Introduction

Visual Index (Entire Poster Collection)

Catalogue

Chronology of the War

Acknowledgements

Lists of References

Afterword: Herbert R. Southworth Collection


 

Contra el Espionaje. ¡Milicianos! No deis detalles sobre la situación de los frentes. Ni a los camaradas. Ni a los hermanos. Ni a las novias

[Don't give details about the position of the fronts. Not even to your comrades. Not even to your siblings. Not even to your girlfriends]. . Ministerio de Instrucción Publica. Dirección Gral. de Bellas Artes. Acción Obreros Litografos. Lit: GAL. Lithograph, 3 colors; 100 x 70 cm.

The Spanish Civil War gave rise to a new expression-the "fifth column," meaning a clandestine, subversive organization working for the enemy within a country at war. Its origin is attributed to a remark by the Nationalist General Emilio Mola: asked in October 1936 by members of the press how he was going to take Madrid, Mola replied that he would attack with four columns stationed outside the capital, and a fifth stationed within, by which he meant the sympathizers trapped behind enemy lines. Although it does not mention the term specifically, this poster is one of many produced by the Republic during the war, warning the population against the fifth columnists. The poster addresses itself specifically to the militiamen, whom the government viewed as unprofessional and unreliable. Indeed, in September 1936, just two months into the war, the socialist prime minister Francisco Largo Caballero ordered the militias to transform themselves into fully militarized units of the popular army.

Both the Nationalists and the Republicans established sophisticated intelligence-gathering agencies early in the war. The communist-controlled Republican agency SIM, employed thousands of agents to gather information not only on the Nationalists but also on the political rivals of the Communists within the Republican camp. In the final days of the war, this agency became a communist political police force, engaged in torture and political assassination, adding greatly to the atmosphere of fear and suspicion in the declining Republic.

The poster was produced by the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Information. Based on its reference to the militias, we can date the poster to the first months of the war, when these units were still active in the front lines.

 
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