3. The birth of the republican city

This chapter will first explore the period in which the monarchist dictatorship disintegrated and was replaced by the Second Republic. It will then examine in more depth the main features of republican policy insofar as they affected the regulation of public space in Barcelona.

Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship succeeded only in temporarily suspending the conflicts stemming from the legitimation crisis of the Spanish state. By September 1929, and with the collapse of international financial markets, important groups within the hegemonic bloc, including sections of the traditional political and economic elites (the Crown, the clergy, the latifundistas, the industrial bourgeoisie and the armed forces), were distancing themselves from an increasingly unpopular regime. Finally, in January 1930, Alfonso XIII replaced Primo de Rivera with the ‘soft dictatorship’ (dictablanda) of General Dámaso Berenguer, whose mission was to prepare the political conditions for new elections in a revived constitutional monarchy. In Barcelona, the main supporter of this project was the bourgeois Lliga, which hoped to emerge as a key force in a future parliamentary monarchy. Like much of the Barcelona grand bourgeoisie whose interests it expressed, the Lliga was keen to safeguard the ‘principle of authority’ during this period of change and regarded the monarchy as the main power structure in Spai
e FTN informed the authorities that they had a choice: either strengthen the ‘principle of authority’ and protect the ‘men of trust and order’ from ‘banditry’ or become ‘the protector of all excesses…synonymous with disorder and licence’.1 A similar message was conveyed by the conservative press, which highlighted instances of violence and illegality to justify increasing policing in ‘a Barcelona that is so chaotic’.2 La Vanguardia demanded ‘inflexible toughness’ and ‘the old implacable severity’, as anything else would result in ‘civil intolerance’ and ‘irreverence’.3

This pressure for a ‘republic of order’ was sustained by urban middle-class pressure groups, many of which had close ties with local republican groups and were therefore able to exert even greater influence on the new authorities.4 Various groups, ranging from taxi drivers, private security guards and nightwatchmen to restaurateurs, bar owners and hoteliers, complained to the authorities that Barcelona was gaining the reputation, domestically and internationally, as a ‘den of thieves’ and demanded a thorough repression of law breakers.5 With the Generalitat and the council keen to develop the local tourist industry, such calls could not fall on deaf ears.6 Shopkeepers and market traders added to the incessant pressure for repression. The Associació per la Defensa dels Venedors dels Mercats (Association for the Defence of Market Traders) called on the authorities to eliminate street trade ‘using all means necessary’, warning that otherwise its members would withhold tax payments, an important source of municipal revenue. Meanwhile, the Lliga de Defensa d’lndustria i Comerc (League for the Defence of Industry and Commerce) announced that its members were ready to take the law into their own hands if ‘unlicensed traders’ remained on the streets. Although street trade affected only the narrow interests of commercial sectors, those who felt threatened by it appealed to a general interest, arguing that the ‘illegal traders’ were a criminal group that formed part of a wider pattern of lawlessness.7

During the first few months of the Republic, therefore, a new repressive consensus emerged between the authorities, the traditional elites and urban commercial sectors. President Macià, who was keen to woo liberal bourgeois elements, nurtured relations with the business community, and from the early summer of 1931, it was clear that a new, albeit unsteady, compact had been established between the economic and political powers in Barcelona. This was evident at the regular banquets attended by local notables throughout the Republic. At the first of these, an ‘exquisite dinner’ organised by the council for 500 guests in June 1931, President Macià, Mayor Aiguader i Miró, Companys and Generalitat ministers rubbed shoulders with the political and economic representatives of the oligarchy from the FTN, the COPUB and the Lliga, and their armed protectors, the Barcelona chief of police and high-ranking military officials.8

Meanwhile, during periods of social unrest, the authorities provided police protection for individual employers, and although many industrialists persisted in their criticisms of the state of law and order, elite organisations like the FTN and the COPUB prudently expressed their gratitude to the civil governor and the police chief for defending the ‘principle of authority’ during strikes.9

3.2 Policing the ‘republic of order’

Another area of overlap between the ‘republicans of order’ and the ‘men of order’ among the bourgeoisie was over the need to improve the effectiveness of the police. We saw in Chapter 1 how Barcelona’s capitalists became frustrated by the operational limitations of the police during the monarchy. In keeping with their desire to forge a rational authority, the republicans were committed to reforming the security forces. The new standard bearers of republican order and legality in the cities were the Guardia de Asalto (Assault Guards), a motorised rapid response force. Created by Angel Galarza, the PSOE chief of state security, and Maura, the interior minister, the asaltos were part of a new economy of repression designed to meet the potential threats to public order in Spain’s increasingly complex urban centres, particularly the protest movements inspired by a modern labour movement. Galarza and Maura wished to break with the brutal ‘excesses’ of monarchist essays in urban social control, which inflamed rather than defused street conflicts. In contrast to the Guardia Civil, which relied on long-range armaments like the Mauser rifle and whose deployment in crowded city streets inevitably resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties, the conventional arms of the asaltos were the revolver and a 30-inch (80cm) leather truncheon, which encouraged them to move into the thick of any street protest, where they would neutralise the threat to public order by singling out ‘ringleaders’ for arrest, injuring only those who dared to cross the frontier of legality. The asaltos therefore represented a more deliberate, focused and inexorable repression. They were the shock troops of the Republic: all recruits had to meet exacting height and fitness requirements and, in the event of a serious threat to public order, they were equipped with machine guns, rifles and mortars. In Maura’s opinion, they were ‘a perfect force’.10

Lauded by the authorities as a thoroughly democratic and professional force, since they were recruited predominantly from republican and socialist parties, the asaltos were nevertheless politicised. Moreover, they did not break with the militaristic and authoritarian monarchist model of policing whereby army chiefs were entrusted with training the security forces: the first head of the asaltos was Lieutenant-Colonel Agustín Muñoz Grandes, who imposed military values on the corps. Another similarity between the Guardia Civil and the asaltos was that the new force had few contacts with the local population: most of the asaltos stationed in Barcelona originated from Galicia, central Spain and Aragón. In the view of one historian, ‘other than their name and uniform’, there was little difference between the asaltos and the civiles.11

Figure 3.2 Policing the city: assault guards patrolling l’Hospitalet, 1933
Source: L’Avenç Archive

The commitment to the construction of a ‘republic of order’ ensured that republicans missed an opportunity to win the loyalty of the masses through a radical reform of the police. This was starkly revealed in the refusal of the new authorities to disband the Guardia Civil, even though republicans were fully apprised of the scale of popular hatred for a force that had been at the forefront of domestic repression during the Restoration.12 From the start of the Republic, workers’ groups argued that the disbandment of the Guardia Civil was central to the peaceful evolution of the regime, if not its survival.13 (When General Sanjurjo, commander-in-chief of the Guardia Civil, launched a military coup in August 1932, this prophecy proved most apt.) Yet Maura, a ‘fervent admirer’ of the Guardia Civil, was convinced that the ‘authority’ and ‘discipline’ of the force could make it a prop for the new democratic institutions, and he ‘categorically refused’ to dissolve the force or reform it ‘in such a way to give the impression that it had been dissolved’.14

There is no evidence that republican politicians were aware that the preservation of this traditionally anti-democratic and highly repressive body might imperil their goal of enhancing state legitimacy. Although Maura recognised the need to redeploy the Guardia Civil away from cities on the grounds that its methods resulted in unacceptable levels of civilian casualties, the authorities regarded Barcelona, Spain’s largest city, as a special case. Guardia Civil stations and barracks thus remained within the city’s boundaries, where the force was assigned an auxiliary policing role, principally when public order was under severe stress. Moreover, because the recruitment of the asaltos commenced only in June 1931, there was inevitably a transitional period during which the civiles would be responsible for public order. For instance, while the authorities rushed the first asaltos into service at the end of July, there were still only 800 in the city by mid- October, and in December it was reported that the political police was being deployed alongside the civil police to patrol country roads against highway robbers.15

In policing, as in other policy areas, the republicans had no coherent blueprint for reform and democratisation. It also seems that, given the central role accorded to the security forces in the ‘republic of order’, the republicans shied away from any farreaching structural reform of the police. Even the notorious political police, the Brigada Policial Especializada en Anarquismo y Sindicalismo, a hotbed of monarchist reaction, was not purged, undergoing only a token change of name to become the Brigada de Investigación Social (Social Investigation Brigade).16 The republicans also broke with an earlier commitment to end the internal policing function of the army, just as they failed to honour their pledge to disband the reactionary Sometent militia, the ‘terror of both town and country’ and the ‘civic guard of capitalism’, which had repressed pickets and strikers during the monarchy.17 The piecemeal attitude of republicans in Madrid and Barcelona towards police reform was highlighted by a trip of Chief of State Security Galarza to the Catalan capital at the end of May 1931. During a number of press conferences, Galarza and Civil Governor Companys recognised that the Barcelona police force was a ‘completely useless organisation’, ‘absolutely lacking in efficiency’ and in need of ‘a complete and total reorganisation’. Bizarrely, their proposal to make the local constabulary ‘a more efficient instrument’ and end the ‘immorality’ prevailing among officers consisted of removing a few ‘bad eggs’ while placing trusted figures in important command positions to oversee the removal of monarchists. Accordingly, Arturo Menéndez, an austere artillery captain who was indelibly marked by his military background and former member of the republican socialist Revolutionary Committee, became Barcelona chief of police.18

From the start of social conflict in the Republic, the limited horizons of the new democratic dawn were visible. Like during the monarchy, workers were regarded as either a real or a potential problem by the republican authorities, which failed to break with existing patterns of aggressive, anti-working class policing. This continuity reflected not so much the coherence or inconsistencies of the republican reform project; it derived rather from the imposition of a ‘republic of order’ on the coercive economic relations of the 1930s. When industrial disputes developed outside of the jurados Mixtos they were banned by the authorities, and the Guardia Civil employed its traditional modus operandi of shooting unarmed pickets and workers.19 As was seen in the monarchy, police repression tended to deepen rather than diminish protest cycles, and according to successive republican civil governors, the resources of the security forces were stretched to breaking point at key moments during the Republic: the police were often unable to protect individual industrialists, while on the streets they had to be supplemented by Guardia Civil reinforcements from rural Catalonia and, at key moments, by the army.20

Judging by the numerous incidents of police brutality towards workers, it is easy to conclude that the unconditional support of the authorities encouraged agents to act with impunity Much violence was aimed at intimidating working-class militants and those sympathetic to them. In mid-September 1931, just five months into the Republic, the first cenetista died of injuries inflicted at the Laietana Way police headquarters.21 That same month, in an action that bore all the hallmarks of an extra-judicial assassination, policemen escorting a group of arrested workers to the Laietana Way station killed three and injured five others. The police later claimed that they acted in self-defence, having come under fire from some of the detainees and from the rooftops. The veracity of the police version of events is open to question: not a single policeman was wounded, and it was routine police procedure to search detainees for weapons at the moment of arrest. The authorities nevertheless accepted the testimony of the officers involved, and nobody was disciplined.22 A few weeks later, in early November, a group of prominent Barcelona anarchists were detained in the street, taken to police headquarters and beaten up.23 Bar owners who allowed cenetistas to meet in their premises also faced regular police harassment, even the destruction of their property.24

A similar tolerance was witnessed in a series of shooting incidents during the Republic involving both the security forces and armed militia like the Sometent.25 The tendency of the security forces was to shoot without asking questions. Anyone who failed to stop for the police ran the risk of being shot: in the proletarian barri of Clot, a youth running home during his lunch break was shot in the back when he failed to hear a call to halt; the same fate befell two Swedish sailors on shore leave in the Raval when they did not respond to a police warning.26 On the docks, an unemployed worker who fished for food in the sea at the waterfront was killed by a policeman who mistook him for a robber.27 On another occasion, a group of asaltos responded to the sudden backfiring of a car by opening fire and killing a nightwatchman.28 Meanwhile, on the estates and fields surrounding Barcelona, where there was great concern about the theft of crops by the unemployed, the Guardia Civil and the Sometent killed several people in circumstances that were far from clear.29

Although the police were probably less corrupt during the Republic, many officers behaved as if they were beyond the law, occasionally stealing property during house searches.30 Throughout the Republic, there was a steady flow of reports of drunken violence by policemen.31 It was not uncommon for agents to draw their firearms, which they were allowed to carry at all times for their personal protection, on unsuspecting members of the public. On one occasion, a nightwatchman was threatened with a pistol when he disturbed an off-duty asalto having sex in a city park in the early hours of the morning.32

It was the unemployed, though, who bore the brunt of police repression. It has been argued, by Howard Becker and others, that in times of economic crisis, the authorities rely on the security forces and the penal system to impose social discipline on the growing numbers of workers no longer subjected to the informal, everyday fetters and coercion of the workplace.33 This is confirmed by the creation of new police squads like the council-run Brigada per a la Repressió de la Venta Ambulant (Brigade for the Repression of Street Trade) and the teams established to rid the port of ‘villainous people’ and for ‘rounding up beggars’.34 Police violence towards the unemployed was directed more at imposing subservience than enforcing laws. Public spaces—the streets and parks where the unemployed spent a lot of time—were the site for this violence. Jobless workers were periodically stopped by police in the streets and beaten up.35 One worker was arrested by an asalto for ‘looking suspiciously’ at him. In l’Hospitalet, two workers required ‘hospital treatment’ after ‘being insolent’ to the police, while a couple of workers who mocked a bourgeois on a bicycle were beaten up by the Guardia Civil for ‘larking about’.36

The practices deployed in the consolidation of the ‘republic of order’ resulted in a sharp closure of the democratic polity and the erosion of civil liberties. Ironically, in their desire to impose respect for the ‘rule of law’, the republicans employed illegal and unconstitutional methods like detention without trial, whereby the civil governor ordered the internment of an individual for two weeks. This draconian tactic was resurrected early in the Republic, even though republicans had earlier vowed to outlaw the practice. For instance, during a strike in July 1931, the civil governor ordered that ‘anyone who looks suspicious will be detained [without trial]…including [for] mere moral complicity’ in the stoppage.37 Organisers of groups of unemployed workers were also interned, sometimes for several months. There were many allegations, and much supporting evidence, that detainees, who had no access to lawyers, were frequently mistreated and beaten in the course of ‘intensive interviewing’ by the police.38

‘Detention without trial’ was particularly favoured by Josep Oriol Anguera de Sojo, a pious Catholic lawyer and, according to one of his close allies, ‘an inflexible authoritarian’, who became Barcelona civil governor in early August 1931.39 Anguera de Sojo was obsessed with imposing the ‘principle of authority’ on the streets regardless of the cost and the consequences involved. He believed that ‘agitators’, ‘individuals with bad antecedents’ and anyone guilty of what he called ‘public scandal’ immediately forfeited their civil liberties and were therefore liable to ‘detention without trial’.40 The principal assumption behind ‘detention without trial’—that social protest would disappear with the internment of 200 or so ‘social delinquents’—shaped the policies of successive civil governors in republican Barcelona.41 Thus, during the CNT general strike of May 1933, Claudí Ametlla, himself a trained lawyer, admitted that he defeated the mobilisation ‘thanks to an abuse of my legal power’, which included infringing the civil liberties of ‘dozens of men’ who were interned and by bullying taxi drivers (he threatened the renewal of their licences, an area over which he had no authority) to place their cars at the disposal of the police. Although some internees might be held for six months and longer, such practices were justified in terms of ‘sacrosanct public order’.42

Detention without trial was frequently combined with the police ‘swoop’ (ràtzid), a lightning raid by the security forces, sometimes backed by army units, into the barris which would then be searched thoroughly from house to house; all those who looked ‘suspicious’ or who happened to be present in a place deemed to be a ‘criminal haunt’, such as a bar frequented by ‘malefactors’, were detained, held overnight at a police station, fingerprinted, registered and photographed before their release.43 Subsequently, whenever there was increased tension in the city, such as on the eve of a major strike or prior to the arrival of an important government figure, the police would detain the ‘usual suspects’ and those registered as ‘dangerous’.44

In keeping with the republicans’ prevailing legalistic mentality, and perhaps reflecting a certain discomfort or sensitivity among republican lawyers at the use of unconstitutional measures, extraordinary legislation was promulgated that rendered legal many of these draconian practices. The first example was the Ley de Defensa de la República (Law for the Defence of the Republic), a classic law of exception passed in late October 1931, which effectively castrated constitutional freedoms and was, in the opinion of Azaña, ‘necessary to govern’.45 The supporters of the new law, which was based on the 1922 German Law for the Defence of Democracy, regarded it as a defence against violent threats to the regime from both Right and Left. In practice, however, the law was used much more against ‘enemies of the Republic’ on the Left and reflected republican paranoia about revolutionary conspiracies. The thrust of this law was its preventive nature: as Azaña noted, it was not designed to repress an actual threat but ‘to avoid the birth of that danger’. Tellingly, despite the significance of this law and its implications for the future of democracy, the Ley de Defensa was passed without any real parliamentary discussion, pushed through with the full support of PSOE deputies, most notably de los Ríos and Largo Caballero. Republicans who previously waxed democratic were converted into partisans of draconian legislation. Macià, who had once stated his opposition to such laws of exception, accepted the new law without any qualms, while Azaña’s only regret was that the new law had not been introduced earlier.46

Directed at ‘subversion’, a vague category that could be applied to any protest behaviour, the Ley de Defensa established new categories of deviancy and, in doing so, created new illegalities. For example, by making it a crime to spread information likely to incite a breach of the law or bring discredit to state institutions, the Ley de Defensa had serious implications for the freedom of expression of the radical press.47 Moreover, by giving the interior minister new powers to ban meetings and rallies by groups and unions deemed ‘anti-republican’, this law limited the right of association of anarchist and communist groups, who were forbidden to hold any meeting, rally or assembly without giving prior notice to the police.48 All ‘legal’ assemblies, meetings and rallies were subject to the scrutiny of a delegado gubernamental (government agent), normally a policemen, who had powers to dissolve the gathering at any moment. The powers of the delegado gubernamental were open to abuse: if they believed that the rhetoric of speakers was likely to threaten public order, they could order the closing of the assembly.

Meanwhile, any attempt to hold a secret meeting—be it of activists or for educational purposes—was treated as a ‘clandestine’ and ‘illegal’ gathering.49 In the syndical sphere, the Ley de Defensa de la República reinforced Largo Caballero’s labour legislation, prohibiting strikes that did not give eight days notice to the authorities or that appeared to have ‘political’ motives.50 This law meant that activities such as picketing and any kind of clash with the police were treated as an attack on the Republic.

In 1933, the Ley de Defensa was superseded by the Ley de Orden Público (Public Order Act), which was drafted by Anguera de Sojo, who, after his spell as Barcelona civil governor, became attorney general. Anguera de Sojo’s experience of governing Barcelona’s rebellious city spaces in 1931, combined with the lively interest that he retained in the politics of a city that he visited every weekend, doubtless played a part in the drafting of this law. His Ley de Orden Público allowed curfews to be imposed on specific neighbourhoods and legalised police ràtzies (swoops). In what was a significant militarisation of policing, the Ley de Orden Público allowed for the suppression of the constitution in times of social unrest and its replacement by martial law and the transfer of civil power to the army high command until ‘order’ had been reestablished.

Meanwhile, in a direct imitation of monarchist crowd control tactics, Article 38 of the Ley de Orden Público allowed the authorities to ‘prohibit the formation of all types of groups on the public highway. …If orders to disperse are disobeyed, after three warning signals the security forces will use the necessary force to re-establish normality. No warning is necessary if the security forces come under attack’.51

Other preventive police practices were legalised in the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes (Law against Vagrants and Malefactors), also passed in 1933. Concerned not with the prosecution of criminal acts, which were already punishable under the penal code, the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes sought to help to identify and repress homo criminalis: those individuals whose ‘state of dangerousness’ (peligrosidad) posed a potential threat to social order and the criminal code. This was to be achieved through the creation of special police units and courts, which, suitably informed by contemporary legal and scientific principles, would detain, evaluate and classify individuals, ordering the isolation of ‘socially dangerous types’ in labour and concentration camps. Inspired by Luis Jimènez de Asúa, a respected PSOE jurist, this law was conceived as part of a modernising project designed to rationalise penology by introducing a more proportionate and measured system of punishment that would, in turn, enhance the credibility of the state. Ironically, beneath this veneer of modernity and the appearance of the ‘neutral’ application of justice, the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes was a blunt instrument of repression that legalised a much older and unjust economy of repression (internment without trial) and combined this with the additional threat of an unspecified period of incarceration.52 (According to Ametlla, the idea for a Ley de Vagos y Maleantes was first conceived by Attorney General Anguera de Sojo, who, as Barcelona civil governor, was instrumental in reintroducing ‘internment without trial’ in 1931.53)

The Vagrancy Act can be viewed as a product of the law-and-order consensus established between the old elites and the republican authorities in 1931 that ‘dangerous’ and ‘violent’ individuals were ‘not real citizens’ and thus did not deserve the same civil and political rights available to the rest of the population.54 The FTN welcomed this ‘excellent’ law as Vital for the defence of society’, one that would halt ‘the avalanche of disorder’.55 La Vanguardia summed up the concerns of the traditional ‘men of order’, identifying the significance of a law that separated the ‘dangerous’ unemployed from the ‘calm’ ones, thus preventing ‘a gang of wolves springing up extemporaneously from the depth of the mass, like in the great revolutions’.56 The ruling parties in the Generalitat were similarly enraptured with a law that they saw as ‘one of the most successful to come out of the parliament of the Republic’, which could isolate the ‘respectable unemployed’ from the ‘dangerous poor’, ‘hobos’ and ‘tramps’, whom they believed to be responsible for crime, social violence, monarchist intrigues, prostitution and street trade.57 Although the USC, the Esquerra’s socialist coalition partners, reviled Hitler’s detention centres, they had no qualms about establishing their own concentration camps for the unemployed in Catalonia.58 Indeed, this law reflected the social-democratic disdain for the traditions of the ‘rough’ working class, a social sector that was cast as brutish, disorderly and undisciplined and whose dedication to gambling and drinking made it a mortal danger to the republican-socialist agenda for change.59

Although justified as a measure against pimps and drug pushers, in the hands of the police the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes added to the escalating legislative terror against the unemployed, effectively criminalising practices like street trade that were viewed as a danger to the ‘republic of order’. The police used the law in a highly arbitrary fashion, and any worker who did not enjoy regular work could be stopped and searched on the grounds that they appeared ‘suspicious’. In particular, the Vagrancy Act was used as an anti-nomadic device to impose a fixed and repressive spatial ordering on migrant and seasonal workers, who were interned in camps, where they were subjected to capitalist time-space discipline. Even urban workers who travelled around workshops in search of work were interned as Vagrants’.60 There were also several cases of workers being arrested in bars on their day off. Age and disability were no exemption from the concentration camps: an 84-year-old man was interned for begging, as was a partially sighted man who lived from tips earned by opening car doors for guests outside a posh city centre hotel.61

As well as repressing those who could find no place within the capitalist labour market, the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes was widely used against those who refused to work within the market and/or resisted it. Opponents of government economic and social policies, who might previously have been interned without trial, were detained under the law as ‘dangerous’ internal enemies of the state; these included cenetistas found fly posting and distributing manifestos, unemployed organisers, and Italian and Argentinian anti-fascist exiles in Barcelona. Jobless anarchists and those who had been either victimised or blacklisted were also charged under the Vagrancy Act. Several cenetistas who had previously been interned without trial were released and immediately jailed as ‘vagrants’. There were even cases of cenetistas with regular employment being detained under the law, sometimes while at work. One group of Barcelona cenetistas, including Durruti and Francisco Ascaso, were charged with Vagrancy’ while on a CNT speaking tour in Andalusia, even though they had jobs in a textile factory which, through an agreement with their employer, were kept open during their absences on union affairs.62

The local urban policies developed by the Esquerra in Barcelona Council and the Generalitat provide further examples of the way in which the republican veneer of modernity occluded the survival of traditional practices. Although the local authorities renamed streets and housing projects after martyrs of the anti-monarchist struggle, for all their reformist rhetoric, housing reform, the cornerstone of municipal socialism, was largely ignored: policy options such as rent controls and the compulsory purchase of slum housing stock were untried, despite rents rising throughout the 1930s.63 Nor were the debt-ridden local authorities able to oversee the urbanisation and sanitisation of the peripheral barris. Instead, the ‘republicans of order’ regarded Barcelona in much the same way as the monarchist ‘men of order’: an unruly, menacing space, a city besieged by the tyrannical mob of the Raval. The ERC attempted to resolve urban tensions with a spatial militarism that bore many similarities to the policies developed under earlier regimes. Shanty dwellers were subjected to brutal slum clearance programmes that, while ridding the city of some of the miserable barracas (around 1,500 remained in Montjuïc in 193264), inevitably increased homelessness.65 Meanwhile, in February 1932, the local authorities opened a fourth group of cases barates on the outskirts of the city, consisting of 534 housing units.66 The ERC’s reformist fanfare could not conceal the fact that this was a continuation of the exclusionary housing policies begun during the monarchy and the dictatorship.

The dichotomy between the reformist promise and the repressive practice of the ERC’s urban governance were most vividly witnessed in relation to the Raval, Barcelona’s oldest working-class barri. As we saw in Chapter 1, over the years the Raval became demonised as ‘Chinatown’. The Esquerra and its supporters assiduously cultivated moral panics surrounding the petty criminals, pimps, and opium and cocaine dealers of ‘Chinatown’, an area they portrayed as existing outside official control.67

From the start of the Republic, the need to defend ‘public morality’ from the threat of the ‘Chinatown underworld’ (baix fons) was invoked as a justification for a systematic preventive police offensive against what La Vanguardia described as a ‘place that seems to have its own laws’.68 There were frequent police swoops against bars and ‘criminal haunts’, with those unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity often interned without trial. However, it was noticeable that police repression in the Raval was directed heavily at union offices, worker activists, street traders and the unemployed as much as the ‘bad people’ of the ‘underworld’.69

Growing official concern at ‘Chinatown’ culminated in the drawing up of the Plà Macià (Macià Plan), which formed part of the Generalitat’s modernist plan for rational urban development and regional planning.70 Plà Macià w as commissioned in the spring of 1932, a collaborative venture between the catalaniste planning think tank, the GATCPAC (Grup d’Arquitectes i Tècnics Catalans or Catalan Technicians and Architects Group) and Le Corbusier, the Svengali of modernist urban technocratic utopias; following a meeting with Macià in Barcelona, Le Corbusier’s admiration of authority obliged him to name the project in honour of the Catalan president.71 Inspired by his maxim Architecture or revolution. Revolution can be avoided’, Le Corbusier’s ideas can be looked upon as the perfect urbanist foil to the ‘republic of order’.72

Unveiled in 1934, the Plà Macià contained the promise of modernity, of a ‘new Barcelona’, remapping the entire region in accordance with the most advanced principles of urban planning as embodied by the GATCPAC. The crux of the Plà Macià revolved around the demolition of the Raval, an area visited by Le Corbusier during one of his trips to Barcelona that left him appalled by its unsalubrious and dilapidated housing stock and urban density. The solution, he felt, lay in the ‘mopping up’ (esponjament) of the Raval’s streets, which would give way to a series of straight roads and major thoroughfares capable of aiding the movement of goods throughout the Barcelona area.73

In this way, the old city would be regenerated and the flow of goods and services improved, bringing ‘progress’ and increased industrial power to the whole of Catalonia. New housing stock for the former inhabitants of the Raval was to be created in the form of modern, Bauhaus-style multi-story blocks of dwellings in the Sant Andreu barri, away from the city centre. Through a system of zoning, establishing separate spheres for living, working, trading and relaxing, the Plà Macià aimed at increasing the consumption of urban services in what was a step towards a bureaucratic and technocratic society of controlled consumerism. Thus, alongside the creation of new schools and open spaces, new leisure forms were conceived, to be located in the Ciutat de repós i de vacances (City of leisure and holidays), a coastal holiday zone south of Barcelona in the Castelldefells area.

Like so many republican projects, the Plà Macià was constrained both by budgetary problems and by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, after which it remained a utopian dream of Generalitat planners.74 Commentators often interpret the Plà Macià and its radical avant-garde supporters in the GATCPAC as being informed by progressive, democratic and anti-fascist ideas.75 However, this urban plan typified the repressive undercurrent of many republican reforms. Moreover, the Plà Macià was not dissimilar to the nineteenth-century Hausmannisation of Paris: both plans were appropriate to the economic and security requirements of the holders of social, economic and political power of the day, driving major roads through the narrow, winding streets of workingclass districts in order to facilitate the movement of goods and, when necessary, the forces of public order.76

The main difference between earlier urban plans for Barcelona and the Plà Macià was that the latter was packaged as a technocratic urban utopía of the enlightened middle class.77 However, the vision of successive generations of planners was remarkably similar: they would leave the alienating and oppressive economic structure of the city intact (the class origins of ERC planners impeded them from limiting the freedom of market forces and private property, arguably the sine qua non for genuine, rational planning78) while constructing a hierarchical, tightly controlled city in which the ‘cancer’ of disorder would be banished, with all classes accepting their place and function within a rational urban system. The security dimensions of the Plà Macià cannot therefore be denied. First, it aimed at reducing Barcelona’s domination of Catalonia, thereby establishing a new political equilibrium based on strengthened Catalan provinces. This was to be achieved by containing the capital’s growth and stimulating new foci of industrial development outside the Catalan capital, thus increasing the industrial and political importance of the bastions of popular catalanisme in the countryside.79

Second, there would be new, subtle, bureaucratic forms of repression. Central here was the reform of the social context facing the hitherto rebellious working class. A host of ERC reformers, physicians, educationalists, architects and planners, led by the mayor, Aiguader i Miró, exuded an idealistic ideology of environmental determinism: they assumed that informed public agencies could compensate for problems of urban design and transform the physical environment of the barris, thereby altering the social reality of the working class. Equally, traditional working-class identity and culture would be broken down by new leisure pursuits and consumerism. This new social control project hinged on the pacification of the Raval, Barcelona’s most unruly space. On one occasion, Companys spoke in confidence to one of Le Corbusier’s disciples of his desire to demolish the Raval ‘with cannon shot’.80 The planned destruction and ‘complete sterilisation’ of the Raval was merely the most recent attempt by urban elites to reconquer the old city from the ‘perishing classes’ and defuse many of the tensions occasioned by Barcelona’s uncontrolled development, something that had been coveted by urban planners since Cerdà.81 The Plà Macià can therefore be seen as a continuation of the obsession of nineteenth-century reformers for ‘cleansing’ and ‘purifying’ the city, for inducing a new spatial order with a surgeon’s incision in a ‘sick’, ‘diseased’ space. This spatial exclusionism was glimpsed earlier with the construction of the Laietana Way and the cases barates, as urban elites used slum clearance to force the ‘dangerous classes’ out of the city centre, dispersing them far away from the centres of economic and political power. In the case of the Raval, Le Corbusier’s oftcited plan to ‘kill the street’82 meant relocating a historically rebellious community in newly designed spaces where they would be more easily contained and controlled by the security forces. Consequently, the social networks and local solidarities that had sustained anti-capitalist resistance and social protest in the Raval would be disrupted. Yet, with the Raval being the birthplace of the Barcelona working class, its demolition was an act of aggression against a local history of proletarian resistance: it signified the destruction of key historical and symbolic spaces of the local proletariat, the elimination of the sites of memory of resistance to capital, of demonstrations, riots, barricades, insurrections and a whole array of protest behaviour that had taken place since the 1830s. These spaces of hope and struggle, a source of inspiration to many workers, were to be replaced with major roads, places without history, around which new solidarities would not be possible. In this way, the authorities would redefine space, and the way it was used and experienced by those who inhabited it, in the hope that this would nullify urban contradictions and conflicts within the Raval.

3.3 Conclusion

The dependence of the ‘republic of order’ on draconian legislation such as the Ley de Defensa de la República, the Ley de Orden Público and the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes, and coercive urban practices such as the Plà Macià, signified a major advance on the ‘normal’ repertoire of state control and an important step on the road to an authoritarian, ‘law-and-order state’. Faced with class struggle, the republicans effectively failed in two of the key challenges they faced: to guarantee civil liberties and to end persecutory policing. Instead, they consolidated their power like typical ‘men of order’, raising the costs of mobilisation by stockpiling repressive legislation, militarising public order and routinely deploying repression.83 Rather than invest in far-reaching reform packages that might have defused social tensions, the authorities increased spending on the security forces: the complement of paramilitary asaltos in Barcelona grew throughout the 1930s, rising from just under 2,000 in mid-1932 to 6,000 in July 1936.84 Although the ‘republic of order’ was justified in terms of the interests of a reformist future, the excluding practices and stratagems employed by the republicans eroded civil liberties and the ‘rule of law’, weakening an already fragile liberal-democratic public sphere. The Ley de Vagos y Maleantes, which selectively denied the rights of citizenship to the dispossessed, demonstrated the readiness of republicans to distance themselves from their previous belief in the formal equality of all citizens before the law. Equally, the legalisation of preventive imprisonment that was central to the Ley de Vagos was anathema to the classical legal ‘presumption of innocence’. This metamorphosis was most clearly embodied by Jimènez de Asúa, the architect of the 1931 constitution, who by drafting the Ley de Vagos consciously circumvented core constitutional freedoms such as the freedom of circulation of all citizens throughout state territory.85 The Republic that had promised so much for the masses had assumed a character that many workers would find as reprehensible as the monarchy that preceded it.

  • 1. FTN, Memoria…1931, pp. 135–40, 201–6.
  • 2. Veu, 19 June 1931.
  • 3. LaV, 19, 23–24 July, 13 August 1931, 9–10 April 1932.
  • 4. Letters from La Sociedad de Patronos Cultivadores to the mayor of l’Hospitalet, 30 October and 12 November 1931 (AHl’HL/AM); letter from the presidents of la COPUB, la Associación de Propietarios, el Gremio de Ultramarinos y Similares, el Centro Gremial de Carboneros and la Sociedad de Maestros Peluqueros y Barberos to the mayor of l’Hospitalet, 30 September 1931 (AH1’HL/AM).
  • 5. LasN, 20 May, 3 and 31 October, 2 and 21 November 1931; Noche, 3, 7 and 10 November 1931; LaV, 21 August and 13 September 1931, 4 July 1932; SO, 28 April and 24 December 1931.
  • 6. A.Farreras, El turisme a Catalunya del 1931 al 1936, Barcelona 1973. In early 1932, the Generalitat formed the Federació de Turisme de Catalunya i Balears (Veu, 11 February 1932).
  • 7. Matí, 14 June 1931; LaV, 12 August, 13, 18 and 23 September 1931; L’Opinió, 7 August and 20 September 1931; LasN, 22 May, 2 October and 17 December 1931; minutes from l’Hospitalet council meeting, 28 August 1934 (AHl’HL/AM); letter from la Unió de Venedors del Mercat de Collblanc to the mayor of l’Hospitalet, 4 September 1935, (AH1’HL/AM).
  • 8. SO, 9 May 1931; L’Opinió, 9, 13 and 26 June, 14 July 1931; Poblet, Aiguader, p. 179; LasN, 12 May and 18 December 1931.
  • 9. Telegram from Barcelona civil governor (Anguera de Sojo) to Interior Ministry, 24 October 1931, Legajo 7a (AHN/MG); COPUB, Memoria…1931, pp. 20, 488, 497–8; and Memoria de los trabajos realizados durante el ejercicio de 1932, Barcelona, 1933, pp. 39–40; Ametlla, Memories, Vol. 2, p. 214.
  • 10. Maura, Así, pp. 274–5; J.S.Vidarte, Las Cortes Constituyentes de 1931–1933. Testimonio del primer secretario del Congreso de los Diputados, Barcelona, 1976, p. 293; Turrado, Policia, pp. 198–9.
  • 11. Maura, Así, pp. 274–5; Ballbé, Orden, p. 339.
  • 12. Azaña, Diarios completos, Barcelona, 2000, p. 425; Maura, Así, p. 206.
  • 13. LaB, 15 April and 1 May 1931; SO, 15 April and 1 May 1931.
  • 14. Madrid, Ocho, pp. 156–7; Manuel Azaña, Obras completas. El transito de un mundo histórico, Mexico, 1967, Vol. 3, p. 294; Maura, Así, p. 206; Borrás, España, pp. 109–10.
  • 15. LasN, 31 December 1931.
  • 16. SO, 16, 25 and 29 April 1931.
  • 17. SO, 21 September 1932, 6 April and 20 August 1933.
  • 18. Barcelona civil governor (Companys) to interior minister (Maura), 14 May 1931, Legajo 60a (AHN/MG); Turrado, Policía, p. 192; Ballbé, Orden, p. 336; LasN, 23 May 1931; Madrid, Ocho, pp. 156–8; Manuel Azaña, Obras completas. Memorias Políticas y de Guerra, Mexico, 1968, Vol. 4, p. 284.
  • 19. SO, 28 May, 1–2, 7–9 and 26 August 1931; LasN, 8 May 1931; LaV, 16 July 1931.
  • 20. Telegrams from Barcelona civil governor (Anguera de Sojo) to Interior Ministry, 16, 24 and 28 October 1931, Legajo 7a and 39a (AHN/MG); Ametlla, Memories, Vol. 2, p. 211.
  • 21. SO, 16 September 1931.
  • 22. SO, 5 and 12 September 1931.
  • 23. SO, 4 November 1931.
  • 24. SO, 30 June, 6 and 21–31 July, 29 August, 7 September 1934; Adelante, 22 and 30 January 1934.
  • 25. See, for example, SO, 17–19 July 1934.
  • 26. SO, 21 October 1932 and 19 July 1934; LaV, 31 March and 5 September 1934.
  • 27. SO, 21 September 1932, 6 April and 20 August 1933.
  • 28. SO, 15 November 1933.
  • 29. LaV, 11 September 1931; communiqué from the Guàrdia Urbana to the mayor of l’Hospitalet, 22 June 1934 (AHl’HL/AM).
  • 30. F.Miró, Una vida intensa y revolucionaria. Juventud, amor, sueños y esperanzas, Mexico, 1989, pp. 137–9.
  • 31. SO, 25 December 1932; El Luchador (hereafter Luchador), 27 November 1931.
  • 32. La RB, 11 May 1934; SO, 23 September 1934.
  • 33. See H.Becker, Outsiders, New York, 1963, passim; I.Janovic, ‘Labour market and imprisonment’, Crime and Social Justice, 1977, pp. 17–31; Richard Quinney, Class, State and Crime, New York, 1977, pp. 131–40.
  • 34. LasN, 6 October 1931; L’Opinió, 11, 13 and 16 August 1931.
  • 35. SO, 11, 12, 14 and 28–31 July, 1 August 1931; LOpinió, 29 July 1931; LaV, 16 and 30 July, 5, 21, 26 and 29–30 August, 30 September 1931.
  • 36. L’Opinió, 29 July 1931; communiqué from the Guàrdia Urbana to the mayor of l’Hospitalet, 26 April 1936 (AHl’HL/AM); SO, 19 June 1931, 30 June, 6 and 21–31 July, 29 August, 7 September 1934; Adelante, 22 and 30 January 1934.
  • 37. Telegram from Barcelona civil governor (Esplà) to the interior minister (Maura), 15 July 1931, Legajo 7a (AHN/MG).
  • 38. SO, 11, 12, 14 and 28–31 July, 1 August 1931, 21 October 1932, 1 July 1933; LasN, 9 May 1931; L’Opinió, 29 July 1931; LaV, 16 and 30 July, 5, 21, 26 and 29–30 August, 30 September 1931; TyL, 7 and 24 October 1932.
  • 39. Ametlla, Memories, Vol. 2, pp. 93–4. Anguera de Sojo’s strong clerical views prompted suggestions that he had ‘escaped from an altar during the Inquisition’ (Adelante, 2 March 1934).
  • 40. Telegram from Barcelona civil governor (Anguera de Sojo) to Interior Ministry, 2 September 1931, Legajo 7a (AHN/MG).
  • 41. See, for instance, Ametlla, Memòries, Vol. 2 pp. 215–6.
  • 42. Interview with Antonio Zapata, Vivir la utopía; Ametlla, Memories, p. 214.
  • 43. SO, 30 June, 6 and 21–31 July, 29 August, 7 September 1934; Adelante, 22 and 30 January 1934.
  • 44. Sentís, Viatge, p. 80; Miró, Vida, p. 123.
  • 45. Azaña, Obras, Vol. 2, pp. 106–7.
  • 46. Azaña, Obras, Vol. 2, p. 65 and Vol. 4, pp. 93, 185, 260–2; L’Opinió, 24 July, 11 August and 23 October 1931; LaB, 31 December 1931 and 14 January 1932.
  • 47. M.Rosa Abad Amorós, ‘Limitación jurídica de las libertades públicas en la II República’, Cuadernos Republicanos, 1993, 16, pp. 107–16.
  • 48. M.C.García-Nieto, La Segunda República. Economía y aparato del estado. 1931–1936, Madrid, 1974, Vol. 1, pp. 256–7; Ballbé, Orden, pp. 323–35.
  • 49. Ballbé, Orden, pp. 318, 337, n. 35.
  • 50. Civil governor (Anguera de Sojo) to Interior Ministry, December 1931, Legajo 7a (AHN/MG).
  • 51. Ballbé, Orden, pp. 359–63.
  • 52. Martin, Recuerdos, pp. 77–8.
  • 53. Ametlla, Memories, Vol. 2, p. 187.
  • 54. FTN, Memoria…; 1931, pp. 203–4; Barcelona civil governor to interior minister, 2 September 1931, Legago 7a (AHN/MG).
  • 55. FTN, Memoria…de 1933, p. 140.
  • 56. LaV, 23 February, 15 August 1933.
  • 57. L’Opinió, 3 February, 7 March, 7–8 April, 25 June, 11 and 25–29 August 1933.
  • 58. JS, 25 November 1933, 14 March 1936; LaB, 3 August 1933.
  • 59. LasN, 17 June 1931; L’Opinió, 17 and 19 July 1931.
  • 60. SO, 23 September 1933, 21 September 1935; LaV, 9 August, 5, 9 and 19 September, 3 October 1934, 10 February and 11 December 1935; LasN, 30 May 1934; La Humanitat, 15 January 1936.
  • 61. L’Opinió, 30 September and 5 November 1933; SO, 5, 8 and 14 October 1933, 28 August and 3 October 1934; LasN, 31 January 1936; Catalunya Roja, 23 September 1933; LaV, 5 and 26 September 1933, 19 May and 7 June 1935.
  • 62. Martin, Recuerdos, pp. 77–8; LaB, 22 June 1933; SO, 2 August, 1, 13 and 15 September, 7 October 1933, 24 October and 31 December 1935, 11 and 30 January 1936; LasN, 4 May 1934 and 31 January 1936; TyL, 31 January 1936.
  • 63. Massana and Roca, ‘Vicis’, p. 40; Tatjer, in Oyón (ed.), p. 38; Massana, Indústria, p. 220.
  • 64. Aiguader, Problema, p. 6.
  • 65. La Publicitat (hereafter LaP), 15 October 1931.
  • 66. García, ‘Barrios…’, p. 85.
  • 67. F.Madrid, Sangre en Atarazanas, Barcelona, 1926, passim; Escándolo, 22 and 29 October 1925, 6 and 20 May, 15 July, 7 and 14 October 1926; Madrid, Ocho, pp. 156–7, 175; Villar, Leyenda, p. 149.
  • 68. LaV, 21 September and 22 October 1933; SO, 13 September and 3 October 1933; Villar, Leyenda, p. 151.
  • 69. Villar, Leyenda, p. 152.
  • 70. N.Rubió i Tudurí, Pla de distribució en zones del territori català, Barcelona, 1932.
  • 71. Evidence of Le Corbusiers’s increasingly authoritarian stance and his faith in the ‘strong idea’ was his decision to dedicate his 1935 work, La ville radieuse, To authority’ (R.Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias, New York, 1987, pp. 236–7).
  • 72. Fishman, Utopias, p. 187.
  • 73. A. C., June 1937.
  • 74. Fabre and Huertas, Barris, Vol. 5 p. 65.
  • 75. See C.Cirici, ‘Madrid-Barcelona. El nacimiento de dos metropolis modernas’, in B.de Sala (ed.), Barcelona-Madrid, 1898–1998: sintonías y distancias, Barcelona, 1997, pp. 147–8; O.Bohigas, ‘Una arquitectura a la Catalunya republicana i autònomia’, in B.de Sala (ed.), pp. 85–93; and J.M.Rovira, ‘Los orígines del Plan Macià: entre la ciudad radiante y la ciudad funcional’, in Oyón (ed.), pp. 263–86.
  • 76. Harvey, Consciousness, pp. 63–220.
  • 77. Fishman, Utopias, pp. 9–10, 13, 163–263.
  • 78. L.Casassas i Simó, Barcelona i l’Espai Català, Barcelona, 1977, pp. 208–17.
  • 79. Ibid., p. 217.
  • 80. Cited in S.Tarragó, ‘El “Pla Macià” o “La Nova Barcelona’”, Cuadernos de Arquitectura y Urbanismo 90, July–August 1972, p. 29.
  • 81. L’Opinió, 16 March 1933; F.Roca, El Pla Macià, Barcelona, 1977; Artigues et al., Raval, pp. 55–6; LaP, 16 August 1933.
  • 82. Le Corbusier, cited in Berman, p. 168.
  • 83. B.Fine, ‘Law and class’, in B.Fine, R.Kinsey, J.Lea, S.Picciotto and J.Young (eds), Capitalism and the Rule of Law. From Deviancy Theory to Marxism, London, 1973, p. 32.
  • 84. Estampa, 9 July 1932; F.Lacruz, El alzamiento, la revolución y el terror en Barcelona (19 julio 1936–26 enero 1939), Barcelona, 1943, p. 107.
  • 85. L.Jiménez de Asúa, Ley de vagos y maleantes. Un ensayo sobre peligrosidad sin delito, Madrid, 1934; Orden Público y Vagos y Maleantes, Barcelona, pp. 65–82.