The US fought a bloody civil war in the early 1860s; Spain fought one in the late 1930s. The reasons and results for each were much different. One could argue that, while there is some residual animosity among American descendants about the aftermath of the Civil War – especially by some Southerners – there is ZERO threat of another North vs. South conflict in the US. That may not be the case between Left and Right. Are there any lessons to be learned for Americans stemming from the Spanish Civil War? Let’s take a look.
The Spanish Civil War was ideologically driven as much as by anything, as well as the chaos associated with the first Republican government. It pitted those who wished to modernize and democratize Spain versus those who wished to preserve the status quo. The political alignment and subsequent confrontation became fascists (Franco’s “Nationalists”) versus Communists and anarchists (“Republicans”). That, of course, is an oversimplification.
[The] Spanish Civil War, (1936–39), [started as a result of a] military revolt against the Republican government of Spain [and was] supported by conservative elements within the country. When an initial military coup failed to win control of the entire country, a bloody civil war ensued, fought with great ferocity on both sides. The Nationalists, as the rebels were called, received aid from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Republicans received aid from the Soviet Union, as well as from International Brigades, composed of volunteers from Europe and the United States.
The war was an outcome of a polarization of Spanish life and politics that had developed over previous decades. On one side, the Nationalist, were most Roman Catholics, important elements of the military, most landowners, and many businessmen. On the other side, the Republican, were urban workers, most agricultural labourers, and many of the educated middle class. Politically, their differences often found extreme and vehement expression in parties such as the Fascist-oriented Falange and the militant anarchists. Between these extremes were other groups covering the political spectrum from monarchism and conservatism through liberalism to socialism, including a small communist movement divided among followers of the Joseph Stalin and his archrival, Leon Trotsky.
Republican violence occurred primarily during the early stages of the war before the rule of law was restored, but the Nationalist violence was part of a conscious policy of terror. The matter of how many were killed remains highly contentious; however, it is generally believed that the toll of Nationalist violence was higher. In any event, the proliferation of executions, murders, and assassinations on both sides reflects the great passions that the Civil War unleashed. By March 28, 1939, all of the Republican armies had begun to disband and surrender, and Nationalist forces entered Madrid on that day.
The number of persons killed in the Spanish Civil War can be only roughly estimated. Nationalist forces put the figure at 1,000,000, including not only those killed in battle but also the victims of bombardment, execution, and assassination. More recent estimates have been closer to 500,000 or less. This does not include all those who died from malnutrition, starvation, and war-engendered disease.
Read the rest here.
This summary is fine as far as it goes, but it glosses over a lot, including the aftermath. The comment that Republican violence was primarily limited to the early part of the war until the “rule of law was restored” is disingenuous at best. The Republicans (many of whom were against the Catholic Church if not outright atheists) desecrated churches and other symbols of the “ancient regime” throughout the war. And the article is silent on the retribution practiced by Franco on Republican sympathizers after the war, too. While the signs of church desecrations still exist, they seem to have been largely forgotten in modern socialist Spain, although that may change with the current socialist push to disinter Franco’s corpse after all these years. Call it “reverse retribution” if you like.
Right vs. Left passions are still very much alive and well in Spain, as nearly everyone has a relative or three who fought (and possibly even died) on one side or the other. I happen to have two Spanish daughters-in-law (“nueras”). The father of one was a Spanish naval officer and Franco intimate while the grandfather of the other was a Republican sympathizer. To show you how convoluted the times were, the latter was forced to flee Spain because he owned property despite his Republican sympathies. The Republicans were against property owners and the rich in much the same way that the Bolsheviks were against kulaks and the rich in Russia/Ukraine. So he left his wife and 10 children and fled to France until the war ended. He died of cancer in France just months after being reunited with his wife, who had spent the war years trying to track him down.
Those killed on both sides were frequently buried in unmarked mass graves, with both sides using the practice for vengeance purposes. The winning side – the Nationalists – continued the animosity with retributions after the war. While visiting the Pyrenees last weekend, we visited a small deserted town called Jánovas situated on the Ara River. It seems that Franco wanted to reward the state electric company by authorizing a dam to be built on the Ara River below the town. The town’s residents were forced to leave their homes without much in the way of compensation under the Spanish version of “eminent domain.” Some houses had to be dynamited to evict resistant residents! Other small towns in the valley were similarly affected. Check out the pictures at this link for some before and after photos of what the town looked like.
The dam project was ultimately canceled after decades of lawsuits and protests, yet the town remains deserted although a few of the descendants have managed to reclaim their property and are rebuilding a few houses there. What does that sad situation have to do with Spanish politics? You see, the Aragon area was pro-Republican; building a dam on the Ara River and displacing a few Republicans was par for the course during the Franco years. And now with a leftwing government in Madrid, the socialists want to move Franco’s body as a bit of payback.
Spain’s Supreme Court has ruled that the remains of dictator Francisco Franco should be exhumed. It backed the Socialist government’s plan to move the remains from a state mausoleum to a less controversial site. An appeal by Franco’s family against the exhumation and proposing an alternative site was rejected. The issue has divided opinion in Spain, which remains haunted by the Franco era. He won the 1930s civil war and went on to rule Spain until 1975. In a unanimous ruling, the court said it had decided to “completely reject the appeal lodged by the family in relation to Francisco Franco’s exhumation”. In a tweet (in Spanish), Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez hailed the decision as a “great victory for democracy.”
Read the rest here. A “great victory for democracy”? That seems to be on a par with destroying the statues and monuments of Confederate generals, etc., in the US these days. So much for heritage and the lessons of history!
Which brings us to the underlying question posed earlier in this thread: are there any lessons learned from the Spanish Civil War for us Americans? There are some parallels and differences:
- The Spanish Right (the military) instigated a coup to restore Spanish traditions. Would the US military act similarly if a socialist like Bernie Sanders managed to steal the 2020 election through massive and widely-apparent voter fraud?
- The Spanish Right and Left took turns in pursuing retributions against their political opponents. What have American leftists (formerly known as Democrats) promised us conservatives in their various unhinged threats over the past 2.5 years or so? We are already being suppressed on social media and on college campuses just as Republicanism was suppressed in Spain after 1940. But would American leftists simply stop with suppressing our political speech? Hardly! Say “goodbye” to your guns, too. And likely more.
- In Spain, Franco was the fascist, yet in America it is the Left who are fascists. Go figure! That means that political labels are arbitrary, and the reality is that both strains are simply authoritarians.
- The Republicans in Spain (although fairly diverse politically) were led by virulently anti-church figures – the ones who actually called the shots during the civil war. The Christian Republicans could not stop the church desecrations and the murdering of Catholic clergy. The American Left are largely atheistic, too, although some purport to be adherents of established religions. Many do support their version of religion, i.e., the religions of secularism and environmentalism. The Left have pursued a secularization of American since the ACLU was founded by Communists in the 1930s. One could expect the aftermath of a second American civil war won by the Left to finish the job!
- The Spanish Civil War was fought on a combination of ideological and economic grounds, but it was ideology that evinced the real passions that persist to this very day. A second civil war in the US will be ideologically based, with economics important for control purposes. The Left seek to “corrupto-socialize” the country while conservatives wish to preserve personal and economic freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Is there any doubt what any of the Democrats’ Star Wars bar scene would do if elected president?
- The residual passions of the Spanish Right and Left continue to flare and motivate Spanish politics to this very day. There have been Communist marches in Madrid on various weekends for decades. Watching the parading red flags is almost a tourist attraction. At least the Spanish Left aren’t particularly violent – unlike their counterparts in the American Left, i.e., the violent arm of the Democrat Party knows as “Antifa.” Obama unleashed – and supported – the BLM crowd. Rest assured that any Democrat who wins in 2020 would give aid and comfort to Antifa to exploit them as a means of implementing leftwing policies.
- The Spanish constitution doesn’t provide the same kind of safeguards and checks and balances as the US Constitution does. Their system of government is different, as well, and has been evolving since the Spanish civil war and end of the Franco dictatorship. The American Left would destroy the US Constitution and revert to the rule of men, not the rule of law. Spain endured a dictatorship of the Right for 35 years; any de facto dictatorship in the US created by the extremists in the Democrat Party would be interminable. The American Left seek to perpetuate themselves politically through voter fraud and suppression of conservatives throughout our cultural institutions. They also pursue discredited socio-economic policies that have failed everywhere they’ve been tried.
Perhaps we can learn a few things from Spain. I would argue that Spain’s movement toward socialism since the death of Franco in 1975 has been a failure. There will always be the “very rich” even in socialist countries like Spain. And then there is “everyone else.” The labor market is bad, wages are flat, and salaries are on the low end of the scale, with promotions difficult to come by. The public sector is where everyone wants to be because the private sector is taxed out the wazoo. It can’t last forever because the money eventually runs out (or is devalued to the point of ruination of the country). The seeds were sown in the Spanish civil war. And most Americans are clueless about it.