Asturian Uprising (1934)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Socialist antigovernment strikers
vs. Spanish government
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Asturias, Spain
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Spanish left-wingers and
Socialists objected to the involvement of the Catholic
Church in affairs of state through right-wing, prochurch
ruling parties; ultimately, the struggle was for control of
the fledgling Spanish republic.
OUTCOME: The strikers were suppressed, and the rightwing
military gained a crucial influence in Spanish politics.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
70,000 miners; unknown number of government troops
CASUALTIES: 1,051 strikers killed; 2,951 wounded; 30,000
taken prisoner; government troops, 284 killed, 486
After the more or less sudden dissolution of General
Miguel Primo de Rivera’s (1870–1930) dictatorship in
Spain in 1930, leadership of the country floundered. King
Alfonso XIII (1886–1941), who had engineered Primo’s
resignation, though nominally the country’s leader, had
been ruined in the eyes of politicians and the public by his
earlier support of the dictatorship; he was subsequently
overthrown and a republic established. Political parties
struggled for consensus among business, church, and
labor groups that controlled huge voting blocs in the face
of the 1933 elections, which had been set when the Left
Republicans and the Socialists had forced the provisional
government to resign in their favor in 1931.
The first elections of the Second Republic polarized the
interest groups, and the new government began on shaky
enough ground even before uprisings occurred in both
Seville and Barcelona. The conservative business interests
sought a strong union with the Spanish Roman Catholic
Church and urged the ultraconservative prochurch Confederación
Española de Derechos Autónomos (CEDA) to join
The opposition Socialist Party objected to the rightwing
CEDA and planned a nationwide general strike for
the fall of 1934, trying to force the government’s hand on
the issue of the church’s involvement in affairs of state. In
conjunction with the strike, the Socialists also called for
simultaneous uprisings in both Madrid and Catalonia, site
of the earlier demonstration in Barcelona. On October 5
more than 70,000 strongly unionized miners, directed by
the local revolutionary councils set up by the Socialists,
walked off the job in the northwestern province of
Asturias. They quickly moved from strike to rebellion and
occupied the town of Oviedo, taking control of the radio
station and other key communications within a few hours.
They burned the Catholic churches and killed more than
40 people, 29 of whom were priests.
The conservative government in Madrid dispatched
right-wing general Francisco Franco (1892–1975) and the
Spanish Foreign Legion to deal with the insurrectionists.
Franco ruthlessly crushed the revolt and set about exacting
retribution on the miners. Amid a Madrid-mandated news
blackout, there were reports of brutal atrocities on the part
of Franco’s men, but they could hardly be substantiated
with no information going in or out of Asturias without
Franco’s approval. More than 1,000 rebels were killed,
almost 3,000 were wounded, and more than 30,000 were
captured, tortured, and tried for treason and other crimes.
The rebels lost 90,000 rifles, 10,000 cases of explosives,
and as many as 30,000 hand grenades. Government losses
were 284 killed and 486 wounded. The government’s
actions further polarized the country and served as a
harbinger to the SPANISH CIVIL WAR (1936–1939).
Further reading: Antony Beevor, The Spanish Civil
War (New York: Penguin USA, 2001); Hugh Thomas, The
Spanish Civil War (New York: Modern Library, 2001).