Leftist Mythology of the Spanish Civil War
Seventy-five years ago today, on July 17, 1936, Francisco Franco led the Army of Africa against the Popular Front government in Madrid. The long Spanish Civil War began. According to the left, this was a classic conflict between socialism and fascism. Orwell, and others, saw Bolsheviks in Spain murderously purge all rivals on the left during the war. The greater lesson of this war is that the "left" is simply a gang of corrupt power-junkies. The politically correct history given us is grotesquely false.
The Popular Front was not popular
Did the Popular Front win the 1936 Spanish general election? Not really: it lost the popular vote by 4.91 million to 4.36 million for the Popular Front, and only gross gerrymandering allowed this Popular Front minority to elect even a tiny majority of the seats in the Cortes, and the Popular Front padded its numbers in the Cortes by blatantly partisan election certification.[i]
Franco's left-wing movement
Both sides in this war hated capitalism. Foss and Gerahty during the war wrote of Franco: "He was in no sense a 'Fascist' leader. At the outside, when the present struggle broke out, there were not more than 8,000 Falangistas in Spain, and even that party was not 'Fascist'"[ii] and they note that if Franco wins: "Spain...will be in essence a Socialist State."[iii] Steton-Watson in his 1939 book Britain and the Dictators notes: "To suggest that the issue is one between Fascism and Communism, between Black and Red, is to overly-simplify to a dangerous degree."[iv] The Council on Foreign Relations in its 1950 Political Handbook of the World described the Falange, this presumed Spanish "fascism," as a party of the left, not the right. Franco's forces rejected the very description of fascist, as Hamilton writes in his 1943 book, Appeasement's Child: "The Spanish fascists object to being called fascists."[v] (Why would they, if they were fascists?)
Hamilton writes of Falangist icon Primo de Rivera: "[His] views on the Church, the landowners, the age-old problems of Spain, were decidedly Left-wing. Even making allowance for the fact that such radical views are a customary part of fascist tactics, the similarity of his views to those of extreme Leftists was remarkable. In the spring of 1936, for example, when he was contesting a by-election at Cuenca against a Socialist candidate, he professed complete agreement with the views of his opposition on all except one point - autonomy for Catalonia and the Basque provinces"[vi] and Hamilton observes that "Many extreme Leftists in fact had joined the Phalanx."[vii] Cardozo wrote in his 1937 book, The March of a Nation: "There are Falangists...little different from the Socialists they have been fighting"[viii] and quotes Franco: "I want Labour to be protected in every way against the abuses of Capitalism."
Was the war about religion?
Was this a religious war? The Bolsheviks raped nuns, murdered priests and burned churches, but the notion that the Falangists and Franco were tools of the Catholic Church was roundly rejected by Franco's own enemies. Hamilton wrote: "The Phalanx was considerably less than enthusiastic about the Church...the party leaders recognized that they would have to drive the firmly established Church from its position before they could make a true fascist state"[ix] and "Serrano Suner's censors did not allow the Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, to circulate...and when he [Serrano] visited Rome in the fall of 1940 he violated all the rules of conduct laid down for a Catholic statesman."[x] Hamilton notes that Franco established a Youth Front intended to replace Catholic youth organizations.[xi]
Not a war between Soviets and Nazis
Was a contest between Nazis and Soviets? Sometimes, but sometimes it was a struggle between Fascists and Nazis. Ernest Hambloch wrote in his 1939 book Germany Rampant that the reason Italy was unwilling to quit Spain in 1938 was not only to sate Mussolini's imperial ambitions, but also because he did not want to leave Germany in control of Spain.[xii] Garratt noted in his 1938 book: "From the summer of 1937 onwards we can trace a definite conflict of interests between Italy and Germany in Spain."[xiii] Garratt noted that when Mussolini failed in 1936, he approached the English to help him out, using the argument that unless he won quickly, the Nazis would move into the conflict.[xiv] Marcel Fodor noted in 1940 that the Nazis did not like Mussolini in Spain and that they also did not want to share power with him in Iberia. Nazis wanted the pro-Nazi wing of the Falange with its pro-German generals, to gain power instead of the pro-Fascist wing of the Falange,[xv] and the Gestapo and Fascist secret service were rivals in Spain. Italy watched nervously as the Nazis tried to overthrow Franco and the pro-Italian Ramon Serrano Suñer from power in Spain and to overthrow pro-Italian Antonio de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal to replace them with Nazi puppets.[xvi]
Hamilton wrote: "If Hitler and Mussolini had desired to do so, in fact, they could have won the war for Franco at least a year earlier. The fact that they rationed their aid so carefully, and that the Nazis even sold arms to the Republicans, seems to confirm that they were deliberately using the civil war to produce disunion in the democracies."[xvii]
The war was not even a geopolitical battle between Fascism and Bolshevism. Eugene Lyons noted in his 1941 classic The Red Decade "All through the Spanish wars Russian oil, by way of Italy, helped to fuel Franco's planes and tanks"[xviii] and Lyons observes that on at least three occasions, at Guadalajara, Pozoblanco and Aragon, the Bolsheviks arbitrarily shut off munitions to the anti-Franco forces when those forces were about to finish off Franco.[xix]
What was it about?
The Spanish Civil War was about geopolitical power. Hitler thought (wrongly) that if he backed Franco then Franco would back him in confrontations with Britain and France. In one of those wild ironies of history, if the Popular Front (whose non-Soviet leaders were being systematically exterminated at Stalin's orders) had won, Hitler might not have been defeated. Franco, famously, refused to enter the war on Hitler's side or to allow German special military forces to seize Gibraltar. A Soviet-ruled Spain, in July 1940, very closely allied with Nazi Germany, would have permitted the transit of such forces and North Africa would have been an Axis strategic victory.
The Spanish Civil War was also, very much, about the myth of an ideological spectrum which so hobbles those of us who prefer to use ideas like liberty, law, impartial justice, representative democracy, and so forth to describe what we believe (and those who oppose those beliefs.) The myth of ideology still haunts the minds of well-intentioned people. The reality of the Spanish Civil War should dispel that myth forever. (Consider that when Franco died, Castro declared a day of mourning in Cuba.)
Try talking about politics, policies, and government to someone we would call a leftist without either of you using "right-wing," "progressive," "conservative," or "socialist" and see how quickly the discussion melts into red-faced screaming. That was the Spanish Civil War. Who won that war? The easier question to answer is: Who lost the Spanish Civil War: the people of Spain.
[i] [i] The March of a Nation, p. 1.
[ii] The Spanish Arena, p. 61.
[iii] The Spanish Arena, p. 498.
[iv] Britain and the Dictators, p. 379-381.
[v] Appeasement's Child, p. 60, footnote 1.
[vi] Appeasement's Child, pp. 62 -63.
[vii] Appeasement's Child, p. 51.
[viii] The March of a Nation, p. 307.
[ix] Appeasement's Child, p. 97.
[x] Appeasement's Child, p. 97.
[xi] Appeasement's Child, p. 97.
[xii] Germany Rampant, p. 159.
[xiii] Shadow of the Swastika, p. 205.
[xiv] What Has Happened to Europe, pp. 250 - 254.
[xv] The Revolution is On!, p. 217.
[xvi] The Revolution is On!, pp. 204 - 206.
[xvii] Appeasement's Child, p. 21.
[xviii] The Red Decade, p. 276.
[xix] The Red Decade, p. 273.
Bruce Walker is the author of Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life