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Juan Negrín

Juan Negrín

Prime Minister of Spain
Juan Negrín
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Prime Minister of Spain
Was Politician Educator
From Spain
Type Academia Politics
Gender male
Birth 3 February 1892, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas Province, Canary Islands, Spain
Death 12 November 1956, Paris, Île-de-France, France (aged 64 years)
Politics Spanish Socialist Workers' Party
Juan Negrín
The details


Juan Negrín y López (Spanish pronunciation: [xwan neˈɣɾin]; 3 February 1892 – 12 November 1956) was a Spanish politician and physician. He was a leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and served as finance minister. He was the last Loyalist premier of Spain (1937–39), and presided over the defeat of the Republican forces by the Nationalists under General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. He died in exile in Paris, France.

Early years

Born in Las Palmas, Negrín came from a religious middle-class family. He was a pupil of the Nobel Prize of Medicine winner, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, qualified as a doctor in Germany and later he became a professor of physiology at the Complutense University of Madrid at the age of 29. Negrín spoke English, French, German and a little Russian, besides his native Spanish. On 21 July 1914 he married María Fidelman Brodsky. They had three sons, Juan, Rómulo and Miguel.

Monument in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Negrín joined the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) in 1929. He belonged to the Indalecio Prieto faction, opposed to that led by Francisco Largo Caballero, left-wing extremists. In 1931 he was elected deputy for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. Negrín helped many people to escape from the revolutionary checas in July and August 1936. His personal courage in pursuit of this was attested to by a friend who recounted that he "made every effort, at considerable risk to himself... to save people in Madrid." As a result, Negrin was nearly killed by anarchists but was saved by the intervention of finance ministry security staff.

Minister of Finance

He was named Minister of Finance in September 1936 in the government of Francisco Largo Caballero. As the finance minister, he built up the carabineros (custom guards), a force of 20,000 men which was later nicknamed the "Hundred Thousand Sons of Negrín" (an allusion to the Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis), in order to recover the control of the French frontier posts, which had been seized by the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT). He took the controversial decision to transfer the Spanish gold reserves to the Soviet Union in return for arms to continue the war (October 1936). Worth $500 million at the time (another $240 million had been sent to France in July), critics argued that this action put the Republican government under the control of Joseph Stalin.

Prime minister

On 17 May 1937, Manuel Azaña (after Largo was dismissed) named Negrín the 135th Prime Minister of Spain. Negrín's government included Indalecio Prieto named minister of War, Navy and Air, Julián Zugazagoitia as minister of interior (both socialists), the communists Jesús Hernández Tomás as minister of education and Vicente Uribe as minister of agriculture, the republicans José Giral as foreign minister and Bernardo Giner de los Ríos as public works minister, the Basque Manuel Irujo as minister of justice and the Catalan Nationalist Jaume Aiguader as minister of labour.


His main objectives were to fortify the central government, to reorganize and fortify the Republican army and to impose the law and order in the Republican-held area, against largely independent armed militias of the labor unions (CNT) and parties, thus curtailing the revolution inside the Republic. He also wanted to break the international isolation of the Republic in order to get the arms embargo lifted, and from 1938 to search an international mediation in order to finish the war. He also wished to normalize the position of the Catholic Church inside the Republic. All this was intended to connect the Spanish conflict with World War II, which he believed to be imminent, although the Munich Agreement definitively made all hope of outside aid vanish.

Military situation

On the military level, along 1937 he launched a series of offensives in June (Huesca & Segovia), July, Brunete and August, Belchite, in order to halt the Nationalist offensive in the North, but all failed and by October the Nationalists had occupied all of the Northern territory. Beginning December, he launched an offensive in order to free Teruel, but by February his Republican Army had to retreat after suffering heavy losses and the Nationalists launched a counter-offensive in Aragon, cutting in half the Republican-held zone. On July 1938 Negrín launched an offensive in order to cross the Ebro River and reconnect the two Republican-held zones. The Republican army managed to cross the Ebro, but by November had to retire after it suffered heavy casualties and lost most of its material. Finally, on February 1939, he ordered to launch an offensive in Extremadura to stop the Nationalists advancement in their offensive against Catalonia, but was halted after a few days and Catalonia fell.

PCE's support

Although Negrín had always been a centrist in the PSOE, he maintained links with the Spanish Communist Party (PCE), whose policies at that point were in favor of a Popular Front alignment. Negrín relied on the Communists to curtail the Anarchist wing of the Spanish Left, and was forced to rely on the Soviet Union, then led by Joseph Stalin, for weapons and armament, because of the arms embargo imposed by the Non-Intervention Committee.

Peace negotiations

The military situation of the Spanish Republic deteriorated steadily under Negrín's government, largely because of the superior quality of the opposing generals and officers many of whom were veterans of the Rif War, and by 1938 the overwhelming advantage of the Nationalists in terms of men (20%), aircraft and artillery provided by Germany and Italy. On May 1938, Negrín issued the "Thirteen Points" (Trece Puntos), a program for peace negotiations, including absolute independence of Spain, liberty of conscience, protection of the regional liberties, universal suffrage, an amnesty for all Spaniards and agrarian reform, but Franco rejected any peace deal. Before the fall of Catalonia he proposed, in the meeting of the Cortes in Figueres, capitulation with the sole condition of respecting the lives of the vanquished and the holding of a plebiscite so the Spanish people could decide the form of government, but Franco rejected the new peace deal. On 9 February 1939, he moved to the Central Zone (30% of the Spanish territory) with the intention of defending the remaining territory of the republic until the start of the general European conflict, and organize the evacuation of those most at risk. Negrín thought that there was no other course but resistance, because the Nationalists rejected to negotiate any peace deal.

To fight on because there was no other choice, even if winning was not possible, then to salvage what we could – and at the very end our self respect... Why go on resisting? Quite simply because we knew what capitulacion would mean.

Casado's coup

Commemorative plaque, 78 bis, avenue Henri-Martin, 16th arr., Paris

However, Colonel Segismundo Casado, joined by José Miaja, Julian Besteiro (the leader of the PSOE right-wing faction) and Cipriano Mera, tired of fighting, which they regarded then as hopeless. Seeking better surrender terms, they seized power in Madrid on 5 March 1939, created the National Defence Council (Consejo Nacional de Defensa), and deposed Negrín. On March 6, Negrín fled to France. Although the troops led by the PCE rejected the coup on Madrid they were defeated by Cipriano Mera's troops. The Junta tried to negotiate a peace deal with the nationalists, but Franco only accepted an unconditional surrender of the Republic. Finally all the members of the Junta (except Besteiro) fled, and by 31 of March 1939 the Nationalists seized all the Spanish territory.

Exile and death

Unlike Spanish President Manuel Azaña, Negrín remained in Spain until the final collapse of the Republican front and his fall from office in March 1939. He organized the S.E.R.E. (Servicio de Evacuación de Refugiados Españoles) to help Republican exiles. He remained prime minister of the Spanish Republican government in Exile between 1939 and 1945 (although ignored by most of the exiled political forces) and died in Paris in 1956.


First Negrín cabinet: 17 May 1937 – 5 April 1938

Ministry Officeholder Party
Prime Minister. Finance and Economy Juan Negrín López Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
State José Giral Republican Left (IR)
Justice Manuel de Irujo Ollo Basque Nationalist Party (PNV)
Mariano Ansó Zunzarren (from 10 December 1937) Republican Left (IR)
National Defense Indalecio Prieto Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
Interior Julián Zugazagoitia Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
Public Education and Health' Jesús Hernández Tomás Communist Party of Spain (PCE)
Public Works and Communications Bernardo Giner de los Ríos Republican Union (UR)
Labor and Social Assistance Jaume Aiguader Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC)
José Moix Regás (from 18 August 1937) Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSUC)
Agriculture Vicente Uribe Communist Party of Spain (PCE)

Second Negrín Cabinet: 5 April 1938 – 6 March 1939

Ministry Officeholder Party
Prime Minister, National Defense Juan Negrín López Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
State' Julio Álvarez del Vayo Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
Interior Paulino Gómez Sáenz Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
Justice Ramón González Peña Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
Agriculture Vicente Uribe Communist Party of Spain (PCE)
Public Education and Health Segundo Blanco Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT)
Finance and Economy Francisco Méndez Aspe Republican Left (IR)
Public Works Antonio Velao Oñate Republican Left (IR)
Communications and Transport Bernardo Giner de los Ríos Republican Union (UR)
Labor and Social Assistance Jaume Aiguader Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC)
Without portfolio José Giral Republican Left (IR)
Without portfolio Manuel de Irujo Ollo Basque Nationalist Party (PNV)
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