Wales and the Spanish Civil War

Wales and the Spanish Civil War

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Wales and the Spanish Civil War

There were many reasons for the men of south Wales joining the Spanish
civil war most of which can be divided up in to the following
categories; Political, Economic, Social, Cultural and Religious. The
most important of which I feel is Political as I think you can find
that all these other problems stemmed from the political reasons. It
was these political reasons that had the most impact on the miners and
ultimately more than any of the others encouraged them to actively
join the war Spanish Civil war, which was being fought over the
political division between the right wing nationalists and the left
wing republicans. Although all the world powers had signed an
agreement of non-involvement Nazi troops from Germany and soldiers
from Italy were sent to help the nationalists. A total of 174 welsh
men joined the international brigade to help the republicans along
with Scots, Mexicans and Russians in order to fight for their
communist beliefs and in an attempt to stop the spread of fascism
across the world. 118 of the welsh men that went to Spain were from
the mining valleys of South Wales.

Religiously almost all people in South Wales in this time would have
attended chapel, and although communism, which is what the miners were
fighting for in Spain, is anti religion, as Marx aid "Religion is the
opiate of the people". If you break down the basic principles of
non-conformist Christianity, as that of South Wales, they are very
similar to those of communism. Teachings such as all are equal
therefore it was an easy and seemingly natural progression for the
working class of South Wales. Also it may have given the men an extra
incentive to help free the people of Spain from the Religious tyranny
of the Catholic Church that they had never experienced living in
relative religious freedom in South Wales.

Although I personally feel that this was a minor factor relating to
why the men from south Wales went to help with the Spanish civil war.

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Another minor factor I feel were the cultural reasons as although the
it could be argued that the Welsh and Basque were both Gaelic cultures
and therefore felt a certain kinship for one another I feel this to be
a insignificant reason as to why the men from south Wales went to
fight. However in South Wales mining communities at the time there was
a strong communist spirit and protesting and fighting were seen to be
the only way in which to voice your opinions, and had been for many
years, so there was almost a pressure from the community to join the
brigade and stand up for the opinions of your class and your community
as many in previous generations.

Social reasons at the time also played a important role in getting
people to cross the line between sympathising and actually taking
action. There was a quite substantial Spanish community in South Wales
at this time particularly in Cardiff which may have brought these
foreign problems closer to home for the welsh communists itching to
fight for their cause. There were also a lot of social similarities
between the people of south Wales and the people of Spain, they were
both very much working class, working in heavy industries such as
farming in Spain and mining in south Wales, both industries had also
suffered a depression leaving many people unemployed on both sides
causing growing hatred for the land and mine owner who were unaffected
by these crises turning them to more extreme left wing politics in
order to try and gain some equality. There were also some physical
similarities such as the Asturies in Spain and the valleys in south
Wales, who were both strongly communist mining communities with a
strong background in protests and riots.

One of the most important reasons as to why the men from South Wales
went to fight in Spain I feel is the economic status of Britain and
especially South Wales at the time. There were people living in
poverty in most mining valleys of south Wales at the time, as there
were in Spain, so for many there was not much to lose in leaving for
Spain in fact the FED (South Wales miners' federation) collected
money, food and cigarettes to send over for the men who went to Spain
so for many this was an improvement. Also in 1934, just 2 years before
the outbreak of the civil war in Spain, up to 67.8% of the population
in one town were unemployed so there were many men with no job to stay
for lots of time on their hands, this was also the major factor in why
the working class men of South Wales turned to communism in order to
take the mining profits and instead of them all going to the mine
owners sharing them equally between all workers.

I personally feel that the most important factor in why the men of
south Wales joined the Spanish civil war were the political reasons.
The majority of men that went from south Wales to fight in the Spanish
civil war were communist and went to fight for the republicans; there
were a handful of men who did fight for the nationalists. The men were
fighting for equality and freedom, from a right wing government that
they perceived as similar to that of Britain. The political status in
Britain at the time was very much against the miners, as there was
such mass unemployment benefits were scarce and seldom enough to
support one person let alone a family, this turned many people against
the government and towards left wing politics.

Also many of the miners were aware of the fascist dictatorship in
power in Germany and Italy at the time and they wanted to prevent to
spread across Europe and the world, "World War;started in 1936".

In conclusion I feel that the people of south Wales' political reasons
were the most important as to why they fought in the Spanish civil war
as this war was about the different politics of classes and the men
would not have gone if they did not feel strongly about their
political beliefs, although all these other factors, religious,
cultural, social and economic I believe are responsible for shaping
the men of south Wales' political beliefs.
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