The Spanish Civil War: The Second Phase (September 1936 - May 1937)

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2nd Phase: (September 1936 - May 1937)

a) Military Operations

The Battle of Madrid, initiated by the Nationalists, aimed to surround the capital. While the Nationalists won the battle, their overall campaign was a failure. Subsequent Nationalist offensives in the South (Toledo) resulted in victory, while their efforts in the North (Guadalajara) failed. Notably, the Nationalists also succeeded in the Campaign of Malaga.

b) Republican Rearguard

The Republicans sought to consolidate their government, comprising the Popular Front and Anarchists. They appointed Francisco Largo Caballero as the new Prime Minister, replacing Giral, to lead this new government of concentration.

The USSR, under Stalin, agreed to aid the Republic. In exchange, Moscow received gold, silver, and DOR reserves from the Bank of Spain. The USSR utilized approximately 70-80% of these assets to purchase weapons and provide military assistance.

International Brigades

International Brigades were formed by volunteers from around the world who came to support the Republic. The Comintern (directed by Stalin) instructed communist parties worldwide to send contingents of volunteers. Consequently, 70-80% of the International Brigades were communists, aligned with the USSR. Their objective was to combat the Nationalist army.

The concept of a concentrated government aimed to establish a popular army, a "red army" mirroring the USSR. This move led to the integration of militias from sectors that opposed Soviet aid (CNT anarchists, POUM) into the popular army, granting the Communists a more prominent role and, according to critics, undermining the revolutionary project.

May 1937 Events

In May 1937, Barcelona witnessed a confrontation between the People's Army and militias from the CNT, anarchists, and the POUM. This clash resulted in 200 deaths and virtually extinguished the POUM, highlighting a small-scale civil war within the Republic.

On a social level, repression persisted through institutions like chekas and people's courts. The dynamics of the pre-war period remained largely unchanged. Despite attempts to centralize the economy, efforts to ensure food supply and maintain the population's well-being were unsuccessful, even with aid from the USSR.

c) Nationalist Rearguard


Following the death of Mola in early 1937, a power vacuum emerged. General Francisco Franco capitalized on this opportunity, consolidating his position and emerging as the leader of the Nationalist forces. Germany and Italy provided support to the Nationalists, with the expectation of a swift victory. Germany sent the Condor Legion, comprising aviators, trainers, and anti-aircraft defense units, primarily to test their weaponry. Italy dispatched the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (CTV), a force of 50,000 men operating with a degree of autonomy under Italian leadership.

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