Francisco Largo Caballero (October 15, 1869 -March 23, 1946) was a Spanish politician and trade unionist. He was one of the historic leaders of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and of the Workers' General Union (UGT).
Born in Madrid, as a young man he made his living stuccoing walls. He participated in a construction workers strike in 1890 and joined the PSOE in 1894. Upon the death in 1925 of party founder Pablo Iglesias, he succeeded him as head of the party and of the UGT.
Moderate in his positions at the beginning of his political life, he advocated maintaining a degree of UGT cooperation with the dictatorial government of General Miguel Primo de Rivera, which permitted the union to continue functioning under his military dictatorship (that lasted from 1923 to 1930). This was the start of his political conflict with Indalecio Prieto, who opposed all collaboration with the dictatorial regime.
He was Minister of Labor Relations between 1931 and 1933, in the first governments of the Second Spanish Republic, headed by Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, and in that of his successor Manuel Azaña. He enjoyed great popularity among the masses of workers, who saw their own austere existences reflected in his way of life .
In the elections of November 19, 1933, the right-wing Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right (CEDA) won power in Spain. The government nominally led by the centrist radical Alejandro Lerroux was dependent on CEDA's parliamentary support. Responding to this reversal of fortune, Largo abandoned his moderate positions, began to talk of "socialist revolution", and became the leader of the left (Marxist and revolutionary) wing of the UGT and the PSOE. In early October 1934, after three CEDA ministers entered the government, he was one of the leaders of the failed armed rising of workers (mainly in Asturias)which was forcefully put down by the CEDA-dominated government.
He defended the pact of alliance with the other workers' political parties and trade unions, such as the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and the anarchist trade union, the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT). Once again, this placed him at odds with Prieto. After the Popular Front won the elections in February 1936, president Manuel Azaña proposed Prieto to join the government, but Largo blocked these attempts of collaboration between PSOE and the Republican government. Largo despised the fears of a coup, and predicted that, were it to happen, a general strike would defeat it, opening the door to the workers' revolution.
In the event, the coup attempt by the colonial army and the right came on July 17, 1936. While not immediately successful, it devolved into the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), in which the republic was ultimately defeated.
On September 4, 1936, with the country in a state of civil war, he was designated Prime Minister and Minister of War. His particular focus, besides the obvious matter of the conducting the war itself, was to maintain military discipline and governmental authority within the Republican zone. Nonetheless, the May 3–8, 1937 revolt in Barcelona by the oppositional communist Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) and the anarchist CNT provided the occasion for the PCE to provoke a governmental crisis, forcing his resignation on May 17, leading to the Popular Front government of doctor Juan Negrín, also a member of the PSOE, but closer to the Communists.
Upon the defeat of the Republic in 1939, he fled to France. Arrested during the German occupation of France, he spent most of World War II imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, until the liberation of the camps at the end of the war. He died in exile in Paris in 1946; his remains were returned to Madrid in 1978.
His son, Francisco Largo Calvo, was imprisoned by the Francoists at the start of the Spanish Civil War and spent the entire war behind bars under the threat of execution . Largo Calvo fled Spain to Mexico in 1949 where he resided until his death in 2001.