Joaquin Maurin

Political Parties in Spain

(6 September 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 59 [37], 6 September 1923, p. 648.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2023). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The evolution from feudalism to capitalism was a somewhat slow process in Spain. The large landowners were successful in gaining decisive influence upon the policy of the country. The antagonism between the agrarian government and the interests of gradually growing industry constantly increased in intensity. Industry developed most rapidly in the province of Catatonia. The conflict between the agrarians and the industrialists had the effect of inclining the industrial bourgeoisie of Catalonia to the idea of separation; Catalonia opposed Spain. The war favored the industrial development of Spain, and brought about great changes in the relative powers of the various social strata. Industry became more powerful. In 1917 it seemed as if there would be an upheaval, and that the industrialists would deprive the agrarians of power. But the increased strength of the proletarian movement tended to cause the industrialists to come to an understanding with the agrarians. Since this time there has been a retardation in the progress made by Spanish industry. At the present time, Spain cannot work up its raw materials, it exports them in exchange for industrial goods. The most important industries today are the textile industry in Catalonia, and the metal industry in Biscaya. But the machinery in the Spanish factories is out of-date, and the goods produced are of an inferior quality, unable to bear comparison with those of other capitalist countries. Under these circumstances. Spanish industry is only kept going with the aid of a exceedingly heavy protective duties.

Crisis has become a chronic condition, industry demands continual further rises in the customs tariffs. Reductions of wages and abolition of the eight hours day in many undertakings have not been able to improve the situation. Many branches of industry, as for instance the railways and the bourgeois press enterprises, can only carry on with the aid of state subsidies.

Spanish agriculture is still carried on along feudal lines. Hundreds of thousands of Landowners rule the nation. The majority of the large farmed estates are to be found in the middle and south of the country. Some of these landowners possess 1,000 square kilometres of land. I here are many smallholders and tenant farmers who have to deliver up one third or one half of their crops to the landlord, from a technical point of view Spanish agriculture is also extremely backward, but it is protected from foreign competition by protective duties.

The landowners are divided politically into two parties. The conservative and the liberal. Whenever the state has been in danger, the conservative party has taken the necessary repressive measures. Until the end of the nineteenth century, this party was led by Canovas, who bears the responsibility for the colonial defeats suffered by Spain, and for the atrocities of Montjuich. Canovas was killed by the anarchist Angililo, and the leadership of the party passed into the hands of Maura, notorious for plunging Spain into the Morocco adventure, and for having Ferrer shot. During recent years Maura has lost much of his prestige in his own party. As party leader he was replaced by Dato, who introduced an atrocious system of White Terror. On March 9, 1921, Dato was shot at Madrid by Casanellas, who is living at Moscow at the present time. The conservative party has now broken up into several groups at feud with one another.

After the downfall of Maura in 1909, the liberal party came into power. The post of prime minister was filled by Canallejas, a former revolutionist, whose radicalism was however only evinced by a moderate anti-clericalism after he was prime minister. Besides this, he energetically suppressed the labor movement. On the 12th November 1912 Canallejas was murdered. At the present time the liberal party is once more in possession of power. In reality there is no serious difference between the conservative and liberal parties. The two form actually one party, only that this party has divided into two fractions in order to be better able to maintain its power and to hold the ministerial seats alternately. In practice the program of both parties consists in maintaining the power of the landlords. These two parties will carry on their little game until the political power of industry and of the proletariat destroys the balance.

The party representing Catalonian industry is the Catalonian League which has existed for 20 years, it inclines to separatism, and would not be opposed to Catalonia being attached to France. Economic difficulties and terrorism induced the league to come to an understanding with the agrarian parties, and to participate with them in the government after 1917. The main interest of the Catalonian League lies in the increase of the protective duties, and in the improvement of the commercial treaties. The leader of the Catalonian League is Cambo, the cleverest politician belonging to the Spanish bourgeoisie, and the most deadly enemy of the proletariat. The name of Cambo is inseparably bound up with with Terror. He is held to be the moral originator of the murder of Segui.

When the industrialists founded their separatist party in Catalonia, the agrarians in Barcelona attempted to form a counter party. This task was undertaken by Lerroux. He founded the party by making use of powerful revolutionary phraseology. The radical party considerably damaged the party of the Catalonian industrialists, and drew many workers into its ranks. Its importance has greatly declined since the year 1912.

The middle strata of Spain, combining with a section of the proletariat, founded the republican party. In 1913 the reform party split off from the republicans. This reform party is prepared to cooperate with monarchist governments. The republican party is equally disunited, and falling into decay.

At one time there also existed the so-called Jaimist party, the party of the pretender Don Jaime of Bourbon. This party was monarchist and absolutist Its fighting troops have now been absorbed into the stalled “Free Trade Unions”, yellow unions whose chief aim it is to murder the revolutionary workers. Schism and decreasing influence mark the whole of the bourgeois parties of Spain.

Besides the political parties, there is another force which ruled the politics of the country from 1917 until 1900 – the military Juntas, the officers’ leagues cooperating with King Aphonso XIII for ultra-constitutional action. The Juntas furthered the catastrophic Moroccan, enterprise to the utmost of their power. The Juntas and the King hold together, but the Spanish defeats in Morocco in 1921–22 have much diminished their influence.

A further article will deal with the parties of the Spanish proletariat.

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Last updated on 29 April 2023