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Julián Besteiro Fernández (September 21, 1870 – September 27, 1940) was a Spanish socialist politician and university professor.

Born in Madrid, he was educated in the Institución Libre de Enseñanza, and studied in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Madrid, as well as at the Sorbonne in 1896, the Universities of Munich, Berlin and Leipzig in 1909-1910. In 1908, he joined the Partido Radical (Radical Party) established by Alejandro Lerroux.

He became a member of the Agrupación Socialista Madrileña (the socialist circle in Madrid) in 1912 and in that same year he was offered the Chair of Fundamental Logic in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. Soon after, Besteiro became a member of Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) trade union, and of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE). In 1913 he married Dolores Cebrián, a professor of physics and natural science at the teachers' training college in Toledo.

In 1917, after the general strike of that year he was tried as a member of the strike committee and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was elected as a member of the town council of Madrid in the amnesty campaign. In the following year, he was elected to the Cortes Generales (Spanish Parliament) as deputy for Madrid.

During the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera he was in favor of collaboration with the Dictator - who had offered the participation of UGT in governing the country. To a certain extent, it appeared to be a success in the mid-1920s. However, opinion within the PSOE turned against him as the Primo de Rivera regime became even more unpopular in the economic downturn. In mid-1930s Besteiro became isolated in his opinions on collaboration in opposition to the front established by the Pact of San Sebastián. Bestiero also opposed the participation of UGT in the December 15, 1930 general strike. At a joint meeting of the PSOE and UGT he resigned as President of both the party and the union in February 1931. In the same year he was elected a councillor of the Madrid town council.

After the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic, Besteiro was elected Speaker of the Constituent Cortes. During his period as President of the Cortes, he seemed to become more conservative in his political views. He resigned as President of the UGT in January 1934. Opposing the growing radicalization of the Socialist movement, he disapproved the participation of various socialists in the armed uprising of October 1934. In February 1936, he won the highest number of votes of any candidate in Madrid in the Popular Front elections.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out Besteiro continued to work in the university as a Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters and carry out his duties as a parliamentary deputy and councillor of the town council in Madrid. Against the persuasions of his friends he refused to leave Madrid and seek exile.

Manuel Azaña, the Spanish Republican President, chose Besteiro as the representative to the coronation of the new British King George VI in London on May 12, 1937. Besteiro believed it was to be a peace mission. There he met with Sir Anthony Eden but no significant results followed. After the failure of his mission in London he returned to work in the town council of Madrid and withdraw from official public life. He stopped attending the Agrupación Socialista Madrileña and the parliamentary group meetings.

With the news of the fall of Barcelona on January 26, 1939, and Azaña's resignation as President of the Republic, Besteiro decided to find ways to achieve peace and stop the resistance. He contacted Colonel Segismundo Casado and, on March 5, announced the creation of a Junta de Defensa Nacional. As a result, about 2,000 people were killed in the uprising against the government of Juan Negrín and its Communist Party of Spain allies (Chapter 34, passim, The Battle for Spain, Antony Beevor, Penguin, ISBN 014303765X).

After the fall of Madrid to the Nationalists on March 28, 1939, Bestiero was arrested by Francoist forces. On July 8, he faced a court martial and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was sent first to the Monasterio de Dueñas until the end of August 1939 and then to the prison of Carmona, where he died the following year.[1]

Notes

  1. ^ Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution & revenge. Harper Perennial. 2006. London. p.319

References

  • Comrades! Portraits from the Spanish Civil War by Paul Preston, HarperCollins Publishers ISBN 0002556359
  • Spain's First Democracy: The Second Republic, 1931-1936, by Stanley G. Payne, University of Wisconsin Press ISBN 0299136744
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