José María Gil-Robles y Quiñones
For the erstwhile president of the European Parliament, see José María Gil-Robles
José María Gil-Robles
José María Gil-Robles y Gil-Delgado is a Spanish politician. He was formerly a Member of the European Parliament in the European People's Party group, and was President of the European Parliament from 1997 to 1999.-References:...


José María Gil-Robles y Quiñones (Salamanca
Salamanca is a city in western Spain, in the community of Castile and León. Because it is known for its beautiful buildings and urban environment, the Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is the most important university city in Spain and is known for its contributions to...

, 27 November 1898 – Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

, 13 September 1980) was a prominent Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 politician in the period leading up to the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...


Gil-Robles received his masters degree in 1919 and in 1922 he gained by examination the chair of political law in the University of La Laguna
University of La Laguna
The University of San Fernando de La Laguna, also known as the ULL is situated in San Cristóbal de La Laguna, on the island of Tenerife. It is the oldest university in the Canary Islands, and has the highest student population of any university in these islands. It is also considered the most...

 (Tenerife). During the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera
Miguel Primo de Rivera
Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja, 2nd Marquis of Estella, 22nd Count of Sobremonte, Knight of Calatrava was a Spanish dictator, aristocrat, and a military official who was appointed Prime Minister by the King and who for seven years was a dictator, ending the turno system of alternating...

 he was secretary of the Catholic-Agrarian National Confederation and member of the Writing Council of El Debate. After the declaration of the Second Spanish Republic
Second Spanish Republic
The Second Spanish Republic was the government of Spain between April 14 1931, and its destruction by a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco....

, he participated in and led Acción Nacional (National Action), later renamed Acción Popular (Popular Action).

In the elections of 1931 he was chosen as a deputy in the Cortes
Cortes Generales
The Cortes Generales is the legislature of Spain. It is a bicameral parliament, composed of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate . The Cortes has power to enact any law and to amend the constitution...

 for Salamanca
Salamanca is a city in western Spain, in the community of Castile and León. Because it is known for its beautiful buildings and urban environment, the Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is the most important university city in Spain and is known for its contributions to...

. During the period of the Republic, he maintained the posture of "accidentalism
Accidentalism and catastrophism
Accidentalism and catastrophism were two differing ideologies in Spain in the inter-war period. They were particularly noticeable among opponents of Spain's Second Republic – most significantly of the liberal and socialist governments of 1931–1933 and 1936 until the start of the...

": whether Spain was a monarchy or republic was less important than the law's compatibility with religious principles.

Gil-Robles formed the Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right
Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right
The Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right was a Spanish political party in the Second Spanish Republic. A Catholic conservative force, it was the political heir to Angel Herrera Oria's Acción Popular and defined itself in terms of the 'affirmation and defence of the principles of Christian...

 (CEDA) which won the elections of November 1933. In order to avoid conflicts with leftist parties, President Niceto Alcalá-Zamora
Niceto Alcalá-Zamora
Niceto Alcalá-Zamora y Torres was a Spanish lawyer and politician who served, briefly, as the first premier minister of the Second Spanish Republic, and then — from 1931 to 1936—as its president....

, invested Alejandro Lerroux
Alejandro Lerroux
Alejandro Lerroux y García was a Spanish politician who was the leader of the Radical Republican Party during the Second Spanish Republic...

, leader of the Radicals
Radical Republican Party
The Radical Republican Party , sometimes shortened to the Radical Party was a Spanish political party founded in 1908 by Alejandro Lerroux in Santander, Cantabria by a split from the historical Republican Union party led by Nicolás Salmerón....

, as prime minister instead of Gil Robles, the head of the largest party in the Cortes. The appointment of three CEDA ministers to the cabinet in 1934 triggered the leftist miners' strike
Asturian miners' strike of 1934
The Asturian miners' strike of 1934 was a major strike action which took place in Asturias in northern Spain soon developing into armed insurrection against the Spanish government.-Background:...

 that rose against the government of the Republic. Gil-Robles served as Minister of War under Lerroux from May to December 1935. In the decisive elections of February 1936, the CEDA was the largest part of the National Front coalition, which also included Alfonsine monarchists and Carlists
Carlism is a traditionalist and legitimist political movement in Spain seeking the establishment of a separate line of the Bourbon family on the Spanish throne. This line descended from Infante Carlos, Count of Molina , and was founded due to dispute over the succession laws and widespread...

. He campaigned for a majority under the slogan Todo el poder para el Jefe ("All the power to the Chief [i.e., Gil Robles]"), and while he himself was reelected to the Cortes, the National Front narrowly lost the elections.

Gil-Robles is a unique and controversial figure in the history of Spanish politics. The nature of his political beliefs during the Second Republic either greatly fluctuated or were tailored to his audience, as he is recorded as making many statements that appear contradictory. This is certainly reflected in the nature of his party, the CEDA, which somehow managed to attract support from both moderate Catholic republicans and extreme right-wing monarchists.

The controversy surrounding him has been best articulated by historians Paul Preston
Paul Preston
Paul Preston CBE is a British historian and Hispanist, specialized in Spanish history, in particular the Spanish Civil War, which he has studied for more than 30 years....

 and Richard Robinson:
  • Preston believes that Gil-Robles was essentially a legalist fascist, whose policy of accidentalism would give way to legislating for a fascist dictatorship when he was confident that the populace was controllable. His evidence references Gil Robles' speeches, which were often filled with "anti-democractic and anti-Semitic innuendo", the oppressive, anti-reformist nature of his government partnership with Alejandro Lerroux's
    Alejandro Lerroux
    Alejandro Lerroux y García was a Spanish politician who was the leader of the Radical Republican Party during the Second Spanish Republic...

     Radicals, and the frank admiration offered foreign fascist regimes by both his propaganda and by his press organ, El Debate.
  • Robinson, however, rejects any claim that Gil-Robles was anything but a consummate politician struggling to keep the unstable right under control and within the law. The CEDA was not a mere front for fascist aspirations, but a party that was based on Catholic values, including a desire to pursue social Catholicism. Gil Robles himself certainly expressed pro-republican views; in an interview with the American journalist Mallory Browne he said, "I am the only friend of the Republic", and is recorded as declaring that "a new dictatorship would produce, after a period of tranquillity, social revolution."

Following the victory of the Popular Front in the elections of February 1936 and the defeat of the CEDA, support for Gil-Robles and his party evaporated almost overnight. Most striking was the haemorrhaging of CEDA members towards the Falange
The Spanish Phalanx of the Assemblies of the National Syndicalist Offensive , known simply as the Falange, is the name assigned to several political movements and parties dating from the 1930s, most particularly the original fascist movement in Spain. The word means phalanx formation in Spanish....

. Bitterly disillusioned with the failure of their jefe, the JAP went over en masse to the fascist party. In the following months and in the volatile situation that arose, Gil-Robles was well aware that a coup was being prepared. Despite his later insistence that he had no part in the destruction of the Republic, the CEDA leader was kept informed of each stage of the plot, members of his party played important liaison roles, facilitating contact between military and civilian plotters. Gil-Robles himself authorized the transfer of 500,000 pesetas of CEDA electoral funds to General Emilio Mola
Emilio Mola
Emilio Mola y Vidal, 1st Duke of Mola, Grandee of Spain was a Spanish Nationalist commander during the Spanish Civil War. He is best-known for having coined the term "fifth column".-Early life:...

's military insurgents.

Whatever his politics were, with the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, Gil-Robles was unwilling to struggle with Franco for power and in April 1937 announced the dissolution of CEDA. After the Civil War he went into exile. Abroad he made negotiations with monarchists to try to arrive at a common strategy for taking power in Spain. In 1968 he was named university professor of the University of Oviedo
University of Oviedo
The University of Oviedo is a public university in Asturias . It's the only university in the region. It has three campus and research centres, located in Oviedo, Gijón and Mieres.-History:...

 and published his book No fue posible la paz. He was a member of the International Tribunal at the Hague. At the death of Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

, and at the end of his regime, Gil-Robles became one of the leaders of Spanish Christian Democracy, a party which did not fare well in the elections of June 15, 1977.
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