and welcome to one of the most exciting junctures in contemporary Spanish history:
the proclamation of the Second Republic. We left off last week on a cold December
day in 1930 just as a second military coup was being staged in Madrid. Thousands
of Spaniards watched with baited breath as a small group of army officials endeavoured
- for the second time in three days - to overthrow the country's obsolete parliamentary
monarchy in order to establish a new political system whereby the supreme power
would rest in the people, not in the privileged elite.
idea was to take Madrid, pacifistically if possible, while the rest of the country
seconded this military action with a general strike. To this end, General Queipo
de Llano, head of the Revolutionary Committee, and a group of his officials (one
of whom, incidentally, was Ramón Franco, brother of the future dictator)
occupied the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome. Their strategy was to fly over the city,
tossing down explanatory leaflets to spread the word of a new government, while,
simultaneously, Committee representatives proclaimed the Second Republic over
Battle Lost - War Won
the coup did not develop according to plan, due mainly to the fact that Madrid,
itself, did not rally to cause by joining the strike. When the conspirators realized
that the uprising had failed, they fled to Portugal to escape execution. Their
period of exile would be very short, for, as we shall see, ultimate success was
nigh. Dwindling public support for the king, even in the higher echelons of society,
meant that monarchy's days were numbered. It was simply of matter of time before
the dynastic parliament crumbled under the weight of its own past errors.
the early months of 1931, and without the aid of revolutionary movements, the
government underwent a major internal crisis, the result of which was that the
infamous chief of state, General Berenguer, was replaced by another military man,
Admiral Juan Bautista Aznar. The first move on the part of the new cabinet leader
was to convoke elections on three levels: municipal, provincial and legislative.
On 12th April 1931, for the first time since Primo de
Rivera's dictatorship, Spain's electoral urns were opened (though only to male
citizens). Ostensibly, the purpose of this first round of voting was simply to
elect councillors for the country's Town Halls. Parliament remained serene in
the knowledge that their dynastic candidates would win; however, much to their
subsequent chagrin, these municipal elections turned into a full-scale plebiscite,
deciding a question that had not even been posed: the continuance of the monarchy.
On the morning of 13th April, the government stood by
incredulously as the election results rolled in, announcing the landslide victory
of the republican-socialist coalition: of Spain's 50 capital cities, 41 had voted
in favour of the republican option rather than the monarchical option. The electorate,
too, had its ears glued to the radio to hear the outcome of its first visit to
the polls in seven years. As the results became known, multitudes of Spaniards
took to the streets celebrating the advent of democracy. Accounts of the incident
describe the collective enthusiasm as electric, the atmosphere as one of unanimous
joy. Even in the face of the apparent anarchy, neither the anarchy nor the Guardia
Civil took measures to restore order. At least for the day, Spain was of one mind,
one heart and one soul.
Meanwhile, in quiet rooms, the
Minister of State, the Count of Romanones, met with the president of the Revolutionary
Committee, Alcalá Zamora, who demanded the immediate exit of the king from
On the morning of 14th April, the Second
Republic was officially proclaimed in the Basque city of Éibar, an announcement
that quickly spread throughout the rest of the country. In Madrid, the provisional
government, made up of the signatory members of the Pact of San Sebastian made
their way through the mobbed streets to the Home Office in the Puerta del Sol
to assume the running of government. The following excerpts, from Miguel Maura's
memoirs, describe the uncontained jubilation that reigned in Madrid the day the
Republic was proclaimed:
"We approached la Cibeles.
From that point on we had to go very slowly because the street was packed with
people. They soon recognized us and that is when our odyssey began. It took us
nearly two hours to travel the stretch of road between the Plaza of Cibeles and
the Puerta del Sol, that is, just over one kilometre. The mob made way for us
as best they could, but they also climbed onto the running board and the wings
of my car
"In the Puerta del Sol the
human agglomeration went beyond all imaginable limits. The lamp posts, the tramways,
every in of plaza, the balconies and rooftops were all occupied by cheering people.
The din was deafening
"As last my
car arrived in front of the main entrance of the Home Office. The door was closed.
"Standing before the door were only Largo
Caballero and myself, surrounded, needless to say, by a vociferous mass shouting
for them to open up.
"Suddenly, the door
swung open wide, and a firing squad from the Guardia Civil blocked our way. I
stood my ground myself before them, made my identity known, and said:
Gentlemen: I must go to govern the Republic!'
if they had previously rehearsed their steps, the soldiers stood back to form
a corridor and, one on either side, presented arms."
us next week as we bid farewell to Alfonso XIII and begin to explore the difficult
five years of the Second Republic, the final fleeting stand of democracy before
the outbreak of civil war.