The Spanish Civil War took yet another turn for the worse as a civil war within a civil war developed in Barcelona. The uneasy coalition government had taken shift towards the Communists with the appointment of one of their number as Minister of Justice. They rapidly moved to take over the posts on the Catalan-French frontier previously controlled by anarcho-syndicalist CNT militias and then tried to take control of the Telefonica (telephone company) building in Barcelona, unofficially a CNT stronghold and a source of internal intelligence. Talks between the government and the CNT to restore harmony broke down and massive street protests degenerated into opened armed fighting with several hundred dead. Just as the bombing of Guernica exposed the reality of Franco’s nationalists to the outside world, the Republicans slipped into fratricidal conflict which would see power pass ever more into Communist hands.
Whilst Stalinism headed for domination in Catalonia, Stalin tightened his stranglehold in the Soviet Union. The de facto number two in the army hierarchy, Marshal Tuchachevsky, was demoted to a minor regional command. Dark hints of Trotskyite sympathies or even activities were spread, but in reality no alternative centre of power to Stalin was to be allowed to survive. His removal anchored the position of Marshal Vorishilov, the defence minister, who was a very pro-active participant in Stalin’s purges.
A brief era of air transport came to an end when the German airship Hindenburg exploded in flames in Lakehurst NJ after a transatlantic flight, killing about one third of the hundred or so people on board. Many survivors were badly burned. It was the last in a series of disasters that dogged large airships between the wars. Britain had abandoned the technology after the R101 disaster in 1929. The precise cause of Hindenburg’s loss has never been fully established and it is not even certain whether the hydrogen gas used for buoyancy caused (as opposed to feeding) the fire. Irrespective of the gas used, airships were proving too vulnerable to weather. Field Marshal Hindenburg had been the last flawed and feeble relic of constitutional rule in Germany; it was appropriate that the end of his aeronautical monument should be so conspicuous.