Political developments within the Republic

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  • Created by: Victoria
  • Created on: 02-12-12 18:00


1.     One of the few constants was that Azaña remained President, resigning at the end of Feb 1939, when the war was obviously lost.


2.     In Sept. 1936, Largo Cabellero became PM, heading the first genuine Popular Front govt. in that it was a coalition of liberals, socialists and communists. Better still in November four anarchists joined in the interests of Republican solidarity, thus breaking their long-standing refusal to participate in govt.


Despite this broad coalition the govt. faced very serious political problems… it needed to hold back revolution in order to attract hopefully, the support of bourgeois democracies such as Britain and France. The communists supported this aim, seeing that a revolutionary republic would quickly alienate the western powers. 

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However the onset of civil war had further unleashed revolutionary forces-

o   Industry had largely been taken over by workers collectives

o   Established authorities had been replaced by workers’ committees

o   There had been widespread church burning and the shooting of priests and monks

o   Revolutionary justice (i.e. execution without proper trials) was being meted out to class enemies

o   Peasant committees were taking over the running of many rural areas 

To libertarians in the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) and *** (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) a Republic without revolution was meaningless.


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Cabellero’s govt. sought to re-establish authority – it backed a resumption of control by the Generalitat (with the adhesion of 9 anarchists) and the dissolution of the anti-Fascist Militia Committee.
o   Anarchist dominated village peasant committees were replaced by councils backed by central govt.

o   The communist agriculture minister worked to break up collectives and replace them with peasant smallholdings

o   The rising communist and Russian influence backed discipline and attacked the libertarians…the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) and anarchists in Barcelona in particular, leading to bloody conflict in early May 1937 in which the POUM largely backed by *** (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) faced suppression and 500 died. With Largo Cabellero refusing to outlaw the POUM and arrest its leaders the communists pulled out of the govt. with the aim of ousting Cabellero. Cabellero could not stomach the repressive atmosphere as communist influence rose and decided to resign as remaining cabinet members feared jeopardizing the Soviet arms supply.

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Negrín and the communist ascendancy May 1937 March

The w/c socialist Cabellero was replaced by the m/c Dr Juan Negrín, a wealthy professor of physiology (finance minister in the Cabellero govt.) a gourmet, a womanizer. He had been approached by the communists and could expect backing from right-wing socialists and liberals, he was also acceptable to Azaña (President). Soon the POUM was declared illegal. Its leader, Andrés Nin, refused to confess to treason under torture and was murdered. Negrín did little to stop continuing private communist executions of POUMistas,


For Hugh Thomas (Historian) the policy of Negrín as PM was one of ‘realistic opportunism’…an extremely intelligent man he saw winning the war as the absolute priority, and given that Russia was the main source of arms, this necessitated a close relationship with the communist party and accepting the influence of Russian military advisors. He retained a personal independence but was too prone to overlook communist repression of revolutionaries and the power of the SIM. His govt., although it only contained 2 communists was much less of a Popular Front govt. than Cabellero’s…there was no one from Cabelleros’ wing of the socialist party and the anarchists refused to join.


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Negrín and the communist ascendancy May 1937 March

They condemned its anti-revolutionary nature whilst continuing to collaborate with it, aware that Franco was a much greater evil. Anarchist influence went into decline although given their size, there was no question of suppressing them like the POUM.

Other victims of the authoritarianism of Negrín’s govt. were the Catalans. In the autumn of 1937, Negrín moved the seat of govt. from Valencia to Barcelona and combined this with a sustained and systematic drive to diminish the authority of the Catalan govt…he even denied Luís Companys, the Catalan President, his place in the presidential box at the Liceo (opera house in Barcelona)…and avoided all contact with him.

As time went on the base of Negrín’s govt. narrowed; in April 1938 his right-wing socialist colleague and War Minister, Prieto resigned, convinced that the Republic could not win and, perhaps, tiring of the communists, Negrín’s hopes became pinned on a general European war that did not materialize.

Finally in the last days of the Republic, he and the communists were overthrown by Colonel Casado who was seeking a negotiated peace…which he did not get.



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