Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Tragic Week

The Tragic Week was a spontaneous revolt with an important anti-clerical component which evidenced the apparent lack of a social, economical or political nature, which had been persisting in the State for many years. It was a movement of considerable dimensions which ended up outflanking the initial instigators and the security forces and concluded with a tragic end for the nation.

In the summer of 1909, the Spanish troops stationed in the Protectorate of Morocco, where they were building a railway to exploit some iron mines of the Rif, were attacked by a group of rebels from that area. This caused the State to take the decision to embark a shipment of three drafts from Barcelona with the corresponding reservists to Melilla. The sending of forty thousand soldiers to Morocco, after the recent defeat of the old Spanish colonies, was considered a provocation in the county city, that is, Barcelona.

As was to be foreseen, the decision gave rise to a general strike on July 26th, which was convoked by ‘Solidaritat Obrera’ [Worker’s Solidarity]. What was intended to be a mere passive strike started to take on an increasingly more violent tone faced with the reluctance of the soldiers who had a scarce number of forces and, taking into account the bad press the class received, preferred to await backup once the state of war had been declared. The popular revolt quickly outflanked the strike committee of Worker’s Solidarity, who offered the movement’s leadership to the republicans. However, neither the Lerroux nor the Catalan sector wanted to assume the leadership of the events.
Barricades in Barcelona

The popular movement was characterised by a marked anti-clericalism, mainly due to the people’s awareness to relate the Church with the well-to-do classes. Nevertheless, we must also add the important anti-military attitude due to the drafting of men to go to war, many of whom had completed their military service and had family responsibilities. Furthermore, the more well-to-do families paid up to 1.500 pesetas [about 9 euros] to those who had not been chosen so they, instead of their children, could go to war.

Burning churches in Barcelona
Faced with uncertainty, and the lack of control within certain sectors of the population, who even built barricades, the jostling commenced with the disastrous outcome of the burning of forty convents and religious schools and twelve churches and, moreover, nine deaths and one hundred and twenty-five injured by the army and one hundred and four deaths and two hundred and sixteen injured civilians. In the city of Sabadell, the revolutionaries even proclaimed a republic once they had gained control of the Town Hall.

The revolt ended just as it had began, in a spontaneous way. The disproportionate repression translated into hundreds of detained people, two thousand exiled to France, the closing of lay schools and working class and republican centres and five people going before the firing squad, one of them being the founder of the ‘Escola Moderna’ [Modern School], Francesc Ferrer Guàrdia, who was considered to be the principal instigator of the revolt. This was a completely unfounded accusation.

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