Was It The Contribution Of Foreign Powers That Tipped The Balance Of The Spanish Civil War In Favour Of The Nationalists?

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Whatever was in the minds of the Nationalists and the Republicans during the spring of 1936 it was certainly not a Civil War that lasted years rather than months. Most writers agree that once the war was underway its outcome depended on the foreign aid that the two sides received and how it related to internal and political considerations. It can therefore be said that the strong support from Germany and Italy put the Nationalists at an advantage if compared with the weaker and unreliable aid given to the Republicans. However it is important that other factors are also taken into consideration such as the betrayal of Republican Spain's fellow democracies and the policy of non-intervention.

By July of 1936 both sides were in need of foreign aid. For the Nationalists this need was responded to early on, whilst the Republicans had to get by without until late September, early October.

Franco made pleas to Mussolini and Hitler, the latter being the more positive. According to Angel Viñas, Hitler's primary purpose was, "˜"¦to ensure a pro-German government in Madrid which by its presence would limit France's political and military options, and that in his policy Hitler was following the political line begun by the occupation of the Rhineland in March 1956.' Hitler went beyond Franco's request for fighters and anti-aircraft guns. He ordered 20 Junkers and 52 transport planes to be sent directly to Morocco and under Franco's control so he could transport the Army of Africa to Spain's mainland. This force of some of the best 24,000 men in the war shifted the military advantage dramatically in Franco's favour. The aid Franco received was on easy terms of credit, lasting throughout the war, and it arrived on request, especially at its most needed times, for example in the Battle of Guernica in April 1937 where Franco maintained steady air based attacks with the help of Hitler's Condor Legion Air force and in other battles like those of Teruel in January 1937 and Ebro in December 1938.

Although more reluctant than Hitler, Mussolini, after failing to answer to 2 telegrams asking for military or civilian aircrafts, eventually sent twelve Savoia-81 bombers, at a price of £1 million, cash-in-advance, to Morocco. Yet Italy's most important contribution was its Corpo Truppe Volontarie (CTV), an armoured force of 40,000 men that fought throughout the war, especially in Malaga and Guadalajara. Mussolini, like Hitler had his own personal reasons for supporting Franco. He saw intervention as a way of, "˜"¦preventing an establishment of a Communist state in Spain, and as a way of sharpening the Italian fighting spirit now that the Ethiopian fighting campaign was over.' He also wanted to gain more power in the Mediterranean, for example, by moving the British out of Gibraltar and establishing military bases in the Balearic Islands. It is evident then from their own personal interests in Spain that both Germany and Italy would not stop supporting the Nationalists until the Republicans were defeated.

In contrast, the Soviet Union's aid was never intended to equip the Republicans for victory but simply to be enough until the Civil War became a general war in which France and Britain would join the Soviet Union in fighting European fascism. The Soviet Union was the Republican's main supplier, providing 1,000 aircrafts and 700 tanks, Soviet and Comintern military and political advisers and the International Brigades which comprised of nearly 60,000 foreign volunteers, many of which were refugees and veterans which were recruited and trained by the Communists. With the Soviet Union's help the Republicans managed to keep hold of Madrid at the beginning of the war, but they had to pay a high price for the aid in general which the transfer of gold from the Bank of Spain met. Perhaps more importantly they paid a high price politically in accepting the Communist's leverage in Republic Spain, explained in Martin Blinkhorn's Democracy and Civil War in Spain, 1931-1939 as, "˜"¦an interference in the composition of cabinets and the formulation of strategy; the reversal of social revolution; the persecution of political enemies; and the steadily declining popular aid.' Their dependence for arms upon the Soviet Union guaranteed the Communists an influence within Republican Spain that affected politics and military strategy, thus making the relationship between the Soviet Union and Republican Spain an uneasy one. The Russians pushed their own military schemes, for example the Brunete Campaign, where the Prime Minister, Largo Caballero would have preferred an attack through Extremadura. The Communists therefore caused a negative political atmosphere in Republican Spain, which is explained in Democracy and Civil War in Spain, 1931-1939 as follows, "˜Throughout their attack upon the social revolution, their politicisation of the armed forces, their intolerance of opposition, and most of all, their extensive use of brutal secret police methods via the SIM (Military Investigation Service), they helped to convince many inhabitants of the Republican zone that fascist oppression could be little worse than that under which they were already living.' During 1938 this pessimism and war weariness seriously affected Republican Spain's morale. Unlike the Nationalists who were united by a single authority the Republican cabinet was split into many groups, each with its own goals, vision of the war's purpose and views as to how it should be fought, so that they were unable to regain their lost territory.

It can therefore be said that the contribution of foreign aid was not the only factor responsible for tipping the balance of the Civil War in the Nationalist's favour. The Republicans would of never had to rely on the Soviet Union if it had not been betrayed by its fellow democracies, France and Britain, with the policy of Non-Intervention. The Republicans as the legal government in Spain were able to purchase arms on the international market and therefore looked to these two countries to be their suppliers. On the 19 July Giral made his request for arms and aircrafts to which Léon Blum's Popular Party was initially sympathetic. However this policy changed on the 8 August due to divisions within his cabinet about providing aid and external pressure from Britain, who was concerned with the spread of communism rather than fascism, and so in this sense a Nationalist victory was preferable. Blum then proposed that the European powers agree on a policy of non-intervention, which became a reality in September 1936 and was followed rigidly by Britain but ignored by Germany and Italy who only helped the Nationalists more. According to Jill Edwards, "˜By turning a blind eye both to the intervention of the dictators and to the need to protect British shipping to Spain, the British government aided Franco as decisively as if it had sent arms to him.' It was this policy of Non-Intervention which made the abandoned Republicans turn to the Soviet Union, yet they to proved an unreliable friend after the Munich Agreement of October 1938, which put a stop to the prospect of a general war in which France and Britain would join them, and so the Russians lost interest in Spain.

Other factors which helped tip the balance in the Nationalist's favour was firstly the Nationalist's use of terror, which for them was a matter of policy and lasted throughout the war and after. "˜Paseos' were nightly arrests where a car would arrive at the victim's house late at night. Once arrested they would be taken to a nearby wall and killed. These were a nightly occurrence in Madrid and Barcelona and used to keep order as well as enabling Franco to advance his troops and build up his territory. The second factor to be mentioned is the Nationalists use of propaganda of which José Millán Astray was chief. His subordinates frequently threatened foreign journalists with execution and he himself became well known for his efforts to prove that the Guernica never happened. Astray used the Catholic Church to promote the Nationalists. Most Spanish priests sided with them, some even fought, and they blessed the flags of the Nationalist regiments, so that the Nationalists appeared the defenders of the Catholic Church.

Overall it can be concluded that it was not foreign aid alone that tipped the balance of the Spanish Civil War in the Nationalist's favour although it did play a significant part. If all countries had followed the policy of non-intervention then a lack of arms would have forced a "˜stalemate' and negotiated settlement, ending the war, yet instead the Rising of 17-18 July 1936 was turned into a Civil War.

Bibliography Spain's Civil War, by Harry Browne Democracy and Civil War in Spain 1931-1939, by Martin Blinkhorn A Concise History of the Spanish Civil War, by Paul Preston