The Spanish Civil War

With reference to any civil war in the 20th century examine
the social, economic and political background to the divisions in
the society involved. To what extent were the problems which
caused the war resolved in the post-war period?
The state of Spain during the early years of the 20th century
can be said to have been a state of great “unease”. Spain was one
of the first powers to loose her imperial influence, the state was
politically unstable, industrially weak and had suffered some
humiliating defeats. It can be said that these were the main
causes that lead to the great instability of Spain during the Civil
war and post civil war periods.

Left-winged radicalism and nationalistic movements, such as
the Catalan movement frequently came into conflict with the central
government, which lead the government to use corruption more and
more frequently as a form of control. The result was a military
coup in 1923 lead by Miguel Primo de Rivera. Rivera preferred a
more direct way of governing, with a strong Christian base and a
very anti-communist attitude. He did not like party politics,
preferring to govern pragmatically, at first with a military
cabinet, but later on (1926) he decided a systematic government
would be more efficient. So he introduced the `National Assembly’
intended to represent different classes and groups, probably to
soften the opposition; as well as the Union Patriotica, created to
mobilize popular support for his regime.

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Rivera also managed to strengthen the Spanish infra-structure,
but the funding had to come from loans from other nations, because
the upper classes would not accept a overhaul in the taxation
system. He also managed to encourage industrial growth, which did
work to a certain extent because of many internal problems, and the
big depression.

These financial and political, as well as social difficulties
led his regime to end in 1930 because it was unable to stop the
attacks from the left, as well as attacks from the reluctant
military (who did not like his ideas of officer minimalisation).

The next elections were won by the republicans, led by Azana,
without too much difficulty. The Republic lasted 8 years before
another military coup, led by general Franco, took over the

The Republic tried to set out major reforms, intending to
restructure the whole of Spain. The eight-hour working day was set
up, as well as a reduction of officers in the armed forces (by the
form of early retirement). Voting rights were given to people at
the age of 23, the nobility was abolished and, severe measures were
taken against the Church, especially religious education
(considered, in a way, a form of propaganda). The region of
Catalonia was given some self-governing privileges, like the
control of it’s own police. The problem was that these reforms
seemed to be too severe to the right-winged opposition and the
privileged classes.

So in 1933, Azana’s government fell after being defeated by
the general elections. The new government was actually a series of
coalitions which set out to undo all the reforms produced by the
former republican government. This lead to conflicts between what
now could be called the two main “fronts”. These two camps were
the Popular Front (consisting of Communists, Socialist, Anarchists,
etc.), and the National Front (consisting of right-winged parties
and other conservative institutions, such as the Church and the
Falange). These parties fought for the next elections after the
former coalition government dissolved.

The Popular Front won these elections, and so once again,
Azana came into power. He tried, once again, to set out all his
previous reforms. He also exiled Franco, who was considered the
greatest threat to the new government. The problem with the new
government though, was that it was (in the eyes of the opposition)
drifting too far into communism. The National Front could not
stand it any longer, so a military coup was hatched, lead by Franco
to overthrough the government. This plan was set up so that two
main forces, one coming from the north, and the other from the
south would eventually converge and snuff out the Republic.

The National Front eventually won the civil war, not only
because it had financial and military support from Nazi Germany and
Fascist Italy, but also because the Popular Front had it’s own
internal conflicts.

Franco’s regime proved quite successful. He managed to
overcome internal disputes and balance the different Nationalist
groups; he left the question of monarchy open to the carlists and
also favored and encouraged a more influential Church. Even though
his government had a tough time during the 1940’s with regards to
it’s status (problems becoming a member of the united nations),
other nations saw Spain become, in their eyes, a more “softer
nation”, this improved it’s foreign dealings, mainly because of the
fact that the cold war had started.

A great success was the 1953 Madrid Pact between Spain and the
U.S.A, which provided Spain with quite a substantial amount of
military and monetary aid in return for access to it’s military
bases. This pact, as well as the better relations between Spain
and the other powers and the great stability brought about because
of the enormous repression that came with his regime, led Spain to
booming years during the 1960’s.

The Spanish people saw a better Spain, economically, but it
was still in a very primitive state politically and socially
compared to other european nations, who were not under military
rule (with a few exceptions, of course). The end of the Franco
regime left many scars in the social and political side of Spain.

People had been submitted to a suppressive state, where very little
regard for any basic human right was given.


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