The importance of southern Europe to the balance of power in world affairs has been underlined by the continuing crisis in the Middle East, the growth of Russian power in the Mediterranean and President Nixon's diplomatic journey in the autumn of 1970. The earlier renewal of the Spanish-American military pact, followed by Nixon's visit to Madrid, once more called attention to the role played by the Spanish government. At the same time, the future of the Franco régime has raised more questions than at any time in the past two decades, if only because of the fact that Franco himself entered his seventy-ninth year at the close of 1970 and in the preceding year took the unprecedented step of officially designating a successor, Prince Juan Carlos de Borbón, as heir to the Spanish throne.

The Franco régime has been in power for more than 30 years and is the longest-lived one-man dictatorship in the world (with the possible exception of the Tubman government in Liberia, depending on one's political definitions). Perennial statements of surprise over its survival have in recent times given way to a kind of acceptance of its durability. So many people have so often been mistaken in predicting the imminent demise of the régime that such voices are now heard less frequently, even though Franco's days are now obviously limited.

During the past decade both Americans and other West Europeans have had much more contact with Spain than at any other time in the past. Even though the immense majority of such contacts are superficial, they have to some extent increased knowledge of Spanish affairs on the common level. Franco of course still remains a bugbear for the leftist intelligentsia throughout the Western world, and even professional scholars often remain dominated by the ideological passions of the 1930s. However, the expansion of research during the 1960s on the politics and government of modern and contemporary Spain, particularly in the United States, has made much clearer the background, origins, development and structure of the Spanish régime.

It is now generally understood that Franco's "fascism" has endured because it is not, and never was, particularly "fascist." Rather it is a pragmatic authoritarian system, without very clearcut ideological boundaries, that has been characterized by a limited but undeniable pluralism. Spain's spectacular economic development in the 1960s, during which the country had one of the two highest industrial growth rates in the Western world, has brought major social changes and led to an annual per capita income currently in the neighborhood of $700-800. Spain is still the second poorest country in Western Europe, but it is by no means a "poor" or "have- not" country by present global standards.

All this is leading to a new era in Spanish affairs, and the question is inevitably posed whether, despite Franco's obvious political success, the Spanish régime can become in the 1970s the first major non-communist dictatorship able to institutionalize itself and survive the passing of its founder. One of the major difficulties is that, unlike communist states, the Franco régime lacks a major political organization on which to base leadership and ideology and mobilize support. The nominal state party, the Falange, was originally a fascist movement of the 1930s, catapulted to prominence by the Spanish Civil War and the fascist wave in Europe at that time. Yet the Falange was never in a dominant position within the Spanish state, but always served as a convenience of Franco for political organization and ideological reference. The downgrading of the Falange began when the fascist era in Europe waned in 1942-43 and has continued at varying rates ever since. At one time nominal affiliation to Falangist groups was nearly one million out of a total Spanish population of little more than 25 million. No official statistics are available for the years since 1962, but it seems doubtful that active membership is currently more than a few hundred thousand.

In a pluralistic dictatorship, the Falangist party had perforce to be denied a monopoly of patronage and so was never able to fatten its ranks by making membership a necessary prerequisite for state employment. Many state officials, particularly in local government, are or have been Falangists, but this is not true of a majority in any major branch of employment or administration. The genuinely fascist aspects of Falangist doctrine became an increasing embarrassment after 1945, as the régime deëmphasized political ideology altogether. The very name of the Falange came to be considered undesirable and during the 1950s was largely replaced in official terminology by that of Movimiento ("The Movement"), an appelation conveniently ambiguous. The original Twenty-Six Points of the official Falangist program were replaced by a vague and watered-down statement of the "Doctrine of the Movement" in 1958. The Falange had never had a major paramilitary organization, and with the decline of the party's organizational work and youth activities it became increasingly difficult to recruit membership. Falangism was also deprived of major potential influence in Spanish society by strict state control of the national syndical system, from which radical Falangism was largely rooted out.

The last attempt to revitalize the Movement occurred in 1966-67, when Franco introduced a new Organic Law that established a reorganized National Council of the Movement as a sort of consultative senate within the Spanish state system. This was prompted by Franco's need to provide some kind of institutionalized political support for the régime at a time when it was being liberalized with an eye to the post-Franco succession. Without some sort of body on which to rely as a kind of defender of the faith, it was feared that the modest liberalization program might become unbalanced and even get out of control. Hence the Organic Law provided for the indirect election by local and provincial Movement councils of 108 members for the new National Council. The latter has no legislative function per se but may recommend new measures and is entrusted with jurisdiction over complaints of contrafuero-a traditional constitutional term meaning in effect changes or abuses that might threaten the norms or structure of the régime itself in terms of its own principles. Thus for the first time the Movement has been institutionalized as part of the Spanish state, yet in a secondary capacity that does not confer active authority. This has been intended to protect the Movement from withering away and enable it to play a stabilizing role in the evolution of the régime.


Since 1957, attention has increasingly been drawn to a new element within Franco's pluralistic state system-the key leadership of new figures who are either members of or are associated with the semi-secret Catholic secular institute, Opus Dei. During the past decade Opus Dei has been at the center of political speculation in Spain and the amount of publicity given the "Opus faction" has increased considerably since the establishment of the present Spanish cabinet in October 1969, when 10 of the 19 seats were given to men who are either members of or are in varying ways associated with Opus Dei.

No aspect of Spanish life in the past quarter-century has provoked so much controversy as Opus Dei. This is due to two main factors: the apparent influence gained by some of the outstanding members of the institute, and the relative secrecy surrounding the organization and membership of Opus Dei itself. This lay association was founded in 1928 by an Aragonese priest, P. José María Escrivá de Balaguer, but only began to grow significantly after the Spanish Civil War. By the 1960s it had spread to nearly all parts of the Roman Catholic world, including Catholic society in the United States. Opus Dei is, as its members and spokesmen always stress, a religious, not a political, organization. It is devoted to the advancement of the Catholic religion and especially to regaining influence lost by the Church in secular society. This in turn leads to emphasis on achievement by members in practical affairs so as to regain a position of strength for Catholic values. Since it is a secular institute, the greater part of Opus Dei's membership consists of laymen. There are three categories: clerical members who have taken the priestly vows; laymen pledged to poverty, chastity and obedience but otherwise pursuing ordinary careers in the secular world; and ordinary laymen who take vows of the order but are free to marry. There is also a separate category of "coöperating" supporters who are not actually members of the institute.

That Opus Dei has become influential in Spain during the past fifteen years is indisputable, yet it is very difficult to measure the exact size and scope of that influence. Its membership cannot be calculated with precision, nor can its wealth. The association operates the only private university in Spain, many smaller schools and training programs, and numerous cultural and religious facilities. Some of its members have become especially prominent in Spanish government, education and finance.

This has led to great resentment on the part of other elements in Spanish affairs, ranging from Falangists at one extreme to the left-wing opposition on the other. Moreover, there is much opposition to Opus Dei in some other parts of the Church. Many Jesuits see Opus Dei as an undesirable rival, while laymen in Catholic Action are hostile to what they regard as its competition. The fact that the identity of Opus Dei members and interests is often kept secret only adds to the suspicion and paranoia that the association has aroused. This sometimes reaches ludicrous dimensions, as during the past year when Opus Dei opened a training program for cooks and household servants in Madrid as part of its program to reach the lower classes; it was immediately charged with training a corps of espionage agents to spy on élite Spanish families in their own homes.

Opus Dei spokesmen respond vigorously to their critics, denying that the institute qua institute has a political organization or even an overall political position. They deny that the fact that Opus Dei members or sympathizers hold the dominant positions in the Spanish cabinet means that Spain has an "Opus Dei government," insisting that members of Opus Dei who achieve prominence in government or any other secular activity represent their own political views and not those of Opus Dei. They point out that the bulk of Opus Dei members are not élitists but come from the ordinary middle and lower classes. It seems indeed true that there is no direct "political arm" of Opus Dei and that genuine diversity of political opinion does exist within the institute.

Yet it is obvious that since 1957 a special political élite associated with Opus Dei-if not an Opus Dei political group-has become the strongest single sector in Spanish government. The term most often applied to these men is "technocrats," referring to the fact that Opus members have occupied the key economic posts during the main period of the régime's economic planning since 1959. Chief among them is the current Minister for Economic Development, Laureano López Rodó. The term "technocrat" is a bit excessive, since the economic administrators associated with Opus Dei do not hold to formal principles of technocracy per se, but rather to variants of modern economic neoliberalism that make use of planning and mild government intervention. They have presided over the great upsurge of the Spanish economy in the 1960s. Moreover, the vice-president of the Spanish government and chief counselor to Franco, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, is strongly sympathetic to Opus Dei, though not a member of the institute.

What this amounts to is a powerful constellation of interest and influence in the Spanish government, but it is not at all equivalent to an "Opus Dei government." Nearly half the cabinet members have no association at all with the institute, and some of them are in fact hostile to it. It is, however, clear that Franco and Carrero Blanco have found among some of the more talented Opus Dei laymen government administrators who are both technically more capable and politically more acceptable than either old- style Falangists or even conservative Christian Democrats. While the political philosophy of some individual Opus Dei members may be comparatively liberal, the government Opus Dei group seem to espouse a loose doctrine of pragmatic, pluralistic modernizing authoritarianism, capable of accommodating change while preserving the basic structure of the Franco régime, to continue, presumably, even after Franco's demise.

Reports of conflict between Opus Dei ministers and Movement ministers can easily be exaggerated. The future of the régime does not necessarily rest on the outcome of a power struggle between the two influences. For one thing, as explained above, the Opus ministers lack any autonomous base of direct political support. They are essentially administrators, if not precisely technocrats, summoned to do a job by the head of state and dependent upon him (and their relative success) for their authority. Moreover, the reputation for honesty and efficiency enjoyed by the Opus Dei group has been compromised by the "Matesa scandal," a major case of corruption or at least maladministration uncovered in 1969, in which a Barcelona industrial firm pocketed tens of thousands of pesetas falsely claimed for export-import credits. This has brought the indictment of two former cabinet members and the resignation of a leading Opus Dei figure from a key position in the Bank of Spain.

While the leaders of the remnants of the Movement do have an organized base of sorts, they have little authority and have not been entrusted with most key positions of leadership for more than a decade. Spanish government under Franco has always relied on a careful balance of diverse forces. A major problem of the succession will be to maintain an equilibrium, but neither the governmental elements of Opus Dei nor the leaders of the Movement are in a position to force the issue.


In the Spanish system, a limited pluralistic régime is faced by a fractionalized opposition. The Spanish opposition may be divided for purposes of analysis into three different categories: the "collaborationist opposition," the "a-legal opposition" and the illegal opposition. The collaborationist opposition, or pseudo-opposition, consists of comparatively small sectors of those elements that participate in government under the Franco régime. For example, there are two small circles of dissident "left Falangists" that vigorously criticize the régime for having downgraded the Movement and for not having pursued a radical social and economic program. The Carlist sector of Spanish monarchism is divided into several groups and some of these are occasionally sharply critical. Even a few of the more liberal intellectual members of Opus Dei, such as Rafael Calvo Serer, take exception to the governmental Opus Dei group. It is perhaps unnecessary to add that these elements of the "collaborationist opposition" have little weight in Spanish affairs.

The sectors that Juan Linz of Yale University has labeled the "a-legal opposition" are somewhat more important. They consist mainly of several different groups and cliques of Christian Democrats and dissident monarchists, supported by a few elements of the financial community and aristocracy. Their informal political activity is usually tolerated because many of those involved either have been earlier associated with the régime or have ties with those so associated. Another reason that the government rarely moves against them is that their political work seldom takes the form of overt acts against the régime. Yet the "a-legal opposition" is of some importance for it contains capable leaders and potentially appeals to influential sectors of society.

The situation of the illegal opposition is quite different. This consists primarily of the working-class revolutionary groups-communists, socialists and anarchists-and the regional nationalists in Catalonia, the Basque country and Galicia. All overt activities by these elements-who in a free political marketplace would probably gain considerable support-are simply repressed. None of the more than a dozen clandestine parties in this sector is large or well-organized. The most resourceful is the Communist Party of Spain (PCE), thanks to Russian money and technical assistance, but it does not have a large following.

A full roster of opposition groups would list 25 different clandestine or semi-secret parties or groups, but would also be misleading. The opposition is weak, uncertain and thoroughly divided. Its three main sectors still remain largely if not completely exclusive and each in turn is sharply split by multiple schisms and antagonisms. The regionalists, for example, are not merely distinct from most other elements of the illegal opposition but are themselves split between middle-class liberal and working-class revolutionary groups in each region. The Russian-dominated Communist Party of Spain is flanked by Maoist and Castroite groups. Thus, after more than three decades of authoritarian rule, the opposition groups are still in no position to exert effective pressure against the régime, and there is little indication that they will be able to do so in the near future.

Possibly more important at the moment than any one sector of the opposition is the cultural climate prevailing in the larger universities and among the broader, active elements of the intelligentsia. Not the least of the paradoxes of Spain during the last years of the Franco era is that a country which has lived for more than three decades under a right-wing dictatorship has an intelligentsia that is to a considerable degree leftist. Since the easing of censorship in 1966 it has been possible to publish Marx, Marcuse and Che Guevara with little hindrance. Falangist demagogues seeking to regain influence vie with leftist intellectuals in diatribes against capitalism. The most scholarly studies of comparative politics are rarely translated but cheap, journalistic anti-American propaganda abounds (seemingly on occasion with the encouragement of the régime). Superficial, propagandistic anti-capitalism and attacks on liberalism have become commonplace in Spanish publications; serious investigations of the reality of life under leftist régimes rarely appear.

This condition, typical of current fads among the intelligentsia throughout the world, is half-tolerated by the régime simply as a means of letting the intelligentsia blow off steam, so long as it is not specifically directed toward Spanish politics. The intelligentsia has never been able to achieve any effective influence in Spanish affairs since the Civil War, and has become vocal to any degree only during the past decade, as the prosperity of the 1960s permitted greatly expanded cultural activity. It should be noted, however, that the greater number of the public disturbances within Spain during the past few years have been the work of the radical student intelligentsia. Though all outbursts have been effectively suppressed, and though efforts by student radicals to establish contacts with other clandestine groups have not achieved notable success, the ferment is increasing and should make political stability more tenuous during the 1970s.

Perhaps the best-organized, most important and successful sector of the opposition is not any of the political groups but rather the autonomous "Workers' Commissions." These are ad hoc representative structures of local factory workers organized more or less spontaneously entirely apart from the official state syndical system. The leaders are affiliated with a variety of groups-communist, anarchist, socialist, Christian Democrat-but in some cases have no explicit political identity at all. At this stage, their goals are strictly economic and trade unionist, and in a few districts the Workers' Commissions have proved so effective that employers have preferred to deal with them rather than with the official syndicates. The relative cohesiveness of the Madrid subway and construction workers' strikes in 1970 testifies to the efficiency of the Commissions, which may well become one of the two or three most powerful pressure groups of the decade. At present, however, they are handicapped by their semi-clandestine status and lack of national, as distinct from local, organization.


The future of the régime is less dependent, however, on the activity of the opposition than it is upon key factors within the government itself at the time of Franco's eventual demise and on general international conditions outside the government's control. The first of these factors is the successor himself, Juan Carlos de Borbón. This handsome, vigorous prince has been educated in Spain since 1954. He has not received the broad, balanced training and wide-ranging education which would constitute a fully adequate background for a head of state. He is currently operating under a considerable handicap as Franco's hand-picked heir waiting in the wings, for he still has no genuine influence or authority over affairs. Though he is receiving large amounts of publicity and attends many ceremonial functions, he is denied genuine experience for his future task and is largely cut off from key political groups. He is in no sense a popular figure, but rather the butt of common jokes among the politically conscious throughout Spain as a naïve incompetent used as a mere prop by Franco.

These sneers would seem to be unjust and exaggerated. Prince Juan Carlos is clearly an untried element, but on occasions when he has been freer to speak his mind he has indicated awareness of the fact that the régime must continue to change and to liberalize itself. He has also indicated a concern to establish broader personal contacts with important Spanish groups, though this has been made difficult both by the limitations imposed on him by the present government and by the hostility of the more moderate sectors of the opposition.

The constitutional laws of the Spanish government require that Franco's successor first must swear to uphold the basic principle of the Movement, and Juan Carlos has already done this in the official ceremony that established him as Franco's successor. Thus he will be faced with the problem of assuring continuity of an authoritarian régime while trying to extend its liberalization, a most difficult political task. The two goals are equally important; if there were signs that continuity of the régime was not to be safeguarded, Juan Carlos might find his authority in danger during the immediate post-Franco period. If creative changes are not pursued, it might eventually become impossible to hold the lid on.

Historically, the two most important institutions in Spain have been the Church and the army. The Franco régime has always been basically a military dictatorship, but only in the sense that it was originally established by military rebellion. Though the army hierarchy enjoys a special relationship with the government, it has no direct political authority. Indeed, one of the paradoxes of Spain in the Franco era is that the army is now less politicized than it was during much of the earlier part of the twentieth century. Just as the régime's goal has been to de-politicize Spanish society at large, encouraging people to take their minds off public issues and making little effort at civic mobilization, so the officer corps and NCO's have been urged increasingly to concentrate on professional duties. This is clearly what the great majority prefer. Consequently the army as a whole has no "political position," leaving that to the government.

None the less, the top commanders of the Spanish army constitute the most important power élite in the country. They are in no way independent, being always subject to veto or dismissal by Franco, but he has always treated the army command with special consideration. When a group of senior military leaders present a strong front, they can often impose changes, as in the establishment of a 60-day "state of exception" in the winter of 1969 that briefly suspended constitutional guarantees after student and other disorders threatened to go too far. Conversely, when in early 1970 an important military figure made a public speech on his own demanding new social changes that smacked of demagogy, he was summarily dismissed by Franco.

The army command has always been fully loyal to the régime, and Franco has taken care with senior appointments to see that they remain that way. While a few senior officials favor moderate liberalization, the army chiefs are in general the main hard-liners behind the régime. In a post-Franco succession they would presumably take a strong stand against things "getting out of hand." Should the military commanders face a vacuum of civilian leadership or an opposition unwilling to work for a step-by-step transition they might feel forced to assume a more direct role. However, no figure in the military hierarchy has remotely the prestige or authority of Franco. Should military leaders decide to intervene after his passing, their nominal monopoly of force will not guarantee success unless they also retain internal unity. Whether the army leadership can remain firmly cohesive without Franco as their commander-in-chief is a moot point.

Support from the Church is not of such immediate importance, but is of great indirect and symbolic value. Part of the younger clergy are hostile to the régime, and since 1960 the Church hierarchy has shown increasing concern to distinguish its public role from that of the state and avoid an excessively close clerical embrace. The value of the union of Church and State is increasingly questioned in Catholic circles. In general the Church is even less a political institution than is Opus Dei, and the hierarchy is not eager to be associated with political disputes, hoping that a satisfactory resolution of Spain's future can be achieved without requiring direct Church involvement.

The context of international affairs during the next few years will have considerable effect on the shape of the Spanish political transition. Perhaps the greatest single talent that Franco has had as chief of state has been for adapting to changing conditions on the international plane, more often than not using these to reinforce the régime's domestic position. The last two decades of relative tranquillity have not been due merely to authoritarian control and economic expansion, but also to the reinforcing pressures of the cold war and the general climate of political stability in Europe as a whole. There is some doubt that these same trends will continue into the 1970s. If, as current indications portend, Soviet power continues to increase in the Mediterranean and the political structure of, for example, Italy begins to deteriorate, this may well have the dual effect of encouraging the leftist opposition while prompting the hardliners to resist liberalization.

The future development of Spain will to some degree hinge on the country's association with the West European Common Market. "Europeanization" of the economy has been a major goal of the Opus Dei technocrats since the reforms that began in 1959. Entry into the Common Market would almost undoubtedly hasten the process of liberalization, making it nearly irreversible. In world perspective, it would also discourage the "neutralist" policy with which the régime has occasionally toyed in recent years. However, most of the West European Left shows no sign of terminating its ostracism of the Spanish régime, and the veto by the social democrats in the smaller Common Market countries seems as firm as ever.

In the mid-1960s there was some reason to believe that the demise of Franco might lead to the restoration of a constitutional monarchy that would restore liberal democracy to Spain, an outcome at that time seemingly favored by broad trends in the Western world. Now that liberal democracy has been rejected by some of the most active sectors of the intelligentsia, both inside and outside Spain, this seems rather less likely. For many years there appeared to be a good chance that Franco would be succeeded by the liberal heir to the Spanish Bourbon dynasty, Don Juan. Franco precluded this by seizing the initiative and instituting Don Juan's régime-educated son, Juan Carlos, as the official successor. Had Don Juan, rather than his son, had an opportunity to step in cleanly, the chances of national political conciliation would have been greater.

Much will depend on the precise circumstances attending Franco's demise. A direct overthrow either from inside or outside the government seems almost out of the question. The situation might be complicated by a lingering illness that left the head of state incapacitated, but the succession laws apparently provide for the transfer of powers to the legally designated heir in such circumstances. In any event, careful management by top government officeholders and by Juan Carlos will be necessary to make the transition a success. Much will also depend on the selection of a prime minister as acting head of government, either by Franco before his demise or by Juan Carlos immediately after assuming power as head of state. If such an executive is named by Franco beforehand, the prime minister would himself preside over the continuity of government, since under Spanish constitutional laws his early removal by Juan Carlos would be quite awkward.

The role of the opposition will then become much more important, and the indications are that a major part will be played by the communists. An immediate attack on the régime is unlikely, but six months or more after the transition is effected increasing pressure can be expected from the opposition. Should this get out of hand, leading to violence by, for example, student terrorists or Basque separatists, a new repression might be expected. If, however, the emerging opposition is well organized, peaceful and intelligently led, Juan Carlos and other government figures would probably be willing to extend further measures of liberalization and democratization. It is in this secondary, post-Franco phase, rather than in the initial steps of transition, that the fundamental structure of the Spanish régime is most likely to be called into question.

Non-communist authoritarian régimes have been notably incapable of perpetuating themselves after the death of the strong men who founded them. The three limited examples are the Pilsudski régime in Poland, that of Dollfuss in Austria (both of the latter having been overthrown from outside rather from within) and the current government of Portugal. These happen to be the twentieth-century European régimes which, together with Horthy's Hungary, are most similar to Franco Spain. The success of the Portuguese system in surviving the physical collapse and subsequent death of Salazar would appear to increase the chances for the Franco régime's continuation. Spain is a much more complex and difficult country to govern than is Portugal, but the present outlook is for continuity rather than upheaval in the Spanish system.

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