Section 001

Department of History

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for


November 14, 2003

Spain is a country in Europe that experienced the horrific effects of a civil war. The war lasted for years, with thousands of lives lost and it took Spain decades to recover from the consequences of these events that took place during the middle of the 20th century. In the early 1930’s, a miniscule republic emerged in the country of Spain. At this time most of Europe was already a republic, but this was Spain’s first attempt at this. Spain had always been a monarchy since before medieval times. It was the last monarchy in a major European nation. In Spain the failure of the wars in Africa caused an uprising from the military followed by resistance from the Republic that wanted to crush any ambitions of the leader of Nationalists, General Franco whom wanted to seize power. In 1936, the Spanish Army, stationed in Morocco under the leadership of fascist General Francisco Franco, finally rebelled against the new republic. The nationalists/fascist powers had the support of Hitler and Mussolini, while Stalin supported the Republic cause. The Spanish Civil War set the stage for the biggest war humanity had ever have to face in World War II. By comparing the political situation during the war, the various reasons that led to it, and the political influence from outside political forces, we can see the devastation of this tragic war.

The end of the 19th century marked the first time Spain had suffered such a humiliating loss. A one time colony ruled by a king, the Spaniards saw most of its overseas land disappear. In the Spanish American War of 1898, Spain was forced to leave Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.[1] At that time it was unprecedented for Spain to lose a war to a former colony. This embarrassing defeat was the first sign of political instability in Spain exposing not only the military but also the political and governmental fragility.

Internal problems appeared as well in the beginning of the 20th century. Catalonian and Basque separatist movements challenged the domination of the Spanish government in Madrid[2]. The growing support of these two movements combined with the political instability and social disapproval of King Alfonso XIII’s actions, General Primo de Rivera seized power. Rivera had maintained a military dictatorship between 1923 and 1930 and focused on turning Spain around by having it catch up to the other European powerhouses of that era. However, he wasn’t successful and left office when he received notice that the garrisons were against him.[3] But most significant of Rivera’s tenure was that it paved way for a new type of government in Spain in which the general seemed to favour, which was a fascist military regime. Although the Second Spanish Republic was established in 1931 through a coalition between the socialists and republicans, the situation in Spain did not improve, this lead to the infamous coup d’etat of July 17, 1936 by the forces of General Francisco Franco (1892-1975). Even before that the Spanish countryside witnesses naked socialist conflict throughout the Republican era. Three main strands are essential in understanding the struggle of the Spanish Civil War: the general strike, the regional revolt in Catalonia, a northwest province of Spain, and the revolutionary commune in the Asturias. The general strike was a total failure; it was supposed to create an alliance between the left wing of the Socialists and the several small Marxist parties in Spain. However, it only represented the sheer failure of the working class leadership. In Catalonia the reaction took the form of a regional uprising against the central government. The Catalan government was threatened by the rise of the Fascist movement and on October 5 the Madrid government had declared a national emergency to deal with the general strike. However, the Catalan rising was suppressed with a minimum bloodshed. The truly grave events occurred in the northern mining province of Asturias. Socialists, Communists, anarchists and Trotskyites managed to unify against the threat of Fascism. On October 5 Asturian miners attacked several Civil Guards and thereafter marched to the main provincial capital of Oviedo where they were met by Moorish and Foreign Legions led by General Franco. The Asturian rising had