Spain 1936-1939: Who were fighting?

Submitted by hadrian on Wed, 07/06/2016 - 17:37


As promised there would be more articles about the Spanish Civil War and Revolution. I've noticed very few people are aware of the enormous social experimentation that occured in the rearguard during this time. For various reasons, the Spanish Civil War and Revolution are potentially major sources of inspiration as well as a source of important lessons. Many writers, myself included, will undoubtedly talk about this. The Spanish Civil War and Revolution was a complicated conflict involving many actors that will be mentioned in such articles but may not be known to the reader. This article can be used as a reference.

If you notice an organisation or person is missing, or if you notice I've neglected to mention something important, please contact me: - in any case, the many names of the countless anti-fascists who fought and died in this battle are missing. However, their heroism should never be forgotten. #looralosheroes

CNT Poster: Praise to the heroes

Important Organisations

  • AIT: Asociación Internacional de los Trabajadores - An international Anarcho-Syndicalist federation with which the CNT was affiliated.
  • Barrio - A district or neighbourhood. A larger district was called a barriada. From 1934, many barriadas had defense cadres organised by the CNT which made preparations for a potential confrontation in case of a fascist coup.
  • CAMC: Central Anti-Fascist Militias Comittee - A temporary committee operating in the opening weeks of the civil war tasked with co-ordinating the anti-fascist struggle.
  • CEDA: Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas - An extreme-right party.
  • CNT: Confederación Nacional del Trabajo - An anarcho-syndicalist union founded in 1910. The CNT was the first to resist the fascist coup. Their members were known as Cenetistas.
  • FAI: Federación Anarquista Ibérica - A federation of anarchist affinity groups, the members of which were also members of the CNT. The FAI could be seen as the left-wing of the CNT. Their members were known as Faístas.
  • Falange Española de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista - The fascist group Franco was connected to.
  • Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista - De fascist group formed after the mergen of the Carlists with the original Falange.
  • Friends of Durruti - A large anarchist group counting roughly five thousand members who resisted the CNT collaboration with the government. They called for all power to be taken into the hands of the working class and all economic power to be placed in the unions. The CNT, as well as Solidaridad Obrera, distanced themselves from this group.
  • Generalitat de Catalunya - De Catalan regional government.
  • Juventudes Libertarias - An organisation of young anarchists.
  • Mujeres Libres - An anarchist organisation of women dedicated to expanding and defending the rights of women and to work towards full gender equality.
  • NKVD: Naródnyi komissariát vnútrennikh dél - The Soviet-Russian secret service.
  • Patrullas de Control - An anarchist militia dedicated to protecting the rearguard against fascists and sympathizers of Franco's coup. The Patrullas were a thorn in the side of the CPE and the stalinists took special effort towards destroying this organisation.
  • PCE: Partido Comunista de España - The national "Communist" Party. Although this party was insignificant at the beginning of the Civil War they were able to vastly expand their influence as they were able to obtain a small trickle of weapons through their association with Soviet Russia.
  • Pistolero - The twenties and thirties saw a long series of atentados in which rich people had union luminaries shot and, as a response, the unions returned fire. A Pistolero was someone who committed such an assassination. This era is also referred to as the time of pistolerismo.
  • POUM: Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista - A small party inspired by the works of Trotsky which was very active in the anti-Fascist struggle. They were the first to be fully suppressed by the stalinists.
  • PSUC: Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya - A Catalonian party connected to the stalinist International, the Comintern. They played a key role in the suppression of the POUm and, later, the CNT.
  • Sindicato libre - A yellow union funded by the rich in an attempt to reduce the influence of the CNT. These "unions" were mainly active before the revolution.
  • Sindicato único - The 'big union.' This term was synonymous for unions affiliated to the CNT.
  • Treintista - A sympathizer with the moderate anarcho-syndicalists and signatories of the Manifesto of the Thirty. These anarcho-syndicalists disagreed with many of the Faísta tactics. Before the Civil War and Revolution, they temporarily split in a separate union.
  • UGT: Unión General de Trabajadores - The labour union affiliated with the PSUC.
  • Nosotros - An affinity group which counted, amongst others, Buenaventura Durruti, Francisco Ascaso, and Juan García Oliver as its members. They were originally known as the Solidarios.

Important Organs

  • Solidaridad Obrera - One of the main newspapers of the CNT.
  • Spain and the World - A bi-weekly newspaper published from London from the end of 1936 to the end of the Civil War.

Well-known People

  • Michael Bakunin (1814/5/30 - 1876/7/1) - An influential Russian anarchist.
  • Camillo Berneri (1897/5/28 - 1937/5/5) - Originally an Italian anarchist and professor who was forced to flee Italy after years of anti-fascist struggle against Mussolini. He participated in the anti-fascist struggle in Spain and was critical of the government involvement by the CNT. He was murdered by stalinists on 5 May 1937 in Barcelona.
  • Buenaventura Durruti (1896/7/14 - 1936/11/20) - A well-known anarchist before the Civil War and Revolution, he'd been involved in countless clandestine activities with the affinity group Solidarios (later Nosotros). His status and organising talent gave him significant influence in the anarchist movement during the Civil War and Revolution. After his death, his image was used for the purposes of war propaganda.
  • Emma Goldman (1869/6/27 - 1940/5/14) - An originally Jewish-Russian anarchist also known as 'Red Emma.' After the demise of the Russian revolution she fled to Europe and visited Spain during the Spanish Civil War and Revolution. Many of her experiences in Spain were written down and published in Spain and the World.
  • Federica Montseny (1905/2/12 - 1994/1/14) - An anarchist from the well-known Urales family she was minister of health and social policy during the Civil War and Revolution. In this position, she worked towards improving a women's right to birth control (De toda la vida).
  • Juan Negrín (1892/2/3 - 1956/11/12) - The last prime minister of Spain before the eventual victory of Francisco Franco.
  • General Miguel Primo de Rivera - A brutal dictator who came into power on the 13 of September 1923 after a coup. Under his rule of fear, the CNT was driven underground while he reached an accomodation with the UGT. His son, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founded the Falange.

Background Literature