The Spanish Civil War began in 1936 in Morocco, when nationalists set out to overthrow the republican government. Subsequently, the nationalists led by Franco were supported by the Italian fascist regime of Mussolini, and by Germany (Krieger and Crahan 2001). The most famous episode of the war is Guernica – aerial bombardment of the northern Spanish provinces, which caused massive deaths among civilians. This paper aims to give a detailed review of the Civil War in Spain in 1936-1939 and discover the character of P.O.U.M.’s participation in the war.
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The Spanish Civil War was multifaceted; various local parties participated in it. Juan Negrin led the republican government, and its main distinctive feature was dependence on the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R. It supplied the Republicans with weapons, hoping to weaken the influence of the Nazis in Europe. The open support of the Spanish bourgeois by the Communist Party created a situation in which many representatives of the intelligentsia grew hope that the republican regime would win over fascism.
Perhaps this romantic flair was the reason George Orwell joined the volunteers of P.O.U.M. and then created an autobiographical novel Homage to Catalonia. Undoubtedly, the novel can be considered excellent documentary evidence of the Civil War in Spain. In chapter 11, the author describes the attitude of the Communist Party towards its left-wing colleagues, such as P.O.U.M., most of who were arrested without proof of guilt. Orwell (2016) notes that propaganda accusing P.O.U.M. in collaboration with the Nazis could demoralize the soldiers who served along with the party’s volunteer battalion. However, he adds that none of the direct participants in the events took the accusations of the Communists seriously.
According to chapter 11, the reason for the indictment was the seizure of a telephone exchange in Barcelona by unknown forces. The author carries out devastating criticism of propaganda articles in the communist press of many European countries (Orwell 2016). He also explains that the republican police forces were almost entirely subordinate to the direct orders of the Communist Party. That is why even the head of the government, Juan Negrin, could not stop political persecutions. Orwell also notes that P.O.U.M. was not a Trotskyist organization in any sense of this expression.
Psychology of War
It is interesting to consider the psychology of war, relying on the ideas of the Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud, presented in his book Civilization and Its Discontents, first published in 1930. In chapter 5, Freud (2015) concludes that an aggressive cognitive principle directed at all people is inseparable from human nature. Previously, he examines the warring instincts involved in the formation of a civilized man. Freud (2015) quotes a metaphor from ancient Greek tragedy when brothers kill their father to rule on their own. This metaphor symbolizes the victory of the combined cognitive forces, into which the aggressive drive was reborn, over the primary aggressive instinct. Perhaps the Republican troops can be considered a symbol of the ‘brothers,’ and the fascist regime, with its authoritarian rule, can be viewed as the ‘father.’ Therefore, with the victory of fascism, civilization began to develop in the reverse direction.
Thus, a detailed review of the Civil War in Spain and P.O.U.M.’s participation in it was presented. To summarize, P.O.U.M. was one of the numerous local parties that created volunteer battalions to participate in the war on the side of the Republicans. However, the Communist Party used its position to destroy political opponents, including small parties that separated from Leninist and Stalinist communism. Interestingly, under Freud’s ideas, the victory of fascism can be considered a defeat of civilization.
Freud, Sigmund. 2015. Civilization and Its Discontents. Broadview Press.
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Krieger, Joel, and Margaret Crahan, eds. 2001. The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
Orwell, George. 2016. Homage to Catalonia/Down and Out in Paris and London. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.