The Revolutionary Left versus the Communist International: A rereading of Franco-Spanish arms smuggling during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)

Transnational left-wing movements
By Pierre Salmon

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), activists of the French anti-fascist left mobilised to send arms and military supplies to the Republican side. This paper sheds light on a support effort that co-existed with the more massive and now more studied support from political groups affiliated with the Communist International and the USSR. The aim is first to understand why historiography has generally been content to measure support for Republican Spain by the yardstick of Soviet mobilisation. This paper then analyses the work of committees associated with the Anarchist Union and the Revolutionary Left. The case study shows the foundations of a transnational mobilisation that would go beyond certain political cleavages. Under the guise of humanitarian assistance, the committees tried their hand at smuggling and had to collaborate with criminal organisations to do so. Thus, the issue of weapons serves as a prism for assessing partisan mobilisations in a context of illegality.

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