Jul 17, 2011

The Spanish Civil War

(LoC) The Spanish Civil War began on July 17, 1936 as a series of right-wing insurrections within the military, staged against the constitutional government of the five-year-old Second Spanish Republic. Because it was the first major military contest between left-wing forces and fascists, and attracted international involvement on both sides, the Spanish Civil War has sometimes been called the first chapter of World War II.
The rebels, or Nationalists as they came to be known, were backed by a spectrum of political and social conservatives including the Catholic Church, the fascist Falange Party, and those who wished to restore the Spanish monarchy. They received aid in the form of troops, tanks, and planes from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and Germany field-tested some of its most important artillery in Spain. With the rise of General Francisco Franco as leader of the Nationalist coalition, the threat of fascism's spread across Europe visibly deepened.
The Republicans were backed by Spanish labor unions and a range of anti-fascist political groups, from communists and anarchists to Catalonian separatists to centrist supporters of liberal democracy. The Republicans received aid from the Soviet Union and from Mexico, but their most likely European allies signed a joint agreement of nonintervention. The most visible international aid came in the form of volunteers. Estimates vary, but as many as 60,000 individuals from over fifty countries joined the International Brigades to fight for the cause of the Spanish Republic. Between two and three thousand of these volunteers were men and women from the United States—most served with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
The Spanish Civil War posed a major threat to international political equilibrium, and Americans watched closely the events of the conflict. The brutality of the situation also forced many Americans to question the United States' post-World War I noninterventionist policies. Between 500,000 and 1 million Spaniards, both soldiers and civilians, died from war or war-engendered disease and starvation, and thousands more became displaced refugees. Continued

Photo: Robert Capa