The Politics of Revenge: Fascism and the Military in Twentieth-Century Spain

By Paul Preston | Go to book overview

1

Resisting modernity: fascism and the military in twentieth-century Spain

In the summer of 1936 important sections of the officer corps of the Spanish army rose against the Second Republic. The officers involved were convinced that they were acting to save their country from the breakdown of law and order, the disintegration of national unity and waves of proletarian godlessness provoked by foreign agents. They believed themselves to be acting disinterestedly, inspired only by the highest patriotic values. 1 In fact, the military uprising, the consequent protracted war effort between 1936 and 1939 and the dictatorship which institutionalized the eventual victory of the rebels all shared a socially and politically partisan function. The function, if not the explicit intention, of the military rebels of 1936 and the military rulers of Spain after 1939 was, in addition to rooting out regionalism and reasserting the hegemony of institutionalized Catholicism, the protection of the interests of the agrarian-financial-industrial élites. In particular, that meant shielding the reactionary landed oligarchy from the challenge to Spain's antiquated economic structures embodied in the reforms of the Second Republic.

In 1936, for a number of complex reasons, the military uprising could count on a substantial amount of popular support that was, in the crudest terms, broadly equivalent to the combined electoral strengths of the major right-wing parties of the Second Republic. 2 That civilian support was consolidated in the course of the Spanish Civil War because of religious convictions reinforced by the Catholic Church's commitment

1 Gabriel Cardona, El poder militar en la Espana contemporáninea basta la guerra civil (Madrid, 1983), pp. 197-247.

2 Although there is a massive bibliography of regional electoral studies, there exists no satisfactory study of the electoral geography of the 1930s Spain as a whole. Jean Bécarud, La segunda República espanola 1931-1936: ensayo de interpretación (Madrid, 1967) remains the best overview. See pp. 97-104, 125-41, 155-83. Javier Tusell, Las elecciones del Frente Popular, 2 vols (Madrid, 1971) is the best study of the last elections before the military uprising, see Vol. II, pp. 22-58. For the largest mass party of the right, the CEDA, whose rank and file made up a large part of Franco's armies, there is the comprehensive study by José R. Montero, La CEDA. el catolicismo social y politico en la II República, 2 vols (Madrid, 1977). See Vol. II, pp. 271-336.

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