History

Spain in the 1930’s Part III

Gil Robles, apart from his insufficiency as a man of action, expressed the passionate reaction of the injured conscience of Catholic Spain and partly of the average opinion of the intellectual bourgeoisie itself. Its program consisted of the following cornerstones: revision of the Constitution, primarily in what concerns religious questions; suppression of the class struggle; essentially Catholic politics towards the corporate system, family gratifications, limitation of the right to strike, compulsory arbitration in labor conflicts.

The new cabinet proceeded with the revision of a large part of the socialist legislation, but was not always happy, especially with regard to the most important and long-standing issue: agrarian reform.

According to rrrjewelry, the law of September 15, 1932 listed 1 3 categories of agricultural properties susceptible to expropriation against compensation, excluding small holdings of less than one hectare, fincas, in the number of 5,000,000. The injured interests were enormous, but, more serious, as has been said, was the lack of financial means to give elementary capitalist equipment to the new tenants. The Lerroux cabinet tried to calm the spirits by repealing the aforementioned provisions, establishing that the state would replace the owner with pecuniary compensation, unless he wished to keep the ancient form of possession: but this provision was a deformation of the fair principle that the solicitous owner of his company, and therefore of his social obligations, must not be assimilated to the simple rent-wiping owner. The land reform law was therefore frustrated, despite the willing contribution of the Church itself and the unscrupulous solidarity of authoritative periodicals inspired by the French Dominicans. Many lands were subtracted from expropriations and those expropriated, lacking a tenant, were left in complete abandonment, being unable to administer to the peasants neither capital, nor agricultural material, nor livestock. Under these conditions, the extension of the sown lands decreased by 196,500 hectares, and the production of wheat from 37 million and a half quintals in 1913 fell to 19 million quintals (doubtful figure).

The agrarian reform had failed, both due to the number of properties stolen from expropriations, and because those expropriated underwent a simple division into the land register of the cultivated area. The peasants had the feeling of “having been fed with an empty spoon” and reacted with the general agricultural strike of June 1934. The anarcho-socialists denounced the government policy as a return to the ancient regime and, having decided to abandon the constitutional practice and parliamentarian, they went to direct action. Taking advantage of the agricultural strike in June for their purposes, they decided to undertake a broader action with the intervention of the organizations of industry and commerce. The so-called left republicans, led by Manuel Azaña, allied themselves with the ultra-left party of the Esquerra Catalana, then in power in Catalonia and with all the subversive political and trade union parties, including the Single Anarchist Syndicate and the Iberian Anarchist Federation, overt and hidden weapons flowed into the ranks of the rioters who, all united (left republicans, Esquerrani, Stalinist socialists, Marxists, Trotskyists, anarchists) provoked the revolution of October 4, 1934, which failed everywhere except in Asturias where, a harbinger of the current one, albeit in more modest proportions, the civil war broke out. Wealth destroyed, public and private buildings demolished, convents and churches looted, 2000 deaths were the tragic balance of the conflict. Against all odds, no severity was used towards those responsible for the revolt, and moreover there were some anomalies in the application of the rigors of the law. Few second-rate people were sentenced to death (albeit with the subsequent benefit of commutation of the sentence); Azaña, perhaps the most responsible for the movement, was set free. Thus two fatal errors were made in a year: that of having veered too abruptly to the right with Lerroux’s government, when the red-hot atmosphere of the moment advised greater caution in moving; and the other of having shown too much complacency towards the revolt just when it was most urgent to strengthen the authority of the state. After the October revolution was repressed, we witnessed the spectacle, tolerated by the government, of a commission of inquiry, made up entirely of foreigners, which arrived in Spain to ascertain whether in Asturias and Catalonia the violence had been consummated by departments of the army instead of defenseless revolutionaries (as, lying, the extremists asserted). There was only the strength on the part of Alba, president of the Chamber, to deny the commission of foreigners the consent to question the deputies in the Cortes enclosure, a practice that would not [have] been authorized by any Chamber in the world. “The army, who in the whole affair had acted with discipline under the orders of the War Ministry where Franco was employed by the minister, was disappointed and embittered, and began to dream of redemption through the pronunciamiento.

Spain in the 1930's 3