- 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 *** (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 *** 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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