Francisco Franco

Francisco Franco was a general and authoritarian leader, who governed Spain from 1939 to 1975. He came to power shortly after the start of the Spanish Civil War. In that war, he led the rebel Nationalist Army to victory over the Loyalist forces. After the war ended in 1939, Franco held complete control of Spain. His regime was similar to a Fascist dictatorship. He carried out the functions of chief of state, prime minister, commander in chief, and leader of the Falange, the only permitted political party. He adopted the title of El Caudillo, the leader. In the early years of his regime, he tried to eliminate all opposition.
He later eased some restrictions.
Francisco Franco Bahamonde was born on December 4, 1892, in El Ferrol de Caudillo, Spain. His father was a naval officer. He schooled at the Infantry Academy of Toledo. After graduating from the infantry academy in 1910, he rose rapidly in the army, earning the reputation for efficiency, honesty, and complete professional dedication. He was named commander of the Spanish foreign legion in 1923. Franco became a national hero for his role in
suppressing revolts in Morocco, and at the age of 33 he was made brigadier
general. Having quelled a leftists revolt in Austria in 1934, he became army
chief of staff in 1935.
In February of 1936 the leftist government of the Spanish republic exiled Franco to an obscure command in the Canary Islands. The following July he
joined other right-wing officers in a revolt against the republic. In October they
made him commander in chief and head of state of their new Nationalist regime.
During the three years of the ensuing civil war against the republic, Franco
proved an unimaginative but careful and competent leader, whose forces
advanced slowly but steadily to complete victory on April 1, 1939. The war was
bloody, with numerous atrocities on both sides.
During the civil war, Franco established his control over Nationalist
political life and expanded the Falange, the Spanish political party, into an
official political party at the service of his government. Tens of thousands of
executions during the war and in the years immediately following it guaranteed
the stability of Franco?s authoritarian regime.
Franco kept Spain officially neutral during World War II, but after the
Axis defeat he was labeled the last of the Fascist dictators and ostracized by
the United Nations. As the Cold War gained in intensity, foreign opposition to
Franco lessened because he was against Communism. In 1953, the signing of a
military assistance pact with the United States marked the return of Spain to
international society. Franco permitted the United States to build air and naval
bases in Spain in exchange for economic and military aid. This aid helped bring
about industrial expansion. Spain?s living standard rose thanks to Franco, but it
remained as one of the lowest in Western Europe.
Franco?s regime became somewhat more liberal during the 1950s and
1960s. It depended for support not on the Falange, renamed the National Movement, but on a range of political families running from those on the center right to extreme reactionaries. Franco balanced off these groups against one another, retaining for himself a position as arbiter above the affairs of day-to-day politics. Helped along by the general prosperity of Europe, Spain enjoyed rapid economic growth in the 1960?s. However, in the early 1960?s, opposition to Franco became more outspoken. Miners and other workers went on strike, though strikes were illegal. Opposition groups organized in secret. Franco relaxed police controls and economic restrictions somewhat. In 1966, strict press censorship was relaxed and by the end of the decade its previously agricultural economy had been industrialized.
In 1947, Franco declared Spain a monarchy, with himself as a sort of
regent for life. In 1969, he designated Prince Juan Carols, grandson of Spain?s
former king, Alfonso XIII, as his official successor. In 1973, Franco
relinquished his position as premier but continued to be head of state. When
Franco died on November 20, 1975, in Madrid, Juan Carlos became king.
No consensus has been reached on Franco?s role in Spanish history. His
partisans point to the prolonged peace following the civil war and to the
economic boom of the 1960?s. His detractors stress the repressive politics of the regime and suggest that economic growth would have taken place even without