Friday, March 25, 2016

History of the Cold War #5: The Spanish Civil War.

We have a daughter named Paloma. Paloma is the Spanish word for dove, and dove is a symbol for peace.  Pablo Picasso's La Paloma, or The Dove, was chosen in 1949 to illustrate the poster promoting the French Congress for Peace. Yet, a more famous work of art by Picasso is Guernica.

Paloma's father's patriarchal grandmother came from Guernica. Tony has stood in the very square, that on a peaceful, late afternoon in 1937, where the civilian villagers had gathered, bombs hailed from the sky killing 4000 people in two hours. They were Tony's people, and it is why in part, we named our daughter Paloma--in honor of those ancestors.

What conditions would allow such a heinous crime?

In the 1930s, Spain voted to abolish the monarchy and the king went into exile. In 1936, a republican government was formed, but it didn't take long for an uprising against the new republic. The coup came from a group who called themselves the Nationalists--they consisted of landowners, Catholics and the military led by General Francisco Franco. Franco led the coup in what they anticipated would be an easy takeover. The Republic government's resistance was a surprise.  Spain erupted in a bloody civil war. The fight lasted more than three years and took the lives of an estimated one million people.

Neither side fought alone. The republic was supported by laborers, the educated middle class and the USSR or communists.  Their interest and participation came from a strong beginning desire to see Spain embrace communism. The Nationalist rebels found their allies in fascist Italy and the Nazis. Not only countries, but individuals around the world saw the Spanish Civil War as an international conflict. "The civil war of Nationalist conspirators against Republican loyalists became the ideological battlefield of Europe: Fascist order versus Communist fanaticism versus democratic liberty." Harold Evans, The American Century

Germany and Italy backed the Spanish rebels, but the backing came at a price to the people of Guernica. Guernica was a kind of test case. Like new toys, the Nazis had new bombs and wished to experiment; Franco allowed Hitler's fleet to attack the Spanish Basques. I almost hate to mention, because it creates a justification for Nazism, but Spain was chosen because it was a northern stronghold of the republican government.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

The timing, the location, the worldwide jump-in to fight fascism, the hope of communistic implementation was a precursor to WWII, and a precursor to the conditions that led to the Cold War.