Conditions in Spain before 1923

Political tensions

Weakness of central government:
- Political instability throughout the 19th century; from absolute monarchy to foreign political intervention and from conservative to liberal and so on
- The Cortes (the parliament) should have held most of the power in 1898 but in reality the wealthy oligarchs held power
- There was no real difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals
- Most governments were coalitions and elections were rigged
- After 1900 socialist and republican organizations started to form but most Spaniards felt that their interests weren't represented by the main political parties
- King Alfonso XIII was not a modernizer and had no aims of changing the institution

Centralism and the Catalan and Basque regions:
- The struggle between the centralist state and the Catalan and Basque regions caused significant tension
- The Catalan and Basque regions wanted independence and decentralization; they had their own languages and cultures and by the early 20th century own churches and industrialized economies (most of Spain's industries were concentrated in these regions -> e.g. shipbuilding in the Basque country and textile, iron and coal in the Catalan)
- The Catalan Nationalist movement; an active movement initially promoted by th Lliga Party -> protests and strikes led to brutal responses by the authorities and in 1909 the army was sent to Barcelona to put down riots -> "tragic-week" 200 dead
- 1000 people killed in protests in Barcelona between 1918 and 1921 -> historian Hugh Thomas suggest that Barcelona was "the most turbulent city in Europe" at the time
- A more radical Catalan party, Esquerra, led by Lluís Companys was established in the 1920s
- A number of groups opposed the political status in Spain and they would each play a significant role in the poltiical division leading up to the Civil War in 1936

1 of 4

Political tensions #2

Working-class movements:
- Increased working-calss movements due to industrialization
- Divided between Socialists and Anarchists
- The PSOE (Spanish Socialist Party) that was established in 1879 was revolutionary in theory but lacked impact until 1931
- The Socialist Trade Union (UGT) was more visible in protests and grew during WW1
- The PSOE split up after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 over whether to support the Bolsheviks -> a small Spanish Communist Party emerged
- The Anarchists wanted redistribution of land (popular with the peasants) and wanted revolutionary methods and to boycott all democratic processes -> aimed to destroy the state through revolution or general strikes and set up self-governing communities
- Anarchist trade union (***), set up in 1911, was the main competition to the Socialist UGT -> popular withing workers in Catalonia and the peasants in Andalusia, active in strikes and protests
- A more radical Anarchist group was the FAI (Spanish Anarchist Federation) that carried out bombings and assassinations

The role of the army:
- The army was politically powerful in Spain and thought of itself as the protector of the nation -> right to intervene in crises
- Because of its reputation of brutality, its cost and the high taxes that followed it was generally not liked within the people
- Generally army was conservative but the "Africanistas" (esperiences war in Morocco) were nationalistic
- The reliability of the army was ruined when it lost colonies to the US in the 19th century
- In 1921 the army was defeated by the Rif tribe's (native Moroccan people) leader Abd el-Krim, and 100 000 Spanish troops were killed -> credibility undermined

2 of 4

Economic tensions

Agriculture:
- Agriculture was the key source of employment in Spain but it had major problems such as it not providing sufficient food and work being only seasonal -> the plight of the agricultural workers which was a key factor in the discontent that led to the civil war
- Because of this the division between the rich and the poor was vast
- The Civil Guard worked to eliminate rioting and disorder that often broke out in the countryside -> e.g. in January 1892 poor and landless day labourers driven by hunger and desperation armed only with sticks invaded and briefly held the town of Jerez but the Civil Guard and the police quickly drove them away
- Since Church gave the labourers no support, some turned to the Anarchists who argued for the redistribution of land. However, most were very concervative and dispised Socialist and Anarchist ideas
- This concervatism was used by the Catholic Agrarian Federation which supported farmers in return to their objection to Socialism -> these farmers would later support Franco in the civil war

Industry:
- A need for modernization and reform
- Industrialization had only taken place in the North during the 19th century
- Workers faced long hours, unregulated working conditions, a lack of healthcare and poor housing -> growth of trade unionism, however the trade unions competed with each other and weren't able to get anything done and lacked real power
- The lack of legal options resulted in violent uprisings
- Neutrality during WW1 -> short economic boom (by the early 1920s century there were major economic problems -> employers vs employees) after the war due to the lack of competition, however increased exports were met with increased shortages and inflation and working-class living standards went down while working-class military went up

3 of 4

Social tensions

- The Catholic Church had power over social and political factors and used this to support social, political and economic conservatism and was opposed to liberal forces and modernization 
- The Church was prepared to defend the upper classes which led to resentment among the poor
- Church was more popular in the rural areas than it was in the urban
- The leader of the Radical Republican Party, Alejandro Lerroux, held speeches against the Catholic Church in Barcelona
- On 27 and 28 July 1909, 42 convents and churches were burnt down or vandalized in Barcelona, nuns were liberated and the attackers paraded outside
- Some within the educated middle class wanted to limit the Church's power over education
- Spain was experiencing population growth and usually the result would be emigration to Spain's former colonies but after WW1 immigration was restricted which led the rural poor to migrate to the towns -> housing shortages, poverty and increased tension

4 of 4

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Spain (1918-1939) resources »