Has Spain become a socialist nation?


Walther L. Bernecker

To person

Dr. phil., born 1947; Professor for foreign studies (Romance-speaking cultures) at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Findelgasse 9, 90402 Nürnberg. [email protected]

The relationship between the political center and the individual regions of the country has traditionally been fraught with conflict in Spain. The regional drive for autonomy is still very strong.


The relationship between the political center and the individual regions of the country has been fraught with conflict in Spain since the early modern period. In recent history, the change from the Francoist dictatorship (1939-1975) to a parliamentary democracy first exacerbated the problem, but then eased it; However, the end of the East-West conflict and the resurgence of the national question in Europe quickly made it clear that Spain will have to live with the problem of peripheral nationalism for a long time to come. Today the question of how the relations between the (Spanish) state, the (different) nationalities and the (autonomous) regions will develop is completely open.

There have been quite a few attempts to break out of the Spanish state housing or at least more or less pronounced tendencies towards autonomy. The main bearers of such movements were regions and ethnic minorities, which were given little or no development opportunities in the centrally administered state. In the past few decades, these sub-state units have created considerable difficulties for the nation-state of classic character; they claimed (and complained) for themselves the right to their own institutions and administrative competencies. In some cases they also deny the central state's claim to be a "nation state": Spain did not emerge as a nation of will or culture, so the argument goes, but rather emerged from the dynastic union of the two royal houses of Castile and Aragon. The Catalans and Basques, for example, self-confidently claim to be a nation that does not (yet) have its own state.

In the Spanish case, of the peripheral regionalisms, only the Catalans and the Basques succeeded in achieving the breakthrough to the political mass movement and the struggle for "national" rights. Four aspects explain the different development of Catalonia and the Basque Country (compared to other regions such as Galicia or Andalusia): First, the discrepancy between the relative economic overdevelopment of these peripheral regions and their political disenfranchisement must be pointed out; second, the Catalans and Basques have their own languages; thirdly, there were administrative-political structures and institutions in these regions that went far back in history; fourthly, the rates of repression and frustration were particularly pronounced, albeit with varying degrees of intensity. [1]

The centralism of the Franco regime affected not only Catalonia and the Basque Country, but all regions equally, even if the other parts of the country did not find their political subordination as serious because they already had no tradition of local or regional self-government. For the entire Spanish state territory, however, the following applies: After the civil war (1936-1939), bureaucratic centralization took on unprecedented proportions. This rigid administrative structure was essentially to be retained until Franco's death (1975). The reaction of the regions to the extreme centralism was different: while the majority of the regions established themselves in the bureaucratic administrative authoritarianism of Franquism, Catalonia and the Basque Country went separate ways.