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The Franquist Regime and the Dilemma of Succession

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2009


This article explores the Spanish franquist regime's attempts to resolve a succession crisis, as the death of Francisco Franco appeared imminent in the late 1960's. It argues that Franco established the mechanisms for a smooth succession to the posts of head of state and head of government. However, these mechanisms failed to achieve Franco's major goal: the continuation of authoritarian rule after his death. Ironically, Franco's apparently ingenious “solution” to the dilemmas of succession facilitated a democratic transition that would have horrified the dictator.

Research Article
Copyright © University of Notre Dame 1986

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1 Some of the research for this article was conducted as part of the author's doctoral dissertation, “Transition Through Transaction: The Politics of Democratization in Spain, 1975–1977” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Stanford University, 1983)Google Scholar. Generalizations about authoritarian regimes contained herein are based mainly on the author's familiarity with the regions of Western Europe and Latin America.

2 On the first four years of the PSOE government, see Share, Donald, “Four Years of Socialist Government in Spain: Tensions and Successes in the Consolidation of Party and Regime” (Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., 08 1986).Google Scholar

3 Support for this statement is found in my “Democratization in Spain: Searching for Explanations” (Delivered at the Ninth Annual European Studies Conference University of Nebraska at Omaha, 1984).Google Scholar

4 This paper does not have as its focus the transition to democracy or the consolidation of democratic rule. Rather, the emphasis is on the dilemmas facing authoritarian regimes and the mechanisms through which they attempt to cope with changes of leadership.

5 As noted in the concluding section of this article, this appears to make the Spanish case similar to the Portuguese case after Salazar, and contemporary Chile and Paraguay.

6 On Spain's democratization after Franco see Share, Donald, The Making of Spanish Democracy (New York: Praeger Publishers and the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, 1986).Google Scholar

7 For a working definition of an authoritarian regime see Linz, Juan J., “Opposition in and Under an Authoritarian Regime: The Case of Spain” in Regimes and Opposition, ed. Dahl, Robert (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973), p. 185.Google Scholar

8 A good discussion is Chang, Maria, “Playing Ostrich: Taiwan's Succession Predicament” (Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Western Political Science Association, Eugene, Oregon, 03 1986).Google Scholar

9 Linz, , “Opposition in and Under an Authoritarian Regime,” p. 188.Google Scholar

10 For an excellent discussion of authoritarian coalition management, see Schmitter, Philippe C., “Liberation by Golpe” in Armed Forces and Society, 1 (Fall 1975), 1314.Google Scholar

11 Giner, Salvador, “Political Economy, Legitimation and the State in Southern Europe,” The British Journal of Sociology, 2 (06 1982), 189.Google Scholar

12 Linz, , “Opposition in and Under an Authoritarian Regime,” p. 193.Google Scholar

13 For an illustration of this point from the Brazilian case, see Schneider, Ronald M., “The Brazilian Military in Politics” in The New Militarism in Latin America, ed. Wesson, Robert (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1982), pp. 5869.Google Scholar

14 Marcello Caetano's ill-fated experience in Portugal, after Salazar became incapacitated, is an excellent illustration of this point. For a detailed description see Schmitter, , “Liberation by Golpe.”Google Scholar

15 This point is elaborated in Przeworski, Adam, “Notes on the Logic of the Transition to Democracy,” presented at a workshop on “Prospects for Democracy: Transitions from Authoritarianism in Latin America and Latin Europe” (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 09 1979), p. 5.Google Scholar

16 Schmitter, , “Liberation by Golpe,” p. 25.Google Scholar

17 An outstanding analysis of this period is Linz, Juan, “From Great Hopes to Civil War: The Breakdown of Democracy in Spain” in The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes: Europe, ed. Linz, and Stepan, A. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1978).Google Scholar

18 Among the surprisingly few works on Franco are Salgado, Francisco Franco, Mis conversaciones privadas con Franco (Madrid: Union, 1976)Google Scholar and Bayod, Angel, ed., Franco visto por sus ministros (Barcelona: Planeta, 1981).Google Scholar

19 Payne, Stanley, Franco's Spain (New York: Thomas Cromwell, 1967), pp. 1213, gives a cursory treatment of this period.Google Scholar

20 Alba, Carlos R., “The Organization of Authoritarian Leadership: Franco Spain” in Presidents and Prime Ministers, ed. Rose, R. and Suleiman, E. (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute, 1982), p. 259.Google Scholar

21 Robinson, Richard A. H., The Origins of Franco's Spain (London: David and Charles, 1970).Google Scholar

22 On franquist families, see de Miquel, Amando, Sociología del franquismo: analisis ideologico de los ministros del regimen (Barcelona: Euros, 1975).Google Scholar

23 On the Falange, see Payne, Stanley, Falange: A History of Spanish Fascism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961)Google Scholar. On the creation of the National Movement, see Linz, Juan, “From Falange to Movimiento-Organización: The Spanish Single Party and the Franco Regime, 1936–1968” in Authoritarian Politics in Modern Society (New York: Basic Books, 1979).Google Scholar

24 Payne, , Franco's Spain, pp. 2425.Google Scholar

25 Two overviews of the period are contained in the historical works of Castro, Ignacio Fernandez, De las cortes de Cadiz al postfranquismo, vol. 1 (Barcelona: El Viejo Topo, 1981)Google Scholar and de la Cierva, Ricardo, Historia del Franquismo (Barcelona: Planeta, 1978).Google Scholar

26 Linz, , “Opposition in and Under an Authoritarian Regime,” esp. pp. 188–94.Google Scholar

27 For the more detailed analysis of the franquist families and their international disputes, see Share, , Making of Spanish Democracy, chap. 3.Google Scholar

28 Carr, Raymond and Fusi, Juan Pablo, Spain: Dictatorship to Democracy, 2nd ed. (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1981), pp. 168–74.Google Scholar

29 The Opus Dei, literally “God's Work,” is an international Catholic lay organization, shrouded in secrecy. In Spain, the members were mainly from the middle and upper classes, largely upwardly mobile professionals, and often technocrats. The Opus, whose founder was a Spaniard, gained tremendous influence in Spain during the 1950's and 1960's, by placing its members in positions of influence in universities, government and private enterprise. While the organization has no official ideology, its members in Spain were identified with a technocratic authoritarian mentality, that combined economic liberalism with political conservatism.

30 For an overview of Spain's relations with the United States during franquism, see Rubottom, R. and Murphy, J., Spain and the United States (New York: Praeger, 1984).Google Scholar

31 A good treatment of political economic policy during franquism is González, Manual Jesus, Le economia politico del franquismo, 1940–1970 (Madrid: Tencos, 1979).Google Scholar

32 MATESA was a textile conglomerate, found guilty of diverting huge amounts of state investment credits into bank accounts. Three Opus Dei ministers were directly implicated.

33 On the first post-civil war generation, see Lizcano, Pablo, La generación del '56 (Barcelona: Grijalbo, 1981).Google Scholar

31 On the growing regional imbalances see McMillon, Charles W., “International Integration and Intra-National Disintegration,” Comparative Politics (04 1981)Google Scholar. On the growing tension in church-state relations, see Cooper, Norman B., Catholicism and the Franco Regime (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1974)Google Scholar and Payne, Stanley, Spanish Catholicism: An Historical Overview (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984).Google Scholar

35 By far the most revealing reading on the designation of Juan Carlos as successor is Rodó, Laureano López, La larga marcha hacia la monarquia, Seventh Edition (Barcelona: Plaza and Janes, 1979)Google Scholar. López Rodó was a prominent Opus Dei minister in the 1960's and early 1970's, and was personally involved in the plans to name Juan Carlos as successor.

36 During interviews with some of Franco's closest collaborators, conducted in 1981, the dictator's stubbornness on this matter was consistently noted. It appears that many franquist elites were increasingly concerned about the power vacuum that could develop after Franco's death, and they were interested in a speedy resolution of the matter. For further evidence on this point, see Rodó, López, La larga marcha, pp. 570 ff.Google Scholar

37 See Carr, and Fusi, , Spain, Dictatorship to Democracy, p. 172Google Scholar, for elaboration of this theme.

38 Two works examine the difficult position of Juan Carlos before his coronation. See Alba, Victor, La soledad del Rey (Barcelona: Planeta, 1981)Google Scholar and Bardavío, Joaquín, Los silencios del Rey (Madrid: Strips, 1979).Google Scholar

39 Eaton, Samuel, The Forces of Freedom in Spain, 1974–1979: A Personal Account (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1981), p. 31.Google Scholar

40 See Rodó, López, La larga marcha, for extensive evidence supporting this point.Google Scholar

41 For more background on the political system of franquist Spain see Medhurst, Kenneth N., The Government of Spain: The Executive at Work (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1973).Google Scholar

42 Carr, and Fusi, , Spain, Dictatorship to Democracy, p. 180.Google Scholar

43 On Carrero Blanco's first government, see Rodó, López, La larga marcha, pp. 587606.Google Scholar

44 Quoted in Betriu, Rafael Borrás, El día en que mataron a Carrero Blanco (Barcelona: Planeta, 1974), p. 194.Google Scholar

45 Rodó, López, La larga marcha, pp. 607608.Google Scholar

46 On Fernández Miranda, see Alcocer, José Luis, Fernández Miranda: Angonía de un Estado, 2nd ed. (Barcelona: Planeta, 1986).Google Scholar

47 On Arias and his reform attempt, see Osorio, Alfonso, Trayectoria política de un ministro de la corona, 2nd ed. (Barcelona: Planeta, 1974), pp. 5055.Google Scholar

48 A more detailed discussion appears in Share, , Making of Spanish Democracy, chap. 3.Google Scholar

49 Eaton, , Forces of Freedom in Spain, 1974–1979, gives an accurate description of this period.Google Scholar

50 King Juan Carlos was virtually forced to appoint Arias, since the terna (a list of three nominees from which he must select the president) drawn up by the Council of the Realm included two more authoritarian candidates. Arias was the lesser of evils. See Payne, Stanley, “The Political Transformation of Spain,” Current History, 431 (1977), 14Google Scholar; and Alba, Victor, La soledad, p. 256.Google Scholar

51 See ABC, 2 and 6 12 1975, for some examples.Google Scholar

52 Newsweek, 26 04 1976.Google Scholar

53 Among the best works on Suárez are Morán, Gregorio, Adolfo Suarez: Historia de una ambición, 3rd ed. (Barcelona: Planeta, 1979)Google Scholar; Chamorro, Eduardo, Viaje al centra de UCD (Barcelona: Planeta, 1981)Google Scholar; Ysart, Federico, ¿ Quién hizo el cambio? (Barcelona: Argos Vergara, 1984).Google Scholar

54 Suarez convinced conservative franquist politicians that the future political system would keep the Left from power, and that only through “transactive democratization” could their power be perpetuated. More importantly, he convinced the armed forces that the Communist party would not be legalized, and that the regional decentralization would be very limited. These important negotiations are discussed in Share, , Making of Spanish Democracy, chap. 4.Google Scholar

55 On the UCD, see Huneeus, Carlos, La Union de Centro Demoráticoy la transición a la democracia en España (Madrid: Centro de investigaciones Sociológicas, 1985Google Scholar; and Attard, Emilio, Vida y muerte de UCD (Barcelona: Planeta, 1983).Google Scholar

56 That Juan Carlos took a large gamble in appointing Suárez is often forgotten. In fact, the initial public reaction to Suárez's selection was very negative. Only the franquist Right seemed satisfied by the naming of the ex-secretary general of the National Movement. The democratic opposition and the press viewed the king's move as too timid.

57 See Lizcano, , La generación del '56.Google Scholar

58 Among the most important works are Santamaría, Julián, ed., Transición a la democracia en el sur de Europa y América Latina (Madrid: Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas, 1981)Google Scholar; Vicuña, Francisco Orrego, ed., Transición a la democracia en América Latina (Buenos Aires: Grupo Editor Latinoamericano, 1985)Google Scholar; O'Donnell, Guillermo, Schmitter, Philippe and Whitehead, Laurence, eds., Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Southern Europe and Latin America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986)Google Scholar; Share, Donald and Mainwaring, Scott, “Transitions Through Transactions: Democratization in Brazil and Spain” in Political Liberalization in Brazil, ed. Selcher, Wayne A. (Boulder: Westview Press, 1986).Google Scholar

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