Did the Nationalists win the Spanish Civil War because of their strengths or the weaknesses of the Republicans?
The evidence that supports the idea that the Nationalists won the Spanish Civil War because of their strength is abundant. The unity of the Nationalists was obvious and meant that there was both great organisation and co-ordination, meaning there was no ambiguity in the goals set by those fighting for the Nationalists. Franco’s plans for a long term war meant that he was able to ensure the defeat of the Republic by slowly squeezing the life out of the Republic war effort, which already was heavily reliant on Soviet aid, by securing Republican strong holds throughout Spain. The contrasting lack of unity on the Republic as well as they heavy reliance on foreign aid are the reasons why many feel the weaknesses of the Republic were the reason for its downfall. The reliance on foreign aid does not just relate to the aid received from Soviet Russia, but the lack of aid from Britain and France due to non-intervention. The absence of this aid was extremely influential because as Soviet aid shrunk the Republican cause was exposed as weak and it slowly became a question of when rather than if. However, the strengths of the Republic must not be underestimated, and the reliance of foreign aid came from both sides as it could be easily argued that the initial Nationalist uprising would have failed without help from foreign sources. In fact, the aid received by the Republicans from the Soviets was superior to that being supplied by both Germany and Italy to the Nationalists. The militia victories in both Barcelona and Madrid were a huge morale boost for the Republicans, while also showing the Republic would not just lie down. The International Brigades, although not effective as fighting force, were a symbol of international solidarity in terms of the fight for the maintenance of democracy in Europe.
The depth and passion of the working class support that was present for the Republic was one its greatest assets, and it is this passion of the working class and the militias that they formed that kept both Madrid and Barcelona under Republican control in the early stages of the Nationalist uprising. The organisation of the working class through organisations such as the CNT and the UGT was originally seen as an advantage, but it would quickly become apparent that even this organisation would not stop the divisions of the Republicans and of the left from crippling the struggle against Franco and his Nationalists. The main divisions came from the various communist parties as well as the anarchists, none of whom could fight alongside the other; such was the extent to which their ideologies differed. The PCE, who had very strong Soviet backing and were heavily influenced by Stalinism, frequently clashed with both the anarchist CNT and the PSOE. The main differences was the want of a revolution, the communist PCE thought that the priority should be to win the war in order to secure the Republic’s power, and then lead the communist revolution, where as both the CNT and POUM felt it was necessary for the revolution to happen if any hope of defeating the Nationalists was to remain. These tensions would boil over in the “May Days” of 1937 where fighting would break out on the streets of Barcelona, and many historians dub these actions as the Civil War within the Civil War. The feeling of the CNT and the POUM that the PCE was too moderate still remained, as too did the concern that the PCE were merely agents of Stalin and were not genuinely concerned about the future of Spain. There had already been clashes on the French frontier with between the CNT militias and the Government forces sent to take over from them, due to the Communist influence in the Government. This resentment carried over into May and over a span of four days, 200-500 people were killed as a result of clashes between the CNT, POUM and the PCE. Even though the CNT...
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