Fear and Progress: Ordinary Lives in Franco's Spain, 1939-1975.
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Subject:||Books (Book reviews)|
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Social History Publisher: Journal of Social History Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: History; Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Journal of Social History ISSN: 0022-4529|
|Issue:||Date: Summer, 2011 Source Volume: 44 Source Issue: 4|
|Topic:||NamedWork: Fear and Progress: Ordinary Lives in Franco's Spain, 1939-1975 (Nonfiction work)|
|Persons:||Reviewee: Cazorla Sanchez, Antonio|
Fear and Progress: Ordinary Lives in Franco's Spain,
1939-1975. By Antonio Cazorla Sanchez (Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010,
xii plus 279 pp. $34.95).
This volume opens with the author's moving summary of his childhood as a member of a family of nine, whose parents were illiterate workers but who wisely protected themselves and their children by avoiding any public or even private political discussions. In his rich social history of the enduring Franco regime, the suppressed nonetheless returns. Cazorla deplores the regime's terrible repression, which eliminated 100,000 to 150,000 persons. Thus, the urban and especially the rural poor were leery of men of "ideas" (i.e. political dissidents) and avoided public protest during most of the Franco period. Furthermore, and not unreasonably, many concluded that hyper-politicization during the Second Republic was responsible for the war and therefore abandoned all political activity. Ironically, this included any serious commitment to the regime's official party, the Falange, which never matched the mobilizing ability of the Nazi or Italian Fascist movements. When collective protest erupted during the early Franco period, it usually expressed concrete, not regime-changing, grievances--the hike of streetcar fares in Barcelona in 1951 or the reduction of coalminers' wages in 1957-58.
The hostility to economic liberalism (identified with "Jewish capitalism"), unenlightened militarism, and a counterproductive autarky were causes of the regime's dismal economic record. At the same time, its supporters--who believed with some justification that Franco had saved their property and religion from the "reds"--profited from its favoritism. Corruption pervaded both the state and the party and produced massive apathy and cynicism among the population. Black marketeering became much more popular and common than any form of political or even religious participation. The Church's quest, even though aided by the most clerical state in Europe, to re-Catholicize the masses was generallyineffective during Spain's long 1950s. Nevertheless, well into the 1960s the regime maintained a rural base, consisting of both large and small landowners, who benefited from its toleration of the black market and defense of religion. The poor and modest classes, especially housewives, developed survival networks of buyers and sellers, in which the latter provided micro-credit to consumers for the purchase of basic commodities.
Although Cazorla's portrait of the regime is understandably hostile, he also argues that the long post-civil war period was a time of significant progress or at least change. The massive migrations of the poor from 1950 to 1975 terminated the many centuries of rural domination of Spanish society. In 1950 agricultural sector represented 46 percent of working people; by 1970, only 22 percent. Former peasants sought salaried labor in Spanish and European cities. The female proletariat was particularly exploited as low-wage laborers, maids, and even prostitutes. The hypocritical moral order, which criminalized abortions, was responsible for the annual deaths of thousands of women.
The Spanish "economic miracle," which created widespread prosperity after 1959, "was made possible only by the extraordinary exploitation and sacrifice of ordinary Spaniards" (p. 15). They paid dearly for development through low salaries, unfair taxation, and poor state services, in particular a terrible or often nonexistent system of public education. Wage earners exploited themselves by moonlighting. Their children--25 percent of whom never graduated from elementary school--began employment at an early age and therefore sacrificed schooling for salaries. The regime shortsightedly promoted the formation of an ignorant workforce suitable for only low-skilled jobs. The newly urbanized families lodged precariously in makeshift housing on the outskirts of cities, where, despite wretched conditions, neighborhoods with some social and even political cohesion formed.
Although public health was generally mediocre, prenatal care improved and infant mortality fell. The originally rural-based and culturally reactionary regime transformed society and laid the basis for a secular, urban, and consumerist modernity. Commodities--such as tobacco, cinema, radio, automobiles and, finally, television--appealed to both sexes. Nevertheless, inequalities between the wealthy and the poor and between rich and depressed regions supposedly expanded. So did political discontent by the end of the dictatorship when students, Catalan and Basque nationalists, and militant workers challenged its various repressions. The gradual rise of a Christian democratic culture encouraged the decline of the crude anticlericalism of the left.
Although in many ways this volume is the most important social history of Spain's transition to democracy, I do have several reservations. The author's explanation of the hunger in the Republican zone during the civil war is superficial, and he also overemphasizes the financial contribution to the regime of the direct expropriation of the property of its leftist political enemies. The failure to stand during the national anthem was not an "unwritten crime" (p. 30) after April 1937. The figure of 200,000 deaths due to starvation between 1939 and 1945 (p. 9) needs more exploration and precision, even if Cazorla correctly emphasizes that its victims were mainly young children and the elderly of southern Spain who were neither regular wage earners nor landed peasants. He presents an overly victimist picture of exploited females, who exercised more power in the household than the author indicates. Cazorla takes the testimony of prostitutes--who claimed to have joined the oldest profession because of male seduction and abandonment--at face value. His comparison between Francoist and Nazi rationing overestimates the success of the latter. He may have exaggerated the supposedly increasing differences between rich and poor regions. The slow process of the mellowing of the regime and its increasing reluctance to engage in massive repression might have been discussed at greater length. Perhaps the social mobility--in all senses--of Spanish society, his own family, and the author himself during this extraordinary period of change might modify the Cazorla's intensely critical perspective on the regime's post-civil war policies.
Cazorla's deep archival investigations, bolstered by oral history, amount to a major contribution which challenges the dominant political historiography of the Transition, the term used to describe the transformation of Spain from dictatorship to democracy. Instead of the usual summary of the democratization of Spain, which focuses on overly brief period between Franco's death in 1975 and the approval of the democratic constitution in 1978, Cazorla provides a longer and broader investigation into the modernization of a backward and repressive society.
University of North Carolina, Wilmington Michael Seidman
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