Spain After Franco

Published on 1/19/2010 in Spanish Culture

The sobriquet of Artful Dodger can easily be placed upon Francisco Franco, for the caudillo who ruled Spain 'by the grace of God' was certainly graced by something. A master of evasion, he held sway over one of the largest countries in Europe well into the 1970's. He controlled a Spain that lingered in a dark past, a country that was a throwback to the ravages of the mid twentieth century, which in so many ways was a political dinosaur in comparison to the rest of Western Europe.

General FrancoBizarrely, Franco maintained his dictatorship while Europe crept around in silence, afraid to point at the oddity in the room. Indeed, Spain still has not fully addressed the issue and must be one of the few democratic countries not to create a governing body to redress the grievances of the past. Franco in many ways remains the unmentionable, the vast majority still skirt the issue while condemnations of, or allegiances to, are vague at best. Often even Spaniards under the same roof argue competing histories; Franco is as reviled as he is lauded.

The terrain is confusing, the ground is grey, it is not as straightforward as post Hitler or even post Mussolini. This apathetic atmosphere regarding facing their history is paradoxically not helped by the passive transition from Franco to the Juan Carlos inspired parliamentary democracy. The fact that passions were not flared, that the dictator was allowed fade out in his bed may have inhibited Spaniards to be bombastic and insist that the past be dragged up and pored over.

Perhaps Franco survived as long as he had, because he did not implement a fascist state. Instead, he kept things conservative and traditional. Perhaps this was the true leanings of the man or perhaps he realised that the population would be sedated with such, that a hectic jolt from what they knew would have been too much and that such a move may have sparked a revolution against his power. No matter, he remained a symbol of the Western World's failure to act decisively during the Spanish Civil War, his lingering act ensuring that nobody could ever forget.

It is nothing short of incredible, just how seamlessly the transition from Franco to democracy occurred and that it has being maintained since. For Spain was a country that could only learn from what others had done, having only experienced complete democracy for a brief stint in the 1930s (and which was far from a model par excellence). 1970s Spain was completely novel to the democratic order and was compounded by provincial fractures and regional nationalism. And yet the country succeeded magnificently, perhaps indicating that the shadow of Franco had been very dark and that Spaniards were willing to do their utmost to make the fledgling democracy work.

This resolve was most definitely also strengthened by the memories of the failure of the Second Republic and the subsequent horrific bloodshed that ensued. The path was far from easy, Spain had become accustomed to almost full employment under Franco, but from the mid-Seventies, the dole queues grew and grew, peaking at the terrifying figure of twenty-four per cent in the mid 1990's. Yet the Spaniards stuck with it, the government managing to keep the majority engaged with an innovative programme of economic reforms.

Written by: Russell Short

About the author:

Russell Shortt is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland. Article source Russell Shortt, 

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Miguel said:
Sunday, January 31, 2010 @ 5:47 PM

The "success" of the spanish economy since Franco is an illusion. Hanging on the coat-tails of US-centred globalisation and the recent debt boom, the fundamental problems of the economy have not been addressed but simply covered up. The land question has not been resolved. The relationship between the military and Parliamentary wings of the spanish employers is unstable. Heavy industry is weak and confined to the major centres in the north. The spanish market is completely penetrated by non-spanish multinationals and the banking sector is tied to the fate of the international markets. The bizarre idea that an economy can be built upon a service-based model is being cruelly exposed now that the construction boom has ended.

The wounds of the civil war are still there. The subject of the civil war is rarely discussed because those spaniards who lived through those years and the subsequent dictatorship are not stupid. They know the stakes are high and they know the consequences of failure.

Many must fear that if spanish democracy cannot in the long term solve the problems which led to the civil war (poverty, economic weakness, the land question) then they will be forced to visit those years again.

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