Spain, 1914-1918: Between War and Revolution

By Francisco J. Romero Salvadó | Go to book overview

9

THE YEAR 1918

The structural crisis of the liberal monarchy

The year 1917 revealed that Spain’s ruling order was plunged into a deep crisis of authority and legitimacy. This had begun at the turn of the century, gathering momentum during the war years as a near-feudal political structure was faced with the challenge of new economic and political realities. Still the old discredited governing classes were strong enough to prevent the triumph of the forces seeking thorough change. Antonio Gramsci, the leading Italian political thinker, has defined that situation as an ‘organic crisis of the state’. 1

From late 1917 onwards the social situation worsened. Both cities and countryside were seething with discontent produced by food and fuel shortages. The crisis de subsistencias was causing widespread desperation. An index based on a figure of 100 for overall prices in 1914 had shot up in September 1918 to 161.8 in the cities and 172.8 in the countryside. The price of a kilo of bread had increased 62.1 per cent; of meat, 78.2 per cent; potatoes, 80 per cent; rice, 50 per cent; sugar, 56.7 per cent; a litre of milk, 40 per cent and a dozen eggs, 85.3 per cent. Salaries were lagging far behind. Over the same period they had increased by a mere 25.6 per cent and 35.1 per cent for the average male and female worker respectively. 2 In December 1917 the govern ment established a new organization called the Comisaría de Subsistencias with the task of setting quotas for the export of basic products and combating profiteers and speculators. Like similar bodies in the past, it failed utterly to accomplish anything positive.

Famine, unemployment and misery forced the distressed population to acts of violence and disorder. Throughout 1918 disturbances became a common feature all over the country. They took the form of food riots, demonstrations for cheaper goods and assaults on shops and bakeries, these often involving women and children. There were clashes and sporadic rioting in Valencia, Salamanca, Madrid, Santander, Corunna and Cadiz. In early January a general strike broke out in Malaga and Alicante and in both places several women were shot dead while demanding cheaper food. Women broke into several bakeries in Barcelona, where a state of war was subsequently

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Spain, 1914-1918: Between War and Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Outbreak of War 5
  • 3 - The Romanones Administration 27
  • 4 - The Romanones Administration 60
  • 5 - The Gathering Storm 85
  • 6 - Two Parliaments in One Country 100
  • 7 - The Hot August of 1917 120
  • 8 - The End of an Era 135
  • 9 - The Year 1918 150
  • 10 - Epilogue 179
  • Notes 193
  • Bibliography 221
  • Index 230
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