The Spanish way
SPANISH WAYS TO DEMOCRACY
The history of Spain from 19th and 20th century has been very frustrating till the moment we overcame all the deterrents to reach a democratical system. Spanish ways to democracy have not been easy at all, we had to pass a past full of international wars, civil wars, revolutions and overall those structures too rooted in those forces related to absolutism: Catholic Church, Nobility and absolutist Monarchy, who obstructed the introduction of industrial revolution in 19th century and the economical development of Spain.
19th century in Spain was a time of crisis: economical, social and political. We lost all our colonies in America and Asia. Our colonies in Africa created more problems than benefits throughout 20th century.
We suffered some expensive wars against Morocco, which did not help to recover the poor Spanish economy during 1920:ies.
There was a first attempt to introduce a real democracy system in Spain in 1931 during our Second Republic. The king Alfonso the 13th was sent off abroad. However this republican system stemed toward a division of Spain in two factions: a fascist one supported by Germany and Italy; and a communist-socialist one supported by Soviet Union. The result was another civil war from 1936 till 1939, and a fascist dictatorship that lasted to the death of Franco, the dictator, in 1975.
In 1939 Spain was a ruined country. One million people had died or ran away to France and South America. After the end of World War the second, Spain was public enemy number one for USA and the democratical countries. Then, they tried to bring down Franco´s government based on fascist ideas and supported by ancient forces of Spanish absolutism: Catholic Church and Nobility. Spanish civil war was not called like that, but Spanish Crusade against unbelievers communists. The way to pull down the regime was made by an international blockage led by USA. It was a moment of starvation, there was not food, petrol. An autarquie system was developped taking advantadge of those different climates we have in Spain in order to cultivate whatever product. Cars worked by burning wood in special ovens adapted to the rear part of the car or truck. Of course, Marshall plan did not come to Spain.
Besides the whole gold of Bank of Spain had been taken by socialist government to Soviet Union before loosing the civil war.
In the context of Cold War, Spain, the highest enemy of comunism in the World was accepted by USA as an ally in 1953. Little by little Spain recovered. In 1960:ies there was an economical miracle in Spain. The unemployment rate was 0, the industrial revolution began 150 years later, but Spain turned the 10th more industrial country in the World at the end of 1960:ies. However the price we had to pay was very high: Catholic Church made a strict control on people education, there were not civil liberties at all, all the political parties were forbidden, social mentality was very old fashion, people´s purchasing power was very low, Spanish roads and communications were as in the Third World. A symple kiss in a film was censored by those priests who controlled censoreship. Spanish people had to cross the border to France in 1970:ies to watch an erotic film (Last Tango in Paris). Women education was driven to become good housewifes, good mothers, not good workers.
In 1975 Franco died, Spain had to overcome that backward mentality and to change the regime into a democracy. There were a lot of deterrents in a country who had joined Faith and Policy. The international context did not help, because of the petrol crisis of 1973 and the loss of our last colony in Africa, Western Sahara.
Juan Carlos, the Prince of Asturias, was elected King of Spain, and he prepared everything to convert Spain into a democratical country. We are starting a significant moment in Spanish history: the Transition.
We are very proud of how our Transition was organised. In 1978 the Spanish Constitution was approved in referendum by Spanish citizens. Spain was turned into a democratical country were all the rights were guaranteed without any discrimination for reasons of sex, belief, polical orientation, race and so forth. The new administration was based in Autonomous Communities as a response of the demands of several countries and cultures within Spain. Spanish Constitution has been a model for other countries for how all the rights, duties and country organisation was set up.
For first time since Middle Ages Faith and Political Power were splitted. Catholic Church fell down into a deep crisis and depression, it had been the ally of the fascist dictatorship, at present they have to import priests from South America, because a new morality was entering in Spain, a morality based on freedom, in the regulation of families under the common desire of couples. Anticonceptive methods were legalised, so was the divorce, all kind of films, even erotic ones, the censoreship was closed, a liberty wave flew through all Spanish society after almost 40 years of repression.
Political parties were legalised, all the political prisioners got free, Spain converted in a parlamentary monarchy, and a democracy were citizens would chose freely their candidates to rule the country.
The Transition was extremely difficult for some problems:
- Economical crisis
- Bask terrorism
- Reaction of fascist military men
The economical crisis during the Transition was unbearable. An unemployment rate of 2000.000 workers; an inflation of 44%; 14.000 million dollars of international debt. A lot of industries were closed because of the crisis, especially shipyards.
In the last years of Franco´s period a terrorist organization was organised in Bask country by a group of communist who desired the independence of Bask and the establisment of a communism regime. They have killed almost 1000 thousand people till present. They were a big threaten during the Transition.
The third problem was the reaction of fascists military men. In february the 23rd of 1981 a group of military men tried a state coup. They assaulted the Spanish parlament in Madrid and retained all the polititians inside, even the President Adolfo Suárez, the main craftsman of Spanish democracy in the context of this Transition. The Spanish king Juan Carlos the 1st appeared on TV dressed on his uniform of main commander of Spanish army -general captain- and commanded those military rebels to surrounder, and they did.
In the elections of 1982 the socialist party, PSOE, won the elections. They helped to improve the still old fashion mentality of Spanish society. In 1986 Spain joined European Union, and thanks to the European financial support Spain was converting into a modern country. We built modern communications, highways, quick trains, all those infrastructures to lodge confortably more than 50 million tourists every year
Purchasing power of Spanish citizens increased a lot. Luxurious European cars could be sold in Spain, country who is now an excellent client for important firms such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Volvo, Jaguar, Peugeot, Alfa Romeo.
Spain had overcome the Transition to a democratical system, based on the respect to all ideologies, races, ways of thinking, beliefs.
I can say we are in the forefront of a modern mentality in the World, especially since a new law that allows homosexual couples to get married was passed some months ago and will take over this summer. Now we can say all Spanish people -and also hundred thousands Europeans who live here- have their rights completely guaranteed. We are now completely free to organise our lives as we want, though there are still some institutions who tries to think and to behave as they want,convoking demonstrations against the rights of homosexuals, or appearing on TV claiming for the workplace of women located in the kitchen of their houses -speakerman of Catholic Church in Spain august 2004-, or denying the use of anticonceptive methods, or researchings with mother cells -that can cure cancer in the future- and so forth.
The reaction of Spanish society against these new attempts of shortening our rights is increasing, isolating little by little those members of former dictatorship.
Ways to democracy in Spain were not easy at all, a lot of wounds have still to be cured, but the process cannot be stopped and will not be able to be stopped.