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The Spanish Civil War 3 Essay, Research Paper

The Spanish Civil War

In the Spanish Civil War conflict there were three types of governing: Right-wing, Left-wing, and Center. Each of the groups in these classifications was a little more or a little less extreme than the next but each side had common goals. On the right side there were Landlords, Aristocracies, the Catholic Church, Falangists Monarchists, and the Spanish National Guard (the Army) who were fighting for facsim and old world order. On the left were the Socialists, Anarchists, and the Communists who were basically the people of the country fighting for new world order and communism to a degree. In the center was the Republicans and Liberals, a minority who didn’t support one viewpoint or another. Was the overthrow of the Monarchy a good idea or did it just shake the countries’ stability? Was the Communist support beneficial? How was it a microcosm of the war in which to follow? In order to answer these questions the politics and causes of the war must be analyzed.

Causes of the Revolution and Pre War Politics:

The Rightists:

The right side consisting of the earlier mentioned groups was using three methods of governing which were Monarchy, Fascism and Dictatorship. Monarchy had been around for numerous years and King Alfonso the XIII was ruling at the time of the war. General strikes, assassinations, riots, disorders, police brutality, corruption and Army massacres of peasants had brought the Monarchy to the verge of collapse. Knowing that his government was in such peril King Alfonso turned to the Army for help. General Miguel Primo de Rivera persuaded King Alfonso to invoke a dictatorship regin saying that “Today we are resolved in moderation, but on the other hand we will not shrink from bloodshed.” (Goldston 1966, 29) This new form of government did not sit well with the workers or peasants. Due to this government many people were imprisoned or murdered and this only fuelled the revolution more. The eventual downfall of Primo de Rivera’s government was due to the financial depression of the thirties and once Rivera realized that he had no support across the country he fled to Paris where he later died. Realizing the economic and political collapse of the dictatorship Alfonso tried to return to constitutional rule but alike Rivera had no support and so fled to Rome where he died ten years later. Jose Antonio who was the son of the old dictator Primo de Rivera took over rule of the right-wing activists. He created a new party called the FALANGE which was strongly fascist. Being a fascist country increased support from Italy and Germany and, if needed arms, troops and political support would be sent to them. Having this kind of aid was a definite advantage to the right-wing Falangists and it was not put to waste.

The Leftists:

On the left-hand side was the Anarchists, Socialists, and Communists. Although the Communists started out small they grew to become a major influence in the war having as many as 250,000 members. The Anarchists consisted of mainly peasants who believed that in order to accomplish their goals force would have to be used. The Anarchists believed in organizing very small self-governing bodies and for a collective agreement to be made with all the parties. They did not believe in police or army and so their decisions would not be enforced, everything would be voluntary. The only problem with the Anarchist views is that not everybody followed the same set of ideals. Some organizers would become almost preachers and go around to villages preaching the error of their ways. One of the morals that the Anarchists did stick to is the use of force. There were many terrorist acts committed in these times and many of them attributable to the left-wing extremists.

The other social class that was part of the left-wing was the Socialists. This group contained the workers and they believed that all the factories, ship yards, mills and mines should be controlled by the people who worked in them. The Socialists believed in non violent means to get what they wanted and so used education and strike as their main tools. In the end they triumphed overall. When Alfonso fled the throne, this was the chance that the Leftists had been looking for. On April 14, 1931, the Spanish Republic was declared and the Anarchists and the Socialists signed a treaty to work together to abolish the Monarchy. Bound to not be overthrown the Socialists worked on the abolition of the government where the Anarchists continued assassinations of political leaders and strikes. On May 10, 1931, the right-wing Fascists grouped together and came up with an attempt to overthrow the new Socialist-Republican government. They set up a rally to gain support of the people for the Monarchy and in doing so attracted attention from the Anarchists. Anti church and anti monarchist groups rioted and burned down churches and newspaper offices in Madrid.

The new constitution for the Spanish republic was being drafted and this meant that the eventual extinction of the Catholic Church was imminent. This could not be done all in one fowl swoop and so it began with the withdrawal of Church-controlled education. This act further enraged the Fascists and they knew action was necessary. Yet this is only foreshadowing on what massacre was about to occur. On December 31, 1931, the new Anarchist government held a meeting on which the Fascists decided to break up. The Fascist Army consisting of half police and half national guardsmen (who were well trained) attempted to raid this meeting and the outcome was horrific. The Anarchists, prepared for the attack fell upon the Fascists and all of them were murdered.

November 13, 1933 another election was called. This election proved to be a Fascist victory gaining 207 seats, the Leftists gained only 99. This invoked a new Prime Minister Jose Sanjurjo and he reigned for the next three years. While Jose Sanjurjo was in power, he called upon General Franco of the Moroccan Army to aid him in protection against the Anarchist organizations. It wasn’t until the elections of 1936 that the people of Spain voted him out. This was a strong Socialist-Republican victory gaining 256 seats for the Leftists and 52 Republican seats. The Fascist Falange party gained 165 seats and this sparked much political debate and numerous assassinations, two of which began the Spanish Civil War. At nine o’clock on July 12, 1936 Lieutenant Jose Castillo of the Republican Security Police was shot and killed by four members of the Flange. This raised turmoil amongst the Leftists and retaliation was not too far away. Early morning on July 13, 1936 several men took Calvo Sotelo a Fascist leader and shot him twice in the back of the neck. The repercussions of these events were great, thus starting the Spanish Civil War.

Communism Good or Bad?

As the internal conflicts developed throughout the war, the two sides clashed numerous times. The Communist ideals had been growing and the Soviet Union was providing arms to the Anarchists and Socialists. On the other side Germany and Italy we pitching in arms and troops in support of the Fascist rule. Without being directly involved Germany was essentially fighting Russia.

Only some of the Leftists in this conflict supported the Communist rule where as others thought that Communism would betray the revolution. The Communist governing system put politics on a back burner and also tried to repress the worker’s movement, which in essence is what the Socialists were fighting for all along. Stalin did not care about the values of the Leftists this aid was more in benefit to himself then that of the Spanish people and so two roads emerged. The first road is the Communistic one. These sets of values established the government and gave protection against the Right-wing Fascists. Many Anarchists believed in this system because of its use of force. The only downfall to the government is that it violated almost everything the revolution stood for. It repressed the worker’s movement and in doing so tried to kill the Socialist cause. The second road is the revolutionary one. These sets of ideals were more in the way of the goals of the revolution. This road was mostly adapted by the Socialists because it used politics as its main weapon. This side also tried to gained support from neighbouring countries such as France and Britain.

So the question still stands, was Communism beneficial to the revolution or not? The only pro’s of the Soviet help was artillery and troops. In no way did the Communist government further the revolution and the values of them. They betrayed what the initial goals were which included no official governing system, collectivisation, and giving the land and factories to the workers. They put politics on a back burner, which was the Socialists weapon and they misled the Anarchists.

Was the overthrow of the Monarchy Beneficial or Not?

The Monarchy in Spain had been around ever since it had became a country and it had worked all those years, why a change now? This was not the question running through the minds of the Anarchists and the Socialists. They had lived in poverty long enough and the industrial revolution had greatly hurt the agriculture industry where most of the peasants had made their money.

The numerous amounts of values holding the social fabric together had been left to the dogs. Just 2% of the people owned 98% of the land and starvation was normal throughout the off season. The continuos government coverups of events had just enraged the people more and more until the Monarchy needed to be abolished. The benefits of the Monarchy were slim to nill and it seemed that the people were supporting the Anarchists more than the Aristocracy.

Was this war just a Microcosm of WWII?

In a sense yes, the Spanish Civil War was a microcosm of what was to follow. Just like in Spain the two political systems clashed and war broke out. With Hitler and Mussolini’s Fascist rule over the Aristocracy and Stalin reigning over the Socialists, it was like their little battle ground in which they could test military strategies.

In Conclusion the overthrow of the Monarchy was a good idea. Not having this governing system allowed people more freedom, less repression from the government and put the land in the hands of those that lived on them. The Communist support however was not constructive towards the revolution effort. It betrayed the revolution and didn’t bring the new government that the Socialists and Anarchists had wanted. The idea of Spain being the pre-war country is a pretty wise one. The war in Spain was just a smaller version of what was going to happen only months later. Whenever two superpowers at the time face off in a country as small as Spain it is only destined that they will have a conflict at one point or another.

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