|President of Spain|
10 May 1936 - 3 March 1939
|Santiago Casares Quiroga|
Diego Martínez Barrio
Francisco Largo Caballero
|Niceto Alcalá-Zamora |
Acting president Diego Martínez Barrio
|Francisco Franco |
(Caudillo of Spain)
|Prime Minister of Spain|
14 October 1931 - 12 September 1933
|Juan Bautista Aznar Cabañas|
19 February 1936 - 10 May 1936
|President||Niceto Alcalá-Zamora |
Diego Martínez Barrio
|Manuel Portela Valladares|
|Santiago Casares Quiroga|
|Minister of War|
14 April 1931 - 12 September 1933
|Niceto Alcalá Zamora|
|Juan José Rocha García|
|Member of the Congress of Deputies|
16 March 1936 - 31 March 1939
8 December 1933 - 7 January 1936
14 July 1931 - 9 October 1933
Manuel Azaña Díaz
10 January 1880
Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Kingdom of Spain
|Died||3 November 1940 (aged 60)|
Montauban, Midi-Pyrénées, Vichy France
|Political party||Republican Left|
|Spouse(s)||Dolores de Rivas Cherif|
Manuel Azaña Díaz (Spanish pronunciation: [ma'nwel a'?a?a]; 10 January 1880 – 3 November 1940) was a Spanish politician who served as Prime Minister of the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1933 and 1936) and the last President of the Republic (1936-1939).
A collaborator in several publications in the 1910s, he stood out in the pro-Allies camp during World War I. Very critical towards the Generation of '98 and not keen of the reimagination of the Spanish Middle Ages, the Imperial Spain nor the 20th yearnings for a praetorian refurbishment of the country, Azaña followed instead the examples of the French Enlightenment and the Third French Republic, and took a political quest for democracy in the 1920s while defending the notion of homeland as the "democratic equality of all citizens towards the law" that made him embrace republicanism.
After the Proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in April 1931, Azaña became Minister of War of the Provisional Government and enacted military reform, looking to develop a modern armed forces with fewer army officers. He later became Prime Minister in October 1931.
The Spanish Civil War broke out while he was President. With the defeat of the Republic in 1939, he fled to France, resigned from office, and died in exile shortly afterwards.
Born into a rich family, Manuel Azaña Díaz was orphaned at a very young age. He studied in the Universidad Complutense, the Cisneros Institute and the Agustinos of El Escorial. He was awarded a Lawyer's licence by the University of Zaragoza in 1897, and a doctorate by the Universidad Complutense in 1900.
In 1909 he achieved a position at the Main Directorate of the Registries and practised the profession of civil law notary, and travelled to Paris in 1911. He became involved in politics and in 1914 joined the Reformist Republican Party led by Melquíades Álvarez. He collaborated in the production of various newspapers, such as El Imparcial and El Sol. During World War I he covered operations on the Western Front for various newspapers. His treatment was very sympathetic to the French, and he may have been sponsored by French military intelligence. Afterwards he edited the magazines Pluma and España between 1920 and 1924, founding the former with his brother-in-law Cipriano Rivas Cherif. He was secretary of the Ateneo de Madrid (1913-1920), becoming its president in 1930. He was a candidate for the province of Toledo in 1918 and 1923, but lost on both occasions. In 1926 he founded the Acción Republicana ("Republican Action") party with José Giral.
A strong critic of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, Azaña published a stirring manifesto against the dictator and King Alfonso XIII in 1924. In 1930, he was a signatory of the "Pact of San Sebastián", which united all the republican and regionalist parties in Spain against Primo de Rivera and the King.
On 12 April 1931, republican candidates swept the municipal elections. This was seen as repudiation of Primo de Rivera and the monarchy. Two days later, the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed.
Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, prime minister of the provisional government of the Republic, named Azaña Minister of War on 14 April. Alcalá-Zamora resigned in October, and Azaña replaced him as prime minister. When the new constitution was adopted on 9 December, Azaña continued as prime minister, leading a coalition of left-wing parties, including his own Acción Republicana and the Socialists (PSOE), while Alcalá-Zamora became President of the Republic.
Azaña pursued some of the major reforms anticipated by the republican program. He introduced work accident insurance, reduced the size of the Spanish Army, and removed some monarchist officers. He also moved to reduce the power and influence of the Roman Catholic Church, abolishing Church-operated schools and charities, and greatly expanding state-operated secular schools. The Spanish legislature, the Cortes, also enacted an agrarian reform program, under which large private landholdings (latifundia) were to be confiscated and distributed among the rural poor.
However, Azaña was a "middle-class republican", not a socialist. He and his followers were not enthusiastic for this program. The agrarian law did not include state-funded collective farms, as the Socialists wanted, and was not enacted until late 1932. It was also clumsily written, and threatened many relatively small landholders more than the latifundists. The Azaña government also did very little to carry it out: only 12,000 families received land in the first two years.
In addition, Azaña did little to reform the taxation system to shift the burden of government onto the wealthy. Also, the government continued to support the owners of industry against wildcat strikes or attempted takeovers by militant workers, especially the anarcho-syndicalists of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour or CNT). Confrontation with the CNT erupted in bloody violence at Casas Viejas (now Benalup), Castilblanco, and Arnedo.
Meanwhile, Azaña's extreme anti-clerical program alienated many moderates. In local elections held in early 1933, most of the seats went to conservative and centrist parties. Elections to the "Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees" (the Republic's "Supreme Court") followed this pattern.
Thus Azaña came into conflict with both the right and far left. He called a vote of confidence, but two-thirds of the Cortes abstained, and Alcalá-Zamora ordered Azaña's resignation on 8 September 1933. New elections were held on 19 November 1933.
These elections were won by the right-wing Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas (CEDA) and the centrist Radical Republican Party. Radical leader Alejandro Lerroux became prime minister. Azaña temporarily withdrew from politics and returned to literary activity.
Azaña's self-imposed political retreat lasted only a short while; in 1934 he founded the Republican Left party, the fusion of Acción Republicana with the Radical Socialist Republican Party, led by Marcelino Domingo, and the Organización Republicana Gallega Autónoma (ORGA) of Santiago Casares Quiroga.
On 5 October 1934, the PSOE and Communists attempted a general left-wing rebellion. The rebellion had a temporary success in Asturias and Barcelona, but was over in two weeks. Azaña was in Barcelona that day, and the Lerroux-CEDA government tried to implicate him. He was arrested and charged with complicity in the rebellion.
In fact Azaña had no connection with the rebellion, and the attempt to convict him on spurious charges soon collapsed, giving him the prestige of a martyr. He was released from prison in January 1935. Azaña then helped organize the Frente Popular ("Popular Front"), a coalition of all the major left-wing parties for the elections of 16 February 1936.
The Front won the election, and Azaña became prime minister again on 19 February. His parliamentary coalition included the PSOE and Communists. This alarmed conservatives, who remembered their attempt to seize power only 17 months earlier. The Azaña government proclaimed an immediate amnesty for all prisoners from the rebellion, which increased conservative concerns. Socialists and Communists were appointed to important positions in the Assault Guard and Civil Guard.
Also, with the Popular Front victory, radicalized peasants led by the Socialists began seizing land on 25 March. Azaña chose to legitimize these actions rather than challenge them. Radical Socialists vied with Communists in calling for violent revolution and forcible suppression of the Right. Political assassinations by Communists, Socialists, and anarchosyndicalists were frequent, as were retaliations by increasingly radicalized conservatives.
Azaña insisted that the danger to the Republic was from the Right and on 11 March, the government suppressed the Falange.
Azaña was a man of very strong convictions. Stanley G. Payne tentatively described him as "the last great figure of traditional Castilian arrogance in the history of Spain." As a "middle class republican", he was implacably hostile to the monarchy and the Church. The CEDA, which was pro-Catholic, he therefore regarded as illegitimate, and also any and all monarchists, even those who supported parliamentary democracy.
When the Cortes met in April, it removed President Alcalá-Zamora from office. On 10 May 1936, Azaña was elected President of the Republic; Quiroga succeeded him as prime minister. Azaña by this time was profoundly depressed by the increasing disorder, but could see no way to counter it.
Azaña repeatedly warned his fellow Republicans that the lack of unity within the government was a serious threat to the Republic's stability. Political violence continued: there were over 200 assassinations in February through early July.
By July, the military conspiracy to overthrow the Republic was well underway, but nothing definite had been planned. Then on 13 July, José Calvo Sotelo, leader of a small monarchist grouping in the Cortes, was arrested and murdered by a mixed group of Socialist gunmen and Assault Guards. Azaña and Quiroga did not act effectively against the killers.
On 17 July, right-wing, Falangist, and Monarchist elements in the Republican army proclaimed the overthrow of the Republic. The rebellion failed in Madrid, however. Azaña replaced Quiroga as Prime Minister with his ally Diego Martínez Barrio, and the government attempted a compromise with the rebels, which was rejected by General Mola.
On 13 September, Azaña authorized Minister of Finance Juan Negrín to move the nation's gold reserve to wherever Negrin thought it would be secure. Negrin shipped it to the Soviet Union, which claimed it in payment for arms supplied to the Republic.
On 3 March, he resigned as President of the Republic, rather than return to Madrid with the rest of the government. Both Nationalist and Republican commentators have condemned this decision as "desertion".
Azaña lived in exile in France for more than a year after the war, trapped by the invasion of France by Germany and institution of the Nazi German occupation regime. He died on 3 November 1940, in Montauban. According to testimonies, he received the last rites before his death. The Vichy French authorities refused to allow his coffin to be covered with the Spanish Republican flag. The coffin was covered instead with the flag of Mexico, whose government had vested him with Mexican citizenship and named him Honorary Ambassador to grant him diplomatic immunity. His residence was officially an extension of the Mexican Embassy and therefore Mexican soil. Several attempts were made to arrest him to take him back to Madrid, all of which failed thanks to his immunity and the presence of Mexican military personnel.
In his diaries and memoirs, on which he worked meticulously, Azaña vividly describes the various personality and ideological conflicts between himself and various Republican leaders, such as Largo Caballero and Negrín. Azaña's writings during the Civil War have been resources for study by scholars of the workings of the Republican government during the conflict. Along with his extensive memoirs and diaries, Azaña also wrote a number of well-known speeches. His speech on 18 July 1938 is one of the best known of these, in which he implores his fellow Spaniards to seek reconciliation after the fighting ends, emphasizing the need for "Peace, Pity, and Pardon."
Azaña wrote a play during the Civil War, La velada en Benicarló ("Vigil in Benicarló"). Having worked on the play during the previous weeks, Azaña dictated the final version while trapped in Barcelona during the "Days of May" violence. In the play, Azaña uses various characters to espouse the various ideological, political, and social perspectives present within the Republic during the war. He portrayed and explored the rivalries and conflicts that were damaging the political cohesion of the Republic.
Azaña was aware of General Franco and Sanjurjo's firm determination to completely annihilate the Spanish Republic, an aim which culminated in the Law of Political Responsibilities (Ley de Responsabilidades Políticas) at the end of the war. Saddened, he reflected:
A policy should never be based on the extermination of the adversary; not only because--and that is a lot to say--it is morally an abomination, but because it is materially unfeasible. And the blood unjustly spilled by the hatred that seeks to exterminate will be reborn, sprouting and giving accursed fruits; a curse that will not be restricted, unfortunately, to those who spilled the blood, but which will be over the very country which--to compound its misfortune--absorbed it.
During the many years of his political activity, Azaña kept diaries. His work Diarios completos: monarquía, república, Guerra Civil was published posthumously in Spanish in 2003.
| Minister of War
Juan José Rocha García
Juan Bautista Aznar Cabañas
| Prime Minister of Spain
Manuel Portela Valladares
| Prime Minister of Spain
Santiago Casares Quiroga
| President of the Spanish Republic
Álvaro de Albornoz Liminiana
| Spanish Head of State
Francisco Franco Bahamonde
|Party political offices|
| Leader of Republican Action
| Leader of Republican Left