There is no doubt that the death of Francisco Franco, Dictator of Spain for thirty-nine years, was a great watershed in Spanish history. From 1939 to 1975 Franco’s regime controlled religion, the media, education, the working and even the private lives of Spanish citizens. His death undoubtedly paved the way for the commencement of a transition to democracy. But in order to fully analyse this transition, and the extent to which it was one of compromise, we must examine both the years following his death and the gradual evolution of Spanish society in the years preceding 1975.

Víctor M. Pérez-Díaz argues that “the gradual emergence of liberal democratic traditions of institutions and values in civil society preceded, and prepared the way for, the political transition of the 1970’s” (The Return of Civil Society, p.3). The main cause of this shift towards “liberal democratic traditions” originated from a decision of the regime itself. After years of being an insular society which attempted to achieve self-sufficiency, Franco, under immense pressure from the Opus Dei, opened up the Spanish borders to the international markets. He did not foresee the far-reaching consequences this move would have. Foreign capital poured into the country creating the “economic miracle” of the 1960’s. This allowed Spain to develop industry and services and to rush through a pattern set by many countries before it. Agricultural labourers became industrial workers. The workforce as a whole became more urbanised and they enjoyed a higher standard of living. Education in both rural and urban areas improved and agriculture was modernised. While many Spaniards immigrated to other European countries, Spain experienced a massive influx of tourists. Foreign culture and democratic ideas began influencing the people of Spain and they gradually began to adopt the liberal thinking of their European counterparts. All of this took place within the framework of a military dictatorship. That the “totalitarian” regime allowed this change to occur was the first compromise of the transition. It was the beginning of the decline in Franco’s power over society.

In his final years Franco began to prepare for the inevitability of his death. He wished to ensure the survival of Fascism and named Luis Carrero Blanco as Prime Minister and the man who would guarantee “continuismo”. The assassination of Carrero by ETA terrorists in 1973 was undoubtedly a key factor in the emergence of Spain as a democracy. However Franco remained confident that his regime would endure. This was in part due to Juan Carlos who had taken over from Franco when he became too ill to rule the country. Franco had supervised the education of Juan Carlos as a young prince and Juan Carlos has pledged in a television ceremony to support Franco’s political principals. Franco could be forgiven for believing that everything was “safely tied down” (“atado y bien atado”).

However, following Franco’s death there was widespread uncertainty as to the direction which Spanish politics would now take. The Francoist institutions remained, but it was unclear how long they would last. The government, under the control of Carlos Arias Navarro, failed in its attempts to introduce reform and Navarro resigned shortly afterwards. Adolfo Suárez González then took over the reigns. Suárez was only forty-three at the time and had worked in different capacities for the regime all his life. He seemed to stand for everything that went against the spirit of the time. A newspaper article published at the time of his nomination summed up the reaction of the public; “¡Qué error! ¡Qué inmenso error!” (Los Nuevos Españoles, p.50)

But Suárez emerged as a politician of incredible skill and realism. He knew that if a transition were to take place, it had to be within the boundaries of “Francoist legality”. This is the essential compromise of the Spanish transition. Instead of attempting to make a clean break from the existing regime, Suárez began a painstaking process of reform within the Constitution of 1936. This move was an attempt to ensure that the army would not get involved as, after many years of being seen as the guardians of the Francoist regime and its Leyes Fundamentales (Constitution), it was feared they would step in if these were threatened. In his efforts at reform, Suárez proposed the restoration of the rights of other political parties and introduction of universal