Spanish political history is full of the strangest paradoxes. The Government responsible for keeping order at these elections and for the police terror that followed was that of Don Antonio Maura. Now Maura was a man of distinction and integrity - who in certain respects occupies a niche above all the other politicians of Alfonso's reign. His mere presence when he came into a room silenced people: although of Jewish origin (he was a chueta from the Balearic Islands) he was the only Spaniard whom the King did not address as tu. It is true that, even by Spanish standards, he was a reactionary. He was autocratic, clerical, opposed in his whole nature to compromise. <...> He was a Carlist who accepted the parliamentary system and the King. But he also believed that government can only exist with the consent of the governed. At the time of the Cuban war, he had strongly urged that the Cubans must be given home rule and now he saw that a certain measure of devolution must be offered to the Catalans. And Maura further believed in purifying the elections and destroying the caciques and thus restoring to political life the dignity and disinterestedness which, he believed, it had long ago possessed. His Government, therefore, when it took office in 1907, came in on a wind and faith in better things, very refreshing after the feebleness and disreputableness of the Liberal government. By the mere force of his personality, it was thought, Maura would overcome the old dragons of parliamentary corruption and sterility, settle the Catalan question and give the country pure standards of political life.
And then, to the surprise of everyone, he chose for his Home Secretary La Cierva, the most notorious of all the politicians of the period and a master in the arts of electoral falsification. In every subsequent Government of Maura's La Cierva was his right-hand man and the elections held under him were the most corrupt of the century. We shall come, when we deal with the Anarchists, to other cases in which the pure idealist is linked to and necessarily depends upon the man of base and violent instincts. For Maura's ideal of pure elections was based upon his belief that free elections would necessarily return him to the Cortes with a large majority. As there was not in fact the least prospect of their doing so, it became necessary, if Maurism was not to destroy itself, for some of his followers to forget their ideals and fake the returns.
The first year of La Cierva's rule at the Home Office saw therefore an extraordianary outburst of bomb throwing and assassination in Barcelona. Within a short space of time some two thousand bombs exploded in the streets. They were for the most part directed against the premises of Catalan factory owners belonging to the Lliga. But there were certain peculiar features about these crimes which aroused suspicion: no dynamiters were ever caught in the act and the workmen who were accused by the police spies could often prove alibis. In the end, after an English detective had been brought over to investigate, it was discovered that they were in nearly every case committed by a band of gangsters and agents provocateurs in the pay of the police. The leader, Juan Rull, and his chief accomplices were tried and convicted, but though the complicity of of the late Governor of Barcelona, the Duke of Bivona, was made clear, nothing was done to bring him to justice and the further ramifications of the affair were hushed up. But the bomb throwing went on and La Cierva, who had already introduced repressive measures, was able finally to suspend the Costitutional guarantees and to place the city under military law - a situation which was of course prejudicial to the Catalan Nationalists.
An impartial reader may well wonder whether such a story as this can be true: it was not at this time a normal practice for Conservative governments to pay gangsters to intimidate rich factory owners. But even such a writer as Senor Madariaga, anxious, as he always is, not to give a bad impression abroad of his country, fully admits it. It cannot be accidental, he says, that anarchist outbursts have invariably occurred at the moments when Catalan Nationalists have been giving signs of special vitality, thus leading to repressive measures which reacted chiefly against Catalan national interests. And he attributes the freedom from anarchist outrages during the Dictatorship to the fact that Catalan Nationalism was then suppressed. One might add that the outrages again ceassed when the Catalans were allowed to govern themselves.