Another unconstitutional amnesty that emboldened a radicalized left

The Spanish left and its illegal amnesties for coup plotters: the case of February 21, 1936

In Spain we are witnessing the scandalous claim of the left to grant an amnesty to the perpetrators of the 2017 separatist coup.

The antidemocratic stink of the Spanish Second Republic and what the left-wing longs for it
José Calvo Sotelo: this was the socialist crime that caused the start of the Spanish Civil War

That amnesty, which was rejected in several occasions by Pedro Sánchez himself and by eleven of its ministers, is now defended by the Socialist Party (PSOE) for mere political expediency: after losing the elections on July 23, the socialists need the support of the Junts separatists, who have they have placed this illegal condition as a price for their support, and instead of rejecting it, they have decided to trample on the Rule of Law, putting their partisan interests above respect for the Constitution. Some believe that this is a betrayal of the PSOE's supposed past of honesty: nothing could be further from it.

Francisco Largo Caballero, president of the PSOE when this party led the October 1934 coup against a center-right democratic government (Photo: Bibliothèque nationale de France).

The coupist beginnings of the PSOE: from 1910 to 1934

As we already saw here in 2018, the PSOE maintained coupist rhetoric since its founding by Pablo Iglesias, who on July 7, 1910 gave an incendiary speech in the Cortes in which he said: "It will be within the law as long as the law allows it to acquire what it needs; outside of the law, as all parties have been, when it does not allow it to realize its aspirations." It is a clear description of what the PSOE continues to do today.

During the Second Republic, the PSOE continued to fuel this coupist rhetoric at the hands of Francisco Largo Caballero, who threatened several times with a war if the right won the elections and entered the government, an electoral victory that occurred in November 1933. It took months for the right-wing CEDA to accede to the Lerroux government for fear of these threats, and when they finally did, the PSOE led a bloody coup d'état in October 1934, with Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) leading another bloody simultaneous coup in Catalonia.

Lluís Companys -in the center- and other members of the Catalan government after their arrest after the bloody coup d'état they carried out on October 6, 1934 against the Second Republic.

The left violated the 1931 Constitution, which prohibited general pardons

Many ringleaders and participants in those two coups were arrested and ended up in prison, among them the then leader of ERC, Lluís Companys. Looking ahead to the elections of February 1936, the left formed a coalition, the Popular Front, which set itself the objective of amnesty for the coup plotters. The elections were held on February 16 of that year and the left, helped by an electoral fraud, he obtained the absolute majority. Five years earlier, that same left had approved without a referendum the Constitution of 1931, whose Article 102 stated the following:

"Amnesties may only be agreed upon by parliament. General pardons will not be granted. The Supreme Court will grant individual pardons at the proposal of the sentencer, the prosecutor, the Prison Board or at the request of a party."

It is something similar to what the 1978 Constitution, in force today, says in its Article 62, which does not admit general pardons. The left violated the Constitution that it itself approved and approved a general amnesty a few days after the elections. It was approved by decree law on Friday, February 21, 1936 by a council of ministers chaired by Manuel Azaña. The text was published in La Gaceta de Madrid on February 22. The preamble said the following:

"The significance of the result of the elections for Deputies to Parliament is unequivocal in terms of the granting of an amnesty for political and social crimes, in favor of which the majority of the Electoral Body has spoken, and This is a pacification measure convenient for the public good and the tranquility of national life, in which all political sectors are equally interested; in agreement with the Council of Ministers, at the proposal of its President and prior approval of the Permanent Deputation of the Parliament."

The preamble used cynical arguments very similar to those now used by the Spanish left: first they carry out a coup d'état against a democratic government and then grant themselves a general pardon as a "pacification measure." Spain saw how the coup plotters murdered dozens of people and then went unpunished.

Coup leaders armed with rifles during the coup led by the PSOE in October 1934, during the Second Republic.

An arbitrary decree that allowed the government to decide who to pardon

The amnesty decree law consisted of a single article, which stated the following:

"Single article. Amnesty is granted to those convicted and prosecuted for political and social crimes.
Included in this amnesty are the Councilors of the Town Councils of the Basque Country convicted by a final sentence."

The text did not even bother to specify which crimes it was referring to: those related to the 1934 coup. It simply included them without further ado in the category of "political and social crimes", leaving in the hands of the government which crimes should be classified as such, which was total arbitrariness. Julio Gil Pecharromán estimated that 30,000 people benefited from the amnesty.

Soldiers and civil guards showing the rifles seized from the coup leaders after putting down the 1934 coup in Asturias.

Appeasing the coup plotters only served to destroy coexistence in Spain

The great delusion in this process was the right. The CEDA, which had been a victim of the coup, supported the amnesty in an attempt to appease a very radicalized left. As would happen years later with the attempts of France and the United Kingdom to appease Hitler, that only served to encourage the totalitarians: the left unleashed a brutal wave of political violence, which the leader of the CEDA himself, José María Gil Robles, explained in the Cortes on June 16, 1936:

"From February 16 to June 15, a numerical summary shows the following data: churches completely destroyed, 160; assaults on temples, extinguished fires, destruction and attempted assaults, 251; dead, 269; injured of varying severity, 1,287; frustrated personal attacks or the consequences of which are not recorded, 215; completed robberies, 138; attempted robberies, 23; political centers and individuals destroyed, 69; similarly assaulted, 312 ; general strikes, 113; partial strikes, 228; newspapers completely destroyed, 10; assaults on newspapers and attempted assaults and destruction, 33; bombs and firecrackers that explode, 146; collected without exploding, 78."

The Church of San Luis Obispo in Madrid. It was a temple from the 17th century and was located on Montera street. It was burned down by leftists after the elections of February 1936. The Assault Guard, which was 200 meters from the church, did nothing because it had received orders from the leftist Government not to act ( Photo: Efe).

Contrary to what was announced by the left and the wishes of the right, that amnesty only served to destroy coexistence in Spain, which was governed by a left that felt unpunished after giving a bloody coup d'état and the perpetrators having not spent even a year and a half in prison. That feeling of impunity was what led the socialists to the murder of José Calvo Sotelo, one of the leaders of the parliamentary right, on July 13, 1936. A few days later the Civil War broke out . This is what those who talk about a "good" PSOE that never existed should remember, beyond exceptions like that of Julián Besteiro and some others like him.


Main photo: Archiwa Państwowe. First meeting of the government of the leftist Manuel Azaña after the February 1936 elections.

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