The popular front

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  • Created by: Victoria
  • Created on: 02-12-12 17:38


  • The elections of Feb 1936 were won by the Popular Front, which gained 267 seats against 132 for the Right. In terms of votes cast the result was much closer: 4.7 million to 3.9 million. The Radicals who had put up few candidates were annihilated (Lerroux lost his seat) and the centre/centre right had therefore collapsed.
  • The Popular Front deal went that the socialists had 89 deputies the Left Republicans (Azaña) 84, their allies the Republican Union 37 (a secession from the Radicals) and the Communists 16. CNT votes tended to go to the Popular Front as it promised and amnesty for any CNT members in prison.
  • The Popular Front programme was not socialist; essentially they promised to restore the reforms of Azañas govt. and press ahead with land reform, nonetheless its victory produced the greatest expectations among the w/c supporters of the Left and a corresponding consternation in the Right and Centre. The socialists within the new govt. put increasing pressure on the Popular Front and certainly had ambition to eventually run a purely socialist govt.
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There were many factors running against the new go

·      The new Parliament’s first act was to remove Zamora as President, probably because the Left feared he might join the Right in some kind of coup d’état. He certainly was not on good terms with most of the new Popular Front ministers.

i.      He was replaced by Azaña, who may have wanted the post in order to block Largo Cabellero’s ambitions in the future. But Zamora had always behaved with ‘meticulous correctness’ (Brenan), and as Browne comments, ‘the replacement of an experienced President with a Liberal politician responsible for the reduction of the Army and for the legislation touching the Church which so bitterly offended Catholic Spain might seem to be political lunacy’.

ii.     The elevation of Azaña to President left the Left with no one of his caliber to become PM. The post was taken by by Cesares Quiroga. Certainly no strong man.

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  • The socialists were deeply divided but their rising star was clearly Largo Cabellero. He had just read Marx and Lenin and was openly putting himself forward as the Spanish Lenin. This meant the socialists would:
    1. Not participate in the new govt. and
    2. Appear even more frightening to Catholic Spain.
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  • New forces on the extremes were rising:  On the right:
    1. the Falangists under the charming José Antonio primo de Rivera, son of the dictator. The Falangists were a Fascist party with a Catholic veneer. Electorally insignificant in Feb 1936 (only Primo de Rivera got a seat) their strength grew rapidly as alarmed right-wingers started to flock to its ranks in preference to the CEDA.
    2. The monarchists found a strong leader in José Calvo Sotelo, openly in favour of a rebellion. And on the left:
    3. The Communists. Their profile had been raised by Asturia’s rising but they were still a very small party, with the Asturia’s and Seville being their power base. Their Russian connection was to hugely increase their influence once Civil War began…they were already infiltrating the Socialist Party and in particular its youth movement.
  • The govt. faced disorder from the beginning; strikes, street violence, peasants occupying landlords’ estates, particularly in Estremadora.
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preparation for uprise

The Right soon decided on action.

  • Gil Robles ordered provincial supporters to prepare to cooperate with army. The CEDA also provided funds to conspirators within the army.
  • The Falange, previously contemptuous of the army, now received similar orders from José Antonio Primo de Rivera.
  • The Carlists, after some persuasion, promised to provide a militia of some 7,000 ‘requetés’.
  • Calvo Sotelo’s violent speeches against the Republic left no doubt as to where his sympathies lay.
  • Within the army the key conspirators were middle rank army officers linked with the africanista generals…particularly Generals, Goded, Mola amd Franco…with Mola, perhaps, being the key conspirator. They decided that General Sanjurjo exiled in Portugal should be their figurehead.

Azaña was not blind to the danger and took the precaution of moving these key generals away from North Africa where Spain’s elite troops – the army of Africa – were stationed. Franco was moved to Tenerife, Goded to Majorca and Mola to Pamplona…but this did not stop Mola’s preparation continuing with a plan aimed at quickly capturing Madrid. 

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preparation for uprise 2

By July all he needed was an excuse for action and this came on 13th July with the assassination of Carlo Sotelo by a socialist captain in the Civil Guard (a reprisal for the murder of a socialist friend, Lieutenant José Castillo, the day before). Mola fixed 18 July as the day for action.

On the night of 18th July, with rebellion already under way, the new PM of the Republic, Barrio, offered Mola the post of Defence Minister as a first step toward compromise. Mola turned it down, and with it the chance of overting civil war.

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