Don Juan In Europe

FRANCO'S DEATH opens the way for Spain to throw off the shackles of his authoritarian state and to recommence the process of building an egalitarian, democratic Spain begun under the Second Republic. But there are many obstacles on this path. King Juan Carlos, Franco's designated successor, is a creature of the official politicians Franco left behind. He is sworn to uphold the principles of the Franco state and refused to promise change in his inaugural address. The amnesty Juan Carlos announced last week for political prisoners has been justly denounced by the leaders of the democratic opposition as a travesty, since it frees only a small portion of the prisoners and allows the regime to decide whether specific prisoners should be released or held as "terrorists". Furthermore, opposition political parties are still not allowed to assemble or meet with foreign newsmen openly; to prevent a press conference the police raided a Socialist party headquarters last week and threatened mass arrests if the press conferences took place.

Juan Carlos and the men behind him hope that a few minor gestures in the direction of "western-style" democracy will induce Western European countries to admit Spain to the Common Market and to NATO, as they refused when Franco was alive. But at the same time as Juan Carlos urged that "Europe must take Spain into account" he reaffirmed the "right of each people to organize itself politically in accordance with its own nature"--which means that Europe should not expect any substantive change in Spanish politics as a condition for admittance.

There are substantial forces in Spain today committed to political democracy and social change which enjoy widespread popular support--the Christian Democrats, Socialists, and Communists allied in the "Common Front," and the Democratic Military Union in the army. Until these groups obtain political power, and until genuine democratic rights prevail--such as freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom to strike, and the legality of all political parties including the Communists--Spain will remain a prisoner of Franco's heritage. Furthermore, those regions desiring political and cultural autonomy--The Basque country, Catalonia, Galicia and Valencia--must be granted self-determination as they were under the 1931 Republican constitution.

Until there is a radical break with the policies of the Franco regime, the countries of Western Europe (though no paragons of democratic virtue themselves) should continue economic discrimination against her products. Similarly, the United States, which has supplied economic aid to Franco's Spain for 22 years, should not be allowed to legitimize continued aid on the ground of democratic change; the U.S. government should withdraw all aid until real democratic change develops. But, the Spanish opposition will not need to rely on the conscience of the West to end thirty years of fascism; their support in Spain and the divisions within the ruling elite should allow them to triumph on their own.