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Primo de Rivera

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Caitlin Morrison

on 16 December 2016

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Transcript of Primo de Rivera

Primo de Rivera
Angry supporters
Preston highlights that by 1930,
"...there was hardly a section of Spanish society that he had not offended, his most crucial errors led to the estrangement of industrialists, landowners and the army" (p36).
Beevor supports this stating that
"under Primo's rule a claustrophobic irritation built up...the well meaning patriarch had by now become a liability to the monarchy he had stepped in to save" (p20).
Fall of the regime
When Primo wrote up a new constitution, both the left and right were unimpressed. His choice to abolish press censorship also damaged him, and he was widely criticised. There were then two failed pronunciamentos against him. After asking significant army generals if the army still supported him, he found they did not - and neither did the King. He left Spain and died only some months afterwards while living in Paris. Thomas states
"he left behind him no basis for a regime" (p29)
. After failed attempts by the King to run the country, elections were called, leading to the rise of the Second Republic.

Thomas believes that
"Primo de Rivera fell in the end partly because he persecuted, but did not crush, the liberal and professional middle class..." (p27).
However, he also believes that
"...had it not been for the depression, Primo de Rivera might not have falled in Spain" (Thomas, p186)
In 1921, a division of Spanish soldiers was ambushed at Annual in Morocco by Moroccan tribesmen. The King wanted an outstanding victory and sent in many reserve troops. Unfortunately, it instead became
"...a classic example of military incompetence" (Beevor, p18).

Primo de Rivera announced his pronunciamento on 23rd September 1923.
"...Primo came to power to put an end to disorder and to prevent the King being embarrassed by the publication of an awkward report on the responsibility for Annual" (Preston, p35)
. In doing so, he was able to hide the King's involvement in Annual, thus temporarily saving the monarchy. Thomas states that Primo thought
"...that only an authoritarian system could preside over Spain's modernisation" (p32)
while Beevor states that he believed that
"...all would be well if everyone could be united in a single party, rather like the army itself" (Beevor, p18)
. However, Bevor believes that this was a
"...fatal military attitude to politics..." (p18)
and doomed the regime from the beginning. He also
"desired to run Spain as an enlightened despot, at a time, however, when despotism could only last if it were brutal" (Thomas, p27)
- and Primo was not a brutal dictator.

Positive Beginnings
Many considered Primo de Rivera to be the ideal leader of Spain. Preston believes he was
"...the ideal praetorian defender of the coalition of industrialists and landowners..." (p35).
Beevor also highlights that
"Primo's assumption of power was welcomed at first by industrialists and accepted by the liberal middle classes..." (p19)
as the middle class had hoped he
"...might be able to implement agrarian reforms..." (Beevor, p19)
. Preston also highlights that the dictatorship began with two significant advantages -
"...a general revulsion against the chaos of the previous six years and an upturn in the European economy"
. Thomas states that
"his pronunciamento was even welcomed at first by intellectuals...who thought that an 'iron surgeon' was needed for Spain's illnesses" (p26)
Primo's dictatorship also brought to an end the highly disliked and corrupt political system of the Turno Pacifico - in which two political parties would each 'take turns' being in power - a system dominated by the wealthy and hated by the poor. Its two parties were also basically indistinguishable from the other, so no real reform ever occured, and it stifled political groups from being able to be elected.

Outlawed anarchists, and the UGT were given a monopoly on trade unions, and huge public works programmes including the modernisation of capitalism and the building of communications infrastructures began. This
"...ambitious programme of public works...gave the dictatorship the appearance of prosperity" (Thomas, p26)
. He also managed (through luck rather than skill), to end the war in Morocco on 8th September 1925 - what Thomas even called 'miraculous'. Thomas also states that the dictatorship
"...saw the eclipse of militant anarchist activity..." (p67)
. Trade improved, and by the late 1920s,
"...both production and commerce increased 300 per cent" (Thomas, p26).

Preston states that
"the Primo de Rivera dictatorship was to be regarded in later years as a golden age by the Spanish middle classes and became a central myth of the reactionary right" (p35).
They believed if they could revert to these ways, Spain would be saved.
1. de Rivera brought in a standardised promotion system for the army - this angered them as it made it more difficult for certain sections of the army to gain promotions.

2. His offensive against the regionalists and his distaste for Catalan and Basque autonomy meant he angered the Catalans especially.

3. The collapse of the peseta in 1928 after his excessive spending made the northern industrialists angry as it significantly hindered their ability to create income.

4. Bankers were concerned about plans regarding income tax and the Extraordinary Budget which would finance public works from loans.

5. All sections of society were concerned by the telephone, tobacco and petrol monopolies that were established

5. And his arbitration committees for wages and working conditions in rural areas alienated the powerful landowners. Preston believes that this loss of landowner support was the most critical blow to his regime.
By the end of the regime, conservatives felt that
"...their experiences under Primo had left them entrenched in the view that the only feasible solution to the problems faced by the right was a military monarchy" (Preston, p36)
. Furthermore,
"because of its failure, the idea of an authoritarian solution to the problems facing the beleaguered oligarchy was briefly discredited" (Preston, p39).
However, de Rivera had significant failings. Firstly, his
"...failure to use the economic breathing space to construct a lasting political replacement for the decrepit constitutional monarchy..." (Preston, p35)
meant that he made authoritarianism look useless - and not a viable replacement for government. Beevor also believes that Primo's
"...plans to modernise Spain lacked both judgement and luck. They included overambitious and badly planned engineering projects...[which] resulted in enormous waste" (pp19-20)
. This resulted in the Spanish deficit doubling between 1925-1929, and any attempt
"...to prop up the value of the currency failed dismally" (Beevor, p20).
This was further worsened when
"...the slump of 1929 caused the collapse of several of those grandiose financial schemes..." (Thomas, p28)

Furthermore, while the middle class had hoped for land reform, it was clear that
"...any serious attempt to tackle the agrarian problem would have required measures that were too radical for him and unthinkable for those on whom he depended" (Beevor, p19)
. He also tried to control the industrial warfare in Catalonia by bringing in industrial arbitration boards under the lead of Largo Caballero, but
"the Catalan employers...having welcomed Primo's arrival in power, now hated his control over their methods of dealing with union leaders" (Beevor, p19).

But more importantly, he alienated
"...the powerful interests which had originally supported him" (Preston, p35).
1. Explain the reasons for Primo’s pronunciamento – give supporting historiography.
2. Do a Venn Diagram of Primo’s actions – good, bad, neutral/both.
3. Create a table displaying his actions and the positive and negative impacts of these actions
4. What is your overall opinion of Primo’s impact on Spain as a whole?
5. Why did Primo’s regime ultimately fail? Support with historiography.
6. Undertake further research to discover WHY he undertook the reforms he did. Create a mindmap documenting these reasons.


What factors best explain Miguel Primo de Rivera’s attempts at social and economic reform in the 1920s?
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