The Spanish Civil War: Lessons for another US Civil War

The Spanish Civil War: Lessons for another US Civil War. From an article by Nathan Pinkoski, with comments by Rod Dreher. The parallels with woke versus western civilization are clear enough.


The Second Spanish Republic (1931–1939) suffered one of the most accelerated cases of democratic decline in European history. In 1931, Spain established a liberal, republican, democratic constitution on a wide basis of popular and elite support. In just a few years, the constitution was in ruins and Spain was at war with itself. How did this happen? Too often, Americans are taught a simpleminded morality tale about this period: the fascists destroyed democracy.

But the true story of Spain’s troubled republic is much more interesting and instructive. It shows how democratic regimes can die from self-inflicted wounds. …

In the 20th century a new, revolutionary kind of civil war arose in Europe, pitting irreconcilable conceptions of state, society, and culture against each other. …

The determination of both sides to establish a new regime is the reason why revolutionary civil wars bring unprecedented levels of violence. The goal is to overturn the whole legal and political order associated with the enemy, leading to the call for the enemy’s absolute elimination. …


According to Pinkoski, you can’t really blame the Spanish civil war on the usual motivators of radical politics in Europe of the era. Spain had stayed out of World War I, and wasn’t badly damaged by the Great Depression. And Spain had a history of a liberal and parliamentary tradition going back to the early 19th century. No, this was a war that the Spanish chose. …


The chief culprits were the Spanish socialists. … Revolutionary socialists use the constitutional system to provide cover for their plan to dismantle it. They don’t overthrow the legal system, they exploit it. Legalists of the center and the Right struggle to respond to this tactic. In Spain, their failure was particularly acute. … Spain’s descent into a brutal three-year war [was] the result of the socialist Left’s brazenness meeting the center’s carelessness and the Right’s pusillanimity.


Pinkoski says the Left could not accept the 1933 election results — won by the Right — because they believed history was on their side. So the Socialists did their best to undermine it. To support the Republic came to mean that the Right could never be legitimately elected. …

The center-left — the faction corresponding to our liberals — would not stand up to the Socialists:


In Spain, it excused the violence of young socialists. Centrist authorities were unable or unwilling to stop attacks on private property, businesses, churches, convents, and clergy. Instead, they blamed the victims, arresting not the actual perpetrators but scapegoating monarchists and conservatives. As cultural theorist René Girard understood, this scapegoating does not break the cycle of violence, but intensifies it. …

In Spain, scapegoating monarchists and conservatives converted large sections of the population from apathy to anger. By letting murders go unpunished and unjustly punishing innocents, the Left created martyrs throughout Spain — galvanizing the counterrevolution and turning the conflict into a religious war. …


This sounds familiar. We know all too well that the liberals who run most American institutions won’t stand up to the radical Left. Do not be surprised, then, if the Left goes too far, and creates martyrs of the Right — and then, should a leader arise who can galvanize rightist people sick of the double standards, it all goes off. …

The spark that ignited the Spanish Civil War was the arrest and murder of a member of Parliament, the head of the monarchist party, by socialist members of the police force.


The impartiality of the state was fatally compromised; it was now seen to be openly aiding and abetting partisan murder. The constitution was broken. At that point,… not rebelling appeared more dangerous for many than rebelling.


The murder of the MP was what tipped Gen. Francisco Franco into joining the rebellion against the government.


The rebels knew that the political elites and most of the military’s active commanders would remain loyal to the republic. What they hoped for was a revolt of the captains. They bet on a general military insurrection taking place across the entire country that would take the capital within a month. But they lost this bet. By the end of the first week, all major cities were solidly in Republican — that is, leftist — hands. Most of the navy and air force, as well as half the army, remained with the republic. The Republicans controlled the arms and munitions deposits, the major industrial areas, and all of Spain’s gold reserves.

But instead of using existing security forces to restore stability, the Republican government armed popular militias. This unleashed an orgy of violence and destruction — mass murders of nuns and priests and others became the order of the day across the nearly two thirds of Spain that the Republicans controlled. These horrors swung the sympathies of Catholics and the middle class toward the rebels, giving them a wide base of support. The rebellion was saved.


Franco’s coalition included factions that were completely opposed to each other. …

[Pinkoski] says that Franco did govern as an authoritarian during the postwar decades, with people “deprived of many public liberties” but retaining private ones (this is the classic difference between an authoritarian regime and a totalitarian one).

It is arguable that only a strong authoritarian government could have prevented a return of the savage civil war. Payne believes that Franco’s success in bringing peace and relative prosperity to postwar Spain laid the groundwork for the collapse of Francoism after his 1975 death. …

As difficult as it is to imagine how a civil war could happen in the US today, watching the cycle of radicalization happening on the Left and the Right, and the growing distrust of democracy, and seeing especially how the center-left, which controls most US institutions, sees no enemies to the Left, thus alienating the Right from democratic institutions — well, it’s not as hard to imagine as it ought to be.

The emerging reality that forces on the Left are empowering the State to come after our children — in schools, in popular culture, and in the law — is, for me, an “all bets are off” moment. I hope and pray that this gender ideology cancer does not metastasize.

Watch out for history that rhymes. The modern left is blundering down that path, fueled by woke children who know almost nothing of what happened before and think that they — the first woke generation in human history! — have all the answers.

Spain seems to have been a war of their woke versus everyone else.

hat-tip Stephen Neil