A Brief history of Spain – Part 29, The emergence of the Second Republic (1930 – 1931)

The Pact of San Sebastian

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Alfonso entrusted General Berenguer, Primo de Rivera’s successor, with leading the government and organizing new elections. During Alfonso XIII’s reign, a pronounced aversion to the monarchy had emerged among the usually monarchist Spaniards, broadening the support for a republican movement.

From radical left to right, there were various motives to reject the monarchy. Regionalists hoped for a federal course after the monarchy. After seven years of dictatorship, the remnants of the liberals wanted to rid themselves of the Catholic influence that the Church, especially through the monarchy, had exerted on the political system. In de 19th century, liberalism had become the natural enemy of Catholicism. The increased influence of Catholicism since the restoration eventually drove the liberals into the arms of revolutionary left-wing groups to form a coalition against the clergy.

Pact of San Sebastian

In August 1930, the Pact of San Sebastian was signed. A widely supported agreement between politicians of various backgrounds. The initiative came from the right-wing liberal Alcala Zamora. The main goal of the pact was to establish a Spanish republic, although the specific political direction was still under discussion. A Revolutionary Committee was chosen with Alcala Zamora as its chairman. The committee decided to carry out a coup, which, however, failed miserably due to its amateurish execution.

Republicans win the municipal elections

Berenguer, realizing that he could not restore order in this chaotic situation, stepped down after a year in February 1931 and was succeeded by General Aznar. On April 12, 1931, municipal elections were held, and 46 out of the 50 provincial capitals became republican. In rural areas, the monarchists managed to hold on with much manipulation. On April 14, after realizing that he could not rely on the military either, Alfonso left his palace and departed for France. After 231 years, the Bourbon hegemony came to a (temporary) end.

Proclamation of the Second Republic

In 1931, the Second Republic was proclaimed, marking the first time in centuries of oppression by despots, the intolerant Catholic Church, and the repressive military establishment that the contours of a genuine democracy began to emerge. The electoral laws were changed, and active and passive suffrage for women was introduced.

Cogesa Expats

Social reforms aimed to improve the position of rural laborers and urban workers. Autonomy claims of certain regions were recognized, education was democratized and stripped of the significant influence of the Catholic Church, and the separation of church and state was constitutionally established. The aspiration was to create a modern democracy following the European model. Thus, a reasonably viable democratic republic was established in 1931.

Many political ideologies in the ‘Cortes’

The Spanish Parliament, known as the Cortes, represented a broad spectrum of political ideologies, dominated by the Catholic Party, the Social Democrats, and the Republicans. There were political splinter groups on the left and right. On one side, there were communists and revolutionary socialists, and on the other, there was the Falange, inspired by Italian fascism. Just five months before the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the Falange received no more than 0.5% of the votes in national elections, while the communists garnered a meager three percent. The main radicals on the left, as a matter of principle, did not participate in elections. These were the anarchists.

Regionalism and anarchism

The “Disaster” of 1898 further eroded trust in the Spanish central government and played into the hands of regionalism (particularly Basque and Catalan nationalism) and the relatively strong anarchism in Spain. Anarchists had already made their presence known in the late 19th century with attacks on the king and the assassination of three prime ministers.

The anarchists, as a matter of principle, did not participate in elections, but their organizations had an impressive following among peasants and workers. In some places, they were already restructuring society according to their own principles. Rarely in history has anarchism played a greater societal role than in these years in Spain.

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