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SPAIN: Red Stand

3 minute read

“Madrid will fall in from three to five days,” predicted its besieger, Generalissimo Franco of Spain’s White Army fortnight ago. Last week, still outwardly confident and smiling, the Generalissimo in effect admitted that the Red militia of Madrid had fought his Whites to a bloody standstill when he issued this order to his officers: “Make no further attempt to take Madrid until our present positions have been consolidated.”

The main force of the White Army under General Jose Varela was fighting on the bank of the Manzanares River which flows through Madrid’s western and southwestern sections. Day after day the besiegerstried in vain to thrust across three of the river’s bridges and battle their way into the city. Under a blanket of acrid smoke, White shock troops violently attacked Los Franceses Bridge, failed to enterMadrid only because the Red militia blew up the bridge and captured three White tanks that had wormed their way across the river into the Radical lines. The Red militia outnumbered the White Army last week and had received many additional airplanes. In Barcelona, the capital of Radical Catalonia, where he had fled a month ago, Spain’s President Manuel Azaña was able cheerfully to boast last week: “The whole of Catalonia is concentrating on efforts to fight for the Republic!” That this was no idle bombast was evident when 6,000 Catalonians under debonair Anarchist Buenaventura Durruti marched to the relief of Madrid. Also fighting with the beleaguered Red militia, who for the first time were reported using poison gas, was a stalwart pro-Red column of volunteers, made up of Russians, Italians, French, Germans and Poles. From among Madrid’s refugee-swollen population of 1,500,000, there were last week more than 50,000 actively defending the capital. General Franco’s White Army totaled not more than 40,000. According to neutral observers “the Red militia will soon number twice as many as their opponents.”

Meantime Fugitive Premier Francisco Largo Caballero’s Radical Cabinet, from their refuge in Valencia, rushed food and ammunition back to their Madrid comrades by railroad, for a successful sally by the Red militia had resulted in effective communications being reopened betweenMadrid and the seacoast. As 40 new Red planes of an unmistakable French pattern roared over the Capital, thousands rushed into the streets to welcome them with hysterical cheers.

But General Franco’s White planes had by no means disappeared from the skies. Choosing an early hour when Madrid’s anti-aircraft guns were off their guard, three trimotored Whites zoomed suddenly over the Capital’s southeast working-class district, and plunked bomb after bomb in the streets as women and children were thronging to the market and as hundreds of men had massed in the open for a workers’ meeting. Before the frenzied citizens could hurry for shelter 52 of them were killed.

With the fate of the White cause at stake before Madrid, reports from Berlin were that “Adolf Hitler would not passively accept the prospect of a Red Republic in Spain” and that both Der Führer and Il Duce were expected by Germans to become “more active” in aiding Franco. The Generalissimo’s brother. Major Ramon Franco, famed “Spanish Lindbergh”and until recently attache in Washington, arrived in Italy last week expecting to have audience with Benito Mussolini. Said Major Franco: “We are at war and cannot disclose our objectives…. It should be considered that a White victory in Spain has been achieved. . . .The new Spanish government eventually will organize itself along lines similar to those of the Italian Fascist Corporative State.”

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