The Abandonment of Legalism: The PSOE, the CEDA and the Coming of War in 1936

  • Paul Preston


The events of October 1934 and the results of the 1936 elections shattered CEDA dreams of being able to impose an authoritarian, corporative state without having to fight a civil war. Two years of aggressive rightist government had left the working masses, especially in the countryside, in a far from conciliatory mood. Having been thwarted once in its reforming ambitions, the Left was now determined to proceed rapidly with meaningful agrarian change, which would directly challenge the economic interests of the CEDA’s backers. Having predicted that left-wing electoral success would he the prelude to the most spine-chilling social disasters, the CEDA had undermined its own raison d’être, the legal defence of landed and religious interests. The small section of the CEDA leadership, around Manuel Giménez Fernández and Luis Lucia, which believed that the party should now fully accept the Republic was unable to influence policy. It was rather late to attempt to reverse the effects of CEDA propaganda and already the rural and industrial oligarchies were switching their financial support to the conspiratorial Right. Gil Robles seems to have accepted that the legalist tactic had now outlived its usefulness. He did not try to stem the flow of CEDA members to more extremist organisations.


Prime Minister Corporative State Election Result Political Violence Military Coup 
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  1. 33.
    Burnett Bolloten, The Grand Camouflage 2nd edition (London, 1968) pp. 115–16; Claridad 2 and 6 Apr 1936; Carrillo, Demain l’Espagne pp 48–9; Vidarte, Todos fuimos culpables pp. 56–7.Google Scholar
  2. 40.
    Juan Ignacio Luca de Tena, Mis amigos muertos (Barcelona, 1971), p. 68; Payne, Military p. 335; Gil Robles, No fue posible la paz p. 733.Google Scholar
  3. 44.
    Bolloten, Camouflage, passim; David T. Cattell, Communism and the Spanish Civil War ( Berkeley, Calif., 1955 ) pp. 39–43.Google Scholar
  4. 57.
    F0371/2057W9964/9549/41, quoted in Glyn A. Stone, ‘The Official British Attitude to the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance 1910–1945’, Journal of Contemporary History x, no. 4 (Oct 1975) p. 745; vol. iii, 53–5; Arthur Koestler, Spanish Testament (London, 1937) pp. 22–5; Gutiérrez Ravé, Gil Robles pp. 198–9.Google Scholar

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© Paul Preston 1978

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  • Paul Preston

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