Journal Article

Radicalisation, Community and the Politics of Protest in the Spanish Second Republic: Asturias, 1931–34

Matthew Kerry

in The English Historical Review

Volume 132, issue 555, pages 318-343
Published in print April 2017 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online May 2017 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI:

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In October 1934 thousands of leftists took up arms in a two-week revolutionary insurrection in the northern Spanish region of Asturias which shook the Second Republic (1931–1936) and formed part of a critical European juncture of protest in 1934. This article rethinks the process of radicalisation—a key process for understanding both the insurrection and the wider polarisation of Spanish society prior to the Civil War—in the context of the Asturian coalfields. I argue that radicalisation, understood as a more militant, confrontational mode of politics, rather than as having any particular ideological content, needs to be located in the struggles, divisions and anxieties at a local level, shaped by understandings of community, within the wider national and international context. Increased tension and confrontation was due to a combination of factors, including competition amongst different leftist groups to present themselves as the most anticlerical, alienation from the main mining union, anxieties over the perceived emergence of fascism, and a spiral of protest and repression shaped by a more heavy-handed state policing strategy in 1934. The interplay of social and political factors provided the energy behind the revolutionary insurrection. This serves to re-evaluate the process of radicalisation in the Second Republic, and the politics and struggles of the working class in a dark and tumultuous decade for the European left.

Journal Article.  12941 words. 

Subjects: World History ; British History ; European History ; International History