The year 1917 proved to be a watershed in Europe. The Russian Revolution in March and the entry of the United States into the war a month later transformed a conflict between two imperialist blocs into an all-out ideological clash. By then all the European ruling elites’ hopes of silencing domestic opposition by obtaining a quick and decisive victory in the battlefield had vanished. In fact, the Great War accelerated the demise of the old regimes. It heralded the arrival of a new era: one of mass politics and ideological militancy. The American President, Woodrow Wilson, was regarded by many as the best hope for the foundation of a new democratic world order. The proclamation of his fourteen points in January 1918 seemed to justify those hopes. Freedom of navigation and trade, the abolition of secret diplomacy, self-determination for national minorities and the foundation of a League of Nations to guarantee peace were some of the ideas put forward by the new American diplomacy. However, running parallel to the political offensive initiated by Wilson lay the reality of social distress and economic hardship which could hardly be resolved by his altruistic principles.
Mounting domestic tensions in Europe triggered a tide of violence which cut the continent off for ever from the old world before July 1914. In 1917 mutinies among French troops after the failure of the bloody Nivelle offensive, the increase of labour militancy in Britain, antiwar demonstrations and creation of workers’ councils in Germany, food riots and the erection of barricades in northern Italy and the triumph of the Bolshevik bid for power in Russia revealed to the different governing elites how their hegemony had been effectively eroded. From now on, they would have to face the political awakening of the masses and their demands for social and economic reform. Furthermore, the consolidation of Bolshevism in Russia and the appeal of Lenin’s ideas among the dispossessed and despairing masses triggered off a period of political unrest and class struggle which surpassed in intensity that initiated in 1789.
The crisis which rocked the foundations of the Spanish regime was the regional version of the general crisis which was engulfing the other European states. The Romanones cabinet was to a large extent responsible for unleashing