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Review: Catalonia Since The Spanish Civil War – Reconstructing the Nation – by Andrew Dowling

catalonia

This book focuses on the study of the important Spanish region of Catalonia in the modern age. Catalonia has a strong claim to being an independent state, dating back to its time as the Kingdom of Aragon. There is a unique Catalan language and the region has a culture of its own, independent to that of the main Castilian Spanish national one. In wake of recent events in Catalonia, that occurred after this book was released, this book becomes ever more important to study in order for us to fully understand the political processes that are now occurring in Catalonia and their causes. Catalonia was a key thorn in the foot of Franco and the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War and during the ensuing Franco dictatorship, he never forgot the Catalan betrayal. Inherent to Francoism was oppression of regionalist identities within Spain. Under Franco, Catalanism went underground. There was suppression of the language and I found it strange how the main thrust of survival of Catalanism was to found within the Catholic church, an institution that, in particular, during the Spanish Civil War, encountered a fierce enemy in the Catalan people and experienced one of the most excessive repressions of the church by any area during its history, with many churches burnt and priests killed. Catalan liturgies and church literature ensured the survival of the language and the culture was empowered by Vatican support. Montserrat and its role in society in terms of Catalan national identity became intertwined. In the post-Franco era, there has been a resurgence in Catalanism. A degree of autonomy has been granted and widespread recovery of culture has developed, with Catalan being taught again and used in schools and an alternative centre of power to the central Madrid government has emerged in the Generalitat, its key figure in its foundation being long term president, Jordi Pujol. In the modern age, immigration of initially non-Catalan speakers from other areas of Spain, and then non-Spaniards, has created issues for integration within wider Catalan society. Catalonia is a powerful and wealthy industrial region that gives away about 10% of its GDP to Madrid with no return. Politically it tends to lean towards bourgeois values although working class organisation and unionisation has played an important role. There has been an ongoing rally for votes within Catalan politics between middle-right Nationalists and Socialists / Communists. The book’s epilogue explores the…

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Account For The Nationalist Victory In The Spanish Civil War

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The Spanish Civil War lasted for three years from 1936 to 1939 and was ultimately won by the Nationalists. This victory was far from certain at various points of the conflict and this essay shall explore the many factors that actually contributed to the ultimate outcome and that which paved the way for almost 4 decades of the authoritarian Franco régime in Spain. The single most important factor, in my opinion, which led to the Nationalist victory in the Civil War, was the international support that was offered to Franco’s troops. The Republican side became an international pariah, with only Russia substantially offering support, yet on the Nationalist side a coalition of Axis dictators paved the way for Franco with both Hitler and Mussolini readily providing matériel. ‘International participation and the ideological zeal which surrounded both sides conferred upon the war the character of a crusade.’ (Romero Salvadó 1999:94) Indeed, the whole military uprising, in the first place, couldn’t have succeeded without the Germans successfully transporting Franco’s Army of Africa across the Straits of Gibraltar. ‘Reinforcements were needed urgently on the mainland and, since the rising in the fleet had failed, aeroplanes were essential to carry the Army of Africa to Spain.’ (Beevor 2006:71) They were stranded and the whole pronuncamiento might have failed completely had Hitler’s Luftwaffe never intervened. Franco’s army provided the most crucial backbone for the Nationalist army. ‘In any case, the decisive factor in the power stakes was Franco’s control of the 47,000 well-armed and well-trained men of the Moroccan Army. The battle-hardened colonial army, consisting of the professionals of the Spanish Foreign Legion and Arab mercenaries of the Regulares Indígenas (native regulars), was to be the cornerstone of Nationalist success. (Preston 1996:83) The Arab mercenaries went on to strike terror into all they came across, in particular the civilian populations who they brutalised. Indeed the use of terror was about three times more prevalent in the Nationalist Zone. Despite the presence of the backbone of the Catholic Church in Nationalist Spain, discipline was strict. This was a military area and reprisals for the enemy were widespread and brutal. ‘Although figures are very unreliable and open to controversy about 55 000 Rightists were murdered, mostly in the first months of war, for over 200 000 leftists.’ (Romero Salvadó 1999:113) The theatre of Spain was a testing ground for new military tactics and equipment. We saw firsts…

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