The Creation of the Popular Front in Spain

  • Paul Preston


The adoption of the Popular Front strategy at the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in July and August 1935 ensured that popular frontism would be thereafter inevitably and inextricably associated with the international communist movement. Of the two countries where the strategy had greatest success, the more dramatic and long-lived experiment was indisputably that of Spain. In consequence, the war against the Spanish Popular Front, launched in 1936 by a right wing infuriated that it could not defend its material interests by legal electoral means, was widely assumed at the time and 7ince to be a war against communism. It is true that the abandonment of the Spanish Republic by the Western democracies threw it into the arms of the Soviet Union and thus gave substance to the association of the republican cause with communism. However, at the time of the formation of what came to be known only belatedly as the Popular Front, the Communist Party played merely a peripheral role. It served the purposes of anti-republicans, and of the communists themselves, to argue otherwise. None the less, the truth is that the victorious left-wing electoral coalition of February 1936 was a revival of an earlier Republican—Socialist alliance and its formation was well under way when popular frontism was invented. It was the work, not of the communists, but of the moderate socialist Indalecio Prieto and, above all, of the republican ex-Prime Minister Manuel Azaña, both of whom wished to keep communist participation to the barest minimum simply because it could bring few votes to the coalition and would frighten many potential supporters.1


Moderate Socialist Socialist Party Agrarian Reform Revolutionary Movement Socialist Movement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Letter of Azaña to Prieto, 20 April 1935, Manuel Azana, Obras completas, volume III (Mexico DF, 1966–68) p. 602;Google Scholar
  2. Juan-Simeon Vidarte, El bienio negro y la insurrecciôn de Asturias (Barcelona, 1978) pp.494–5.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Joaquin Arrarâs, preface to Manuel Azana, Memorias intimas de Azana (Madrid, 1939) p. 6.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Francisco Casares, Azaña y ellos (Granada, 1938) pp. 26, 34.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Cf. Paul Preston, The Coming of the Spanish Civil War (London, 1978) pp. 92–122, 151–68.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Joaquin Arrarâs, Historia de la cruzada espanola volume 2 (Madrid, 1939–43) p.423.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Joaquin Arrarâs, Historia de la segunda Repûblica espanola volume 4 (Madrid, 1956–68) p. 17.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Dolores Ibarruri, El ûnico camino (Paris, 1965) pp. 215–19, 223–5;Google Scholar
  9. Guerra y revoluci6n en Espana 1936–1939 volume 1 (Moscow, 1967–77) pp. 66–78. Cf. Joaquin Maurin, Revolucion y contrarrevoluci6n en Espana (Paris, 1966) p. 286.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Paul Preston, ‘Spain’ in Stuart Woolf, (ed.), Fascism in Europe (London, 1981).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Paul Preston, ‘The Agrarian War in the South’, in Paul Preston (ed.) Revolution and War in Spain 1931–1939 (London, 1984).Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    Juan-Simeon Vidarte, Las Cortes Constituyentes de 1931–1933 (Barcelona, 1976) pp.471–8;Google Scholar
  13. Azana, Memorias intimas pp.90–3; Edward E. Malefakis, Agrarian Reform and Peasant Revolution in Spain (New Haven, 1970) pp. 243–57, 389.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    It is difficult to arrive at absolutely accurate party loyalties of deputies in the republican Cortes. Cf. Juan J. Linz, ‘The Party System of Spain: Past and Future’, in Seymour M. Lipset and Stein Rokkan (eds), Party Systems and Voter Alignments (New York, 1967) p. 260;Google Scholar
  15. Enrique Lopez Sevilla, El Partido Socialista en las Cortes Constituyentes de la segunda Republica (Mexico, 1969);Google Scholar
  16. Jests Lozano, La segunda Repûblica: imbgenes, cronologia y documentos (Barcelona, 1973) pp.445–62.Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    José Maria Gil Robles, No fue posible la paz (Barcelona, 1968) pp. 102–5.Google Scholar
  18. 24.
    Francisco Largo Caballero, Discursos a los trabajadores (Madrid, 1934) pp. 163–6.Google Scholar
  19. 33.
    Indalecio Prieto, Discursos en America con el pensamiento puesto en Espana (Mexico DF, 1945) pp. 102–3.Google Scholar
  20. 37.
    Manuel Ramirez Jiménez, ‘La formaciôn de Union Republicana y su papel en las elecciones de 1936’ in Las reformas de la segunda Republica (Madrid, 1977) pp. 125–69.Google Scholar
  21. 42.
    A. C. Marquez Tornero, Testimonio de mi tiempo (memorias de un espanol republicano) (Madrid, 1979) p. 115;Google Scholar
  22. Cipriano Rivas Xerif, Retrato de un desconocido (vida de Manuel Azana) (Mexico DF, 1961) p. 225.Google Scholar
  23. 47.
    Henry Buckley, Life and Death of the Spanish Republic (London, 1940) pp. 182–3.Google Scholar
  24. 48.
    Frank Sedwick, The Tragedy of Manuel Azaña and the Fate of the Spanish Republic (Ohio, 1963) p. 152.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Helen Graham and Paul Preston 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Preston

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations