What were the Root Causes of the Spanish Civil War?

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General Francisco Franco in 1936

The Spanish Civil War was one of the bloodiest wars in Twentieth Century in Europe. The war was not simply a Spanish affair, but drew in other several other nations, including Italy, Portugal, Germany and the Soviet Union. The war was a result of many factors, some of which will be discussed here. The main cause of the Spanish Civil War, was the failure of Spanish democracy. This was because there was a refusal by the Spanish parties and groups to compromise and respect democratic norms.

Spain was a very divided, unstable and weak country in the 19th century. Once a great power, Spain lost almost the last of its colonies after it defeat in the Spanish-American war.[1] It was technically a monarchy, but power had frequently been in the hands of military dictators. The country was bitterly divided. The acute poverty of the Spanish people meant that many were drawn to Communism, Anarchism and Socialism. [2] These ideologies call for popular governments and the re-distribution of resources, such as land and wealth.

Spanish anarchists, socialists and communists were secular and wanted to remove the influence of the Catholic Church from Spanish society. The elite and the middle class were especially conservative. They dominated the economy and feared that the Communists would confiscate their property. This is typified in the fact that much of the best land in Spain was owned by a relatively small proportion of the population. Furthermore, the wealthy and the middle class, especially in rural society was Catholics and resisted any idea that there should be a separation of Church in State in Spain.[3]The elite and the rich landowners, the ‘agrarian oligarchy’ were terrified of communism, especially after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

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