Always the Cause


The Spanish Civil War

The roots of the Spanish Civil War were many and deep, but the a simplistic view would be that the elected Republican government was trying to improve the working conditions of the have-nots while trying to contain their more radical elements. The haves including the Church, Landowners and Military opposed them.

On July 18, 1936, General Francisco Franco and others declared a Nationalist revolt against the government. Unlike the American Civil War, and more like the English Civil War, the Republicans and the Nationalist were struggling for the control of Spain. The Republicans were supported by Western Liberals and the Soviet Union. The Nationalists were supported by Nazi Germany and the Italians.

The main battle in the war was the fight for Madrid. The Nationalist forces succeeded quickly in the south and by October were driving on the capital. The narrator of the song was probably an Englishman who had joined an International Brigade at this battle. The brigades helped save the city and fought on for three years until 1939. The narrator is now in France, looking back at the war.


The Great Divide

Bad news over the Great Divide
Comes in from every side
Still hope won't be denied
There was always the Cause.

The Great Divide are the Pyrenees Mountains that separate France and Spain. On January 26, 1939 some 20,000 Republican troops fleeing the fall of Barcelona, fled into France where they were interned. Most of the other Republican strongholds were falling and the various European governments were recognizing Franco. However, the narrator is hoping that the cause would continue.


La Pasionara

Oh La Pasionara sang
This day, No Pasaran!
It echoed out in Catalan
There was always the Cause

La Pasionara was the communist leader Dolores Ibarruri, whose fervent songs helped boost the morale of the defenders of Madrid. One of their slogans, No Pasaran (They shall not pass) was adopted from the French who used it at Verdun in 1916. Many of the International Brigade members were veterans of WWI (from both sides) and their skills helped stiffen resistance.

Catalan is spoken in the eastern and northeastern portion of Spain, where a different culture and people live. They and the Basques strongly opposed the Nationalists.



Late nights waiting on the via dolorosa
Hold me closer
Not long now, oh ma bella hermosa
There was always the Cause.

While Mariposa is the name of a city and county in California, it probably refers to the soldier's girl. Via dolorosa literally is the Way of Sadness and in Jerusalem, is the route that Christ took to Calvary and crucifixtion. Here, I believe it just means way of sadness because the soldier does not have a long time left with "his beautiful woman." It can be argued that this phrase indicates that the soldier is English speaking, since he pronounces the "h".

Brian Chaffin adds: I also wondered if this might refer to the fact that the ancient Romans (who, of course, ruled the Iberian Peninsula for centuries) characteristically buried their dead by roadsides, developing immense necropolises that are, I believe, still to be seen on roads approaching some southern European towns. These long lines of tombs have traditionally been a site for romantic trysts (and less romantic ones; since Roman times they have been 'red light districts'). Thus an outlawed soldier's beloved might well have met with him on such a 'tearful way.'



Setbacks come at every turn
New ways are hard to learn
Tonight I saw Guernica burn
There was always the Cause

The style of warfare was different from the First World War. Civilians were targets and new types of weapons were used. Guernica came to epitomize this style of warfare. On April 25 or 26, 1937 (depending on the account) German He-111s bombed this Basque market town with high explosive and incindiary weapons, killing some 1600 people, mostly civilians. The outcry was tremendous and it remained a crime to discuss this incident in Spain for some thirty years afterward. The He-111 went on to participate in the Battle of Britain.


Three Years

Three years gone in the heart of Spain
He brings home a quiet pain
He'll never be that young again
There was always the Cause

The war in Spain was over after three years but like "Laughing into 1939", we know what will be coming. The Spainish Civil War was seen by Germany as a testing ground for their next war. For the anti-Fascist forces, fighting for "the Cause" will continue until May 1945.