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Stanley Payne on the Spanish Civil War

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“The elections of 1933 produced a result almost diametrically opposite to the balloting two years earlier, when the CEDA won a plurality, albeit not a majority, of seats. The number of Socialist deputies declined, while the left Republicans were almost wiped out. The leaders of these last two groups responded with demands that the president of the Republic, Niceto Alcala´ Zamora, cancel the results and permit them to change the rules for new elections in order to guarantee victory for a chastened and reunited left. They did not charge that the balloting had been unfair or invalid, but simply protested the fact that victory had gone to the right and center. Whereas the CEDA had accepted an electoral law written by its opponents, the left contended that the Catholic party could not be permitted to win elections – even under rules drawn up by the left – because the CEDA proposed fundamental changes in the Republican system. Although the left had just finished drastically altering Spain’s political system and the Socialists proposed to go much farther yet to introduce socialism, the left maintained that the Catholic right could not be allowed to introduce any other changes, irregardless of how many votes it received. The left insisted that the Republic constituted not an equal democratic regime for all, but a special project exclusively aligned with the left.
This position was unprecedented in the recent history of European
parliamentary regimes. German Social Democrats, for example, had gone
to great lengths to defend equal rights for all in the founding of the
Weimar Republic, and even the revolutionary “Maximalist” Socialists of
Italy in 1919–22 had never seriously proposed to manipulate electoral
outcomes. Facing the rise of Fascism, their last major initiative had been
the “legalitarian strike” of mid-1922, which merely asked for a return to
law and order and to democratic government.
What were the sources of the Spanish left’s “patrimonial” concept of
an exclusively leftist regime? This is difficult to determine. Only ten years
earlier, in 1923, most of the left had demanded full democratization.
As soon as it arrived, they rejected it when it failed to guarantee their
domination…

…The seeds of the intransigent or extreme left emerged in the “exaltados” of 1821–23, who were willing to impose their values by fair means or foul. During most of the nineteenth century, this had meant a combination of military pronunciamientos –the majority were on behalf of more liberal agendas – and urban riots. The rise of the revolutionary worker movements – anarchosyndicalist and Marxist – accentuated this extremism. The attitude that developed held that anything opposed to the left was reactionary and ipso facto illegitimate, a posture not to be found in equivalent form elsewhere in Western Europe.”

Stanley G. Payne, The Spanish Civil War, pp. 17-18.

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