Revolution of 1934

The Revolution of 1934, also known as the Revolution of October 1934 or the Revolutionary General Strike of 1934, was a revolutionary strike movement that took place between 5 and 19 October 1934, during the black biennium of the Second Spanish Republic. The revolts were triggered by the entry of the conservative Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right (CEDA) into the Spanish government. Most of the events occurred in Catalonia and Asturias and were supported by many Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and General Union of Workers (UGT) members, notably Largo Caballero. Historians have argued that the incident sharpened antagonism between the political Right and Left in Spain and was part of the reason for the later Spanish Civil War.[1]

Revolution of 1934
Column of Guardias Civiles during the 1934 Asturian Revolution, Brañosera.jpg
Civil Guard forces with prisoners in Brañosera
Date5 October – 19 October 1934
Spain (mostly Asturias and Catalonia)
  • The Spanish republican government effectively eliminates the rebellions in Asturias and Catalonia.

 Spanish Republic

Bahnmarke bleibt an Backbord liegen.svg Asturian Workers Alliance

Flag of Catalonia.svg Catalan State

Commanders and leaders
Niceto Alcalá-Zamora
Alejandro Lerroux
Diego Hidalgo y Durán
Francisco Franco
Manuel Goded
Eduardo López Ochoa
Agustín Muñoz Grandes
Juan Yagüe
Domingo Batet
Lisardo Doval Bravo
Cecilio Bedia de la Cavallería
Belarmino Tomás Surrendered
Ramón González Peña
Teodomiro Menéndez (POW)

Lluís Companys Surrendered
Federico Escofet Surrendered
Enrique Pérez Farrás Surrendered
Casualties and losses
N/A 1,500–2,000 dead
15,000–30,000 arrested


The elections held in October 1933 resulted in a centre-right majority. The political party with the most votes was the Confederación Español de Derechas Autónomas ("CEDA"), but president Alcalá-Zamora declined to invite the leader of the CEDA, Gil Robles, to form a government. Instead he invited the Radical Republican Party's Alejandro Lerroux to do so. Despite receiving the most votes, CEDA was denied cabinet positions for nearly a year.[2] After a year of intense pressure, CEDA, the largest party in the congress, was finally successful in forcing the acceptance of three ministries. However the entrance of CEDA in the government, despite being normal in a parliamentary democracy, was not well accepted by the left. The Socialists triggered an insurrection that they had been preparing for nine months.[3] A general strike was called by the UGT and the PSOE in the name of the Alianza Obrera. The issue was that the Left Republicans identified the Republic not with democracy or constitutional law but with a specific set of left wing policies and politicians. Any deviation, even if democratic, was seen as treasonous.[4]

Preparation of the revolutionEdit

1934 was a year of constant class clashes, established on the basis of small incidents and short general strikes, which allowed the movement to arrive on the eve of October in the fullness of its strength, with great confidence and extraordinarily united.[5]

The rebels had a considerable stock of rifles and pistols on them. Most of the rifles came from a shipment of arms supplied by Indalecio Prieto, a socialist party moderate. The rifles had been landed by the yacht Turquesa at Pravia, north-east of Oviedo; Prieto swiftly fled to France to avoid arrest. Other weapons came from captured arms factories in the region and the miners also had their dynamite blasting charges, which were known as "la artillería de la revolución."[6]


The rising in Asturias was well prepared with headquarters in Oviedo.[7]

In several mining towns in Asturias, local unions gathered small arms and were determined to see the strike through. It began on the evening of 4 October, with the miners occupying several towns, attacking and seizing local Civil and Assault Guard barracks.[8]

At dawn on October 5th 1934 the rebels attacked the Brothers' school in Turón. The Brothers and the Passionist Father were captured and imprisoned in the "House of the People" while waiting for a decision from the revolutionary Committee. Under pressure from extremists, the Committee decided to condemn them to death.[9] Thirty four priests, six young seminarists with ages between 18 and 21, and several businessmen and civil guards were summarily executed by the revolutionaries in Mieres and Sama, 58 religious buildings including churches, convents and part of the university at Oviedo were burned and destroyed.[10][11]

The same day saw columns of miners advancing along the road to Oviedo, the provincial capital. With the exception of two barracks in which fighting with the garrison of 1,500 government troops continued, the city was taken by October 6. The miners proceeded to occupy several other towns, most notably the large industrial centre of La Felguera, and set up town assemblies, or "revolutionary committees", to govern the towns that they controlled.[12]

Within three days the center of Asturias was in the hands of the rebels. The revolutionary soviets set up by the miners attempted to impose order on the areas under their control, and the moderate socialist leadership of Ramón González Peña and Belarmino Tomás took measures to restrain violence. However, a number of captured priests, businessmen and civil guards were summarily executed by the revolutionaries in Mieres and Sama, and churches, convents, the Bishop's Palace and much of the University at Oviedo were destroyed, including the library.[13]

Taking Oviedo the rebels were able to seize the city' arsenal gaining 24,000 rifles, carbines and light and heavy machine guns.[14]Recruitment offices demanded the services of all workers between the ages of eighteen and forty for the 'Red Army'. Thirty thousand workers had been mobilized for battle within ten days.[7]

In the occupied areas the rebels officially declared the proletarian revolution and abolished regular money.[15]

The government was now facing a civil war. Franco, already General of Division and aide to the war minister, Diego Hidalgo, was put in command of the operations directed to suppress the violent insurgency. Franco and General Manuel Goded Llopis advised Hidalgo to bring in the battle-tested 'Army of Africa', composed of the Spanish Foreign Legion and the Moroccan Regulares.[14] Historian Hugh Thomas asserts that Hidalgo said that he did not want young inexperienced recruits fighting their own people and he was wary of moving troops to Asturias leaving the rest of Spain unprotected. Bringin in the army of Africa was not a novelty, in 1932 Manuel Azaña had also called the Tercio and the regulares from North Africa.

The war minister, Diego Hidalgo wanted Franco to lead the troops, but President Alcalá Zamora, aware of Franco's monarchist sympathies opted to send General López Ochoa to Asturias lead the troops against the miners hoping that his reputation as a loyal Republican would minimize the bloodshed.[16]

Troops of the Spanish Army of Africa carried this out, with General Eduardo López Ochoa as commander in the field. After two weeks of heavy fighting (and a death toll estimated between 1,200 and 2,000), the rebellion was suppressed.

As a deterrent to further atrocities, López Ochoa had summarily executed a number of legionnaires and Moroccan colonial troops for torturing prisoners and hacking them to death.[17]

Historian Javier Tussel argues that although Franco had a leading role, giving instructions from Madrid, that does not mean he took part in the illegal repressive activities.[18] According to Tussel it was the Republican General, López de Óchoa, a republican freemason who had been appointed by President Alcalá Zamora to lead the repression in the field, that was unable to prevent innumerous atrocities.[19]

According to Hugh Thomas, 2,000 persons died in the uprising: 230-260 military and police, 33 priests, 1,500 miners in combat and 200 individuals killed in the repression[20]. Stanley Payne estimates that the rebel's atrocities killed between 50 and 100 people and that the government conducted up to 100 summary executions, while 15 million pesetas were stolen from banks, most which was never recovered and would go on to fund further revolutionary activity.[21]


In Catalonia the revolt was triggered by the Government of Catalonia led nationalist leader Lluis Companys, who proclaimed the Catalan State. The Catalonian uprising began and ended the same day, it lasted only ten hours, in the so-called "Events of 6 October".

In October 6, Lluís Companys decided to declare the Catalan Republic within the "Spanish Federal Republic",[22]and numerous heavily armed squads occupied the streets of Barcelona and other towns, supporting the initiative and capturing public offices. Lluis Companys appeared on a balcony of the Palau de la Generalitat (Government Building) and he told the crowd that "monarchists and fascists" had "assaulted the government", and went on:

In this solemn hour, in the name of the people and the Parliament, the Government over which I preside assumes all the faculties of power in Catalonia, proclaims the Catalan State of the Spanish Federal Republic, and in establishing and fortifying relations with the leaders of the general protest against Fascism, invites them to establish in Catalonia the provisional Government of the Republic, which will find in our Catalan people the most generous impulse of fraternity in the common desire to erect a liberal and magnificent federal republic.[23]

Lluis Companys asked Manuel Azaña, who happened to be in Barcelona during the events, to lead a newly proclaimed Spanish Republican government, a proposition that Azaña rejected.[24] [25] Lluís Companys also telephoned General Domènec Batet, asking him for support. Domènec Betet who was deployed in Catalonia as chief of the IV Organic Division remained loyal to the central government and gained some time demanding a written request. While Companys wrote the request, Batet prepared the Army, Guardia Civil, and Guardia de Asalto troops. At 9 pm General Batet declared martial law. He moved against trade union and militia headquarters, both of whom surrendered quickly, then brought light artillery to bear against the city hall and the Generalitat.[26] Fighting continued until 6 am, when Companys surrendered.[27]

In the failed rebellion forty-six people died: thirty-eight civilians and eight soldiers.[28] More than three thousand people were imprisoned, most of them in the "Uruguay" steamer, and placed under the jurisdiction of the councils of war.

The International Marxist Tendency movement classified Lluis Company's actions as the "worst betrayal of the movement", accroding to this movement Companys surrendered without resistance and his “Estat Catala” did not challenge private property nor the current social establishment he just wanted to place "the leadership of the struggle in the hands of the petty bourgeoisie represented by the ERC (Catalan Republican Left)".[29]

Although the vast majority of the events happened in Asturias and Catalonia, strikes, clashes, and shootings happened also in the Basque country, north of Castile and León, Cantabria, or Madrid.


The insurgency in Asturias sparked a new era of violent anti-Christian persecutions, initiated the practice of atrocities against the clergy[11] and sharpened the antagonism between Left and Right. Franco and López Ochoa (who, prior to the campaign in Asturias, had been seen as a left-leaning officer)[30] emerged as officers prepared to use 'troops against Spanish civilians as if they were a foreign enemy'.[31] Franco described the rebellion to a journalist in Oviedo as, 'a frontier war and its fronts are socialism, communism and whatever attacks civilisation in order to replace it with barbarism.' Though the colonial units sent to the north by the government at Franco's recommendation[32] consisted of the Spanish Foreign Legion and the Moroccan Regulares Indigenas, the right wing press portrayed the Asturian rebels as lackeys of a foreign Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy.[33] At the start of the Civil War, López Ochoa was assassinated. Some time after these events, Franco was briefly commander-in-chief of the Army of Africa (from 15 February onwards), and from 19 May 1935, on, Chief of the General Staff.

After the "miners" had surrendered the investigations and repression were carried out by the brutal Civil Guard Major Lisardo Doval Bravo who appplied torture and savage beatings.[34] Several prisioners died. The independent journalist “Luis de Sirval” was arbitrarily arrested and shot dead in prison by a Bulgarian Legionnaire named Dimitri Ivan Ivanoff.[34] Due to martial law and censorship, little or no information was officialy made public, a group of Socialist deputies carried a private investigation and published an independent report that discarded most to the publicized attorcities but that confirmed the savage beatings and tortures.[34]

In Catalonia Lluis Companys and his government were arrested. So too was Manuel Azaña, despite having taken no part in the events; he was released in December.[35]The Statute of Autonomy was suspended indefinitely on 14 December, and all powers that had been transferred to Barcelona were returned to Madrid. The soldiers who had taken part of the insurrection, the commander Enrique Pérez Farrás and the captains Escofet and Ricart, were condemned to death, their sentence being commuted to life imprisonment by the President of the Republic, Alcalá Zamora, in spite of the protests of both the CEDA and the Republican Liberal Democrat Party of Melquiades Álvarez , who demanded a strong hand.[36]

Martial law was in place until January 23 1935. The government tried to be and was reasonable in dealing with insurrects in most cases, but in Asturias justice was uneven and the police administration was allowed to continue with excesses.[34]

In February 23, 1935, the Mayor of Barcelona and the detained councilors were provisionally released.[37]

In June 1935 The President and the Government of the Generalitat were tried by the Constitutional Guarantees Tribunal and were sentenced for military rebellion to thirty years in prison, which was carried out by some in the Cartagena prison and others in the Puerto de Santa María.[38]

The government of Lerroux unleashed "a harsh repressive wave with the closure of political and trade union centers, the suppression of newspapers, the removal of municipalities and thousands of detainees, without having had a direct action on the facts", which showed "a punitive will often arbitrary and with vengeance components of class or ideological".[39]

Ramón Gonzáles Peñathe prominent leader of the Oviedo Revolutionary Committee was sentenced to death. One year later, however, he was reprieved. Gonzáles later served as the president of Unión General de Trabajadores, in which he was in conflict with Largo Caballero. He was also a Member of Parliament and was the Minister of Justice 1938–1939.[40][41] After the Spanish Civil War González Peña went to exile in Mexico, where he died on 27 July 1952.[42]

There were no mass killing after the fighting was over, completely different from the massacres that had taken place in similar uprisings in France, Hungary or Germany; all death sentences were commuted aside from two, army sergeant and deserter Diego Vásquez, who fought alongside the miners, and a worker known as "El Pichilatu" who had committed serial killings. Little effort was actually made to suppress the organisations that had carried out the insurrection, resulting in most being functional again by 1935. Support for fascism was minimal and did not increase, while civil liberties were restored in full by 1935, after which the revolutionaries had a generous opportunity to pursue power through electoral means.[43]

Following the Spanish general election of 1936, the new government of Manuel Azaña released Companys and his government from jail.[44]

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, López Ochoa was in a military hospital in Carabanchel and was awaiting trial, accused of responsibility for the deaths of 20 civilians at a barracks in Oviedo. Given the violence occurring throughout Madrid, the government attempted to move Ochoa from the hospital to a safer location but was twice prevented from doing so by large hostile crowds. A third attempt was made under the guise that Ochoa was already dead, but the ruse was exposed and the general was taken away. One account states that an anarchist dragged him from the coffin in which he was lying and shot him in the hospital garden. His head was hacked off, stuck on a pole and publicly paraded. His remains were then displayed with a sign reading "This is the butcher of Asturias."[45][46]

The eight martyrs of Turon were venerated on 7 September 1989, and beatified By Pope John Paul II

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Keeley Rogers & Jo Thomas, Causes of 20th Century Wars, Page 228
  2. ^ Payne & Palacios 2018, pp. 84-85.
  3. ^ Payne & Palacios 2018, p. 88.
  4. ^ Payne 2008, pp. 88-85.
  5. ^ Las diferencias asturianas. Octubre 1934. Edit.Siglo veintiuno.Madrid 1985. Pág. 235
  6. ^ Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. Hachette UK, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Thomas 1977.
  8. ^ Jackson 1987, pp. 154-155.
  9. ^ "Cirilo Bertrán and 8 Companions, religious of the Institute of Brothers of the Christian Schools and Inocencio de la Inmaculada, priest of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, martyrs (+1934, +1937)". Holly See. Vatican News. 21 November 1999.
  10. ^ Tomas 1977.
  11. ^ a b Cueva 1998, pp. 355-369.
  12. ^ Thomas 1977, p. 131.
  13. ^ Thomas 1977, p. 132.
  14. ^ a b Álvarez 2011.
  15. ^ Payne 1993, p. 219.
  16. ^ Hodges 2002.
  17. ^ Preston, Paul. The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain. Norton, 2012. p 269
  18. ^ Tussel 1992, p. 19.
  19. ^ Tussell 1992, p. 19.
  20. ^ Thomas 1977, p. 136.
  21. ^ Payne & Palacios 2018, p. 90.
  22. ^ Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution & revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. p.78
  23. ^ "Separatists' Rising: Bloodshed in Barcelona". The Times. 8 October 1934. p. 14.
  24. ^ Jackson 1987, p. 166.
  25. ^ Finestres, Jordi; López, Manel (2014). Entre la revolució i l'estelada (in Catalan). Barcelona: Sàpiens. pp. 31–32. ISSN 1695-2014.
  26. ^ Payne (2006), pp. 87–8
  27. ^ Payne 2006, p. 88.
  28. ^ Casanova, Julián (2007). República y Guerra Civil. Vol. 8 de la Historia de España, dirigida por Josep Fontana y Ramón Villares (in Spanish). Barcelona: Crítica/Marcial Pons. p. 129. ISBN 978-84-8432-878-0.
  29. ^ Samblas, Ramon (20 July 2005). "Lessons of the Asturian Commune, October 1934". In Defence of Marxism. In Defence of Marxism.
  30. ^ Preston, p. 103
  31. ^ Preston, Paul (2010) "The Theorists of Extermination", essay in Unearthing Franco's Legacy, p. 61. University of Notre Dame Press, ISBN 0-268-03268-8
  32. ^ Thomas, p. 132
  33. ^ Balfour, Sebastian (2002). Deadly Embrace: Morocco and the Road to the Spanish Civil War, Oxford University Press. pp. 252–254. ISBN 0199252963.
  34. ^ a b c d Payne 1999.
  35. ^ Casanova 2010, p. 113.
  36. ^ Casanova (2007), p. 139
  37. ^ Termes, Josep (1999). De la Revolució de Setembre a la fi de la Guerra Civil (1868-1939). Vol. 6 de la Història de Catalunya dirigida per Pierre Vilar (in Catalan). Barcelona: Edicions 62. p. 381. ISBN 84-297-4510-6.
  38. ^ Casanova (2010), p. 114
  39. ^ De la Granja, José Luis; Beramendi, Justo; Anguera, Pere (2001). La España de los nacionalismos y las autonomías. Madrid: Síntesis. pp. 134–135. ISBN 84-7738-918-7.
  40. ^ Goethem, Geert van. The Amsterdam International: The World of the International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), 1913-1945. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006. p. 76
  41. ^ Kraus, Dorothy, and Henry Kraus. The Gothic Choirstalls of Spain. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986. p. 37
  42. ^ "González Peña, Ramón" (in Spanish). Fundación Pablo Iglesias. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  43. ^ Payne 2008, pp. 100-103.
  44. ^ Pagès i Blanch, Pelai (2013). War and Revolution in Catalonia, 1936–1939. BRILL. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-9004254275. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  45. ^ Ruiz 2015, p. 158.
  46. ^ Preston 2012, p. 269.