On July 17, 1936, the Spanish army under General Franco revolted against the Spanish Republic. Franco envisaged only a short resistance on the part of the Republic and expected to be installed in power within a few days. His expectations proved illusory. In fact, one of the key army leaders, General Mola, concluded by July 20 that the rebels’ cause was lost. The pronunciamento had been crushed in the most important areas of the country: in Madrid and Barcelona, in the Asturias and the Basque province—indeed, in all the major industrial and commercial centers of the nation. A counteroffensive by hastily created workers’ militias and some loyalist army troops soon dislodged the insurgents from key areas. The coup had failed. The Civil War began.
For my generation in the European left, the year 1936 was a watershed. The occupation of the factories by millions of French workers in June 1936 and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War a month later seemed once and for all to break the despair that had settled on those of us who considered themselves Marxists....
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