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Alternative History

A United Front

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1936

  • The civil war that has torn the Spanish Republic in two rages on. On the Nationalists side, Calvo Sotelo becomes a counterpoint to other leaders of the rebel forces which never manage to fully unite. Fearing that the military would end up controlling the movement but devoid of foot soldiers, he negotiated (with the help of other conservative civilians) the release of Primo de Rivera (leader of the falange) as a means to get someone to act as a counterbalance. Being the son of the late dictator, he was thought to be a man with whom a deal could be made.

Notes: *here* Calvo was killed by socialist policemen in reprisal for the assassination of one of there own. He was not however the prime target and was only killed because he was the first conservative they could find. Obviously, *there* a different person (J.M. Gil-Robles) was killed first.

Primo de Rivera was imprisoned before the beginning of the civil war by the government for inciting violence. Franco (probably sensing the opposition he would get) always refused to allow a prisoner exchange to take place to retrieve him even though there had a been many proposals made by the falange, the Germans and other factions.


  • On the Republican side, the lack of unity from the rebels means that the attacks, although quite severe, are eventually checked by local political militias of various type (CNT, UGT, POUM, etc ...). Consequently, the Communist Party (who keeps trying to unite others under itself) stays as only one group amongst many.

Notes: The CPE was a relatively minor party before the civil war. It is only thanks to the preferential treatment given to it by the Soviet Union, and a very "moderate" policy that it achieved prominence.


  • At one point, the PCE (Spanish Comunist Party -Partido Comunista Español-) would hear, through unofficial channels, of the offer made by the falange to exchange a number of republican prisoners for their leader. As luck would have it, Primo de Rivera was held in a prison controlled by the JSU, the youth wing of the party. During negotiations, they discovered that the family of General Miaja (an high ranking soldier on the republican side) was detained in Morocco by nationalists. Hoping this would make him join up their side fully, they agreed to the exchange.

Notes: This attempt also happened *here* although it came to nothing. Miaja's family was eventually exchanged for a requeté leader. .


  • While the exchange does make Miaja more sensitive to the PCE, he falls in disgraced a few months later with the government. Although this was not the plan, the return of the falangist leader did manage to indirectly bring some good to the republicans. He was greeted like a returning hero by the falangists and quickly reasserted his authority over his troops to the detriment of the military. What began as a disagreement between the falangist and some of the other factions eventually turned into a mini-civil war in the nationalist zone. This lead to Germany deciding that the falange was to be their "preferred clients" when it came to equipment. Although Italy preferred the Requetés (being corporatists and ultra-Catholic) They made their contribution less blatant to avoid offending Germany.

Notes: Miaja *here* was a character of dubious quality and allegiance. After a few defeats, he was left in charge of the defense of Madrid when the government thought it was about to fall. Although he was meant mostly as a sacrificial lamb, the surprising victories that followed (greatly due to the madrilenos themselves) made him a hero thanks to the propaganda campaigning of the PCE.

Regarding Primo de Rivera, before being shot *here*, he had mentioned a few time that he felt the falange ideology was being diluted by expediency and that he feared that the revolutionary and anti-elitist aspect of the organization would eventually be set aside which probably justified Franco's fear. *Here* when the falange was forcibly amalgamated within the Movimiento in 1937 it did lead to infighting between those who decided to join and those who wanted to stay true to the spirit of the Falange. The lack of a leader (most of the higher ups had been arrested or shot) prevented them from mounting a successful challenge.


  • Internationally, the split in the nationalist camp lead some countries to re-evaluate their position: Great Britain feared a falangist dictator more than a conservative-backed one. From the British point of view, the former would be more likely to side with Germany, which among many potential problems, might deny them access to the Mediterranean. However, unable to help the Republicans for ideological reasons, and preferring to avoid having the conflict spread to the rest of Europe by openly going against the Germans, they decided for continuing neutrality though now preferring the republic.

Notes: Based on comments made by Churchill in 1936 *here*, he apparently disliked what he saw as "Soviet Spain" about as much as a Falangist one. It prompted him to favour neutrality. On the other hand, with a clear distinction made between the Conservative/military faction and the extremists (falangist & carlist), it might have changed his mind regarding help.

Still, the British government made it clear to the French that if they decided to openly intervene in Spain, Great Britain would not help France in the event of a German invasion. Partly, the UK government simply did not feel like it could sustain another war so soon after the last (a little less then 20 years before).


  • In France, Léon Blum saw with horror that far from ending the war, the split in the nationalist zone might actually prolong it if other countries where to give help to one side or another. He played on the fear of an encirclement of France by Germany to the right-wingers to gain the support of the more moderate elements in passing various low-level acts to help the republicans including opening the border to refugees and unofficial arm trades. He also sent some emissaries to Moscow to strengthen the Franco-Soviet pact, as well as to Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania.

Notes: *Here*, for many on the French political right (even the far-right) Germany was still seen as the "ancestral enemy" of France. In some cases, this meant a willingness to ally with those on other part of the political spectrum to fight the common enemy.

The Franco-Soviet pact (signed in 1935) never seemed to have had much impact *here* but without Great Britain, France would have had to look elsewhere for allies. At that time, Stalin was courting the western democracies in the hope of bettering trade.

Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania were part of what was called "the Little Entente", an alliance of countries.

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