comintern began organising the formation of International Brigades. An international recruiting centre was set up in Paris and a training base at Albacete in Spain. (40)
Stalin played an important role in the formation of the International Brigades. As Gary Kern has pointed out in A Death in Washington: Walter G. Krivitsky and the Stalin Terror (2004): "To start the ball rolling, he (Stalin) ordered that 500-600 foreign Communists living as refugees in the USSR, personae non grata in their own countries, be rounded up and sent to fight in Spain. This action not only rid him of a long-term irritant, but also laid the foundation for the International Brigades. The Comintern, which officially promulgated the policy of non-intervention, was enlisted to process young men in foreign countries wishing to join the Brigades. The word went out that the various Communist parties would facilitate their transport to Spain; in each CP a Comintern representative directed the program." (41)
Franklin D. Roosevelt was very sympathetic to the Republican cause. So was his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, and several members of his government, including Henry Morgenthau, secretary of the treasury, Henry A. Wallace, secretary for agriculture, Harold Ickes, secretary of the interior and Summer Welles, the assistant secretary of state. However, during the election campaign, Roosevelt made a commitment that he would not allow America to become involved in European conflicts. Cordell Hull, secretary of state, insisted that Roosevelt kept to this policy. (42)
Some people in America felt so strongly about this that they were willing to go to Spain to fight to protect democracy. As a result, the Abraham Lincoln Battalion was formed. An estimated 3,000 men fought in the battalion. Of these, over 1,000 were industrial workers (miners, steel workers, longshoremen). Another 500 were students or teachers. Around 30 per cent were Jewish and 70 per cent were between 21 and 28 years of age. The majority were members of the American Communist Party, whereas others came from the Socialist Party of America and Socialist Labor Party. The first volunteers sailed from New York City on 25th December, 1936. (43)
Bill Bailey wrote to his mother explaining his decision to join the Abraham Lincoln Battalion: "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." (44)
A large number of African-Americans joined the battalion. Canute Frankson explained his decision in a letter written to his parents: "I'm sure that by this time you are still waiting for a detailed explanation of what has this international struggle to do with my being here. Since this is a war between whites who for centuries have held us in slavery, and have heaped every kind of insult and abuse upon us, segregated and Jim-Crowed us; why I, a Negro who have fought through these years for the rights of my people, am here in Spain today? Because we are no longer an isolated minority group fighting hopelessly against an immense giant. Because, my dear, we have joined with, and become an active part of, a great progressive force, on whose shoulders rests the responsibility of saving human civilization from the planned destruction of a small group of degenerates gone mad in their lust for power. Because if we crush Fascism here we'll save our people in America, and in other parts of the world from the vicious persecution, wholesale imprisonment, and slaughter which the Jewish people suffered and are suffering under Hitler's Fascist heels." (45)
Americans were forbidden to travel to Spain to fight for the Republicans. The Manchester Guardian reported in April 1937: "Twenty-nine Americans who are alleged to have tried to cross the French frontier into Spain to enlist with the Spanish Government forces were detained last night at Muret between Toulouse and the Spanish frontier. The Americans had landed at Havre maintaining, it is stated, that they were genuine tourists. They have been brought to Toulouse for questioning." (46)
Efforts by the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to enlist support for Franco's Spain was unsuccessful. Despite the anti-clericism of the Republicans, that resulted in the killing of priests and the burning of churches during the first months of the war, a public opinion poll revealed that forty-eight per cent of Roman Catholics in the United States supported the Popular Front government. The American Committee for Spanish Nationalist Relief, sponsored by the Church, folded before it had collected 30,000 dollars - all of which had to be used for administrative expenses. Roosevelt later admitted that America's non-intervention policy "had been a grave mistake" because it "contravened old American principles and invalidated established international law." (47)
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.
A total of 59,380 volunteers from fifty-five countries served during the Spanish Civil War. This included the following: French (10,000), German (5,000), Polish (5,000), Italian (3,350), American (2,800), British (2,000), Yugoslavian (1,500), Czech (1,500), Canadian (1,000), Hungarian (1,000) and Scandinavian (1,000). Battalions established included the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, British Battalion, Connolly Column, Dajakovich Battalion, Dimitrov Battalion, Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, George Washington Battalion, Mickiewicz Battalion and Thaelmann Battalion. (48)
In July 1936, the Popular Front government only controlled just over 50 per cent of Spain. By the end of the month, Adolf Hitler sent the the Nationalists 26 German fighter aircraft. He also sent 30 Junkers 52s from Berlin and Stuttgart to Morocco. Over the next couple of weeks the aircraft transported over 15,000 troops to Spain. By early September, 1936, General Emilio Mola and his troops gained control of San Sebastián. This was an important victory as it cut the Basque communications with France. (49)
On 4th September, 1936, José Giral resigned and was replaced by Francisco Largo Caballero, who 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). The cabinet also included five liberals and it was argued that it was the first genuine Popular Front government. (50)
Joseph Stalin wrote to Largo Caballero warning him of the dangers of having members of the PCE in the government. "The urban petty and middle bourgeoisie must be attracted to the government side... The leaders of the Republican party should not be repulsed; on the contrary they should be drawn in, persuaded to get down to the job in harness with the government. This is necessary in order to prevent the enemies of Spain from presenting it as a Communist Republic, and thus to avert their open intervention, which represents the greatest danger to Republican Spain." (51)
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 comprised about a hundred aircraft and was supported by anti-aircraft and anti-tank units and four tank companies. The Condor Legion, under the command of General Hugo Sperrle, was an autonomous unit responsible only to Franco. The legion amounted to some 3,800 men at the beginning, later to 5,000. (52)
The Soviet Union were the main suppliers of military aid to the Republican Army. This included 1,000 aircraft, 900 tanks, 1,500 artillery pieces, 300 armoured cars, 15,000 machine-guns, 30,000 automatic firearms, 30,000 mortars, 500,000 riles and 30,000 tons of ammunition. The Soviets expected the Republicans to pay for these military supplies in gold. On the outbreak of the war Spain had the world's fourth largest reserves of gold. During the war approximately $500 million, or two-thirds of Spain's gold reserves, were shipped to the Soviet Union. (53)
The main weakness of the Republic lay in its armed forces. Two-thirds of army officers supported the rebellion. By the 1st November 1936, 25,000 Nationalist troops under General José Enrique Varela had reached the western and southern suburbs of Madrid. 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. (54)
After the failure of General Franco's attempt to take Madrid, Hitler decided to increase his military support of the Nationalists. "Hitler's real reasons for helping Franco were strategic. A fascist Spain would present a threat to France's rear as well as the British route to the Suez canal. There was even the tempting possibility of U-boat bases on the Atlantic coast. The civil war also served to divert attention away from his central European strategy, while offering an opportunity to train men and to test equipment and tactics." (55)
The Popular Front government controlled most of the major cities and all the main industrial areas including Catalonia, the Basque country and the Asturias. It therefore possessed the heavy industry vital for the production of armaments, although it would be difficult to fully utilise these resources without imports of raw materials. The government held the gold reserves and could in theory purchase arms from abroad. However, many countries under the terms of the Non-Intervention Agreement, refused to sell them weapons. The Nationalists also had the advantage of acquiring most of the food producing areas. (56)
The most important change brought about in Republican held areas was the establishment of collectives in industry and agriculture, owned and controlled by the workforce. This social experiment derived mainly from anarchist ideas. In all, about 2,000 factories and retail businesses were collectivised and about 2,500 agricultural collectives were established. In the first few months of the war, 70 per cent of all enterprises in Barcelona had been collectivised including transport and public utilities, such as electricity. (57)
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, 1937. General José Miaja sent the Dimitrov Battalion and the British Battalion to the Jarama Valley to block the advance. According to one source they were told by the political commissar: "We are prepared to sacrifice our lives, because this sacrifice is not only for the peace and freedom of the Spanish people, but also for the peace and freedom of the French people, the Germans, the English, the Italians, the Czechs, the Croats, and for all the peoples of the world." (58)
The following day, at what became known as Suicide Hill, the Republicans suffered heavy casualties. This included the deaths of Walter Grant, Christopher Caudwell, Clem Beckett and William Briskey. Later that day Tom Wintringham sent Jason Gurney to find out what was happening: "I had only gone about 700 yards when I came across one of the most ghastly sights I have ever seen. I found a group of wounded (British) men who had been carried to a non-existent field dressing station and then forgotten. There were about fifty stretchers, but many men had already died and most of the others would be dead by morning. They had appalling wounds, mostly from artillery. One little Jewish kid of about eighteen lay on his back with his bowels exposed from his navel to his genitals and his intestines lying in a ghastly pinkish brown heap, twitching slightly as the flies searched over them. He was perfectly conscious. Another man had nine bullet holes across his chest. I held his hand until it went limp and he was dead. I went from one to the other but was absolutely powerless. Nobody cried out or screamed except they all called for water and I had none to give. I was filled with such horror at their suffering and my inability to help them that I felt I had suffered some permanent injury to my spirit." (59)
Led by Robert Merriman, the 373 members of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion moved into the trenches on 23rd February. When the were ordered over the top they were backed by a pair of tanks from the Soviet Union. On the first day 20 men were killed and nearly 60 were wounded. Colonel Vladimir Copic, the Yugoslav commander of the Fifteenth Brigade, ordered Merriman and his men to attack the Nationalist forces at Jarama. As soon as he left the trenches Merriman was shot in the shoulder, cracking the bone in five places. Of the 263 men who went into action that day, only 150 survived. One soldier remarked afterwards: "The battalion was named after Abraham Lincoln because he, too, was assassinated." (60)
The Battle of Jarma resulted in a stalemate. The Republicans had lost land to the depth of ten miles along a front of some fifteen miles, but had retained the road to Valencia. Both sides claimed a victory but both had really suffered defeats. The International Brigades had 8,000 casualties (1,000 dead and 7,000 wounded) and the Nationalists about 6,000. The volunteers now realised that there would be no quick victory and with the rebels receiving so much help from Italy and Germany, in the long-term, they faced the possibility of defeat. (61)
In 1933 George Orwell published Down and Out in Paris and London. This was followed by three novels, Burmese Days (1934), A Clergyman's Daughter (1935) and Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936). The books did not sell well and Orwell was unable to make enough money to become a full-time writer and had to work as a teacher and as an assistant in a bookshop. A committed socialist he also wrote for a variety of left-wing journals.
Orwell had been shocked and dismayed by the persecution of socialists in Nazi Germany. Like most socialists, he had been impressed by the way that the Soviet Union had been unaffected by the Great Depression and did not suffer the unemployment that was being endured by the workers under capitalism. However, Orwell was a great believer in democracy and rejected the type of government imposed by Joseph Stalin.
Orwell decided that he would now concentrate on politics. As he recalled several years later: "In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties. As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of pamphleteer... Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows." (62)
Soon after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War he decided, despite only being married for a month, to go and support the Popular Front government against the fascist forces led by General Francisco Franco. He contacted John Strachey who took him to see Harry Pollitt, the General Secretary of Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). Orwell later recalled: "Pollitt after questioning me, evidently decided that I was politically unreliable and refused to help me. He also tried to frighten me out of going by talking a lot about Anarchist terrorism." (63)
Orwell visited the headquarters of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and obtained letters of recommendation from Fenner Brockway and Henry Noel Brailsford. Orwell arrived in Barcelona in December 1936 and went to see John McNair, to run the ILP's political office. The ILP was affiliated with Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), an anti-Stalinist organisation formed by Andres Nin and Joaquin Maurin. As a result of an ILP fundraising campaign in England, the POUM had received almost £10,000, as well as an ambulance and a planeload of medical supplies. (64)
It has been pointed out by D. J. Taylor, that McNair was "initially wary of the tall ex-public school boy with the drawling upper-class accent". (65) McNair later recalled: "At first his accent repelled my Tyneside prejudices... He handed me his two letters, one from Fenner Brockway, the other from H.N. Brailsford, both personal friends of mine. I realised that my visitor was none other than George Orwell, two of whose books I had read and greatly admired." Orwell told McNair: "I have come to Spain to join the militia to fight against Fascism". Orwell told him that he was also interested in writing about the "situation and endeavour to stir working-class opinion in Britain and France." (66) Orwell also talked about producing a couple of articles for The New Statesman. (67)
McNair went to see Orwell at the Lenin Barracks a few days later: "Gone was the drawling ex-Etonian, in his place was an ardent young man of action in complete control of the situation... George was forcing about fifty young, enthusiastic but undisciplined Catalonians to learn the rudiments of military drill. He made them run and jump, taught them to form threes, showed them how to use the only rifle available, an old Mauser, by taking it to pieces and explaining it." (68)
In January 1937 George Orwell, given the rank of corporal, was sent to join the offensive at Aragón. The following month he was moved to Huesca. Orwell wrote to Victor Gollancz about life in Spain. "Owing partly to an accident I joined the POUM militia instead of the International Brigade which was a pity in one way because it meant that I have never seen the Madrid front; on the other hand it has brought me into contact with Spaniards rather than Englishmen and especially with genuine revolutionaries. I hope I shall get a chance to write the truth about what I have seen." (69)
A report appeared in a British newspaper of Orwell leading soldiers into battle: "A Spanish comrade rose and rushed forward. Charge! shouted Blair (Orwell)... In front of the parapet was Eric Blair's tall figure coolly strolling forward through the storm of fire. He leapt at the parapet, then stumbled. Hell, had they got him? No, he was over, closely followed by Gross of Hammersmith, Frankfort of Hackney and Bob Smillie, with the others right after them. The trench had been hastily evacuated... In a corner of a trench was one dead man; in a dugout was another body." (70)
On 10th May, 1937, Orwell was wounded by a Fascist sniper. He told Cyril Connolly "a bullet through the throat which of course ought to have killed me but has merely given me nervous pains in the right arm and robbed me of most of my voice." He added that while in Spain "I have seen wonderful things and at last really believe in Socialism, which I never did before." (71)
Joseph Stalin appointed Alexander Orlov as the Soviet Politburo adviser to the Popular Front government. Orlov and his NKVD agents had the unofficial task of eliminating the supporters of Leon Trotsky fighting for the Republican Army and the International Brigades. This included the arrest and execution of leaders of POUM, National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT) and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI). Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996) has pointed out: "Stalin had a secret and extremely important aim in Spain: to eliminate the supporters of Trotsky who had gathered from all over the world to fight for the Spanish revolution. NKVD men, and Comintern agents loyal to Stalin, accused the Trotskyists of espionage and ruthlessly executed them." (72)
As George Orwell had been fighting with Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) he was identified as an anti-Stalinist and the NKVD attempted to arrest him. Orwell was now in danger of being murdered by communists in the Republican Army. With the help of the British Consul in Barcelona, George Orwell, John McNair and Stafford Cottman were able to escape to France on 23rd June. (73)
Many of Orwell's fellow comrades were not so lucky and were captured and executed. When he arrived back in England he was determined to expose the crimes of Stalin in Spain. However, his left-wing friends in the media, rejected his articles, as they argued it would split and therefore weaken the resistance to fascism in Europe. He was particularly upset by his old friend, Kingsley Martin, the editor of the country's leading socialist journal, The New Statesman, for refusing to publish details of the killing of the anarchists and socialists by the communists in Spain. Left-wing and liberal newspapers such as the Manchester Guardian, News Chronicle and the Daily Worker, as well as the right-wing Daily Mail and The Times, joined in the cover-up. (74)
Orwell did managed to persuade the New English Weekly to publish an article on the reporting of the Spanish Civil War. "I honestly doubt, in spite of all those hecatombs of nuns who have been raped and crucified before the eyes of Daily Mail reporters, whether it is the pro-Fascist newspapers that have done the most harm. It is the left-wing papers, the News Chronicle and the Daily Worker, with their far subtler methods of distortion, that have prevented the British public from grasping the real nature of the struggle." (75)
In another article in the magazine he explained how in "Spain... and to some extent in England, anyone professing revolutionary Socialism (i.e. professing the things the Communist Party professed until a few years ago) is under suspicion of being a Trotskyist in the pay of Franco or Hitler... in England, in spite of the intense interest the Spanish war has aroused, there are very few people who have heard of the enormous struggle that is going on behind the Government lines. Of course, this is no accident. There has been a quite deliberate conspiracy to prevent the Spanish situation from being understood." (76)
George Orwell wrote about his experiences of the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia. The book was rejected by Victor Gollancz because of its attacks on Joseph Stalin. During this period Gollancz was accused of being under the control of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). He later admitted that he had come under pressure from the CPGB not to publish certain books in the Left Book Club: "When I got letter after letter to this effect, I had to sit down and deny that I had withdrawn the book because I had been asked to do so by the CP - I had to concoct a cock and bull story... I hated and loathed doing this: I am made in such a way that this kind of falsehood destroys something inside me." (77)
The book was eventually published by Frederick Warburg, who was known to be both anti-fascist and anti-communist, which put him at loggerheads with many intellectuals of the time. The book was attacked by both the left and right-wing press. Although one of the best books ever written about war, it sold only 1,500 copies during the next twelve years. As Bernard Crick has pointed out: "Its literary merits were hardly noticed... Some now think of it as Orwell's finest achievement, and nearly all critics see it as his great stylistic breakthrough: he became the serious writer with the terse, easy, vivid colloquial style." (78)
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, 1937. 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. (79)
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 José Antonio Primo de Rivera, who had been executed on 20th November, 1936, were displayed along with the slogan, "One State! One Country! One Chief! Franco! Franco! Franco!" all over Spain. (80)
The town of Guernica is situated 30 kilometers east of Bilbao, in the Basque province of Vizcaya. Guernica was considered to be the spiritual capital of the Basque people and had a population of about 7,000 people. On 26th April 1937, Guernica was bombed by the German Condor Legion. As it was a market day the town was crowded. The town was first struck by explosive bombs and then by incendiaries. As people fled from their homes they were machine-gunned by fighter planes. The three hour raid completely destroyed the town. It is estimated that 1,685 people were killed and 900 injured in the attack. (81)
General Francisco Franco denied that he had nothing to do with the raid and claimed that the town had been dynamited and then burnt by Anarchist Brigades. Franco issued a statement after the bombing: "We wish to tell the world, loudly and clearly, a little about the burning of Guernica. It was destroyed by fire and gasoline. The red hordes in the criminal service of Aguirre burnt it to ruins. The fire took place yesterday and Aguirre, since he is a common criminal, has uttered the infamous lie of attributing this atrocity to our noble and heroic air force." (82)
The Spanish church backed this story and its professor of theology in Rome went so far as to declare that "the truth is there is not a single German in Spain. Franco only needs Spanish soldiers which are second to none in the world." After the war a telegram sent from Franco's headquarters was discovered and revealed that he had asked the German Condor Legion to carry out the attack on Guernica. It is believed that the attack was an attempt to demoralize the Basque people. Germany had agreed as they wanted to carry out "a major experiment in the effects of aerial terrorism." (83)
Francisco Largo Caballero came under increasing pressure from the Communist Party (PCE) 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 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. The socialist, Luis Araquistain, described Negrin's government as the "most cynical and despotic in Spanish history." Negrin now began appointing members of the 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. (84)
Negrin's government set out to limit the revolution and abolish the collectives. It argued that any revolution must be postponed until the war had been won. Revolution was seen as a distraction from the main business of winning the war. "It also threatened to alienate the middle class and peasants. Given the performance of the collectives, the Communists and their supporters had a number of points on their side. But the major reason why they took an anti-revolutionary line was to follow Soviet foreign policy strategy. The USSR wished to forge an alliance with Britain and France in a front against which would alarm and antagonise the western democracies and increase their hostility to the Soviet Union as well as setting them irrevocably against the Republic. The Communists therefore wanted to present the republic as a law-abiding democratic regime which deserved the approval of the western powers." (85)
On 16th June, 1937, Negrin ruled that the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) was an illegal organisation. Established by Andres Nin and Joaquin Mauri in 1935, POUM was an revolutionary anti-Stalinist Communist party was strongly influenced by the political ideas of Leon Trotsky. The group supported the collectivization of the means of production and agreed with Trotsky's concept of permanent revolution. POUM was very strong in Catalonia. In most areas of Spain it made little impact and in 1935 the organisation was estimated to have only around 8,000 members. (86)
After the Popular Front gained victory POUM supported the government but their radical policies such as nationalization without compensation, were not introduced. During the Spanish Civil War the Workers Party of Marxist Unification grew rapidly and by the end of 1936 it was 30,000 strong with 10,000 in its own militia. Luis Companys attempted to maintain the unity of the coalition of parties in Barcelona. POUM was disliked by the Spanish Communist Party. As Patricia Knight has pointed out: "It did not subscribe to all of Trotsky's views and its best described as a Marxist party which was critical of the Soviet system and particularly of Spain's policies. It was therefore very unpopular with the Communists." (87)
However, after the Soviet consul, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, threatened the suspension of Russian aid, Negrin agreed to sack Andres Nin as minister of justice in December 1936. Nin's followers were also removed from the government. However, as Hugh Thomas has made clear: "The POUM were not Trotskyists, Nin having broken with Trotsky on entering the Catalan government and Trotsky having spoken critically of the POUM. No, what upset the communists was the fact that the POUM were a serious group of revolutionary Spanish Marxists, well-led, and independent of Moscow." (88)
Joseph Stalin appointed Alexander Orlov as the Soviet Politburo adviser to the Popular Front government. Orlov and his NKVD agents had the unofficial task of eliminating the supporters of Leon Trotsky fighting for the Republican Army and the International Brigades. On 16th June, Andres Nin and the leaders of POUM were arrested. Also taken into custody were officials of those organisations considered to be under the influence of Trotsky, the National Confederation of Trabajo and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica. (89)
Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996) has pointed out: "Stalin had a secret and extremely important aim in Spain: to eliminate the supporters of Trotsky who had gathered from all over the world to fight for the Spanish revolution. NKVD men, and Comintern agents loyal to Stalin, accused the Trotskyists of espionage and ruthlessly executed them." Orlov later claimed that "the decision to perform an execution abroad, a rather risky affair, was up to Stalin personally. If he ordered it, a so-called mobile brigade was dispatched to carry it out. It was too dangerous to operate through local agents who might deviate later and start to talk." (90)
Orlov ordered the arrest of Nin. George Orwell explained what happened to Nin in his book, Homage to Catalonia (1938): "On 15 June the police had suddenly arrested Andres Nin in his office, and the same evening had raided the Hotel Falcon and arrested all the people in it, mostly militiamen on leave. The place was converted immediately into a prison, and in a very little while it was filled to the brim with prisoners of all kinds. Next day the P.O.U.M. was declared an illegal organization and all its offices, book-stalls, sanatoria, Red Aid centres and so forth were seized. Meanwhile the police were arresting everyone they could lay hands on who was known to have any connection with the P.O.U.M." (91)
Nin who was tortured for several days. Jesus Hernández, a member of the Communist Party, and Minister of Education in the Popular Front government, later admitted: "Nin was not giving in. He was resisting until he fainted. His inquisitors were getting impatient. They decided to abandon the dry method. Then the blood flowed, the skin peeled off, muscles torn, physical suffering pushed to the limits of human endurance. Nin resisted the cruel pain of the most refined tortures. In a few days his face was a shapeless mass of flesh." Nin was executed on 20th June 1937. (92)
Cecil D. Eby claims that Nin was murdered by "a German hit squad from the International Brigades". The Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party of the United States, reported that "individuals and cells of the enemy had been eliminated like infestations of termites." Eby goes on to argue that the "nearly maniacal purge of putative Trotskyists in the late spring of 1937" displaced the "war against Fascism". (93)
It is believed that Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov originally intended a trial in Spain on the model of the Moscow trials, based on the confessions of people like Nin. This idea was abandoned and instead several anti-Stalinists in Spain died in mysterious circumstances. This included Robert Smillie, the English journalist who was a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), Erwin Wolf, ex-secretary of Trotsky, the Austrian socialist Kurt Landau, the journalist, Marc Rhein, the son of Rafael Abramovich, a former leader of the Mensheviks, and José Robles, a Spanish academic who held independent socialist views. (94)
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). The German airforce was also able to practise the techniques of coordinated ground and air attacks and dive-bombing that became so important during the Second World War. (95)
By the beginning of 1938 the Nationalist Army numbered 600,000, a third larger than the Republican Army. In April General Francisco Franco and his forces reached the sea at Vinaroz, separating Catalonia from Valencia, thereby cutting the remaining Republican zone in two. Juan Negrin believed that the only way the Republic would be saved was if war broke out between Germany and Britain. Franco also feared this and decided to move against Valencia instead of the easier target, Catalonia, for fear of French intervention should the fighting approach their frontier. (96)
On 1st May, 1938, Juan Negrin proposed a thirteen-point peace plan. When this was rejected he ordered an attack across the fast-flowing River Ebro in an attempt to relieve pressure on Valencia. 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. (97)
Tom Murray, from Scotland, was one of the men who took part in the battle. "The crossing of the Ebro at night was a remarkable performance. The pontoons consisted of narrow buoyant sections tied together and men would sit straddled across the junctions of these sections to hold them firm, because the Ebro was a very fast-flowing river. And then others went across in boats. The mules were swum across. We went across the pontoons carrying our weapons, our machine guns. We had light machine guns as well as the heavy ones. We had five machine gun groups in our Company. No two people had to be on one section at the same time. We got across all right, lined up and marched up to the top of the hill." (98)
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, many as a result of air attacks. Bill Feeley later recalled: "I used to watch them (fascist aircraft) bomb, and you could see the bombs come out. They used to drop bombs when they were very high up. We didn't have any real anti-aircraft equipment, only machine guns mostly, because of this Non-Intervention Agreement." (99)
Over a period of 113 days, nearly 250,000 men took part in the battle at Ebro. It is estimated that a total of 13,250 soldiers were killed: Republicans (7,150) and Nationalists (6,100). About another 110,000 suffered wounds or mutilation. These were the worst casualties of the war and it finally destroyed the Republican Army as a fighting force. "Effectively, the Republic was defeated, yet it simply refused to accept the fact. Madrid and Barcelona were swelled with refugees and their populations on the verge of starvation. Negrin again began to search for a possible formula to allow a compromise peace." (100)
On 21st September 1938, Juan Negrin announced at the United Nations the unconditional withdrawal of the International Brigades from Spain. This was not a great sacrifice as there were fewer than 10,000 foreigners left fighting for the Popular Front government. The International Brigades had suffered heavy casualties - 15 per cent killed and a total casualty rate of 40 per cent. At this time there were about 40,000 Italian troops in Spain. Benito Mussolini refused to follow Negrin's example and in reply promised to send Franco additional aircraft and artillery. (101)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt produced a plan to end the war. Neville Chamberlain rejected the idea as he did not want to interfere with his negotiations with Adolf Hitler. On 26th January, 1939, Barcelona fell to the Nationalist Army. Members of the Popular Front government now moved to Perelada, close to the French border. With the nationalist forces still advancing, President Manuel Azaña and his colleagues crossed into France. On 27th February, 1939, Chamberlain recognized the Nationalist government headed by General Francisco Franco. Later that day Azaña resigned from office, declaring that the war was lost and that he did not want Spaniards to make anymore useless sacrifices. (102)
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. (103)
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. (104)
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 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. (105)
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.
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".
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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."
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.