There was, during these years, plenty to provoke collective anxiety and revulsion within army circles, not just in the realm of military matters per se. But of widespread, carefully coordinated physical revolt there was no evidence. The one attempted military coup, the Sanjurjada of August 1932, was carried out by a tiny minority; Azana's government countered the rebels with ease, sentenced Sanjurjo to death, commuted to 'life', and purged several hundred officers. Such was warning enough to those prone to active dissent.
Moreover, the army, most of whom had sworn an oath of loyalty to the Republic, was institutionalized within the new system, both in government itself and its police affiliates, the rural Civil Guard and urban Assault Guard, both led by soldiers and composed largely of ex-army personnel. Furthermore, in 1931-3 Republican officers such as General Masquelet were given top positions, while NCOs gained special status at army college. Conversely, from November 1933 to February 1936 the army right helped see to it that the values and priorities of 'traditional' Spain were once again given due respect.
The implication, then, is that the army was divided in itself during this period and thus incapable of a large-scale revolt. Admittedly, these divisions predated the Republic; but many were aware of what Franco called the army's lack of 'moral unity' after April 1931. Franco was also bitterly critical of impetuous hotheads who assumed that they could launch a restoration of some supposed past glory by virtue of their zeal alone. Indeed, there were many besides Franco who can better be described as 'accidentalists' rather than 'catastrophists', believing that much could be achieved within the framework of the Republic, not least massive retaliation against 'communism'. The policies and achievements of right-wing governments from November 1933 suggested that a coup was unnecessary: for example, the Ministry of the Interior dealt harshly with the trade union movement, and the October 1934 risings were defeated. The left was thus weakened while the Church and landowning classes were strengthened. CEDA was not prevented from entering government; Franco and others were given plum postings and were impressed when Minister of War Gil Robles not only reopened the Zaragoza Military Academy but motorized some army units and raised ammunition production.13
It had, however, been apparent that the liberal reforms of 1931-3 associated with the Alcalá Zamora and Azaña governments, which hardly amounted to 'red revolution', were popular with many Spaniards. Nor had public opinion become sufficiently polarized to justify, in the interests of Spain 'saving itself from itself', a large-scale revolt. The bizarre Sanjurjada had buttressed public opinion in favour of the government. Meanwhile, Azaña's military reforms did not, and did not seek to, castrate the army: its judicial powers were not completely rescinded and there was no blind purge of the officer corps.14 Indeed, Azaña was capable of even-handed policies, notably on promotions procedures, designed to reconcile opposing military factions to the regime.
Whatever the case, the failed coup attempts during the Rivera dictatorship (1923-30), whether by army right or army left, were all too vivid in the army's memory, and it seemed unrealistic to put the clock back to an Alfonsine monarchy, 'military' or otherwise. Even if a minority sought such a reversion, theirs was but one viewpoint on a broad horizon of dissent.
The phenomenon of the Civil Guard poses something of a problem for this analysis. Why was it thought they could not be relied upon (witness their absence from the Sanjurjada, which reinforced Franco's resistance to putschism)? After all, they had a brutal reputation in their dealings with the left and, logically, should have welcomed overtures to establish a rigid and permanent authoritarian system of the right. However, the Civil Guard was an arm of the state, not of insurrection. It saw its role as the defence of social order, though it is true that when government was seen to be undermining that order, for example, via land reform, then the Civil Guard remained loyal to the landowners. For the latter, the Civil Guard was reliability personified: it helped to break strikes and pressurize electors to vote for their 'masters'. Not least because the Civil Guard got as good as it gave against the left, it could be merciless: at Arnedo in 1932, at Casas Viejas in 1933 and at Asturias in 1934. But whether it would risk its own position and that of its principal mentor, the state, by backing rickety attempts by the army to seize power was another matter altogether.
Some in the Civil Guard were themselves left-wing, as the murder of Calvo Sotelo in July 1936 was to demonstrate. The first Republican governments, however, were clearly aware of the Civil Guard's traditionally anti-liberal credentials and in October 1931 established the Assault Guards as a modern police force exclusive to, and fully supportive of, the Republic. After the Sanjurjada the 'Asaltos' were doubled to 10,000. They were again increased after the October 1934 Asturias Rising. Ultimately, therefore, a different question from 'Could the Civil Guard be relied upon to support a military coup?' might be asked, namely, 'Was a military coup necessary if the Civil and Assault Guards were doing such a rigorous job repressing the far left?'
In conclusion, the preconditions lor a large-scale military revolt did not exist until well after December 1935. There were both internal and external obstructions that prevented any movement from becoming a sustained insurrection. The chain of command within the militant army right was yet to be developed. A 'catastrophist' consensus was still to emerge. Italy and Germany had promised help, but not enough to guarantee success. Gil Robles had not yet transferred CEDA money to the insurrectionist cause; Calvo Sotelo, as much a potential ally as a rival, had spent much of the period in exile. Franco did not trust the Falange (though he was later to use them) and the UME lacked a cutting edge. Most in the Civil and Assault Guards could not be prised from the state. Not in August 1932 (the Sanjurjada), or in October 1934 (after the Asturias and other risings), or in December 1935 (moves to make Gil Robles Prime Minister with army backing) was there sufficient support for military coercion against the Republic. The pivotal figure of Francisco Franco remained unattached, if not disinterested. Ultimately, however, military opposition to the Republic between April 1931 and December 1935 took the form not so much of coup attempts as threats, think-tanks and clandestine cells. The language spoken may have been that of insurrection, but neither rhetoric nor aspiration could be translated into large-scale revolt, let alone victory.
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