Merciless terrorism

The rebels used terror in the form of assassination, imprisonment and the torture of the defenceless civil population. Not only did they want to remove power from the Popular Front, who had won the elections in February 1936; they also wanted the physical elimination of everybody who was involved with left-wing parties and unions.

General Mola made this clear in the instruction he gave to the conspirators: “Bear in mind that the action has to be extremely violent to reduce the enemy, who is strong and well-organised, as quickly as possible. All leaders of political parties, societies or unions who are not part of the Movement will be jailed and harsh punishments will be applied to those individuals to make an example of them, and strangle any rebellious movements or strikes.”

The war against the Spanish people had been meticulously prepared by the official conspirators



They were just waiting for the signal to be given to begin, from Franco in Africa. Not even the officers and NCOs who remained loyal to the Republican order were saved from being hunted down and shot en masse. The generals and colonels who were leading the rebels set to work with a brutal perversity and insatiable lust for power which they applied without hesitation, even against their own companions in arms. On 17th July, when the military coup was still thought to be nothing more than a rumour in Spain, a total of 189 people were assassinated in different places in North Africa for being loyal to the Spanish government. Those who formed the nucleus of the new nascent state were merciless in applying terrorism against all those who did not think as they did. On 19th July General Mola said: “We have to propagate an image of terror (...) anybody who is, openly or secretly, a defender of the Popular Front must be shot”. And on 31st July he stated: “I could take advantage of our favourable circumstances to offer a compromise to the enemies, but I don’t want to. I want to defeat them, to impose my will on them. And annihilate them.”

For his part General Queipo de Llano, who was leading the rebels in Seville, made it very clear in one of his speeches on radio: “I authorise you to kill, like a dog, anybody who dares to coerce you: if you do, you will not be held responsible. What will I do? Impose a harsh punishment to shut up Azaña’s fellow idiots (...) That is why I authorise every citizen, when they come upon one of these individuals, to shoot them to shut them up. Or bring them to me, and I’ll do it (...) Our brave legionnaires and regulars have shown the reds what it is to be a man. And, incidentally, the women of the reds too because now, at last, they know what a real man is, instead of a castrated militia. Kicking and bawling will not save them (...) Now you know my system: for each and every one of you who falls, I will kill at least ten extremists, and the leaders who run away need not think they have escaped; I will dig them up from under the ground if I have to, and if they are dead, then I will kill them again.”

On 24th July Queipo de Llano issued new instructions to the troops who were entering towns and villages in Andalucía and putting aside the Republican authorities: “The guns will be used, with no previous trial, against the leaders of the Marxist or communist organisations that exist in the village, and if there are no such leaders then an equal number of affiliates, selected arbitrarily, will be executed instead”.”.

The victims of this brutal repression, of this slaughter of defenceless civilians, began to be counted in their thousands within a few days of the insurrection. The rebels were proud of their moral perversity, as if committing all these crimes was nothing more than their duty, and for a worthy cause. There were plenty who applauded them, especially from the pulpits and the salons of the casinos.