The Future of Spain

I: The Right

AS FRANCO LIES on his deathbed after 37 years of autocratic rule, the state he leaves behind confronts the problem of political change. Spain's future is ostensibly in the hands of Juan Carlos de Borbon, designated by Franco as the next king and currently exercising interim powers. Though Juan Carlos's public speeches proclaim the perpetuation of Franco's one-party state, he has long been thought to favor some liberal reforms, such as easing censorship and permitting greater political participation. But whether Juan Carlos's liberal reputation is well-deserved or not, he will hardly make the crucial decisions on the limits of democratization. At least initially, the bulwarks of the old regime--the official politicians of the Franco state and the army--will determine the nation's new course.

The Spanish governing elite is deeply divided between the party of the "bunker" and the party of the "aperture", opponents and proponents of liberal change. The men of the bunker, so named by analogy to Hitler's die-hard supporters in 1945, oppose any reform and hope to preserve the Franco state intact as long as possible, including its secret police and political arrests. These men represent Franco's family, civil war generals, high state officials, and a host of para-military groups like the Falange and the Guerillas of Christ the King. The bunker deeply distrusts Juan Carlos for his democratic leanings. It hopes to restrict his power when he officially becomes king by forcing him to retain the present Prime Minister, Carlos Arias Navarro, a moderate Francoist whose half-hearted reform measures have easily been curbed before.

The party of the aperture, monarchists who want Juan Carlos to enact democratic reforms, minimize the influence of the bunker despite its demonstrated ability to accelerate repression in recent months. These "moderates" are members of the Cortes and the National Movement, Spain's only legal political party, as well as high bureaucrats, corporate executives, and former ministers and ambassadors. They have organized political groups like the FEDISA (Federation of Independent Study Groups) and Tacito, which publish manifestos in the Catholic press and hope to direct post-Franco Spain.


The aperture's chief demands are a general political amnesty, repeal of anti-terrorist laws legalizing extreme repression, an opening of the political system to all parties except the Communists, and the replacement of the current government with "new men." The "moderates" hope to install politicians like the former Francoist ministers of information Manuel Fraga Iribarne and Pio Cabanillas, who are too liberal for the bunker but are "gut fascists" nevertheless. The "moderates" want to integrate Spain into western Europe, stripping the nation of the political forms which provoke internal rebellion and keep Spain out of the Common Market, but not allowing any social change.

IN A SENSE, the "moderates" want the same thing as the bunker: both groups seek to insure a stable Spain after Franco by different means. The two factions are caught on opposite sides of a double-bind. The bunker wants to maintain discipline through immediate repression, but risks arousing opposition strong enough to topple the Franco state. The aperture prefers opening the system to certain political groups, while excluding others. In this way, they hope to limit democratic impulses, but may precipitate a powerful shift leftwards once any opposition is legalized. Each faction sees the dangers in the other's plans and insists on its own solution. There is no guarantee, however, that either maneuver will work.


The dissension within the ruling elite is only one expression of a central tension in Spanish society and politics. When the fascist state took power after the civil war, Spain was an underdeveloped country dominated by large landowners and independent peasants. But since 1945 tourism, foreign corporations, and emigrant labor have brought Spain a 7 per cent annual growth rate, the highest in Europe. This Spanish "economic miracle" created a large middle class un-sympathetic to fascist ideology and excluded from the political system. The bunker considers anything to its left as "communist", as did Franco himself, so that middle class forces that are defenders of the status quo elsewhere are part of the left in Spain. The Christian Democrats, for example, are allied with the Socialists and the Communists in the new Common Front. The "moderate" Francoists hope to appeal to this new middle class, but thirty years of repression and the Spanish republican tradition place a serious barrier between those inside and outside the Franco regime.

Another erstwhile pillar of the Franco state now in opposition is the Catholic church. Under the "red Cardinal" Tarancon, the ecclesiastical hierarchy preaches social justice and the separation of church and state, paving the way for a republic. The lay Catholic association Opus Dei, whose technocrats engineered Spain's economic growth, leads the forces seeking political liberalization and entrance into the Common Market.

WHETHER THE BUNKER or the aperture takes command, the army's support will be crucial in bringing the new regime through its first months. Until recently Franco could count on the army to support his most repressive policies. But since Franco's first illness, a reform movement has developed among middle level officers. The generals remain old-style fascists--Franco's companions in arms during the civil war--but these officers, most of them drawn from the middle class, have professional grievances about political favoritism and demand radical democratic measures.

This movement, the Democratic Military Union (UMD), apparently contains 400 to 1000 officers, a small fraction of the 40,000-man officer corps, but their strategic importance and widespread influence is disproportionate to their numbers. The government became aware of the UMD as an association of study groups this fall and met the threat with arrests, enlarging the organization's grievances and expanding its appeal. The UMD is not nearly so radical as the Armed Forces Movement in Portugal, which sprang from lower-ranking officers. But the group's partisans insist on the dismantling of the Franco state and social-economic reforms redistributing income as the bare minimum for any new government, precluding their cooperation with the "moderates."

The split in the ruling elite coupled with the disaffection of the middle classes and the army leave slim possibilities for a smooth transition to stability under a Western-style political system. Whichever faction controls the government in the next few weeks, these conflicts will undermine any compromise and will propel the situation leftward. Though in the short run Juan Carlos and his rightist puppeteers have the initiative, in the long run the future of Spain depends on the actions of the left.

This article is the first of a four part series on Spain.

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