Spain Under The Dictator

In 1921 the Spanish army suffered the most ignominious defeat in its history when a division was ambushed by Moroccon tribesmen in Spanish Morocco under Abd-el-Krim. It was a classic example of military incompetence, 10,000 soldiers wre killed, 4000 taken prisoner and the commander, General Silvestre, committed suicide. A week later another major position was lost, another 7000 soldiers were massacred and the officers led away in chains. The reaction in Spain was so bitter that a commission of inquiry was held. King Alfonso was severely censured in its findings for his meddling, but before the report was due out the captain-general of Catalonia, Miguel Primo de Rivera, appointed himself dictator with Alfonso remaining as head of state. The other generals gave him tacit support to prevent the public condemnation of the army and the king.

Primo did sympathise with the peasants in a patriarchal fashion, and attempted to end the industrial warfare that was going on in Catalonia. He increased the power of the unions, whose memberships rose accordingly, and attempted to rein in employers. But any serious attempt to tackle the problem of a country where "half the nation works but does not eat, and the other half eats but does not work" were too radical for him, and irritation with his rulership grew. He resigned in 1930, hurt that he was not appreciated for his efforts. Elections were organised and the King was shocked by his unpopularity. Every large town except Cadiz went to anti-monarchical candidates, and Alfonso realised he had to abdicate. The supposed sportsmanship of his abdication had great impact on conservative opinion in England, which was later to prove crucial during the civil war. Winston Churchill wrote that 'the articulate forces in France, Britain and the United States were more attracted to the character of King Alfonso than by the character of the Spanish people'.

The Spanish Republic had arrived without violence, after the collapse of a discredited institution, but it was automatically an object of dislike for what Churchill had called the 'articulate forces'. But the euphoric crowds were congratulating themselves, for they felt sure that the 'immaculate Republic' could not fail to be respected by other countries, as well as within Spain, and that there could be no pretence for intervention to restore the ancien regime as had happened in the past.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.