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The Spanish Civil War and the ideological myth

By Bruce Walker
web posted July 25, 2011

On July 17, 1936, seventy-five years ago, the Spanish Army of Africa led by Francisco Franco marched against the "Popular Front" government in Madrid and the Spanish Civil War began.  The left sees this as a classic conflict between socialism and fascism.  Wiser men, like Orwell, grasped from this war that what we call "left" is simply a gang of corrupt power-junkies.  Politically correct history portrays the conflict as a struggle between progressive democrats and right-wing military toadies of the Catholic Church:  that is false history. 

The Popular Front was not popular

In the 1936 the Popular Front lost the popular vote in general election by 4.91 million for the Nationalists to 4.36 million for the Popular Front – sleazy gerrymandering allowed this Popular Front minority to elect a tiny majority of the seats in the Cortes and overtly partisan election certification by Popular Front proceeded to pad this paper thin. [1]

Franco's left-wing movement

The war was not an ideological battle. 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'" [2] if Franco wins:  "Spain…will be in essence a Socialist State." [3] 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." [4] The Council on Foreign Relations in its 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." [5]

Hamilton further 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" [6] and "Many extreme Leftists in fact had joined the Phalanx." [7] Cardozo wrote in his 1937 book, The March of a Nation:  "There are Falangists…little different from the Socialists they have been fighting" [8] and quotes Franco:  "I want Labour to be protected in every way against the abuses of Capitalism."

An irreligious war

Was this a religious war?  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 it position before they could make a true fascist state" [9] 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." [10] Hamilton notes that Franco established a Youth Front intended to replace Catholic youth organizations. [11]

Not a war between Soviets and Nazis

Was a contest between Fascists and Nazis and the left? It was, in fact, sometimes a battle 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. [12] 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." [13] 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. [14]

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 rather than the pro-Fascist wing of the Falange, [15] 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. [16]

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." [17]

As many others, including Orwell noted, the Soviets purged ruthlessly the "left" in Spain during the war.  Beyond that, the Soviets sometimes helped Franco's side.  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" [18] 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. [19]

Aftermath of the war

Leftists also often portray the Spanish Civil War's result, a Francoist dictatorship of three decades, as a disaster.  In fact, the defeat of Franco would have been a disaster.  If Spain had entered the Second World War in 1940, or if it had allowed German forces transit to seize Gibraltar, then the Axis probably would have won in North Africa, West Asia, and down the coast of East Africa.  Hitler never could have conquered the world, but he could have driven Britain to peace and preserved Nazi power on Europe for decades.

Franco, ironically, was the only person who could tell Hitler to stay out of Spain, and he did.  A Bolshevik government in Spain, after the defeat of France and during the alliance of Stalin and Hitler, would absolutely have allowed German troops transit – as the Soviets offered every conceivable practical help to Hitler from carrying Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda to America to providing detailed intelligence reports to Berlin during the Battle of Britain. 

The Spanish Civil War is enigmatic, except for those who understand that "ideology," as the left has conned us into thinking about such things, is something more than brass knuckles power politics – which describes the Spanish Civil War perfectly. ESR


[1] The March of a Nation, p. 1.
[2] The Spanish Arena, p. 61.
[3] Ibid, p. 498.
[4] Britain and the Dictators, p. 379-381.
[5] Appeasement's Child, p. 60, footnote 1.
[6] Ibid, pp. 62 -63.
[7] Ibid, p. 51.
[8] The March of a Nation, p. 307.
[9] Appeasement's Child, p. 97.
[10] Ibid, p. 97.
[11] Ibid
[12] Germany Rampant, p. 159.
[13] Shadow of the Swastika, p. 205.
[14] What Has Happened to Europe, pp. 250 – 254.
[15] The Revolution is On!, p. 217.
[16] Ibid, pp. 204 – 206.
[17] Appeasement's Child, p. 21.
[18] The Red Decade, p. 276.
[19] Ibid, p. 273.

Bruce Walker is the author of a new book Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life.

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