War In July 1936 Essay, Research Paper
To account for the outbreak of the Spanish civil war in July 1936, we must look carefully at all the possible reasons behind the outbreak of war. We must examine carefully the long-term problems and divisions within Spain and Spanish society, and then we must have a look at the intermediate problems of the Second Republic 1931-36. Finally we must look a the immediate problems just before the war started and look carefully at the military revolt against the republic July 1936, before we are able to draw a conclusion on the causes of the war.
Throughout all of Spain’s history there have been numerous social groups that have caused unrest and turmoil. Due to a lack of solutions being found to solve these evident problems, in July 1936 Spain erupted into a fierce civil war.
In the years 1930 and 1931 3 different wars had been started in Spain, with the majority of this fighting being created by the various social groups in Spain. These groups can be split into 5 main separate groups, the Anarchists who were a group of anti-clerical peasants who led numerous strikes against businesses and plotted assassinations against government officials. The second group is the Spanish army who refused to support any change in Spanish government. The third group was known as the separatists, the Basques and Catalonians who wanted independence from Spain. The fourth group is the church officials who held a more powerful position on the government that they were more influential than the King was. The final group is the big landowners who refused to accept any change in government, as they feared losing their land to land reform. For many years these groups fought among themselves, and lots of tension grew between the divisions. To add to these problems the current king of Spain King Alfonso XIII was a very weak King whose power in Spain was being undermined by the Catholic Church. However 1923-30 the King was only a figurehead, as during this time Spain was being ruled by a dictator called General Primo de Rivera. Resulting from the dictatorship, the poor people and the socialist groups in Spain felt that a republic or a type of democracy was needed. Thus in April 1931 the Second Republic was formed, Primo de Rivero was removed from power and the King was exiled. Spain was backward and all areas of the country and hierarchy were divided.
The poor republic that had been created known as the Second Republic of Spain was inefficient and turned out to be the catalyst for the civil was in 1936-39. All of the working class; liberals and the progressives supported the new republic, while the church; major landowners and anyone who saw change as anti-religious was against the republic. The Spanish civil was occurred as a result of the supporters of the republic who wanted change and the people against the republic who didn’t want any change.
The Second Republic’s attempts to deal with all the problems surrounding the republic alienate the right who thus became politically organised, but these measures weren’t enough to appease the Left who in turn became divided. From the start of the Second Republic they were up against as it was still the industrial; clerical; large land-owners and military oligarchy who controlled Spain in 1931. The republic needed
full support from revolutionists or people who desired political economic and social change.
The new constitution that was produced in December 1931 delivered a very controversial document, that contained many articles to provoke attack from many influential Spaniards. It included some anti-clerical clauses and declared that Spain is a “Republic of workers of all classes”, these clauses were seen as very socialist which many important people disliked greatly for they had a lot to lose. However the substantial part of the document reflected the views of middle-class Left Republicanism.
The army played quite a substantial part in the failure of the second republic. For when 8,000 officers retired on full pay there was great strain put upon the Spanish economy. The republic abolished special legal powers that the army had previously had, thus causing uproar in the army ranks. Some officers began to plot against the republic, for they saw the republic as anti-military and not firm enough on issues over regionalism and public order. This came to a head in August 1932 when there was military revolt led by General Sanjuro, the revolt was largely unsuccessful however it served as a significant “straw in the wind” (M. Blinkhorn).
The republic was grossly out of the Catholic Church’s favour after it launched a great attack upon the influential position held by the church. The republic’s constitution declared that Spain no longer had an official religion, and guaranteed freedom of worship to everyone. The constitution also ended state support for the salaries of the clergy; it dissolved Jesuits and also banned many other orders from industry; commerce and education. Some of the most hurtful clauses handed out to attack the church were that divorce was made legal and also that civil marriage was made legal. Within the following 18 months the government failed to crush the outbursts of church burning and anti-clerical violence in the streets of Madrid and other cities which outraged the church. The republic also moved quickly in order to expel the old church system of education and introducing a free, obligatory and secular education.
The republic mainly consisted of people who didn’t want Catalonia to become a republic. They were very pro centralism, but due to a pact in San Sebastian 1930 they were obligated into finding a solution to the “Catalan aspirations”. They became under even more pressure when a plebiscite in 1932 in Catalonia was convincingly in favour of home rule. There was a Catalan statute in September 1932 that set up a separate Catalan government. However with limited control over education, police and taxes many Catalans believed that the Statute didn’t go far enough. Others areas such as Galicia and the Basques had similar devolution plans however these areas were far more Catholic and conservative so progress was made a lot slower than Catalonia. The regional autonomy was only going to add to already existent divisions in Spanish society, so this act of devolution strongly aided the start of the civil war.
Agrarian reform in Spain very much helped to start the civil war for it was very much aimed at taking away the assets of the rich influential landowners of Spain. This was only going to help in starting the war, for neither side was happy with the results of Agrarian reform. The peasants believed that not enough land was given over and the rich landowners felt that too much was taken from them. Due to the socialist leadership of the republic Agrarian issues were given prominence. Even before the bill to change the distribution of land was introduced there were Socialist MPs who were already trying to shift the power from the rich to the peasants in rural Spain. Due to a lack of finance and information when the Agrarian reform act was eventually passed in September 1932, the task was impossible so land was still distributed unfairly. However, “The act was as helpful to the people as an aspirin to an appendicitis” FNTT were restrained by their leaders to help out, and the Azana coalition failed to offer any improvement to small tenant farmers.
The growth of violence and the military and revolutionary threats from the left and the right are the final straw before war outbreaks. After the February elections of 1936 the Socialists refused to join the government for they feared that to be part of a government characterised as the government of 2blood, mud and tears” would tarnish their reputation. They also had another motive for not joining the government, which was that, if they were engulfed in details of the government all the time, it would hold back all their revolutionary ideas and goals, which would thus make them, lose ground on the communists. The government formed was a minority cabinet formed by Azana of left-wing liberals, the cabinet depended on the support coming from the Popular Front parties in parliament. During this time in parliament many difficult decisions had to be made resulting in an increase in friction in Spain. Amnesty for political prisoners was given but whether to give reinstatement and compensation for Asturias workers was a sensitive subject and was fought with difficulties. When the Catalan government was restored it demanded extra powers, and the Basques wanted to follow suit but these weren’t given. This only heightened problems for the government, they had already restored things for the Catalonians but they wanted more and it seemed as though they would never be satisfied. This also occurred when the Agrarian reform was restarted giving more land to the peasants and taking it away from the landowners in the South. Nobody was satisfied as the peasants wanted more land, and the landowners were losing all their land. To try and avoid trouble army leaders dispersed to remote areas of Spain, but this only increased problems, as the government was unable to watch the army leaders and also found it difficult to keep in contact with them. Due to the unrest and failure of parliament to deal with the above problems violence erupted all over the country. Gil Robles claimed that there were over 250 assassinations and over 300 strikes that occurred between the 16th of February and 15th of June. The right wing Falange and “pistoleros” were continually fighting battles in the streets with the left, they also broke up strikes and attempted to eject all peasants from occupying any estates. The Falange leader tried to keep the violence going but was arrested and the shootings were increased. The government was under constant pressure and this was only increased when Caballero encouraged a policy of “maximalist intransigence”, where a workers take-over would be engineered by that parliamentary pressure placed upon the government. Caballero said popular front was “an alliance with no future and that he wanted to not be the Spanish Kerensky but the Spanish Lenin”. When Prieto attempted to give a more moderate line, Caballero blocked his membership to the Azana government. H Browne said of this that it was “the fatal weakening of the government’s authority in the months before the rising.” Spain’s army leaders watched a talked about the current alarming situation. Franco then attempted to portray the military revolt in July as an on the spot reaction to the growing threat of Cabellero creating a “Soviet-Spain”. However it is now clear that General Mola had been putting together a master plan for revolt since February. With the removal of a devout catholic in Zamora from presidency with the replacement of Azana and Quiroga gave urgency to his plans. This replacement “bitterly offended catholic Spain” (H. Browne). Mola realised that any simple military revolt would be wrong. Gil Robles was persuaded to give his support to Mola. Many assurances were given to people such as Carlist Pretender and much support and men were over. When there was 2 assassinations in July Mola was given an excuse to justify a rebellion. On hearing the death of Assault Guards, and the finding of Carlo Sotelo’s body in a cemetery in Madrid, Mola issued orders on the 18th of July for a rebellion.
In concluding the radical policies of the Second republic along with many other long -term divisions within Spanish society all came to a head for a final civil war of wars in 1936. Possible without some significant factors in the long-term, intermediate and immediate causes, war may have been avoided. However with all these culminating together war was inevitable.