Spanish Civil War – September 1936

September 3

The Republican forces retreat from Mallorca, after failing to take the island. Under permanent attack by enemy land and air forces, the retreat was more of a flight, leaving behind many men, weapons and valuable equipment.

The Nationalists take Talavera de la Reina (which was renamed Talavera del Tajo during the Republic). Republicans are massacred in the streets.

Fusilamiento en las calles de Talavera de la Reina

September 4

Giral resigns as Prime Minister and is replaced by Francisco Largo Caballero. The latter’s new government is made up of six Socialists, four Republicans, two Communists, one Catalan Republican, and one Basque Nationalist. It also reorganises the popular militias. The CNT joins the Generalitat, dominated by Catalan nationalist Esquerra and communist PSUC.

September 5

After heavy fighting, the Basque city of Irún, near the French border, is taken by the Nationalists under General Mola. Anarchist militias, defending the city, destroy most of the government buildings with dynamite to prevent their use by the Rebels. This allows the Nationalists to close the main border crossing with France. The Basque Country is now separated from the rest of the Republic, the Basque coastline is already blocked by warships of the “Non Intervention” states, and eventually even its supply lines over the French border are cut off.

Remarkable slideshow of photos of Nationalists by The Times

September 6

Italian aircraft arrive in Mallorca and set up bases from which to bomb the Republic, in particular Barcelona.

September 7

The first autonomous Basque Government, led by Jose Antonio Aguirre, is formed.

The first Spanish Nationalist troops arrive in the Val D’Aran, near the French border
September 9

Almost all European countries attend the first meeting of the Non-Intervention committee in London. It has a huge psychological effect on the Republican side.

Non-Intervention Committee – Wikipedia

The ostensible purpose of the Non-Intervention Committee (1936-1939) was to prevent personnel and matériel reaching the warring parties of the Spanish Civil War. It was set up as a result of the Non-Intervention Agreement. This had been proposed in early August 1936 in a joint diplomatic initiative by the governments of Léon Blum in France and Neville Chamberlain in the United Kingdom.[1] It was part of a policy of appeasement, aimed at preventing a proxy war – with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany supporting Franco’s Nationalist Coalition on one side and the Soviet Union supporting the Republican Popular Front on the other – escalating into a major pan-European conflict. In practice, it greatly disadvantaged the democratically-elected government of the Second Spanish Republic in its attempt to suppress the rebellion of Francisco Franco.

In contrast, Mexico refused to follow the French-British Non-Intervention proposals, recognizing immediately the great advantage they offered the Insurgents, giving a big morale boost to the Republic.

See also Spartacus - Emma Goldman, letter to the Manchester Guardian (28th October, 1936)

The sponsors of neutrality are trying to make the world believe that they are acting with the best intentions; they are trying to stave off a new world carnage. One might, by a considerable stretch of imagination, grant them the benefit of the doubt had their embargo on arms included both sides in this frightful civil war. But it is their one-sidedness which makes one question the integrity as well as the logic of the men proclaiming neutrality. It is not only the height of folly, it is also the height of inhumanity to sacrifice the larger part of the Spanish people to a small minority of Spanish adventurers armed with every modern device of war.

Moreover, the statesmen and political leaders of Europe know only too well that it is not out of love that Hitler and Mussolini have been supplying Franco and Mola with war material and money. Unless the men at the helm of the European Governments utterly lack clear thinking they must realise, as the rest of the thinking world already has, that there is a definite pact between the Spanish Fascists and their Italian and German confreres in the unholy alliance of Fascism. It is an open secret that the imperial ambitions of Hitler and Mussolini are not easily satisfied. If, then, they show such limitless generosity to their Spanish friends, it must be because of the colonial and strategic advantages definitely agreed to by Franco and Mola. It hardly requires much prophetic vision to predict that this arrangement would put all of Europe in the palm of Hitler and Mussolini.

Now the question is, Will France go back on her glorious revolutionary past by her tacit consent to such designs? Will England, with her liberal traditions, submit to such a degrading position? And, if not, will that not mean a new world carnage? In other words, the disaster neutrality is to prevent is going to follow in its wake. Quite another thing would happen if the anti-Fascist forces were helped to cope with the Fascist epidemic that is poisoning all the springs of life and health in Spain. For Fascism annihilated in Spain would also mean the cleansing of Europe from the black pest. And the end of Fascism in the rest of the world would also do away with the cause of war.

It is with neutrality as it is with people who can stand by a burning building with women and children calling for help or see a drowning man desperately trying to gain shore. No words can express the contempt all decent people would feel for such abject cowardice. Fortunately, there are not many such creatures in the world, m time of fire, floods, storm at sea, or at the sight of a fellow-being in distress human nature is at its best. Men, in danger to their own life and limb, rush into burning houses, throw themselves into the sea, and bravely carry their brothers to safety. Well, Spain is in flames. The Fascist conflagration is spreading. Is it possible that the liberal world outside Spain will stand by and see the country laid in ashes by the Fascist hordes? Or will they muster up enough courage to break through the bars of neutrality and come to the rescue of the Spanish people?

The main effect of neutrality so far has been the bitter disillusionment of the Spanish masses about France and England, whom until now they had valued and respected as democratic countries. They cannot grasp the obvious contradiction on the part of those who shout to the heavens that democracy must be preserved at all costs yet remain blind to the grave danger to democracy in the growth of Fascism. They insist that the latter is making ready to stab democracy in the back. The Spanish people quite logically have come to the conclusion that France and England are betraying their own past and that they have turned them over to the Fascist block like sheep for slaughter.

However, the Fascist conspiracy and the criminal indifferences of the so-called democratic countries will never bring the defenders of Spanish liberty to their knees. The callousness of the outside world has merely succeeded in steeling the will to freedom of the antifascist forces. And it has raised their courage to the point of utter disregard of the worst tribulations. Everywhere one goes one is impressed by the iron determination to fight until the last man and the last drop of blood. For well the Spanish workers know that peace and well-being will be impossible until Fascism has been driven off their fruitful soil.

Lt. Colonel Vicente Rojo enters the Alcázar of Toledo, which has been under siege since July,  under a flag of truce to try to obtain its surrender, and failing that, the release of the hostages. Nationalist commander Colonel Moscardo refuses both proposals. Siege of the AlcázarSeptember 13 

The Basques surrender San Sebastián to the Nationalists rather than risk its destruction, and the Anarchist militias who want to burn the town down are shot. The Nationalists begin to advance on Bilbao.

The government agree to send part of the national gold reserves to the Soviet Union. The gold is sent as security for future buying of war material from the Soviet Union.

September 14

Pius XI condemns the Republican Government for their “satanic hate against God”.

September 16

The Nationalists take Ronda.

Spanish Civil War in Ronda (Wiki)

“Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls describes the murder of Nationalist sympathizers early in the Spanish Civil War. The people killed the Nationalists by throwing them from cliffs in an Andalusian village, and Hemingway allegedly based the account on killings that took place in Ronda at the cliffs of El Tajo.”

September 19

The Nationalists capture Ibiza.

The rebellion succeeds in the island of Fernando Poo in Spanish Guinea.

September 24

Against the recommendation of his German advisors, Franco puts back his advance on Madrid in order to releave the rebels caught in the siege of the Alcázar of Toledo. The siege has become hugely symbolically important for both sides.

September 26

The new Generalitat (Catalan government) includes the Leninist POUM and the Anarchist CNT/FAI.

September 27

Toledo is captured by the Nationalists. A small group of militia fighters try to halt the Nationalist advance but are wiped out by the Foreign Legion and Moroccan mercenaries, the “Moros”.  Around 40 anarchists, running out of ammunition, set fire to the building they were defending and are burned alive rather than be taken as prisoners. The Nationalists murder the doctor and the nurses in the hospital; unarmed, wounded militiamen are killed in their beds. It turns out that the hostages taken by the Nationalists were killed in the beginning of the siege, which explains why they refused to hand them over on September 9.

Siege of the Alcázar

Apart from a small arms factory, Toledo was a city of no military value to either side; the Nationalist forces there were isolated, badly equipped and in no condition to conduct offensive operations. Yet the Republicans —due to the increasingly symbolic value of the Alcázar as weeks went by— threw badly needed men, artillery and weapons (which could have been used to confront Franco’s northern advance through western Spain) into the fortress capture. The Republican government believed that since the garrison was only 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Madrid and would not be receiving any immediate help from the other Nationalist forces that it would be an easy propaganda victory. The press was invited by the Republican government to witness the explosion of the mines and storming of the Alcázar on September 18, but it wasn’t until September 29 that the press entered the Alcázar, this time by the invitation of the Nationalists, turning the whole thing into a huge propaganda victory for these, mining in turn the Republican morale.

Paul Preston the repression following the fall of Toledo

In late 2002, building works in one of the patios of the Municipal Cemetery of Toledo unearthed a huge mass grave containing hundreds of bodies of persons who disappeared at the end of September 1936, after the  capture  of the  city  by Franco’s forces.  In  addition to the  casualties  among the Republican militiamen and troops during the attack on Toledo, afterwards there was a sweeping purge of prisoners, wounded  and  civilian  personnel  suspected  of  left-wing  leanings.

Without mass DNA testing, it is impossible to know the exact numbers of Republicans killed in the days following the siege. Nevertheless, according to the Cemetery’s register between 27 September and 13 October, 727 bodies were buried. There were twenty-one batches of corpses with no details other than the numbers contained in each batch and labelled ‘desconocidos’ (unknown). There were eight corpses on 27 September and then sixteen batches between 1 and 3 October making up a total of 564 victims, which includes presumably those killed during the fighting on 27 September and the prisoners and civilians killed over the next six days. The last five batches, one each on 4, 5, 6, 7 and 13 October, saw another 163 bodies.

September 27

The Non-Intervention Committee in London refuses to hear charges that Portugal has been openly supporting the coupsters in defiance of the blockade.

September 29

The Junta de Defensa Nacional in Burgos declare Franco to be Generalísimo. He is now supreme military commander and head of the government.

A Nationalist naval squadron breaks the Republic’s hold over the Strait of Gibraltar at the Battle of Cape Espartel;

The Comintern approves the creation of the International Brigades.

September 30

Ilya Ehrenburg, Russian journalist, letter sent to Marcel Rosenberg, Soviet Ambassador in Spain (Spartacus)

The question of possibly merging the Socialists and the Communists into one party (as in Catalonia) does not have, according to my preliminary impression, any immediate, current significance since the Socialist party, as such, at least in the central region, does not make itself much felt and since the Socialists and Communists act in concert within the framework of a union organization – the General Workers’ Union – headed by Caballero (abbreviated UGT), the activity and influence of which far exceed the limits of a union.

What are our channels for action in this situation? We support close contact with the majority of the members of the government, chiefly with Caballero and Prieto. Both of them, through their personal and public authority, stand incomparably higher than the other members of the government and play a leading role for them. Both of them very attentively listen to everything that we say. Prieto at this particular time is trying at all costs to avoid conflict with Caballero and therefore is trying not to focus on the issues.

I think it unnecessary to dwell at this time on the problem of how an aggravation in class contradictions might take shape during a protracted civil war and the difficulties with the economy that might result (supplying the army, the workers, and so on), especially as I think it futile to explore a more distant prospect while the situation at the front still places all the issues of the revolution under a question mark.

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