24 Feb 21
“The nature of modern war leaves no state untouched”
Woodrow Wilson, 1916
In the 1930s, Joe Stalin was actively exporting his own style of Communism worldwide, but his well-deserved personal reputation for ecumenical murderous brutality (despite his best efforts to hide much of it) generated considerable push-back in western Europe. Everyone was frightened of Bolshevik-style political take-overs, and murderous “purges” that invariably follow!
Simultaneously, Hitler’s reputation was similar, but Hitler was less interested in exporting his brand of fascism by Communist-style underhanded “persuasion,” more by traditional, outward military invasion!
Both Hitler and Stalin were bent on a take-over of all of Western Europe (for starters), and were in active competition for territory and populations.
Stalin and his subversive methods met with success in Spain in the 1930s!
The Bolshevik-backed “Popular Front” took-over politically in Spain in 1936, generating much concern and push-back among conservative Spaniards. Push-back would go “active” later in the year, with Francisco Franco (reluctantly at first) leading the revolt.
Clashes between the two factions quickly degenerated into a shooting war, and what amounted to a “proxy war,” with Stalin actively backing the Bolshevik Popular Front, and Hitler actively backing Franco and his resistance movement.
Churchill in the UK remained neutral. France, nervous about a Nazi-friendly nation to the south, was inclined to side with the Popular Front, but could not afford to offend Churchill, so remained neutral as well.
The bloody “Spanish Civil War” lasted from 1936 to 1939. Hitler’s and Stalin’s “support” included military aircraft and pilots, small arms, and eventually heavy arms.
As with most such ideological struggles, mass executions and assorted other atrocities were common, and perpetrated by both sides. Hapless refugees fled to France by the thousands!
In just under three years of bitter and destructive fighting, Franco proved himself a resourceful, capable, and remorseless general, consistently outmaneuvering a series of mostly incompetent Communists. In April of 1939, what remained of Bolshevik “Popular Front Forces” surrendered to Franco in Madrid. The UK immediately recognized Franco as the legitimate leader of Spain. Other nations followed shortly.
Franco’s Spain remained officially “neutral” during WWII (as it had during WWI), but Franco’s debt to Hitler was never forgotten. Yet, Franco remained Spain’s de-facto dictator until 1975. He died that same year (natural causes) at the age of eighty-two.
As the success of Franco’s Revolt in Spain became increasingly and frustratingly obvious to Stalin, he abruptly lost interest in the Iberian Peninsula and turned his attention to Finland, which (via its own “revolution”) had broken-away from Russia during the October Revolution of 1917.
The 105-day “Winter War” (Stalin’s ill-timed and mostly unsuccessful “conventional military” invasion of Finland) started in November of 1939, just seven months after the Bolsheviks’ surrender in Madrid, and ended just fourteen months before the June of 1941 commencement of Operation Barbarossa (Hitler’s “Eastern Front,” his ill-fated invasion of the Soviet Union).
Hitler’s “September Campaign” (military invasion of Poland, and introduction to the world of the term, “Blitzkrieg”) began on 1 Sept 1939, and is generally considered to represent the start of WWII.
“World Peace,” brought-about by the end of WWI in November of 1918, the “War to End All Wars,” had
disappointingly lasted a mere twenty-one years, almost to the day!
“Peace is within sight, but not within reach”
Sir Edward Grey, 1918