Franco’s bloody finale

Paul Preston returns to the Spanish Civil War to describe in harrowing detail its brutal — and farcical — closing chapter

19 March 2016

9:00 AM

19 March 2016

9:00 AM

The Last Days of the Spanish Republic Paul Preston

William Collins, pp.390, £25, ISBN: 9780008163402

One afternoon in the early 1990s, an elderly gentleman from Alicante told me of the tragedy that had occurred at his city’s port on the last day of the Spanish Civil War. He pointed towards the docks and in a hurried whisper spoke of the many thousands of desperate Republicans who had gathered there at the end of March 1939, their eyes searching the horizon for the promised ships meant to carry them to safety abroad. The rest of their territory had fallen to Franco, his execution squads busy eliminating remnants of the ‘anti-Spain’; Alicante would be the last corner to fall into the caudillo’s hands. Yet as the hours passed and no ships appeared, the would-be refugees lost hope. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, committed suicide on the spot, preferring death to capture. When the Francoist forces finally arrived, they took 45,000 people prisoner and placed them in a makeshift concentration camp. For many Republicans, it was a brief prelude to torture and summary execution.

Spanish attitudes towards the Civil War have changed since the 1990s and it is no longer quite the taboo subject it once was. Yet the emotional power of events from that time has not diminished. Episodes such as the siege of the Alcázar, the defence of Madrid or the May Days in Barcelona witnessed by George Orwell still resonate. Not least of these is the story of the final, desperate weeks of the Republic. By early 1939, following steady losses and defeats over two and a half years of conflict, Republicans had no hope of winning the war, yet the final outcome, as Paul Preston makes clear in this compelling and convincingly argued book, might well have been less ignominious and considerably less bloody.

Throughout much of 1938, the strategy of the Republican prime minister Juan Negrín had been to prolong the fight against the rebels in the hope that a greater European conflict might begin and finally bring Britain and France to his aid in an anti-fascist coalition. The Munich Agreement and its effective deferment of war with Germany scuppered his plans, yet Negrín insisted on holding out in order to negotiate an honourable peace agreement with Franco and organise an ordered evacuation of refugees. Sadly, neither of these objectives was realised when, following the fall of Catalonia in early 1939 and facing certain defeat, the Republic collapsed, descending into vicious in-fighting.

Preston’s villain of the piece is Colonel Segismundo Casado, leader of the anti-communist coup on the night of 5–6 March 1939 which ousted Negrín from power and produced a mini-civil war in Republican-held Madrid. Self-important and convinced that Franco would appreciate his elimination of ‘Reds’, Casado fell into an enemy trap which sowed chaos in the already demoralised loyalist ranks and caused the disintegration of what remained of the state.

The Republicans’ only bargaining chip — the threat of a last stand — vanished and Franco quickly reneged on any hints at clemency towards the enemy. When the final rout came, Casado and his entourage were given safe passage, but his coup buried any hope of escape for many tens of thousands of his countrymen. Francoist firing squads were kept busy for decades afterwards, killing as many as 20,000 people, with many more dying of ill-treatment in unsanitary jails.

The story of the final, tragic days of the Spanish Republic has never been told so clearly before. With a keen eye for historical detail and a painful sense of the human lives at stake, Preston paints a vivid portrait of those involved. Betrayed and exhausted, Negrín comes across as the best of a sorry bunch — and anything but the communist-controlled puppet that he has sometimes been viewed as. (If Moscow had the stranglehold on the Spanish Republic that some have claimed, why was Casado’s coup so successful in removing the communists?) In the end, the vanity of Casado and his supporters combined with the war-weariness of the Republican side brought about a finale much bloodier than it might otherwise have been.

There is an eerie coincidence between the events in Spain 77 years ago and the current crisis in Syria; parallels between the Spanish Civil War and the Syrian conflict have been drawn several times. In 1939, just as with the Syrian refugees today, European democracies tried to close the door on many thousands of people trying to escape, invoking fears that young men radicalised by extremist views might inveigle their way in.

As the Syrian war appears to be moving towards some kind of an ending, such is the confusion and multi-dimensional nature of the conflict that a bloody, farcical tragedy such as occurred in Spain may once again be played out. It is to be hoped that a timely reminder of the end of the Spanish Republic may go some small way to avoiding a repeat of one of history’s more depressing chapters.

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  • “When the Francoist forces finally arrived, they took 45,000 people prisoner and placed them in a makeshift concentration camp. For many Republicans, it was a brief prelude to torture and summary execution.”

    In fact the Francoist leadership were Marxists, purging Spain of an uncontrollable Marxist element. The same type of purge operation occurred in Russia during the Civil War there, where non-Bolshevik Marxists were summarily executed, and in the mid 1960s Indonesia. Franco also used the purge to cleanse the Catholic Church of un-trustworthy clergy…

    ‘During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, and especially in the early months of the conflict, individual clergymen were executed while entire religious communities were persecuted, leading to a death toll of 13 bishops, 4,172 diocesan priests and seminarists, 2,364 monks and friars and 283 nuns, for a total of 6,832 clerical victims, as part of what is referred to as Spain’s Red Terror.[2]’

    The following are two discoveries I made in April 2015 regarding the Yugoslav ‘civil wars’ and ‘collapse’ of the USSR, and what they prove about the Marxist co-opted institutions of the West…

    (I) Communist control of Yugoslavia ‘civil wars’ gone unnoticed for quarter century.

    Secessionist Yugoslav Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim factions waged dirty wars against each other, neglecting to first wipe out the 9% of the population that attempted to do away with religion in Yugoslavia, proving the wars were orchestrated and controlled by the communist faction.

    Murder, torture and legal discrimination of those professing religious sentiment was so intense under the Marxist regime in Belgrade, that those who professed no religious affiliation increased from less than 10% pre-1945 to a bewildering 32% by 1987…

    ‘Like in most former Communist countries in Central, Eastern and South­‑Eastern Europe, the means and actions applied by the Yugoslav Government between 1945 and 1990 to reduce the influence of religions and religious organisations were quite effective: While there was just a tiny group of people who regarded themselves to be without a religion before the Second World War (less than 0.1% of the population), this number grew to 13% in 1953 and to 32% in 1987.’

    That 9% constitutes members of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, the Marxist party that subjugated Yugoslavia from 1945 until the party’s dissolution in January 1990. Before any religious sectarian strife, first there would have been massive reprisals against the reviled Communists who implemented policies to wipe out religion in Yugoslavia. The fact that no such reprisals took place proves that the breakup of Yugoslavia, during the Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001), was manufactured and controlled by the Communists; and

    (II) When Soviet citizens were liberated from up to 74 years of horrific Marxist-atheist oppression on December 26, 1991, the day the USSR officially ended, there were ZERO celebrations throughout the USSR, proving (1) the ‘collapse’ of the USSR is a strategic ruse; and (2) the political parties of the West were already co-opted by Marxists,* otherwise the USSR (and East Bloc nations) couldn’t have gotten away with the ruse.

    ZERO celebrations, as the The Atlantic article inadvertently informs us…

    Notice, however, the Kremlin staged anti-government demonstrations that took place in Russia (and other Soviet republics) in the years immediately preceding the ‘collapse’, yet ZERO celebrations after the ‘collapse’!

    For more on this discovery see my blog…

    The above means that the so-called ‘War on Terror’ is an operation being carried out by the Marxist co-opted governments of the West in alliance with the USSR and other Communist nations, the purpose being to (1) destroy the prominence of the West in the eyes of the world, where the West is seen (i) invading nations without cause; (ii) causing chaos around the globe; and (iii) killing over one-million civilians and boasting of torture; (2) close off non-Russian supplies of oil for export, thereby increasing the price of oil, the higher price allowing oil exporting Russia to maintain economic stability while she modernizes and increases her military forces; (3) destroy the United States Armed Forces via the never-ending ‘War on Terror’; the ultimate purpose of the aforementioned to (4) bring about the demise of the United States in the world, opening up a political void to be filled by a new pan-national entity composed of Europe and Russia (replacing the European Union), a union ‘From the Atlantic to Vladivostok’;** which will (5) see the end of NATO.

    The fraudulent ‘collapse’ of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Marxists, which explains why verification of the ‘collapse’ was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”.

    It gets worse–the ‘freed’ Soviets and West also never (1) de-Communized the Soviet Armed Forces of its Communist Party officer corps, which was 90% officered by Communist Party members; and (2) arrested/de-mobilized the five million vigilantes that assisted the Soviet Union’s Ministry of the Interior and police control the populations of the cities during the period of ‘Perestroika’ (1986-1991)!

    There can be no collapse of the USSR (or East Bloc nations) without…

    Verification, De-Communization and De-mobilization.

    The West never verified the collapse of the USSR because no collapse occurred, since if a real collapse had occurred the West would have verified it, since the survival of the West depends on verification. Conversely, this proves that the political parties of the West were co-opted by Marxists long before the fraudulent collapse of the USSR, since the survival of the West depends on verification.


    The West will form new political parties where candidates are vetted for Marxist ideology, the use of the polygraph to be an important tool for such vetting. Then the West can finally liberate the globe of vanguard Communism.


    * The failed socialist inspired and controlled pan-European revolutions that swept the continent in 1848(1) taught Marxists and socialists a powerful lesson, that lesson being they couldn’t win overtly,(2) so they adopted the tactic of infiltration of the West’s political parties/institutions. In the case of the United States…(continue reading at DNotice)…

    ** ‘Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think of themselves as Europeans. We are by no means indifferent to developments in united Europe.

    That is why Russia proposes moving toward the creation of a common economic and human space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean – a community referred by Russian experts to as “the Union of Europe,” which will strengthen Russia’s potential and position in its economic pivot toward the “new Asia.”’ – Vladimir Putin (2012).

    • JabbaPapa

      Oh good GRIEF — the Marxists in that conflict were the overtly Communist Republicans.

      Your monomaniac conspiracy theories are completely lunatic, for the umpteenth time !!

      • “Oh good GRIEF — the Marxists in that conflict were the overtly Communist Republicans.”

        No kidding. My comment is referring to the Franco side, who were Marxists. Re-read my comment!

        • Discuscutter

          I’m going to bet that you are Schizophrenic, you may not even realize it.

  • Ralph

    The Francoists were no worse than the Republicans would have been if they had won the war but it suits some people’s world view to make one side better than the other.

    • Zalacain

      But you cannot compare actual crimes, with crimes that may occur if such and such happens.

      • JabbaPapa

        But you can compare the crimes of the Republicans with those of the Francoists.

        It’s worth remembering that the civil war started when the Communist Republican Government started organising secret death squads to go round murdering the Clergy.

  • Davedeparis

    The Francoists may have been many things but as a matter of historical record they were not Marxists.