Francisco Franco was a Spanish general who gained power over Spain in 1936 just before the Spanish Civil War and stayed the Spanish leader until he died in 1975. Totalitarian nationalistic features characterize Franco’s political regime. However, they were slowly changing towards somewhat democratic values in the 60s and the 70s. Franco’s attitude towards his political opponents was hard and pushing.
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The politically motivated actions, violent in the majority of cases (Lázaro 40) caused the death of more than 400,000 people during the rule of Franco (Richards 11). Franco also proclaimed the policy of nationalism and unification of the Spanish nation, trying to make it monolith and suppressing every attempt to separate Spain on ethnic, language, or cultural basics. The means might be questionable, but the attempt to bring and hold Spain together might be considered as successful as well as the pushing and strict social and economic policy resulted in Spanish Miracle and unemployment reduction to zero in 1974.
The attitude to Franco in modern Spanish society is a complex debatable question, as there are many ways to look at and explain his deeds for Spain at different times of her history under Franco, as well as from different points of view. I have interviewed five different people of different ages and occupations to find out what is the overall attitude to Francisco Franco in modern Spain and his role for Spain in general.
Pilar, a sixty-four-year-old woman, believes that Franco’s influence on Spain was more of a positive than of a negative kind. She says that Franco’s hand was strong enough to keep his course in the difficult times that the world struggled in the 30s and the 40s. The neutrality line of behavior that Spain kept saved it from communists as it could fall under the Soviet influence after WWII was finished. Moreover, in the 60s and the 70s, the regime brought social and economic prosperity, as everyone had a job and a more or less stable way of life and income.
The flexibility of Franco’s international policy and his well-thought actions on the international arena allowed Spain to gain support from countries that belonged to different sides, says Tueruel, a forty-five-year-old Portero, partially supporting Pilar’s point of view. Gaining support from both Communists and Nazis before and during WWII Spain did not play an active role in it, concentrating on its inner problems, avoiding massive destruction WWII has brought to Europe. However, the policy had drastically changed just after the war when co-operation with the United States has become the real way to redemption through shifting the old-style companions to new, more qualified. “He showed a broad way of thinking at this point,” Tueruel says.
Iris, the thirty-year-old shop owner, strongly disagrees that the overall impact Franco had in Spain was positive. “It was some kind of Dark Ages barbarism,” she says.
“First, creating horrible conditions that led to fleeing and violent annihilation of the greatest and brightest minds of Spanish society at the beginning of his rule just because they had other political views! No wonder that policy led to dying hundred of thousands of people of hunger just because of poor management. And the management came from authorities who stayed because their political views were similar to those of Franco. Second, this retrograde and abusive attitude towards women by depriving them of their civil rights and tying them up to households is awful.”
Anna, the seventeen-year-old student, strongly supports Iris at this point: “Yes, Franco initialized the Spanish Miracle, but he had to pull the country out of the black hole of poverty and misery, his unskilled management dragged it in”. She is also revolted by the social role of women if Franco’s Spain, as well as suppression of student and university movements and the total social and police control.
Luiz, a taxi driver, claims that Franco’s regime had both positive and negative features that are reflected in the attitude to it all over Spain. As he often talks to different people of different ages, he says that the opinions change a lot. Some say that Franco was a strong leader who saved the country from many troubles other countries faced at the same time, bringing the stability; others call him a cruel dictator, a butcher who killed his fellow countrymen in cold blood. Luiz himself thinks that Franco’s greatest contribution despite all his negative sides was the unification of Spain and the precaution of separatism. “All the regions have specific traditions, but we all understand each other. We all call ourselves Spaniards”, he says.
Referring to Luiz, it would be fair to note that the overall opinion on Franco’s role among the modern citizens of Spain is dual. Of course, there are certain disadvantages and dark sides of his dictatorship, as every dictatorship has, being the realization of thoughts and views of a single person having unlimited powers. But on the other hand, Franco had a talent or a capacity to change, fit his views and preferences towards the opportunity of making the life of Spaniards more stable and prosperous, unwillingly creating the basement for the future democracy and tolerance.
Lázaro, Alberto. “James Joyce’s Encounters with Spanish Censorship, 1939–1966.” Joyce Studies Annual 12.1 (2001): 38-54. Print.
Richards, Michael. A Time of Silence: Civil War and the Culture of Repression in Franco’s Spain, 1936-1945. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.