The Grand Camouflage: The Communist Conspiracy in the Spanish Civil War

By Burnett Bolloten | Go to book overview

19
The Revolutionary Militia

T HE reader will remember that the government of liberal Republicans formed by José Giral at the outset of the military rebellion inherited a régime without an army. As a result, the weight of the struggle at the fronts fell upon the trade unions and proletarian parties, which organized militia forces under commanders appointed or elected from among the most resolute and respected of their men. These militia units, or "columns," as they were called, to which army officers were attached under the watchful eye of party or trade union representatives,1 were controlled exclusively by the organizations that had created them, the office of the War Minister being an empty title and possessing no authority as far as they were concerned.2

In order to create a counterpoise to the revolutionary militia, no less than to organize additional armed units for service at the front, the liberal middle-class government of José Giral decided, during the last days of July, to call up two years of conscripts,3 a measure that met with trifling response, not only because many of the men were already in the militia, but also because the government did not possess any coercive machinery for enforcing the draft. Furthermore, it published a decree providing for the creation of "volunteer battalions,"4 and two weeks later, in a still more significant move, it issued a series of decrees

____________________
1
"When, out of absolute necessity, [the working-class organizations] had to make use of us," complains a Republican army officer, "they employed only the minimum of loyal officers strictly indispensable to their needs; these were kept under constant vigilance and were, in addition, menaced because of their alleged fascist sympathies." -- Pérez Salas, Guerra en España, p. 259. See also Romero Solano, Vísperas de la guerra de España, p. 308.
2
See Martín Blázquez (an officer in the War Ministry), I Helped to Build an Army, p. 189; Pérez Salas, Guerra en España, p. 115.
3
Gaceta de Madrid, July 28, 1936.
4
Ibid., August 3, 1936.

-205-

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