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Timeline

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  • February 16, 1936—The Popular Front narrowly wins the Spanish election. The Popular Front—or Republican Government—is a coalition of left-wing political organizations. The government begins seizing land from the biggest landowners for redistribution.

  • July 17-18, 1936—The Spanish military attempts a coup, aiming to seize Spanish Morocco and then move on to major military, economic and political centres across Spain.
    —Unions declare a general strike. Leftist groups, as well as some sections of the national police, resist the military uprising with varying degrees of success.
    —The coup fails to gain control and the government and worker’ associations fail to crush it. The resulting stalemate is the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

  • August 1936—Spearheaded by French and British diplomats, 24 countries—including Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Soviet Union—sign the Non-Intervention Treaty, declaring that they will not interfere in what is labeled a civil war. Despite the treaty, Germany and Italy send combat troops and a great deal of material aid, while the USSR sends military advisors, equipment, and pilots.

  • October, 1936—Canadian leftist magazine New Frontier begins publishing Canadian poetry about the Spanish Civil War, beginning with Dorothy Livesay’s “Two Poems.”
    —Delegates from the Spanish Republic tour Canada to garner support. They are met with a riot in Montréal.

  • October 1, 1936—Franco becomes Generalissimo and supreme commander of the right-wing coalition, or the Nationalists.

  • November 8, 1936—The first units of the International Brigades arrive in Madrid.

  • November 14, 1936—Canadian Dr. Norman Bethune conceives his mobile blood transfusion unit, the Servicio canadiense de transfusión de sangre.

  • February, 1937—The Canadian leftist magazine New Frontier publishes a special issue on Spain. The article “Where I Stand in Spain” collects brief statements from prominent Canadian artists and organizers.

  • April 26, 1937—The Nazi Condor Legion and the Italian Legionary Airforce bomb the Basque town of Guernica. The attack becomes a rallying point for Republican supporters and is made famous by Picasso’s painting, Guernica.

  • May 3-8, 1937—Sections of the Republican forces turn on each other in Barcelona. This leads to street fighting, the departure of the Anarchists from the Popular Front, and the dissolution of the political organization Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM). The leaders of POUM are eventually executed.

  • May, 1937—Bethune leaves Spain under complicated circumstances. Back in Canada, he begins a successful speaking tour, raising funds and public support for the Republican cause.

  • July, 1937—Leftist magazine Canadian Forum publishes Norman Bethune’s Spanish Civil War poem “Red Moon.”

  • July 1, 1937—The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion is officially formed by Canadian volunteers.

  • July 31, 1937—The Canadian parliament passes “The Foreign Enlistment Act of 1937,” making it illegal to enlist in either the Republican or Nationalist sides in Spain. Canadian volunteers’ passports’ are stamped “Not Valid for Spain.” Many volunteers travel under the auspices of attending the 1937 World Fair in Paris.

  • September 21, 1938—All international volunteers are withdrawn from Spain.

  • October 29, 1938—International Brigades are given a farewell parade in Barcelona. La Pasionaria gives her famous speech, which includes the words: “You can go proudly. You are history. You are legend. You are the heroic example of democracy’s solidarity and universality.”

  • January 26, 1939—Barcelona falls.

  • February 28, 1939—Franco’s government is recognized by Great Britain and France.

  • March 31, 1939—Madrid falls.

  • April 1, 1939—Republican armies surrender and Franco, now the leader of Spain, declares the war to be over.

  • September 1, 1939—Germany invades Poland and World War II begins.

  • November 20, 1975—Franco dies, and his dictatorship comes to an end. Spain declares the Pact of Forgetting, making it official policy not to prosecute those involved in war crimes or responsible for fascist oppression, in the hopes of transitioning to democracy more smoothly.

  • September 4, 2013: Jules Paivio, the last surviving Canadian veteran of the International Brigades, dies at age 96.

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