What if the Republican's Won the Spanish Civil War?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Aidan Todd, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. Aidan Todd Member

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    Hi guys, I know there's already been many threads about this but I wanted to give my own unique spin on it.

    You might remember me making the post What if the Spartacist Revolt Succeeded?, a scenario which I have since seen people's issues with. It turns out there were many obstacles for a successful revolution taking place in Germany at that present time, meaning whilst not impossible, would have needed a stroke of luck.

    However, another failed revolution which could have changed the course of history, which I feel was much more likely to succeed, is the Spanish Revolution of 1936. So favourable was the revolutionary opportunity, that literally a only a pin prick was needed for it to be successful. However, the Soviet bureaucracy, not wanting a revolution in the west to threaten their authority and dominance over the communist movement, completely sabotaged it by crushing worker's uprisings against the Republican government in favour of a Popular Front Policy against fascism. However, the mass of public opinion was ready for an insurrection, including the left wing of PSOE, including it's leadership, the POUM, and the CNT. What the Comintern policy really meant was siding with the capitalist Republicans against the workers. They said they wanted absolute unity of the republican cadres, but the result was far less unity than if they'd called for an insurrection as a result of having to repress the will of the people. This leading to a breakdown in morale, more fighting of revolutionaries than fascists, and one of the most hideous and ghastly regimes to have ever have walked the earth to rule Spain for nearly 40 years.

    It is one of the greatest tragedies in history, and one of the greatest crimes of Stalinism, that a revolution which inspired the hopes of millions of people across Spain and the world was crushed so brutally when the conditions were so favourable. It was so favourable because Spain was a country where Stalinism did not have a firm established base, and there was more openness around alternative versions of socialism.

    The POUM had the potential to be a revolutionary party, and it's leader, Andreu Nin, had been in contact with Trotsky. Trotsky expressed his concerns at the POUM's policy, and offered suggestions of what would be the right course. He suggested that the POUM enter into the Youth section of PSOE, as that was where a huge amount of radicalised youth were, and to not join the Popular Front. Nin however, chose to ignore this advice, and the cost was enormous. He underestimated the brutality and counter revolutionary nature of the Stalinists, who absorbed the radicalised youth instead. They also used the popular front to mercilessly persecute the POUM and the CNT rank and file, and take out the revolutionary PSOE leadership of Largo Caballero and replace it with the right wing Juan Negrin.

    The Point of Divergence in this timeline is tiny, simple and realistic: Andreu Nin follows Trotsky's advice. He does not merge the left opposition Communist Left of Spain and the right opposition Worker's and Peasant's Bloc, and instead changes the name of the party to the Revolutionary Communist Party of Spain to emphasis it's connection with the communist movement. The RCL enters into the Youth wing of PSOE but not the Popular Front, meaning it's able to absorb it's cadres but able to stay independent of the reactionary Stalinist's and capitalists. By 1937, after the stalinists call for all weapons to be handed over to the government, the RCL would be in a strong position to resist, and would absorb CNT supporters angry with the leadership, with a promise of immediate revolution. This could have led to the communes being secured, and a workers state would have been formed. The majority of well intentioned revolutionaries in the PCE would have switched to support the revolution, and all capitalist elements of the republican forces would have been swept aside. With the strong morale of the proletariat and peasantry, the revolutionaries would have been able to hang onto their territory, and with much more united forces, would have by 1939 defeated the Nationalists.

    The new worker's state is that of democratic, libertarian socialism, and breaks all ties with Stalin, denouncing him as a traitor, and holds the first congress of the Fourth International. Trotsky arrives in Madrid to make a grand speech, congratulating the Spanish proletariat and declaring the world revolution imminent.

    Meanwhile, appeasement is failing, and Hitler and Stalin form an alliance whilst invading Poland, beginning WW2. The course of the war is similar to that of OTL, except that Spain joins the war and is a major player in fighting fascist Italy. Hitler is too distracted with Russia to worry about Spain, and like in our timeline, at the end of WW2 Italy erupts into mass strikes and revolutionary fervor, except with Spain being such a major player in it's liberation, Stalinism is again marginalised, and the calls for partaking in liberal democracy scorned in favour of revolution. Workers take power in Italy, as well as Greece. Forming a Democratic Socialist alliance against capitalism and Stalinism.

    Of course, there is a huge divide in the world communist movement because of this, with Spain and Russia competing for dominance. It de-intensifies the Cold War as the US views Spain as a bigger threat to it's interests than the Soviet Union, although there is still huge tension between the two countries when it comes to their interests in Europe.

    Also, the Socialist Worker's Party in America gains a larger following due to it's relation with the Fourth International, and the 1945-1946 strike wave in the US, instead of the CP putting on the breaks and waiting for the Democrats to repeal the anti trade union laws which they don't, the SWP encourages the workers of America to strike until wages increase and the law is beaten, leading to a proto revolutionary situation in America. The SWP outnumbers the CP in terms of membership, and the momentum of the American left prevalent in the 30's continues on throughout the 40's and 50's, with the SWP becoming a major force in US politics and firmly holding onto control in state legislative in the northernmost states. Mass opposition to the Korean War and US imperialism follows, and to prevent a revolution at home, the United States continues to expand the social safety net, creating single payer health care, free college tuition, a fairer electoral system, and continuing on New Deal economics. Whilst still wanting to expand it's influence, it is far less ruthless in doing so, and US foreign policy in the 50s and 60's becomes more like it was under the presidency of Jimmy Carter.

    Southern Europe is completely modernised, creating the best education and healthcare systems, the most direct democracy, and highest living standards of living in the world. Mass British immigration to Spain takes place as people wish to build a new life for themselves in the lands of the free. Eventually all the world turns democratic socialist and the world today is 1000 times better than it is in OTL.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
  2. JDrakeify Well-Known Member

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    It seems rather optimistic to expect the revolutionaries to defeat the other Republicans, then unite them quickly enough to defeat the Nationalists like that. They would alienate an awful lot of moderate social democrats, liberal Republicans, and orthodox communists, who aren't going to be won over en masse, to their cause as long as Stalin remains opposed. The fact that they were more than willing to stamp out these forces IOTL shows this. They could kiss goodbye to any foreign aid too. Franco would almost certainly take advantage of his opponents division and lack of resources, then win the Civil War as he did IOTL.
     
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  3. Aidan Todd Member

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    They got hardly any foreign aid anyway, and the vast majority of the masses were in favour of revolution at that stage. The support that moderate social democrats and liberal republicans had was absolutely minimal, and their increased role after the repression was part of what killed morale. Even though there would be infighting, it would be less than in OLT due to it being the people's democratic will as opposed to repressing the people's democratic will.
     
  4. Onerom Götterdämmerung

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    The thing is, the more revolutionary the Republican army (or, well, militia at the beggining) is, the least effective it will be against the rebels. While many of the army soldiers stayed loyal, something like 80% of officers turned to the rebels, and those who stayed soon regretted it. The discipline among the anarchist militias was nonexistant, and in many cases the troops declared their professional officers traitors just because they gave orders, "encouraging" them to switch sides or face a bullet in the head.

    An army based on fervor but without discipline, or tactics, isn't an oponent to a proffesional one directed by military officers. You can't beat people who have studied to command military forces and whose troops are 100% compliant with their commands when your men question every order you give them, and vote where to place the trench or if the offensive should take place or not.
     
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  5. Aidan Todd Member

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    Could the POUM do what the Bolshveik's did and force former officers to work with their forces and create a more organised army?

    The Republican's aren't to be underestimated, even though their forces were disorganised, it speaks for itself that they managed to hold Madrid and Barcelona for as long as they did, even with an inter-factional war. If you remove that factor, and provide clear, revolutionary leadership, then they could have easily won.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
  6. Diforto Well-Known Member

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    The POUM militia elected there own officer if I remember well.

    The lacked weapons more than leadership.
     
  7. LHB OTL's Writer needs to be fired

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    The best way for the Republic to prevail, with or without revolution, is for the Arsenal's to be opened up to the militias the moment Franco declared his support & rallied the African troops to the Nationalists. Delay cost the Republic many vital cities & all of Andalusia, Spain's breadbasket and a key center for the CNT.
     
  8. Onerom Götterdämmerung

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    They could, but it would be against the core of the revolution, the men would think the party wants to steal the revolution from them.

    As far as I know, the leftits parties and syndicates' militias already had guns when the coup started, they had been stockpiling weapons and ammunition for the failed "Revolution" of 1934. That's how they managed to storm the barracks in the main industrial centers and deny the rebels two thirds of the country.
     
  9. LHB OTL's Writer needs to be fired

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    They had been but the amounts they had were nowhere near enough for the job at hand. There were a number of instances, like Cadiz, where the Nationalists seized control of the city with a handful of armed troops facing down unarmed or poorly armed leftist militias while massive stockpiles of guns sat unused under lock and key. There was also a world of difference between what small arms the militias possessed and the heavier equipment, like machine guns and artillery, that was kept in government arsenals that would later be put to use by the Nationalists.
     
  10. Japhy Second Best Poster on the Site

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    I mean the thing with this assessment is it's a lot of Monday Morning Quarterbacking. It's hard to imagine any government throwing reasonable thought to the wind and arming violent, terroristic Anarchist revolutionaries the moment the balloon goes up. Even against a military coup.

    The key thing IMO would have been to have the Moroccan Airlift either not occur at all or be delayed. It was the Army of Africa making it over that gave the Nationalists the means of going on the offensive while at the same time pushing the Republicans towards the suicide of a purely defensive posture waiting for foreign intervention to save them.
     
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  11. kernals12 Well-Known Member

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    Probably Communist Spain.
     
  12. David T Well-Known Member

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    By the time the Communists achieved their greatest influence under Negrin, the Republic had little chance of winning. Probably Franco's forces had to be crushed quickly if they were to be crushed at all.
     
  13. LHB OTL's Writer needs to be fired

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    There's plenty of other things they could've done, the sheer amount of warnings & "convenient accidents" leading up to the coup strongly suggests Quiroga was stunningly incompetent especially given recent history involving military intervention by the Army in Spanish politics. Opening up the arsenals was the most 11th hour option but hardly the only one. If Quiroga had actually listened to the growing volume of warnings & acted sooner he could've stopped the Civil War in its tracks before it began.

    The Popular Front had no means to do so, that depends on Britain not pushing for a meaningless League of Nations embargo and doing nothing. If they actually acted to stop Italian intervention, the key party in the airlift, that would've ended the war in a stroke. France was in no shape to act due to the widespread rot in the Army as was shown by Petain's later treachery in 1940.
     
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  14. Derek Pullem Butterfly Killer Donor

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    To be honest this sounds like a recipe for a much better war for Italy. Having had their expeditionary force kicked out of Spain by a bunch of anarcho-communists then the chance that they will consider themselves ready to face the UK in Egypt is remote. Italy doesn't declare war on France and the Allies in 1940 nor does it invade Greece. Instead it occupies the Balearic isles in 1939 (against which the Communists have no answer and sets up a Nationalist government in exile. Might even be able to hold on to Spanish Morocco too.

    Once France falls, Italy launches a full blown invasion of the Spanish mainland. UK can't really help (yet) as it needs to guard Egypt (and by extension Greece). Italy makes it usual feeble efforts but will overcome the Communists with the help of improved weapons and tactics post SCW experience. Plus Germans will probably gift some second line materiel to the Italians (even a "Black" division cf "Blue" division - Rommel?)

    Germans invade Russia without the necessity of a Greek campaign (possibly will still need to go for Yugoslavia although no Italian-Greek war might keep them neutral too).

    By the time the UK has rebuilt it's army after France then more pressing concerns will be on them for any foreign interventions like Malaya and the possibility of a Japanese invasion.

    Italy ends the war after the German defeat as a pro-German but non-belligerent state (think Spain in OTL) with close links to the newly installed Fascist leadership in Spain. Mussolini ends up like Franco in OTL. Italy and Spain make the transition to democracy in the 1970's and 80's.
     
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  15. LHB OTL's Writer needs to be fired

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    This is the same Italy that got its tail kicked in Greece when operating on a shorter line of supply and the same Mussolini who regularly promoted toadies over competent people due to his fears of the military turning against him. The odds are very good any such Italian invasion of Spain a second time around after the Nationalists have been roundly defeated the first time ends about as well as Napoleon's invasion did. It'll make for a great sinkhole for troops, resources and supplies, expand the war without getting any useful material and does nothing to protect Italy in Libya and North Africa where they'd still be vulnerable to the British. Once the British see the Italians are occupied and clearly assisting the German war effort Libya will go down the drain very quickly as the troops that would've been there are too busy in Spain to stop the British. From there it becomes a naval war the Italians can't win.
     
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  16. Derek Pullem Butterfly Killer Donor

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    The British won't attack in Libya and North Africa when they have India and Singapore to defend.

    How is Italy attacking the Communists in Spain (who have probably carried out all kinds of reprisals against the Church and Nationalists) "clearly assisting the German war effort"?
     
  17. Mackus Well-Known Member

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    Yup. Good look running an army as Anarchosyndicalist commitee, complete with people taking turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week, but with all the decision of that officer having to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting.

    It'd be more accurate to say that Bolsheviks forced soldiers to work with the officers, not other way around.
    After brief experiments with "peoples militia", Bolsheviks brought back any ex-tsarist officers willing to work for them, and gave them authority to punish non-compliant soldiers.

    Stalinist PCE were the only ones willing to use force to whip various militias into somewhat sensibly organised fighting force. POUM and CNT would either refuse to do so and lose the civil war even quicker, or adapt Stalinist methods and turn into their enemies in the process.
     
  18. LHB OTL's Writer needs to be fired

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    For one Mussolini not declaring war on France in an opportunistic move to expand his Mediterranean Empire is highly unlikely.

    For two he's going to need access to France overland to simplify the logistics of any such invasion.

    For three the moment the Germans send troops to get involved the war will be expanding since it will be a chance for the UK to bleed Hitler more especially since Italian success in Spain means they can threaten Gibraltar.

    Fourth and finally they wouldn't need much more than the troops Wavell used to trounce the Italians OTL especially since there'd be less troops in Libya if Italy is invading Spain.
     
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  19. Derek Pullem Butterfly Killer Donor

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    The UK does not know it can rout the Italians as per OTL. It does know that if it does not attack the Italians they will leave the UK alone so that they can concentrate on Japan and Germany. And the Americans won't be too keen on invading Spain in 1942/3 either.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
  20. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    I really can't see any Communist combination dominating the Republic and winning over the rebellion. If the Republic wins its because it remained a republic and held together a functional combination of centrist and center left parties, plus sufficient cooperation from Andalusia & the Basque as well as any other other significant splinter groups. That leaves Spain a relative weak but real republic 1939-40. At this point there rare two sides to the fork. One is the republic survives unmolested into 1942 or beyond. the other is Germany & Italy encourage a second revolt and intervene. The largest subvariant here being British support for Spain, or Chuchillian meddling.

    Later as 1942 plays out a Spainish republic invites all sorts of speculation on different Allied strategies. I'll leave those for another time. I will point out the loss of Iberian Wolfram or Tungsten ore is a lot more than a minor annoyance to Germany.