Monday, July 17, 2006

70 Years Ago Today

To the left is the flag of the Spanish Republic.

It was the flag of a second republic, a prior one having been dispatched with by the forces of Bourbon monarchy some 60 years before.

The second one, brainchild of elegant intellectuals such as Jose Ortega y Gasset and Manuel AzaƱa, was a "workers republic," declared when municipal elections in 1931 led to a sweeping away of royalist political parties in a fashion so complete that the reigning King, Alfonso XIII, fled the country.

The Republic was born April 14, 1931 to overwhelming joy and hope.

A marvelous experiment began to unfold; a liberal attempt to use the powers of the state, through laws, to right wrongs and inequalities dating back to the Middle Ages.

They tried reform of the land, they tried bringing culture to the backward provinces, threw out the Jesuit order, loosened the Catholic Church's stranglehold on Spain, tamed the army's more dangerous elements, and extended the reach of public education throughout the poverty stricken country.

There was much, much more and, as such things go, it was very complicated and perhaps beyond the power of a parliament to undue the maladies inherited.

Tensions rose, regional revolutions launched, and people killed on both "sides" of a growing national divide.

In February of 1936, the left-wing parties joined together in a Popular Front; a formula cooked up by Joseph Stalin to fight the surge of fascism across Europe. That meant a coalition of liberals, trade unionists, socialists, communists and such pooled their votes and pulled out a governing majority.

These were not the parlour room socialists and communists of our times, but people who weren't screwing around when they said their aim was to transform society.

And it would not stand.

Seventy years ago today, a cabal of retrograde generals stationed largely in the Spanish colonies of North Africa, with the help of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, launched a military rebellion that, after three years of noble resistance, would crush the Spanish people and cruelly lord over them until the death of Francisco Franco in 1975.

the highway scribe's novel, "Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows" (which you can buy through clicking on the pretty flamenco girl up a little and to the left) takes place in this milieu and seeks to render some of its sentiment, both noble and otherwise.

It was an out-and-out bummer, a death knell for true progressive hopes the world over, compounded by the refusal of England, France, and the United States to even help the beleaguered Republic with some arms shipments.

They would all pay later as Axis troops and bombers trained in the killing fields of Spain would turn their expertise to exterminating British, French and American boys in a little episode known as World War II that, clearly, could have been avoided if Spain had been worth anybody's time and effort.

If you can read Spanish, here are some interesting profiles of those still living whom experienced the conflict. If you can't read Spanish, the pictures themselves are interesting enough.

As for Spain itself, the country prospers today, but under the tutelage of a king, and true democratic republics have no place for kings. So there was compromise of a terrible kind, born mostly of fears harkening back to the Spanish Civil War, that someday, hopefully we be redressed.

Here are prior posts related to Spain and her civil war written over the last year at highwayscribery

"Four Recordings: Vedette in New York"

"An Enduring Civil Peace"

"Death in El Valle"

"ETA Declares a Truce"

¡Viva La Republica!

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