Spanish Civil War Posters
In July 1936 a group of Generals within the Spanish army staged a coup against the democratically-elected left-wing Republican government. The coup divided the army and the police, including the civil guards and the carabinieri. Many monarchists, conservatives and falangists (or Fascists) supported the rebels and formed a Nationalist movement. Socialists, communists, anarchists and also liberal democrats and others from the political centre who supported democracy formed a loose coalition of Republicans to oppose the rebellion. For the republicans this was perceived as a struggle between democracy and dictatorship. For the Nationalists it was perceived as a struggle between Christianity and Communism. By October 1936 the Nationalist forces were besieging the capital city of Madrid forcing the Republican government to re-establish itself on the coast in Valencia. A full-scale civil war had now broken out with each side receiving international support.
A propaganda war also broke out. It was by no means the first example of its kind. Some historians argue that the first propaganda war emerged during the American Civil War; all sides employed propaganda posters during the First World War to manipulate people’s emotions in support of the cause, to encourage men to enlist in the armed forces, to warn civilians about spies and to demonise the enemy. The Bolsheviks took poster propaganda to a new level during the Civil War between the ‘reds’ and the ‘whites’. They were seen as a valuable weapon, almost as important as guns and artillery shells, and new design techniques were developed to maximise their impact. However, the posters which emerged during the Spanish Civil War were, in many ways, unlike anything seen before.
This was partly because of the diversity of political positions which they represented but mainly it was because of the scale of their use, the vivid colours, the symbols and imagery that were used and the variety of artistic styles that were employed. To understand their significance in a civil war it is necessary to know that literacy levels in Spain in the 1930s were much lower than in northern and north-western Europe and in central Europe. Where over 80 percent of the population of most northern Europe countries were literate at that time the figure in Spain was nearer 50 percent. Illiteracy was particularly high amongst women, unskilled manual workers and peasants. Posters with very little text and striking images designed to emotionally engage the viewer were crucially important in a viciously-fought and uncompromising civil war.
- National Committee AIT, Office of Information and Propaganda. Fascism Worker! Your entry into the Iron Column strengthens the revolution Land worker, the revolution will give you the land Republican Left. Defend small private property. Death penalty to the thief This is fascism! Misery, destruction, persecution and death
- International Red Aid. The fascist beast murders and destroys. The International Red Aid brings hope and assistance Asturias, October 1934-1937. Today, as yesterday, the Spanish Red Aid will take care of your families Do not let your family live the drama of the war: To evacuate Madrid is to help in the final victory What are you doing to prevent this? The bear of Madrid will destroy fascism
- Saving the crop is equivalent to winning a battle against the enemy Collaborate with International Red Aid and its effort to help children Intensifying reproduction is revolutionary work Smash Fascism Don't give details about the position of the fronts. Not even to your comrades. Not even to your siblings. Not even to y
- The Generalissimo The Nationals Remember in your heart this watchword: To attack is to win The radio brings culture to the worker's home. Respect its ownership. Promote its purchase One more battle and fascism will be crushed
- Discipline. Unified Command. Sindicalist Party Don't throw out those old rags! We can use them to make clothing for our defenders Basque fascist poster Madrid, the "military" practice of the rebels. If you will tolerate this, your children will be next Industry. Agriculture. Everything for the front