See biographies by B. Crozier (1968), G. Hills (1968), and J. W. Trythall (1970).
Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco y Bahamonde (born December 4, 1892 in Ferrol, died November 20, 1975 in Madrid), commonly known as Francisco Franco or Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was the dictator and Head of State of Spain from October 1936, as de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in 1975. His rule was known for a focus on Spanish nationalism, imperial aspirations, centralism and traditional values.
Franco led a notable military career and reached the rank of General. He fought in Morocco and suppressed a strike in 1934 to defend the stability of the Republican government. In February 1936, the left-wing Popular Front won the general election and formed a government. A period of severe instability and disarray followed the election, with escalating violence between left and right wing supporters. Anti-clerical violence against the Church by leftist militants further raised tensions. After the assassination of a major opposition figure, José Calvo Sotelo, by a commando unit of the Assault Guards in July 1936, Franco participated in a coup d'etat against the elected Popular Front government. The coup failed and evolved into the Spanish Civil War during which he emerged as the leader of the Nationalists against the Popular Front. After winning the civil war, he dissolved the Spanish Parliament, establishing an authoritarian regime that lasted until 1978, when a new constitution was drafted. During the Second World War, Franco maintained a policy of non-belligerency, although he did assist Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy on a small scale against the Soviet Union, most famously by sending troops (known as the Blue Division) to aid Nazi Germany in fighting the Soviet Union. Before the invasion of the Soviet Union by the German Army, Franco and Hitler met in Hendaye on October 23, 1940. During the Cold War, the United States established a diplomatic alliance with Franco, due to his strong anti-Communist policy. American President Richard Nixon toasted Franco, and, after Franco's death, stated: "General Franco was a loyal friend and ally of the United States." After his death Spain began a transition to democracy.
Francisco was to follow his father into the navy, but as a result of the Spanish-American War the country had lost much of its navy as well as most of its colonies. Not needing more officers, entry into the Naval Academy was closed from 1906 to 1913. To his father's chagrin, he decided to join the Spanish Army. In 1907, he entered the Infantry Academy in Toledo, from which he graduated in 1910. He was commissioned as a lieutenant. Two years later, he obtained a commission to Morocco. Spanish efforts to physically occupy their new African protectorate provoked the protracted Rif War (from 1909 to 1927) with native Moroccans. Tactics at the time resulted in heavy losses among Spanish military officers, but also gave the chance of earning promotion through merit. It was said that officers would get either la caja o la faja (a coffin or a general's sash). Franco soon gained a reputation as a good officer. He joined the newly formed regulares, colonial native troops with Spanish officers, who acted as shock troops.
In 1916, at the age of 23 and already a captain, he was badly wounded in a skirmish at El Biutz. His survival marked him permanently in the eyes of the native troops as a man of baraka (good luck). He was also recommended unsuccessfully for Spain's highest honor for gallantry, the coveted Cruz Laureada de San Fernando. Instead, he was promoted to major (comandante), becoming the youngest field grade officer in the Spanish Army.
From 1917 to 1920, he was posted on the Spanish mainland. That last year, Lieutenant Colonel José Millán Astray, a histrionic but charismatic officer, founded the Spanish Foreign Legion, along similar lines to the French Foreign Legion. Franco became the Legion's second-in-command and returned to Africa.
On July 24 1921, the poorly commanded and overextended Spanish Army suffered a crushing defeat at Annual at the hands of the Rif tribes led by the Abd el-Krim brothers. The Legion symbolically, if not materially, saved the Spanish enclave of Melilla after a gruelling three-day forced march led by Franco. In 1923, already a lieutenant colonel, he was made commander of the Legion.
The same year, he married María del Carmen Polo y Martínez-Valdès; they had one child, a daughter, María del Carmen, born in 1926. As a special mark of honor, his best man (padrino) at the wedding was King Alfonso XIII, a fact that would mark him during the Republic as a monarchical officer.
Promoted to colonel, Franco led the first wave of troops ashore at Alhucemas in 1925. This landing in the heartland of Abd el-Krim's tribe, combined with the French invasion from the south, spelled the beginning of the end for the shortlived Republic of the Rif.
Becoming the youngest general in Spain in 1926, Franco was appointed in 1928 director of the newly created Joint Military Academy in Zaragoza, a new college for all Army cadets, replacing the former separate institutions for young men seeking to become officers in infantry, cavalry, artillery, and other branches of the army.
On February 5, 1932, he was given a command in La Coruña. Franco avoided involvement in José Sanjurjo's attempted coup that year, and even wrote a hostile letter to Sanjurjo expressing his anger over the attempt. As a side result of Azaña's military reform, in January 1933, Franco was relegated from the first to the 24th in the list of Brigadiers; conversely, the same year (February 17), he was given the military command of the Balearic Islands: a post above his rank.
New elections held in October 1933 resulted in a center-right majority. In opposition to this government, a revolutionary movement broke out October 5, 1934. This uprising was rapidly quelled in most of the country, but gained a stronghold in Asturias, with the support of the miners' unions. Franco, already general of a Division and aide to the war minister, Diego Hidalgo, was put in command of the operations directed to suppress the insurgency. The forces of the Army in Africa were to carry the brunt of this, with General Eduardo López Ochoa as commander in the field. After two weeks of heavy fighting (and a death toll estimated between 1,200 and 2,000), the rebellion was suppressed.
The insurgency in Asturias sharpened the antagonism between Left and Right. Franco and López Ochoa—who, prior to the campaign in Asturias, was seen as a left-leaning officer—were marked by the left as enemies. At the start of the Civil War, López Ochoa was assassinated. Some time after these events, Franco was briefly commander-in-chief of the Army of Africa (from February 15 onwards), and from May 19, 1935, on, Chief of the General Staff.
The days after the election were marked by near-chaotic circumstances. Franco lobbied unsuccessfully to have a state of emergency declared, with the stated purpose of quelling the disturbances and allowing an orderly vote recount.
Meanwhile, a conspiracy led by Emilio Mola was taking shape. In June, Franco was contacted and a secret meeting was held in Tenerife's La Esperanza Forest to discuss a military coup. (A commemorative obelisk commemorating this historic meeting can be found in a clearing at Las Raíces.)
But outwardly Franco maintained an ambiguous attitude almost up until July. On June 23 1936, he wrote to the head of the government, Casares Quiroga, offering to quell the discontent in the army, but was not answered. The other rebels were determined to go ahead, con Paquito o sin Paquito (with Franco or without him), as it was put by José Sanjurjo, the honorary leader of the military uprising. After various postponements, July 18 was fixed as the date of the uprising. The situation reached a point of no return and, as presented to Franco by Mola, the coup was unavoidable and he had to choose a side. He decided to join the rebels and was given the task of commanding the Army of Africa. A privately owned DH 89 De Havilland Dragon Rapide, was chartered in England July 11 to take Franco to Africa.
The assassination of the right-wing opposition leader José Calvo Sotelo by government police troops, possibly acting on their own in retaliation for the murder of José Castillo, precipitated the uprising. On July 17, one day earlier than planned, the African Army rebelled, detaining their commanders. On July 18, Franco published a manifesto and left for Africa, where he arrived the next day to take command.
A week later, the rebels, who soon called themselves the Nationalists, controlled only a third of Spain, and most navy units remained under control of the Republican loyalist forces, which left Franco isolated. The coup had failed, but the Spanish Civil War had begun.
The Spanish Civil War began in July 1936 and officially ended with Franco's victory in April 1939, leaving 190,000 to 500,000 dead. Despite the Non-Intervention Agreement of August 1936, the war was marked by foreign intervention on behalf of both sides, leading to international repercussions. The nationalist side was supported by Fascist Italy, which sent the Corpo Truppe Volontarie and later Nazi Germany, which assisted with the Condor Legion infamous for their bombing of Guernica in April 1937. Britain and France strictly adhered to the arms embargo, provoking dissensions within the French Popular Front coalition led by Léon Blum, but the Republican side was nonetheless supported by volunteers fighting in the International Brigades and the Soviet Union. (See for example Ken Loach's Land and Freedom.)
Because Hitler and Stalin used the war as a testing ground for modern warfare, some historians, such as Ernst Nolte, have considered the Spanish Civil War, along with the Second World War, part of a "European Civil War" lasting from 1936 to 1945 and characterized mainly as a Left/Right ideological conflict. However, this interpretation has not found acceptance among most historians, who consider the Second World War and the Spanish Civil War two distinct conflicts. Among other things, they point to the political heterogeneity on both sides (See Spanish Civil War: Other Factions in the War) and criticize a monolithic interpretation which overlooks the local nuances of Spanish history. It has to be considered, nevertheless, that the politics that allowed Mussolini and Hitler to establish themselves in Europe and the territorial claims for power and resources for which WWII was triggered worked for Franco as well, regardless of the different origins of the militant Spanish sides. One might as well underline that the fate of Austria and Czechoslovakia was bargained alongside the end of the Spanish Republic on the same negotiation table with Hitler, and the end of the Spanish Civil War (Spring 1939) coincided with the war planning of the two dictators. To that extent the two wars are strongly linked although the Spanish political situation had developed on a different basis.
Following the July 18, 1936, pronunciamento, Franco assumed the leadership of the 30,000 soldiers of the Spanish Army of Africa. The first days of the insurgency were marked with a serious need to secure control over the Spanish Moroccan Protectorate. On one side, Franco managed to win the support of the natives and their (nominal) authorities, and, on the other, to ensure his control over the army. This led to the summary execution of some 200 senior officers loyal to the Republic (one of them his own first cousin). Also his loyal bodyguard was shot by a man known as Manuel Blanco. Franco's first problem was how to move his troops to the Iberian Peninsula, since most units of the Navy had remained in control of the Republic and were blocking the Strait of Gibraltar. He requested help from Mussolini, who responded with an unconditional offer of arms and planes; Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the Abwehr military intelligence, persuaded Hitler, as well, to support the Nationalists. From July 20 onward he was able, with a small group of 22 mainly German Junkers Ju 52 airplanes, to initiate an air bridge to Seville, where his troops helped to ensure the rebel control of the city. Through representatives, Franco started to negotiate with the United Kingdom, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy for more military support, and above all for more airplanes. Negotiations were successful with the last two on July 25, and airplanes began to arrive in Tetouan on August 2. On August 5, Franco was able to break the blockade with the newly arrived air support, successfully deploying a ship convoy with some 2,000 soldiers.
In early August, the situation in western Andalusia was stable enough to allow him to organize a column (some 15,000 men at its height), under the command of then Lieutenant-Colonel Juan Yagüe, which would march through Extremadura towards Madrid. On August 11, Mérida was taken, and on August 15 Badajoz, thus joining both nationalist-controlled areas. Additionally, Mussolini ordered a voluntary army, the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (CTV) of some 12,000 Italians of fully motorized units to Seville and Hitler added to them a professional squadron from the Luftwaffe (2JG/88) with about 24 planes. All these planes had the Nationalist Spanish insignia painted on them, but were flown by Italian and German troops. The backbone of Franco's aviation in those days were the Italian SM.79 and SM.81 bombers, the biplane Fiat CR.32 fighter and the German Junkers Ju 52 cargo-bomber and the Heinkel He 51 biplane fighter.
On September 21, with the head of the column at the town of Maqueda (some 80 km away from Madrid), Franco ordered a detour to free the besieged garrison at the Alcázar of Toledo, which was achieved September 27. This controversial decision gave the Popular Front time to strengthen its defenses in Madrid and hold the city that year but was an important morale and propaganda success.
From July 24, a coordinating junta was established, based at Burgos. Nominally led by Cabanellas, as the most senior general, it initially included Mola, three other generals, and two colonels; Franco was added in early August. On September 21, it was decided that Franco was to be commander-in-chief (this unified command was opposed only by Cabanellas), and, after some discussion, with no more than a lukewarm agreement from Queipo de Llano and from Mola, also head of government. He was doubtless helped to this primacy by the fact that, in late July, Hitler had decided that all of Germany's aid to the nationalists would go to Franco.
Mola considered Franco as unfit and not part of the initial rebel group. But Mola himself had been somewhat discredited as the main planner of the attempted coup that had now degenerated into a civil war, and was strongly identified with the Carlists monarchists and not at all with the Falange, a party with Fascist leanings and connections, nor did he have good relations with Germans; Queipo de Llano and Cabanellas had both previously rebelled against the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera and were therefore discredited in some nationalist circles; and Falangist leader José Antonio Primo de Rivera was in prison in Madrid (he would be executed a few months later) and the desire to keep a place open for him prevented any other falangist leader from emerging as a possible head of state. Franco's previous aloofness from politics meant that he had few active enemies in any of the factions that needed to be placated, and had cooperated in recent months with both Germany and Italy.
On October 1 1936, in Burgos, Franco was publicly proclaimed as Generalísimo of the National army and Jefe del Estado (Head of State). Mola was furious and Cabanellas intervened to calm the spirits down. When Mola was killed in another air accident a year later (which some believe was an assassination) (June 2 1937), no military leader was left from those who organized the conspiracy against the Republic between 1933 and 1935.
Franco's army was supported by Nazi Germany in the form of the Condor Legion, infamous for the bombing of Guernica on April 26, 1937. These German forces also provided maintenance personnel and trainers, and some 22,000 Germans and 91,000 Italians served over the entire war period in Spain. Principal assistance was received from Fascist Italy (Corpo Truppe Volontarie), but the degree of influence of both powers on Franco's direction of the war seems to have been very limited. Nevertheless, the Italian troops, despite not being always effective, were present in most of the large operations in big numbers, while the CTV helped the Nationalist airforce dominate the skies for most of the war. António de Oliveira Salazar's Portugal also openly assisted the Nationalists from the start, contributing some 20,000 troops.
It is said that Franco's direction of the Nazi and Fascist forces was limited, particularly in the direction of the Condor Legion, however, he was officially, by default, their supreme commander and they rarely made decisions on their own. For reasons of prestige, it was decided to continue assisting Franco until the end of the war, and Italian and German troops paraded on the day of the final victory in Madrid.
This new political formation appeased the pro-Nazi Falangists while tempering them with the anti-German Carlists. Franco's brother-in-law Ramón Serrano Súñer, who was his main political advisor, was able to turn the various parties under Franco against each other to absorb a series of political confrontations against Franco himself. At a certain moment he even expelled the original leading members of both the Carlists (Manuel Fal Conde) and the Falangists (Manuel Hedilla) to secure Franco's political future. Franco also appeased the Carlists by exploiting the Republicans' anti-clericalism in his propaganda, in particular concerning the "Martyrs of the war". While the loyalist forces presented the war as a struggle to defend the Republic against Fascism, Franco depicted himself as the defender of "Christian Europe" against "atheist Communism."
From early 1937, every death sentence had to be signed (or acknowledged) by Franco. From the beginning of the revolt, all the Junta generals ordered massive public and summary executions to spread fear and reduce resistance among the civilians.
During World War II, the head of the Abwehr, Wilhelm Canaris, had regular meetings with Franco and informed Franco of Hitler's attitude and plans for Spain. This information prompted Franco to surreptitiously reposition his best and most experienced troops to camps near the Pyrenees and to reshape the terrain to be unfriendly to tanks and other military vehicles .
Thereafter, only Madrid (see History of Madrid) and a few other areas remained under control of the government forces. On February 27, Chamberlain and Daladier's governments recognized the Franco regime, before the official end of the war. The PCE attempted a mutiny in Madrid with the aim of re-establishing Negrín's leadership, but José Miaja retained control. Finally, on March 28, 1939, with the help of pro-Franco forces inside the city (the "fifth column" General Mola had mentioned in propaganda broadcasts in 1936), Madrid fell to the Nationalists. The next day, Valencia, which had held out under the guns of the Nationalists for close to two years, also surrendered. Victory was proclaimed on April 1, 1939, when the last of the Republican forces surrendered. On this very date, Franco placed his sword upon the altar in a church and in a vow, promised that he would never again take up his sword unless Spain itself was threatened with invasion.
At least 50,000 people were executed during the civil war. Franco's victory was followed by thousands of summary executions (from 15,000 to 25,000 people ) and imprisonments, while many were put to forced labour, building railways, drying out swamps, digging canals (La Corchuela, the Canal of the Bajo Guadalquivir), construction of the Valle de los Caídos monument, etc. The 1940 shooting of the president of the Catalan government, Lluís Companys, was one of the most notable cases of this early suppression of opponents and dissenters. Although leftists suffered from an important death-toll, the Spanish intelligentsia, atheists and military and government figures who had remained loyal to the Madrid government during the war were also targeted for oppression.
In his recent, updated history of the Spanish Civil War, Antony Beevor "reckons Franco's ensuing 'white terror' claimed 200,000 lives. The 'red terror' had already killed 38,000. Julius Ruiz concludes that "although the figures remain disputed, a minimum of 37,843 executions were carried out in the Republican zone with a maximum of 150,000 executions (including 50,000 after the war) in Nationalist Spain. In Checas de Madrid, César Vidal comes to a nationwide total of 110,965 victims of Republican violence; 11,705 people being killed in Madrid alone.
Despite the official end of the war, guerrilla resistance to Franco (known as "the maquis") was widespread in many mountainous regions, and continued well into the 1950s. In 1944, a group of republican veterans, which also fought in the French resistance against the Nazis, invaded the Val d'Aran in northwest Catalonia, but they were quickly defeated.
The end of the war led to hundreds of thousands of exilees, mostly to France (but also Mexico, Chile, etc.). On the other side of the Pyrenees, refugees were confined in internment camps of the French Third Republic, such as Camp Gurs or Camp Vernet, where 12,000 Republicans were housed in squalid conditions (mostly soldiers from the Durruti Division ). The 17,000 refugees housed in Gurs were divided into four categories (Brigadists, pilots, Gudaris and ordinary 'Spaniards'). The Gudaris (Basques) and the pilots easily found local backers and jobs, and were allowed to quit the camp, but the farmers and ordinary people, who could not find relations in France, were encouraged by the Third Republic, in agreement with the Francoist government, to return to Spain. The great majority did so and were turned over to the Francoist authorities in Irún. From there they were transferred to the Miranda de Ebro camp for "purification" according to the Law of Political Responsibilities.
After the proclamation by Marshall Pétain of the Vichy regime, the refugees became political prisoners, and the French police attempted to round-up those who had been liberated from the camp. Along with other "undesirables", they were sent to the Drancy internment camp before being deported to Nazi Germany. 5,000 Spaniards thus died in Mauthausen concentration camp . The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who had been named by the Chilean President Pedro Aguirre Cerda special consul for immigration in Paris, was given responsibility for what he called "the noblest mission I have ever undertaken": shipping more than 2,000 Spanish refugees, who had been housed by the French in squalid camps, to Chile on an old cargo ship, the Winnipeg.
Franco's tactics received important support from Hitler and Mussolini during the civil war. He remained emphatically neutral in the Second World War, but nonetheless offered various kinds of support to Italy and Germany. He allowed Spanish soldiers to volunteer to fight in the German Army against Stalin (the Blue Division), but forbade Spaniards to fight in the West against the liberal democracies. Franco's common ground with Hitler was particularly weakened by Hitler's propagation of a pseudo-pagan mysticism and his attempts to manipulate Christianity, which went against Franco's deep commitment to defending Christianity and Catholicism.
In September 1939, World War II broke out in Europe, and although Adolf Hitler met Franco once in Hendaye, France (October 23 1940), to discuss Spanish entry on the side of the Axis, Franco's demands (food, military equipment, Gibraltar, French North Africa, Portugal, etc.) proved too much and no agreement was reached. (An oft-cited remark attributed to Hitler is that the German leader would rather have some teeth extracted than to have to deal further with Franco.) Contributing to the disagreement was an ongoing dispute over German mining rights in Spain. Some historians argue that Franco made demands that he knew Hitler would not accede to in order to stay out of the war. Other historians argue that he, as leader of a destroyed country in chaos, simply had nothing to offer the Germans and their military. Yet, after the collapse of France in June 1940, Spain did adopt a pro-Axis non-belligerency stance (for example, he offered Spanish naval facilities to German ships) until returning to complete neutrality in 1943 when the tide of the war had turned decisively against Germany and its allies. Some volunteer Spanish troops (the División Azul, or "Blue Division")—not given official state sanction by Franco—went to fight on the Eastern Front under German command from 1941–1943. Some historians have argued that not all of the Blue Division were true volunteers and that Franco expended relatively small but significant resources to aid the Axis powers' battle against the Soviet Union.
During the entire war, especially after 1942, the Spanish borders were more or less kept open for Jewish refugees from Vichy France and Nazi-occupied territories in Europe. Franco's diplomats extended their diplomatic protection over Sephardic Jews in Hungary, Slovakia and the Balkans. Spain was a safe haven for all Jewish refugees and antisemitism was not official policy under the Franco regime.
According to author Richard Bassett, Franco's neutrality was bought dearly with a sum paid by Churchill into Swiss bank accounts for him and his generals. Franco thus waited quite a long time after WWII to pressure the United Kingdom regarding Spanish claims on Gibraltar.
Franco was recognized as the Spanish head of state by Britain and France in February 1939, two months before the war officially ended. Already proclaimed Generalísimo of the Nationalists and Jefe del Estado (Head of State) in October 1936 , he thereafter assumed the official title of "Su Excelencia el Jefe de Estado" ("His Excellency the Head of State"). However, he was also referred to in state and official documents as "Caudillo de España" ("the Leader of Spain"), and sometimes called "el Caudillo de la Última Cruzada y de la Hispanidad" ("the Leader of the Last Crusade and of the Hispanic World") and "el Caudillo de la Guerra de Liberación contra el Comunismo y sus Cómplices" ("the Leader of the War of Liberation Against Communism and Its Accomplices").
In 1947, Franco proclaimed Spain a monarchy, but did not designate a monarch. This gesture was largely done to appease the Movimiento Nacional (Carlists and Alfonsists). Although a self-proclaimed monarchist himself, Franco had no particular desire for a King yet, and as such, he left the throne vacant, with himself as de facto regent. He wore the uniform of a Captain General (a rank traditionally reserved for the King) and resided in the El Pardo Palace. In addition, he appropriated the royal privilege of walking beneath a canopy, and his portrait appeared on most Spanish coins. He also added "by the grace of God," a phrase usually part of the styles of monarchs, to his style.
Lacking any strong ideology, Franco initially sought support from various groups. He initially garnered support from the fascist elements of the Falange, but distanced himself from fascist ideology after the defeat of the Axis in World War II. Franco's administration marginalized fascist ideologues in favor of technocrats, many of whom were linked with Opus Dei, who promoted the economic modernization under Franco and afterward the liberalization of politics and government.
Although Franco and Spain under his rule adopted some trappings of fascism, he, and Spain under his rule, are not generally considered to be fascist; among the distinctions, fascism entails a revolutionary aim to transform society, where Franco and Franco's Spain did not seek to do so, and, to the contrary, although authoritarian, were conservative and traditional. Stanley Payne, the preeminent scholar on fascism and Spain notes: "scarcely any of the serious historians and analysts of Franco consider the generalissimo to be a core fascist". The consistent points in Franco's long rule included above all authoritarianism, nationalism, the defense of Catholicism and the family, anti-Freemasonry, and anti-Communism.
The aftermath of the Civil War was socially bleak: many of those who had supported the Republic, fled into exile. Spain lost thousands of doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, judges, professors, businessmen, artists,etc. Many of those who had to stay lost their jobs or lost their rank. Besides, sometimes those jobs were given to unskilled and even untrained personnel. This deprived the country of many of its brightest minds, and also of a very capable workforce.
With the end of World War II, Spain suffered from the economic consequences of its isolation from the international community. This situation ended in part when, due to Spain's strategic location in light of Cold War tensions, the United States entered into a trade and military alliance with Spain. This historic alliance commenced with United States President Eisenhower's visit in 1953 which resulted in the Pact of Madrid. Spain was then admitted to the United Nations in 1955.
Following the initial oppression immediately after Franco's military victory, and the failure of the guerrilla attempts against his regime in the 1950s, Franco's regime enjoyed better stability. Imprisonment and abuse of political opponents continued, however, throughout Franco's period in power. Those artists of the Generation of '27 who remained in Spain entered interior exile or even practised with the new regime.
During Franco's rule, non-government trade unions and all political opponents across the political spectrum, from communist and anarchist organizations to liberal democrats and Catalan or Basque separatists, were either suppressed or tightly controlled by all means, up to and including violent police repression. The Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) and the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) trade-unions were outlawed, and replaced in 1940 by the corporatist Sindicato Vertical. The PSOE Socialist party and the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) were banned in 1939, while the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) went underground. The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) went into exile, and in 1959, the ETA armed group was created to wage a low-intensity war against Franco.
Franco's Spanish nationalism promoted a unitary national identity by repressing Spain's cultural diversity. Bullfighting and flamenco were promoted as national traditions while those traditions not considered "Spanish" were suppressed. Franco's view of Spanish tradition was somewhat artificial and arbitrary: while some regional traditions were suppressed, Flamenco, an Andalusian tradition, was considered part of a larger, national identity. All cultural activities were subject to censorship, and many were plainly forbidden (often in an erratic manner). This cultural policy relaxed with time, most notably in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Franco also used language politics in an attempt to establish national homogeneity. He promoted the use of Spanish and suppressed other languages such as Catalan, Galician, and Basque. The legal usage of languages other than Spanish was forbidden. All government, notarial, legal and commercial documents were to be drawn up exclusively in Spanish and any written in other languages were deemed null and void. The usage of any other language was forbidden in schools, in advertising, and on road and shop signs. Publications in other languages were generally forbidden. Citizens continued to speak these languages in private. This was the situation throughout the forties and, to a lesser extent, during the fifties, but after 1960 the non-Castilian Spanish languages were freely spoken and written and reached bookshops and stages, although they never received official status.
On the other hand, Catholicism in its most conservative variant was made official Religion of the Spanish State. Civil servants had to be Catholic, and even for some official jobs a "good behaviour" statement by the priest was needed. Civil marriages which had taken place under Republican Spain were declared null and void and had to be reconfirmed by the Catholic Church of Spain. Civil marriages were only possible after the couple made a public renounce to the Catholic Church. Divorce was forbidden, and also contraceptives and abortion.
Franquism professed a devotion to the traditional role of women in society, that is: loving child to her parents and male brothers, faithful to her husband, caring with her family. Official propaganda confined her role to family care and reproduction. Immediately after the war the situation of women suddenly became adverse, because most progressive laws passed by the Republic were made void, correspondingly. Women could not become judges, or testify in trial. They could not become university professors. Their affairs and economy had to be managed by their father or by their husbands. Until the 1970s a woman could not have a bank account without her husband's co-sign. In the 1960s and 1970s the situation was somewhat relieved, but it was not until Franco's death that a true equality with men became law.
The enforcement by public authorities of Roman Catholic social mores was a stated intent of the regime, mainly by using a law (the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes, Vagrancy Act) enacted by Azaña. The remaining nomads of Spain (Gitanos and Mercheros like El Lute) were especially affected. In 1954, homosexuality, pedophilia, and prostitution were, through this law, made criminal offenses, although its application was seldom consistent.
Most towns were patrolled by pairs of Guardia Civil, a military police for civilians, which functioned as his chief means of social control. Franco, like others at the time, evidenced a concern about a possible Masonic conspiracy against his regime. Some non-Spanish authors have described it as being an "obsession".
Student revolts at universities in the late '60s and early '70s were violently repressed by the heavily-armed Policía Armada (Armed Police), also known as "los grises" because of their grey uniforms.
Franco continued to personally sign all death warrants until just months before he died, despite international campaigns requesting him to desist.
In 1968, under United Nations pressure, Franco granted Spain's colony of Equatorial Guinea its independence, and the next year, ceded the exclave of Ifni to Morocco. Under Franco, Spain also pursued a campaign to gain sovereignty of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, and closed its border with Gibraltar in 1969. The border would not be fully reopened until 1985.
The Civil War had ravaged the Spanish economy. Infrastructure had been damaged, workers killed, and daily business severely hampered. For more than a decade after Franco's victory, the economy improved little. Franco initially pursued a policy of autarky, cutting off almost all international trade. The policy had devastating effects, and the economy stagnated. Only black marketeers could enjoy an evident affluence.
On one occasion, a Czech engineer and con-man managed to convince the general that with the waters of the River Jarama, certain herbs and secret powders, Spain could get all the petroleum it needed. On another, he was convinced of a plan to solve the country’s terrible hunger of the 1940s by feeding the population of 30 million with dolphin sandwiches. (La Memoria Insumisa, Nicolás Sartorius y Javier Alfaya, 1999). Indeed in the background of these economic policies some 200,000 people died of hunger in the early years of Francoism, a period known as Los Años de Hambre.
On the verge of bankruptcy, a combination of pressure from the USA, the IMF and technocrats from Opus Dei managed to “convince” the regime to adopt a free market economy in 1959 in what amounted to a mini coup d’etat which removed the old guard in charge of the economy, despite the opposition of Franco. This economic liberalisation was not, however, accompanied by political reforms and repression continued unabated, though these very reforms would lead to socio-economic changes in Spanish society which would make the regime’s continuation 16 years later untenable. Economic growth picked up after 1959 after Franco took authority away from these ideologues and gave more power to the apolitical technocrats. The country implemented several development policies and growth took off creating the "Spanish Miracle". Concurrent with the absence of social reforms, and the economic power shift, a tide of mass emigration commenced: to European countries, and to lesser extent, to South America. Emigration helped the Régime in two ways: the country got rid of surplus population, and besides, the emigrants supplied the country with much needed monetary envoys.
During the 1960s, the wealthy classes of Francoist Spain's population experienced further increases in wealth, particularly those who remained politically faithful. International firms established their factories in Spain: salaries were low, taxes nearly non existent, strikes were forbidden, labour health or real state regulations were unheard of, and Spain was virtually a virgin market. Spain became the second-fastest growing economy in the world (the fastest being Japan). At the time of Franco's death, Spain still lagged behind most of Western Europe, but the gap between its GDP per capita and that of Western Europe had narrowed. After periods of rapid growth during the late 1980s and late 1990s, Spain now only lags slightly behind the economies of Britain, Ireland, France and Germany, and has now overtaken Italy in some respects.
The main drawback of this kind of management is that government attention and initiatives were irregular, and often depended on the goodwill of regional Government representatives than on regional needs. Thus, inqualities in schooling, health care or transport facilities among regions were patent: classically affluent regions like Madrid, Catalonia, or the Basque Country fared much better than Extremadura, Galicia or Andalusia. Some regions, like Extremadura or La Mancha didn't have an university.
Franco's legacy is still particularly poorly perceived in Catalonia and the Basque Country. The Basque Country and Catalonia were among the regions that offered the strongest resistance to Franco in the Civil War, but one of the strongest to his support during this regime. Franco dissolved the autonomy granted by the Spanish Republic to these two regions and to Galicia. Franco abolished the centuries-old fiscal privileges and autonomy (the fueros) in two of the three Basque provinces: Guipuzcoa and Biscay, but kept them for Alava.
Among Franco's greatest area of support during the civil war was Navarre, also a Basque speaking region in its north half. Navarre remained a separated region from the Basque Country and Franco decided to preserve its also centuries' old fiscal privileges and autonomy, the so-called Fueros of Navarre.
Franco abolished the official statute and recognition for the Basque, Galician, and Catalan languages that the Spanish Republic had granted for the first time in the history of Spain. He returned to Spanish as the only official language of the State and education. The Franco era corresponded with the popularisation of the compulsory national educational system and the development of modern mass media, both controlled by the State and in Spanish language, and heavily reduced the number of speakers of Basque, Catalan and Galician, as happened during the second half of the twentieth century with other European minority languages which were not officially protected like Scottish Gaelic or French Breton. By the 1970s the majority of the population in the urban areas could not speak in the minority language or, as in some Catalan towns, their use had been abandoned. The most endangered case was the Basque language. By the 1970s Basque had reached the point where any further reduction in the number of Basque speakers would have not guaranteed the necessary generational renewal and it is now recognised that the language would have disappeared in only a few more decades. This was the main reason that drove the franquist provincial government of Alava to create a network of Basque medium schools (Ikastola) in 1973 which were State financed.
After Franco's death, the interim government decided to bury him at Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos, a colossal memorial officially dedicated to all casualties during Spanish Civil War. The monument, conceived personally by Franco, however has a distinctly nationalist tone. In popular imagination, he is often remembered as in the black and white images of No-Do newsreels, inaugurating a reservoir, hence his nickname Paco Ranas (Paco – a familiar form of Francisco – "frogs"), or catching huge fish from the Azor yacht during his holidays.
In Spain and abroad, the legacy of Franco remains controversial. The length of his rule, the extermination of any opposition movement, and the effective propaganda sustained through the years has made a detached evaluation impossible. For 40 years long, Spaniards, and particularly children at school were told that the Divine Providence had sent him to save Spain from chaos and poverty. Besides, his Regime evolved with time, and the ferocious repression of the early 40's was somewhat appeased with time. The relative economical success of this period created a considerable group of grateful citizens, who preferred to ignore the abuses against Human Rights.
Symbols of the Franco regime (such as the national flag with the Imperial Eagle) are now banned by law, while the national anthem of Spain, the Marcha Real, is no longer accompanied by the lyrics introduced by Franco.
In Germany, a squadron named after Werner Mölders has been renamed because as a pilot he led the escorting units of the bombing of Guernica. In 2006, the BBC reported that Maciej Giertych, a MEP of the far-right League of Polish Families, had expressed admiration for Franco, stating that he "guaranteed the maintenance of traditional values in Europe" .
Many Spaniards, particularly those who suffered under the Franco's rule, have sought to remove official recognition of his regime. Several statues of Franco and other public Francoist symbols have been removed, with the last statue in Madrid having been removed in 2005 . In 2002, José Maria Aznar's conservative government had voted against proposals to remove street names, statues and other symbols of the Franco era .
In March 2006, the Permanent Commission of the European Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution "firmly" condemning the "multiple and serious violations" of human rights committed in Spain under the Francoist regime from 1939 to 1975 . The resolution was at the initiative of the MEP Leo Brincat and of the historian Luis María de Puig, and is the first international official condemnation of the repression enacted by Franco's regime . The resolution also urged to provide public access to historians (professional and amateurs) to the various archives of the Francoist regime, including those of the private Fundación Francisco Franco which, as well as other Francoist archives, remain as of 2006 inaccessible to the public . The Fundación Francisco Franco received various archives from the El Pardo Palace, and is alleged to have sold some of them to private individuals. Furthermore, it urged the Spanish authorities to set up an underground exhibition in the Valle de los Caidos monument, in order to explain the "terrible" conditions in which it was built . Finally, it proposes the construction of monuments to commemorate Franco's victims in Madrid and other important cities .
In Spain, a Commission to repair the dignity and restore the memory of the victims of Francoism (Comisión para reparar la dignidad y restituir la memoria de las víctimas del franquismo) was approved in the summer of 2004, and is directed by the vice-president María Teresa Fernández de la Vega .
Recently the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARHM) initiated a systematic search for mass graves of people executed during Franco's regime, which has been supported since the PSOE's victory during the 2004 elections by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's government. A Ley de la memoria histórica de España (Law on the Historical Memory of Spain) has been approved on 28 July, 2006 by the Council of Ministers, but is still to be voted. Among other things, the draft law is supposed to enforce an official recognition of the crimes committed against civilians during the Francoist rule and organize under state supervision the search for mass graves.
The accumulated wealth of Franco's family (including much real estate inherited from Franco, including the Pazo de Meirás, the Canto del Pico in Torrelodones or the Cornide Palace in the Coruña ) has also been discussed. Estimates of the family's wealth have ranged from 350 million to 600 million euros . When Franco was sick, the Cortes voted a pension for his wife, Carmen Polo. At her death in 1988, Carmen Polo received more than 12.5 million pesetas (four million more than Felipe González, then head of the government) .
Due to Franco's human rights record, in 2007, Spain banned all public references to the Franco regime and remove any statues, street names, memorials and symbols associated with the dictator. The government is also considering cutting off state aid to churches which retain plaques commemorating Franco and the victims of his republican opponents.