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The Spanish Civil War

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. 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.

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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 government. 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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