The transition to democracy that followed the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 was once hailed as a model of political transformation. But since the 2008 financial crisis it has come under intense scrutiny. Today, a growing divide exists between advocates of the Transition and those who see it as the source of Spain’s current socio-political bankruptcy. This book revisits the crucial period from 1962 to 1992, exposing the networks of art, media and power that drove the Transition and continue to underpin Spanish politics in the present. Drawing on rare archival materials and over 300 interviews with politicians, artists, journalists and ordinary Spaniards, including former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez (1982–96), Following Franco unlocks the complex and often contradictory narratives surrounding the foundation of contemporary Spain.
Social realism, transnationalism and (neo)colonialism
In Tambien la lluvia/Even the Rain Iciar Bollain refashions the discourse of a social realist aesthetic in order to interrogate her country's imperial past and complicity with neocolonial practices in the present. In the simplest of terms, Even the Rain is as much a transnational film about Spain as it is a Spanish film about transnationalism. This chapter first provides a discussion of its depiction of imperialism in relation to Christopher Columbus and his 'discovery' of the New World, which makes reference both to the historical record and previous screen representations. This is followed by an examination of the political significance of the water war in Cochabamba, and how the subject matter relates to the traditional preoccupations of social-realist cinema. Finally, the chapter looks at how these two historical moments collide on screen, and question to what extent the film interrogates ostensibly realist modes of representation.
This introductory chapter positions the book within existing scholarship on the Transition at a time when canonical accounts of Spain´s post-Franco normalisation are in the process of being challenged, not least by the emergence of the new political party, Podemos. Rapidly evolving political and socio-cultural realities ensure that this book intervenes by default and design in ongoing debates about whether the so-called ‘culture of the Transition’, alongside an associated nomenclature, the ‘regime of ’78’ – the year in which the new democratic Spanish Constitution was signed – remain, if indeed they ever were, fit for purpose. An outline of the different sections is provided, alongside a justification of the range of cultural artefacts used, methodology employed and the time-period under consideration. Anticipating the arguments developed throughout the book, the hypothesis is advanced that the cultural politics of the thirty-year period between 1962 and 1992 is as vital for understanding contemporary Spain as the three years of the Civil War were for the passage from dictatorship to democracy.
In the 1960s, Spain had the fastest-growing economy in the world apart from Japan. As aspiration replaced austerity as the national ideal, the dictatorship increasingly used the mass media, as opposed to direct repression, as a means of wielding power. The interpellation of (un)willing subjects in a culture of non-inquisitiveness was evidently one of Francoism’s chief political triumphs, but work remains to be done on critically interrogating the information available to everyday Spaniards, alongside a more nuanced understanding of how this both shaped and reflected their interests. This chapter employs two case-studies – the bullfighter El Cordobés and pop singer Raphael – to explore the gender- and class-infected discourses that emerged around celebrity culture in the last thirteen years of General Franco’s life. The chapter analyses how and why young celebrity figures provided evidence for the oppositional left to understand mass-culture as the opium of the masses, a surreptitious form of depoliticisation. The hypothesis advanced is that a dogmatic desire to denigrate, rather than engage with, celebrity culture nevertheless proved counter-productive for their progressive ideological agenda.
This chapter critically interrogates the extent to which in the 1970s remodelled formations of power and influence were forged and contested though a generational shift as embodied by a series of aristocratic figures from the royal and Franco families. Primary texts under consideration include articles from ¡Hola! magazine, Spain’s major contribution to global journalism, and the novels of Corín Tellado, the best selling Spanish author of all time. This chapter demonstrates how and why the feminisation of mass culture is inextricably linked to its exclusion from canonical accounts of the Transition, as well as making the case that successful political figures have been more alive to the possibilities of the popular than most intellectuals in Spain.
Isabel Preysler, Miguel Boyer, Julio Iglesias, Francisco Rivera ‘Paquirri’ and Isabel Pantoja
In some but not all respects, Spain skipped modernity and went from being a premodern to a postmodern society. That said, a tendency to overstress the traditionalism of late Francoism is replicated in a blindness to the continuities still in place in the 1980s, the decade in which Spanish democracy was consolidated. This argument is demonstrated through the example of the leading political and cultural celebrities of the time. Hence, for example, charting the trajectory of Julio Iglesia reveals how he depended on the patronage of the Francoist regime to become an international superstar before, in the years of Socialist rule, becoming one of Spain’s most important cultural and political ambassadors. The principal hypothesis advanced is that it is as quixotic to take celebrity out of political discussion as it is to take the politics out of celebrity culture.
There is an expanding body of scholarship that alternates between two dominant visions of the Francoist censor: the ubiquitous and draconian fascist oppressor, and the easily hoodwinked bureaucratic buffoon. This chapter charts evolving systems of control during the final thirteen years of Francoism, whilst seeking both to situate and to deconstruct the academic field of censorship in the Spanish context. The principal hypothesis is that repression often resides more in the constant possibility of recrimination than in specific examples of prohibition, and that there is a pressing need to go beyond the routine practice of cataloguing case-studies to become more self-reflective about what is at stake in the relationship between narrating censorial practices and the development of canonical accounts of the Transition. The regulation of a broad range of media (popular music, theatre, cinema, bullfighting, the press) is covered to suggest that, against a backdrop of increased liberalisation, greater control was exercised on depictions of poverty as well as social injustices and inequalities.
Freedom of expression is frequently used as an index of democratisation. Blunt instrument as it may be, a critical analysis of censorial apparatus between 1975 and 1981 can help articulate the means by which democracy was conceptualised and exercised alongside a greater appreciation of what were formulated as key performance indicators for the Transition and new forms of government. An increased tolerance for sexually explicit material is explored, as are topics that continued to be policed more carefully. Case-studies include a play by Els Joglars titled La torna, and the film El crimen de Cuenca (Pilar Miró, 1981). Against a backdrop of rising terrorist violence in the Basque Country and military repression, this chapter suggests that democracy was constantly in the dock until the failed coup attempt of 23 February 1981.