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The Collapse of the Spanish Republic, 1933-1936

The Collapse of the Spanish Republic, 1933-1936: Origins of the Civil War

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    The Collapse of the Spanish Republic, 1933-1936
    Book Description:

    This book focuses on the short but crucial period that led to the collapse of the Spanish Republic and set the stage for the ensuing civil war. Stanley G. Payne, an internationally known scholar of modern Spanish history, details the political shifts that occurred from 1933 to 1936 and examines the actions and inactions of key actors during these years. Using their own memoirs, speeches, and declarations, he challenges previous perceptions of various major players, including President Alcalá Zamora.The breakdown of political coalitions and the internal rifts between Spain's bourgeois and labor classes sparked many instances of violent dissent in the mid-1930s. The book addresses the election of 1933 and the destabilizing insurrection that followed, Alcalá Zamora's failed attempts to control the major parties, and the backlash that resulted. The alliances of the socialist left with communism and the right with fascism are also explored, as is the role of forces outside Spain in spurring the violence that eventually exploded into war.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13080-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-7)

    HISTORIANS HAVE RECOGNIZED THAT the advent of the Second Republic in Spain in 1931 was a unique event, the only major new step toward democracy in Europe during a decade of economic and political crisis. Spain was indeed “different,” but only in the most exemplary way. At that point the country seemed to be resuming the role it had played a century earlier, when Spain had introduced the word “liberal” to the modern lexicon and had provided inspiration to progressives throughout Europe. First it had been Spain’s war of independence against Napoleon—the only true “people’s war” of the era...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Republican Project
    (pp. 8-25)

    THE INTRODUCTION OF THE Republic and the manner of its birth reflected the widespread transformation of Spanish society and culture during the preceding generation. Throughout the 1920s Spain achieved one of the highest economic growth rates in the world, and during the decades 1910–1930 it experienced the most rapid proportionate expansion of the urban population and industrial labor force in the country’s history to that time. Industrial employment almost doubled, from 15.8 percent of the labor force to 26.5 percent, a figure that in fact slightly exceeded the proportionate shift to industrial employment during the next great boom decade...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Turning Point of the Republic: 1933
    (pp. 26-51)

    THE BEGINNING OF THE breakdown of the Second Republic is conventionally dated from the revolutionary insurrection of 1934, which marked the start of total polarization between left and right. This approach has a certain persuasive logic, but it overlooks the fact that the initial turning point of the Republic, the emergence of the polarization and the beginning of systematic interference with parliament and the political process, all commenced in 1933.

    The left Republican-Socialist alliance under Azaña had governed since the end of 1931, when Alcalá Zamora, the first prime minister, was elevated to the presidency of the Republic. The Azaña...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Revolutionary Insurrection of 1934
    (pp. 52-95)

    SOME HISTORIANS HAVE ARGUED that the most decisive single development in the history of the Republic before July 1936 was the shift in Socialist policy during 1933–34, though there is no agreement concerning the causes of the change. Various commentators ascribe this to the danger from the right, as a result of the rise of the CEDA. Others point to the influence of events in central Europe after the consolidation of the Hitler regime and the imposition of a rightist dictatorship in Austria, marking the defeat of the two strongest Socialist movements in Europe. The deepening of the depression...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR A Conservative Republic? 1934–1935
    (pp. 96-117)

    LERROUX’S RADIO ADDRESS TO the nation on 7 October called for calm and respect for the constitution. The prime minister expressed confidence that most Catalans would respect the established order and promised that the government would “preserve the liberties recognized by the Republic,” assuring all that “the rule of law” would triumph. With occasional sniper shots still being heard in Madrid, the Cortes reopened on the ninth to applause for Lerroux, who faced the task of defeating the insurrection and presiding over the resulting repression as fairly as possible. The latter would not be easy, for just as the sanjurjada...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Frustration of the Parliamentary System
    (pp. 118-139)

    THE GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION OF September 1935 was another routine affair similar to the one experienced by the Azaña government in June 1933. A stable majority coalition existed, so that the vacant portfolios could be readily filled. Nothing was so simple under the Second Republic, however, for the slightest incident was seized upon by the president as an opportunity to interfere. Alcalá Zamora viewed reorganization as a new opening to weaken the cedorradical coalition and to shift the government more decisively toward the center. As usual, rather than doing the normal thing and authorizing reconstitution of the coalition of the two...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Toward the Popular Front
    (pp. 140-169)

    IT WAS WIDELY ANTICIPATED that so irregular a government as that of Portela Valladares could only be an interim ministry serving as a prelude to dissolution of parliament and new elections. From the president’s point of view, a longer rather than a shorter life was desirable, but such an administration could not be kept in power at the expense of parliament for very long. According to Portela’s memoirs, his original agreement with Alcalá Zamora provided that his government would continue for at least two months, giving him time to gain firm control over the levers of administration and to construct...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Elections of February 1936
    (pp. 170-184)

    PORTELA VALLADARES WAS PROUD of the fact that the electoral campaign period restored full civil liberties for one of few occasions in the history of the Republic, but he found it more difficult to make headway with his new Partido del Centro Democrático than he had supposed. A large part of society was already politically mobilized, so that old-style administrative and electoral manipulation could in most cases no longer be carried out effectively. The Spanish political system had become too democratic to be readily responsive to government machinations. In so tense a situation, with nearly all political space already occupied,...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT The Left Returns to Power: FEBRUARY–MARCH 1936
    (pp. 185-214)

    THE NEW LEFT REPUBLICAN government under Azaña was quickly assembled and took over before the close of 19 February. Azaña was displeased with the unseemly haste of Portela’s resignation, for it required the new administration to assume office well before the responsibilities of its predecessor had ended. He wrote in his diary: “The normal thing would have been for the government to wait until the Cortes meets before resigning. Today we do not even know the precise electoral results or how much of a majority we have. . . . We take over unexpectedly, a month before the Cortes convenes,...

  13. CHAPTER NINE The Left Consolidates Power: MARCH–MAY 1936
    (pp. 215-247)

    THE POPULAR FRONT PROGRAM pledged a policy of “Republicanization” of state personnel and administration, but exactly how far this would go was not clear. Whereas some historians have described Azaña’s program in 1936 as restoration of the policies of 1931–1933, he himself had said that it would be “in no way” (de ninguna manera) like that of the first biennium.¹ Whereas in 1930 he had said that liberalism must be “radical” and “sectarian” in order to succeed, by 1936 the Republican left was adopting a position yet more radical and sectarian than three years earlier, though the Popular Front...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Breaking Down: MAY–JUNE 1936
    (pp. 248-272)

    THOUGH NEARLY ALL SERIOUS observers agreed that the country was in dire need of a return to legality, order, and reconciliation, Casares Quiroga’s inaugural speech to the Cortes, presenting his new minority cabinet on 19 May, offered the exact opposite, pledging an all-out assault against the right. Casares complained that “after five years the Republic still needs to defend itself against its enemies,” once more conflating the Republic itself with the policies of the left. The government’s policy, he declared, would be “an all-out attack” against these “enemies,” which sounded dangerously like an effort to promote civil war. Any “declared...

    (pp. 273-293)

    BY 1936 SPAIN HAD become home to the broadest and most intense panoply of revolutionary movements of any country in the world, in itself a remarkable situation, and one that surely requires some explanation. The notion that this circumstance was due simply to “backwardness” or “social injustice”—the standard explanations—is superficial. Spain was not one of the most backward countries in the world, nor was it one of the most unjust, though it was far from being fully developed and had some major social problems. Any coherent theory of revolution in the modern world has first to recognize that...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE The Final Phase: MAY–JULY 1936
    (pp. 294-307)

    SOME MODERATE REPUBLICANS LOST hope for the Casares Quiroga government within a matter of days, and soon a few proposed more dramatic alternatives. Ever since the inauguration of Azaña as president, a number of the left Republican leaders had held to the idea that only a government with plenary powers, if necessary including the imposition of martial law, could redeem the situation. This was sometimes referred to as a legalitarian “Republican dictatorship.” Claudio Sánchez Albornoz was one of its proponents, and years later he would write that after arriving in Lisbon on 14 May to assume the duties of ambassador,...

  17. CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Military Conspiracy
    (pp. 308-318)

    THE SPANISH MILITARY CONSPIRACY and revolt of 1936 may be the most widely written about, if not the most thoroughly investigated, in world history. Numerous details have been lovingly recounted, often with embellishment and frequently with the masking of the whole truth, in the official and unofficial historiography of the long Franco regime to which it gave rise.¹

    Ultra-right-wing monarchists had begun to conspire against the new regime almost as soon as the monarchy had collapsed, while the religious persecution that quickly developed gave sharp stimulus to the revival of Carlism in 1931.² Very few monarchists, however, were willing to...

  18. CHAPTER FOURTEEN The Assassination of Calvo Sotelo
    (pp. 319-338)

    THE EXTREME POLITICAL TENSION of the summer of 1936 obscured the fact that the vast majority of Spaniards were leading normal lives and even spending an unusually large amount on entertainment. Movie theaters—with greater proportionate seating capacity than in any other European country—were full, and there were numerous summer festivals and special athletic events, the most unusual of which was the international “People’s Olympics,” scheduled to open in Barcelona on 19 July, in antithesis to the regular Olympics being held in Berlin that summer.¹ The People’s Olympics had strong political overtones, but elsewhere millions were simply trying to...

    (pp. 339-368)

    THE MAMMOTH LITERATURE ON the Spanish Civil War has often obscured the fact that, to paraphrase Ortega,¹ the first and perhaps most important thing one needs to know about the Civil War is its origins, the reasons for the collapse of the democratic Republic. Common opinion has normally presented simplistic and reductionist explanations for the failure of the Republic, ranging from conspiracy theory—a plot by the revolutionary left or the radical right, or by the Axis powers or the Soviet Union, in concert with one of the former—to, at the more abstract end, the irresistible extremism of the...

  20. NOTES
    (pp. 369-410)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 411-420)