Fri, 14 Apr 2006

75 years of the Spanish dream

Recently Spain remembered the 65th anniversary of our tragic Civil War, an episode which broke the state in two halves which still today haven't been glued together at all.

The origin of that nightmare is the dream of many Spanish people of the early 20th Century. In the morning of the 14th of April, 1931, the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed in Madrid, after two days before, a majority of republican and leftist parties won the local elections; many people celebrated throughout the Spanish territory, and the tricolour flag was shown in many town hall buildings. With the king in exile after these quick happenings, Spain was again a Republic, as decided by the election results.

The Republic brought many social measures to Spain: women suffrage, eight-hour day and many other labour related improvements. The nobility titles were abolished, and those properties were confiscated by the government. And this was just the provisional government. All of this is regarded like a big social and cultural revolution, which was just starting.

Not everyone was happy about this, of course. The newly approved Constitution of December 9 gave the government power to confiscate many of the Church's properties, and limit their great power in political matters. Soon, the episcopacy came with a strategy to defeat the Republic in any possible way. The Royalists were also not happy. There were a series of revolts in the South, and an attempt of coup d'etat by General Sanjurjo. These attacks were repealed; the Republic was still strong.

In 1933, the Anarchists started to be seriously unhappy about the moderate path the government was leading and started striking, which led to violent repression by the Government. The General elections of November brought a victory of the right and extreme-right, and many social and anti-church measures were repealed. Riots and strikes spread throughout the territory.

The Martial Law proclaimed by the right wing government resulted in thousands beings imprisoned. Things went even worse when three ministers of the fascist CEDA entered the Republican Government. A big worker uprise started the 1st of October in Asturies, and Catalunya proclaimed the Catalan Republic.

The revolts were supressed by General Franco, who would be well known in the world just a few years later. Thousands were killed and injuried during the few weeks of revolt, and the Socialist Party was dissolved, leaving the Spanish Courts with barely no left representation.

The next years saw a very unstable government from the right due to internal disputes within the parties that formed it. New elections were called in 1936, and the left united under the Popular Front, which won by a slight margin; Manuel Azaña was the new president. The right, the church and the army continued to undermine the Republic in any possible way. In an attempt to make the military heads more loyal to the established government, the fascist Falange Española was dissolved.

The 2nd Spanish Republic received a massive blow on the 17th of July, 1936 when Franco and other generals attempted a new coup d'etat in the Northern African territories. The Republic started to die as people started fighting the coup back, and the Spanish Civil War started throughout the territory. With the aid of Fascist Germany and Italy, Franco managed to seize control of more and more areas of Spain during the nearly three years of war, and the Government of the Republic had to move a number of times, to València and Barcelona. In January 1939, most of Spain was in Franco's hands, and Catalunya soon fell. Two months later, the fascist troops entered Madrid, and hours later, València surrended.

Still today, people talk about “dos Españas”, the victorious and the defeated. Still today, the is much difficulty in having official recognition for the thousands who died while defending what a majority of people had voted for in a democratic way. Still today, one of the major political parties in Spain refuses to acknowledge what the forty years of Franco meant for the disidents, for the exiled, and for the dead. They are the legacy of Franco.

Today Spain celebrates the 75th anniversary of our Second Republic, with many events in many cities, which will be ongoing for a few weeks. Izquierda Republicana has a good list of events.