All over Britain and Ireland, including the unpleasing town where I live, which is run by a left-wing junta, there are memorials to those who fought in the International Brigades on the Red Republican side in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).  Even though there are but a few British and Irish survivors of the battles of that time, their ideological heirs hold rallies at these monuments, linking the civil-war struggles in Spain to modern political questions, usually to the detriment of the United States.  They claim to support democracy, which they don’t, and they fervently declare themselves to be “antifascists,” which means that they hate tradition and conservatives of all kinds and despise religion.  Their role in the Spanish Civil War has been romanticized and glorified in books and films, and their version of events accepted by a gullible public throughout Europe and the United States.  By contrast, those from Britain and Ireland, mainly Roman Catholics, who went to Spain to fight for the Nationalists against Bolshevism have no memorials and have been forgotten.

In Spain, the socialist government is currently changing all the monuments and street names of the time to fit this version of history.  They have even arbitrarily conferred Spanish citizenship on the by-now-distant descendants of those who fled to Latin America when the Republicans lost the war.  It is difficult not to laugh when you read that the Cubans among them are queuing up at the Spanish embassy in Havana to get passports that will enable them to escape to Spain, the country their ancestors had tried to turn into a Marxist state.

The resurgent Spanish leftists have been rebuked by Pope Benedict XVI, who in 2007 beatified 498 victims of religious persecution killed by the Reds during the Spanish Civil War; 71 Spanish bishops and many conservative politicians were present at St. Peter’s in Rome for the ceremony.  It was the largest mass beatification there has ever been.  The Holy Father was extending the work of Pope John Paul II, who had beatified many Spanish martyrs; as a Pole, John Paul II knew full well what it was like to be persecuted by communists.  During the Spanish Civil War, 13 bishops, 4,184 diocesan priests, 2,365 male religious, and 283 nuns were murdered by the Reds, often after torture and in hideous ways.  Even statues of Christ were destroyed by firing squad.  Was this part of the heroic, antifascist democratic struggle?  In Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, which romanticized the activities of the Republicans and preserved their memory, there is a vivid account of the killing of a priest:

The priest was standing and those who were left were kneeling in a half circle and they were all praying. . . . They were still praying as they had been, the men all kneeling . . . looking towards the priest and the crucifix he held and the priest praying fast and hard. . . . And I saw the priest scrambling over a bench and those after him were chopping at him with the sickles and reaping hooks. . . . I saw two men chopping into his back with sickles while a third man held the skirt of his robe.


It is no wonder that, when the war ended in 1939, Pope Pius XII sent a telegram to Francisco Franco thanking him for the immense joy that “Spain’s Catholic victory” had brought him.

The Spanish Civil War was not an antifascist war; it was a war between two coalitions.  On the Republican side was an uneasy alliance of liberals, socialists, separatists, anarcho-syndicalists, Trotskyites, and communists.  On the Nationalist side were the army, the Church, the conservatives and traditionalists, the Monarchists, the Carlists, and the Falange.  The Falange was fascist, but it was not the dominant element in the coalition, neither during the war nor in the years that followed.  When Franco died there was a reasonably smooth transition to a constitutional, democratic monarchy, which had the support of the Church.  During the time of Franco, the fascists were dissatisfied because he had not provided the kind of radical social transformation they wanted, and they resented the power of the Church and the army.  Spain was never a state based on the rule of a single political party in the way the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany was.  When the Falange clashed with Cardinal Segura, the archbishop of Seville, he simply threatened to excommunicate them.  Franco himself was condemned by Joseph Goebbels as being a “bigoted churchgoer ruled by his wife’s father confessor.”  By contrast, if the Republicans had won, the communists (as the most ruthless and disciplined faction) would soon have taken control and created a totalitarian state along the lines of the Soviet Union.  Franco was very careful to remain neutral during World War II, but during the time of the Nazi-Soviet pact (1939-41), a communist Spain would have obeyed Sta-lin’s orders and helped the French Communist Party undermine France’s ability to hold back the Nazi invasion.  Before the fall of France, the French communists had, on Soviet orders, carried out a program of sabotage in French factories to undermine the war effort against the Nazis.  It is an episode our so-called antifascists prefer to forget.  A Spanish communist government would have certainly allowed and helped the Nazis to seize the British naval base in Gibraltar, and the war would have been lost for the West long before Pearl Harbor.

The regime most nearly comparable to that of Franco would be the authoritarian Austrian chancellorships of Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg (1932-38).  Both lacked our Anglo-American regard for individual freedom, an independent judiciary, and strong constitutional safeguards, but the British and the Americans have been lucky in their history; we have never had to face an internal totalitarian threat as Austria and Spain did.  Indeed, Austria was threatened not only by Bolshevism but by the Nazis, who assassinated Dollfuss in 1934.  They forced Schuschnigg to quit in 1938 and not only took over Austria but forced her to conform to the ways of German Nazism.  Before that, there had been no official antisemitism in “clerical fascist” Austria, nor violent attacks on Jews.  There were very few Jews in Spain, though many Catholics were of Jewish descent, probably including Franco himself; the surnames of both his father and his mother (Bahamonde) seem to indicate this.  He would not have looked out of place in a Sephardic synagogue.  Franco was a strong nationalist but not in any sense an upholder of the kind of bizarre and crackpot racial doctrines of the Nazis.  He accepted the Nazis’ airplanes, but that was all.  During World War II, Spain provided passports for many Jews of Spanish ancestry trapped in Nazi Europe and allowed them to enter Spain.  Franco’s occasional anti-Jewish comments are often dredged up, but why was no one concerned when current socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said, in 2005, “Es que a veces hasta se entiende que haya gente que puede justificar el holocausto”?  (“At times one can understand that there are people who can justify the holocaust.”)  In the years since he made that comment, the proportion of people in socialist Spain who hold negative views about the Jews has risen sharply from 21 percent to 46 percent (in 2008).  Further surveys in Spain have found that half of the population accept the most vicious of antisemitic stereotypes, and half of Spain’s high-school students would prefer not to sit next to a Jew in school—again, in a country with a tiny Jewish population.  That is what the new “antifascist” Spain is like.  Hate the Church, hate the Jews . . .

Life may have been unpleasant and unfree in Franco’s Spain (I would have loathed it), but it was vastly better than it would have been under the Bolsheviks.  Those who denounce Franco today often do so in class terms, saying that he represented only the landowners, merchants, and industrialists.  Even if that were true, an ordinary working man in 1930’s Spain still lived better than his counterpart in Leningrad.  At least a poor peasant or landless laborer had something to eat, which cannot be said of the peasants in the Ukraine, who were deliberately starved to death in the millions.  In the early years of Franco’s rule, there were many political prisoners and the use of forced labor, but never the slavery and brutality of Soviet Siberia.  It is not that Franco’s regime was good, but that the Soviet Union was pure evil, and those who fought in the International Brigades either knew or should have known this.

Russian journalist Ilya Ehrenburg, who was covering the Spanish war (which coincided with the great Soviet purges) for Moscow, was told a joke on a visit home that tells us all we need to know:

I hear they’ve taken Teruel.


>What, and his wife too?


The town of Teruel in Aragon repeatedly changed hands in 1937 and 1938, and the Soviet press was full of slanted war news about it, but for those who lived in terror that they and even their spouses, children, and relatives might be numbered among the millions arbitrarily arrested and put in a camp or executed, Teruel mattered far less than knowing which of their neighbors had just been taken away.

How, then, should we regard the various fascist, semifascist, quasifascist, imitation fascist, and arbitrarily-designated-as-fascist countries of that time?

There was one world leader who consistently and belligerently opposed both the communists and the Nazis.  In 1919, Winston Churchill had wanted to intervene in the civil war that followed the communist overthrow of the constitutional Kerensky regime in Russia and strangle Bolshevism in its cradle.  In 1927, Churchill said of Mussolini’s fascist Italy,


If I had been an Italian I am sure I should have whole-heartedly been with you from start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.  But in England we have not yet had to face his danger in the same deadly form . . . But that we shall succeed in grappling with Communism and choking the life out of it—of that I am absolutely sure.


Churchill was for the same reason an early and fervent opponent of Hitler and the Nazis.  His attitude toward authoritarian regimes was governed by his determination to preserve Western Christian civilization; he did not try to force democratic institutions on countries whose traditions would not support them.  His program was simple.  Fight the Bolsheviks.  Fight the Nazis.  Ally yourself with the devil of Bolshevism to defeat the Nazis.  Fight the Bolsheviks again.  It is a good model for how to behave today.

Churchill’s only aim regarding Spain during World War II was to keep her neutral.  The leftists may have seen the war as an antifascist crusade.  No one else did.  In May 1944, when the war, in effect, was won, Churchill spoke out; to the enormous anger of the Spanish Republican leftist exiles, he denounced any postwar intervention in Spanish affairs.  He declared that Spain’s internal problems were for her to solve on her own and added, “It is not for us to meddle.”  In 1945 Stalin wanted everyone to break off all relations with Spain and to support the “democratic forces” there.  Churchill refused to listen, but Spain, nonetheless, was excluded from the United Nations.  However, two Soviet satrapies, Ukraine and Belarus (Russian colonies at the time), were given seats in the United Nations, in addition to the one occupied by Moscow.  The Russians used their Polish stooge in the United Nations to claim that a poor, exhausted Spain with no territorial ambitions was a “threat to world peace” and was secretly manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.  In 1946, Churchill declared before Parliament that “There is as much freedom in Spain under General Franco’s reactionary regime and a good deal more security and happiness for ordinary folk than in Poland at the present time.”

The future Pope John Paul II would have agreed, as would most Poles.

In 1948 Churchill went on to demand the full incorporation of Spain into the Western defense system: “Fancy having an ambassador in Moscow but not in Madrid.  The ordinary Spaniard has a much happier and freer life than the individual Russian or Pole or Czechoslovak.”

The average Czechoslovak had discovered what happens to a country in which democratic elections bring to power a coalition government with a large communist component, when that component is in charge of internal security and has created an illegal militia.  While Spain under Franco gradually became freer and prosperous—and, in 1975, a democracy—the Czechs and Slovaks endured the hell of socialist tyranny until Soviet power itself crumbled.  Theirs was the fate that would have befallen a Spain in which the “Republican” coalition ruled, or Chile if Allende had not been deposed by the prescient Pinochet.

It is for these reasons that we must reject with contempt the hypocritical propaganda of “antifascists,” a synonym for left-wing subversives who hate their own country and traditions.  Curiously, they embody the very vices of the imagined fascists they claim to be fighting.  The antifascists do not believe in freedom of speech or in peaceable political behavior.  They have been able to prevent conservatives from speaking by proclaiming “No platform for fascists,” causing enough mayhem to force Britain and America’s spineless universities to cancel or relocate a meeting.  They have no taste for the patient, humdrum politics of democracy and prefer exciting meetings harangued by a radical demagogue, where they can shout hatred.  The more fragmented Marxists also enjoy sectarian quarrels over points of ideological detail.  There are few things more amusing than their disputes over which left-wing fragment betrayed the others, or which faction was not “progressive” enough during the Spanish Civil War.  The sects are too undisciplined to exercise political power; should they ever succeed, the vanguard party of ruthless, disciplined communists would emerge and take over.  Lenin called it “democratic centralism.”

Neither a fascist nor an antifascist be.

In Spain today, the leftists are creeping back, though the fall of their Soviet sponsor has gravely weakened them.  Nonetheless, they are well advanced in their long march through the institutions.  In most of an increasingly secular Europe, there is a growing indifference to religion but no animosity to religious institutions or belief.  But in Spain, anticlericalism is growing.  Many left-wing Spaniards actively hate the Church—though, of course, they are willing to tolerate and subsidize the mosques of Muslims arriving illegally from Morocco.

Spain is now living through a dangerous culture war that looks like a strange rerun of her Civil War.  Inch by inch, the leftists are undermining tradition, religion, family, national pride, and everything that once made Spain proudly distinct.