Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Modern History: Main Cause of the Spanish Civil War - Abduction/Murder of National Legislator Calvo Sotelo


General Francisco Franco was pushed by the abduction and immediate murder of Cortés (National Legislature) member legislator José Calvo Sotelo into joining the conspiracy to overthrow the Spanish Second Republic that was organized by a number of monarchist and conservative generals who saw this government as a communist or socialist government. 

The aftermath of that crime was an enormous injury to conservatism in Spain. It was however the refusal of the government to take decisive action that totally alienated the generals, and more significantly Franco, without whom, the revolt would like have failed.

From a mere conspiracy of unhappy military officers, the revolt escalated to become a full-blown civil war that eventually cost the lives of about one million Spaniards (both military and civilians)as the consequence.  The inciting event's victim, Calvo Sotelo was shot dead while being held a hostage inside a truck after a squad of socialist thugs and leftist assault guards abducted him in a move that simulated an arrest.

Calvo Sotelo, a monarchist conservative lawyer and now politician had been a prominent member of the Cortes, Spain’s National Assembly during the 1930s.


Several times whenever Calvo Sotelo delivered his speeches before that forum, he had been booed, jeered at, insulted, and even had been threatened by leftists there. José Calvo Sotelo had often clashed with high-ranking officials, including Manuel Azaña, the Republic’s President, a very antimonarchist politician who often sided with Communists and Socialists.

Several conservative and monarchist Spanish army officers were indignant about the humiliations borne by Calvo Sotelo. Furthermore, there had been military uprisings, one of which prompted Manuel Azaña to exile Gen. Franco to oversee the military base in the Canary Islands.



Sometime before July 13, 1936, some socialist political figure had been killed and conservatives were suspected of having masterminded the assassination. In retaliation, Calvo Sotelo was fingered, abducted, and during his abduction - killed.

Before this murder of the champion of the conservatives and monarchists in the Armed Forces of Spain, there had been some minor military uprisings in protest to the Spanish Republic’s mistreatment of the conservatives the officer corps.

However none of these really amounted to a major uprising that could imperil the survival of the Republic. Moreover, General Francisco Franco felt he could more or less coexist with the first wave of politicians in power who were more center left than the far left that now ruled the Second Republic.


Now, because of this murder and the lack of interest on the part of the Spanish Republic to investigate, prosecute this killing, and punish the perpetrators of this crime - an insulting gesture on the part of that government, the conspiring generals decided that this was a government that was unfit to exist, much less rule Spain.

Four days later, they made their first military move against the armed forces of the Republic.


With Franco in their team, the rebels (the Nationalist side) counted on a capable military leader capable of leading the rebel forces to victory.

Moreover, the rebels also had connections with statesmen in the governments of Portugal under Salazar, Fascist Italy under Mussolini through their connections with Count Ciano, and officials of the Third Reich,the Hitler government.

Furthermore, Franco had with him under his direct command legions of fanatical and skillful Riffs of Morocco.

These were soldiers who threw themselves under Russian tanks to blow them up. They would storm apartment houses floor by floor in order to capture enemy strongholds and lose dozens of men in the process.

These Riff soldiers simply knew no fear and faced dangers that no Spanish soldier in their right mind would even consider facing. These were the soldiers that Franco was accustomed to personally leading. Moreover, early in his military career, he had dealt with them as enemies and had been even wounded by them in combat.


It was in the military garrison of Melilla in North Africa that the first blow of this revolt was first struck. The military authorities, especially the top general in charge of that base and aides who were loyal the republican government, were overpowered and then summarily shot in front of a firing squad.

From there, the revolt spread to the south of Spain and Seville was captured. Simultaneous battlefields were established and the military leaders loyal to the Republic found themselves with their hands full fighting a well-resourced enemy power. 


It was sometime during this early period that the political connections affiliated with the rebels managed to get the Nazi government to provide them logistical and military support for the fighting men, particularly a volunteer formation known as the Condor Legion that had its own air force.

Moreover, the Mussolini dictatorship also provided military assistance such as fighting men to this rebellion.

The German Luftwaffe was then used to airlift Franco and his military forces from the Canary Islands over to the battlefields of mainland Spain where General Emilio Mola, one of he original leaders of the revolt was already winning military victories against forces loyal to the Republic, the Loyalists.

This war, a prelude to World War II, reached international proportions that touched the governments of most of Europe's countries and the United States itself, which government under FDR applied an arms embargo.

Several left-leaning Americans, British, and men of numerous countries volunteered to fight for the Republic under the banner of the International Brigades. Eventually as the war progressed and as the Nationalist or rebel forces won victories that squeezed the Republican or loyalist cause, the volunteers who survived combat returned to their home countries. 


To sum to summarize this history, it had been a suicidal error on the side of the republican government to have ignored and failed to intervene in the matter of the murder of Calvo Sotelo. In this mistake, the republican government signed its own death warrant.

From the earliest time to the end of the Civil War in the early 1939, huge mistakes were made both on the political front and in the battlefield. Moreover, major defeats suffered by the only competent fighting forces on the side of the Republic provoked that government to make a series of strategic blunders.

They sided with Communists militias; they made alliances with anarchist groups made up of fellows obsessed with their own agendas (beginning in waging an anarchist revolution to topple whatever government that could be in Spain) and who murdered and tortured and mutilated priests and the nuns and burned numerous churches.
To make matters worse, they made themselves appear so lacking in credibility.


Only the Soviet Union under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin helped somewhat. To get that help, the republican government had to send a huge reserve of gold bullion to the Soviet Union as payment.
With the Soviet help, and it was considerable, Soviet security forces sent NKVD assassins and spies who murdered Spanish Communists who did not totally bow down to Russian leadership and Russian terms.

It was it was in the later phases of the Spanish Civil War that Stalin abandoned the Republican cause as a lost cause and left them to face Franco on their own. And of course, Stalin kept all that Spanish gold reserves of the Spanish treasury.


In conclusion, to gain a fuller understanding of this war in the fuller scope, the history of the Spanish Civil War would have to be narrated piece by piece, episode by episode, in order to present the many dimensions that will not fit in this discussion.

The purpose of this post has been to present the motivational spark that pushed the principal protagonist, Gen. Francisco Franco, into joining the generals’ revolt which would then become known as the nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War. 

It, this article blog post, aspires to show the reader how an overconfident government organization of an entire country can bring about its own destruction as a consequence of its own carelessness and zealous partisanship on the part of its leadership.

Such is the theme of this writing.


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