The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939

Spanish civil war monument
Spanish civil war monument (Photo credit: pixelnaiad)

Just finished reading Anthony Beevor’s book The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 and it really is an eye opener. I’ve already read a couple of works on The Spanish Civil war such as Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, William Rust’s Britons in Spain, the History of the British Battalion of the XVth International Brigade and some references in Jack Jones’ autobiography Union Man. But nothing of the horror comes across in those references as it does in Beevor’s book. The Spanish Civil War really did nail down the adage that there’s nothing civil in a civil war.

So Beevor’s book tries to take an unbiased overview of the timeline of the awful events and I think he succeeds well. Neither the Republican or Nationalist forces and their respective backers come out well. Everyone is tarnished.

I’m not going to write a review but instead highlight some points which have stuck with me after finishing the book.

  • The British government, especially Eden, Chamberlain and Halifax come out badly. Paralysed by uncertainty and a lack of concern for human suffering.
  • Stalin’s support seems to start out with good intentions but soon falls apart as policy seems to become dictated by propaganda, communist hegemony, fear of the Nazis and paranoia about Trotskyist and Anarchist plots.
  • Italy input is coloured by Mussolini’s character and plays to the stereotypes of Italian warmaking – incompetence, more interested in the sins of the flesh and an inability not to bomb their own troops.
  • The rapidity and willingness of the Spanish to kill with abandon those from the opposing camp.
  • The usual capitalist manoeuvres from the USA in selling equipment to both sides.
  • The greed of Hermann Goering in selling weapons to both to the Nationalist and Republican forces.
  • How the Nazis used the Spanish country and people as a test bed for new weaponry and tactics.
  • The barbarism of the Moors who form part of the Army of Africa.
  • The awful behaviour of the Republicans towards the Catholic church.
  • The absolutely awful behaviour of the Catholic church towards those they viewed as ‘Reds’ – ‘1 month off purgatory for every Red killed’.
  • The usual profiteering of those directing the war, both Republican and Nationalist.
  • The plan by the Spanish Communist leadership to purge the Socialists, Trotskyists and Anarchists when the time is right.
  • The bigotry and racism of some of the International Brigades towards the Spanish – Kleberism.
  • The hatred of the Spanish Communist leadership, people such as Marty and Negrin towards others on the left who weren’t part of the Communist Party.
  • How Spain was forgotten and overshadowed by the events of Czechoslovakia in 1938.

It’s well worth a read.

Authored by Chris Hall

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