On this day, 19 July 1936, in response to a right-wing coup by general Francisco Franco, workers across Spain took up arms and launched one of the most far-reaching social revolutions in history. The ensuing civil war pitted the working class against the Spanish capitalists, who were backed by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. In the revolutionary areas, anarchist and socialist workers and peasants took over workplaces and land and began to run them collectively.
Thousands of mostly working class people came from all over the world to aid the workers of Spain. One of them was British socialist author George Orwell, who described the scene in Barcelona: “It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the Anarchists; every wall was scrawled with the hammer and sickle and with the initials of the revolutionary parties… Every shop and café had an inscription saying that it had been collectivised… Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. Nobody said ‘Señor’ or ‘Don’ or even ‘Usted’”.
Western democracies, including Britain and France, abandoned the republic and enforced a blockade on Spain which stopped the flow of aid and weapons to the anti-fascists. Meanwhile, Italy and Germany openly flouted the ban, and the US oil giant Texaco supplied the nationalists with oil and other supplies without even demanding payment, while stopping any supplies to the republic.
Ultimately, after nearly three years of bitter and bloody warfare, the nationalists with their superior weaponry and equipment, were victorious.
In podcast episodes 39-40, we give an overview of the events: