chapter  3
31 Pages

The Second Republic (1931–36)

In Zaragoza, General Franco’s response to the declaration of the Republic was ambiguous. Having discounted a march on Madrid, he gave the order that everyone must ‘cooperate, with discipline and virtue, in making peace reign and in leading the nation along the natural path of justice’. At the same time, however, he made it clear that he was no Republican, for he insisted on applying military regulations to the letter and would not hoist the new, Republican flag until he had received the order in writing. This was a carefully calculated gesture of protest, designed to make a point without incurring penalty. It was evident from the recent elections that, for the moment at least, the Republic had strong support in the urban working and middle classes; and the response given by Berenguer and Sanjurjo revealed that the military high command would not back armed intervention to reverse that result. It would, therefore, have been foolhardy for Franco to do anything more provocative. But it was uncertain how long the newly declared Republic would last; after all, the first one had been very short-lived and monarchism as a political ideal still had many followers in Spain, even if King Alphonso XIII as an individual did not. Franco therefore hedged his bets, writing a letter to the monar­ chical daily, ABC, on 18 April, in which his disaffection from the new regime was barely disguised, but, four days later, giving the promise of allegiance to the Republic which obliged him to serve and defend it. It was small wonder that, whenever it was rumoured during the Republic that a coup was in the offing, no one could

answer the question ‘What is Franco going to do?’ He was a master at concealing his true intentions - a trait which was later to enhance the aura of mystique appropriate to a great leader with which he surrounded himself.