To What Extent Were The Army Generals Responsible For The Outbreak Of Civil War In 1936?

1610 words - 7 pages

On the 17th July 1936 a coup was launched by the army generals in attempt to overthrow the Popular Front government that had only been elected into power in February 1936. The coup was ordered by General Mola on this date because of the assassination of a leading monarchist, Jose Calvo Sotelo by the Assault Guard. However the outbreak of civil war also had underlying long-term causes such as social divisions in Spain and more short-term ones such as a lack of political consensus during the time of the Second Republic. This essay will consider the extent to which the different factors were responsible for the outbreak of civil war in 1936.
The assassination of Calvo Sotelo, a leading ...view middle of the document...

Although the assassinations set the timing of the coup, the coup itself had been planned because of the political divisions between the conservative forces of “Old Spain” such as the military, Church and landowners and the reforming ideology of left-wing political parties. So it can be argued that while the assassinations did provide the trigger cause for the outbreak of civil war and persuaded many conservatives to support the uprising, political division was far more important in that it created the environment for a coup to be supported.
General Mola and his companions had planned a coup in which the army would overthrow the government and gain control of Spain and it was the failure of this coup that was the spark of civil war in Spain. The army generals had been plotting since the election of the Popular Front to power, because of their view that democracy had failed to protect traditional conservative sections of society from the reforms of left-wing political parties and due to the increasing disorder on the streets of Spain. Mola and the military wanted to bring order back to Spain by enforcing an authoritarian style of government and also uphold the ‘unity’ of Spain by preventing Catalonia or the Basque Country gaining any autonomy. On the 17th July 1936 the coup was launched in Morocco under the lead of General Franco and a day later the coup spread to the mainland. In this way the army generals can be held responsible for plotting and initialising the coup but the reason for its failure which ultimately was the reason for the outbreak of civil war was the political divisions in Spain. The reason the coup succeeded in parts of Spain was due to the impression of political support it received from the support of the right-wing monarchist Carlists who helped the coup to succeed in Pamplona, the right-wing CEDA, and the fascist Falange who had militias which could be used to support the coup if street fighting broke out. If the coup had succeeded, civil war would not have broken out because the army would have quickly gained control but because of the mistrust and antagonism towards the army and its generals by the left-wing population of Spain caused by political divisions, the coup failed in many areas such as Madrid and Barcelona. Due to this the extent of the army generals’ responsibility for the outbreak of civil war cannot be higher than that of the political divisions in Spain.
The failure of the Second Republic to build a political consensus is a major factor in the outbreak of civil war in 1936. Opposition to the governments of the Second Republic led to some political parties thinking that an armed uprising was the only way of shrugging off in their view, the failure of democracy. The reforms of the Second Republic led to opposition by traditional right-wing sections of Spanish society. The landowners felt threatened by the agrarian reforms such as The Agrarian Reform Law of 1932, the Church perceived that anti-clericalism such...

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