Causes of the Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil War has been for a long time, and according to some, still is, one of the darkest episodes of Spanish, as well as world, history. Very violent and abrupt in nature, it has shed blood of the innocent and changed the mentality of people forever.
The reasons for the outbreak of the Civil War are numerous and originating from different sources, but the most outspoken are those, which have been triggered by many problems faced by Spain and the inability of the subsequent governments to solve them.
In order to fully comprehend the nature of those problems, it is necessary to divide them into three main groups: national, social and economical. The first group deals with the problems of different nationalities and ethnic groups co - existing within one country. The most vital among those is the issue of independence and autonomy demanded by the Basque province and Catalonia. Both provinces were ethnically ad culturally different from the rest of the country, and desperately wanted to be separated from other provinces. This has led to tensions within society, causing major social unrest.
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Another group of serious problems faced by the Spanish government can be defined as deriving from social instability. Spain has had a social structure, which could be best defined as archaic and obsolete. The power was held in the hands of aristocracy and wealthy landlords. They had vast political influences, ad thus generated to many privileged positions, strengthening at the same time their role in the country. They have owned big areas of land, while the peasants working for them had virtually nothing. Another important group in the pre - republican period in Spanish history was the clergy. Clergymen not only owned big pieces of land, but also had control of schooling. The last group in power present in Spain was the army with its officers, who were, just like clergymen and property owners, privileged and taking advantage of their position.
The third and final problem faced by the newly established republican government was deteriorating economy. The peasants demanded an agrarian reform, because the economic crisis of Wall Street in 1929 and the Great Depression following have taken their toll on them. Prices have risen, as the wages have fallen - the peasants could not sell their goods, hence, they were left with no profit.
The Wall Street Crash has also affected those from big cities. Industrial workers could not find jobs, their wages fell and the looming inflation made their situation even worse. It is hardly surprising that they wanted the new government to deal with the bad situation in country.
The main problem on the political scene, on the other hand, was that even though each political wing (Right, Moderate Left and Radical Left) was conscious of these problems, each and every one had a different vision of their solution. The Right Wing consisted of conservatives. The main party in this group was the CEDA, the Catholic Party. They did not accept the changes that were made after the abolition of monarchy, as they represented the upper class of Spanish society, the privileged groups. After 1931, they have been constantly losing power, which is why they wanted to restore the king to the throne. Their main aim was to preserve the old social structure; they did not want to introduce any reforms or to change anything. I matters of nationality affairs, they believed in preservation of the unity of Spain, and were not willing to grant autonomy to any of the provinces.
The second wing, the Moderate Left, was thought to represent the interests of Spanish middle class. They had democratic views and cold be best described as liberals. They had the support of intelligentsia, as well as of professionals and ethnical minorities, probably because they were willing to give independence and autonomy to the Basques province and Catalonia. They have based their policies on parliamentary democracy, using the British government as inspiration. Their main aims were to establish economy system based on capitalistic assumptions, they believed in free - market economy, and wanted everyone to be equal before law. They wanted to grant universal suffrage as well as citizen rights.
The third, last and most decisive wing was the Radical Left. It included four major parties: the anarchists, syndicalists, communists and some socialists. They have represented and voiced opinions of many students, industrial workers, as well as peasants. Their vision of Spain was based on communist system, they wanted to achieve social and economic unity, introduce classless society, and preserve unity of Spain - they were not interested in national matters, and thus they did not want to give autonomy neither to Basques province, nor to Catalonia. Revolution was the only method, which they believed, could lead to abolishment of republican government and to the introduction of their policies.
Each and every of these wings had the potential possibility to introduce given reforms and to "re - design" Spain according to their policies - after all, every wing had had a chance to rule.
Unfortunately, the reforms that they planned were worthless, given the lack of co - operation between the political groups. The changes put forward by the Moderate Left government were far too rapid for the society they concerned. It was extremely difficult for the Spanish society to adapt overnight to not only a brand new government, but also to the abruptly changing law. In a deeply religious country, the anti - clerical government does not evoke positive feelings. Moderate Left organized land redistribution, forced officers on early retirement, reconstructed the whole military, and, quite obviously, tackled with the wealthiest and most powerful in the country. The leaders of the government did not try to co - operate with other parties, they did not try to reach any consensus. If they had, perhaps the reforms would have been less violent and quick in nature. What's more, it has not been wise to wordlessly deprive clergy and landlords of most of their assets - it has caused strong opposition and social frustration. People were anxious that the reforms, which were to be introduced, would be too harsh.
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The Right wing government, in power since 1933, has also acted in a solitary manner - no agreement or communication between these leaders and the opposition took place. If there had been one, perhaps not all the changes introduced by Moderate Left would be cancelled, and probably the society would not have suffered as much. The main policy of the Right wing government was to roll back all social changes and restore pre - republican order, with its archaic social structure. Communication between those two consecutive governments would have been priceless, if there were any - the changes, which would have been introduced, would have been satisfying for both wings. The society would not have to face express reforms in the first place, and then to watch everything roll back again to the way it was before, when they were in need of changes.
Not only these two governments have been guilty of poor communication, which led to misunderstanding. The Radical government is also to blame for lax co - operation. Their radical methods of ruling have led to great social unrest, and their government has been overthrown before they have managed o introduce any sensible reforms.
Yet another major factor in the war between governments, which has in turn led to the outbreak of the war, was the common use of violent methods, both by the government in power and the opposition.
During the rule of the first government, 25 village people have been killed. The leaders believed that anarchist leaders are hiding in (), so they decided to violently get rid of opposition. This action has caused many justifiable controversies as to the ability of the government to deal with opposition - again, lack of communication contributed to the deaths of innocent village people.
The second government has been unwilling to grant autonomy to any of the provinces, which demanded it. The revolt of miners in October 1934 has been a public outcry for reforms and government's action; it has been a direct demand for changes. Sadly, the Right wing has not taken it into account, and the revolt has been violently put out. Perhaps, had the government tried to co - operate with the miners, human lives would have been saved. What's more, the Right government has tried to overthrow the Prime Minister Manuel Azara. Again, they wanted to put their visions forward at any cost, without seeking any agreement with the opposition.
The violent putting out of revolts ad rebels seems to have been a typical method of dealing with them, as we can observe it also in the last government's policies. They also could not deal peacefully with rebels, and they also assassinated the leader of Right win, Calvo Sotelo - an act, which has directly led to the outbreak of Civil War.
While in the opposition, neither of these wings stayed put. The most "successful" was the radical left, which due to inner partitions and desperation to seize power, caused more and more damage in the already weakened country.
Perhaps this is why the people of Spain did not feel secure or well in their own country. Yes, they were in desperate need of many reforms, but those, which came, were far too fast. This caused a feeling of instability, as many crucial and integral parts of the society they lived in, have changed virtually overnight, leaving them bewildered and perplexed. The first government could not deal with the economic problems caused by the Wall Street Crash, and hence proved to be inefficient. It was also a matter of controversy, whether anti-clerical policies of the newly established government, which was purportedly promoting equality, could last long in a country, where Catholic faith was deeply rooted in people's minds.
Overall, the society felt quite antagonized, which has in turn lead to its swinging support of different governments - with fundamentally different policies than the one predecesing.
Finally, the situation of the army could be called at least insuperably arduous. In theory, the soldiers were supposed to adhere to the group in power, but the individual sentiments of some of the army men have turned out to be of more importance. After all, it must have been difficult to support the government, which took most of their privileges away. They were dissatisfied with the first government, which forced some of them onto early retirement, but on the other hand, they could see that the subsequent governments have had little understanding of their actions. They could see that many problems were solved by force and violence, and that could have led them to believe that not everything is done as it should be - again, lack of communication seems to cause problems.
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It has to be stressed that the Civil War has not been an event triggered by a singe outburst or incompetence. The country has been approaching this horrible event for some time, starting with the problems that couldn't be solved as quickly, as the society wanted, going through the absolute inability of the government to communicate and reach consensus for the well - being of the country, and finally, ending with the inner division of the army. In this case, word of Ernest Hemingway, a popular author, see to sum up the policies of governments leading to war accurately: "If we resort to lawlessness, the only thing we can hope for is civil war, untold bloodshed and the end of our dreams".
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