the forgotten leftist origin of the Law of Lazy and thugs

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Updated:08/06/2020 23: 02h

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Two of the elements most linked to the Franco period in the popular imagination, with permission of the six hundred and of the speeches in the Plaza de Oriente, are undoubtedly the ration card, which gave access to certain food provided by the State during the postwar period, and the Lazy and Malefactor Law, which legally supported the persecution of homosexuals and other groups that the regime considered “immoral.” However, what few remember is that none of these issues were born with the dictatorship, but in republican times, specifically from the left, although later the regime adapted them to their needs.

The first time it was implanted a ration card or card in Spain It was on March 5, 1937 through a government decree headed by the socialist Francisco Largo Caballero. The decree, whose validity was subject to the areas controlled by the republican side, dictated in its first article: “The family ration card is created in all the municipalities of loyal Spain.”

Long Knight he was forced to establish this means to feed the population due to the shortage of supplies that hit the area controlled by the Second Republic, which was densely populated and industrialized to a greater extent than that of its enemy. For its part, the Francoist forces dominated food-producing areas and relatively few populations since the beginning of the Civil War.

Ration cards

Despite republican measures to alleviate hunger, from 1938 the food problem in the republican zone reached dramatic hues and contributed to the drop in morale on its fronts. According to the memoirs of Antonio Cordon, undersecretary of the republican army, the food supply system was torpedoed by bureaucratic issues and, at least in the Barcelona area, at the end of the war, large consignments of food were found by the Francoists, conveniently stored.

On the contrary, in the Francoist zone, supplies to the population could be easily regulated and even a surplus for exports was allowed. Franco’s aviation did not fail to recall the abundance of food that his side had through several bombings of white bread on Madrid, Barcelona and Alicante.

Oil sale with post-war supply cards.
Oil sale with post-war supply cards.

Paradoxically, once the Civil War ended Francisco Franco It was necessary to resort to these ration card systems before the shortage that occurred during the postwar period. By a ministerial order of May 14, 1939, a rationing regime was established in Spain for basic foodstuffs and basic necessities. Two ration cards were created, one for meat and the other for other food products, and the population was divided into several groups according to their needs. Rationing officially lasted until May 1952, when it disappeared for food products.

By a ministerial order of May 14, 1939, a rationing regime was established in Spain for basic foodstuffs and basic necessities.

Rationing was not, however, a Spanish exception. Along the the Second World War, different rationing systems were established throughout Europe, from Germany to Great Britain and France. Even neutral countries such as Ireland, Sweden, Portugal or Switzerland also resorted to the booklets, which were sometimes limited to specific products that, due to their strategic value or lack, had to be seized and distributed exclusively by the State.

Lazy and rogue law

The Lazy and Malicious Law, approved on August 4, 1933, constituted a penal reform by the Second Republic regarding the treatment of homeless people, nomads, pimps and any other individual that could be considered by the authorities as antisocial. The idea was to create a general law, designed for the “prevention of crime”, to replace the administrative powers that civil governors had to arrest those subjects “of dubious morals” and to “suppress acts contrary to religion, to morality or public decency, imposing fines or, in default of payment, ordering the supplementary arrest of the blasphemer, immoral or indecent ».

The powers of the civil governors gave rise to all kinds of arbitrariness, so the left forces of the Second Republic considered the need to establish a single criterion. The drafting of the new law was carried out by the left-wing criminal Mariano Ruíz-Funes and the member of the socialist party Luis Jiménez de Asúa. The bill was passed in a mostly left-wing parliament, but it also had the support of conservative and center parties, which introduced a large number of amendments that, in Asúa’s words, made the final text “harder, less flexible, more casuistic, incongruous and much less elegant than the initial project ”.

Costumbrista scene from Madrid in 1934
Costumbrista scene from Madrid in 1934 – Albero and Segovia

Republican law punished people more for their looks or behavior than for concrete criminal acts. In the absence of penalties linked to specific crimes, the legal text established a series of measures to detain and internment those arrested. For this purpose, internment camps were created, also called “concentration camps”, where they remained until the authorities considered that they had reformed and were no longer dangerous to society.

The Vagos y Maleantes Act was one of the few laws of the Second Republic that was not repealed by the Franco regime, moreover, in 1954 it was modified to expressly include the persecution of homosexuality. According to this modification, homosexuals subjected to this security measure had to be interned in special institutions and “in any case with absolute separation from others”.

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