Today, Sunday, I visited several pages I happened to find on Facebook. They were extremely religious, in a way that made me distinctly uncomfortable. To these people, anything good that happened to them was “God’s will” – and anything bad was “The Liberals”. Pro choice, Obama, women’s rights, and of course – anyone who was “different” were Evil. It was like seeing the world through glasses that only showed black and white. And it reminded me of the way the Spanish Civil War started. It also reminded me of the way there is a polarization happening right now. Most of it is economics, but people are using religion as an excuse for everything up to and including murder – just as Franco used religion as an excuse to invade Spain. It worried me, because it united three fascist governments: Italy, Germany and Spain. It created a deeply divided society, as the leftist swung even further left to combat the extremists on the right. Even as WWII was won, the fascist rule of Franco endured.I can only imagine the state of Europe now if WWII had been lost by the allies, and Fanco’s fascism spread to the rest of Europe. We would be living in totalitarian, military, extreme right led dictatorship. There would be no elections. There would be only one state religion. There would be no minorities, or else they would be living as slaves. The ruling elite would eventually morph into a sort of monarchy. Ordinary people would be expected to join the military or the church. There would be no social advantages, such as free education, healthcare, parks or museums, unless they were run by the State, i.e., religious or military schools, war museums, etc. If you read The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, you could get an idea of a totaltarian state seen from a woman’s point of view.
There is much similarity between an extremist right and an extremist left society. Both are under a sort of military, monarchy rule. Both have done away with basic rights. While under the far left you are treated like a laying hen – put in a box and given food and water; but nothing you produce belongs to you. Under the far right, you are ordered how and when you can lay your eggs. Neither society has any room for creative thinkers or protesters. In the US, the hard right movement has found its leader in the likes of Trump – a scary thought. According to Political Research: “The broader right-wing movement […] can be seen in the Right’s backlash against the movement for Black lives matter and advances in LGBTQ rights, as well as in the attacks, both in legislatures and on the ground, against Planned Parenthood. This reality continues to stack up the corpses of everyday people, gives support to the ramping up of government repression, and fosters and deepens systems of oppression and exploitation.”
THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR: A BRIEF HISTORY
On 17 July 1936 General Francisco Franco launched a military uprising against the Republican government elected that spring. Mobilising troops from Spanish Morocco – the so-called Army of Africa – the Nationalist forces quickly took control of Seville and other areas in the south. The plotters claimed to be acting in defence of traditional Catholic Spain and to restore order to the country. Their treatment of the opposition was brutal.
REPUBLICAN MILITIAS MOBILISE
Civilians join militias and prepare to fight to defend the Republic. In Barcelona, anarchist workers put down the Nationalist insurgency and launch a social revolution of their own. Factories are collectivised, and in some parts of Catalonia money is abolished. The Ritz hotel in Barcelona is renamed Hotel Gastronómico No 1 and serves as a workers’ canteen. A short-lived euphoria sweeps the left as the belief takes hold that Franco’s uprising could be the catalyst for a socialist revolution. In Madrid, the Republican government, which hopes to build a popular front including moderates and liberals to combat the Nationalist threat, will become increasingly concerned at the growing radicalism. (From both sides)
GEORGE ORWELL JOINS UP
On Boxing Day 1936, the writer arrives in Barcelona and joins up with the Poum, a revolutionary socialist party. Orwell goes to the Zaragoza front to fight and will subsequently write the classic war memoir Homage to Catalonia about his experiences. In May 1937, as tensions mount between communist, socialist and anarchist forces behind the Republican lines, Orwell becomes involved in street battles in Barcelona. His experiences will inform his indictment of Stalinism in the book Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Bombed in April 1937, the fate of the ancient Basque town of Guernica was to become a symbol of the devastation caused by war. Raids by aircraft from Nazi Germany and fascist Italy constituted one of the first systematic aerial bombing campaigns to be conducted against civilians. In January that year, the Republican government had commissioned Pablo Picasso to create a mural for the World’s Fair. After the bombings, that mural became the one depicting the horror and suffering of the town. The artwork remains the most famous ever produced on the subject of war. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died during the civil war as a result of bombings and executions. There is now a museum dedicated to peace in Guernica.
BATTLE FOR MADRID
The Spanish capital endured what amounted to a two-and-a-half-year siege during the civil war. After invading from the south in the summer of 1936, Franco’s forces, assisted by German and Italian air power, came close to taking Madrid towards the end of the year. A heroic resistance saw the Nationalist forces beaten back. But the government eventually decamped first to Valencia, then to Barcelona. By the winter of 1938 Madrid was freezing, starving, and more or less out of arms and ammunition.
On 26 March 1939 Franco ordered his troops to advance on Madrid after fighting there between Republican factions. Two days later the city had fallen. Thousands of its defenders were executed.
For hundreds of thousands of Spaniards, Franco’s victory meant exile. As the Nationalist forces advanced through Catalonia, a steady flow of refugees headed to France. In the winter of 1939 more than 450,000 are estimated to have crossed the border. Some Republicans went on to fight for the French Resistance against the Nazis. The refugees hoped to be welcomed by the French, but they were treated with suspicion and hostility.
From the end of the civil war in 1939 to his death in 1975, Franco ruled Spain. His regime, particularly in the early years, was cruel, repressive and vengeful towards the defeated enemy. Near Madrid a huge monument to the Nationalist dead, the Valley of the Fallen, was erected. Meanwhile the executions of Republican sympathisers continued well into the 1950s, and thousands languished in prison for years.
Eighty years on, Spain may at last be able to confront the ghosts of civil war. The Guardian. May 29, 2016
US Hard right being bolstered by the Mainstream. Political Research Org. December 2015.