In what ways did the institutional legacy of the Franco regime shape Spain’s transition to democracy?In less than two decades Spain has rushed from dictatorship to democracy and from virtual world isolation to membership in the European Union. The actual transition (1973-1982) took place from the assasination of Carrero Blanco, heir to the regime, to the 1982 democratic elections (3rd after Franco’s death) when the Socialists won by a wide margin. The transition may have been relatively peaceful, but was not without its formidable challenges. Spain existed under the authoritarian rule of Francisco Franco for thirty-nine years. Throughout this period the Francoist ideology was based on the three pillars of the regime’: the Nationalist Army, the Falange (the single party government) and the Church. In addition, the mass media also played an important role in the dictatorship and the transition to democracy. The Spanish regime, under the directive of General Franco operated under a fascist doctrine, adamantly rejecting the principles of democracy. Upon Franco’s death he was no longer able to protect and promote the values of national unity, anti-communism, and Catholicism. He could no longer stand in the way of a nation ready to turn to a democratic government, society, and culture. Although Franco’s death on November 20th, 1975 precipitated a nominal shift to democracy, the transition, shaped by the institutional legacy left behind by the Franco regime, actually began much earlier. Franco was the Caudillo of Spain for nearly forty years. From the close of the Civil War in 1939 (Franco was Chief of the Government of the Spanish State since September 1936) up until his death in 1975, General Franco was the authoritarian ruler in Spain. Franco was the last of the European dictators still alive from the inter-war period. The Francoist constitution, the Leyes Fundamentales, was supposed to make possible the institutionalization of the regime and ensure its continuity after Franco’s death, Franco counted on the army to guarantee the established legality and constitutionality of the regime. Over time, it appeared as though the army had internalized this role and would not allow the regime to fall. This, however, may have led to a search developing as to how to break the regime within the parameters of the Constitution so that the military would not get involved. This, in the end, is what happened. The transition to democracy took place within the boundary’s of the law. Francoism was based on the coalition of forces that had gained victory during the civil war. Franco divided the functions of the state among various families of the regime. This, all in an attempt to keep the regime strong and prevent its collapse. More specifically, Franco believed that balancing the families (Catholics, monarchists, soldiers, clergymen, Falangists, and technocrats) against one another within his government would decrease the possibilities of a coup or uprising occurring to oust him from power. The families were formally united in the single party known as the Movimiento, in reality, however, they were locked in rivalry and would turn to Franco as arbiter. This was Franco’s plan and one of his greatest achievements. While Franco was alive only minimal changes were allowed; those that did not threaten the nature of the regime. The Spanish regime began by rejecting the principles of liberal democracy and adhering to the fascist teachings of the Falange. “The belief that democracy engendered chaos and national disunity was a central tenet of the regime’s educational and cultural policy.” “The regime later realized that it would be necesaryin the rapidly expanding global world to co-exist with democratic governments. New institutions were created to cover up the isolated figure of the dictator. With Franco becoming seriously ill in the summer of 1974, power was handed over to Juan Carlos, who was declared heir to the throne in 1969. Juan Carlos swore loyalty to Franco and the principles of the regime and promised that he would continue the legacy of Francoism after the ruler’s death. This as it turned our was one of Franco’s most serious political mistakes and may have been the deciding factor in the fall of the regime. Following his death in 1975, the political structure of Spain remained somewhat uncertain. While many institutions remained from the day’s of the regime, it was not sure how long they would last. The change in political structure was not without warning. While many people expected a change to occur in the near future, Franco’s death was not properly prepared for and people were unsure of what to do with Franco gone. At this time Carlos Arias Navarro was in office as prime minister following the assassination of Carrero Blanco in December of 1973. The government, under the control of Navarro was a failure both in the attempt at reform and to control the process of change. He held office until July 1976, when he resigned as Prime Minister. Adolfo Su rez Gonz lez took the role of Prime Minister following Navarro’s resignation. Su rez was seen as both the promoter of the continuation of Francoism as well as the chief promoter of the transition to democracy. Su rez’ government had a strategy of reform containing three main tasks: to solve the economic crisis, pass the proposed constitution, and find a solution to the regional problems facing Spain. The first two issues were solved through a series of negotiations among the major parties involved, then ratified by the Cortes (Parliament). The negotiating of the demands of the ruptura pactada (negotiated break) was the key to Su rez’ successful rule until the elections of 1977. He made strategic agreements with the right and left of government in the hope of keeping a settled atmosphere within the state. Specifically, he accepted several of the opposition’s demands including: the right to political parties, the granting of political amnesty and the call for free elections to a constituent assembly. The third issue was solved by granting Statutes of Autonomy to those regions that were in conflict; in the attempt to lower the widespread terrorism throughout the country. If the ETA did not destroy the prospects of democracy, democracy would have to destrooy the ETA. This was done through the granting of autonomy. While the ETA still had to be feared, it was not as great a threat as before. The goal and eventual achievement of the Su rez government was to establish democracy in Spain. He used the instruments left over from the dictatorship to dismantle the institutions of Francoism. He wanted to provide the Spanish people with the first opportunity to vote for their government in forty years. The goal of democracy was faced with three main problems before the path could be left clear for democratic reform. First, there was the opposition from the right and the left. Second, Su rez was unsure if the opposition, so openly critical of the government’s recent failures, obsessed with politics, would accept a democratic form of government to solve the worsening economic situation. The chief opposition to the new government was the Socialist Party. Under the leadership of Felipe Gonz lez the party held it’s first Congress in roughly forty years. A decision was arrived at to accept the monarchy, as long as it was democratic. Thirdly, unless the Communist party was legalized, the democratic opposition, however much it disliked the Communists, they could not accept the proposed reforms. If, however, the Communists were legalized, the government could expect strong negative reaction from the right. The overcoming of these problems led to a clear path for the installation of democracy in Spain. The Uni n Centro Democr tico (UCD) was an electoral coalition formed in 1977 under the leadership of the Prime Minister Adolfo Su rez. It brought together the common interests of many Social Democrat and Liberal parties within Spain, along with a number of independent politicians. After the 1977 elections, it went on to become a unified political party of the new government. The UCD took steps to reduce the military threat to the transition imposed by the Francoist dictatorship. “Strategic promotions and an emphasis on fidelity to the monarch were intended to engender loyalty to the democratic regime.” The UCD wanted to establish civilian control over the military in as short a time as possible.
The military was the backbone of Franco’s power. He used the army to impose threats and repress opposition to the regime within Spain. The officers of the military, known as the Bunker, were taught the anti-democratic values of the regime. They “upheld the Civil War mentality of victors and vanquished, of hierarchy, authority, and discipline, patriotism, and fatherland.” The military repressed political action against the regime. The dictatorship and the military had a poor relationship during the rule of Franco because of low pay and old equipment. To compensate, the government provided them with stores, schools, hospitals, and other general social services. The effect of this compensation was two fold. On one hand, this compensation increased the military’s standing in society, its respect and honour. On the other hand, it increased the military’s dependence on the regime. One of the most disturbing legacies left over from Francoism is that of terrorism, stemming from the regionalism issue. ETA terrorism was on the rise during the middle and late 1970’s and the Bunker was convinced that the UCD government was failing to protect the Spanish state. They therefore began to plot against the transition to democracy. The military’s attitude toward democracy and its important role in Spanish politics (because of what it was taught), severely threatened the transition process and gave birth to a series of proposals for reform within government; all of course within the framework of the “Francoist legality”.The Second Republic (1931-1936) ordered the separation of church and state while they controlled politics in Spain. At the time, the church was very anti-democratic. When Franco gained control following the Civil War, he reversed the ways of the Second Republic and basically united the church and state. Since Franco was supported by many members of the hierarchy, he gave the church very strong political influence in his newly established government. While Franco held office, the church was exempt from taxation, free from censorship and received state funding. The church also controlled the education system in Spain, adding additional support to the principles of Francoism. Unlike the relationship with the military, the relationship between the church and the state changed a good deal during Franco’s rule. The later emergence of contacts between young catholics and leftist opponents to the dictatorship laid some of the foundation for the pluralist cooperation which was to mark Spain’s transition to democracy. Contrarily, the Opus Dei rose in political influence and played a key role in economic development. The Opus Dei was a brotherhood of Catholics aimed at influencing university and political life. The Opus Dei played a very important role in the fall of the regime. The ministers of the movement put tremendous pressure on General Franco at the end of the 1950’s to open up Spain’s borders to the international markets. Franco’s eventual giving in to the Opus Dei demands led to the economic boom of the 1960’s and the downfall of the regime as a result of newly established international influence and a booming economy. Up until the final years of the regime, the Opus Dei (often referred to as technocrats) continued to claim that they were without a political agenda. Even so, there were constant struggles between its members and members of the Falange over their influence in government affairs. Of great concern to the Catholic Church since the death of Franco and the start of democracy in Spain was a continued decline in religious practice. Even of greater concern, however, was the impact of the decline in those seeking profesional roles in Catholicism. The number of men wishing to join the priesthood had fallen, and an increase in the number of priests abandoning their vows had also occured. As a result of the declining clergy and the growing separation between Church and State, the ability of the Church to exercise influence over everyday life has been hindered. Another issue facing the Church was that of funding. Under Franco the Church was supported by the government, but in the post-Franco era, a goal of financial independence and separation between the Church and the State was desired. The transition to democracy was greatly facilitated by the Church’s exceptance of democracyThe mass media, while under strict government control during Franco’s rule, did help in the transition to democracy. In the early years of the regime, state control over the media (newspapers, magazines and television) controlled what could be said. The media acted as a puppet of the State in order to get its word across. If the media did not preach the doctrine of the state, it would deal solely with non political issues such as sporting events or social events. The greater independence of the media in the final years of Franco’s life, as well as in the period following his death, has led to a decline in relations between the government and the people. The Francoist government had control over the media and what it published or showed to viewers. Franco was able to use this power to promote Francoism and at the same time frustrate anything negative from being said about the existing government and the principles of the regime. He was able to prevent the use of the media to support another form of government or political party. After Franco’s death censorship of the media declined and items against the regime and in support of political change were published more freely and often. This newly published material helped to gain the support of the people of Spain for a transition to democracy. The past three decades in Spain have experienced unprecedented economic growth as well as dramatic political transformation. This rapid economic growth, due to the policies of Franco to increase foreign investment and promote industrialization within Spain, altered the social structure and undermined the basis of Francoist support. The inner contradictions of the regime, the foundation of Francoist rule, is what made transformation possible. The lack of party structure within the regime gave Franco’s government a degree of flexibility denied to democratic governments. This flexibility helped to hold the regime and its families together until Franco’s death, at which time there was no central figure to keep everyone in line. Social unrest had risen during the last 10 years of the Franco regime. Transition pressures from both the workers and nationalist movements made a strategy of mere liberalisation impossible early on. “The death of Franco in 1975 brought together the economic crisis, the administrative rationality crisis, and the ideological legitimation crisis of the regime” Any government lasting for nearly forty years is going to leave a legacy. This legacy, until many changes are made, will delay the transition to a new form of government and make the transition that much more difficult. Spain today is an effective democracy in that elections control who is in office. “The Spanish experiment was led by the political class of the dictatorship. Hence the transition in Spain was painfully slow and remains haunted by the spectres of dictatorship.” While certain aspects of the Francoist rule may still exist, they can now be modified through the democratic process. BibliographyBooksAbel, Christopher and Torrents, Nissa (eds), Spain. Conditioned Democracy (Londont, 1984)Amdia, Jos , Franco’s Political Legacy (London, 1977)Bell, David (ed), Democratic Politics in Spain (London, 1983)Carr, Raymond and Juan Pablo Fusi, Spain. Dictatorship to Democracy (London, 2nd edn, 1981)Heywood, Paul, The Government and Politics of Spain (London: 1995)Lancaster, Thomas and Prevost, Gary, Politics and Change in Spain (New York, 1985)Maravall, Jos Mar a, The Transition to Democracy in Soain (London, 1978)Preston, Paul, The Triumph of Democracy in Spain (London, 1986)Share, Donald, The Making Of Spainsh Democracy (New York, 1986)JournalsCasanova, Jos , Moderation and Democratization: Reflections on Spain’s Transition to Democracy’, Social Research 50/4 (1983)Giles, Michael W. and Lancaster, Thomas D., Political Transition, Social Development and Legal Mobilization in Spain’, American Political Science Review 83/3 (1989)