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Indalecio Prieto: Wikis

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Indalecio Prieto Tuero (April 30, 1883 - February 11, 1962) was a Spanish politician, one of the leading figures of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) in the years before and during the Second Spanish Republic.

Born in Oviedo in 1883, his father died when he was six years old; his mother moved him to Bilbao in 1891. From a young age, he survived by selling magazines in the street; he eventually obtained work as a stenographer at the daily newspaper La Voz de Vizcaya. This led to a position as a copy editor and later a journalist at rival daily El Liberal; his career there eventually made him the director and proprietor.

In 1899 he joined the PSOE. As a journalist in the first decade of the 20th century, Prieto became a leading figure of socialism in the Basque Country.

Spain's neutrality in World War I greatly benefited Spanish industry and commerce, but those benefits were not reflected in the workers' salaries. This led to a great deal of social unrest, culminating on August 13, 1917 in a revolutionary general strike. Fear of a repetition of the then-recent February Revolution in Russia (the October Revolution was still to come), the general strike was harshly put down by the military, and the members of the strike committee were arrested in Madrid. Having been involved in the organization of the strike, Prieto fled to France before he could be arrested; he did not return until April 1918, by which time he had been elected to the Spanish Congress of Deputies.

Very critical of the actions of the government and army during the Rif War or War of Melilla (1919-1926; see Abd el-Krim) he spoke out strongly in the Congress after the Battle of Annual (1921), as well as on the more than probable, though unproven, responsibility of the king in the imprudent military actions of general Fernández Silvestre in the Melilla command zone.

Opposed to Francisco Largo Caballero's line of partial collaboration with the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera, he had bitter confrontations with both of them.

In August 1930 he participated on his own behalf, despite the opposition of Julián Besteiro, in the Pact of San Sebastián, which included a broad coalition of republican parties that wished to do away with the Spanish monarchy. In this matter he had the support of Largo's wing of the party, who believed that the fall of the monarchy was necessary in order that socialism could come to power.

When the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed on April 14, 1931, he was named Finance Minister in the provisional government presided over by Niceto Alcalá-Zamora.

As Minister of Public Works in the 1931-1933 government of Manuel Azaña, he continued and expanded the policy of hydroelectric projects begun during the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, as well as the ambitious plan of infrastructural improvements in Madrid, such as the new Chamartín railway station and the tunnel under Madrid linking it to Atocha Station; most of these works that would not be completed until after the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War.

Unlike Largo, he opposed the general strike and the failed armed rising of October 1934; nonetheless he again fled to France to escape possible prosecution. While, prior to the period of the Republic, Prieto had arguably maintained a "harder" line than Largo, from this time forward he would be identified as a relative moderate, opposed to Largo's more revolutionary tendency.

At the beginning of the Civil War in September 1936, after the fall of Talavera de la Reina, in Toledo province, Largo became head of the government and Prieto became Minister of Marine and Air.

After the May 3–8, 1937 events in Barcelona when the Communists and government forces tried to establish control over the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) and the anarchist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), the government of Largo was supplanted by that of Juan Negrín, with Prieto designated Minister of Defense, although, privately, he recognized that the war could not be won because the Republican side lacked support from the democratic powers such as France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. During his ministry maritime access for Soviet material aid remained effectively cut off by the attacks of Italian submarines and the French frontier remained closed.

After the defeat on the northern front in October 1937, he offered his resignation, which was rejected. He finally left the government after the March 1938 defeat on the Aragón front, following an escalating dispute with the Communists.

He refrained from active political life for the remainder of the war, exiling himself to Mexico. In 1945, toward the end of World War II, he was one of those who attempted to form a republican government in exile, hoping to reach an accord with the monarchist opposition to Francisco Franco, ruler of Spain since the end of the Civil War, with at view to restoring Spanish democracy. The failure of this initiative led to his definitive retirement from active politics.

In Mexico, he wrote several books, among them: Palabras al viento (Words in the Wind, 1942), Discursos en América (Discourses in America, 1944) and at the end of his life, Cartas a un escultor: pequeños detalles de grandes sucesos (Letters to a sculptor: small details of great events 1962).

References

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