Thirty years have passed since the Spanish Civil War, which shook all Europe. From that time, Spain has been marginal to the history of the continent. Apparently sunk in poverty and isolation, stifled by a torpid dictatorship, the whole country has often been viewed from abroad as immobile and archaic. In fact, no nation in Europe has undergone such dramatic and dynamic social changes in recent years. The growth rate of Spanish capitalism was one of the highest in the world during the early ’sixties. Today, Spanish per capita income —over 600 dollars a year—is comparable to that of Italy in 1962, although, of course, much more unequally distributed still. The working class has doubled in size: it is now one of the youngest and potentially most combative proletariats in the West. In the next years, the class struggle in Spain might well erupt into the centre of European politics once again. It is thus urgent to study the concrete social formation that has emerged from the long decades of Franco’s rule, and the political perspectives that it poses to Marxists. Our analysis will try to answer three fundamental questions for revolutionary theory and practice in Spain today.

1. What has been the nature of the socio-economic changes in Spain since the Civil War? Tremendous changes of social structure have occurred within a political continuum which has succeeded—hitherto—in concealing and containing these changes. To analyse both social and economic changes and political continuity it is necessary to divide Franco’s rule into two periods, 1939–57 and 1959–69. The economic differences between these periods are much more apparent than the political changes which have tended to be cumulative, making their localization at any given moment difficult. The great divide was 1957–59. Formulated in another way, while the survival of Franco remains obvious, the contemporary problems are no longer the same as those of the 1930’s.

2. What are the fundamental contradictions of Spanish society today? The principal contradiction, it will be stressed, is between the bourgeoisie, led by monopoly and finance capital, and the working masses, led by the industrial proletariat. This contradiction is much the same as that which gave rise to the Civil War—a class war—in 1936. However, the two poles of the contradiction have meanwhile undergone a radical transformation which has, if anything, sharpened their opposition. A secondary contradiction opposes two forces within the ruling powerbloc. Monopoly and finance capital—the oligarchy—represented by a trained ‘technocracy’, is in conflict with a ‘bureaucracy’ integrated by official trade unions, police and army. Liberalization and counterliberalization alternate according to the relative force of one of the other. But the principal contradiction determines, both in the shortrun and the long-run, the outcome of this secondary contradiction.

3. What is the political relationship of the different social forces in Spain to the Franquista régime? This relationship is not necessarily static. In different concrete conjunctures, for example given degrees of working-class organization and combativity, forces which today appear to be loyal to the régime could in fact switch their allegiance, and the same could be true of the opposition.

‘National reconstruction’ after the Civil War was based on radical autarchy and separation from the European economy. This policy was dictated both by the ‘nationalist’ ideology of the fascist régime and by the international conjuncture: the Second World War was only a few months away. Massive repression of the working class made possible a process of capital accumulation based on very low wages. Industrialization on a progressively larger scale then occurred. Nevertheless, it was not until 1953 that the per capita income in Spain reached the level of 1936. It is the complexity of this development that must be analyzed.

After Franco’s victory, Spanish agriculture was gripped by a depression which lasted until the late ’fifties. In 1946 average output per hectare was 30 per cent less than in the years 1931–35. Production grew by only 10 per cent from 1940 to 1953. The régime’s protection of the Castilian wheat-growing and Andalusian cotton-growing small peasantry allowed large landowners to take advantage of official price and purchase guarantees by the State to earn high profits. In the post-war years pitiful wages and dire poverty, aggravated by unemployment, led to an exodus of agricultural workers from the land to the cities. Rural migration to Madrid, Catalonia and the North became an avalanche about 1950 and is estimated at over 1,000,000 from the two Castiles, Estremadura and Andalusia. After the war, the bulk of these displaced peasants were absorbed not by industry but by the tertiary sector.

Meanwhile, in the industrial sector the régime intervened with tax concessions and import permits rather than by direct state investment. Because of its tariff protection and import quotas, industrial prices rose very considerably until the period of stabilization in 1959—and their increase was always proportionately higher than agricultural prices. Pari passu, industrial production increased more rapidly than agricultural production. Services, however, were the main beneficiary of the early decades of Spanish autarchy. Changes in the composition of the working population for the decade to 1950 show a transfer from agriculture to the tertiary sector rather than to industry.