The Proclamation of The Second Republic in Spain

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A moment during the proclamation of the Second Republic in Madrid.

Today’s post is dedicated to the proclamation of the Second Republic in Spain, which happened on 14th April 1931. This took place after victory over the monarchical candidates in the local elections, which had been called precisely to measure the public’s support for the then King of Spain, Alfonso XIII. Said proclamation took place with great public euphoria, given that a lot of hope was riding on the new regime bringing the country out of its stagnation. The Spanish Republic had to confront the effects of the 1929 financial crisis, the rise of fascism and internal problems that stopped them from effectively carrying out their reforms. The period of relative peace ended in July 1936 with a coup d’état headed up by Generals Franco and Mola, amongst others.

Prior to the proclamation of the Republic, the Spanish monarchy had suffered huge loss of prestige due to the effects of the 1929 financial crisis and the fact that King Alfonso XIII had supported the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera (1923-1930). After Primo’s resignation in January 1930, the King tried to fix the situation using the governments headed up by Berenguer and Aznar, who could not do a great deal to solve the situation that the country found itself in nor save the monarch from the aforementioned loss of prestige.

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The Spanish flag between 1931 -1939

At the same time, republicanism was becoming a mass phenomenon and the antimonarchy opposition was mobilising. Organized by the so-called revolutionary committee, republican leaders meet in San Sebastián on 17th August 1930 to get ready for the coming change in regime. Amongst others, the following people attended: Alejandro Lerroux, from the Partido Republicano Radical (Radical Republican Party), and Manuel Azaña, from the Grupo de Acción Republicana (Republican Action Group), Marcelino DomingoÁlvaro de Albornoz and Ángel Galarza from the Partido Radical-Socialista (Radical Socialist Party), Niceto Alcalá-Zamora and Miguel Maura from the liberal republican right, Manuel Carrasco Formiguera from Acció Catalana (Catalan Action), Matías Mallol Bosch from Acció Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Action in Catalunya), Jaume Aiguader from Estat Català (Catalan State) and Santiago Casares Quiroga from the Organización Republicana Gallega (Galician Republican Organization). Indalecio Prieto also attended but only in a personal capacity, given that PSOE (Spanish Worker’s Socialist Party) and UGT (General Workers’ Union) did not join the San Sebastián Agreement until 20th October 1930. The attendees agreed, amongst other measures, to organise a general strike to support the uprising of Galán and Hernández in Jaca by the middle of December that year. This initiative didn’t work and the majority of the members of the revolutionary committee were imprisoned and the two military personnel who had revolted were executed. This is believed by many to have been a mistake on the king’s part which led to an even larger loss of prestige for the monarchy.

In this environment, the government of Admiral Aznar, who substituted Berenguer who resigned at the beginning of 1931, called for local elections in order to weigh the people’s support for the monarchy. The aforementioned elections took place on Sunday 12th April, and they were deemed by both the republicans and the monarchists (in addition to the press) as a plebiscite. On the election day itself, everything went relatively calmly and voter participation was quite high. When the results started to come through, it became clear how little support the Spanish monarchy had at that moment. Even though the monarchists won in the number of town councillor seats achieved, their win, especially in rural areas, was due to electoral corruption through the influence of landowners who coerced their employees. In cities, where landowner influence was less, the republicans won irrefutably. Their candidates won 41 of the 50 regional capitals, and in the case of Madrid and Barcelona, the republicans tripled and quadrupled, respectively, the number of votes won against the monarchists.

On Monday 13th, the revolutionary committee issued a statement indicating that the elections held on the previous day had been a complete success for the republican candidates. Meanwhile, King Alfonso XIII presided over a tense cabinet meeting in which García Prieto, Bugallal and de la Cierva pressured him to use force, whilst Romanones and others understood that nothing much could be done. The defeat of the monarchists in the local elections marked the end of his reign. A little later, and under the advice of the people closest to him, the King began to prepare his exile. Former King Alfonso XIII left Spain in a ship that left from Cartagena and he would end up taking up residency in Paris and finally Rome, where he died in 1941.

On that day there was a lot of expectation throughout the country to see what would happen in the following hours. However, it wasn’t until Tuesday 14th April that the first protests began. In the town of Eibar in Guipuzcoa, the town councillor from Acción Republicana (Republican Action) Mateo Careaga, flew the republican flag from one of the town hall’s balconies at 6:30 a.m.. An hour later, Benito Pamparacuatro, the mayor of Sahagún (León) announced the new regime in that town. Throughout that day, scenes like these were seen in many towns and cities, hoards of people came together in streets and squares, hailing the Republic and singing the Anthem of Riego and La Marseillaise. In Valencia, people gathered in the streets to celebrate the new Republic. In Barcelona, Lluis Companys announced the news at approximately 13:30 in the packed Sant Jaume Square and Francesç Macià gave his famous proclamation of the Catalan State as part of an Iberian republic (thus reminding people that they had ratified the San Sebastián agreement under the auspices of a statute of autonomy for Catalonia). In Madrid, some post office employees flew the republican flag from the office in Cibeles Square. At the same time, throngs of people gathered and marched from Alcalá Street to Puerta del Sol, where the official proclamation of the new regime would take place.

The members of the revolutionary committee who were still imprisoned were released and a provisional government was created with Niceto Alcalá Zamora as the leader. Niceto gave a speech that was broadcasted by Unión Radio. Alejandro Lerroux, Manuel Azaña, Indalecio Prieto and Francisco Largo Caballero (PSOE) and Lluis Nicolau (ERC) made up this government, amongst others. Even though only a few of them had held important positions during the monarchy, many of them had a lot of political experience. Their average age was around 50 years old.

The new government got to work quickly, applying measures which aimed to transform the country socially and politically. These can be organised into several sections. Firstly, those which were aimed at women, through the granting of full rights, full equality, access to public jobs, the right to vote (thanks to the work of Clara Campoamor), maternity leave and abortion (this last one occurred in 1936, during the civil war and thanks to the work of Federica Montseny and Amparo Poch). Secondly, public education, which was considered the star project of the Republic. Up until that moment, the majority of schools were private and were controlled by the church, giving it enormous influence. Thanks to Republican decrees, more than 7,000 schools were created throughout Spain, more than in the entire reign of Alfonso XIII. Thirdly, the temporary government called for elections on 28th July (where a coalition between socialists and republicans won) and the government put lawyers such as Luis Jiménez de Asúa and Ángel Ossorio Gallardo in charge of creating the new constitution. This was approved by the government on 9th December 1931, and many individual and political rights, universal male and female suffrage, the reduction of the voting age from 25 to 23 years old, separation of Church and State, a single-chambered parliament, with the elimination of the Senate, and so on, being included within it. Finally, decrees were signed which affected work relationships, with the aim of favouring local employment, the Town Limits Law was created and the 8-hour work day and minimum wage were implemented, too. Other measures included the passing of a law on divorce and civil marriages, the updating of the census, reforms to the Electoral Law of 1907, the reduction of obligatory military service to one year, and so on.

All these measures were aimed at lifting Spain out of the situation of backwardness which it found itself in and limit the enormous influence that the church, landowners and army had traditionally had, who, from the first day, made it difficult for the Republican democracy to solidify, as they saw it as a threat to their privileges (Rafael Gil Bracero). There were priests who used the pulpit to promote anti-republican messages, such as Cardinal Pedro Segura, who had to be deported from the country due to his ultraconservative position. There were military officers who staged uprisings and large landowners who moved their money out of Spain, and, just like in other European countries at that moment, in Spain there were also extreme right-wing groups who threatened democracy. On an international level, the difficulties that the Spanish Republic encountered were caused by the boom of fascism and the financial crisis of 1929, which meant that, amongst other things, the Republican governments had financial difficulties when trying to efficiently instate their reformist programme.

Despite what was said by Franco’s dictatorship’s propaganda and their sympathisers, the Republic was not a chaotic regime nor was it proclaimed using dark political wizardry (such arguments were used to justify the coup d’état in July 1936, the civil war and the dictatorship that followed). The republican regime was Spain’s first 20th century democratic period (though the six year period of 1868-1874 should also be taken into account) and it was preceded by a huge citizen movement against the monarchy (Julián Casanova), a movement which was promoted by many parts of Spanish society at that time: intellectuals, workers, left-wing politicians, the middle class and the liberal right-wing which supported democracy. Up until the aforementioned coup d’état in July 1936, the Republic went through several stages, a reformist biennium, another during which all the reforms made in the previous period were annulled and the final months leading up to the coup; a coup which originated in the strong opposition of the Spanish oligarchy to the reformist project of The Second Republic. Let us not forget the republican democracy as an important part of Spain’s history.

Original blog post in Spanish: https://blogdehistoriaderafa.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/la-proclamacion-de-la-ii-republica-espanola/

Translated by: Teacher Nicola

Bibliography:

-Casanova, J y Gil Andrés, C. “Historia de España en el siglo XX”  Ariel Historia, Madrid 2009

-Preston, P. “Esperanzas e ilusiones en un nuevo régimen” (pgs 53-71) en Viñas, A (ed) “En el combate por la Historia”  Pasado y Presente, Barcelona 2012

-Balfour, S. “Spain from 1931 to the Present” (pgs 243-282) en Carr, R. (ed) “Spain. A History” Oxford Press,  Oxford 2000

-Gil Pecharromán, J. “La II República. Esperanzas y frustraciones” Historia16, Madrid 1996

-Tuñón de Lara, M. “La Segunda República Española” Cuadernos de Historia16, Madrid 1995

-Youtube video of events in Madrid on 14th April 1931 with images from a film which used the unedited images and sound of the temporary government of The Second Republic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vzCNPzFuo4

– Newspaper articles and websites: Alejandro Torrús, Ricardo Robledo, Mónica Moreno, Lidia Falcón, Jaume Clotet, Jose Luis Ledesma y Christian González (publico.es), Julián Casanova (juliancasanova.es), Antonio Maestre y Emilio Silva (eldiario.es), Julián Vadillo (diagonalperiodico.net), Rocío Muñoz (periodismohumano.com), Antonio Barragan (diariocordoba.com) Israel Viana (abc.es), Eduardo Montagut (nuevatribuna.es), lavanguardia.com, eroj.org. Photos found from a Google search and Wikipedia.

 

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