Spanish Anarchist Pistols: the RE and Ascaso at RIA

When the Spanish Civil War erupted, the Nationalist/Fascist forces quickly captured all the major arms production factories in the country. This left the Republican forces dependent on arms importation and the creation of new factories. The two major efforts to make weapons in Republican-controlled areas resulted in the Ascaso (named after an Anarchist martyr) and RE, both copies of the Astra 400. Both of these pistols are in the same lot at RIA, which would make for a great start to a Spanish Civil War collection…


  1. The Spanish Civil War gets a bit of attention, but its prototype is generally unknown. That was the socialist takeover in Portugal in 1916-17, which resulted in much the same situation as in Spain. The clergy was “suppressed”, and anyone who dared to criticize the new order was apt to end up in jail without charges. Or just dead.

    As for why the Republican forces lost, their leadership was for the most part guys like Ascano. That is, “professional anarchists”, who made a fetish of wearing berets, having goatees, and always having a cigarette hanging off their lips. They could spout revolutionary rhetoric at the drop of a hat, but few had any real knowledge of strategy or tactics.

    I’m not surprised that they thought 23,000 Astra 400 copies were important to have, as one of their favored “tactics” was assassination. Of anyone they saw as an “authority figure”. They spent a lot of the war murdering local officials and, yes, Catholic priests, to intimidate the locals into supporting them. Mostly, it just made the locals mad enough to support the Nationalists.

    IMHO, instead of producing 23,000 Astra clones in two factories, they’d have been better off producing SMGs. But of course at the time, I don’t think there was an army on Earth that realized how useful a “subgun” was in modern mechanized warfare. You can find an excellent discussion of the subject here;

    The rather “Viva la Revolucion’!” mindset of the Republican forces is well illustrated by the fact that they spent a great deal of their (scarce) resources on building “propaganda trucks”. These were panel delivery vans equipped with loudspeakers and record players. They would drive them to a FLOT and use them to play revolutionary songs and speeches at the Nationalists for morale effect.

    The Nationalists tended to target them with artillery and blow them to bits. Mainly because they hated the music.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the vast majority of the Spanish military and police sided with Franco right from the start. Not because he was “one of their own”, but because he didn’t look or act like a refugee from a coffee house on the Left Bank of the Seine.



    • Sorry but you are giving a very narrow view of the ”Republican” so called faction of the Spanish Civil War.
      Your description are not even acurate for the anarchists bands of 1936. The problem is that Franco secured totally the Nationalist faction under is command in a few months (with some strange air accidents) with great help from nazi Germany and fascist Italy.
      In the Republican part that was almost impossible…there were a Republican Government that have the nominal authority of the armed forces (although in reality only about those organized directly by Rep. authorities) that slowly became ”sovietized” in part and so gained the alliance of the communists (and the International Brigades), but that was never a 100% thing and many were not happy to be allies of Moscow. That was just a case of desesperation in many cases as they view that the U-K and France have take a neutrality mindset about them.
      Then you have a lot of ”private armies”: syndicates militias, Trotskysts milicias, Basque nationalist troops, nationalists milicia from Cataluña, anarchists bands and many of them have even fights with each other in some ocasions ! That was a total mess, especially in the northen front were basques, catalans, anarchist, trotskyst and the regular army have to fight together…in theory.
      In fact the Spanish Republican Army have some very good high ranking officers, like this man:

      And that the same anarchy was in place for armaments and supplies production, the vast majority was supplied by foreign powers and private weapons dealers (almost always obsolete junk). The Soviet Union by far was the number one, altough France did send some things and czechoslovakian small arms were extremely high regarded. The price was very high, all the pre-war Spanish gold reserves wich were among the highest in the world. Some local production was also in place, like the ”naranjeros” a copy of the MP-18/28 submachine guns made in Valencia, maybe in the same place as the RE Astra 400 copies.

      • so you like Nazis? Franco terrorized Soain even far longer, yes to kommis failed…but read:whom the bell calls, even if Hemmingway is nowadays fallen out of love since it was made public that he shot “krauts”ito the back…yes, but that happens in war and my grandfather was a Nazi‍♀️and those people and thinking is still very common where i live in Europe,…so those republicans are no good people! intolerant and killers, torturing Lgbts to death‍♀️and yes, i.m an Lgbt and we still fight against every day discrimination here…no reason to call Spanish Kommunists a pack or whatever…the living conditions were horrible in Europe back then‍♀️and honestly, it becomes similar today and the US already reached the state where it mixes strangely that national proud and social thinking is combined to fight poverty, which Republicans strangely always peoduce‍♀️look to Latin America.., …
        the f”ct is that the Nazis, except in Spain, lost the war…Spain was under this strange Franco regime , and people simply wanted to live freely and with more than low wages and poverty…kommunist was a fight against capitalism, and you might see nowadays what capitalism made of the world, esp. the USA

    • Propaganda was about the only thing they had to offer. They couldn’t even provide for the feeding of the people.

      Hard to get popular support when those in power want you to starve to death and your children to burn in hell.

      It was a long time ago and Franco saved the people of Spain.

      I think it best that I don’t consider buying these pistols. It would just get me worked up.

      • So no Spaniard went hungry before the Second Republic? Is that it? Or after?

        It was a long time ago. Spain then was one of Europe’s poorest nations.
        Franco invited German Luftwaffe pilots to bomb the civilian population of his own country, and used North Africans to root out subversives in over-run villages and had many scores of people shot,and used republican prisoners as slave labor to build his tomb near the Escorial, but he slept next to the hand of St. Teresa of Ávila and styled himself a good Catholic saving Spain so he gets a pass. Do I have that right?

        What other dictators “saved people” Hmm?

        • Excellent exchange of views and I am thankful for your views as much as your opponents – very learning indeed. While I do not have a particular inclination one way or the other, I do appreciate your tremendous knowledge of the subject.

          Some of views perhaps contrary to yours such as that “Franco put country back into order” resonate in views of others and I heard such in one instance from a Spaniard I worked with. There is no way for outsider to be a judge in this matter (just as in case such as Northern Ireland). Just a careful observer, maybe.

          As I can see, while watching social-economic development in contemporary Spain the effect of result od the Spanish civil war to the extent that they are reluctant to resort to violence again – even as it appears to be that there is little prospect for decent future for many people living there.

          As always, I value highly patience of webmaster for facilitating this unique exchange.

        • I fully understand your ironic question, Dave. Spain went very hungry in years of the so-called (by Spanish historians, mainly) ‘primer franquismo’, well into the 1940s. Famine and malnutrion were only worsened during the ‘nacionalsindicalista’ period due to ill-advised autarky which lasted until 1959 (!), when the regime allowed open external trade.

          In what regards North African soldiers, they were used as shock troops and not just to root out subversives in over-run villages and towns (they earned their evil reputation in the later role during the rebel push through Extremadura in the summer of 1936, led by col. Juan Yagüe and gen. José Varela). The attocities committed by those troopd against civilians are among the darkest ever on Spanish home soil in modern times.

          The Portuguese army sent an observers’ mission that stayed in Spain right to the very end of the war. Some of its members actually participated in the fighting embedded in several Nationalist units, especially techncial ones (the learnings thus gained were later passed on to Lisbon) while others kept themselves busy taking photos and writing scores of secret memos. Several officers noticed the attrocities done by the Moroccan regulares and when they reported back to their bosses and to Salazar himself (who also doubled as War Minister), they adamantly advertised against the use of colonial troops in a European scenario, especially if on home soil.

          Franco’s Italian allies were also appalled by the barbaric conduct of his North African troops and the permissive attitude of the European (Spanish) NCO who led the Moroccan (regulares) units, who usually left the soldiers to their own devices on ‘conquered’ land, allowing them to roam free, pillaging and terrorising the local populace. It is indeed grimly ironic that the “Catholic re-conquest of Spain” relied upon tens of thousands of Muslim warriors who basically behaved like their medieval forebears… Such behavior was condoned from the top by the Nationalist leadership, who used the regulares as an effective terror weapon, capable of instilling profound fear into the hearts of their opponents (mostly among civilians). As a result, since very early in the war no Moroccan mercenary could expect mercy when captured alive by Republican troops, EP or militias alike (if caught by civilians, the treament could be even worse).

        • exactly…Franco was a criminal for nowadays standards…but basically the US oversteps this line in foreign territory for decades now permanently…and bombing the own population, leaving women alone in open spaces in Europe without the right to carry guns‍♀️expensive costs nowadays and people inEurope or the US can hardly pay for heating, bcs only 20% earn more than average‍♀️
          people just stick to a certain side and point of view not reflecting about the truth‍♀️without poverty kommunist never would have had a chance…that it deteriorated into Stalinism and was corrupted from the start made the idea not bad…but the fact that Kommunism was hirn by a Yewish/German unemployed lawyer who went from north east Germany( nowadays Poland) to London to sell books with weird ideas that messed up with our world for over 100 yrs is the really awful thing..similar to the Bible….nothing but harm! ‍♀️all those weird ideas that lead to ww2 came from a culture where drugs and new inventions were everywhere, no laws against anything bcs no one knew about it…‍♀️not enough at least in the law makers / monarchie.s ranks‍♀️i just know that Nazis are stupid uneducated people that always wnat to be in the right…my family are such assholes and i left them all for good long ago…once i realized the truth i chnaged! ‍♀️idiots, blood and soil, nationalism and nothing but despotism…in the right even when wrong, brutal and whiny at the same time, egoistic psychos…but nowadays we have them everywhere in all colors, bcs after ww2 those families slip under whatever party.s color was,s awful amd not really changing, just that the young don,t even know why they do what they do, just glorify their grannies! it.s like the church, always making trouble in the name of some good cause

    • Besides from what Roberto already wrote, I would like to add a few bits, in order to clarify some things:

      Sorry eon, but there was no ‘socialist takeover’ in Portugal in 1916-1917; the Portuguese 1st Republic (admittedly bourgeois) governments, despite the internal strife between conflicting factions, freemasons, the Catholic church and a myriad other groups, were strongly committed to keep their colonial empire at all costs, to the point of dispatching an hastily prepared expeditionary force (the CEP, Corpo Expedicionário Português) to fight alongside the Entente in Flanders against Germany (Portuguese colonial forces were already fighting Germany in Africa since 1914). You might not know, but one of the leading Portuguese politicians of the Great War era, Afonso Costa, who was later described by Estado Novo propaganda as a kind of early bolshie, when in office was known as ‘racha sindicalistas’ (which can be roughly translated as ‘the scourge of unionists’) due to its stance against strikes and everything that could hamper the economy and war effort (and private property, it must be added). Yes, he was also prone to anti-clerical fits but with many nuances, tinged by pragmatism and political opportunism. And if you think the clergy was “suppressed”, you should enlighten yourself and read Professor Luís Salgado de Matos scholarly book on the subject, A Sepração do Estado e da Igreja: concórdia e conflito entre a Primeira República e o Catolicismo (Lisbon, 2011). The key note is a conflicting maze of interests, in which Portuguese Catholics disobeyed their own bishops and Portuguese bishops disobeyed the Pope, while Portuguese Catholicism distanced and strengthened itself vis-à-vis successive administrations in Lisbon and the Papacy. Even Afonso Costa was somehow “converted” and became a savior of sorts of the country’s “national” church. On the other hand, the traditionalists and Centro Católico, the single most powerful Catholic civilian organization, even allied themselves with the Republicans to avoid the return of the monarchy in its liberal-oligarchic, late 19th century guise. Hardly the scenery of a ‘socialist takeover’ imho.

      “That is, “professional anarchists”, who made a fetish of wearing berets, having goatees, and always having a cigarette hanging off their lips”.

      This is actually amusing. I cannot recall a single Spanish anarchist leader from the SCW who had a goatee or beard; everyone followed the mainstream fashion of the day: no beards, clean shaven with a few (Francisco Ascaso being one) even using pomade. Even the dreaded Buenaventura Durruti went clean shaved. Actually, beards were not fashionable in 1930s Spain. I can only remember two relevant players from the SCW who actually wore one: Nationalist general Miguel Cabanellas (who had the looks of a Greek philosopher or a biblical patriarch) and Valentín González aka “El Campesino”, who had a bona fide goatee, a bit like Italo Balbo. Almost every young to middle aged men either wore moustaches or nothing. Beards were just old-fashioned and the appendage of old age.

      As for berets, yes, even though Anarchists preferred a proprietary red and black sidecap (with a diagonal division between colors) patterned after the classic Spanish Army version (minus the tassel), usually worn together with a blue denim overall (which was also used by some Falangist militiamen, mind you).
      The beret was a widespread headgear among troops and irregulars on both sides and as such it was quickly adopted by several International Brigades (eg. the Garibaldi, formed by Italians exiles), by the Italian Fiamme Nere black skirt 2nd Division (part of the Corpo Truppe Voluntarie, the large expedicionary force sent by Mussolini to fight alongside the rebels) and even by panzergruppe Drohne, the small land Legion Condor contingent led by Wilhelm von Thoma…

  2. Um. No. This is unfair, and inaccurate, hence incorrect.
    Anti-clericalism has a long history in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France given the historic power in those nations of the Catholic Church. We can examine anti-clericalism and ultramontaine Catholicism in Iberia without nodding to the emergence of the Sálazar corporatist “Estado Novo” since there were other civil wars in the history of Spain, no?

    The leaders of the República española were most assuredly not guys like Francisco Ascaso, who came from a radical syndicalist and anarchist political tradition in Spain. The leaders were PSOE Socialists, and ultimately, rather many PCE communists. The Soviets provided weapons and “advisers” to the RE at exorbitant prices, and with political strings attached, namely, communist domination of the “Ejército Popular.” The rightist camp of Nationalists under Francisco Franco was composed of ultra-Catholics (who had no qualms about the summary execution of Basque-nationalists who were equally fanatical in their devotions, for the most part), monarchists, traditionalists, various parties such as CEDA, and the small Falange Española Mussolini-style fascist party that swiped “red and black” from the anarcho-sydnicalist CNT and anarchist/vanguardist FAI Iberian anarchists. Why the “blue shirt?” Because the coveralls of the Spanish “mono azul” worker were blue, that is why… In search of a so-called “mass base.” But I digress.

    The point is that the right in Spain was united in several precepts, including general agreement on repressing labor and authoritarian rule. Meanwhile, the left within the Republic was riven with salient disagreements that ultimately led to a sectarian “civil war within the civil war”–the so-called “May Days” of 1937, when the Socialists and Communists united in repressing the “ultra left” anarchist, left-Marxist, etc. groups. This series of tragedies was memorably penned by George Orwell in “Homenaje a Catalunya/ Homage to Catalonia.” More people died in Barcelona, for example, than in the initial street-fighting of July 1936 that cost Francisco Ascaso his life, storming the army garrison buildings.

    In the history of Spanish/Iberian anarchism and union politics, there was indeed ample assassination and terrorism to be sure. The term used was “pistolerismo” in which thugs hired by employers–erm, “specialists in labor relations” slugged it out bullet for bullet with working-class toughs and thugs from impoverished, squalid districts… Spain was highly polarized and headed for civil war, after all.

    It was in Asturias, where the penchant for sectarian, fratricidal strife was less pronounced where guerrilla/underground resistance to the Franco “Spanish State” was longest.

    As for the fate of the Republic, one must discern the differences between the various party and organizations’ impromptu militias–which did not have much military training to speak of let alone sufficient weapons and supplies–and the “professionaL armed rabble of the official “Ejército Popular de la RE”. These initial militias were the polyglot “armed mob” that stopped Franco and the professional officers who were disloyal to the republic from seizing power, and turned the conflict into a civil war rather than a messy and bloody coup d’etat/golpe de estado. Franco understood full well that there would be enormous opposition to the putsch, and planned accordingly, consciously employing terror to cow and overcome resistance.

    While you may find it puzzling not to produce submachine guns (and, in fact, several kinds, the MP28.II knock-off “Naranjero” ancestor of the Brit Lanchester, the “Labora” and a few other designs were created… In fact, in 1940 the Spanish 9mm copies were most-numerous submachine guns in the French army, taken from defeated Republicans refugeed in France…), the real mystery is why a guerrilla strategy was not employed against the Nationalists. “Guerrilla” is, after all, a Spanish term for a very Spanish “way of war.” Part of the answer, by no means all of it of course, lies in the proclivity of the Spanish republican government and its communist armed forces and internal security organs to attempt to maintain some kind of centralized control over a fractious, disputatious, and very divided citizenry.

    There are literally nationalist versions of Republican songs. So how much did they really hate the music? Destroying a propaganda source is a no brainer. Ever heard of nationalist General Gonzálo, marqués de Queipo de Llano’s radio broadcasts? Hmm?

    I am unaware of any party leader of the time who sported a beret–a Basque traditional headgear, mind you–and a goatee. Most I’ve seen were clean shaven. As for the pro-nationalist Carlist requetés, their traditional costume included a red beret with a gold tassel, worn even under the M1926 steel helmet in service. Francisco Franco added it to the Falangist uniform, much to their distress. Even today there are images available of Franco posed as the leader of the Falange/JONS wearing, you-guessed-it, a scarlet beret with a gold tassel.

    • The guerrila way would have put the Republican government has the ”bandits” and would have made the situation even more chaotic for the Spanish Republic. Some ”maquis” resisted and attacked from France until the 50’s but that was too little too late with no support from anyone. Einsenhower was too happy to have Spain in the ”anti-communist” bandwagon and even pay a State visit to Franco in the 50’s to made that alliance and have some permanent bases in key points. In return Spain will be put out of his diplomatic isolation and have access to US made weapons for the ultra obsolete army of the early 50’s, as for exemple, local versions of the Me.109 were still used until the 60’s as the good old spanish mauser.

      • Roberto, the Spanish air force under Franco was probably the last in the world to fly the Polikarpov I-16 “Chato!”

        • The Ejército del Aire was also (surely) the last air force in the world to fly the Henschel Hs 123 dive bomber biplane! And also the last to use the Heinkel He 111 (though a local licence-made version powered by R.R. Merlin engines, the CASA 2111 H-16L) in combat during the Ifni war in 1957/1958!

          • And thank Almighty for that – The Battle Of Britain movie would never be done without Spanish Merlin-engine Bf 109s and He-111.

    • .38 Super is a bit complicated as you can read here:
      To put it short: .38 Auto was loaded hot, soon it was considered too hot for Colt Model 1900, so the powder charge was reduced, when .38 version of Colt Government was developed this cartridge might be again load with full powder charge, later this cartridge get “.38 Super” name (derived from fire-arm it was intended for) to avoid confusion with mild version

  3. So far as I’m concerned, the Spanish Civil War was a political bar fight gone bad where none of the combatants actually seemed to know or care what the ordinary people wanted. Or if I’m wrong, none of the concerns of the Spanish people were ever addressed appropriately… And then veterans from this war had good advice for their armies that got ignored quite a bit for the most part… Or am I wrong?

    • Indeed. After the initials months it was totally pointless to hope something good, from the common man pespective, or to think about wich was the better faction for him and his family, the real losers of the war were the spanish citizen, with Franco 40+ of dictature including 20 years of harsh after-war period, with the Republic, after 1936, a semi-sovietized maybe even stalinist regime.
      The spanish republicans that made it to France after the defeat were badly treated as they have the reputation to be all hardcore comunist as the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement proved to be fatal to the french communist party, it was illegalized (and some of his sympathizer sabotaged the french war effort).
      Some republicans made it in the Foreign Legion but many were used in labor units, until the french defeat. Many choose to fight with the french maquis and resistance groups during the ocupation.
      The Italians deployed a lot of troops and spent a lot of ressources in the SCW for…nothing really and didn’t get the Balearic Islands as a naval base, and they learn nothing,in fact Franco totally ignored Mussolini after 1940.
      I read somme accounts that british SWC veterans, of the international brigades, who wanted to offer their expertise to the British Home Guard, in 1940, were seen with suspicion or even rebuffed.
      Only the germans seems to have learn something about the SCW although their tactics proved short lived and no fitted to gain stategic goals after the two initials years when their ennemies have finnaly the time to organize themselves. They did get some rare elements (wolfram, know as tungsten nowadays) from Franco for their war industry.

      • The problem with the “combatants” not knowing or caring “what the ordinary people wanted” is complicated because a lot of people wanted very different things. At least in a representative system, there is the possibility of votes mattering, yes? The Second Spanish Republic see-sawed between right and left. The Great Depression was particularly unkind to Spain. Did the Spanish Civil War actually start with a militant general strike by miners in Asturias, repressed by the Army of Africa with Francisco Franco as leader? Perhaps so. It convinced Franco that working-class resistance would be stubborn. It convinced the ultra-left (I am here including the Iberian anarchist movement and many trade union militants) to vote for the left so the prisoners from the broken strike could be freed.

        The actual trigger was the murder of Calvo Sotello, a prominent right-wing politician, at the hands of pro-republic “Assault Guards”–i.e. paramilitary police created by the republic because the “Guardia Civil” of the time were mostly monarchist in sentiment… These assault guards were “avenging” the murder of a lieutenant of their organization. It was a Civil War all right… And, it was also a latent revolutionary situation that led to polarization and then militarization of politics.

        • It was also a proxy war between the USSR (backing the Republicans, via the COMINTERN’s International Brigades) and the Fascists (the Germans helping the Nationalists with the Condor Brigade, etc.).

          Proxy wars get especially ugly, since neither side’s backer is local.

    • There were really no “good guys” in the Spanish Civil War, just bad and worse guys.

      I’m reading a history of the war. It’s pretty obvious that Spanish politics and society were a train wreck since at least the 18th century. The massive influx of Latin American gold and silver created a wildly unbalanced economy which saw no need to change until it was too late to do so.

      Spain had been in a long, slow decline long before the Civil War. The Civil War was just the culmination of that process of decay.

      • Spain is made up of tribes: Castillians, Galicians/Gallegos, Basques, Catalans, and various others.
        The enormous wealth of the New World Empire, principally silver from Bolivia/Peru and Mexico was squandered in various ruinous wars to exert dominance over portions of Europe by the warrior monarchs of the period, and ambitions of statesmen. Spain had known civil war frequently in the 19th century. The first republic was overthrown and replaced by the bourbon monarchy. The 1936-1939 war preceded WWII, and as a result, it arose from a long Spanish history of decline, that you mention, at the height of the Great Depression, the demise of the League of Nations–unable to stop Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia–and the rise of illiberal, anti-democratic, totalitarian movements: communism, fascism. For that reason, the “prequel to WWII” aspects, i.e. the Nazi Condor Legion and Italian Legion vs. the “Republic’s loyalists” electrified many people world-wide. For others, the spectacle of a socialist, and duplicitous and opportunist communist movement waiting in the wings of a flailing socialist government threatened to subsume Christian Spanish civilization into mayhem and disorder.

        The crimes on both sides were many and hideous, certainly. The scars are still there too. I was last in Spain in about 2006, and even then they–mostly Spanish young people–were digging up the bodies.

  4. Roberto, some British Spanish Civil War “vets” included not just members of the International Brigades of the EP de la RE, but also journalists and writers. Tom Wintringham, a WWI RFC vet, was one of the founders of the British Communist Party. Eventually, he was expelled from the organization. He was an early advocate of preparedness against bomber attacks, and based on his experiences in Spain, and what he’d seen, he wrote several books for the British Home Guard such as “New Ways of War.” He was black-listed due to his radical and pro-communist past, however, and never allowed to join the Home Guard. One might consider him a sort of “consultant.” George Orwell, recall, hated the sectarian arguments of the ultra-left P.O.U.M. Marxist militia he was a part of in Aragon. He was frustrated by the relative inaction of the situation in Aragon, and desired to join up with the British international brigade volunteers at Albacete. While he was making those arrangements–also having recovered not too long earlier from a throat wound–he witnessed the “May Days” in Barcelona, and the tactics and practices of the PSUC (PSOE in Catalunya and PCE) turned his stomach, and made him a “premature anti-Stalinist” if you will.

    In the United States, vets of the Abe Lincoln brigade were politically suspect as “premature anfi-fascists.” Nonetheless, during the entry of the U.S. into WWII, careful interviews were made of several of them to find details about German weapons and aircraft and so on that American troops would shortly face.

    You are right about Eisenhower and Franco, of course. I once met a very elderly American diplomat from that era. She’d actually met Otto Skorzeny, the Austro-German commando, while he was residing in Madrid!

    • Dave, When I was preparing to join the US Army in 1978, I had to complete a checklist about membership in a long list of organizations, one of which was the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. At the time, I had never heard of it and had to ask about it. After completing the form, I was informed that belonging to any of those subversive/pro-communist groups was an automatic disqualifier for ever becoming a commissioned officer. I don’t know if this is still on the DOD forms, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

  5. Well you certainly get some interesting information about the Spanish Civil War on this site, I can’t say I knew much about it prior to what I’ve read on here. I knew they had one, and Hitler was on Franco’s side’ish but that was about it.

    • “Appeasement” centers on placating of Hitler over Czechoslovakia and the German and Polish minorities living there.

      British and French behavior in Spain included creation of a “Non-intervention committee” of 24 nations, including Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Fascist Italy to prevent weapons and equipment reaching the warring parties.

      Obviously, this was honored in the breach: There were foreign volunteers on both sides, and the nationalists under Franco were supplied with aircraft, tanks, artillery, etc. from Germany and Italy. Numbers of German and Italian personnel fought in support of the nationalists. Mexico under Lázaro Cárdenas and the USSR provided aid (at exorbitant prices and with political strings in the latter case), and also military personnel. The numbers of actual Soviets were larger than commonly thought.

      There is an excellent BBC/Granada television series done in the early 1980s on the Spanish Civil War. The interviews with participants from all sides are excellent, and form a record of that generation just before their passing. Some of the interviews were used by Scottish Hispanist historian Ronald Fraser in his excellent _Blood of Spain_ oral history. The series is on youtube these days.

      Military aspects of the war are well explicated in British military historian Antony Beevor’s _The Battle for Spain/ The Spanish Civil War_.

      The tale of the republic’s attempts to acquire arms, and the spectacle of Soviet duplicity in the arms trade is Gerald Howson, _Arms for Spain_.

      There is a vast literature on the Spanish Civil War on almost any angle, and very many biographies of leaders and participants.

      • You know Dave,

        I do not want to sound like someone sufficiently funded to point of making sweeping comments. But reading this and in retrospect of what I read elsewhere before, I cannot help to think that these clashes involving Spain and neighbouring countries were – last which were ‘purely politically’ based. It was in a way a bridgehead leading to much bigger affair known as WWII, which was in a sense, lot less political and more a game of pure and crude power of major contestants and forces involved behind them.

        Among other things what leads me to this view is a study I read some time ago, which source cannot recollect where right now, documenting how Bank of International Settlements, based in Switzerland was subtly but authoritatively controlling reins of that event – all the way to the end.

        And now is time for me to stop.

        • Perhaps so.

          Thanks. Apologies for the verbose responses. I’ve studied the war a lot, interviewed participants, etc. For years now I’ve obsessed about writing a book about it, which is one of the few subject areas, perhaps, that has not been covered already in voluminous detail:

          Everyone talks about the international volunteers, primarily those in the International Brigades, but also foreign volunteers on the nationalist side too. My aim would be to describe the many threads of people–again, on the right and the left–who were in Spain and then left and went abroad and what they did after. Unfortunately, a book of this type would be difficult to research, and a prodigious undertaking indeed!

          For you and our amigo Roberto I might share an anecdote from a historian of Spain to me: A mixed group of Spanish, Italian, North American, and British historians were sitting in a cafe talking about the Spanish Civil War. The fact that Italian fascist CTV/legionaries faced Italian anti-fascists (including very many communist PCI members)from the Giusseppe Garabaldi Bn. (and the Poles) at the March 1937 Battle of Guadalajara. A furious discussion ensued among the Italians and Americans about the battle–one of the few the republican EP won. Slightly indignant, the Spaniards present observed that the vast majority of troops involved were Spaniards, led by Spaniards, fighting over a Spanish town in Spain during a Spanish Civil War! One of the Brits dryly observed something to the effect: “Well, I suppose that the civil war was obscured by other people’s civil wars…”

          • It was clear that many ”proxy” wars were fought on spanish soil during the SCw, not only the spanish quarrel between ”las dos Españas”, the two Spains, the liberals vs. conservative forces that was a problem long before the 30’s. The whole mess started more or less since the war against Napoleon and the King that came after that, Ferdinand VII of Spain, one of the biggest vilains ever and the most horrible king that you could imagine, really he had all the major character defects that you could imagine…
            As for the foreign power they all used the war for their own profit, and it was also a good way to some german and italian communist to give some fight back, indeed. The Guadalajara battle was the first real humiliaton of Mussonili’s regime as his troops were badly routed, but it was more a propagandistic thing that a real gain for the Spanish Republic, they were only good on the defensive, they could not exploit anything from this victory.
            The foreign volunteers (besides the Condor Legion and the Italians troops) is a totally ignored subjet…they were not really numerous or even sometimes usefull: the Irish Brigade (Bandera Irlandesa) was sent back in 1937 with not battle honors at all IIRC and their leader was loathed by spanish officers. The ”Viriatos” was the generic name for the portuguese volunteers, they proved to be better and were used even in spanish formations like the Spanish Legion. Then even less know the ”Bataillon Jeanne’ D’Arc’ formed by french and belgians volunteers leadered by some french hothead general with sympathies for the Croix de Feu and Action Française ultra far-right nationalists and right wing movements. Also integrated in the Spanish Legion IIRC.
            The SCW was a magnet for all the extremists of the moment.

          • My respect, Dave – and good luck with the book.
            There are new and upcoming events we face currently and in near future. God have mercy on us!

          • Now bit for Roberto, if I may.

            How do you see future of Spanish unity vis-à-vis Cataluna’s drive for independence. Much of strive at time of SCW started right there; am I right?

        • What about the Soviet, Nazi pact though… What was that about, after all this? I know National Socialism had changed after the night of the long knifes, to be more fascist… In away, under a leader. Oh glorious leader etc, when Adolf was actually day to day a worn out old man who wanted none of it i.e. War against us. But, he went for fascism, Astra etc really in Germany and ultimately that was their downfall the Capitalist didn’t need any Socialism, they figured they could get by. Adolf hoped the threat of Communism, in the West… Would turn them fascist, but in away they were anyway so he was just an inconvenience.

          • I do not want to turn it into history class for sake of it, but from what I know the German-Russian game of see-saw was mutual bluffing and if was about two themes.

            The first theme was ideology, similar almost as egg to egg. The other was territorial ambition; SU had a plan which Germany precluded. Germany on top of it had an ‘honorable’ pretense – to ‘free’ Russians of bolshevism. Neither one of them had enough clout; Russian victory was also measured by time. Now they face square one again.

          • It’s ok old bean, I’m not entirely in the dark about such matters. I was merely asking, one is somewhat suspicious of these Ukrainian Nazi bastards however. I mean bourgeoisie nationalism, when will the Serfs ever learn.

          • Both the Nazis and the Soviets were duplicitous in the extreme.

            The only thing the Nazis wanted to “liberate” the Soviets from, was their land and natural resources, and as often as not, their lives.

            The Soviets wanted to create a “workers paradise” about as heavenly as that the Japanese created building the Burma railway. Both used massive quantities of slaves.

          • Pdb: In a nutshell: Stalin wanted the Comintern and other communist groups and parties to hew to Soviet foreign policy. At the same time, he wanted to make some kind of alliance in case of a war with the “Capitalist west.” For a considerable time, and even into the Molotov-Ribbentrop alliance period in 1939, he thought that would entail war with Great Britain.

            Anyone not aligned with Soviet objectives was roundly denounced. By the time the Spanish Civil War began, the idea was to obtain an alliance via the “Popular Front” policy. So the idea of an alliance with Léon Blum’s France was hoped for and various other machinations. The ultra-left was denounced as “social fascist” with the idea that these people were furthering fascism by their “infantile” extremist politics. People would be branded “Trotskyists” and so on. During the Spanish Civil War, NKVD agents hunted down antifascists that were not aligned with the Soviet program. Andreu Nin, leader of the P.O.U.M. militia that Eric Blair/George Orwell found himself among, for example, was “disappeared” during the May Days. People demanded to know from the Socialists and Communists where he was. “In Salamanca or Berlin!” came the reply. The implication that all along he’d been a duplicitous agent of Franco and/or Hitler.

            Stalin and Voroshilov dropped the Spanish Republic in 1938, convinced they’d lose, and despaired that they’d failed to achieve an alliance with the west vis-a-vis Germany (or Great Britain!). By 1939, the year the Spanish Civil War ended–the idea became the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact for economic assistance between Germany and the USSR, and with a secret clause consigning eastern Poland, the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and also Finland to the USSR [Actually, Lithuania was to go to Germany, but the Soviets ended up taking over… Something I’ve never seen explored in the historiography of WWII?], and “Bessarabia” or Moldova near Romania. Germany invaded Poland 1 Sept. over four months after Franco won in Spain. On 17 Sept. the USSR invaded Poland, and the nation ceased to exist for quite some time… By December the Soviets invaded Finland, and the Winter War ensued. Britain and France toyed with the idea of declaring war on the USSR, assisting Finland in some meaningful way, and swiping at Germany’s iron ore supplies from Sweden in the name of helping Finland… Quixotic schemes were floated about flying sorties from the Mid-East, Romania [where air attachés from France and Britain were greeted with “terror”], etc. to bomb the Caucasus and somehow stymie the flow of oil to Der Führer!

      • “Military aspects of the war are well explicated in British military historian Antony Beevor’s _The Battle for Spain/ The Spanish Civil War_.”

        As I noted previously, I’m [slowly] reading this book (couldn’t remember the author’s name at the time).

        Beevor does an excellent job of laying out the dysfunctional nature of Spanish society and politics which led directly to the Civil War.

  6. Ian: Great video! Thanks very much for posting it. I thought your explanation was concise and fair, which, as may be seen by the comments, is often difficult to achieve given the emotive and political baggage that still adheres to discussions of the Spanish Civil War.

    Kudos! Muchísimas gracias! Thanks for covering the arms of the “prequel” to WWII.

  7. To Denny about ”Catalonian” independence.
    There is a movement, thanks to the enormous powers given to the regions after Franco’s death and the start of spanish democracy. Catalonia has competences in almost everything save for the army and foreing policy (still they have ”embassies” in some big cities, like Paris or Brussels) that started to grow with a lot of propaganda and school programs about a let say ”original” version of the catalonian history. Spanish governments have always trated like spoiled childs the catalonian bourgeoisie. Even Franco after the war give them a lot of industries and investment and a regular apport of cheap labor from other parts of the countries during years really was THE major factor. All that give them a sence of exepcionalism. And since the nationalist romanticisms of the XIXth century there is a new catalonian problem in Spain that have transformed every step taken by them in the past to have autonomy in an ”struggle for liberty”. And yes that was part of the SCW hast the basque nationalism.

    Today IMHO they have reached a top, about 1/4 or maybe even 1/3 of the locals are more or less happy with the independence idea. But the rest is not and the economic powers even less. Even in the worst case senario I did not see an armed conflict, but a lot of trading, EU membership, and economics problems…for them. Barcelona is slowly getting behind Madrid in many things, normaly it was the spanish base of many foreing companies (with all the benefits from that) and logistical entrance of many import making it one of the the first economic powerhourse of the country. But now Madrid’s autonomous region is already Spain’s economic major center and things are getting worse because of the actual catalonian government don’t make anything serious to address the real major problems of their taxpayer.
    Sorry for the long answer and that’s just my own point of view about it.

    • Thank you Roberto.
      I guess there are couple ingredients to my interest in this bit of Europe, part of history connection. It appears to be popular destination with some of my relatives; even my daughter shortly visited Barcelona during her European study. They passed their impressions onto me.

    • Thanks Roberto, your ‘long answer’ pretty much summarises my own take on the subject, in a concise yet clear-cut way. The other day I heard that some important publishing houses, which had been based in Barcelona for years or even decades, are considering relocating to (or around, in the autonomous region) Madrid or other towns due to the very same issues you pointed out. A few months ago, I also saw something really hilarious: in a twist of extreme nationalism, some crackpot is claiming that everyone and everything important in Spanish history was actually created in/born/raised (whatever) in Catalonia, including Cervantes.

      • A lot of Spanish and foreign fompanies (Coca-Cola Iberian Partners is now in Madrid, for exemple) are living Barcelona as their HQ in Spain for Madrid or other spanish cities since somes years because they fear the independence process started by the local nationalists, the publishing house is one of the biggest in the country.
        And yes the level of nationalist propaganda in Catalonia as reached the total absurdity: Christhoper Columbus, Cervantes, Saint Teresa of Ávila and even Da Vinci and others great figures (I’m not joking at all) were all catalonians and in fact the Kingdom of Aragon was a Catalonian Empire… you hear this BS if your listen a group (who survives only with local taxpayer money thanks to catalonian government) named Institut Nova Història, Insitute New History…yeah really new and stupid IMHO.

        • Thanks! That’s it, Institut Nova Història! It is so, so ridiculous that it almost looks like a mistification of some sort, a practical joke played on gullible people. But it isn’t, unfortunately. And the whole thing is indeed sustained by the taxpayers money. We are indeed witnessing strange things nowadays…

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