Sunday, May 19, 2013

Propaganda posters from the Spanish Civil War

Propaganda poster from PSUC during the Spanish Civil War. Mes Homes! Mes Armes! Mes Municions! (translated into english is More men! More arms! More ammunition!) Signed Olé?
click to embiggen

Mes Homes!
Mes Armes!
Mes Municions!
(translated from Catalan : More men! More arms! More ammunition!)

The UGT on the armband refers to the Unión General de Trabajadores (General Union of Workers) which was usually associated with Partit Socialista Obrer Espanyol (PSOE - Spanish Socialist Workers Party) and the PSU in the corner is Partit Socialista Unificat aka the political party PSUC (Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya) which was part of the Comintern and Stalinist (in the sense that they supported and were supported by Stalin but also in the sense that they killed people who disagreed with them). This mainly Catalan political party didn't put the Spanish flag or the Catalan flag on their poster but the hammer and sickle (it is the same as the USSR flag except for lacking the star) :

Propaganda poster from PSUC : Ingresseu al partit socialista unificat - The Clenched Fist Salute : the Nazis weren't the only ones convincing people to publicly make silly hand gestures in unison.
PSO PCC USC PCP Ingresseu al Partit Socilista Unificat (Enters the Unified Socialist Party)
PSUC (Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya) was formed in 1936 by the merger of :
  1. the PSO was the Partit Socialista Obrer (Party of Socialist Workers)
  2. the PCC was the Partit Comunista de Catalunya (Communist Party of Catalonia)
  3. the USC was the Unió Socialista de Catalunya (Socialist Union of Catalonia) and
  4. the PCP was the Partit Català Proletari (Proletarian Catalan Party).
The bottom left reads "editat del sindicat de dibuixants professionals UGT" (published UGT union of professional illustrators). The bottom right is something indistinct and "…Barcelona." Signed "Rafel Tona del S.D.P." (SDP = Sindicat de Dibuixants Professionals).

The Clenched Fist Salute : the Nazis weren't the only ones convincing people to make silly hand gestures in public.

Boles, La Cinquena Columna Spanish Civil War poster by Lorenzo Goñi
boles, la cinquena columna (Bowls, the fifth column)

I don't understand this one. "Boles" is Catalan for "balls." (and it is Spanish for "bowls", the noun not the verb, which would make even less sense.) Are balls reactionary?  Bocce ball is considered fascist? Is it that the 5th column is snowballing? The first guy with a crown represents royalists, the second person has a rosary to represent Catholics and the rest I'm not sure. Are the towers supposed to be radio towers, telephone lines, a goal, or what?

Note the red seal at the lower left that says "department d'agit propaganda del…" (Department of Agitation Propaganda of [PSUC]…). At some point, propagandists continually debased facts so badly and so often that the term "propaganda" became derogatory and so people stopped labeling propaganda as propaganda.

Of the Nationalists factions, the Carlists used a Cross of Burgundy flag and Franco adopted the Falangists' symbol of a group of arrows with a yoke. The Nazi swastika doesn't seem to have been used extensively by the Nationalists. From what I've seen even the planes of the German Condor Legion were not marked with the swastika. I have seen a photo of Franco's car and it did have a swastika on it on at least one occasion and more importantly Franco and the Nationalists received support from both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy including German airplanes and thousands of Italian soldiers. The swastika was not the symbol the Nationalists most associated with themselves but their opponents certainly associated them with it.

Venus Dictator in Furs. Painting by Paco Ibera

Franco in furs like Bette Davis.  He wears his Miss España sash in the traditional Spanish colors (as opposed to the red, yellow & purple of the Republican flag) and on his chest is a maltese cross (an order of knighthood perhaps? – this forum leads me to the Grand Cross of the Order of San Fernando). Below the cross is a pin of the symbol of the Falangists. His hand rests on a cane while his other hand holds his hat; a garrison cap with a gold tassel. He tries to strike a regal pose. Franco alone takes up nearly half of the image.

On the lower left is a cartouche with Franco's well known and brief declaration of the end of the Spanish Civil War. In a Roman font it declares in large type "La Guerra ha terminado" (The war is over).  There is probably no connection between this and John Lennon's song "War is Over."

The cartouche also says "Parte oficial de guerra. Correspondiente al dia 1º de Abril de 1939 - III Año Triunfal." (Official report of the war. Corresponding to 1st day of April 1939 - Triumphal Year III.) "Triumphal Year III" is itself propaganda, imitating Mussolini's declaration of 1922 (the year Mussolini came to power) as Year One. Declaring a Triumphal Year and Triumphal Year II without being completely triumphant doesn't seem ideal.

"En el día de hoy cautivo y desarmado el ejército rojo, han alcanzado las tropas nacionales sus últimos objectivos militares. Burgos, 1 de abril de 1939 Ano de la Victoria" (On this day, with a captive and disarmed Red Army, the national troops have reached their final military objectives. Burgos – a city in Northern Spain, 1 April 1939 Year of the Victory.)

At the top of the cartouche is a new Spanish coat of arms that harkens back to the royal coat of arms used from 1469 to 1516. Behind the black bird (eagle of Saint John) is a ribbon reading "Una, Grande, Libre" (one, great, free). Declaring Spain to be united was a fiction and free is not what one most associates with a dictator.

At the bottom left of the cartouche is the seal of Franco reading "cuartel general del Generalisimo, estado mayor" (General barracks of the Generalisimo, major staff).

The flags in the background include :

several red and yellow Spanish National flags (they appear to be civil flags without the royal seal)

several Falangist flags (red-black-red with the Falangists symbol in red on the black stripe)

several appear to be the Carlists' Cross of Burgundy (a jagged red cross on a white field)

one Spanish Morocco's Royal standard (green flag with a yellow pentagram)

I think, one Flag of the Khaliph of the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco (green flag with a yellow star of David) although it may be the same as above.

There are no swastikas, nor any acknowledgement of the German or Italian forces that fought in the war.

The men in the background march : some on horses, some wounded, some dressed like beduins, some in berets, some in helmets, some giving a roman salute (ie a fascist salute), some carrying flags, and some oddly shaped aircraft in the upper right (Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 without the fixed landing gear or JU-52s?).

Dos and Don'ts of do it yourself propaganda
  1. Do use Repetition! Repetition! Repetition! Repetition!
  2. Do keep in mind it is more than just words : the black smear behind the guy in the white shirt towards the upper left corner probably exists only to make it a better composition.
  3. Do sign it! (although, one might recommend signing it in a legible way. The top one is signed by Solá, the second by Rafel, the third one is signed by Lorenzo Goñi; the fourth is signed, I think, in the lower right corner by Paco Ibera.) 
  4. Do stake out the idea that there are only two sides (the real world is more complex. Keep in mind that this black and white attitude and the tendency to simply lie about the other side is among the reasons why many people don't like or respect propaganda. So, don't do this if you want to be respected.).  The Franco declaration suggests that there were only 2 sides and that because the officials of the Republic surrendered then people would think there was no one in opposition.  Most people will accept the rigid dichotomy instead of thinking how many people fall out side the binary choice – like Joan Pujol who was imprisoned by and disliked both the Nationalist government and the Republican government.
  5. Don't call it propaganda as some people will simply shrug and think "Ah, another person who feels the need to lie or mislead or be blindly partisan to support their cause."
  6. When showing your side, do keep them blocky, stylized, simplified and in unison. When showing the other side then details become acceptable to make them grotesque and unappealing. Although, I would point out that the Nationalists are depicted as being happy; in stark contrast to most figures in propaganda. The other posters are using the blocky, stylized, simplified figures in unison as a symbol of power. They could portray their side as happy little smurfs or even happy little barbarians but people know when they are happy and propaganda that tells them they are happy when they aren't would not be effective. 

1 comment:

Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.