Spain under Franco

Spain under Franco

Francisco Franco became the undisputed dictator of Spain when he defeated the Republican government in the Spanish Civil War. Franco declared an official end of hostilities on April 1 1939, and reworked the name of the republic into the “Spanish State,” a new moniker attempting to distinguish the new regime from both the monarchy and the republic. He ruled Spain until he died on November 20, 1975.

in the "Movimiento Nacional". In April 1937, the "Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista" ("Spanish Traditionalist Phalanx of the Assemblies of National-Syndicalist Offensive", FET y de las JONS) was created from a merger of the Carlist traditionalists with the "Falange Española de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista", which itself was issued of a merger of José Antonio Primo de Rivera's "Falange Española" with the national-syndicalist "Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista" (JONS).

After Franco's victory in 1939, the FET-JONS became the sole legal party in Spain, and then, in 1949, asserted itself as the main component of the "Movimiento Nacional". The FET-JONS were however relatively heterogeneous, and not an ideological monolith like the Italian National Fascist Party, the German NSDAP or even the ruling block under Antonio Salazar of Portugal Fact|date=September 2007.

Although Franco and Spain under his rule adopted some trappings of fascism, he, and Spain under his rule, are not generally considered to be fascist; among the distinctions, fascism entails a revolutionary aim to transform society, where Franco and Franco's Spain did not seek to do so, and, to the contrary, although authoritarian, were conservative and traditional. [Laqueur, Walter [ Fascism: Past, Present, Future] p. 13 1996 Oxford University Press] ] [ De Menses, Filipe Ribeiro [ Franco and the Spanish Civil War] , p. 87, Routledge] [Gilmour, David, [ The Transformation of Spain: From Franco to the Constitutional Monarchy] , p. 7 1985 Quartet Books] Payne, Stanley [ Fascism in Spain, 1923-1977] , p. 476 1999 Univ. of Wisconsin Press] [Payne, Stanley [ Fascism in Spain, 1923-1977] , p. 347, 476 1999 Univ. of Wisconsin Press] Stanley Payne, the preeminent scholar on fascism and Spain notes: "scarcely any of the serious historians and analysts of Franco consider the generalissimo to be a core fascist." [Laqueur, Walter [ Fascism: Past, Present, Future] , p. 13, 1997 Oxford University Press US] The consistent points in Franco's long rule included above all authoritarianism, nationalism and anti-Freemasonry; some authors also quote integralism. [ [] ] All in all, Franco's regime showed a frontal rejection of Communism, Socialism and Anarchism, three ideologies that were widespread in Spain with generous support from abroad, especially from the Soviet Union.

In 1940, the "Vertical Trade Union" was created; it was inspired by the ideas of José Antonio Primo de RiveraFact|date=May 2008, who thought that class struggle would be ended by grouping together workers and owners according to corporative principles. It was the only legal trade union, and was under government control. Other trade unions were forbidden and strongly repressed along political parties outside the "Movimiento Nacional".

All cultural activities were subject to censorship, and many were plainly forbidden on various grounds (political or moral). Despite Franco being himself Galician, in accordance with his nationalist principles, only Spanish was recognized as an official language of the country, although millions of the country's citizens also had other native languages, such as Catalan, Basque or Galician. The use of these languages was discouraged, and most public uses were forbidden. This cultural policy was initially very strict, but relaxed with time, most notably after 1960. Still, even after 1960, all government, notarial, legal and commercial documents were drawn up exclusively in Spanish and any written in other languages were deemed null and void.

Although a self-proclaimed monarchist, Franco had no particular desire for a kingFact|date=May 2008, due to his strained relations with the legitimate heir of the Crown, Don Juan de Borbón. Therefore, he left the throne vacant, with himself as de facto regent. In 1947 Franco proclaimed Spain a monarchy, through the "Ley de Sucesión en la Jefatura del Estado" act, but did not designate a monarch. Instead, he set the basis for his succession. This gesture was largely done to appease monarchist factions within the Movimiento. He wore the uniform of a captain general (a rank traditionally reserved for the King), resided in the royal Pardo Palace, appropriated the kingly privilege of walking beneath a canopy, and his portrait appeared on most Spanish coins. Indeed, although his formal titles were Jefe del Estado (Head of State) and "Generalísimo de los Ejércitos Españoles" (Generalissimo of the Spanish Armed Forces), he was referred to as "Caudillo de España por la gracia de Dios," (by the grace of God, the Leader of Spain). "Por la Gracia de Dios" is a technical, legal formulation which states sovereign dignity in absolute monarchies, and had only been used by monarchs before Franco used it himself.

World War II years (1939-1945)

In September 1939, World War II broke out in Europe. After the collapse of France in June 1940, Spain adopted a pro-Axis non-belligerency stance (for example, he offered Spanish naval facilities to German ships). Adolf Hitler met Franco in Hendaye, France (October 23, 1940), to discuss the Spanish entry in the war joining the Axis. Franco's demands (food, military equipment, Gibraltar, French North Africa, etc.) proved too much and no agreement was reached. Contributing to the disagreement was an ongoing dispute over German mining rights in Spain. Some historians argue that Franco made demands that he knew Hitler would not accede to in order to stay out of the war. Other historians argue that he simply had nothing to offer the Germans. Franco did send volunteer troops to fight communism joining the Axis armies on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union. The unit name was the División Azul, or Blue Division, after the Falange's party color, whose members were known as 'blueshirts'. At the same time, Spanish diplomats in the Axis countries actively protected Jews and Spain itself became a safe haven for Jewish refugees, as Franco refused to implement anti-Semitic laws, as demanded by the Axis. Franco returned to complete neutrality in 1943, when the tide of the war had turned decisively against Germany.

Isolation (1945-1953)

After the war, the Allies used Spain's ties to the Axis powers to keep it from joining the United Nations. Franco's government was seen, especially by Soviet countries but also by the Western allies, to be a remnant of the central European fascist regimes. Under these circumstances, a UN resolution condemning Franco's government followed. The resolution encouraged countries to remove their ambassadors in Spain, and established the basis for measures against Spain if the government remained authoritarian. Only Portugal and a few Latin-American countries, like Juan Perón's Argentina, refused to comply with this advice.

The consequence of all of this was the establishment of an embargo against the Francoist regime in 1946 — including the closure of the French border — with very little success, as it boosted support for the regime. The isolation was represented by Franco's regime as a modern version of the Black Legend, with the most fanatical partisans claiming it was a machination of Jews and Freemasons against Catholic Spain. This helped to rally massive popular support for the regime such as the massive 1946 demonstration held in Madrid.

In 1947, the president of Argentina, Juan Perón, ignored the UN embargo and sent his wife Eva Duarte de Perón with much needed food supplies. The Spaniards, and Franco himself, heartily welcomed Evita.

After World War II, the Spanish economy was still in disarray. Rationing cards were still used as late as 1952. War and economic isolation prompted the regime to move towards autarky, a movement warmly welcomed by Falangists. The tenets of the economy were: reduction of imports, self-sufficiency, state-controlled production and commercialization of first order goods, state-funded industry and construction of infrastructure — heavily damaged during the Civil War –— through the use of precarious means.

The end of isolation (1953-1959)

The increased tensions between the U.S. and the USSR in the 1950s, led the American government to search for new allies in Europe. Franco was a proclaimed anti-Communist, which made him a potential ally in the Cold War.

Spain's international ostracism was finally broken in 1953 when Spain and the United States signed the Pact of Madrid in a series of agreements under which Spain received economic assistance in the form of grants and loans in return for hosting American military bases (such as Naval Station Rota, opened in 1955). The same year, the Spanish government signed the "Concordat" with the Vatican.

In 1955, Spanish wealth approached the pre-Civil War levels of 1935, leaving behind the disasters of the war and the struggle of isolation Fact|date=September 2007. Spain was admitted to the UN in 1955 and to the World Bank in 1958. [ [,,contentMDK:20811575~menuPK:2205709~pagePK:141137~piPK:141127~theSitePK:292395,00.html The World Bank. Spain. History] ] Other Western European countries, including Italy, were from that point eager to restore good contacts with Francoist Spain.

Spain's gradual readmission to the international fold was given visible form with the visit of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in December 1959. [ [ Dwight D. Eisenhower ] ]

The "Desarrollo", the Spanish Miracle (1959-1973)

The Spanish Miracle ("Desarrollo") was the name given to the Spanish economic boom between 1959 and 1973. It is seen by some as the most remarkable positive legacy of the regime. During this period, Spain largely surpassed the per capita income that differentiates developed from underdeveloped countries and induced the development of a dominant middle class which was instrumental to the future establishment of democracy.

The boom was bolstered by economic reforms promoted by the so-called "technocrats", appointed by Franco, who put in place neo-liberal development policies from the International Monetary Fund. The technocrats were a new breed of economists who replaced the old, prone to isolationism, Falangist guard.

1963 Spanish peseta coin with the image of Francisco Franco,"Caudillo de España, por la gracia de Dios"]

The implementation of these policies took the form of development plans ("planes de Desarrollo") and it was largely a success: Spain enjoyed the second highest growth rate in the world, just after Japan, and became the ninth largest economy in the world, just after Canada. Spain joined the industrialized world, leaving behind the poverty and endemic underdevelopment it had experienced since the loss of the Spanish Empire in the 19th century.

Although the economic growth produced noticeable improvements in Spanish living standards and the development of a middle class, Spain remained less economically advanced relative to the rest of Western Europe (with the exception of Portugal, Greece and Ireland). At the heyday of the Miracle, 1974, Spanish income per capita peaked at 79 percent of the Western European average, only to be reached again 25 years later, in 1999.

The 14 years of recovery led to an increase in (often unplanned) building on the periphery of the main Spanish cities to accommodate the new class of industrial workers brought by rural exodus, similar to the French "banlieue".

The icon of the "Desarrollo" was the SEAT 600 (a license-built Italian Fiat 600) the first car for many Spanish working class families, produced by the Spanish factory SEAT or Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo.

Franco's last years (1973-1975)

The 1973 oil crisis severely affected Spain, and brought the economic growth to a halt. This caused a new wave of strikes (nominally illegal at the time).

Franco's declining health gave more power to Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, but he was assassinated by ETA in 1973. Carlos Arias Navarro took over as President of the Spanish Government, and tried to introduce some reforms to the decaying regime, but he struggled between the two factions of the regime, the "búnker" (far-right) and the "aperturists" who promoted transition to Democracy.

But there was no way back to the old regime: Spain was not the same as in post-Civil War times and the model for the now wealthy Spaniards was the prosperous Western Europe, not the impoverished post-war Falangist Spain. Wealthy West Germany became a role model with which Spaniards identified themselvesFact|date=June 2008, as West Germans increasingly went on vacations to the Spanish beaches. Besides this, a considerable number of Spanish men had worked in Western Europe in the previous years as cheap labour forces, thereby encountering the economic growth and wealth of western Europeans.

Led by Cardinal Tarancón and hand in hand with the reforms of the Vatican Council II, the Spanish Roman Catholic church had changed deeply by the last years of the Franco regime and could not be counted as supporting it anymore.

In 1974 Franco fell ill, and Juan Carlos took over as Head of State. Franco soon recovered, but one year later fell ill once again, and after a long illness, Franco died on November 20, 1975, at the age of 82—the same date as the death of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Falange. It is suspected that the doctors were ordered to keep him barely alive by artificial means until this symbolic date of the far-right.Fact|date=September 2007 The historian Ricardo de la Cierva says that on the 19th around 6 p.m. he was told that Franco had already died.

After Franco's death, the interim government decided to bury him at Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos, a colossal memorial to all the casualties of the Spanish Civil War, although it was conceived by Franco and has a distinctly nationalist tone.


In Spain and abroad, the legacy of Franco remains controversial. In Germany a squadron named after Werner Mölders has been renamed, because as a pilot he led the escorting units in the bombing of Guernica. As recently as 2006, the BBC reported that Maciej Giertych, a MEP of the far-right League of Polish Families, had expressed admiration for Franco's stature who allegedly "guaranteed the maintenance of traditional values in Europe." [ [ Europe diary: Franco and Finland] , BBC News, 6 July 2006 en icon]

This, however, is not the most shared opinion. Several statues of Franco and other public Francoist symbols have been removed, with the last statue in Madrid coming down in 2005. [ [ Madrid removes last Franco statue] , BBC News, 17 March 2005 en icon] Additionally, the Permanent Commission of the European Parliament "firmly" condemned in a resolution unanimously adopted in March 2006 the "multiple and serious violations" of human rights committed in Spain under the Francoist regime from 1939 to 1975. [ Primera condena al régimen de Franco en un recinto internacional] , EFE, "El Mundo", 17 March 2006 es icon] [ Von Martyna Czarnowska, [ Almunia, Joaquin: EU-Kommission (4): Ein halbes Jahr Vorsprung] , "Weiner Zeitung", 17 February 2005 (article in German language). Accessed 26 August 2006.] The resolution was at the initiative of the MEP Leo Brincat and of the historian Luis María de Puig, and is the first international official condemnation of the repression enacted by Franco's regime. The resolution also urged to provide public access to historians (professional and amateurs) to the various archives of the Francoist regime, including those of the "Fundación Francisco Franco" which, as well as other Francoist archives, remain as of 2006 inaccessible to the public. Furthermore, it urged the Spanish authorities to set up an underground exhibition in the Valle de los Caídos monument, in order to explain the "terrible" conditions in which it was built. Finally, it proposes the construction of monuments to commemorate Franco's victims in Madrid and other important cities.

In Spain, a commission to repair the dignity and restitute the memory of the victims of Francoism ("Comisión para reparar la dignidad y restituir la memoria de las víctimas del franquismo") was approved in the summer of 2004, and is directed by the vice-president María Teresa Fernández de la Vega.

Recently the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARHM) initiated a systematic search for mass graves of people executed during Franco's regime, which has been supported since the PSOE's victory during the 2004 elections by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's government. A "Ley de la memoria histórica de España" (Law on the Historical Memory of Spain) was passed in 2007. [ cite web|url= |title=Bones of Contention |accessdate=2008-10-06 |date=2008-09-27 |work=The Economist |archiveurl= |archivedate=2008-10-06 ] The law is supposed to enforce an official recognition of the crimes committed against civilians during the Francoist rule and organize under state supervision the search for mass graves.


Further reading

* Payne, S. (1987). "The Franco regime." 1st ed. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
* Luis Suárez Fernández. "Franco". Editorial Ariel.

See also

* Yves Guérin-Sérac, founder of the French OAS latter engaged by Franco

External links

* [ Text of Franco's Fundamental Laws] , the Spanish Constitution under Franco. es icon;Video
* [ Documentary 52': When Franco died we were 30]

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