The death throes of the Monarchy

The first signs of the suicide of the Monarchy began to be seen in the last three years of Primo de Rivera's dictatorship, when his refusal to

1 Miguel Maura, Así cayó Alfonso XIII. De una dictadura a otra, Ariel, Barcelona, 1966, p. 48.

return power to parliament, and the King's inability to force him to do so, reinforced people's perception that they were one and the same, and gave way to a period of plots and pronunciamientos to overthrow the dictatorship by military means. They did not succeed, but Primo de Rivera was put into a difficult position, with his credibility shattered. On 26 January 1930, he asked his Captains-General to express their confidence in him. As no one offered it, he resigned two days later.

The same day, 28 January 1930, Alfonso XIII asked General Dámaso Berenguer, head of his Military Household, to form a government, which was to include certain aristocrats who had the King's confidence and former politicians of the cacique system. Attempts to organise the political system, returning to the situation prior to the coup d'état of September 1923, failed because the dictatorship had destroyed the two parties on which the Restoration regime had been based for fifty years, the liberal and conservative parties, and had left Spain without a Constitution. That left the caciques and their network of clients and political friends in the rural world, but this, by 1930, was not enough to maintain order and constitutional normality.

Indeed, many things had changed in Spanish society during the first three decades of the twentieth century. The repatriation of capital after the colonial defeats of 1898 and Spain's neutrality in the First World War had prepared the way for the spectacular growth of the 1920s. This growth was mainly concentrated in areas that had already had an industrial infrastructure in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The first of these was Barcelona and its area of influence, which experienced notable financial activity and greater industrial diversification, and where, despite the continued dominance of the textile sector, major new companies in the chemicals and metal sectors were being founded.

Much more marked and precipitate in the early decades of the twentieth century was the industrialisation of Bilbao and the Nervión estuary. As Vicente Blasco Ibáñez noted in El intruso, 'a forest of chimneys' sprang up there, with 'multicoloured smoke' that radically changed the landscape.2 It was Spain's second most important industrialised area, more diversified than Catalonia, with insurance

2 Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (1867-1928), writer, journalist and republican politician, published El intruso, an account of the social conflicts in Vizcaya, in 1904 (there is a recent edition in the Biblioteca Nueva, Madrid, 2000).

companies, chemical works, power stations, banks, machinery manufacture and, above all, steel companies.

The repatriation of capital, the effects of the Great War and the building boom of the twenties had also left their mark in other cities such as Madrid, Valencia, Seville and Zaragoza. These were industries of modest proportions - small workshops, never large factories, mostly dependent on agriculture and building - but they changed the face of these cities and enlarged their urban space.

All these cities doubled in population between 1900 and 1930. Barcelona and Madrid, with over half a million inhabitants each in 1900, reached a million three decades later. Bilbao went from 83,000 to 162,000; Zaragoza from 100,000 to 174,0 00. Admittedly, these populations are not particularly significant if we compare them to the 2.7 million in Paris in 1900, or the number of European cities, from Birmingham to Moscow, including Berlin and Milan, whose populations were higher than Madrid's or Barcelona's in 1930. But the demographic panorama was undergoing a notable change. The total population of Spain, which was 18.6 million at the beginning of the century, reached almost 24 million in 1930, due mainly to a sharp fall in the death rate. Up to 1914, this demographic pressure had given rise to a high rate of emigration, but from the First World War onwards, it was Spanish cities that experienced mass immigration.

The surge of industry and the growth of the population transformed the old-fashioned medieval cityscape that many Spanish cities still maintained at the end of the nineteenth century. Imbalances in this growth were reflected in the social division of the cities. The new suburbs, built to control chaotic growth in the inner cities, were where the middle and business classes, traders, industrialists and well-to-do professional people were concentrated. On the outskirts, around the factories, were the working-class slums, and it was in these very districts and rundown areas that diseases and epidemics originated. This was because this urban growth also spawned speculation and get-rich-quick building schemes, with no thought for social justice or shared interests.

This urban explosion, and its accompanying social disparities, also saw the germination of the seeds of republicanism, anarchism and socialism, seeds that had been sown in the last third of the nineteenth century. They germinated in response to the solid dominant social block, which was made up of the heirs of the old privileged classes, the aristocracy and the Catholic Church, as well as the rural and

Basque and Catalan industrial oligarchy. From this block came most of those who governed in the corrupt pseudo-parliamentary system that had held sway in Spain between 1875 and 1923, the system that had excluded, either through restricted suffrage or electoral fraud, what began to be called 'the pueblo', the urban proletariat, craftsmen, small industrialists and traders, and the middle classes, which many people termed 'the bourgeoisie', but who in fact earned their living from their professions, independently of the capitalist business concerns. Many of these professionals became republicans in the final years of Primo de Rivera's dictatorship.

The fall of the dictatorship effectively caused a sudden process of politicisation and a surge in republicanism, which had hitherto been weak, incapable as it was of breaking the stranglehold of the caciques and of suggesting real alternatives. Various republican sectors had already joined to form a Republican Alliance in 1926, which took its lead from Alejandro Lerroux's old Partido Radical and from a new group, Acción Republicana, led by Manuel Azaña, which had broken with Melquíades Alvarez's reformists in 1923. The extreme left wing of this new republican initiative was occupied by the Partido Republicano Radical Socialista, founded at the end of 1929 by two Alianza Republicana dissidents, Marcelino Domingo and Alvaro de Albornoz. The right was catered for by the Derecha Liberal Republicana, founded in July 1930 by Niceto Alcalá Zamora and Miguel Maura, the most legitimate representatives of the monarchist sector that embraced the republican cause following the fall of Primo de Rivera's dictatorship.

In just a few months, the old form of republicanism, made up of small discussion groups, transformed into a movement of various political parties, with recognised leaders and new social foundations. Among these names were conservatives and Catholics, such as Maura and Alcalá Zamora, passionate defenders of anticlericalism, such as Alvaro de Albornoz, as well as nationalists in Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, such as Francesc Macia and Lluís Companys, or the Galician Organización Republicana Gallega Autónoma, led by Santiago Casares Quiroga. Together, despite their noticeable differences in ideology and principles, they formed a comprehensive republican coalition, which came into being on 17 August 1930 in San Sebastián.

From what was known as the San Sebastián pact emerged the revolutionary committee that made a commitment to channel the demands for autonomy by the Catalans, to prepare an uprising against the Monarchy and to proclaim a Republic. The meeting in San Sebastián was attended by the socialist Indalecio Prieto, 'on his own behalf', without representing anyone, since the dominant feeling in the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) and in the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) was one of complete lack of confidence in any chance of taking joint action in league with the republicans.

The republicans insisted that the proposed revolution needed the socialists, although Julián Besteiro's dissent and the numerous doubts expressed by Francisco Largo Caballero delayed any commitment by the PSOE and UGT until October 1930. Several conversations and meetings were needed between the republicans (represented by Alcalá Zamora and Azaña) and the socialists (with Largo Caballero, Besteiro and Fernando de los Ríos) to solve the dilemma facing the socialists and the UGT syndicalists: either stand back or join in the call for a Republic. An essential factor at that point was the attitude of Largo Caballero, who ended up convinced that the socialists had to help the republicans 'to have an influence' from within 'on the orientation of the revolution', and thus enable a peaceful and gradual move towards socialism. As Santos Juliá has pointed out, the same arguments that Largo Caballero used to commit the UGT to participating in the corporatist system of Primo de Rivera's dictatorship served him in the autumn of 1930 'to [persuade them to] follow the path leading to the Republic'.3

The decision was taken at the meeting of the executive committee of the Partido Socialista on 20 October of that year; it was decided, by eight votes to six, to accept the three posts the republicans had offered them on the revolutionary committee and to 'call a general strike wherever there were committed elements so that, as soon as they found themselves on the streets, they would be helped by the people who would spur them on'. The three socialists designated to enter the future provisional government of the Republic were Francisco Largo Caballero, Indalecio Prieto and Fernando de los Ríos.

While these meetings and preparations were going on, the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), the other big syndicalist

3 The best synthesis on the positions of the socialists at this time may be found in Santos Juliá, Los socialistas en la política española, 1879-1982, Taurus, Madrid, 1996, pp. 147-53, which is the source of the information provided here.

organisation that had become established during the final years of the Restoration, emerged from the silence and repression imposed on it by Primo de Rivera's dictatorship, and its leaders - except for the odd name, such as Ángel Pestaña or Joan Peiró - showed very little interest in the Republic, a 'political entity' that, for the moment, had nothing to do with the 'revolution that will transform all political and economic values', which they, as anarchists and revolutionary syndicalists, claimed to support. So wrote Valeriano Orobón Fernández, a CNT delegate at the AIT (the initials of the Spanish name for the International Workers' Association), in a letter from Berlin on 2 July 1930 to Eusebio Carbó, an anarchist of the old school. 'The liberal constitutional breeze blowing through Spain at the moment', wrote Orobón, would not be enough: 'We shall need a hurricane'.4

In fact, what was blowing through Spain at that time was more a gale than a breeze, and much of the responsibility for the stirring up of the atmosphere and morale of the Spanish was borne by the intellectuals. During that year, 1930, distinguished writers and university professors 'defined themselves', as their contemporaries put it, to express their rejection of the Monarchy and support for the Republic. This unrest began just a few days after the fall of the dictator, with the return from exile of Miguel de Unamuno, who was acclaimed by crowds at every stage of his journey from Irun to Madrid, and it ended with the famous article by the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, published in El Sol on 15 November 1930. 'The Berenguer error', as the article was entitled, gave the lie to the idea that everything would return to normal after seven years of dictatorship, as if nothing had happened. The Monarchy was now beyond hope of salvation. 'Delenda est monarchia', concluded Ortega, in a phrase that summed up the anti-monarchist feeling that was rife among politicians, intellectuals and the common people at that time.

These speeches by politicians and intellectuals, demonstrations and mass republican meetings, such as the one held in the bullring in Madrid on 29 September, with Azaña, Alcalá Zamora and Lerroux as the main speakers, all ultimately led, as Miguel Maura said later, to a 'tragic outcome for the king': leading politicians and ex-ministers

4 I have summarised the anarchist positions in the months prior to the proclamation of the Republic in Julián Casanova, Anarchism, the Republic and Civil War in Spain: 1931-1939, Routledge, London, 2004, pp. 3-5.

deserted 'the legal framework of the Monarchy, some turning openly republican and others moving for the Cortes to be called without the king, so that the decision as to what to do next would be made there'.5

But before any future Cortes could resolve such a momentous matter, republicans and socialists together put into practice the insurrectional option, an option that had had wide acceptance in contemporary Spanish society. Once again, the plan was for a military insurrection, organised by a revolutionary committee and backed up in the streets by a general strike called by the workers' organisations. Also involved in the plan were certain anarcho-syndicalists, who for several years had been in contact with radical sectors of the army, and the less hardline leaders of the CNT, who pledged their support for the insurrection with a general strike. Such was the plan that failed in Jaca, in the province of Huesca, on 12 December 1930.

Captain Fermín Galán, born in Cádiz in 1899 to a military family, arrived in Jaca at the beginning of June, four months after he had been released from the Montjuich military prison, having been granted an amnesty after serving his sentence for actively taking part in the Sanjuanada, the military plot that had tried to overthrow Primo de Rivera in 1926. He already had firm links with Catalan anarchists, who had visited him in prison, and in Jaca he came into contact with other officers who were prepared to take part in an insurrection against the Monarchy, particularly Captain Ángel García Hernández, born in Álava in 1900, who, like Galán, had served in the Tercio (infantry regiment) of Africa. From there he extended his network of contacts to include syndicalists in Zaragoza, as well as Ramón Acín, an anarchist, painter and sculptor, and lecturer in drawing at the Huesca Teacher Training College, and he travelled to Madrid to talk to the revolutionary committee, a meeting that was reported by Marcelino Domingo. If we are to believe this radical-socialist leader, Galán was willing to take part 'if action were taken swiftly'. He and Lerroux tried to convince Galán that 'unless a tight control is kept on all elements, the revolution, with more options and requirements than ever, will once again fail'.6

6 The information on the insurrection comes from José María Azpíroz and Fernando Elboj, La sublevación de Jaca, Guara Editorial, Zaragoza, 1985.

But Galán did not wait until 15 December, the date that most sources say had been set by the revolutionary committee for the uprising. At five o'clock in the morning of 12 December 1930, a group of officers called out the troops in Jaca, arrested the military governor and his staff and seized the telephone exchange, post office and station, after killing, in an exchange of fire, a Civil Guard sergeant and two carabineros who opposed them. At eleven that same morning, they proclaimed the Republic in the town hall, 'on behalf of the Revolutionary Provisional Government'. From Jaca they sent two columns to Huesca. Officers of the 5th Military Region, based in Zaragoza, put down the uprising. They arrested García Hernández and, in the general chaos, Galán surrendered. As a back-up to the insurrection, the CNT and UGT had called a strike, which received limited support in Zaragoza and Huesca, as well as in certain locations in the Five Towns, the district where socialism was most firmly entrenched in Aragon.

On Sunday 14 December, a summary court martial sentenced Captains Galán and García Hernández to death, and they were shot immediately afterwards. Even before its birth, the Republic already had its first martyrs, and King Alfonso XIII was held responsible for failing to grant them a pardon. 'The Monarchy committed an outrage in executing Galán and García Hernández, an outrage which in no small way led to its destruction', wrote Manuel Azaña.7

The uprising set for 15 December also failed, in spite of the fact that General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano and Major Ramón Franco managed to capture the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome for a few hours, from whence they fled to Portugal when they discovered that troops loyal to Berenguer's government were approaching, and that no one had gone on strike in Madrid. The socialists did not go on strike because they did not think that the officers would go through with the uprising, and the committed officers hesitated because they thought they lacked the vital back-up of the strike and demonstrations in the streets. Meanwhile, most of the members of the revolutionary committee had been arrested. In the end, it was not insurrection that would bring about the Republic.

7 Manuel Azaña, Diarios 1932-1933 (los 'Cuadernos robados'), Crítica, Barcelona, 1997, p. 45.

Nor did the return to constitutional normality proposed by General Dámaso Berenguer's government produce concrete results. Firstly, it decided to hold elections in the autumn, convinced that republican advances in the cities would be counterbalanced by the strong conservative support and by vote-rigging in the rural areas. Next, following the failure of the Jaca uprising, it announced that elections would be held on 1 March, with the unanimous rejection of Sánchez Guerra's constitutionalists, republicans and socialists, who wanted nothing to do with a return to the 1876 Constitution, and they called for elections to the Constituent Cortes. Berenguer stood alone, abandoned even by members of his government with strong loyalty to the King, such as the Count of Romanones, and he resigned on 13 February 1931. Alfonso XIII, after an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the liberal Santiago Alba, living in exile in Paris because of his disagreements with the dictatorship, asked Sánchez Guerra to form a government, and he went to the Modelo prison to meet members of the revolutionary committee to ask them to take part in the new government. 'We refuse to have anything to do with the Monarchy', replied Miguel Maura, the most conservative of all those who were there.8

With no hope of any agreement, a government was finally formed, on 17 February, by Admiral Juan Bautista Aznar, another government loyal to the Monarchy, with the Count of Romanones keeping a close eye on the Admiral's every move. He only had time to call municipal elections for 12 April; the provincial and general elections would have to be held in May and June, because two months later this government and the Monarchy had ceased to exist.

The calling of elections caught the traditional parties of the conservative and liberal right in complete disarray, and the extreme right, those faithful to the deposed dictator, in the process of re-arming and powerless to mobilise their counter-revolutionary forces, although they did try to with the formation in July 1930 of the Unión Monárquica Nacional, a pale imitation of the Unión Patriótica de la Dictadura; among the members of this party were certain ex-ministers, such as the Count of Guadalhorce and José Calvo Sotelo, the intellectual,

8 A good summary of the final months of the Monarchy, the source of the information provided here, is in Miguel Martorell, 'El Rey en su desconcierto. Alfonso XIII, los viejos políticos y el ocaso de la monarquía', in Javier Moreno Luzón (ed.), Alfonso XIII. Un político en el trono, Marcial Pons, Madrid, 2003, pp. 375-402.

Ramiro de Maeztu, and the ex-dictator's son, José Antonio Primo de Rivera. Their old politics were in their death throes, and the new authoritarianism had yet to find a niche. As José María Gil Robles wrote later, those 'select groups' that used to attend monarchist meetings or acclaim the Queen were now 'merely a small minority as opposed to the vast masses hostile to the regime, made up mainly of rightists that supported revolution'.9

For the republicans, both those of long standing and new adherents, their moment had come. On 10 February 1931, one of the last intellectuals to 'define himself', José Ortega y Gasset, together with two other prestigious intellectuals, Gregorio Marañón and Ramón Pérez de Ayala, signed the foundational manifesto of the Agrupación al Servicio de la República, which asked 'all Spanish intellectuals' to contribute to the victory of the Republic 'in elections conducted under the maximum guarantees of civic integrity'.

The moment had also come for street politics, propaganda, meetings and calls for action to support the Republic. On 20 March, at the height of the election campaign, the imprisoned revolutionary committee faced a court martial, an event that was transformed into a major manifestation of republican avowal, another triumph for this combination of republicans and socialists who now had power in their reach. Having recovered their freedom, the members of this revolutionary committee, future members of the republican provisional government, concentrated all their efforts on transforming this election day, 12 April, into a plebiscite between the Monarchy and the Republic.

And that is how it turned out. Up to the very end, the monarchists thought they were going to win, confident of their ability to manipulate the mechanism of government, which is why they showed their 'consternation' and 'surprise' when they learnt very soon of the republicans' victory in forty-one of the fifty provincial capitals. Only Juan de la Cierva proposed resorting to arms to prevent the rout of the Monarchy. But the other ministers, headed by Romanones, acknowledged defeat. Aznar resigned on the night of 13 April. The following day, many municipalities proclaimed the Republic. Alcalá Zamora called for the King to leave the country. He did so from Cartagena, and when he arrived in Paris he declared that the Republic was 'a

9 José María Gil Robles, No fue posible la paz, Ariel, Barcelona, 1968, p. 32.

storm that will soon blow over'.10 It was to take longer to blow over than Alfonso XIII thought, or indeed wished. This Republic was to experience over five years of peace, until a military uprising and a war destroyed it by force of arms.

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