Every November 6, the Roman Catholic Church in Spain commemorates the saints martyred by the Communists during the Spanish Civil War. During the Red Terror of the 1930s, Communists killed more than 6,800 bishops, priests, monks, and religious. Yet outside Spain, their story is largely forgotten.
1931: Red Terror began before the civil war
Local elections were held on April 12, 1931. Monarchist candidatures won the overwhelming number of seats contested nationwide (40,324 city councilmen), but 41 of the 51 capitals of provinces were taken by the pro-Republic side (38 for the Republican-Socialist Coalition, with the Socialist Party as one of its members, and three for the Catalan nationalist party known as “Esquerra Republicana” – the “Republican Left” in Catalan).
The results in most province capitals were understood by the monarchists (particularly generals Dámaso Berenguer and José Sanjurjo) as a defeat. Two days later, the Republic was proclaimed, and the monarch Alfonso XIII, of the House of Bourbon, left Spain because he wanted to avoid a Civil War. Niceto Alcalá-Zamora became president.
This new political era was also the beginning of a wave of anti-clerical violence derived from laicism. On May 10, the monarchists opened a new center of political agitation in Madrid, the Círculo Monárquico Independiente (Independent Monarchist Circle), which was immediately subjected to massive riots. As a result, from May 11-13, many churches throughout the nation were burned, beginning in Madrid but expanding to cities like Seville, Cordoba, Murcia, and Malaga.
Malaga was home to one of the worst cases of “anti-clerical phenomena.” Its military governor did not intervene until midday on May 12, when he ordered the police to withdraw from the fray. In a few days, thousands of buildings – and even classical works of art from painters such as Francisco de Zurbaran and Alonso Cano – were burned.
The Communist Party organized many of these acts of arson – which the provisional government did nothing to stop. The minister of the Interior, Miguel Maura, refused to a send in the Civil Guard. The government’s views were summed up by the minister of War at that time, Manuel Azaña, who declared, “All the convents of Spain are not worth the life of one Republican.”
Anti-Christian persecution takes place only after economic resources are collectivised into the hands of secular statists.
In October, the Socialist Party won the legislative elections: 445 of 470 Congress of Deputies seats belonged to left-wing parties, and Manuel Azaña was invested as the head of State. Two months later, the Parliament passed a constitution that banned religious orders, Catholic education, or religious cemeteries.
1934: Revolution in Asturias
Three years later, left-wing actors such as the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the General Union of Workers (in Spanish, “Unión General de Trabajadores,” or UGT), the Iberian Anarchist Federation, and the National Confederation of Labour organized a general strike between October 5 and 19 to protest against centrist President Alejandro Lerroux. He had appointed members of the Catholic and conservative party CEDA to three ministerial positions. The regions of Asturias and Catalonia were the centers of that strike, which is sometimes called the “Revolution of Asturias.” While the village of Mieres was the “focus of insurrectional movement,” protesters (mainly miners that took almost all the region) proclaimed the Asturian Socialist Republic in Oviedo.
This period sparked a new era of anti-Christian persecution. In Asturias, 34 religious were murdered and 58 religious buildings were burned. In Turron, the nine religious who were associated with Christian schools were tortured and killed. Half-a-dozen male students of Oviedo seminary, from the ages of 18 to 21, were murdered. The same fate awaited parish priests in tiny villages like Rebolledo and Valdecuna. The brutality convinced Generals Francisco Franco and Manuel Goded to send the Spanish Foreign Legion and Moroccan colonial troops to that northern region, and the Socialist movement was defeated.
But the most serious persecution was yet to come.
1936-1939: The Popular Front and the Spanish Civil War
The “Popular Front” – a coalition of left-wing parties including the Socialist Party, Esquerra Republicana, and the Communist Party – took power in 1936, through election fraud according to historians Álvarez Tardío and Villa García. That heralded an era of lawlessness. Leftist forces organized illegal demonstrations intended to foment revolutionary discontent. All respect for private property was abandoned. “Police delegates” – who had previously served as socialist activists – led the arbitrary arrest of many right-wing politicians, the forcible dissolution of rightist and monarchist groups, and an escalation of political violence during these months. This triggered a military uprising on July 18, 1936, promoted in part by Franco and General Emilio Mola.
During that time, the areas still ruled by the Republican side were the scenes of dramatic religious persecution. Some 6,832 religious were murdered between 1936 and 1939 – including 13 bishops and 4,184 priests. As many as 20,000 churches were destroyed, many of them before the war commenced.
One of the deadliest massacres came in the autumn of 1936. At least 5,000 citizens were killed in the city of Paracuellos del Jarama (Madrid) by order of Madrid Committee of Defence, which was ruled by communists. People, especially women, were murdered for attending Mass. Anyone associated with the political opposition was liquidated. The former General Secretary of Communist Party, Santiago Carrillo, who would go on to serve as General Secretary of the Communist Party of Spain before ending his life as a “democratic socialist,” is believed to bear much of the responsibility for these massacres.
Anti-Christian terror accompanied the socialist or Communist domination of any region, until the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939 with Franco’s dictatorship.
Today: Still coming to grips with Spain’s Red Terror
Beginning with the Papacy of John Paul II, a total of 1,725 Spanish martyrs of Communist religious persecution have been beatified as saints. During the 2007 beatification of some 498 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, church authorities set aside November 6 as their official liturgical holiday.
Those who contend for religious liberty, a touchstone of Western culture, must remember those key events, which have been subjected to decades of obscurity thanks to the mainstream media and the Spanish educational system. Marxist regimes and cadres were the vanguard of the intolerant secularism again percolating throughout our culture. Anti-Christian persecution takes place only after economic resources are collectivised into the hands of secular statists. Yet collectivism and militant atheism are growing as the prime threats to those of any faith, including faith in our common Western civilisation.
(Photo credit: Contando Estrelas. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 2.0.)