Government and Economies in the Postwar World: Economic Policies and Comparative Performance, 1945-85

By Andrew Graham; Anthony Seldon | Go to book overview
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Chapter seven

Spain

Paul Preston

Introduction

The condition of the Spanish economy in 1945 is not readily comparable to that of most of the other countries examined in this book. Spain had not been directly involved in the Second World War. Nevertheless, as a consequence of the destruction of resources in its own civil war (1936-9), a repressive and autarkic economic policy, and the hostility of the western powers as a result of her clear association with the Axis, in 1945 Spain was one of the most economically backward and isolated countries in Europe.

In the early 1940s, the agricultural sector, which accounted for more than half of the active population, had seen its output reduced to pre-1914 levels as the effects of the civil war were exacerbated by severe and prolonged drought which devastated crops in many areas. The bulk of the agrarian population consisted of landless labourers dependent for their livelihood upon a small tightly knit elite of landowners whose privileged position had been reinforced by the agricultural policies of the first Francoist governments. This antiquated and inefficient structure was protected by an authoritarian and centralized state. The public enterprise sector was controlled by a single authority. Political parties and trades unions were illegal and strikes were banned. Labour and employers were regimented together in the official corporative syndicates.

The civil war had been fought and won to defend the interests of the agrarian oligarchy which had felt itself threatened by the mild land reforms of the Second Republic (1931-6) and by the growing militancy of anarchosyndicalist and socialist trades unions. The Franco regime, which was created to defend the civil war victory of 1939 and thus to preserve the pre-1931 agrarian structures, was negotiated out of existence in the industrialized Spain of the 1970s. Between 1939 and 1975, Francoism reluctantly, some would say inadvertently, presided over the creation of a capitalist economy. In so doing, the dictatorship made itself a political anachronism (Clavera et al. 1973:I, 51-75).

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