Recent reinterpretations of the Spanish Civil War as a complex, multifaceted conflict, beyond the traditional emphasis on economic and social structures, have considerably enriched our understanding of the struggle, especially by highlighting the importance of cultural factors such as religion, nationalism and gender, as well as the specific motivations of political and individual actors. However, the role of large ideological trends of the interwar period such as anti-fascism and anti-communism has been comparatively neglected by most specialists, who have often considered them as discursive expressions of political strategies and, ultimately, propaganda catch-words.
The cultural turn in studies of anti-fascism over the last fifteen years, represented by authors such as Anson Rabinbach, Gilles Vergnon, Nigel Copsey and Joseph Fronczak, allows us to recover this out-of-date concept as a valuable tool to rethink the war, in particular regarding the emergence of a collective identity among the Spanish left before and during the conflict, the dynamics and symbolic expressions of Republican politics and the transnational impact of the struggle, ranging from the early anti-fascist consensus to the questioning of anti-fascism itself after the May Days of 1937, which pre-dates its gradual replacement by anti-totalitarianism in the West after World War II. In all these respects taking the actors’ self-definition as anti-fascists seriously helps us to challenge or complement established interpretations of the war, and, in turn, the history of the Second Spanish Republic provides an excellent case study to understand the making, nature and legacy of anti-fascism, described in a forthcoming book by Michael Seidman as “perhaps the most powerful ideology of the twentieth century”
– Hugo García, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, (speaker)