The history of the country, until Franco’s death, was gathered around the problems posed by the accelerated development of the economy and society, to which the political power responded by alternating periods of restraint with others of cautious liberalization. The influx of mass tourism and, conversely, the strong emigration of Spanish workers to some EEC countries; the more flexible prohibition of the right to strike, no longer automatically considered rebellion against the state; the spread of more permissive costume models; the cultural renaissance expressed in publishing and also extended to the use of regional languages, were some of the novelties in Spain. The dynamics of power have long continued to unfold through narrow groups: Opus Dei. Although the attribution to them of the qualification of “technocrats” must be considered arbitrary, they were largely the architects of the economic renewal – the stabilization plan of 1959-61, and the three subsequent four-year development plans (from 1964) – which he obtained, while maintaining old imbalances and generating new ones, the result of reducing the gap that separated the country from the rest of Europe; the prestige of the elite originating from Opus Dei was however partially shattered in 1969 by the MATESA scandal, in which the responsibilities of ministers and officials involved in fictitious exports to the detriment of the state emerged: as a result, the largest change of government in thirty years occurred., while the responsibilities were later covered by an amnesty. The process of moderation of the regime was expressed with some legislative measures, the innovative consequences of which were however reduced by corrective elements: thus the 1966 press law, which abolished preventive censorship, at the same time introduced criminal sanctions for administrative offenses. The law on religious freedom and the law governing the possibility of establishing opinion associations had a similar fate (the latter, proposed since 1969,
Beyond the traditional opposition represented by the republican government in exile, the regime found itself facing an increasingly articulated internal opposition, largely made up of categories and personalities already supporters of it – university students, teachers, clergymen, former ministers, etc.. -, to which was added the greater combativeness of the workers organized in the Comisiones Obreras, clandestine trade unions which developed in parallel with the single official union, which managed to impose themselves on employers as an effective counterpart. The conflict expressed itself in repeated student unrest; in massive strikes, especially in the mining areas of Asturias; in demonstrations of dissent by intellectuals and ecclesiastics. In addition to this there was a resurgence of the revolutionary demands, often connected with separatist claims (now endemic to those of the Basque Country), pursued by armed minority groups (various fractions of the ETA). The repression developed at various levels: from the executions (of the communist leader Grimau in 1962, for crimes committed during the civil war, and of other revolutionary anarchist militants in the following years) to the death sentences, later commuted, by the Burgos court against six Basque separatists in 1970; from the strong prison sentences against clandestine union leaders and from the fines against Catholic priests, to the declarations of a state of emergency with relative suspension of the constitutional guarantees (in 1969 and 1970-71). In August 1975, an anti-terrorism law was passed which provided for the use of court martial and the death penalty for the killers of law enforcement officers: of the 11 death sentences imposed, 5 were carried out at the end of September; the international protests seemed to isolate the Spain and Franco appealed to the patriotism of the population as in the years of isolation following the Second World War. In this context, the Franco regime set up a gradual solution to the institutional problem; the post of vice president of the government was first assigned in 1962 and occupied by General Muñoz Grandes, who thus automatically became Franco’s successor in case of incapacity or death; in November 1966 there was the promulgation of an organic law, by which the powers of the head of state were divided from those of the president of the government: this the latter would have been chosen by the head of state from among three names provided by the Council of the kingdom, and would remain in office for a period of five years, being responsible only to the head of state and not to Parliament; moreover, according to the law, 108 among the members of the Cortes would be elected by the heads of families and married women. The new set-up was approved on December 14 through a referendum which resulted in government success; even with some irregularities, in fact, it obtained the competition of 88% of the electors and 95% of votes in favor. However, Franco continued to accumulate the powers of head of state and head of government; in July 1967 Muñoz Grandes left the vice-presidency of the government, and was replaced in September by Admiral Carrero Blanco. In October, the consultation to designate the 108 “family” deputies was the first example, after 1936, of direct suffrage with the possibility of choosing the candidate: the elected representatives, after an embryo of electoral campaign and with a decent turnout (59%), tried in vain to broaden the debates to the Cortes to more directly political issues. The problem of choosing the person in whom the monarchy would be reconstituted was solved on July 22, 1969, when the Cortes approved the law designating Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón prince of Spain and successor of Franco.