Introduction to the Spanish Civil War

Email | Share | Print

The 1936 elections and the Popular Front government

The elections held in February 1936 saw a coalition of Spanish and Catalan republican and leftist parties, including the PCE, the PSOE, the POUM and the Esquerra Republicana, unite in a 'Popular Front', determined not to repeat the mistakes of the 1933 elections. Standing on a platform of reinstatement of the Catalan statute (with other regions such as the Basque regions and Galicia open to discussion), the revival of agrarian reforms and, significantly, amnesty, reinstatement and compensation for all political prisoners, they achieved remarkable success in gaining the electoral support of many Anarchists and won a narrow victory over the opposing coalition of the right.

The new republican government prepared themselves to revive the reformist program of 1931, which had been abandoned by the conservative/reactionary government in1933. However, the unwillingness of revolutionary Anarchists and Socialists to participate in what they saw as an essentially bourgeois reformist government meant that the government lacked vital support from the left. At the same time, as political violence escalated, elements of the Spanish right, who had lost any faith in the Republic, prepared for war. As Paul Preston states:

The elections marked the culmination of the CEDA attempt to use democracy against itself. This meant that henceforth the right would be more concerned with destroying the Republic than with taking it over. (Preston: Concise History, 59-60).