Franco’s Regime 1939-1975

  • Created by: Victoria
  • Created on: 02-12-12 18:05

Police and repression

There was no forgiveness at the end of the war. If you had fought for the Republic or been a member of the Popular Front parties or a trade unionist you faced either execution or imprisonment with hard labour. The punitive (imposed as punishment) Law OF Political Responsibilities (1939) meant that people were called to account for actions dating back to 1934. Republican was disabled received no help. To obtain ration cards or jobs you had to get a certification of past loyalty to the regime (e.g. from a local Priest, Party official etc-of course a recipe for corruption 

The regime possessed a massive archive of files seized from leftist organisations during the war, which it systematically used to condemn 1,000’s of people.

In addition to the secret police and army security networks the official party (FET y de las JONS) ran its own intelligence brigade…every village had someone who acted as the party boss and collaborated with the civil guard in keeping the populace under observation. In urban areas every block of flats had a party rep. that reported to an area controller…the regime had a vast network of internal surveillance.

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Police and repression 2

Prison labour was used in reconstruction projects and in a massive monument to Catholic civil war dead that was built between 1941-1959, including a 150 metre high cross with a church that would include Franco’s mausoleum… ‘Valle de los Caídos’. (Near Madrid.)

Special courts continued to exist long after the civil war, indeed throughout the life of the regime:

o   Courts martial – dealing with offences classified as rebellion or terrorism

o   Public order court (set up 1963)…dealt with offences under the broad heading, ‘Undermining the foundations of the state, altering public order, or creating anxiety, for the national conscience’. Any slight opposition or deviation could be dealt with through this court.

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Constitutional structure

i.      Power was concentrated in the hands of Franco ‘El Caudillo’ (the leader) he was:

o   Head of state

o   Head of govt.

o   Generalissimo of the armed forces

o   Head of the FET y de las JONS…increasingly called the movement

            There was no formal limit to Franco’s powers. He could appoint and dismiss                                 ministers at will. He could issue laws by decree, although he usually chose to go                                  through the Cortes…the nominal parliament.

·      The corporate state – the regime paid lip service to Falangist ideas of a corporate state. Official policy was to create syndicates representing employers and employees. The Law of Syndical Unity brought this about in 1940 with the creation of 24 (later 28) syndicates representing different sectors of industry, agriculture and the service industries. In fact workers’ representatives on the syndicates had no power,

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Constitutional structure 2

An element of the corporate state is also seen in the Cortes in that 150 out of the 570 deputies were drawn from the syndicates…but the overall picture is that the regime operated a very limited corporate state, with the syndicates only making                         up a quarter of the deputies in the Cortes, which was virtually powerless anyway.

 ·      The Cortes: a rubber stamp parliament. The Cortes gave the regime a façade of democracy, Franco called it ‘organic democracy’ in reflected Falangist ideas in that:

o   150 representatives came from the syndicates

o   111 reps. were local mayors or councillors

o   From 1967, there were 104 family reps. Elected by heads of family and married women (this being the only directly elected and remotely democratic aspect of the Cortes).

o   Professional bodies, e.g. College of Veterinary Surgeons, elected 26. This was in line with José Antonio Primo de Rivera’s belief that the 3 main organisms of society were, the family, the municipality, and the profession

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The balance of forces in the regime

Franco’s Spain was a one party state in the sense that there was only one political party but not in the sense that power rested solely in that party. Franco’s govts. were coalitions made up of the key elements that had backed the rising: 

·      Professional soldiers formed, by far, the largest group of ministers 

·      Traditionalists (Carlists/clerics/conservatives) usually got the Justice Ministry and Presidency of the Cortes.

·      Falangists got Labour Ministry and ran the syndicates and the Movement…but really they were distanced from real power.

·      Catholic organisations usually got foreign affairs and education

Franco governed according to the principle of divide and rule…he remained above squabbles over policy between Monarchists, Falangists and others only intervening when feuds got out of hand.

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The balance of forces in the regime 2

Technocrats (bureaucrats trained in economics or technology) belonging to the secretive and powerful Catholic organisation Opus Dei took an increasing role in govt. from the late 1950s, monopolising the economic portfolios from 1957.

Any faction that threatened the system was slapped down ruthlessly by Franco, e.g. 1940: Franco’s old comrade and key civil war figure General Yagüe was sacked for pushing Falangism (Fascism) too hard. e.g. 1946: Monarchist General Kindelán arrested and exiled for pushing restoration too hard.

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Franco’s relationship with the heir to the Spanish throne Don Juan (Alfonso died in 1941) was poor as he favoured a western style democracy…he was a liberal and an anglophile. However Franco did declare in 1947 that when he died monarchy would resume in Spain. Then in 1969 he designated Juan Carlos, Don Juan’s son, as his successor…by passing Don Juan.

He had earlier (1948) gained Don Juan’s approval for the Prince to be educated in Spain (Don Juan lived in Portugal). Juan Carlos was also to exercise the role of Head of State should Franco be incapacitated.

This happened in the late summer of 1974 and then again as Franco lay dying in the autumn of 1975 and in the following years Juan Carlos, although under Franco he had sworn an oath of loyalty to the Movement, oversaw Spain’s transition to a liberal constitutional monarchy…playing a crucial role in facing down an attempted military coup in 1981. Spain joined the EEC in 1986.

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WWII broke out just 6 months after Franco’s civil war victory. Spain’s position went from initial neutrality to non-belligerence (June 1940) [meaning openly favouring the axis but not actually fighting], back to neutrality (Oct. 1943) and finally breaking off diplomatic relations with Japan (April 1945) and Germany and Italy early (May 1945).

Spain’s position therefore reflected the course of the war. Franco, ever the conservative strategist waited to see how things developed. He certainly favoured an axis victory but, with an exhausted and shattered Spain, felt in no position to commit himself without substantial war materials from Germany and Italy. He also demanded that French Morocco be given to Spain.

Hitler came down to Hendaye (Spanish, French border) to size Franco up in October 1940. He did not enjoy the meeting. Hitler (and Mussolini both) concluded that Franco’s demands were too great…his attention was turning eastwards (allowing Franco French Morocco would alienate Vichy France) anyway. He contented himself with a secret protocol confirming Spanish intentions to enter the war on the axis’s side when the right moment arrived.

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The great prize of Spanish intervention would have been Gibraltar…the strategic importance of the Rock helps explain the cautious attitude of the allies to Franco throughout WWII. Britain and America supplied Franco with credit and aid (grain/petroleum) through the war at what they judged to be just the right level to prevent him going over completely to the Axis.

Franco thus stayed out of WWII. He did occupy Tangiers for a time and did send a volunteer division (The Blue Division) to fight on the Russian Front. He supplied valuable minerals to Germany throughout the war particularly wolfram (tungsten)…but he also gave supplies to the allies.

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Allied victory in WWII meant a potentially critical situation for Franco. Would they allow a right-wing dictatorship put in place by Hitler and Mussolini’s aid to survive? Certainly Franco came under pressure:

o   The USA suspended oil deliveries Jan 1944

o   Spain was refused a seat at the UN, which Dec 1946 recommended all members to withdraw their ambassadors. Many did.

o   France closed her border in 1946.

o   Spain was excluded from the Marshall Plan in 1947 (economic and technical assistance to the participating European nations)

 However Franco remained unperturbed and survived.

o   The allies were not prepared to get militarily involved

o   His position within Spain was secure. He knew he could not be overthrown without such intervention


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Foreign Policy 4

And finally, and perhaps crucially, with the Cold War brewing he could stress the anti-communist nature of his regime, particularly in his relations with the USA. So…

o   By Nov. 1947 there was no longer a 2/3rd UN majority against Spain

o   1948 USA resumed oil supplies, France re-opened her border, Britain signed a trade agreement

o   1950 UN members were authorized to reinstate their ambassador US gave a $62 million loan to Spain

o   1953 military and trade treaties with USA substantial annual development and military aid to be given to Spain in return for 3 US air bases on mainland Spain and 1 naval base

o   1955 Spain admitted to the UN

Franco’s Spain gained acceptance to the international community and had access to foreign aid by the mid-1950s, establishing herself as part of the anti-Soviet western camp. She did not, however, gain admittance to the European Community…

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Spain emerged from civil war in dreadful poverty. The regime immediately instituted rationing and the first ten years were gradually called ‘los años del hambre’ (the years of hunger). Franco produced a ‘National Programme for Resurgence’ in 1939 aiming at making Spain more self-sufficient (autarky) encouraging exports and beginning reconstruction…but Spain’s resources were so slim little progress was made.

Property owners who had been expropriated by the Republic got their land back. Rural poverty became endemic and there was a steady process of rural depopulation.

The Basque country, Catalonia and the Asturias found aid withheld as punishment for their civil war role. This hurt Spanish industry, as these were the main industrial areas.

WWII and the difficult post WWII situation were further breaks on economic recovery. US aid in the mid-1950s could not conceal the fact that the autarkic policies had failed. By 1957 the national economy was near bankruptcy and faced spiraling inflation.

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1959 was the turning point when Spain launched a Stabilization Plan (Peseta devalued, wage freeze, and encouragement of foreign investment) backed by the IMF (international organization that watches over its members monetary funds) and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - international organisation of thirty countries that accept the principles of representative democracy and free market economy) followed by a series of 5 year Development Plans starting in 1964. This change coincided with an increasing grip of technocratic Opus Dei members on economic positions.

Spain then experienced an economic miracle in the 1960s and 1970s with a steep rise in living standards and economic growth based on tourism, foreign investment, agricultural exports, remittances from Spaniards working abroad and industrial development (eg ship-building…by 1975 Spain was exporting $125 million worth of ships) with annual economic growth at c. 7% a year.

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·      Guerilla resistance to Franco continued long after the civil war. Communist (until 1947) and anarchist units operating in the countryside and in some urban areas and, with the end of WWII, often operating across the Pyrenees continued to harass the regime until 1960 when then last important civil war related group – the anarchist band of Francisco SabateEl Quico’ was destroyed. Such resistance was a nuisance, rather than a serious threat.

·      In the 1960s a new armed resistance appeared…in particular ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna ([Basque for Basque Homeland and Freedom])…the Basque terrorists, some left-wing libertarian groups (eg FRAPFrente Revolucionario Anti-Fascista y Patriota). ETA, were particularly effective in harassing the regime in its last years: in 1973 they assassinated Admiral Carrero Blanco, the PM, Franco’s closest and most loyal colleague. Regular assassinations of members of the regime (eg civil guards) continued. A climax was reached in Sept. 1975 when the regime carried out its first executions since the early 1960s…2 members of ETA, 3 of FRAP. 6 weeks later Franco would die.

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·      Most of the political organizations of the Republic remained organizations in exile…including a Republican govt. in exile…but they achieved little 

·      Although strikes were illegal, there were outbreaks of strikes in reaction to poor conditions. Eg in the Asturias 1956 and 1957…and in the 1960s new underground trade union organisations started to appear, in particular ‘Conisiones Obreras’, who for example, unleashed another strike in the Asturias in 1962.

·      The 1960s also illegal student organisations beginning to organise sit-ins and demonstrations…equally a new young generation of priests, particularly in the Basque country, was increasingly critical of the regime 

Such opposition never seriously threatened Franco’s grip on power. However when he died in 1975 most political organisations of the Republic were reorganised and ready for a resumption of democracy…in particular the Communist Party (PCE) and the Socialist Party (PSOE). The one major group that did not recover from Franco’s dictatorship was the ***.

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