Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Tragedy of the Second Spanish Republic

As constant civil wars and political infighting over a disputed succession had crippled the Kingdom of Spain, in 1870 the Spanish government tried to start over fresh by importing the Italian Duke of Aosta to become King Amadeus I of Spain. However, none of the opposing factions reconciled and the result was a loss of faith in the very idea of monarchy itself. In 1873 King Amadeus I abdicated and happily went home to Italy while Spain established its First Republic. Fortunately, the First Spanish Republic was so inept and so badly received that it collapsed by its own incompetence very quickly and the monarchy was restored under King Alfonso XII. Unfortunately, however, the precedent for republican government had been set and would not be forgotten by those who were ideologically opposed to monarchy or who were simply disgusted with the endless struggle between the two feuding dynastic factions for the throne. Republicanism had become a possibility, it had happened once and many were determined to make it happen again. The fact that it had utterly failed made no impression on the ardent radical revolutionaries. If anything, they became even more extremist over time and were quick to take advantage of any opportunity to seize power. Their chance came in 1931 when King Alfonso XIII was forced into exile and the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed.

Manuel Azana
The first Prime Minister of the new republic was Manuel Azana, an atheist who immediately began trying to eradicate Christianity from Spain. Catholic schools were shut down, the Jesuits were expelled (again) and all religious symbols were removed from the public square. The communist bent of the new republic was also seen in how rapidly the government began nationalizing almost everything. Any moderate, liberal republicans were rapidly shown to be a small minority as the halls of power came to be dominated by an assortment of socialists, communists, anarchists and revolutionary syndicalists. Opposing the new regime was both monarchist factions, the Falange (a fascistic nationalist party) and the moderate traditionalists of CEDA (Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Right-Wing Groups). The initial villainy of the republic seemed to spark a conservative backlash when CEDA was voted into power in 1933 but they were soon discredited by an assortment of scandals and the leftists stepped up their methods to attain power by any means necessary. By 1936 they had prepared the way for electoral success and the hard-left Popular Front swept to power. Led by Largo Caballero, they effectively declared war on the history and cultural legacy of Spain. Any reminders of past glories (which were all tied to the monarchy or the Church) were destroyed, national traditions were forbidden, anything connected to the former monarchy was denounced and the Catholic Church came under the most intense attack.

Calvo Sotelo
All Church property was confiscated and the republican government was an active participant in the bloodbath that followed. Priests and nuns were persecuted, churches were desecrated, horrific acts were committed specifically to offend Catholic sensibilities, such as raping nuns, burning churches, the “execution” by firing squad of a Sacred Heart of Jesus statue, defiling corpses and the mass murder of priests were staged by the republican forces. In a matter of mere months the Spanish Republic had more people put to death than the allegedly harsh Spanish Inquisition had done in all the centuries it had operated. Of course, there were still faithful, loyal people in Spain but they were divided and often powerless. However, such atrocities as the increasingly Marxist and increasingly vicious republicans were carrying out caused a rising resentment among many in the Spanish army. When a traditionalist leader, Calvo Sotelo, was assassinated by republican police officers, it was the last straw. Those opposed to the republic, usually referred to under the blanket name of nationalists (as opposed to the communistic inter-nationalists of the republic) decided to take action. A military uprising was planned by General Emilio Mola and General Francisco Franco. General Mola died in a plane crash the following year and General Franco would become the leader of all the rebel nationalist forces.

General Francisco Franco
The republicans, in a frenzy of revolutionary hatred, massacred thousands of people in the first few months and would go on to butcher tens of thousands more over the course of the Spanish Civil War. Some have tried to portray such crimes as sporadic but they occurred in every republican controlled area but one and almost a quarter of all religious were wiped out before finding safety with the nationalist forces. For those counter-revolutionary rebel forces under Franco, no area was more supportive than Navarra which had long been a stronghold of the monarchists of the Carlist faction. When Franco asked for hundreds of fighting men, they gave thousands and every man would be needed as the nationalists lacked practically everything. Still, though fought on, with 100,000 Catholic monarchists who specifically referred to it as a Crusade against the enemies of Christ and the Church. That, by the way, was no propaganda slogan but a simple statement of fact. The republic had grown increasingly radical, increasingly anti-Catholic and ever more pro-communist. This worsened all the more with the outbreak of war during which time the republican authorities were forced to totally sell out to the Soviet Union to gain the funds and military support to hold on to their power. The Second Spanish Republic became, effectively, the first and only Soviet satellite state in Western Europe.

Franco & Mussolini
Of course, no one can talk about the Spanish Civil War without making mention of the foreign sources of support General Franco received, specifically from Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. However, many people have a totally incorrect view of this situation. In the first place, the support sent by Adolf Hitler was quite minimal. The air support was extremely helpful, undoubtedly, but by far the biggest source of assistance for Franco was Mussolini. The Italians were the first to help and Italy supplied hundreds of thousands of rifles, air transport, combat aircraft, naval support and altogether about 50,000 Italian military personnel served in Spain for the nationalists. It was also Mussolini who helped convince Hitler to lend a hand as well, it is not as though it was all the doing of General Franco. It was also not an alliance as is obvious by the fact that Franco refused to join his former benefactors in World War II. Franco was not a Fascist and he was not a National Socialist (though he had the Spanish equivalent in his coalition) as he is often portrayed. He was a conservative, military strongman in the old, Latin tradition. Also, his forces were not the only ones receiving help. The Soviet Union was the biggest benefactor of the republican government but while the liberal powers of America and Western Europe did not intervene officially, they sent huge amounts of support to the republican side as well. Mexico openly sided with the republic and of the major powers the French Republic came closest to intervention but finally agreed to non-intervention while still sending considerable assistance to the republicans covertly.

International Brigades
Socialists and communists from all over the world poured in to support the Spanish republic and their war against the entire cultural heritage of Spain. Radical leftists from Italy, Germany and Austria were among them and volunteers came from a multitude of countries. The largest numbers were supplied by the Soviet Union, the United States, Great Britain, Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Canada. The idea that Franco owed his success entirely to help from Hitler is entirely untrue. Most of his foreign assistance came from Italy and while the help he received was certainly very significant, the republican side was given far more and would not have been able to keep the war going as long as they did without being propped up by foreign money, foreign guns and many thousands of foreign soldiers. And, whereas Franco refused to surrender Spanish independence in foreign policy or any other area in return for assistance, the republican government completely sold out Spain and the Spanish people. To keep their grip on power they needed military advisors, tanks, planes, guns and technical support from the Soviet Union and the Soviets knew they could force the Spanish republicans to pay anything so they charged exorbitant prices for their assistance. The Spanish republic signed away no less than two-thirds of the entire Spanish gold reserve to the Soviet Union.

Colonel Moscardo, defender of Alcazar
Undoubtedly, the Spanish Civil War was a brutal affair and cruelty was meted out on both sides. However, while the nationalists targeted enemies, the republicans were often indiscriminate in their killing, targeting people who were no threat to them at all, had taken no action against them but who they believed were guilty of “wrong thinking”. Wherever the republican forces held sway the religious, the defenders of tradition and eventually any who were not hardcore leftists were persecuted and often butchered outright. Much is often made of the cruelty of the forces on the nationalist side while the barbaric acts of the republicans are often ignored. In the epic Siege of the Alcazar, for example, in Toledo, the republicans threatened to murder the son of the nationalist commander if he did not surrender. His son was later killed by the republicans but the Alcazar put up such an inspirational fight that Franco diverted forces from his drive on Madrid to relieve the siege. The republican atrocities were more often of a much more personal nature and more tortuous and disgusting that civilians killed in a bombing raid or captured soldiers shot by a firing squad. Republicans resorted to vicious mutilations, one group had a priest thrown into a bull ring to be gored to death, priests and nuns were killed if they did not renounce their vows, historic churches were burned to the ground all over the country and every conceivable act of sacrilege and desecration was committed.

Franco victory parade
Eventually, the nationalists were successful and on April 1, 1939 the last republican forces surrendered and Generalissimo Francisco Franco became the undisputed dictator of Spain. And as much as the republicans and the supporters of Franco hate each other, anyone inclined to sympathize with the republicans should note that there would have been no Franco without the republic. It was their overthrow of the monarchy, their divisive policies and their overreach and outright oppression that made it possible for a man like Franco to dominate Spain and, to the eyes of many, made a man like Franco necessary. The republicans detest and vilify Franco while never accepting any of the responsibility that they have for a man like him ever coming to power in the first place because, remember, the Spanish monarchy was overthrown in 1931 and the rebellion led by Franco did not begin until 1936. The whole war, the cleaning up that following and the dictatorship of Franco would not have happened if the republicans had not overthrown the monarchy in the first place and tried to create their own vision of a new Spain by force. When the monarchy was finally restored under King Juan Carlos I in 1975, he made sure that this would not happen again by having a constitutional structure that would allow both sides to make their cases to the public with a monarchy to make sure no one went beyond the law and attempted to use force to have their way; which he demonstrated by suppressing the attempted military coup in 1981.

nationalist crowd in Madrid
The most dangerous thing is thinking that none of these horrors could ever happen again. Already, the republicans in Spain today have shown that they have no loyalty to their country, which is a monarchy, or to the will of the people as the public still supports the monarchy. More frightening is the way that the Second Spanish Republic and the Civil War is remembered and anyone can see this for themselves. The crimes of the nationalist side are emphasized and denounced all the time but the atrocities of the republicans are seldom mentioned at all. Moreover, when they are mentioned, they are minimized and often even defended and justified. In other words, they don’t think the Second Republic did anything wrong and if it was okay then, it stands to reason that it would still be okay now. And before anyone says that the European and international community would never allow such things to happen today, all I can do is point to other areas of Christian persecution or specifically Catholic persecution in places as close as North Africa and the Middle East and even Europe itself which no one took any real action over.

republican mob in Madrid
The idea that anyone, absolutely anyone, in Spain today has any nostalgia to say nothing of support for the idea of a republic is extremely disturbing and displays a level of historical ignorance that is nothing short of dangerous. The First Spanish Republic was so incompetent that it collapsed before it could do much harm. However, it set a precedent and the Second Spanish Republic brought the country nothing but poverty, oppression and violence as well as fostering an extremism than provoked an extremist response. The restoration of the Kingdom of Spain gave the country a chance to settle its differences peacefully and to provide a framework of stability that would allow the country to prosper. If things have been less than ideal lately, the public would do well to look to the political leaders they elected to office rather than to the King who has stood guard over their constitution for all these years. The history of Spanish republicanism teaches us that a republic would be disastrous for Spain and that each successive republic has been worse than the one that preceded it, meaning that a Third Spanish Republic is an idea that should be too horrific to even contemplate.

12 comments:

  1. From the Wikipedia article on Col. Moscardó: 'On 23 July, Republican forces captured Moscardó's 16-year-old son, Luis. They called the Alcazar on the telephone and Moscardó himself picked up the receiver. The political officer of the Republican force informed him that unless he surrendered the Alcazar, Luis would be shot. Moscardó asked to speak to his son. He then told Luis, "Commend your soul to God and die like a patriot, shouting 'Long live Christ the King' and 'Long live Spain.'" "That," answered his son, "I can do." Although a legend has grown up that Luis was immediately shot, he was not in fact shot until a month later "in reprisal for an air raid".

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  2. I think it's important to remember that the monarchy was restored thanks to Franco. Franco is given no credit whatsoever even from the right in Spain.

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  3. The republicans on the last picture remind me of what recently happened here. The same faces, the same types. Just a few days ago there was a rally of communists or anarchists (I don't see a difference there, that's all the same scum to me) right outside my window. Their screaming, their behaviour (blocking the road, occupying public space), the hatred towards the young policemen and -women securing the streets was in a sense - nightmarish. Those people are opposed to everything I believe in and that is dear to me: the Church, the fatherland, the crown, tradition, family... Indees, a third republic in Spain is an "idea that should be too horrific to even contemplate". Of course we are not (yet again) in a situation like in Spain in 1931, but if the crisis continues, that could be the case sooner than many may expect - but this time on an European scale.

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    1. One could see the same mobs in London or New York City or Toronto, they are all a bunch of drones anyway, screaming that life isn't fair so that they may as well complain about the sky being blue. Another Spanish Republic could mean terrible violence, but possibly even worse would be that no one would care at all. Spain very nearly became Soviet Russia's Western European satellite state and if it had survived, all of Western Europe would have been outflanked and the Cold War a lost cause. If such a thing happened now, would there be a Franco to lead the resistance? Would there be even one Mussolini to help him win while everyone else backed the republicans? A third attempt could be much worse.

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    2. Wow, what a colourful troop of republican baboons. Oh, well ashes to ashes, dust to dust, an apparently monkeys to monkeys, so much for the images of God.

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  4. Republicans and self-styled progressives have short memories, and selective ones at that.

    I dislike Franco. I dislike his cosy relations with fascist states, I dislike his alliance with the anti-royalist Falangists, and I dislike his brutality and authoritarianism. But ultimately, Franco's victory indirectly led to the restoration of the monarchy and the return of democracy and freedom to Spain- a little too much democracy and freedom, I sometimes think looking at pictures like the last one in this blog post. Somehow I doubt a republican victory would have ended the same way. I'm glad the Civil War ended the way it did.

    By the way, I can't be the only one to notice the chap in the Guy Fawkes mask in the bottom picture. I wonder if he has any idea what Guy Fawkes actually stood for? I have no doubt Fawkes would have fought for the nationalists in the Civil War, and opposed any attempt to dethrone Spain's Catholic monarchy. But all people remember nowadays is that he wanted to blow up a King, which is somehow a good thing to the modern mind.

    What was I saying about selective memories?

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    1. I concur and did do a post on the Guy Fawkes silliness some time ago: http://madmonarchist.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-face-of-guy-fawkes.html

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  5. I would like to add the following. On Franco's side fought against the Spanish left volunteers from the White Russian military. They were Russian monarchists of the organization Russian Imperial Order. First, in the Spanish Army General Franco did not trust them: Think that "Russian = Bolshevik." But it was another Russian: who lost their homeland, and who hate the red! They were ready to fight against the communists in all countries on the planet.

    Russian captain Poluhin and Russian captain died Ivanoff under the banner of the Spanish monarchy for God and the King of Spain in 1939. The Russian Imperial Order of the feat is remembered today.

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  6. How ugly and hateful the first bloated portrait is.

    Isn't it the man who wanted everyone in school except monks and clergy?

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  7. If it weren't for the Civil War ending in a Franco victory which indirectly led to the transition to democracy under Juan Carlo's wing, Spain would've been a communistic mindfuck full of communist bullshit, and pretty much many Western European nations would end up as communistic mindfucks.

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