1936 01 Chinese Civil War & Spanish Civil War and the Anti-Comintern Pact


Author: Not Decided
Status: In Research

Please post any ideas or research for this episode that you want to contribute in this topic. If the episode hasn’t been assigned to an author yet, you can note your intent to write in the string too, and we will contact you to discuss.

HELP! Urgent call for volunteers!

I’m a history student who is on exchange in Bilbao, Spain, and I would love to try and contribute to this episode. I’ll take a look through my docs in the coming weeks.

Considering the importance of the SCW to the rest of the century I’m a little shocked that it’s only getting half an episode, is there a reason it’s getting shorted?


We really don’t need to discuss the situation in China in this episode. There are already 3 episodes (1925. 1931, and 1937) devoted to China prewar. All these episodes will be dealing (to some extent) the machinations of Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek. The SCW is critical to this period and needs its own episode


It’s not getting shorted - this episode will be mainly about the Spanish Civil War. We’ve listed it as one episode, but there is a great chance/risk that this will end up being more than one epode once we start writing. Personally I would love to dedicate a whole series to the Spanish Civil War, it’s so important as a proxy war building towards WWII and often not covered properly. Unfortunately we have limited resources and time…

The title is the hook of the episode and we have to look at what is relevant to the build up to WW2. All three topics mentioned in the title are essential to understand the global struggle between fascism and communism, which now breaks out into civil war in Spain and China and results in the Anti-Comintern pact. All three events impact how the powers that will soon be on opposite sides in WW2 stand. That being said the episode(s) will mainly be about the Spanish Civil War simply because we haven’t treated the situation in Spain in any other episode.


Don’t really know which episode this would best fit into, but speaking from a Singaporean perspective, there was a lot of support for the mainland Chinese against the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese War originating from here. The Chinese immigrant population consisted of many rich merchantmen and philanthropists who helped by war bonds and donated money back home. Some even organised boycotts of Japanese goods and attacks on the Japanese to show their resentment. The Communist Chinese established the Nanyang Communist Party in 1928, based in Singapore, which later became the Malayan Communist Party. This prompted the colonial government to ban the Party as well as the sending of funding for Communist China. Additionally, press censors and tight immigration restrictions were put in place. To further restrict the spread of anti-colonial sentiments, aid to Chinese and Tamil schools was cut off.
When the Sino-Japanese War began, Chinese agents from the United Front used the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce to set up boycotts against Japanese goods. They also began to boycotted shops run by other races that sold Japanese goods and Chinese merchants who ignored the boycott were severely punished by extremist groups. These were highly effective due to Singapore/Nanyang being a major British port in the region. The boycotts led British authorities to crack down on anti-Japanese elements, partly because they led to social unrest and reduced the port’s income.
Hopefully this helps for the early 1930s episodes, especially on how the British actually helped the Japanese by greatly limiting support for mainland Chinese which would otherwise be coming in from the Straits Settlements.


@Kaelen it goes here as it has to do mainly with the opposition to communism (parts could also go into the colonialism episode)



I think a good point to make about the Spanish Civil War is the fatal paradox of the Republic. The paradox theory (see: Antony Beevor’s book on the SCW) is this: the Spanish government elected in 1936 basically refused to arm the workers that had voted the government in and thus made it harder on its own supporters to help defend the popular front government.

Other points to make could be that Franco wasn’t the initial leader, instead veteran general Jose Sanjurjo was to be the new “caudillo” and general Emilio Mola led the main attack on Madrid (which failed, and ended up discrediting him). Only after the failure of Mola’s attack on Madrid did Franco emerge as he and his troops had defeated the republican siege of the Alcazar of Toledo.

Certainly also go with the Civil war within the civil war as communists and anarchists clashed in Catalonia in 1937 (possibly on Moscow’s orders). And the endless waste of manpower and materiel because the communists kept trying for major propaganda victories and kept failing against Franco’s air- and artillery superiority.

An interesting character is Soviet commissar Alexander Rodimtsev who ended up commanding the 13th Guards rifle division and as such reinforced Chuikov’s 62nd Army in Stalingrad. Of particular interest is that Rodimtsev had witnessed the bitter street fighting during the battle of Teruel (winter 37-38) when temperatures reached record lows in Spain. Teruel was interesting because the Republicans besieged Teruel, took the city and were immediately besieged themselves by the nationalists.

Without the betrayal of Chamberlain and Daladier (by signing the Munich agreement in Sept 1938) some people believe (I am among them) that the Republic could have easily held out until the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939. But because they were left to fend for themselves they (mostly the communists) decided on a fatal and futile offensive across the Ebro river, which was basically the end.

And the Spanish Civil War saw the first terror bombing of civilians, during the bombing of Guernica by the Condor Legion (commanded by Richthofen, who also commanded the German airforce at Stalingrad).

While I am not sure this really happened, I also would point at a story where Hitler sent admiral Canaris (of the Abwehr) to Franco to help convince Franco to join the war, and Canaris ending up deliberately doing the exact opposite.