In 1936 General Franco led an armed uprising against the communist Spanish government, ending years of terror in the streets. The war was portrayed in the West as a struggle between the “dispossessed” on one side, and tyrannical Fascists on the other side who fought for no other reason than greed. The truth is very different.
|Spanish General Francisco Franco in Africa|
The Spanish Left
Between 1931 and the commencement of the civil war, more than one thousand Catholic Churches had been destroyed by communist parties and organizations. Numerous priceless works of art and historical monuments were torched and leveled, along with convents, hospitals and colleges. The communists in Spain were above all motivated by anti-Christian rhetoric, more so than anywhere else. The terror campaign was the usual tactic for pacifying a country before a communist takeover, used in places like Russia, Hungaria and later in Cuba. This campaign was aided by the approval of the socialist governments from 1931 to 1936. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) that came to power in 1931 declared that it had “successfully incorporated the revolution within the government.”
|Republican/communist war poster: “All the peoples of the world are in the International Brigades on the side of the Spanish people”|
In 1933 Spain was led by the Radical Republican Party, which was considered “centrist” in that it didn’t want an immediate overthrow of the monarchy. It became dependent on the votes of the large conservative party, the Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right (CEDA) in parliament. At this time Francisco Largo Caballero, the former socialist Minister of Labor Relations, began talking about a “socialist revolution” to overthrow the elected government. He became the leader of the communist faction in the PSOE, and also leader of the communists within the Workers’ General Union (UGT), where he was the chairman.
Both the PSOE and its closely allied labor union began marching in the streets with demands for revolution. Caballero spoke openly about a “socialist revolution” and making himself the “second Lenin” in a “union of Iberian Soviet republics.” This seemed to indicate a desire for control not only of Spain but also Portugal, the only other nation in the Iberian peninsula.
Caballero defended the party’s alliance with the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and the anarchist, Trotskyist trade union, CNT. All these groups together with other social-democratic and communist parties came to power through elections in 1936 in the Popular Front coalition, with Caballero as the prime minister.
At this time the government could often do little more than acknowledge the actions of radical forces. The communist parties and trade unions had first been welcomed by Caballero as muscle in the streets, but they now became an independent force.
The Spanish Right
The Right also had many factions, such as the Carlists, the Falange, the Monarchists, and followers of Francisco Franco, a general in the army who was not well-known at the start of the civil war. Nevertheless Franco was responsible for uniting much of the Right, without the purges and murders employed by the Left.
The Right’s ideal was one of normal, traditional Spanish life. What united the Right was an opposition to the Left’s plans for a new Soviet republic. Their modest political ideas can be seen in this part of a message to Spanish women:
In these grave moments for the country, your way of life cannot be that of frivolity, but austerity; your place is not in the theatres, the paseos, the cafés, but in the church and hearth. Your ornaments cannot be inspired by the dirty fashions of Jewish France, but the modesty and pudeur of Christian morality… your duty is not to procure for yourself an easy life, but to educate your children, sacrificing your pleasures and helping Spain.
In 1936 Francisco Franco was chief of staff of the military and also governor of the Canary Islands. Seeing the terror spread in Spain, not only supported but carried out by the government itself, he decided to act. He declared a revolt against the government which also won the support of the military in Spanish Morocco and various military units in Spain itself.
Seeking aid outside the country, Franco saw that Britain, France and the U.S. would never support any action against the communists. They had allowed the communists to take control of Russia, and had done nothing when the Jewish communist Bela Kun took power in Hungaria in 1919. Nor had they acted when the Soviet Union prepared to invade Romania together with Hungaria that same year. They seemed to tacitly support the communist terror and riots that were spreading throughout European countries in the post-war years.
Instead Franco turned to Italy and Germany for help, and he personally wrote a letter to Herman Göring, head of the German air defense, for military support. Both Italy and Germany approved his request and sent troops to Spain.
In 1936, tens of thousands of Catholics were being killed in Spain, buried in mass graves. The communists were especially anti-religion, and killed all priests, monks and nuns they could capture, as well as anyone with a connection to them. A total of 85,940 “reactionaries” and “fascists” were shot, burned, buried alive, pushed off cliffs, thrown down mineshafts, and murdered in other ways in Red Spain. 7,937 of these were Catholic clerics, including 283 nuns, many of whom were raped first.
Many were tortured to death slowly. The communists used the name “Cheka” for themselves, the same name as the security police in the Soviet Union (later the KGB) that sent more than sixty million Russians to die in the Gulag system. The communists welcomed the Spanish communists; both Lenin and Trotsky had predicted that Spain would be the next Soviet Republic.
This has been completely ignored by the media. Archbishop Romero of San Salvador was killed by “right-wing” gangsters in 1980 and it was published all across the West; but after thousands of clergy were slaughtered in Spain, Paramount Pictures made For Whom the Bell Tolls with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, glorifying the murderers. This is understandable when you know that Paramount Pictures is run by Jews, not Christians.
This didn't stop the Western Left from supporting the communists. 3,000 Americans, many of them members of the Communist Party USA or linked to it, formed the “Abraham Lincoln Brigade” and went to fight in Spain. These were praised by the media as fighting for democracy. The communist side was dubbed the “Loyalist” side in the press, a word with positive connotations.
While the media owners are silent about the tens of thousands executed by the communists, the bombing of Guernica in 1937 is always mentioned in connection to the Spanish Civil War. School textbooks and documentaries alike name it a terror bombing of a peaceful Basque village, killing innocent civilians. The pro-communist Pablo Picasso made a “modern art” painting of the event which is hailed as a great masterpiece.
The story is completely false. It was cabled out by the Comintern communists and picked up by their allies in Western and Soviet media, but the truth was buried. The Nationalist side, aided by the German military, did bomb Guernica, but it was because the town had an arms factory, a railroad yard, and it was a major crossroads for the Red troops. It was thereby a legitimate military target – far more legitimate than, for example, the Allied fire bombing of Dresden, a city of no military significance, toward the end of World War II. There were civilian casualties in the bombing, but most of the damage to civilian areas was done by dynamite and arson on the ground carried out by the communists before they evacuated. This was done so that the bombing of Guernica could be used for propaganda.
Howard Cardozo, a reporter from London’s Daily Mail, was with Franco’s troops at the time and visited Guernica, interviewing the residents. When he reported on the event, his story was stopped in London. It was never carried by any other newspaper. This was also documented in Spain: the Vital Years by Luis Bolin, and the National Review magazine devoted most of an issue in the 1960s to the hoax. Likewise, Herbert R. Southworth explored how the Guernica story had been falsified for propaganda purposes in his book Guernica! Guernica! Diplomacy, Propaganda and the Press, University of California Press, 1977.
The Comintern version, however, was published by the New York Times within days. It is worth noting that their man in Spain was none other than the journalist Herbert Matthews, the same man who twenty years later would report from Cuba about “thousands of dead” communist soldiers, and later about the glories of the communist dictatorship.
Interestingly, the communists not only massacred Catholics but also turned on each other. As George Orwell described in his book Homage to Catalonia, the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) was a Trotskyist party that opposed Stalinism and the Soviet Union. It eventually grew larger than the official Communist Party of Spain, PCE, which became strongly hostile toward the POUM due to its opposition to the Stalin-led Comintern, of which the Popular Front was a part. (The POUM took part in the Popular Front in order to win the 1936 election for the Left, but only reluctantly.) The POUM was soon attacked both by communist groups and by the government, as recounted by George Orwell:
At the Red Aid centre on the corner of the Plaza de Gataluna the police had amused themselves by smashing most of the windows. … Down at the bottom of the Ramblas, near the quay, I came upon a queer sight; a row of militiamen, still ragged and muddy from the front, sprawling exhaustedly on the chairs placed there for the bootblacks. I knew who they were--indeed, I recognized one of them. They were P.O.U.M. militiamen who had come down the line on the previous day to find that the P.O.U.M. had been suppressed, and had had to spend the night in the streets because their homes had been raided. Any P.O.U.M. militiaman who returned to Barcelona at this time had the choice of going straight into hiding or into jail--not a pleasant reception after three or four months in the line. … The streets were thronged by Civil Guards, Assault Guards, Carabineros, and ordinary police, besides God knows how many spies in plainclothes; still, they could not stop everyone who passed, and if you looked normal you might escape notice.
Beginning in 1937, communist government agents began murdering, arresting and torturing the POUM leadership. Such was the situation for other communists. The situation for those who opposed the communists was much worse.
The End of the War
In October 1936, Francisco Franco was appointed generalissimo of Nationalist Spain and head of state. The war nevertheless went on until 1939, with the Nationalists scoring increasing victories as the people abandoned the communists, who also fought among themselves. In February 1939 Franco’s government was recognized as legitimate by Britain and France, and recognition by America followed in August the same year.
Under Francisco Franco, rule of law was restored to Spain as the communist terror was ended. Spain would remain neutral during World War II, to a large degree because it lacked the military strength to take part and would no doubt have been invaded by Britain. The defeat of the Spanish communists had nevertheless prevented that the Mediterranean became dominated by the Soviet Union.
Franco’s rule was called “Fascist” by the Left, but it would be more accurate to describe it as authoritarian conservative. The truly Fascist part of the Right’s coalition, the Falange which fought in the civil war, was not brought to power by Franco.
Spain prospered and became one of the largest economies in Europe – certainly far larger than the Soviet economy, the GDP of which eventually ended up being lower than that of Belgium. In 1969, Franco named Prince Juan Carlos de Borbón, who was educated by him, as his successor, on condition that he preserve the Nationalist government. By 1973, Franco resigned from the post as prime minister and remained only as head of state and commander in chief of the military. He died in 1975. Juan Carlos the Borbón then became head of state and immediately broke his promise, handing over power to a democratic regime. The story about the civil war in Spanish history textbooks was changed to the version promoted by the Left outside Spain. In 2007, under pressure from the European Union, the Spanish government banned all public references to Francisco Franco’s government and removed all associated statues, street names, memorials and symbols.