On 15th January 1936, Manuel Azaña helped to establish a coalition of parties on the political left to fight the national elections due to take place the following month. This included the Socialist Party (PSOE), Communist Party (PCE) and the Republican Union Party.
The Popular Front, as the coalition became known, advocated the restoration of Catalan autonomy, amnesty for political prisoners, agrarian reform, an end to political blacklists and the payment of damages for property owners who suffered during the revolt of 1934. The Anarchists refused to support the coalition and instead urged people not to vote.
Right-wing groups in Spain formed the National Front. This included the CEDA and the Carlists. The Falange Española did not officially join but most of its members supported the aims of the National Front.
The Spanish people voted on Sunday, 16th February, 1936. Out of a possible 13.5 million voters, over 9,870,000 participated in the election. 4,654,116 people (34.3) voted for the Popular Front, whereas the National Front obtained 4,503,505 (33.2) and the centre parties got 526,615 (5.4). The Popular Front, with 263 seats out of the 473 in the Cortes formed the new government.
Seats in Cortes
The poverty was tragic. It was bad in Cordoba, worse in Granada, almost universal in Seville. Everywhere was economic, mental and physical depression. There was a lot of local opposition to the Republic, led and organized by the Church. The Government's natural idealistic incompetence was encouraged by systematic sabotage of every project attempted. The male working population was almost unanimously anarchist. The CNT and particularly the FAI were the strongest revolutionary parties. Socialism and Communism, or rather the Trotskyist deviation from that political creed, were in the minority. But almost the entire female population was firmly attached to Church politics, under the spiritual and political domination of the priesthood. Underneath all the beauty and glamour of the landscape, the architecture, the tradition, the romance, were rumblings of the political earthquake to come.
One noticed, during the restless period that preceded the 1936 elections, that the working class was divided in two.
The bootblacks, an enormous class to themselves in Spain, the waiters, and most of the mechanics, along with the miners and factory workers, were either anarchists or Reds. It was expected that the anarchists would abstain from voting: or might even vote for the Right, with whom, in their liking for liberty, they have more in common than with the Communists. Amongst the anarchists were to be found some of the most generous idealistic people, at the same time as the real "phonys" - like the ones that dug up the cemetery in Huesca, held parades of naked nuns, and out-babooned in atrocity anything I had ever read of before. But they were warm-blooded - unlike their ice-cold compéres, the "commies", who were less human. You could beg your life from an anarchist. It was not long before most of the anarchists wished they had gone Right for they were unmercifully massacred by their Red Comrades.
Hostilities broke out between Anarchists and other Republicans simultaneously with their persecution of Christians, Royalists, and Nationalists. That was one of the typical paradoxes of Spanish history during the last twenty years. It was because I saw this fission, so often, at first-hand, on the spot, that I knew and said, repeatedly, and without ever hypocritically turning in my tracks, that the mutual loathing of the various factions of "republicans" would eventually preponderate over their hostility to the common adversary, and the so called "loyalists" would collapse on account of mutual disloyalty.
When the elections had come and I had been hauled into a lorry on the road to Getafe with a dead man's ticket and a shot gun at my kidneys, to vote Red, I took it as a joke: but shortly after, I began to see red, too. Except under compulsion, I had never voted in my life, and now I have twice seen a majority of Red members get in on a minority vote - I have lost all faith in that sort of thing. Voting has become obsolete since (as in England) the minority usually wins most seats. I had been persuading my wife and kids to leave Toledo, but it seemed the civil war would never reach us from Madrid, in spite of a Red Mayor, since the Province was loyal to Spain, in spite of unpunished murders. The wicked are always the first to act and the good are slow.