The Spanish Civil War, fought between 1936 and 1939, served as a dress rehearsal for the larger, global conflict that began five months after the bloody war in Spain ended.
The Popular Front government elected 16 February 1936 and headed by Prime Minister Manuel Azaña and promptly removed powerful army generals to distant outposts, including former Chief of Staff Francisco Franco y Bahamonde, banished to command of the Canary Islands garrison.
Franco and other disgruntled officers rose in revolt on 17 July. The fascist revolutionaries soon gained the support of fascist governments in Germany and Italy, while the democratic governments of Europe and North America remained neutral. That left the Soviet Union as the only major power supporting the Reublicans, though Mexico contributed cash.
And it also set the stage for a dress rehearsal for the greater war to come, with Spain used as a testing ground for tactics and weapons later deployed on a far grander basis. One such tactic was the first major aerial bombardment of a civilian population, the 26 April 1937 bombing of Guernica by planes from the Luftwaffe’s Legion Condor and Italy’s Aviazione Legionaria.
The attack on Guernica also served as inspiration for many artists, among them Pablo Picasso, his painting replicated here in ceramic in Guernica itself [via Wikipedia]. Click on the image to enlarge:
But the bulk of the war was on the ground, where a major role was played by volunteers from across the globe banded together as the International Brigades — including the famous Abraham Lincoln Brigade from the U.S.
The brigades fought and died in great numkbers, and were finally ordered out of the country in October, 1938, with the war ending in a victory for Franco’s Nationalists on 1 April 1939.
While Franco is gone and Spain is now a constitutional monarchy which has even had socialist governments, it took 72 years before a public monument rose in Spain to honor the Internationals.
The simple stele erected two years ago has been the target of hatred by a revived neofascist Right, but it took a court to order its elimination.
From The Guardian’s Giles Tremlett:
The monument to the volunteers from 53 countries, paid for by public subscription and placed in the gardens of the Complutense University, where many died defending Madrid and Spanish democracy against Franco’s rebels, has enraged some rightwingers.
A case brought by the lawyer Miguel García has now succeeded where political protest failed. Judges have decided the university broke planning laws and must remove the monument.
Topped by the brigades’ three-pointed star, the monument bears the words of Dolores Ibárruri, the communist firebrand better known as La Pasionaria: “You are history; you are legend; you are an heroic example of solidarity and of the universality of democracy.”
Read the rest.
So the monument to volunteers who fought for a democratically elected government during a global economic crisis is now banished, using the rubric of land use law. Meanwhile, the Spanish government during a similar period of economic crisis is giving billions to an American necon casino mogul to build a massive gambling resort — while being exempted from whole sections of Spanish law.