As soon as dawn broke on September 13, 1923, at midnight, Miguel Primo de Rivera, captain general of Catalonia, sent a telegram to the military governors of the Catalan capitals. He tells them the beginning of a coup d’état. He then writes to the Minister of War telling him that he is speaking out to “remove Spain from its abjection, ruin and anarchy.” Aware of the importance of public opinion, at two in the morning he summons the Barcelona newspapers to the General Captaincy, communicates to them the declaration of the state of war and gives them his Manifesto to the country and the army for them to publish it. He wants to save Spain “from a dishonorable end” and, among other things, pursue the “morbid Catalan feeling of hostility to Spain that has been so abandoned and criminally allowed to develop in school and in the pulpit and in the professorship.” He will also contact Alfonso XIII to declare his fidelity to the throne and attack some ministers whom he points out should be thrown out the window.
In the morning, only the Zaragoza garrison has visibly joined the coup. While waiting for the king’s reaction and after sending some telegrams, at three-thirty in the afternoon Primo de Rivera (Jerez de la Frontera, 1870) went to the opening of the International Furniture Exhibition in Barcelona and verified that the Catalan elites They show support. Little by little the liberal government will lose them. Alfonso XIII, who was in San Sebastián, arrived in Madrid on the morning of the 14th, the government resigned and the monarch appointed an interim board. It is the end of the long period of restoration, of the shift between liberals and conservatives, and the beginning of a dictatorship until 1930.
Most historians see the king’s acquiescence in the coup, but some voices question it
The centenary of the bloodless coup, which is celebrated today, has caused a notable increase in the bibliography of a period that needed it, overshadowed by the Republic and Francoism. Books in which one of the most notorious encounters is the role of Alfonso 1923: the coup that changed the history of Spain (Espasa), assures that the king’s role in the coup “is not a facilitator, nor is it a concerted coup between Alfonso XIII and Primo and it cannot even be said that the king handed over power to him: those who have won have conquered it. ”.
“When Alfonso “As the king was left with no options to stop the coup, because he tried intermediate solutions, the only agreement with the board was that to save his constitutional responsibility he would be allowed to appoint Primo as head of the government and he would establish what he wanted. The king does not facilitate, he does not give his consent or his acquiescence and if there is a coup it is because until the end he aligns himself with his government even when days before these soldiers have sent an ultimatum. If he had been with the rebels there was no need to carry out any coup, he could have named Primo president of the council of ministers.
On the other hand, in the majority line, Javier Moreno Luzón, professor of History of Thought and Social and Political Movements at the Complutense University and author of the study on Alfonso XIII The patriot king (Galaxia Gutenberg), emphasizes that “the king was decisive for the success of the coup, because he was the head of the armed forces and at crucial moments the vast majority of the military authorities showed their willingness to obey what he said. And there is no evidence that he encouraged the conspiracy, but there are solid indications about his general knowledge of what was being prepared and he did nothing to stop them, he only informed the government of that conversation and advised them to come to an agreement with the who conspired And on decisive days he does not act firmly against the coup plotters. Without his acquiescence the coup would not have succeeded. Then, on an ideological level, the objectives of the coup were shared by the king. In the previous months, he himself considered leading some type of authoritarian solution.”
“The king was the one who had the most to gain from the coup,” says historian Alía Miranda
Francisco Alía Miranda, Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Castilla-La Mancha and author of The dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (Catarata), believes that the king was behind the conspiracy “actively and passively.” He points out that the coup was “very easy, the help of two captain generals and a statement to the press was enough to dismantle a regime that came from 1874 with the longest Constitution in the history of Spain.” And, above all, “the king was the one who had to gain the most from the coup,” he warns, since the Cortes were closed and he was avoided, he says, the responsibilities for the Annual disaster in 1921, which produced a commotion and in which “the responsibilities pointed to him.”
Annual, the political wear and tear of the restoration regime and the intervention of the army in politics since 1917, with the challenge of the Defense Board, are key factors in Alía’s opinion to explain the coup. The historian of the Complutense University Alejandro Quiroga, author of Miguel Primo de Rivera. Dictatorship, populism and nation (Criticism), highlights Catalonia and its enormous social conflict, with anarchism and gunmanism, as a key cause. “And Catalonia is the center of the country in many aspects. If Franco cannot be understood without Africa, Primo cannot be understood without Catalonia. Not only the Catalan upper classes, many sectors of the middle class support the coup from the first day.”
“There was a very interventionist, corrupt economic policy, and there was talk of the primistas, supporters of Primo and who collected bonuses,” says Moreno Luzón.
A regime was born that in the first years, especially until the victory in Al Hoceima in 1925, “had great support, was very popular,” says Alía. Then, when Primo wanted to remain in power by going from a military board to a civilian one, he points out, an “agonic” phase began. A favorable economy that had already existed before, “in 1920 the economy had already grown by 8%, something that only the US achieved, it was the Roaring Twenties,” says Villa; helped a major public works program. And state monopolies were created in telephone and oil. “There was a very interventionist, corrupt economic policy, and there was talk of the PRI members , Primo supporters and who collected bonuses,” smiles Moreno Luzón, who remembers that the dictator “established censorship and persecuted his enemies, but he did not have the repressive dimensions of Francoism, which not even Mussolini’s Italy had.”
“It was not a fascist dictatorship, but it was fascized,” says historian Alejandro Quiroga
Regarding the Italian, and going to the political field, Quiroga defends that Primo’s is not a “fascist” dictatorship, but it is fascistized, it is learning a lot from fascism, as do the European dictatorships of the time, be it Hungary, Poland or Portugal. He largely copies the corporate State model, the somatén or a party model linked to the State such as the Patriotic Union. A regime that seeks like never before, he says, “the nationalization of the masses at the educational level, the army, the media and officials of all kinds.” The university movement and its repression, even closing all universities on two occasions, and the increasing workers’ strikes are key to a fall in which, Quiroga says, the decisive thing is the withdrawal of what drove it, “the support of the generals and the king.”
Primo’s legacy in hydrographic confederations, irrigation and public works is important but, Quiroga clarifies, “they in turn caused a gigantic State deficit that the Second Republic had to assume.” Ideologically, he points out, there are many legacies “of this ultra-right Spanishism that was later taken up or never completely lost by the extreme right in the Republic and under Franco.” “Almost all the ministers and senior Primo-Riverista officials and middle officials ended up in the Franco regime, the Primo dictatorship as a school of authoritarianism. And it is the moment in which clear political use of languages begins to be made. Many sectors of conservative Spanishism have a much more tolerant attitude towards Catalan and with Primo, for the first time, the State creates a framework that associates the Spanish nation with Castilian.