A war against the people

On 18th July 1936 General Franco led an insurrection which the Spanish oligarchy had been slowly and meticulously planning for years. The objective was to put an end to the democracy and social advances represented by the Second Republic and protect with a firm hand the interests of the landowning class and its allies: the Catholic church, military hierarchy and the banking sector. The military supplanted the political right, who were only too happy to let it. They wanted it to overcome the left and establish an absolute power which would assure their privileges.

The generals wanted to make sure there was no repeat of the failure of the coup organised by Sanjurjo on 20th August 1932. Led by that general from Sevilla, that attempt failed because most of the Army failed to join in and because union organisations called a general strike in the capital city of Andalucía and confronted the rebels. This, known as the Sanjurjada, was the first uprising by the armed forces against the Republic since it was established in 1931.


Because it had failed, in 1936 the plans were much more detailed and the objectives were more ambitious. The conspirators were convinced that a traditional coup d’état would not be sufficient. They knew that the Republic had extensive social support and that the unions and political organisations on the left would defend it to the last. They knew that the coup would not succeed and that they were heading for a civil war, so they prepared for it with that in mind.

Instigated by the hegemonic dominant class of landowning nobility, the military were the armed section of a triple Alliance in which the Catholic hierarchy provided the ideological justification: the war against the Spanish people became a crusade against atheists and freemasons. In reality, the majority of the military leaders of the coup were mainly in the army because they were descendants of that same rich and powerful nobility, the one which had previously monopolised all the highest positions in the kingdom, and in particular the officers’ corps of the Army. Until the mid-19th century, all officers had to be noblemen. Those at the top of the judicial and ecclesiastical power structure also came from the nobility.

Protected by the impunity which comes from being of the dominant class, those behind the coup drew up a very simple plan: after controlling the press, they created a threat of power being seized by revolutionary hordes and the mob. This created a sensation of destabilisation and chaos, and they presented themselves as the only force capable of saving the country, with the complicity of the landowning class and even the bourgeoisie. And even prior to the coup they knew that in order to take absolute power and keep it unconditionally, they were going to carry out a war of extermination so they would never have enemies again. A war which implied the physical elimination of every person who in one way or another had been involved or had sympathised with the left-wing organisations and the governments of the Republic. In Andalucía alone, Franco’s troops and their allies shot 60,000 people.