To what extent did the Spanish Civil War represent a microcosm of the polarization of European politics between the Right and the Left?
The Spanish Civil War is the name given to the struggle between loyalist and nationalist Spain for dominance in which the nationalists won and suppressed the country for the following thirty nine years. However, because of the larger political climate that the Spanish Civil War occurred in, it is impossible to view the war as a phenomenon contained within one nation. Despite its obvious domestic orientation as a civil war it was a major international conflict. The reason for this, I would maintain, is the political dogma which surrounded the war. This essay takes the form of a political survey of the Spanish Civil War in which I will divide my time between the process whereby the war was engendered; the political polarisation of both Spain and Europe, and secondly; the war itself, the political motives of those people and governments who involved themselves in the war. I will also look briefly at the international spillovers of the war. The intention is to answer the question of the extent to which the Spanish Civil War represented a microcosm of European politics between the right and the left and the catastrophic outcomes of this polarization.
If we are to pay heed to contemporary reports of the war, especially those issued by the belligerents or those associated with them, we would come away with the conclusion that the Spanish Civil War mirrored exactly the larger European political scene. According to Franco "Our enterprise goes beyond national stakes and is converted into a crusade in which the fate of Europe is at stake" . The "crusade" as given rise to by the rebel insurgents would certainly have a significance which would expand beyond the Spanish peninsula. In a word, the Spanish civil war was beheld as a microcosm of a greater ideological struggle between fascism and democracy. It is quite understandable that contemporaries, whatever their sympathies, should have viewed the Spanish Civil War in such cosmic terms. I will now examine in some detail, first the European, and then, the Spanish context, into which the civil war was born to see why such a conclusion might be drawn.
In 1936, when Spain collapsed into its long and bloody civil war, the issues and underlying tensions in the European state system were becoming increasingly obvious and pressing. Long before the birth of the Spanish civil war, Europe, due to the `balance of power' arrangement held between the continents main power brokers, was in a state of diplomatic congeniality. Inefficient governments with no desire for reform reigned supreme under this system. However this period of political stagnation was blown asunder by the `Great War'. Following years of death and destruction and an apparent inability to recover fully, people began to question their governments and call for reform. These popular calls for reform gave birth to a...