Barricades against Fascism: The Popular Front in Europe

Paul Preston and Helen Graham discuss the tension developing in the Europe of the 30s as the Left attempted to unite against the growth of Fascism and the bloody timetable of political collapse, uprisings and mutiny that transformed a half-successful coup d'etat into a protracted civil war.

One of the more unexpected sequels to the Bolshevik revolution was the fact that the years 1918-39 saw an almost uninterrupted chain of working-class defeats. Occasional heroic episodes aside, the overall trend was catastrophic. The crushing of revolution in Germany and Hungary after the First World War was followed by the destruction of the Italian Left by Mussolini, the establishment of dictatorships in Spain and Portugal and the defeat of the general strike in Britain. The rise of Hitler saw the annihilation of the most powerful working-class movement in Western Europe and within a year the Austrian Left suffered a similar fate. Austria stands out because there, for the first time, workers took up arms against Fascism in 1934. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, it was only the latest and fiercest battle in a European civil war which had been under way since the Bolshevik triumph of 1917.

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