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[Edicions Saldonar i el Grup de Periodistes Ramon Barnils editen en anglès, amb el títol Franco Lives On, el llibre El franquisme que no marxa de Lluc Salellas. L’edició anglesa, amb pròlegs d’Henry Ettinghausen i David Bassa i epíleg de Toni Strubell, ja es pot reservar i serà a les llibreries a partir de la setmana vinent. N’oferim un capítol en exclusiva.]

Portada de "Franco Lives On", editat per Saldonar i el Grup Barnils.

Franco Lives On traces the birth of democracy in Spain in 1978 after forty years under Franco’s dictatorship. It reveals the hidden side of what happened during the Spanish Transition. This study is the key to understanding the opaque workings of justice and the incapability of dialogue shown by the political powers in Madrid in recent years in response to challenges such as the referendum in Catalonia or the demise of ETA. What became of Franco’s ministers after the arrival of the new Spanish Constitution? Were they driven out of the corridors of power or did they stay there and add to their wealth and political influence? The answers can be found in this book, which spotlights how the political elite in Spain have lacked the capacity for renewal seen in other European Union States.

Mè presents today a chapter of the book, the introduction to the Franco Regime’s. See also the preface by David Bassa. “Franco Lives On” will be distributed at bookshops next week and can be bought online here.

 The Franco Regime’s factions: past, present and future?


“Power remains in the same hands.
Those who held it yesterday still hold it today.

The Army is watching over what was one day
well and truly bound up.”

Habeas Corpus, A las cosas por su nombre (1999)

The period of Spanish liberal democracy has been one of the episodes with the greatest amount of rights and freedom, stability and economic progress in Spain’s history. In 1978, a model was established that has survived with broad internal approval[1], albeit showing comparatively inferior statistics for many years compared to other European states in areas such as poverty or unemployment. Since the arrival of democracy, the welfare of a large majority of its inhabitants has improved considerably. This improvement, as with all social processes, has not been one-way from the State to the people but has been largely attributable to the effort, civic commitment and fiscal contribution of the whole population.

As do the main political parties of the period, many Spanish historians have pointed to the Spanish Transition and the resulting constitutional text as key elements in explaining this. The Constitution, approved with the support of over fifteen million citizens – of a census of about twenty-six million – was to begin a new era, according to all the chronicles of the time, the best of all possible scenarios. And it is true that with the approval of the constitutional document elements were incorporated that had not been accepted during the previous forty years of dictatorship. The document also recognised the multilingual character of the State, and there was an opportunity to recover a certain degree of home rule for the so-called ʻhistorical nationalitiesʼ and the regions, embracing a portion of the demands of the people.[2]

However, it is no less true that this process has not fulfilled one of the objectives of the discourse of the day: that of putting an end to the Franco dictatorship for once and for all. This issue was entered into in the previous chapter. So although some of the key elements of the design of the Fascist regime had been eliminated, the Spanish liberal democracy that had just begun its course maintained classical aspects of the regime’s methods, and not only in regard to precepts such as the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation or the military force of the army to guarantee it. Thus, for example, University of Malaga professor Rafael Durán Muñoz recalls in an article: “Although the institutional and regulatory framework changed radically, there is nevertheless considerable functional and organic continuity between the Franco regime’s State and that of the new democracy.”[3] Engineer and writer Xavier Roig delved further into this idea in reference to Catalonia in an article in the autumn of 2014 in the newspaper Ara: “The entrenchment of the Franco elites in democracy has been of such magnitude that we no longer know who endorsed whom (rulers or elites). Too many are heirs of collaborationist business owners, if not directly invaders. Others are heirs of Franco regime civil servants.” And he continues: “Of solid elites, well-attached to the social and political body, with the will to influence the country’s destinies, autonomous Catalonia has only had those left behind by Franco,” a line Sabino Cuadra, a Basque member of Spain’s Congress for Amaiur party, also followed recently when, during the State of the Nation debate, he stated that “Spain is not a democracy, it is a Francocracy.”[4]

To prove this political and economic continuity, before and after the death of general Franco, we have the main state-owned enterprises in strategic sectors. In a lengthy and highly recommendable report appearing in the autumn 2014 edition of the magazine La Marea, under the title “Franquismo SA” – Francoism, Inc. – this Madrid-based magazine gave the history of companies that form part of the Madrid stock-market index Ibex35, such as Iberdrola, Gas Natural, Acciona, ACS or OHL, and showed how these multinationals would not have achieved such ascendancy if it had not been for their direct involvement in the dictatorship. How? Through their management boards. A form of cooperation we can see, for example, in the construction company OHL, today a huge multinational contractor, but which had been involved in the construction of the Valle de los Caídos, a Gargantuan monument representing the ideological essence of the Franco regime. Its construction was carried out with the use of slave labour including Spanish Civil War prisoners.[5]

The same type of symbiosis occurred with Iberdrola, the result of a merger between two companies – Iberduero, the main reservoir builder of the regime, and Hidrola, owned by the de Oriol y Urquijo family. Hidrola grew from being a small company in the nineteen-thirties to becoming the fifth largest company in 1960, with net assets of 11,468 million pesetas of the period – about seven million euros. Today, Iberdrola, which was chaired between 1960 and 2005 by Iñigo de Oriol, a close relative of one of Franco’s government ministers, accrues annual profits of over €2.500M euros. Meanwhile, OHL, presided over by Juan Miguel Villar Mir, Marquis of Villar Mir, a senior figure of the Franco regime and Minister of Finance between 1975 and 1976, accrues about two hundred and seventy million euros. This close public-private link was maintained until the last days of the Franco regime and none of these large companies linked with the regime has yet made any act of historical reparation appropriate in any of the more advanced democracies in the world.

In fact, a considerable number of the heads of these strategic companies which consolidated through state support in the mid-20th century, were precursors of the ʻrevolving doorsʼ phenomenon, that is to say the practice of moving from a top position in the public administration, in this case Franco’s, to occupy a prominent position in the management of large Spanish companies. The revolving doors phenomenon, one of the most notorious and criticised elements of the current political system, would therefore seem to go back at least as far as the practice of the leading public figures of the regime. So much so that, in many cases, this passage from the world of public leadership to that of private leadership, was consummated during the Transition itself (1975-1978).

It is precisely this thesis – which holds that the Transition and the constitutional text largely failed to mark a fresh start, as happens in other parts of the world, but was in fact a sequel – that I shall develop in the following pages. I will do so by using seven indicators that seem to me to be key to support that despite the change of epoch, the legal-political mantle and the welcome arrival of democracy, a good part of the strings that were pulled in the public and private spheres of the Franco regime have survived to this day. This persistence is considered by many researchers to be logical to a certain extent, since as is the case in Spain, the regime has been lengthy and its elites have played an eminent part in defining the new model of state. This is corroborated by leading political scientists in comparative research such as Katherine Hite and Leonardo Morlino, when they say: “The more durable and institutionally innovative the authoritarian regime, the greater the potential influence of authoritarian legacies. The more accentuated the privileged position of authoritarian rulers is in the type of transition, the greater the potential influence of this authoritarian legacy.”[6]

Thus, to show the way in which this is an equation that has applied in Spain, I have used the following indicators for pro-Franco ministers in democracy: participation in management boards of large companies; staffing the public administration; lawmakers and founders of conservative factions; lineages that continue to form part of the national elite; symbolic honours; amnesty and emolument, and the public narrative on their governance and unchanging discourse. These elements have been chosen in line with the biographical research I have done on all forty-nine of those who held ministerial posts in the governments of Francisco Franco between 1970 and 1975, when the dictator died in bed by natural causes. They account for almost 40% of the total number of ministers during the forty years of dictatorship, also being the youngest and most capable group of politicians of the Franco regime to have made it to the Transition. This fact allows us to better clarify what links there are between the authoritarian and the democratic eras. In addition, it should be taken into account that, despite the fact that the official historiography has associated the period between 1970 and 1975 with the concept of aperturismo – opening up – those years saw the regime’s continued application of the most reactionary principles in terms of  rights and freedoms. The application of the death penalty, the ban on strikes, demonstrations and meetings, arbitrary arrests, or tight control of the press, all demonstrate this. These are all elements that are under investigation by the Argentinian justice (2014) against living senior officials in the Franco administration (some of whom appear in this book). Historian Martí Marín says of them: “The ministers of the sixties and seventies were all, to a man, aperturistas – open-minded – to the extent that they proposed some kind of change, just as they were conservative in the sense that they wanted the perpetuation of the regime. Their conversion to democracy, in those cases where this actually occurred –which were not so many – came about much later.”[7]

Thus, in order to complete the research made by consulting news and obituaries published in media such as El País or ABC, books, ministerial websites or historical archives, I have also included senior public appointees of the Franco regime who occupied important posts in Spanish democracy, such as Juan Carlos de Borbón, Adolfo Suárez, Manuel Fraga, Rodolfo Martín Villa or Alfonso Osorio. Likewise, the biographical compilation from the research by historian Martí Marín[8] also includes the examination of nine representative names of Catalan Franco devotees: Demetrio Carceller, Joaquim Bau, Josep Maria de Porcioles, Miquel Mateu, Carlos Trias, Santiago de Cruïlles de Peratallada, Juan Antonio Samaranch, Santiago Udina and Josep Vilarasau. And although most of the Catalan-speaking lands suffered double repression for being ʻRedʼ and ʻSeparatistʼ just after the Civil War, there were also well-to-do families in these territories who profited from the Fascist regime and actively collaborated with it. Even so, it must be remembered that those behind the regime who were born in Catalonia were comparatively fewer than those born in other regions.[9] On the other hand, Martí Marín argues that “most of them came to plenitude and positions of power when the rules of the political game were called into question by the numerous mobilised minorities, and the changes caught them wrong-footed.” This idea is also backed by Josep Fontana: “However much the Catalan bourgeoisie might have been devotees of the regime, especially those who had accompanied the army wearing the blue shirts – the Spanish equivalent of the German brown-shirts – of the Falange, they would not participate in the political rule of the country, since that role would apply to outsiders two steps higher up in the hierarchy: that of the military captains general, who were the only authority over the whole of Catalonia, and the civil governors and provincial leaders of the Movimiento.”[10] In any case, after the death of Franco, not even in the Catalan-speaking lands has there been room for democratic reparation on the part of the groups collaborating with the Fascist regime, despite the work done by the administration, in this case especially in Catalonia, to recover the historical memory of those sombre years.

The approval of Spanish democracy by the citizens even eclipsed the score given by the Danes to their own system in 2007, as published recently by the newspaper Ara.

The specific application of home rule has subsequently and often been altered by the reductionist view of most institutions and their inability and non-existent political will to build a fully-fledged rights-based democracy.

Durán Muñoz, R. “Fortaleza del Estado y acción colectiva en el cambio de regimen. España y Portugal en perspectiva comparada», in  Violencia y transiciones políticas a finales del siglo xx, by Baby, S., Compagnon, O. and González Calleja, E. Casa de Velázquez, 2009.

Cuadra, S. Speech during the Debate on the State of the Nation. 25 February 2015.

«Franquismo SA», La Marea. November 2014.

Contained in “Legado autoritario, justicia transicional y crisis del estado en la democratización de Portugal”, by Antonio Costa Pinto, in Violencia y transiciones políticas a finales del siglo xx, by Baby, S., Compagnon, O. and González Calleja, E. Casa de Velázquez, 2009.

Marín, M. Història del franquisme a Catalunya. Pàges Editors, 2006.


18% of the ministers studied in this book were born in the Catalan-speaking lands. None of them in the Balearics nor in the west-bound La Franja de Ponent – the Catalan-speaking area of neighbouring Aragon. This proportion is considerably lower than the almost 30% of the population the Catalan-speaking lands stand for in Spain as a whole.

Fontana, J. La formació d’una identitat. Eumo, 2014.