Battleground of the Revolutionaries: the Republic and Civil War in Spain, 1931–39

  • Tim Rees
Part of the Themes in Focus book series (TIF)


To say that revolution was in everyone’s mind in Spain during the 1930s would be an exaggeration, but it would not be a too gross or unpardonable one. Perhaps no other place or time in Europe during the twentieth century — including Russia in 1917 — has witnessed the flourishing of such a number of movements proclaiming such a variety of openly revolutionary ideologies. The most recognised of the revolutionary episodes of the time took place during the Civil War of 1936–39 in the Republican zone, with George Orwell’s discovery of Barcelona as a city in the midst of Anarchist revolutionary turmoil the best-known account of it.1 However, it was not just the war that allowed revolution to flourish nor was anarchism the only example. In fact, the bitterly polemical nature of political conflict during the 1930s as a whole, which was at its most intense during the Civil War, encouraged the expression of political aims in revolutionary terms. Revolutionary movements initially grew in importance with the establishment of the democratic Second Republic in 1931 and encompassed a wide spectrum of ideas — including radical liberalism, socialism, communism and fascism, as well as anarchism. This breadth itself precluded the development of a classical revolutionary situation, conceived in terms of two opposing blocs representing the status quo and a revolutionary alternative. Instead, these multiple notions of a revolutionary future were often at odds with one another during the Republic and openly clashed during the Civil War, with each version seeking to subdue all others. In this way Spain in the 1930s became a battleground of virtually all the European ideologies that could be labelled as ‘revolutionary’ during the twentieth century.


Trade Union Liberal Democracy Socialist Party Republican Government Popular Front 
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Notes and References

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© Tim Rees 2001

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  • Tim Rees

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