Great Slave Insurrection
Part of the Antebellum
Tanks in city
Date 4 July 1936 - 27 December 1940 (four years, five months and three weeks)
Location France, Spain and across several parts of the Holy Alliance
Result Decisive Imperial victory, Collapse of the United Abolitionist Front
  • Slavery sustained.
  • Territorial integrity preserved.
  • Mass assassinations on high officials led to the creation of the DPSD.
  • The war increases tension between Prussia and Franco-Spain which leads to an arms buildup.
  • Beginning of the La Reconstruction.
Franco-Spain United Abolitionist Front
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Free France 1940-1944 Maurice Gamelin
Flag of Free France 1940-1944 Alphonse Georges
Flag of Free France 1940-1944 Maxime Weygand
UAF: 290 divisions
7,378 guns
5,445 tanks
6,638 aircraft
4,350,000 troops
Alps on 20 June
300,000 British
Holy Alliance: 196 divisions
14,974 guns
3,583 tanks
3,035 aircraft
2,100,000 troops
Casualties and losses
360,000 dead or wounded,
1,900,000 captured
2,233 aircraft
Total: 663,650 casualties
Holy Alliance:157,621 casualties
1,236-1,345 aircraft destroyed
323-488 aircraft damaged
795 tanks destroyed
Total:2,260,000 casualties

The Great Slave Insurrection (French: Grande Insurrection des Esclaves), also known simply as the Insurrection or the Interregnum is the name given to a declared civil war fought between pro-slavery Franco-Spain Holy Alliance and well organized faction called the United Abolitionist Front, a rebel group led by General Francisco Franco, over the issue of slavery for four years, between 1936 and 1940.

Originally, the abolitionist movement started as anxiety against slavery and the Imperial Colonial Administration oversight of slavery in the empire, with abolitionist tired of the organization's bureaucracy. It first started as peaceful protest for the end of slavery, but years of frustrating negotiations and governmental crackdown, some groups began to used more forceful methods, eventually abandoning diplomacy in favor of terrorist tactics.

The Insurrection began after a pronunciamiento (declaration of opposition) by a group of generals of the Holy Alliance Armed Forces and abolitionist under the leadership of José Sanjurjo against the slaveocracy government of the Franco-Spain Holy Alliance. With assassination of Napoleon VI and the raid on the Bastilla, instead of the civil war, the Franco-Spain faced a full-scale slave revolt throughout the empire.The rebel forces received support from Prussia, while the Russian Empire later intervened in support of the "loyalist," or Imperials, side. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Prussia, operated an official policy of non-intervention.


The slavery issue was the primarily about whether the system of slavery was an anachronistic evil that was incompatible with Roman Catholicism in Franco-Spain, or an economic system protected and preserved for hundreds of years. Much of this stems from the Vatican's outspoken contempt of Franco-Spain's use of human livestock for domestic labor during of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The strategy of the abolitionist forces was to stop the expansionism of slavery and thus put a gradual end to it.

On January 4, 1935, slave riots break out in Mexico City, and a mob backed by abolitionist storms the prisons and plantations where the slaves are being held and frees them. When the Franco-Spain government's crackdown on the abolitionist, clashes break out across the empire between the organization's supporters and opponents.


The war was cast by Holy Alliance as a struggle between tyranny and monarchy, and by United Abolitionist sympathizer’s supporters as between communist and imperial "red hordes" and "Christian civilization". United Abolitionist Front also claimed they were protecting the establishment and bringing security and direction to an ungoverned and corrupt society.

Abolitionist Spain

Abolitionist volunteers in Mexico City, 1936.

United Abolitionist Front

The United Abolitionist Front received weapons and volunteers from the North American Union and international Marxists movement. Their supporters ranged from centrists who supported a moderately capitalist liberal democracy to revolutionary anarchists; their base was primarily secular and urban, but also included landless peasants, and was particularly strong in industrial regions like Mexico and New Spain.

Many non-Spaniards and Frenchmen, often affiliated with radical communist or socialist entities, joined the United Abolitionist Front, believing that the UAF was a front line in the war against slavery. The units represented the largest foreign contingent of those fighting for the abolitionist. Roughly forty hundred thousand foreign nationals fought with the Brigades.

Significant numbers of volunteers originated in New Spain (20,000), Prussia and Austria (25,000) and Italy (13,350). More than 100,000 came each from the North American Union, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Belgium. The Thälmann Battalion, a group of Prussians, and the Garibaldi Battalion, a group of Italians, distinguished their unit during the Siege of Madrid. Americans fought in units such as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. Over five hundred Romanians fought on the UAF side, including Romanian Communist Front members Petre Borilă and Valter Roman. About 80 volunteers from Ireland formed the Connolly Column, which was immortalized by Irish folk singer Christy Moore in the song 'Viva La Quince Brigada.'

Franco-Spanish politics, especially on the left, were quite fragmented since socialists and communists opposed the Holy Alliance. Before the insurrection, anarchists had had mixed opinions, but major groups opposed the pro-slavery movements during the Great Insurrection. The Conservatives, by contrast, were united by their fervent opposition to the slaveocracy government and presented a more unified front.

The conservative, strongly Catholic Brazil colony, along with Guatemala and the more left-leaning Portugal, sought autonomy or even independence from the central government of Madrid and Paris. The UAF supported for the possibility of self-government for the three regions, whose forces were gathered under the People's Abolitionist Army (Ejército Popular Abolicionista, or EPA), which was reorganized into Mixed brigades after October 1937. A few known people fought on the Republican Side, such as George Orwell and Marcus Garvey.

This faction was called variously abolitionist by supporters; Republicans, the Popular Front, or the faction of the freeman; and called insurgents, rebels or los rojos ("the reds") by their opponents. UAF were supported by slaves, most urban workers, a large share of peasants, and much of the educated middle class.

Holy Alliance

Military coup

Course of the Insurrection

The dilemma continues until 1936, when Charles de Gaulle runs for State Minister and defeats a later pro-abolitionist Francisco Franco. Popular opposition towards abolitionism continued, spearheaded by Viceroy Lazaro Cardenas of New Spain. Within weeks of de Gaulle inauguration, Emperor Napoleon VI calls for the abolition of slavery. Napoleon VI established Manumission Bureau and openly supports abolitionism.

Assassination of Emperor Napoleon VI

On March 15, Napoleon VI was assassinated in Madrid while visiting a slave-operated factory. The assassin was a member of a pro-slavery group Knights of the Golden Circle. In Franco-Spain, internal passports and curfews are established to prevent a feared general slave uprising, and growing violence is directed at abolitionist. Franco-Spain now faced a full-slave revolt throughout the empire.


General Franco after the Proclamación speech.

The uprising's timing was fixed at 17 April, at 17:01, agreed to by the leader of the Carlists, Manuel Fal Condé. However, the timing was changed — the men in Spanish Morocco were to rise up at 05:00, and those in Franco-Spain itself starting exactly a day later, so that control of Gran Mali could be achieved and forces sent to Iberia from Morocco to coincide with the risings there. The rising was intended to be a swift coup d'état, but the government retained control of most of the country

On the morning of July 20, at 7:00, General Franco and a group of generals announced their military opposition towards the monarchy and proclaimed the freedom of the slaves within the empire. The announcement was broadcast across the Empire and abroad, with initial reaction from both sides was quickly felt. The rest of the royal family was evacuated to Cuba and all of mainland Franco-Spain was put into marshal law. Factories and plantations operated by slaves were put on lock down and closely guard by military forces.

Bastilla Raid

Black soldiers marching

Newly formed Liberated Grand Army, made up of mostly former slaves.

On 4 July, Juan Modesto and several insurgents set their eyes on the large weapons and ammunition cache inside the Bastille fortress, which was also perceived to be a symbol of royal power and to start an armed slave revolt. After several hours of combat, the prison fell that afternoon. Despite ordering a ceasefire, which prevented a mutual massacre, Governor Henri Gouraud was beaten, stabbed and decapitated; his head was placed on a pike and paraded about the city. The Bastille served as a potent symbol of everything hated under the Holy Alliance.

The UAF intended to use those rifles and pikes they captured at the arsenal, in addition to those he brought along, to arm rebellious slaves with the aim of striking terror in the slaveholders in France. That on the first night of action, 200-500 black slaves joined the revolt. About hundred agents were sent to nearby plantations and factories, rallying the slaves. The Bastilla was held for a three weeks, expected that as many volunteers, white and black, would join them as would form against him. On 29 July, UAF forces moved rapidly southward toward Vichy, sending out armed bands along the way. More and more slaves were freed, obtain food, tanks and hostages, and destroyed slaveholders' morale. UAF planned to follow the Massif Central Mountains range south into Toulouse and even Marseille, the heart of the Occtinia, making forays into the plains on either side.

Operation Guillotine


The Great Slave Insurrection brings lasting trouble for Franco-Spain in the coming years. Slaves liberated by abolitionist troops are arrested and tried for treason with some even executed. The slave trials provoked international outrage, especially within the NAU, where Province Governor of New York Thomas Dewey calls for slaves to be released and for the abolition of slavery in the Franco-Spain Holy Alliance. Members of the NAU Grand Council announce their support for Dewey, who forms an organization called National Association for the Advancement of Chattel People (NAACP) to press the issue.

For nearly ten years after the war Franco-Spain presented the conflict as a crusade against Bolshevism in defense of Christian civilization. In Francoist narrative, authoritarianism had defeated anarchy and overseen the elimination of "agitators", those without God and the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy. The official position was therefore that the wartime Republic was simply a proto-Stalinist monolith, its leaders intent on creating a Spanish Soviet satellite. The anti-Communist crusade narrative still exists both as "a minority academic history" and in media friendly, politically oriented productions. This discourse obscured the social roots of the war and analysis of its origins. Many Spanish children grew up believing the war was fought against foreigners; the painter Julian Grau Santos has said "it was instilled in me and I always believed that Spain had won the war against foreign enemies of our historic greatness."