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The Politics of the Republic

Spanish politics during the Republic? The heart ruling the head.

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Many would make the case that the Republic eventually fell because it collapsed internally rather than anything Franco did. Any government would find it hard to function with such a diversity of vested interests. So who was involved in 1936 when Franco launched his rebellion?

The Popular Front Government was made up of several different groups. Most took an active part, others were hugely important but only stayed on the edge.

Those ‘within’:-

Additionally there were the Catalan groups

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Perhaps the biggest influence came from outside

The CNT & FAI enjoyed very strong support from the peasants and urban workers but how could anarchists be incorporated in government and a fight for survival when they did not believe in the political system?

The Socialists and Liberals felt overwhelmed by the task of trying to keep up the agenda of a democratic government and at the same time introduce sufficient social reform to keep all the other interests happy. Additionally many Politian’s were essentially Republican yet found themselves allied to communists and anarchists whom they found hard to handle.

Barcelona was the real ‘melting pot’ – many of these factions were represented in the city. Very quickly in 1936 strong holds were set up in hotels of official buildings – each with their own armed supporters. The overall desire was to protect the Republic and so there was a good level of cooperation. Barcelona was a major source of militia recruitment and enthusiasm including the famous Durruti Column.

This fervor was quickly to develop into open resentment and friction between the groups. There were too many vested interests:-

Central government in Madrid – in theory the War Office controlled the armed forces

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Republican army group. Note mixture of uniforms and soldier in the front row wearing alpargatas shoes (espadrilles). In the second row the soldier on the far left is injured. In the rear row, far left, the soldier is giving the 'red' clenched fist. The officer in the middle just looks cool. His cap is at a jaunty angle and he casually holds a cigarette. My Favourite photo.

Catalan government in Barcelona – controlled the police and local armed forces

Political groups – actively controlled their own forces

So the initial nationwide spirit of ’36 was lost to individual interests. This exploded in May 1937 into violence between the militias. Hard to believe that this could occur when all these parties shared a common enemy – Franco.