José Calvo Sotelo : Biography

José Calvo Sotelo

Jose Calvo Sotelo was born in Spain in 1893. He grew up in Saragossa where he became active in politics and eventually became secretary to the conservative politician Antonio Maura.

When Miguel Primo de Rivera became military dictator of Spain he appointed Calvo Sotelo as his finance minister. When Primo de Rivera fell from power, Calvo Sotelo was forced to go into exile.

Calvo Sotelo was able to return home after he was amnestied in 1934. He soon became one of the most important right-wing political figures in the country. Influenced by the growth of fascism in Germany and Italy, Calvo Sotelo put forward totalitarian answers to Spain's problems.

In 1935 Calvo Sotelo unsuccessfully tried to gain control of the Falange Española from José Antonio Primo de Rivera. After the victory of the Popular Front in February 1936, Calvo Sotelo was a harsh critic of the new government.

On 12th July, 1936, José Castillo a lieutenant in the Assault Guards and an active member of the Socialist Party was murdered by a Falangist gang in Madrid. The following day a group of Castillo's friends took revenge by murdering Jose Calvo Sotelo. This event resulted in a military uprising led by Emilio Mola, Francisco Franco and José Sanjurjo and heralded the start of the Spanish Civil War.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Manchester Guardian (14th July, 1936)

The mutilated body of Senor Calvo Sotelo, the leader of the small Monarchist party, was found in the River Manzanares at Madrid today. The murder is believed to be in revenge for the murder last night of Lieutenant Jose de Castillo, a chief of police with anti-Fascist tendencies.

That murder in turn was announced as a reprisal for earlier murders by the other side. One of the worst of the series was the murder of Socialists as they were leaving their headquarters by Fascists waiting in a motor-car.

Senor Sotelo was considered by the Right and the Left as the only possible serious future leader of the Fascist party in Spain. He was a strong and clever man, aged about 42, a lawyer, an economist, and a member of the Cortes, and was Minister of Finance in the Government of Primo de Rivera.

In the Cortes he had been speaking strongly against political murders and against the leniency of the Government towards murders committed by the Left. He was arrested by the police this morning, and so his friends had considered

him safe from assassination, for the son of Primo de Rivera, the titular leader of the Fascists, whose life had also been threatened, has been safe in prison for some time.

(2) Manchester Guardian (15th July, 1936)

It is known definitely that the murder of Sotelo was carried out by members of the police force in revenge for the killing of Police Lieutenant de Castillo by Fascist gunmen on Sunday night. The man who is alleged to have been in charge of the 'execution squad' that murdered Senor Sotelo was a personal friend of the murdered policeman and had sworn to avenge him if he were killed.

Contrary to last night's announcement that four lieutenants and one captain of police had been arrested for the crime, the Government now states that no arrests have been made yet. Two Madrid evening papers of Conservative-Catholic tendencies have been suppressed indefinitely for printing uncensored reports of yesterday's murder.

(3) Luis Bolin, Spain, the Vital Years (1967)

Calvo Sotelo had been Finance Minister under Primo de Rivera, and his competence in the field of economics and administrative procedure was unique. He was as much at ease when balancing the budget as when drafting municipal and provincial statutes comparable to the best in any land. The Republic foolishly banished him from Spain. He settled down quietly in Paris, and for two years devoted himself intensely to the study of political science and its practice. Elected to the Cortes by an overwhelming vote in November 1933, he became leader of the right-wing opposition in Parliament, and the parliamentary immunity he supposedly enjoyed allowed him to attend meetings, make speeches and participate actively in the nation's political life.

I saw him repeatedly in Paris, and again when he returned to Madrid. At first dour and uncompromising, when one broke through his guard he unleashed his thoughts in a torrent of words - as a public speaker he could sweep his audience off its feet - and dazzled his listeners with the depth and clarity of his vision and the firmness of the grounds on which he based it. Calvo Sotelo was only forty-three, ten years older than Jose Antonio, when the Premier of a Popular Front Government had him taken from his wife and children and murdered at midnight in a street in Madrid.