Sunday, February 27

Spanish Civil War Posters

The Spanish Civil War was an extremely complex conflict that ravaged the country from 1936 to 1939 and devastated Spain and its inhabitants. The estimates of how many people were killed in the war run from 500,000 to 1,000,000. The war came about when the Spanish communist party came to power after defeating members of the monarch in elections. They decided that they wanted to bring about land reforms and exclude the church from the government. This was not popular among the Nationalists at the time. So the Spanish Army staged a military coup to overthrow the Second Spanish Republic. The attempt would prove successful, with the eventual installation of a dictatorship led by General Francisco Franco in 1939. The nationalists were made up of monarch supporters, religious groups, Falangists and Fascists. The communist or left wing side was made up of Socialists, Marxists, Anarchists, Communists, Basque and Catalan seperatists and a number of other extreme left wing groups and trade unions. War broke out when the right wing groups refused to accept the left wing as the government and the land reforms they were about to impose.
Before his victory, Franco’s forces met the resistance of republicans, socialists, communists and anarchists in a bitter battle for Spain.
During the war both sides accused each other of being puppet governments for other governments, The Nationalists, as the rebels were called, received aid from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Republicans received aid from the Soviet Union, as well as from International Brigades, composed of volunteers from Europe and the United States.
Politically their differences often found extreme and vehement expression in parties such as the Fascist-oriented Falange and the militant left-wing anarchists.

Among the many aspects of the war that continue to exert a particular fascination today is the wealth of astonishing propaganda posters produced by the various factions involved in the fighting. There was a high rate of illiteracy in the country, particularly among women, peasants and the working classes, so poster designers employed rousing imagery and succinct slogans to deliver their message.
Propaganda has played a vital part in the wars of the early 20th century it was used by Hitler in World War 2 by Mussolini in his control of Italy and of course by Stalin. Throughout the course of the Spanish civil war propaganda was used by all sides to communicate various messages, some of these messages were to encourage peace and to keep fighting for food and freedom whilst others were to convince people to leave the city or join the army. The messages varied, as did the posters. What it left us with in the end was catalogues of posters that are a poignant reminder of these dark times in Spanish history. However they are also pieces of art that serve to remind us of our not too distant past .
The war was much about ideas. Many political ideologies of the time were battling for power and recognition. Propaganda was a major part of convincing the Spanish civilians to side with various parties. Colourful and artistic posters were used to persuade civilians and spread messages as the majority of the population were illiterate and uneducated. These posters were designed by some of the best artists in Spain and the streets of all of Spain’s major cities were plastered with these posters. The Nationalists lead by Franco used the posters to win the support of the people after taking a city from the communists. The communists used the posters to win support from the peasants they were trying to help and to spread messages to the people whilst they were in power. The anarchists used their posters to introduce their new radical idea to the people in the hope of winning their hearts and minds.
These posters are perhaps the most prominent remains of the conflict that presented to the people of Europe and the world the tragedies of war and how the people of Spain were living through these tragedies. These posters are among the most important documents of the war remaining today and can be found in museums across Spain as well as other European countries.
Eyewitnesses accounts of the war attest that the posters were everywhere during the war. The cities walls were awash with the colour and creativity of propaganda. On almost every building there were party posters: posters against Fascism, posters about the defence of Madrid, posters appealing for recruits to the militia...and even posters for the emancipation of women and against venereal disease. Streets aflamed with posters of all parties for all causes, some of them put out by combinations of parties. In Republican territory, when a house was destroyed by the enemy bombs, propaganda agencies would fix posters on the ruins in order to denounce the enemy, hoping to turn aggression into rage. In Madrid, the capital of the Republic, shop owners were forced to fill their store fronts with posters: "Every space must be used to incite the spirit in its fight against the enemy," stated an article in the newspaper ABC on October 30, 1936. When a city was taken the streets of were plastered with posters to convince its citizens to change sides.
The Nationalist party produced a far lesser amount of posters than their rivals. This was primarily because they hadn’t as much inward struggle and because what they were promoting was familiar to the Spaniards. Their posters were primarily used after the taking of a city to encourage calm amongst its citizens. They also tried to encourage people to return to normality after the war.
The Communist or the Republican party were the most prolific producers and publishers of posters during the Spanish civil war. Their posters were used to garner the support of the people and often to spread messages to the rurally isolated peasants. These posters were important in communicating to an predominantly illiterate population and encouraging men to join the militia and support the communist movement. Some posters were co signed by the anarchists and communists during their coalition.

Over the course of the war thousands of posters were created and circulated throughout Spain. Many of these survived the war, however many didn’t survive the war and are lost forever.

This post is by no means to favour one side over another, that's why they are mixed up. It is merely the home and celebration of some important historical documents. I hope you enjoy them!

(Click on the link "propaganda posters to see some of them enlarged).

6 comentarios:

ñOCO Le bOLO said...

· As always, a great job. Well documented. I remember all those signs I've seen in the Queen Sofia Museum in Madrid.
On the civil war, the wounds are not closed. The victims need to rest in peace, not just the winning side, which was the side who rebelled against the legitimate power.



Anonymous said...

hi, new to the site, thanks.

isabelgg said...

Thanks a lot for your comment and for visiting the site. Welcome!!

Uxi said...

Super-mega-wonderful as usual.

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Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.