The Spanish National-Revolutionary War had a tremendous relevance in the development of the subsequent events. It was confirmed that, just as the Communist International analyzed, world capitalism moved towards a new overall inter-imperialist war, towards a new sharing of the world among the big capitalist powers.
Under these conditions, the huge task made by the International in organizing its national sections (Communist Parties) and in their bolshevization had a special significance in Spain. The PCE, born over a complex process carried out between 1920 and 1921, with the support of the Communist International and the cadres sent to Spain, was able to correct its deviations and acquire an increasing influence within the working class and the people, until it became, once the war had already started, the main political party of the Republic.
Nazi-fascism unleashed in Spain the first battle of World War II. 300.000 foreigners fought along with Francoists, who counted with the direct support of Germany, Italy and Portugal and the indirect support of the main capitalist powers that, under the excuse of Non Intervention, blocked the legitimate government of the Republic while lending a multifaceted support to Francoist rebels. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy turned the Spanish land into a test field where they perfected their weaponry and tried the military practices that they would use at a massive scale during World War II.
But, at the same time, its antagonist would be also forged in the worker's and people's side. Under the organization and leadership of the International, the Communist Parties acquired a large experience in the struggle against Nazi-fascism. Within the International Brigades and the People's Army, tens of thousands of men engaged in combat and acquired a precious political and military experience, paying a very high price for it. In the Spanish battlefronts, a fighting core with large military experience was forged. It would later reach an essential importance in the new struggles that were looming.
The Spanish people did not only face the direct intervention of the Nazi-fascist countries. All the imperialist powers of the time intervened to some extent with the Republican Spain. The United States assumed a stance of false neutrality. While they said to refrain from every interference, it refused every sourcing to the Republic and provided oil and other supplies to the putschists, including bombs used by the Francoist air forces. At the same time, it actively supported the Non-Intervention Policy hypocritically supported by Great Britain and France. In the neighbor country, the Government of socialist Blum, supported by the Popular Front, capitulated against the British imperialism. The monstrous Non-Intervention Agreement placed the legitimate Government of the Republic and the fascist putschists on the same level. While ones were sent massive international support, without which fascism could have never won, the bourgeois democracies blocked the Republic. As pointed out in War and Revolution in Spain, “When two bandits rob a passerby, one of them hits him straight ahead to knock him down (that was the role of Germany and Italy). The other one holds his arms from behind so he cannot fight back (this was the role of France, England and U.S.A.). But both bandits take action in the crime.”
The Government of the Republic agreed to withdraw the International Brigades in October 1938, which meant a very hard blow against the fight morale of the ensemble of the People's Army. The working class and the best of the people had defended inch by inch our land and had fought side by side together with their international siblings in a death struggle against fascism.
On September 21, 1938, the Government of the Republic expressed before the Assembly of the League of Nations its decision to proceed to the withdrawal of all the foreign fighters recruited after the July 18 coup d'état. Thus it mistakenly pretended to evidence the foreign intervention of the fascist powers in front of the international community. Actually, the reactionary powers kept on intervening in Spain, even with more strength, until the end of the war and, at the same time, the Francoist forces counted with the increasingly open collaboration and increasingly explicit acknowledgement of the bourgeois democracies.
On October 16, the International Commission formed by the League of Nations arrived to Spain, aiming to verify the withdrawal of the International Brigades from the fronts, their regrouping in the withdrawal and the beginning of their exit out of Spain. According to the report presented by the International Commission to the Assembly of Geneva, published in La Vanguardia journal on January 18, 1939, the census of International Brigadists then was the following one: there were 9,843 in Catalonia and 2,830 in Center-South Spain, a total of 12,673 brigadists were still in Spain in the beginnings of 1939 out of the roughly 35,000 men and women who arrived to Spain since the beginning of war.
On November 2, 1938, they started to leave Spain across the French border with an uncertain destination, due to the underground conditions, prison sentences and other penalties that were waiting for them in their countries of origin. And again the apparatus of the International had to be set to try to secure the safety of those who had watered the lands of Spain with their blood. The example of the request filed by André Marty – the chief of the International Brigades – is enough: he addresses on behalf of the Communist International to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Mexico on January 6, 1939, requesting for the organization of the conditions to host 1.600 German, Polish, Italian, Austrian, Czech and Jugoslav fighters as well as from other countries where the advance of fascism made their return impossible. Our people has a high debt with the Mexican working class and its Communist Party, which was able not only to force the Mexican Government to adopt a position of support to the Spanish Republic and send some assistance, but it sent its own brigadists and squandered solidarity first by hosting the international fighters and later by lending all kind of assistance to the Republican exile. It is fair to acknowledge the heroic effort of all the communist parties that, by answering to the call of the International, plunged into the struggle in solidarity with our people even if they were living under terrible repressive conditions in their own countries, where they were struggling fully underground.
The withdrawal of the International Brigades did not achieve the goals pursued by the Government of the Republic, then led by socialist Juan Negrín, as it was predictable just by seeing the experience collected in the international arena for more than two years of struggle. On the contrary, in the last moments of the Battle of the Ebro, the withdrawal of the Brigades meant a mortal blow to the fight morale of the troops within the People's Army and the working people, who somehow sensed that this decision drew up the end of war and the fascist victory.
Even if the bulk of the internationalist forces was brought back in the above-mentioned dates, not all of them managed to reach the grouping zones and cross the Spanish border before the last fascist offensive. Many of them stayed as prisoners in concentration camps and Francoist prisons. Others, due to the split of the Republican zone, were killed or made prisoners. Many protected the withdrawal of the already diminished troops of the People's Army and defended hundreds of thousands of refugees who crossed the Pyrenees after the fall of Catalonia. Most of these last men shared the luck of the Spanish fighters and of those who went on exile through the French border, who ended up in the concentration camps in Gurs, Argelès-sur-Mer, Saint-Cyprien and Barcarès, Septfonds, Rivesaltes or Vernet d'Ariège.
Nazi-fascism prevailed in the Spanish land. But the heroic struggle of the International Brigades was not in vain, and the experience acquired would have significance in the World War II battlefields:
- The Republican Spain, with the main support of the Soviet Union and the action of the Communist International, prevented with almost three years of resistance the decisive addition of fascist Spain to the Nazi-fascist axis in World War II – after the end of conventional war the guerrilla struggle started – and allowed the Soviet Union to get ready for the imperialist war which was coming up, in which the Soviet people and the Red Army were the decisive factor in the Great Anti-Fascist Victory of the Peoples.
- In the Spanish National-Revolutionary War, a large number of fighters was forged in weapon handling and got used to the war techniques the Nazi-fascist axis would put into practice during World War II. Those brigadists, along with the exiled Spanish fighters, would fight in the front line at all the fronts of the anti-fascist war, playing a key role in all the countries where the resistance took action. Many of them also fought from inside the Nazi concentration camps. Others would play an important role in the organization of people's armies in those countries where the working class seized power after the end of war.
The conclusions shown have a major importance when facing the slanders spread on the role of the International, the Brigades and the USSR in the Spanish National-Revolutionary War.