Spain in the 1930’s Part IV

After the October revolution there were five radically-led governments with the support of the right-wing parties and always under the presidency of Lerroux. These governments failed in order to give a democratic order to Spain with a right orientation; chief responsible for this failure was Gil Robles, who disappointed so many hopes with his scarce ability to adhere to the changing course of things and with his feeble spirit of decision. Meanwhile, other difficulties were added, including the deficit of the ever-growing budget (596 million pesetas in 1934), the devaluation of the currency, the conflicts between the government and Catalonia over the effectiveness of the judgments of the court for the defense of the Constitution, the solidarity of the Basques with the Catalans to ensure greater autonomy, both exiting the Cortes as a sign of protest against the central power, and refusing the former to suffer any further increase in taxes. As a culmination of misfortune, in October 1935 the “Straperlo” scandal, that is, the scandal of roulette, hit the last Lerroux cabinet.of this name, illegally granted with the favor of a personality of the radical party. The effect on this was analogous to that suffered in France by the similar party after the Stavisky affair. Spain thus found itself no longer having efficient police forces in power and this due to the fact that the CEDA being a right-wing organization, given the moment, did not present itself as the most suitable party for the government of the country. But it was precisely then that the action of the Soviet-backed left made itself felt most effectively. Who, since the fall of the monarchy, considered Spain a favorable territory for the diffusion of communist ideas, and immediately made the combined initiative of the Comintern and the Profintern converge on the peninsula. In the Museum of the Revolution in Moscow a special room is dedicated to the future Spanish Communist Revolution. October 34, from the Soviet point of view, is the test of strength, the precursor initiative, something similar to what the 1905 movement was in Russia compared to the 1917 revolution. To make propaganda more effective, the Soviets leveraged the millennial Iberian regionalism and promised freedom to the Catalans, Basques and Galicians, prefiguring Spain in the image and likeness of the USSR, a constitutionally federation of autonomous nationalities. For the love of particularism also the Basques, just to drive out the maketos, the foreigners, that is to say the Castilians, renounced family, property, religion, to embrace an ideology that, beyond these negations, exalted autonomy. Quite evidential written documents have been found in London, photographed and published: they show the Soviets determined to establish the Bolshevik regime in Spain on July 18, 1936. All this when the direction of public affairs was more sluggish than ever.

In fact, three inept governments succeeded each other in November December January, showing the ongoing decomposition of the old regime. To accelerate the crisis in the center-right politics of the country intervened Gil Robles himself who, in December 1935, invited by the president of the republic to abandon the office of Minister of War, he contested in Alcalá Zamora the correspondence between the Cortes and the opinion of the country, asking for new elections. The president was perplexed for a long time about the dangerous request of the careless head of the CEDA, but in the end he let himself be drawn to the solution of the dissolution. The general elections took place on February 16, 1936. The parties which had governed until June 1933 and which together had attempted the October revolution faced elections together under the label of Frente Popular. 142 deputies from the right, 64 from the center and 267 from the popular front were elected. The first act of the new Cortes was to dismiss, against the constitution, President Alcalá Zamora for tolerating the right-leaning government of the past two years. There was a left-wing republican government under the presidency of Azaña, then came the Casares Quiroga cabinet, having been the first appointed president of the republic. The practice of government was a worsened return to that of the two-year period 1931-33: persecution of the Church, confiscation of assets, destruction in three months of 300 churches and numerous public and private buildings, partial strikes everywhere often extended to become general, regulation labor conflicts with a priori acceptance of all workers’ claims. Catalonia under the influence of the powerful Esquerra party, led by the Companys, returned to greater autonomy, which in June 1936 became almost complete independence from the central government of Madrid. The most dangerous aspect of the situation was that the Popular Front had won with the contribution of the votes of the Iberian Anarchist Federation and the Single Union, the Stalinist and Trotskyist Communist Party. According to shoefrantics, they dragged to extreme measures, and to impose them armed their own organizations. Right-wing organizations intervene with increasing effectiveness to restore the balance. These organizations quickly grew to the membership of all those, and there were many, who, disappointed by the inconclusive work of Gil Robles, had deserted the CEDA. Assassins, ambushes followed one another for several months at an increasing pace, reaching their climax on July 15 with the murder of Calvo Sotelo, captured at home by the police and killed by this in the van that carried him away. The assassination of Calvo Sotelo hastens the pace of a national uprising. The deputies of the Spanish Renewal withdraw from the Cortes to no longer sit next to those who are the supports and moral accomplices of this crime. Gil Robles on July 16 for the last time in the name of civilization made the old regime hear a voice of protest against the majority, which every day preached in all forms “the excitement… to crush the adversary, to implement against it a policy of extermination “.

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