Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship 1923-1930

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  • Created by: Victoria
  • Created on: 02-12-12 17:24


  • Another colonial disaster led to the end of this state of affairs. Spain had been granted a protectorate in Morocco 1912 but had been unable to put down the indigenous resistance movements. In 1921 the King encouraged the daring General Silvestre to attempt a striking blow against the tribesmen. It ended in disaster with Silvestre’s forces being ambushed and defeated, with 10,000 killed, 4,000 taken prisoner and all equipment lost.
  • Shortly before a commission of enquiry was due to publish its report on the affair…which could have blamed the King…the Captain-General of Catalonia, General Primo de Rivera proclaimed himself dictator, rescuing the King from his predicament (Sept. 1923
  • Thus began the first of Spain’s two C20 dictatorships. Primo de Rivera was a rather larger than life character; he worked hard and played hard…often to be seen into the small hours in clubs and cafes, often binge drinking and always over-eating despite being diabetic. Disorderly in his habits he also hated the snobbish airs of many within his class (he was from a labouring family). He had a genuine desire to improve the conditions of the poor; he was something of a pacifist and exercised a relatively humane dictatorship…despite numerous plots and risings in his 6 year tenure
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His rule had some successes:

  • A joint military operation with the French in 1925 defeated the tribal leader (Abd-el-Krim) and led to the establishment of total Spanish control over the protectorate.
  • Progress was made in industrial relations: compulsory arbitration boards were established which raised workers wages. Whilst the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabaj) were dissolved he genuinely admired the socialists and persuaded the Secretary General of the UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores), Largo Cabellero to become a councillor of state. Largo Cabellero presumably hoped to displace the CNT nationally…whilst Primo de Rivera  viewed the socialists as more disciplined and reasonable than the anarcho-syndicalists.
  • Helped by favourable economic conditions in his early years his Civil Directory was responsible for launching a thorough overhaul of local govt. and an ambitious public works programme to increase irrigation and road building.
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  • His introduction of a corporative chamber his National Assembly and attempt to build up a new party the Unión Patriótica were not successes (being neither sufficiently democratic neither authoritarian)
  • His infrastructure policies strained the govt budget, a fact disguised for a time by false accounting, and by late 1929 the peseta was in trouble and spending had to be reduced leading to widespread discontent.
  • Reliant on the elites for support (army, church, etc) he could never undertake fundamental reforms in an attempt to cure Spain’s fundamental social problems.
  • He alienated the Catalans by curtailing many of their elementary liberties (eg. Language forbidden in schools)
  • Sweeping censorship alienated intellectuals.
  • Official trade unions ‘sindicatos libres grew quite rapidly but did not bring him support.
  • He alienated the army by attempting reform of the promotion system.
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