Spanish Civil War: What if the Republicans had won?

Also, later on in the war the Republicans were becoming more and more thought of as Communists, (which was Bad, M’kay?) whilst the Nationalists managed to distance themselves from the whole “Hitler” thing and somehow managed to make people forget that the Republicans were actually the elected Government of Spain when the war broke out.

No, but his side was the one executing trade unionists. And if it is a choice between a church and a guy defending the working man, I know what side I am on.

But that’s ignoring the bottom line. They didn’t. They overthrew a regime which won free elections, because the so-called democracies cared more about capitalism than democracy.

It’s also probably not true. I’d bet many times Castro could have won free elections. And that’s not meant as any kind of defense of oppressive regimes. Hell, Hitler would without a doubt have won a free election in 1940.

The evidence is what happened everywhere else: in Russia in 1917 when the Bolsheviks overthrew the social democrats, in Europe post-WW2 when Stalin-backed cadres took over every country in Eastern Europe by force, usually by assassinating the moderate leftists. The idea that a socialist, anti-Stalinist Spain would have just been left alone by either Trotsky’s entryists or Stalin simply having all of his opponents thrown out windows is utopian when you look at what happened in every other European country that placed left-wing governments in power without being prepared to fight and win a military conflict with the Communists. You have a Spanish government which arose in a country with no real democratic tradition, spent years becoming radicalized by fighting a war, was distrusted by the conservative democracies, was completely opposed by the official army, and was relying on Stalin’s support within 2 years. The difference between that and a Clement Attlee is phenomenal. Spain becoming anything but a Soviet satellite or what it did become under Franco was not a realistic option.

Taking the Church’s history in Spain into account, that is all the credit of the Republicans and the discredit of Franco.

Is there any evidence of any of this?

You’ve got to look at the institutions in place; you can’t consider Communism as simply that something that happens or doesn’t, and when it does it simply obliterates all institutions. The Russian hard left, after coming into power because of the tactical errors of its opponents in the late 1910’s, ultimately evolved into Stalinism due to Russia’s historical lack of pluralistic institutions. Spain, though no Britain, had a lot more civil institutions than Russia ever did. Even within the Left, there were a variety of well-established political organizations, none of which dominated the discourse.

That’s why Franco’s fascism (and, for that matter, the fascisms of Mussolini and the Latin American dictatorships) wasn’t ever all that bad comparatively, while the USSR, China, and Vietnam were hellholes. If I had to guess as to what’d have happened if Franco’s coup had failed right off the bat, my first guess is that the Republic would have successfully instituted some major reforms, pissed off entrenched interests though secularization and land reform, and reaction would have seized political power through less violent means by the end of the decade, undoing some but not all the reforms that had been implemented. The idea that the abolition of the Catholic Church and the liquidation of the upper classes was ever a pressing goal of the Left before things devolved into full out war misreads things, I think.

I don’t understand what evidence there could possibly be for an alternate-history “what if” scenario besides my explanation of why I think Spain is or is not like other places, and thus why I think it would or would not have evolved similarly to those places.

Anticlericalism had a long history in Spain, going back a hundred years before the Civil War.

Nitpick: Nominally, the Bolsheviks were Social Democrats (and so were the Mensheviks). The Kerensky government they overthrew was dominated by the peasant-based Socialist Revolutionaries.

But the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party was an orthodox Marxist party, and not what we’d call a “social democratic” one, in spite of their name. The Socialist Revolutionaries was a democratic socialist party.

In the 1830s, the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizabal called for seizure of Church property without compensation to the Church. This was one of the issues that led to the Carlist Wars. The causes of the Spanish Civil War practically overlap the same issues as the Carlist Wars.

Even if you are correct, since when is the “seizure of Church property without compensation to the Church” the equivalent of “the abolition of the Catholic Church and the liquidation of the upper classes”?

Let’s see… There was a French Revolution, then Napoleon occupied Spain. After the occupation, the ideas of the French Revolution continued to grow. One of the places it continued to grow was in the political class. The supporters of the ancien régime were the Absolutists and the supporters of the ideas of the French Revolution were the Liberals. The Liberals became more and more anticlerical. The Liberals began by abolishing the Inquisition and enacting the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizabal. A hundred years later at the start of the Spanish Civil War, the Liberals are the Republicans who destroyed over 100 churches and killed 7000 priests and numerous other Catholics.

It would have made a difference, I don’t think it would have destroyed the Soviet Empire. As for leftist regimes willing to be voted out of power, well, France had leftist regimes voted out between the wars and England had, although none with an absolute majority in Parliament due to the Conservative domination.

You could argue that these were countries with established democratic systems, but Spain might also have been without the subversive influence of army and church.

You talk like left wing politics inevitably leads to a dictatorship of the proletariat. In Russia the Bolsheviks in no real sense “overthrew” the social democrats, that is to say seized power from them, the merely won a bloody and long drawn out civil war also seeing off the Menshaviks and Anarchists. As for the eastern European nations, well, they were occupied by the Red Army. Not the same situation.

This is why I have given up. It’s the way that Franco’s apologists attach a mystical power to the Spanish communists, presuming that the Spanish people were predestined for dictatorship. The hard left in Spain was hopelessly fragmented; Spain what outside of the USSR’s direct sphere of interest; and the communists gained strength in the left alliance because the Western democracies betrayed the Republic, and the only source of support for the legitimate government of Spain was the Soviet Union.

Take that exclusive support away, and preferably have British and French troops fighting along side the Republican forces, as well as the Royal Navy blockading fascist areas, and you have a quick and decisive Republican victory. Given that, you have a strengthening of the centrists and moderate left, rather than the rush to extremism that did occur.

The election of the Russian Constituent Assembly in November 1917 had the Russian Socialist Revolutionaries win over 50% of the seats and votes, while the Bolsheviks receive less than 25%. The Bolsheviks disbanded the Assembly. On January 5, 1918, the Bolsheviks began killing peaceful protesters who supported the original Assembly. That sounds a lot like an overthrow and seizure of government to me.

And a few weeks before that, at the end of October, 1917, after six months of strikes led by the Bolshevik controlled Soviets, the Red Guards seized government offices and forced the members of the provisional government to flee.