Ammo.com: The Prelude to World War II – The Spanish Civil War and Today’s America

Today’s article comes from Ammo.com via American Partisan, The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today’s America. There are many different historical precedents to examine which bear similarity to current political conditions. Last year I gave a short talk which compared some events leading up to the Civil War which bear some semblance to current happenings. This article examines the Spanish Civil War and compares conditions in the US.

America is definitely not Europe, but we can find a number of parallels between European history and contemporary America. For example, we’ve previously written about the Italian Years of Lead as a possible template for urban unrest and low-level inter-tribal warfare in the United States. Another example of how things might play out in the United States is the Spanish Civil War.

The Spanish Civil War is known to historians, amateur and professional alike, as the “dress rehearsal for the Second World War.” It is so termed because it pitted one side – which was equipped, armed and funded by Europe’s fascist regimes (Germany and Italy) – against a government largely funded and propped up by the Soviet Union. However, it is worth noting that General Francisco Franco’s nationalist forces were not themselves fascist (though there were fascists within their ranks) and that Spain remained neutral during the Second World War, later becoming a close ally of the United States in the fight against Communism internationally.

While there are few perfect analogs to be found anywhere in world history, there are parallels between the contemporary domestic political situation in the United States and the period immediately before and during the Spanish Civil War. And while the situation in the United States might play out in a much similar way to the Spanish Civil War, it is worth noting that our previous Civil War was the bloodiest in human history. There is little doubt that a Second American Civil War would not be significantly more destructive.

Prologue: The Situation in Spain Prior to the Civil War

The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today's AmericaAs we talk about the leadup to the Spanish Civil War, the situation will begin very much unlike modern-day America, however, it will become more like the contemporary domestic situation as time goes on.

The main difference, of course, is that Spain was a monarchy for almost all of its existence until 1931. A republic was briefly declared during the years 1873 and 1874, but it didn’t have much staying power and ultimately was not a transformative government in Spain. Following the First World War, the corrupt central government of Spain became increasingly unpopular and a military dictatorship, that of Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja, 2nd Marquess of Estella, 22nd Count of Sobremonte, arose. This fell in 1930, along with the abdication of the deeply unpopular King Alfonso XIII.

This led to the creation of the Second Spanish Republic and a new constitution in 1931. It was a radically leftist constitution in a largely conservative and Catholic country. Women’s suffrage, civil marriage, compulsory universal education, the nationalization of Catholic Church properties, the prohibition of Catholic religious orders from teaching in schools (and the Jesuit order entirely), as well as a provision allowing for the nationalization of any property that was for the “public good” were all components of the new Spanish constitution. In many ways it resembled the constitution of Weimar Germany, in that it was an attempt by the left to radically remake a country through constitutional means.

The first election saw leftist elements firmly in the saddle, but the second, in 1933, was a major victory for forces of the right. However, because the conservative party had won a plurality in the parliament, and not a majority, the left-wing president of Spain invited the centrist party to form a government. Meanwhile the socialist government alleged electoral fraud, which caused them to become further radicalized. On the ground, a radical working-class movement became hostile toward the ostensibly left-wing government after the movement was suppressed violently by the military.

Monarchist forces, with the explicit backing of Benito Mussolini and the implicit backing of King Alfonso XIII, as well as ideologically fascist forces led by José Antonio Primo de Rivera, began military drills, preparing for war. The streets of Spain became battlegrounds, with 330 assassinations, 213 failed assassination attempts and 160 religious buildings destroyed, with arson being the primary means of their destruction. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, formerly a fairly standard European social democratic party, began to cleave between forces who favored moderation and those who sought a more explicitly Bolshevik party.

The Coup d’Etat of July 1936

Much as the War Between the States began with the attack on Fort Sumter, so did the Spanish Civil War begin with the Coup d’Etat of July 1936. This was effectively an uprising by all forces of the Spanish right, which included two different factions of monarchists, nationalists, fascists (known in Spain as Falangists) and conservatives.

The igniting event was the election of 1936. This saw a very, very slim (less than 1 percent of the vote) victory of the Spanish left (socialists, Communists and anarchists) over the Spanish right. The right wing in Spain stopped planning to take over the Spanish Republic and instead decided that they were going to overthrow it.

The central republican government of Spain was very weak and had been making attempts to purge suspect right-wing generals from its ranks. To that end, General Francisco Franco, who ended up becoming dictator of Spain until 1976, was removed from his office as chief of staff and put out to pasture in the Canary Islands. When the uprising began, the nationalist rebels had the unanimous support of the Army of Africa, a 30,000-strong force that boasted some of the hardest core soldiers Spain had to offer. Many of these troops were Muslims from Morocco, who had been told that the republic planned to outlaw worship of Allah.

Indeed, Spanish Morocco was the base of operations for the rebels, with Generals Franco and Goded taking control of the Canary and the Balearic Islands, respectively. Any opposition in the Spanish colonial empire was quickly crushed with leading trade unionists and leftists simply executed by the rebel forces. The two trade union federations in Spain offered to help crush the uprising, but were told that there was nothing to worry about as the uprising was confined to Morocco and other overseas possessions.

The coup was less than a rousing success for the nationalist rebels, who invaded from their overseas bases. They failed to capture any major cities, which remained significant bases of support for the republican government. The republican government remained in possession of the lion’s share of Spanish territory. However, the republican government was at a disadvantage for two reasons: First, the nationalists had split the territory of peninsular Spain in half, dividing the country between republicans in the north and south while they controlled the middle.

Second, the republican government responded to the crisis by effectively mobilizing the far left in Spain as shock troops to terrorize the population into submission. Communists in particular were unleashed to execute and torture anyone even suspected of being a nationalist sympathizer. It didn’t help that the clergy bore the brunt of this, with nuns gang raped before being summarily executed. The republicans went so far as to exhume the bodies of dead religious figures and desecrate their corpses.

The Spanish Red Terror

The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today's AmericaThe Spanish Civil War continues to have a sort of romantic quality among the left, many of whom see the Civil War-era republican government as an example of “real” socialism in action or, at the very least, something close to it. However, the Spanish republican left were less bloody than their more famous Communist counterparts in Russia, China and the Eastern Bloc only due to a lack of scale and a limited time frame on which they operated.

The Red Terror in Spain predates the nationalist rebellion and was, indeed, one of the primary motivations for the uprising. It is generally agreed that the Spanish Red Terror began during an Asturian miners’ strike in 1934. Priests and the religious were targeted in what was not simply a strike, but a rebellion against the government. Supporters of the rebellion targeted clergy and religious figures, resulting in the destruction of 58 churches and convents during a period of a little more than two weeks. Ironically, the rebellion was put down by Goded and Franco at the behest of the republican government.

Once the rebellion began, the Catholic Church – its clergy, its religious orders and its lay faithful – were largely seen as fair game by supporters of the republic. The comparison between the Church in Spain 1936 and white Americans in 2020 isn’t much of a stretch. Much of the violence directed against the Church was predicated on the basis that they “deserved” this as payback for historical crimes. All told, 3,400 priests, monks and nuns were murdered during the first two months of the Spanish Civil War. Indeed, most of the deaths during the early months of the Civil War were not because of deaths on the battlefield, but rather because of targeted executions against enemies of the Spanish Republic.

In addition to the atrocity against nuns, there were a number of horrific incidents mostly involving clergy. The parish priest of Navalmoral was forced to undergo a parody of the Passion of Christ, ending with a vigorous debate about whether or not to actually crucify the priest at the end. They “mercifully” decided to just shoot the man. The priest of Ciempozuelos was thrown to fighting bulls and had his ear cut off at the end of the spectacle. In Ciudad Real, a priest was castrated and had his penis and testicles put in his mouth. People were forced at gunpoint to swallow their own rosaries. Others were thrown down mine shafts or forced to dig their own graves prior to summary execution. A Madrid nun was executed for the crime of refusing a marriage proposal from a militiaman who had participated in the sacking of her convent.

All told, the republicans destroyed over 20,000 churches and other religious sites during the war. Unsurprisingly, Spanish Catholics overwhelmingly supported the nationalist effort during the Civil War. Even among conservative allies of the republic (for example, conservative Catalan nationalists), support for the republican cause was lukewarm at best, thanks to the Spanish Red Terror.

The Red Terror’s victims are not limited to Catholics or nationalists. As the war progressed and the Communists came to have greater power in the republic (for example, when they were given the Interior Ministry and when the militias were put under centralized control), they also turned their fire on anarchists, socialists and Trotskyists. This move against the non-Communist elements of the Spanish left is detailed in later chapters of George Orwell’s memoir, An Homage to Catalonia.

A Spanish White Terror?

Some attempts have been made to create an equivalence between the Red Terror in Spain and the Francoist repression at the end of the war. There certainly were atrocities committed by the Francoist forces during the course of the war. Indeed, it would be a bit strange if there weren’t, as such atrocities are a hallmark of modern warfare. Specifically, the Francoist forces engaged in war rape and frequently confiscated babies from republican women prior to their execution. These babies were then placed with Francoist families.

However, there are also some important differences between the terror engaged in by the Francoist forces and their republican adversaries. The Francoist repression wasn’t indiscriminately targeted at the friends, family and acquaintances of anyone who fought on the republican side. It was directed squarely at people who had committed atrocities in the name of the republican regime. The large numbers run up by the Francoist forces aren’t a function of the bloodthirsty nature of the victorious nationalist forces – on the contrary, they were quite conciliatory and looking to get the country moving again after a highly destructive war. Rather, it’s because the atrocities committed by the republican forces during the Civil War were so widespread. Those executed generally received trials unlike those summarily executed by the republicans.

Forced labor was employed for projects such as draining swamps, digging canals and building national railway systems. But again, it is worth noting that the people who were being conscripted for labor were considered criminals by the new regime. Indeed, any participation in the Popular Front government of the republic was criminalized by the Law of Political Responsibility, enacted two months after the end of the war. What’s more, this forced labor is not comparable to gulag labor where the intent was to work the victims to death.

As with any fight against Communist forces, it is worth asking a simple question: What would Spain have looked like if the Communists had won? We have ample examples of what Communist regimes look like – in Eastern Europe, in Asia and in Latin America. There is little reason to believe that a Communist regime in Spain would not have been as bloodthirsty and ruthless as other Communist regimes. Indeed, the experience of the Civil War shows that a Spanish Communist regime would have been quite destructive and, it is fair to say, vindictive in its victory.

The Course of the War

The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today's AmericaWithout getting too bogged down into the details of the war, the Civil War is largely the story of the nationalist forces winning victory after victory until the end of the war. This is largely because the republican military wasn’t centralized. Instead, most of the military decisions were delegated to individual autonomous militias who elected their own officers and operated on a democratic basis. Nationalist forces were unified under Franco very quickly, with everyone from conservatives to monarchists to fascists all forced to play nice in service of the nationalist cause. Such centralization did not come for the republicans until the very end of the war, and by then it was too little, too late – and also largely a power play by Moscow’s forces in the Communist Party.

The only major republican victory during the war was the Battle of Guadalajara. This was not a successful republican offensive, however – it was a successful repulsion of a nationalist attack. What’s more, the republicans didn’t even defeat a Spanish military force. They were fighting instead primarily volunteers from fascist Italy. The main impact of this loss was that the nationalists stopped trying to end the war with one big battle and instead focused on chipping away at vulnerable parts of republican Spain.

In 1939, Catalonia, the strongest base of republican support, fell to the nationalists and it was mostly all over but for the shouting. While there were major cities still under the control of the republicans (such as the capital, Madrid), everything from here on out was largely a mop-up operation for the nationalists. The republican government was in total disarray and attempted to negotiate a peace settlement with Franco, but the Generalissimo would only accept an unconditional surrender from the republicans.

Franco declared victory in a radio address on April 1, 1939. Over 500,000 republicans fled to France, where they were largely held in squalid internment camps. Some stragglers continued to fight guerilla warfare against the Francoist government even into the 1950s, but there was no significant impact. In 1944, some republican veterans who had been fighting with the French Resistance attempted to invade Catalonia from France, but the attack was repelled within 10 days.

The Relevance of the Spanish Civil War Today

So what does a European civil war that ended 70 years ago have to do with anything going on in America today? A lot, actually.

First, there is the intense political polarization of the United States. A significant portion of the country champions changing the United States into a radical liberal nation with greater centralized control and a firm Constitutional commitment to leftist social justice causes. Another significant portion of the country is opposed to any further changes to the United States Constitution and is openly hostile toward leftist egalitarian principles.

What’s more, we are already beginning to see street battles not dissimilar to those that happened in Spain in the lead up to the Civil War. It is also worth noting that the anarcho-communist ideology, which held great sway among the partisans of the Second Spanish Republic, likewise informs the insurrectionary elements of the American left that began rioting and burning down American cities in the summer of 2020.

As we prepare for the 2020 Presidential election, it is clear that whoever loses will not only be unhappy with the results, but will probably consider them to be illegitimate. On the left, there is the Russiagate hoax, the leftist conspiracy theory that alleges that the Russian intelligence services “stole” the election for President Donald Trump in 2016. On the right, there is the very reasonable fear that there will be a variety of electoral chicanery, including mass mail-in balloting, voting by dead people, voting by pets, voting by dead pets and outright fabrication of ballots from largely Democratic-controlled urban areas in swing states. Indeed, a Bloomberg article seems to be preparing the American public for a stolen election, stating that while it might “appear” that Donald Trump will win reelection in a landslide the night of the election, that further months and weeks will reveal that he did not, in fact, win as the aforementioned mail-in ballots come in.

An article from the Washington Post states that any outcome but a Biden landslide will result in massive violence and civil unrest. While Jeff Bezos’ vanity blog certainly has their reasons for promoting this notion, it’s not entirely without merit. If the president is reelected, no matter how big the margin, there will likely be another wave of urban unrest that will dwarf the events of the summer of 2020. If Biden wins by a slim margin, there will be accusations of fraud and likely more confrontations in the streets, albeit more two-sided. It seems that the only result that would be accepted as “legitimate,” particularly by the press and the American left, is one where Biden wins dramatically.

It is worth briefly considering the other side of the equation. The American Conservative ran a column in July 2020 discussing the very real phenomenon of the American right’s increasing impatience not with democracy, but with liberalism. This is a phenomenon known as “illiberal democracy,” where the forms of democracy persist, but are used for anti-liberal means. Put in simple terms: How many on the American right – even the mainstream American right – would be terribly bothered by the president taking extreme action against an insurrectionary left?

No one has a crystal ball to see the future. However, it is not a wild assertion to suggest that the real violence in America is coming after the election.

Ammo.com: Asymmetrical Warfare and 4GW — Militia Groups

This article comes from the library/writings at Ammo.com, Asymmetrical Warfare and 4GW: How Militia Groups are America’s Domestic Viet Cong. It’s a bit of a longer article that goes into the different generations of warfare, asymmetrical warfare, and where the US militia fits in.

“It is interesting to hear certain kinds of people insist that the citizen cannot fight the government. This would have been news to the men of Lexington and Concord, as well as the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. The citizen most certainly can fight the government, and usually wins when he tries. Organized national armies are useful primarily for fighting against other organized national armies. When they try to fight against the people, they find themselves at a very serious disadvantage. If you will just look around at the state of the world today, you will see that the guerillero has the upper hand. Irregulars usually defeat regulars, providing they have the will. Such fighting is horrible to contemplate, but will continue to dominate brute strength.”

Col. Jeff Cooper

When one discusses the real reason for the Second Amendment – the right of citizens to defend themselves against a potentially tyrannical government – inevitably someone points out the stark difference in firepower between a guerilla uprising in the United States and the United States government itself.

This is not a trivial observation. The U.S. government spends more on the military than the governments of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, United Kingdom, and Japan combined. Plus, the potential of a tyrannical government is arguably upon us – with the federal government spying on its own citizens, militarizing local police departments with equipment and tactics from the War on Terror, and repeatedly searching Americans, which desensitizes them to this invasive process.

There is much historical precedent, however, for guerilla uprisings defeating more powerful enemies. For instance, the Cold War saw both superpowers brought to their knees by rural farmers – for the Soviets, their adventure in Afghanistan against the Mujahideen, and for the United States, the Vietnam War against the Viet Cong.

In both cases, nuclear weapons could have been used against the guerilla uprising, but were not. Even assuming the use of nuclear weapons from the position of total desperation, it’s hard to imagine they would have made much of a difference in the final outcome of either conflict. Unlike the invading armies, the local resistance enjoyed both broad-based support as well as knowledge of the local terrain.

Asymmetrical Warfare and 4GW: America's Domestic Viet CongNow imagine such a scenario in the United States. You wouldn’t be the first person to do so. From Red Dawn to James Wesley, Rawles’ Patriots series, there is a relatively long-standing tradition of American survival literature about the hoi polloi resisting the tyranny of big government, either before or after a collapse.

For the purposes of this article, consider what a domestic American terrorist or freedom fighter (after all, the label is in the eye of the beholder) organization based on the militia movement would look like in open revolt against the United States government. In the spirit of levity, we’ll call them the “Hillbilly Viet Cong.” They would most likely find their largest numbers in Appalachia, but don’t discount their power in the American Redoubt, or the more sparsely populated areas of the American Southwest, including rural Texas.

Here we have tens of thousands of Americans armed to the teeth with combat experience, deep family ties to both the police and the military, extensive knowledge of the local geography, and, in many cases, survivalist training. Even where they are not trained, militant and active, they enjoy broad support among those who own a lot of guns and grow a lot of food.

On the other side, you have the unwieldy Baby Huey of the rump U.S. government’s military, with some snarky BuzzFeed editorials serving as propaganda.

Could the Hillbilly Viet Cong take down the USG? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s difficult to imagine that the USG could take them down.

Indeed, even with a number of nasty little toys on the side of the federal government, we live in an age of a technologically levelled playing field. This is true even when it comes to instruments of warfare. While the USG has nuclear weapons, it’s worth remembering that a pound of C4 strapped to a cheap and readily available commercial-grade drone is going to break a lot of dishes.

This sort of guerilla insurgency has a name: It’s called fourth-generational warfare (4GW), and you might be surprised to learn that you already live in this world.

What Are the First Three Generations of Warfare?

Asymmetrical Warfare and 4GW: America's Domestic Viet CongTo understand how 4GW is a new and improved form of war, we first need to explain what the first three generations of warfare were:

First-Generation Warfare

The first generation (1GW) is basically what you would have seen in the movie 300. The hallmarks of this generation of warfare are armies from two different state actors leveraging line-and-column tactics and wearing uniforms to distinguish between themselves.

This generation is not entirely without subterfuge. For example, counterfeit currency was used to devalue the money supply during the 1GW Napoleonic Wars. Other examples of 1GW conflicts include the English Civil War and the American Revolutionary War.

Second-Generation Warfare

The second generation (2GW) comes with the advent of rifling and breech-loaded weapons. As students of military history know, the invention of rifling was one of the reasons that the United States Civil War was so bloody. This meant that firearms that were once mostly for show after 100 feet or so, were now deadly weapons – and tactics did not immediately evolve.

But evolve they did. Many things we take for granted as being just part of warfare – such as camouflage, artillery, and reconnaissance – are defining features of 2GW. The American Civil War is probably the first 2GW conflict. Others include the First World War, the Spanish Civil War and, much more recently, the Iran-Iraq War. The United States military coined this phrase in 1989.

Third-Generation Warfare

This phase of warfare, also known a 3GW, is the late modern version of warfare, where speed and stealth play a much bigger role. Weapons and tactics alone are less important. Instead, military units seek to find ways to outmaneuver one another before – or even instead of – meeting on the battlefield.

The era of 3GW was initiated with the Blitzkrieg, which marked the decisive end to cavalry and replaced it with tank and helicopter warfare. Junior officers were given more leeway to give orders. The Second World War was the first 3GW conflict, with the Korean, Vietnam and both Iraq Wars becoming further examples of this style of fighting.

What Is Fourth-Generation Warfare?

Asymmetrical Warfare and 4GW: America's Domestic Viet CongThe most direct way of discussing 4GW is to say that it describes any war between a state actor and a non-state actor. This is also known as asymmetrical warfare, but it’s not the only difference between 4GW and other, earlier forms of conflict. Asymmetrical warfare does, to be sure, blur the lines between combatants and civilians. This is in part what made the Bush-era “war on terror” so difficult and complicated: The war was against a set of ideas rather than a nation or even an extra-national army.

Continue reading “Ammo.com: Asymmetrical Warfare and 4GW — Militia Groups”

American Militias After the Civil War: From Black Codes to the Black Panthers and Beyond

Ammo.com has written a long article on the history of militias in America. Here is an excerpt from the second part of that article, titled American Militias after the Civil War: From Black Codes to the Black Panthers and Beyond. If you find this interesting, please read the entire article at Ammo.com, starting with the first part.

The Civil War (1861-1865) was nothing less than a revolutionary reorganization of American government, society, and economics. It claimed almost as many lives as every other U.S. conflict combined and, by war’s bloody logic, forged the nation which the Founding Fathers could not by settling once and for all lingering national questions about state sovereignty and slavery.

The postwar period, however, was one of arguably greater turmoil than the war itself. This is because many men in the South did not, in fact, lay down their arms at the end of the War. What’s more, freedmen, former slaves that were now American citizens, had to take defensive measures against pro-Democratic Party partisans, the most famous of whom were the Ku Klux Klan.

America’s militia has existed for a number of purposes and has exercised a surprising number of roles over the years. But at its core, it’s a bulwark of the power of the country against the power of the state…

The Reconstruction Era (1865-1877) is one of the most fascinating – and violent – periods of American history. After the defeat of the Confederate States, the United States Army took direct control of the quelled rebel states. Elections were eventually held and Republicans won every state, with the exception of Virginia. The state governments then organized militias, which were comprised of a majority of black men.

To say that there was racial tension in the former Confederate states would be an understatement. Not only was the South under continued military occupation, but they were also being occupied by their former slaves, now armed by what was until very recently a foreign power. The white population of the South responded to what they considered to be an attack on them and their rights by organizing militias of their own, despite the fact that this was prohibited by law. In fact, postbellum laws on militia organization prohibited drilling, parading, or organizing…

A correspondent writing at the time spoke of the palpable fear of the white population: He believed that a massacre of the entire white population was impending. This anxiety is what led to the so-called “Black Codes” of the postwar era, which included tight restrictions on the weapons that could be owned by free blacks – if any at all. Some laws even restricted blacks from owning knives.

It’s worth noting that black veterans of the time were armed quite well. Not only did many keep their service weapons after the war was over, but they were also in possession of weapons claimed as war prizes. The average black citizen of the time, however, wanted only arms for self defense. Indeed, the mutual feeling of uneasiness in the postwar South seems to have a solid foundation for each group…

Some of the first anti-gun control movements in the United States were among freed blacks seeking to keep and bear arms for their own protection against the white independent militias. The names are familiar to most Americans: The Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camelia, The Red Shirts, The White League, The White Brotherhood. These white independent militias have been called by George C. Rable the “military arm of the Democratic Party.” Many blacks who had no intention of firing a shot in anger wanted a weapon simply to keep themselves and their families secure in the face of armed terrorist gangs seeking to circumvent the Reconstruction…

Read the entire article American Militias after the Civil War: From Black Codes to the Black Panthers and Beyond at Ammo.com.