Cold War Politics in Britain and the Contested Legacy of the Spanish Civil War

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This article offers a sustained examination of how the vicissitudes of the Cold War shaped changing interpretations of the Spanish Civil War in Britain. Considering the perspectives of participants and historians, it focuses on the diverse strands of the Left that frequently drew on the civil war to attack each other and to make wider arguments about the global Cold War. First, with the aim of criticizing Communist take-overs in Eastern Europe in the late 1940s, the article analyzes retrospective assaults on Communist party tactics and Soviet foreign policy in Spain. Second, in order to argue that the Soviet Union took a counter-revolutionary line after 1956, it investigates the re-emergence of debates over the Spanish revolution. Third, to express disapproval of the United States, it examines the increasing use of the civil war as an analogy in Cold War international affairs from the 1960s. Fourth, in support of non-Soviet Left-of-Centre collaboration, most notably Eurocommunism in the 1970s and opposition to Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in the 1980s, it considers the renewed emphasis on the popular front. The trajectories of these debates reveal that, over time, the weight of the Left’s criticism moved from the Soviet Union towards the United States.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)678-702
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean History Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


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