Exhumation of Franco
Sir, – It is true, as Paul Preston (October 14th) writes, that the communists, anarchists, Trotskyites, etc, were only a part of the Republican coalition that fought Franco in the Spanish civil war of 1936-39, but they were the dominant part of it, not just a faction. It is absurd to say that the Spanish Republic was a liberal “democracy”, when in 1937-39 in particular it was basically a puppet of the Soviet Union; hence the communist elimination of Trotskyite-anarchist elements within the Republic.
He is correct in saying that there were elements of the reactionary right in Spain who never accepted the Second Republic after 1931, but such people were only a small fraction of the army officer corps (the 1932 coup by Gen Sanjurjo had little support within the army and collapsed quickly). Prof Preston ignores the fact that the first full-scale rebellion against constitutional authority was actually by the left, in 1934, in Asturias, in protest over the formation of a centre-right government. Prof Preston is also inaccurate in saying that only the extreme-right indulged in terrorist violence following the Popular Front’s election victory in February 1936, all of which led to the army revolt in July. Further, initially at least, that army revolt was not designed to overthrow the Republic altogether but merely to restore order. It was only after the Republican democratic government handed over power in the streets to the extreme-left that the army rebellion took on the character of a right-wing counter-revolution against both liberal democracy and Marxism.
Prof Preston is also being a bit petty when he compares the terrible atrocities that were committed by both sides after the Civil War began. That the republican government did not officially endorse atrocities by the extreme-left is neither here nor there; they happened anyway. Further, as said, the communists soon became the dominant force within the Republic and even destroyed their left-wing rivals.
Lastly, Prof Preston refers to Franco’s soldiers as “conscripts”, completely ignoring that most of them were enthusiastic Falangists, monarchists and Carlist Catholics. They were just as idealistic as the left-wing warriors on the Republican side. – Yours, etc,
Dr FRANK GILES,