In a speech announcing his country’s new constitution late in 1966, Generalissimo Francisco Franco put the case for retaining Francoism in Spain this way: “Every nation is surrounded by its own particular demons, and those of Spain are: an anarchistic spirit, a penchant for negative criticism, the disunity of men, extremism, and mutual enmity.” The alternatives for Spain are clear. But with a history of demons rampant, it is impossible to know which course Spain will follow after Franco.

Veinte y cinco años de paz, read the peeling signs scrawled on walls in the parched villages of the countryside. The faded tributes to tranquillity on the whitewashed walls are all that remain today of the Generalissimo’s silver anniversary of absolute power in 1964. Now, near the thirtieth year since the end of the Civil War, “la paz española” is evermore the favorite slogan of supporters of the regime.

Franco, however, is now seventyfive years old. There is today an intense struggle for power developing, not only among Franco’s opponents but among many of the diverse groups that have provided the foundation for his monolithic rule. The struggle is not a conventional clash between liberals and conservatives, but an eclectic stew of pressure groups and amorphous political “groupings.” The contents include neo-fascist Falangists and Communist workers; monarchists of various colors and anarchists; liberal democrats and socialists; old-line Francoist military men and the young technocrats who are gradually superseding them in the government. Each group is bent on molding the post-Franco era to its own conception of the future Spain.

There are three central conceptions: that of the old guard, which wants to preserve the present system, and its position in it, with as little alteration as possible; that of the reformers, who want to democratize the nation along Western European lines; and that of the monarchists, who stand between the two. The monarchists tend now toward one side, now the other, hoping to restore a king but unable to agree on what manner of society he should govern.

The tempo of the contest has hastened in recent years as an aging Franco has withdrawn from the public eye, except for ceremonial appearances and an occasional stiff televised address to the nation. The initial easing of Franco’s dictatorship occurred in the first half of the decade, though it has since become apparent that meaningful reform was largely in the imaginations of foreign observers. Pressure for liberalization came in fact from pragmatists within the regime who were more interested in moving Spain into the Common Market than in adhering to an obsolete ideology.

Pragmatists or liberals, their most important reform came in 1966, and it was basic by Western republican standards: a new press law, which relaxed but did not abolish Franco’s censorship. It brought a cautious political debate in the newspapers, and expectations of more radical change. Those expectations were most apparent among the splinter groups of former Franco supporters who became disaffected by the political immobilism of the regime, and in the ineffectual “opposition” which has futilely contested the Caudillo’s rule over the years. For the first time since the Civil War, newspapers be gan to run editorials about the need to modify the institutions of government. Opposition attacks on the regime were beefed up, and workers and students openly challenged the government to permit free unions and democratize the nation.


Throughout 1966 rumor of a thaw in the Spanish autocracy persisted, sustained by the fact that the Cabinet was debating a new constitution: the Organic Law of State. This document was supposed to create political guidelines for the future of Spain, and to establish an institutional framework for Franco’s succession. The constitution was eagerly awaited throughout the country as an indicator of just how far Franco was willing to go.

Franco’s announcement of the constitution in the Spanish parliament, the Cortes, at the end of 1966 was a letdown. The key issues — labor reform, religious liberty, structural modification of the National Movement (the only legal political organization), and the question of popular election of some deputies to the previously appointive Cortes — were all ambiguously stated, pending clearer statements in later constitutional amendments. But the new constitution did streamline the government: a Premier was to be named to take over some of the workaday labors of the government from the Chief of State (Franco). (As yet, Spain has no Premier, though the phlegmatic Franco, never one to rush a decision, is expected to choose one this year.) The problem of succession machinery was acknowledged too by a clause empowering the Council of the Realm, previously an honorific body with no real powers, to select a new Chief of State, either king or regent, if Franco should fail to do so before retiring from the political scene. The Cortes would then approve him.

But the liberals’ hopes were too high. Today, just a year and half after the new constitution was ratified in a lopsided plebiscite in which no opposition was tolerated, it is apparent that the regime’s intentions toward democracy and reform were merely flirtatious. If 1966 was the year of liberalization, 1967 was the year of reaction. Franco’s domination of Spanish politics remains unchallenged.

The key amendments clarifying Franco’s general statement of the constitution emerged from the Cabinet for approval in the do-as-you’retoid Cortes; they were as liberal as a suit of armor. The long-awaited religious-liberty reform was watered down and has been condemned by Protestants because of provisions to force all non-Catholic churches to register their members with the Ministry of Justice. The bill to redefine the Falange-dominated National Movement elevated the .Movement’s own national directorate to a form of upper house charged with arbitrating the nation’s politics. Nothing was done to ease the Falange’s hold over Spanish politics. When the ground rules were laid down for the popular election of one fifth of the Cories, the game was carefully fixed in favor of National Movement candidates. After the October election, the bloc of 108 new deputies, with few exceptions, made a congenial complement to the four fifths of the Cortes appointed by the regime.

Breath of freedom

For those who still had any doubts, Franco reiterated that so long as he lived political parties would not be allowed. And the breath-of-freedom press law was decorated with a revision of the penal code to make journalists liable to six years’ imprisonment for writing “false or dangerous” information. The promised labor reform has yet to materialize.

Last summer the ailing vice president of Spain, Captain General Agustín Muñoz Grandes, a moderate anti-monarchist who once was thought certain to succeed Franco, was quietly retired. In September he was succeeded by Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, a Cabinet secretary, no liberal, one of Franco’s most trusted background advisers since the Civil War. This new post sets him in line to be Premier when and if Franco is moved to name one, and to succeed Franco thereafter.

This swing to the right was accompanied by a campaign to silence the discord and dissent which urged the liberals on. Cries of “Democracy yes, Franco no” and “Down with 1936” were heard in worker districts and universities; they terrified the regime stalwarts, who equate all such statements with the chaos of the old republic. The government’s reaction was swift. Meetings of antiFranco workers were dispelled and their leaders rounded up, intellectuals and journalists were tried or fined for breaking the bounds of legitimate expression, and university activists were arrested and harassed.

Reaction lashed out just as forces for change in Spain were emerging. Franco’s brief fling with liberalization did not, of course, create these new forces, as reactionaries have charged in urging Franco to curb them. But the fling did give them a season in which to flower.

The most visible — and until recently the most effective — of the new groups was that of the young technocrats in the regime who fired Spain’s American-primed economic boom in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The group includes the dynamic Minister of Industry Gregorio López Bravo, Economic Planning Minister Laureano López Rodó, and Minister of Commerce Faustino García-Moncó. All three are members of the Opus Dei, the apostolic Catholic lay order which is trying to maneuver itself into a dominant position in any future government.

Hangover quarantine

These men have found their readiest support among similarly nonideological, market-hungry industrialists eager to do business with Europe. Their political fortunes have naturally risen and fallen with the state of the economy, and as the economy flourished in the early 1960s under their tutelage and because of an unprecedented tourist boom, their stock with Franco soared. Madrid’s foreign policy has really consisted of a campaign to break down the West’s hangover quarantine against Hitler’s passive ally Franco, and to win acceptance of Spain as an equal partner among its European neighbors. So the technocrats have attempted subtly to maneuver the regime into a position where it might qualify for the democratic criteria of the Treaty of Rome. In the early part of the decade, Spain began seeking admission to the Common Market. Madrid is now negotiating with Brussels for an associate membership which, it is hoped, would lead to full EEC membership within six years. But EEC members like Belgium and Holland do not forget Franco’s alliances with Hitler and Mussolini, or overlook his commitment to authoritarianism. Because of this, the technocrats, backed by liberals outside the government, succeeded in forcing what reforms they could before the regime once more stiffened. Recent economic setbacks, however, have cut into the clout of the Opus Dei technocrats.

Black, white, and blue

A more formidable reform bloc has sprung up in the Catholic Church, traditionally one of the foundations of Franco’s power. The Ecumenical Council forced a split in Franco’s church support by drawing many of the younger and more active priests away from the conservative church hierarchy. The latter, under Spain’s 1953 Concordat with the Vatican, is virtually appointed by Franco. The bishops, whose mean age is sixty-eight, are fighting for control over the “new wave” priests. The latter in turn are shocked by a drop in church attendance, which they attribute to the church’s embrace of the regime. Influenced by post-Pius Vatican liberalism, a whole generation of Spanish priests are beginning to speak out against the social and economic conservatism of the regime and actively to support their parishioners. In every recent workers’ demonstration clerical collars have been there in black and white complement to blue-collar protest.

The toughest challenges to the regime, however, have come from worker and student groups. Labor discontent has kept pace with a flight of a dangerous inflation that the government appears unable to constrain. While Spain’s economy has grown at the rate of 8 percent annually, lifting its per capita income to almost $700 per annum in 1967, consumer demand has forced up the cost of living in the past three years by 30 percent. Last summer prices were hiked on everything from bread to public transportation. Despite the government’s September increase in the minimum wage to 96 pesetas ($1.37) a day, salaries have failed to keep pace with the cost of living. After the recent devaluation to bring the peseta into line with the pound, the government launched an austerity drive, freezing wages and prices and cutting down on government spending in an effort to bring the economy back into balance. But austerity has only kindled labor unrest by cutting back long-sought wage increases (many of which were long ago negotiated), and the situation was aggravated by the threat of mass layoffs. U.S. plans to cut overseas investment and curb tourism are hardly a boon to Spain. But though strained by inflation and austerity, Spain’s economy is basically sound and full of potential for growth. Last year brought more than 17 million tourists, spreading ideas along with one billion dollars of foreign exchange.

The government-controlled sindicatos (compulsory unions), which ought to serve as the vehicle through which labor could push for a better economic deal, have been more interested in neutralizing wildcat labor pressures on the economy than in challenging the status quo. The result has been a spin-out from the sindicatos to the new and powerful “workers commission” movement.

Catholics, Socialists, Communists, and Basque separatists have all had their own clandestine labor organizations in the past, but there was no serious opposition labor movement until the workers commissions began to evolve in 1964. The informal commissions follow the tradition of the anarcho-syndicalist movement of the early part of the century. They eschew any formal political ties, and demand that members enter as individuals and not as members of political factions. The commissions sought to weld a true labor movement around the basic economic issues facing the working classes: inflation, lagging wages, and the need for a democratic reform of the nation’s labor laws. By 1967 they had become the most powerful opposition force in the nation, and, despite stiff government repression, staged three national demonstrations to demand labor reforms.

Siege on campus

Opposition to the government is loud on campuses, but because of the transience of university populations it is ephemeral. Militant students have succeeded in Madrid, Barcelona, and Santiago de Compostela, and to a lesser extent in Seville, Bilbao, and Valencia, in doing for academia what the workers are seeking to do for industry: to supplant static, state-dominated unions with an independent democratic organization. Since the first democratic student union was installed at the University of Barcelona in 1966, over police and academic opposition, the movement has all but drowned the official Professional Students Association (A.P.E.). In its place has risen the University Students Democratic Union (S.D.E.U.). With success the S.D.E.U. has turned from initial organizational battles to more frankly political concerns such as anti-Vietnam War rallies, and skirmishes with police over attempts to hold protest marches against “the general repressive policies of the regime.” At Madrid University the demonstrations are invariably broken up by the tough riot police who hover almost constantly on the edges of the campus in jeeps and trucks, supported by water cannon, mounted policemen, and German shepherds. In January and March, student demonstrations provoked a police siege of the university campus.


Challenge to the regime has also come from the nation’s meager formal opposition, which, with the exception of the small and tightly disciplined Communists, doesn’t really consist of political parties. Middleclass intellectual salons are grouped around such liberal luminaries as Social Democrat José Maria Gil Robles, the former Republican minister. These groups are fractured into dozens of tendencies which, lacking unity and organization, have very little influence. Though some of the leaders and members are deeply sincere in their dislike of the regime, the opposition is not taken seriously because of its propensity for talk rather than action. Except for the Communists and regional Basque nationalists, the old parties in exile, the Anarchists and Socialists, play no role in today’s Spain. They have no followers inside the nation, where completely new alignments have arisen, and because of their prolonged exile they have little grasp of what is going on in their homeland.

Behind Spain’s new politics are the generations for whom the Civil War is nothing more than history — terrible history but nevertheless not a part of their experience. These generations, however politically minded, do support a relaxation of Franco’s autocracy. Technicians, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and teachers, they want a freer society. They have been nurtured on the economic boom of the past decade which has brought them cars (the ubiquitous little Spanish-built SEAT) and seaside holidays; they pay little attention to the regime’s obsession with the horrors of the past. They feel entitled to the economic freedom that other Europeans have, and a form of democracy seems to them the only mechanism that will bring it.

Franco’s position remains unchallenged. Though he has never been loved, he is respected, even among many who oppose his rule. Only the Communists and the impotent or exiled extremists talk today of toppling him. His support among the military, the affluent, and the church remains strong despite the young dissidents.

The issue in Spain is therefore not to change Franco, but to mold the post-Franco era. As the Caudillo envisions it, the future is to be much like the past. Parties will not be allowed, and all debate will be contained within the National Movement. The country will be run as in the past by a tight group of loyal Francoist ministers committed to keeping the faith, with a Chief of State at the summit of the authoritarian pyramid.

After Franco

The question remains, Who will succeed Franco? Since 1947, Spain has been officially a monarchy without a king. Candidates for the post abound, but the most serious are Don Juan de Borbón y Battenberg, the exiled pretender whose father, Alfonso XIII, was Spain’s last king, and Don Juan’s thirty-year-old son, Prince Juan Carlos. Don Juan is alienated from the regime because he is suspected of favoring a constitutional monarchy. Prince Juan Carlos, who for a long time was considered Franco’s preference by virtue of his more ambiguous political formation, has said that he will never oppose his father. Monarchists support Don Juan, while senior members of the administration have supported Prince Juan Carlos, who has been educated under Franco’s tutelage and now lives just down the road from his mentor’s Pardo palace. But the prince is considered by many to be devoid of the dynamism and intelligence that would be needed to rule Spain. The less than inspiring role played by his brotherin-law King Constantine in Greece has also given rise to doubts about the wisdom of placing a young and inexperienced king on the throne.

The other possibility for Franco’s succession is the appointment of a regent. Vice President Carrero Blanco and the tough Minister of Interior, General Camilo Alonso Vega, commander of the paramilitary police, are considered likely candidates for the regency should the antimonarchists in the Cabinet and the Council of the Realm win out.

In either case the quest for Francoism after Franco would persist. If a military regency should in fact be established it could only maintain itself through the loyalty of the army, or of the powerful national police. The church and the affluent — those other foundations of Francoism — would probably fall away. Most observers feel a regency would give way to military nationalism and a form of Iberian Nasserism.

The great unknown

The army, of course, will be the key element in any post-Franco situation. Its sentiments, however, are the great unknown in Spanish politics. There are powerful Francoist elements, though they, like Franco, are aging. There is also a strong monarchist strain in the military establishment, but it too is split between Don Juan and his son. The young officer corps, and especially the colonels, are unknowns, and it is they who will ultimately be the arbiters of any changes in the present system.

A third possibility is the democratization advocated by the forces of the new Spain, but since the apparent checkmate of reform within the regime, it is unclear how this move would evolve if it could.

Quiet contacts have recently been taking place among powerful elements of the establishment, both within and outside the government, to discuss the possibilities of setting up an alternative to Francoism. Administrators, military men, industrialists, and technocrats are actually exchanging views with certain key members of the intellectual opposition and the workers commissions. Although these contacts are embryonic, they could become a united liberal force, powerful enough to impose itself on the regime, including the military. In such a case, a parliamentary democracy might be in the offing, perhaps after a quiet post-Franco palace coup.

Loren Jenkins