Spain: Dictatorship to Democracy
Professor Raymond Carr is the author of the standard history of nineteenth-century Spain, and his present collaborator, Dr. Juan Pablo Fusi, has had experience of labor movements in the Basque country. It is not therefore surprising that their book should be so admirable. It is a densely packed work, very professional in style and completely without bias, so that when one has read it one feels one knows everything one wants to know about these dramatic events. Great care has been taken to discover the truth and one may, I think, trust the authors’ judgment completely.
To begin with, the portrait it gives of Franco is just right. He was not a man whom many people could feel drawn to and he had a very limited mind, yet his strong rather negative charisma combined with his absolute confidence in himself and his instinct for keeping in power by playing off one group against another made him for forty years the undisputed master of his country. His slowness of mind turned out to be a merit: in a land where everyone talks fluently, he listened and said nothing. His caution too was proverbial, but when he decided he must act he did so at once. He could then be ruthless at getting rid of even his closest collaborators without softening their dismissal by an explanation.
Yet it would be a great mistake to take him as the bogeyman he is represented as being in left-wing propaganda. He had the narrow authoritarian and nationalist views of the typical Spanish officer, strengthened by a strong contempt for the disastrous republic he had overthrown, but he ended up by accomplishing something that no one else had ever done—that is, he raised the level of life of every class from the misery and semi-starvation of the postwar years to the (for Spain) unbelievably high level of 1975. No one who had lived in that country before 1936 could believe his eyes when he saw the flood of cars and motorcycles and butane stoves and washing machines and refrigerators and television sets that began to invade the country and be snapped up by people of every sort in the 1960s and on till the present day. The huge gap between the working man’s income and that of even the modest bourgeois which had made the real problems of Spain insoluble before this time now existed no longer. One may say that it was Franco’s expenditure on education and the great lift he gave to the working-class level of subsistence that made possible the democracy that succeeded him.
Those who can see no good in a dictator maintain that this was not his personal doing, but was part of the European boom of the Sixties. Had he, they say, been more adroit he would have taken even better advantage of it. No doubt there is some truth in this, for Spaniards have never been good at planning, but Carr shows that the “economic miracle,” as it…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.