Franco’s regime in Catalonia
The thirty-six years of dictatorship were one of the darkest periods in Catalan history. During this period
Catalonia went back in time and lost many of the rights and advances it had gained during the Second
Republic. The regime was especially hard on Catalonia, which was one of the targets of attack of the
different ambits that wanted to submit the region to the dictatorship. They did not completely manage
The first eight years of Franco’s regime were characterized by an intentional repression towards the
defeated. This situation was clearly manifest in the murder, between 1939 and 1953, of 3.585 people,
the thousands of imprisoned or condemned to forced labor, the debunking of civil servants, the
persecution of the Catalan language, the elimination of all of the Catalan political and cultural
institutions, amongst other things.
To these circumstances we must add that there was a terrible social and economical situation, which
was characterised by an autarchic interventionism, the fixing of salaries by the government, constant
electricity restrictions, rationing of the remaining food supplies, difficulties in the repatriation of foreign
capital, over inflation of the peseta in comparison with most international countries or the lack of
In spite of the State’s iron control over any type of attempt against the regime, a failed attempt at
guerrilla invasion was undertaken in October 1944 by the ‘maquis’ group of the Aran valley which ended
in the death of some of their number. That same year, the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya,
Josep Irla, formed, in France, the only government in exile, which came to an end four years later. The
desire for political change by some sectors meant that some members of the Catalan and Spanish right
wing parties, which were headed by the lawyers and politicians Francesc Cambó and José María Gil-
Robles, who felt disenchanted with the political panorama, tried to restore the constitutional monarchy
by means of the figure of the count of Barcelona, Juan de Borbón. This was a gamble that ultimately did
In spite of the repeated political failures to overthrow the regime, the defeat of Nazism and Fascism in
1945 opened up a crack for the anti-Franco sectors by which to overturn Franco’s regime. However, the
pact with the United States in 1953, and Spain’s joining of the UN in 1955, implied that Franco’s regime
became legitimized by the international community, although it did not form part of the European
Council or of the European Economical Community.
To undertake its task, the regime obviously counted upon the invaluable help of the military and
ecclesiastical sector. In essence the Church gave all its support due to ideological convincing and the
high number of clergy murdered by the republican side during the Civil War. The Church was greatly
reinforced by the alliance with the regime because it obtained the control of teaching, through which it
could promote the regime’s postulates to the society, including the ‘de-Catalanising’ of the population.
However, in the acts held during the placing of the Mother of God of Montserrat on the thrown in 1947,
a large Catalan flag was hung from a rock, which proclaimed that there was a catholic Catalan sector
which was against the regime. Nevertheless in 1952, the State and the Church contested this action with
an act of pure national-Catholicism with the celebration of the Thirty-forth International Eucharistic
Congress in Barcelona and the signature of the Concordat in 1953, when it was established that the
Catholic Church would be the Church of the State and that it would have all rights and privileges.
In the mean time, in 1951, Franco’s opposition gained the unexpected and spontaneous support of the
Barcelonan’s in the wake of the boycott of the use of trams, due to the increase in ticket price, while in
Madrid the tariff was not modified. The success was so notorious that the authorities left the ticket price
as it was. Meanwhile, in 1954 in Mexico, Josep Tarradellas was elected the new president of the
Generalitat de Catalunya, which was a presidency totally unknown by the Catalans who resided in Spain
and very disputed by those who lived in exile.
The fifties were characterized by the first examples of disconformities with the regime, as witnessed by
the holding of an illegal assembly at the University of Barcelona against the University Student Syndicate
(SEU), which controlled the regime. During this period there also appeared the active anti-Franco regime
associations ‘Associació Democràtica Popular de Catalunya’ [Popular Democratic Association of
Catalonia], which was represented by new syndicalism and which would eventually become the ‘Front
Obrer de Catalunya’ [Working Class Front of Catalonia], and the CC (‘Crist-Catalunya’ [Christ-Catalonia],
which would later become ‘Comunitat Catalana’ [Catalan Community]), where Jordi Pujol, who would
later become the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya, stood out.
The sixties began with a set of detentions and imprisonments of Catalan supporters who had sung the
‘Cant de la Senyera’ [Song of the Flag] in a concert in the Palace of Music which the regime had
prohibited. Making the most of a visit of the dictator Francisco Franco, a pamphlet had been printed
with the name ‘Us presentem el general Franco’ [We present General Franco to you], which was a text
against the dictator and which brought about the imprisonment of Jordi Pujol (who was the author) and
Francesc Pizón (who was the printer).
The realization of the ‘Pla d’Estabilització’ [Plan of Stabilisation] in 1959 saw an evident economical
growth which, at the same time, implied a high increase in the population. In only fifteen years this
tripled the value of the economy and increased the population of Catalonia by 1.732.000 people. This
disproportionate growth was mainly concentrated in the Baix Llobregat, Vallès Occidental, Barcelonès,
Garraf, Vallès Oriental, Bages and Maresme regions. The economical beatitude was also reflected in
most industrial sectors, except the field of textiles, which suffered considerable losses due to
restructuring of the sector.
In spite of the constant obstacles put in force by the regime, Catalan culture managed to subsist thanks
to the patronage of a part of the well-to-do pro-Catalan class and an important agreement with Catalan
society. The creation of entities like ‘Òmnium Cultural’ (1961), of magazines like ‘Serra d’Or’ (1959),
under the protection of the Abbey of Montserrat, or the apparition of the ‘Nova Cançó’ [New Song]
reactivated the cultural and political efforts and interests of Catalonia. The editorial sector also
contributed to this regional recuperation with the issue of numerous titles in Catalan and, especially,
with the realisation of the ‘Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana’ [Large Catalan Encyclopaedia] in 1969.
Other fields where there was also an important anti-Franco movement were the student, working class
and neighbourly associations. The decline of the SEU and the apparition of the ‘Sindicat Democràtic
d’Estudiants de Barcelona’ [Democratic Syndicate of Students of Barcelona] (SEDUB) opened the
possibility that the students could air their differences with the regime. The creation of SEDUB occurred
in a closed Capuchin convent in Sarrià, which was known as the ‘Caputxinada’. This creation was not
exempt from disturbances, since it ended with numerous sanctions against the students and the
expulsion of sixty-nine students.
The founding, in 1964, of ‘Comissions Obreres’ [Working Class Commissions] (CCOO) in the parish of
Sant Medir of Barcelona, and its later victory in the syndicate elections of 1966, reinforced the working
class movement which increased its convocation of strikes, which rose over time, in order to pressurise
the State. Towards the end of the sixties, the neighbourly associations added to the numerous re-
vindications with the denunciation of the numerous deficiencies with which people had to live. Faced
with this critical popular unrest, the regime hardened its repression, especially in the first two sectors.
In spite of the regime’s efforts to control the situation, in the seventies there was a growth in anti-
Franco regime postures, especially around about the time of the apparition of the ‘Comissió
Coordinadora de Forces Polítiques de Catalunya’ [Coordinating Commission of Political Forces of
Catalonia] (1969) and the ‘Assemblea de Catalunya’ [Assembly of Catalonia], which was created on
November 7th 1971 in the Barcelonan parish of Sant Agustí.
The principle propositions of the Assembly, which was driven by the ‘Partit Socialista Unificat de
Catalunya’ [Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia], was the obtaining of political liberty, amnesty of the
imprisoned politicians, the restoration of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia and the coordination of
the Hispanic villages against Franco’s regime. In spite of various detentions, the Assembly still had
enough strength to undertake a manifestation of one hundred thousand people in Sant Boi de Llobregat
to celebrate September 11th 1976.
In spite of the fact that the regime seemed to give off signs of
weakness around the time of the murder, by ETA, of the president of
the Government, Admiral Carrero Blanco, Franco’s State showed its
desire to control the situation with the murder, by vile garrotte, of the
anarchist Salvador Puig Antich in 1974. However, it was not until the
death of the dictator, on November 20th 1975 that a crack was
opened which allowed for the undertaking of a true political
Figure 1 Portada del periódico El Caso
sobre la ejecución de Salvador Puig
transformation by means of the Democratic Transition.
Más Info: Trailer de la película Salvador Puig Antich : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqCyiFob5iA