Paradoxes of Stasis: Literature, Politics, and Thought in Francoist Spain

Paradoxes of Stasis: Literature, Politics, and Thought in Francoist Spain

by Tatjana Gajic
Paradoxes of Stasis: Literature, Politics, and Thought in Francoist Spain

Paradoxes of Stasis: Literature, Politics, and Thought in Francoist Spain

by Tatjana Gajic


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Paradoxes of Stasis examines the literary and intellectual production of the Francoist period by focusing on Spanish writers following the Spanish Civil War: the regime’s supporters and its opponents, the victors and the vanquished. 

Concentrating on the tropes of immobility and movement, Tatjana Gajić analyzes the internal politics of the Francoist regime and concurrent cultural manifestations within a broad theoretical and historical framework in light of the Greek notion of stasis and its contemporary interpretations. In Paradoxes of StasisGajić argues that the combination of Francoism’s long duration and the uncertainty surrounding its ending generated an undercurrent of restlessness in the regime’s politics and culture. Engaging with a variety of genres—legal treatises, poetry, novels, essays, and memoir—Gajić examines the different responses to the underlying tensions of the Francoist era in the context of the regime’s attempts at reform and consolidation and in relation to oppositional writers’ critiques of Francoism’s endurance.

By elucidating different manifestations of stasis in the politics, literature, and thought of the Francoist period, Paradoxes of Stasis reveals the contradictions of the era and offers new critical tools for understanding their relevance.  


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496212993
Publisher: Nebraska
Publication date: 01/01/2019
Series: New Hispanisms
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 240
File size: 539 KB

About the Author

Tatjana Gajić is an assistant professor in the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Read an Excerpt


Legislating Francoism

Although the Franco regime came to power as a result of the victory of the Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, it was the process of building and consolidating the new state that determined the nature and the consequences of that victory. As I stated in the introduction, the consolidation of power was already underway in 1937, through the unification of the fascist Falange and traditionalist monarchical forces grouped under Franco's leadership, and it continued throughout the war and after the nationalist victory. The unification of force and law at the moment of the foundation of the regime was noted by Manuel Fraga, who would later become Franco's minister for tourism and information and one of the regime's most influential ideologues. Fraga wrote: "With July 18, 1936 [the day the Civil War began], a constituent period opened for Spain." That is, not a war, but a constituent period; not a violation of the existing constitution, but the clearing of the way for a new one.

Declaring that the beginning of the Civil War was simultaneous with the commencement of a "constituent period" suggests that the legality of Francoism was based on the understanding of the "Alzamiento Glorioso" (Glorious Uprising) as an originary moment that gave retrospective legitimacy to the regime and its legal creations. In other words, the "Glorious Uprising" legitimized Francoism, which then proceeded to constitute its own legality. In another text dealing with the legal evolution of Franco's regime, Fraga argues that the failure of previous Spanish constitutions explains the reluctance of the regime to create a new one of its own (Francoism never produced a constitution as such). He recalls the bitter words of nineteenth-century historian Macías Picavea: "There are seven Spanish constitutions, like seven deadly sins." In Fraga's view, what had characterized Spanish constitutional history between 1808 and 1936 was a vicious circle of crisis and reinstitution: A political crisis (crisis of the state) usually came to an end through the use of force, and a new government was established. It proclaimed a new constitution, but, invariably, continuing governmental instability created conditions for the outbreak of yet another crisis, which functioned as a prelude to a new constitution. This tension between legislating and governing, between law and politics, is what had made the rule of law (estado de derecho) impossible in Spain, even under de facto constitutional governments. Alluding to the double sense of the word pronunciamiento, which means "pronouncement" but since the middle of the nineteenth century had become a synonym for coup d'état, Fraga declares: "A coup [pronunciamiento] is not an act of force but an act of logic." A logic of tragedy, one might add: The coup was not inescapable because it was logical, but vice versa; it was logical because it was inescapable.

It would seem that Franco's coup against the Republic was located both inside and outside that logic. The new regime suspended the Republican Constitution without proclaiming a new one. It responded with violence to the crisis of the constitutional regime but refused to "fix" the crisis by building a new constitutional government. It used a situation of social and political crisis as a trigger for the use of force; however, this use of force was not portrayed as an instrument but as a foundational act. It went against the liberal regime not only by force of arms but by virtue of situating itself outside the logic of reinstitution that had ruled every previous pronunciamiento. We might say that Francoism substantially altered the instrumental role that force had played in those pronunciamientos. Whereas force had previously served as a tool for instituting law during regime changes, under Francoism the law itself assumed the instrumental role for constituting the regime and establishing its legality.

In the legal evolution of Francoism, the emphasis was placed not on law as an abstract concept, but on laws and legislation. By legislation I mean a process that defined and established the place that each individual law occupied in relation to both past and future laws; that is to say, in relation to the totality of Francoist legislation. Such a totality was an open one, since the body of Francoist legislation was under continuous construction and expansion through the addition of new laws that reincorporated existing ones. The specificity of this legislation, as Francoist legal experts repeated tirelessly, was constituted by the fact that it did not rest on a set of fixed norms but on the permanence of a small number of fundamental principles. It was a constitution that affirmed and constituted itself through time; hence, one that was permanently in the making and, thereby, through that very process of making, asserted its permanence. As Francoist legal scholar Carlos Iglesias Selgas states, quoting Rodrigo Fernández Carvajal, this was a legislation, "whose final horizon [término final] cannot be predetermined whether with regard to the time-period or its substance."

The permanence of the Francoist constituent period manifested itself in two ways. First, in the sense that Francoist legislation, which aspired to be a total and organic body of laws, saw each law as only a piece of a totality that a single law could not contain and could only insinuate. Each law invoked those that preceded it, and some of them even referred to other laws that would follow, even if they had not yet been written and even if a law that followed was logically prior to and "more fundamental" than the one preceding it. For example, in 1947 the regime proclaimed the Law of Succession, which, as its name indicates, regulated the single most important issue that preoccupied the regime: What would happen after Franco? The law established that after Franco's death, or in the event that he should become incapacitated, Spain would return to the political system that its tradition dictated: social, Catholic, representative monarchy. The return of the monarchy, however, was not to be seen as a simple restoration after a decades-long hiatus but as an instauración (establishment), meaning that the future monarch would be required to abide by the fundamental principles of the Movimiento Nacional and would be obliged to take an oath to uphold those principles before being allowed to assume the throne. The fundamental principles cited as succession criteria in the 1947 law did not themselves become law until 1958, at which point the Law of Fundamental Principles of the Movimiento Nacional had to abide by the principle of monarchic succession, despite the fact that the Movimiento itself was the basis for the reestablishment of the monarchy.

In its necessarily general and repetitive nature, each law legislated a piece of legality and could do so because the legality of all of the laws was rooted in the outcome of the Glorious Uprising. Therefore, Francoist legislation perpetuated the split between law and legality that, as we have already seen, was characteristic of pre–Civil War liberal regimes, although it did so in exactly the opposite direction. Since in Francoism legislation and legality were meant to be one and the same, and since legality was given and prior to any laws, then the laws served to prescribe the legality of what was beyond the law (the Glorious Uprising and, by extension, Francoism). As demonstrated by Juan Ferrando Badia, among others, this division between law and legality was filled by the role of el caudillo, Franco, and by caudillaje, as a form of rule: "The role that 'el caudillaje' has — or pretends to have — is the establishment of a new order. For that reason, … the leader embodies the constituent power; he is called [se llama] the founder. He is not bound by any positive norms. He is the negation of the state. He is a-legal."

The second sense in which we might speak of the permanent constituent period points to the link between the legal structure of Francoism and the question of the regime's continuity and permanence. There was an inherent paradox in the nature of Francoism. While, on the one hand, the consolidation of the regime was the criterion that fully determined the shape of its legislation, in the long run the question that haunted the regime pertained to what it could not legislate: its own continuity. As time passed, it became increasingly clear to everyone inside and outside the regime that the question of the nature of Francoism and the question of its succession was one and the same. This resulted in a dramatic quest in which Francoism was forced to look for a key to its permanence not in what was presumably eternal — its fundamental principles — but in what was historical and bound to change: the embodiment of those principles in the institutional shape that was to be given to the succession. Theoretically, Francoism claimed that it had achieved a synthesis between revolution and tradition, between the eternal and unquestionable principles of Christian humanism and the historical conditions of Cold War Europe (in which Spain stood out like a sore thumb, an anomalous residue of fascism). That synthesis, which was essential for the self-definition of the regime because it was meant to differentiate it from both liberalism and totalitarianism, in fact played out as a battle within the regime over the fundamental question of its continuity as well as over the practical matter of who would inherit Francoism after the death of el caudillo. Instead of fusing two facets of Francoism (the political and the legal), instead of fulfilling the design of victory through the creation of a lasting body of laws, the constituent period revealed and deepened the gap between law and politics. The regime, obsessed by the question of its permanence, could never fully constitute itself.

In what follows, I analyze three different approaches to consolidating the Francoist regime or, at the very least, to prolonging its existence. A common element in all of them is the attempt to situate the debate over the regime's future in the sphere of legal and political theory. Although the very idea that the Francoist regime produced a legal and political theory worthy of its name might sound suspicious, the issue at stake is not the theoretical soundness of the authors' ideas. Rather, the texts analyzed here reveal a chronic concern within the regime about its future and show how important it was to align the problem of futurity with the issue of legality. One must recall the importance that, during Spain's transition to democracy, was placed on the regime's orderly, that is, fully legal character. In 1976, Adolfo Suárez, then the prime minister, clearly stated: "There cannot exist, nor will there ever exist, a constitutional vacuum, much less a vacuum of legality. … Legality is precisely the foundation [el asidero] we have for guaranteeing political freedoms." For the authors studied in this chapter, the notion of "Francoist legality" was not an oxymoron but a vital element for securing the regime's past, present, and future. Each of them collaborated in the consolidation of Francoism at some level: José Luis Arrese by trying to legally regulate the status of the Movimiento Nacional, Manuel Fraga and Carlos Ruíz de Castillo by elaborating on the notion of a Francoist material constitution, and Jesus Fueyo through a critique of liberalism based on the notion of authority (auctoritas). In different ways they were all concerned with solving the ultimately unsolvable problem of the gap between legality and legitimacy, which dated back to the regime's violent origins. They also sought to address legal and political problems emerging from a lack of ideological unity within Francoism. Most important, however, they saw the legal consolidation of the regime as a way of averting or postponing the return of liberal democracy.

Falange, Movimiento Nacional, and the Rule of Law

The Movimiento Nacional was the only political organization allowed to exist during Franco's regime, aside from those associations considered natural and nonideological, such as family, corporatist unions (sindicatos verticales), and municipalities. The initiative to formalize the role of the Movimiento within the regime came from José Luis Arrese, a leader of the Falange who in 1956 assumed the position of the Movimiento's secretary general for the second time. Arrese attempted to secure the future of the Francoist regime by promulgating a series of laws aimed at sanctioning the Movimiento Nacional's role in dictating and overseeing the regime's succession. Different reasons, both systemic and circumstantial, compelled Arrese to undertake the project of defining the legal status of the Movimiento Nacional at that time. The systemic reasons concern the 1947 Fundamental Law, which stipulated that in the event of Franco's death the title of head of state would pass on to a king. This law did not address the other two posts held by el caudillo: president of the government and leader of the Movimiento Nacional. Without giving the Movimiento the legal power to oversee and, if necessary, override the decisions of the future head of state, the Francoist regime curtailed its power to prevent monarchic support for a return of parliamentary democracy. Arrese's preoccupation with the issue of the regime's future was exacerbated by a series of events that accentuated the fissures within the Movimiento and testified to the Falange's declining power. In the early months of 1956, tensions surrounding the election of the leader of the SEU, a student union that used to be one of the bastions of the Falange, escalated into a full-fledged protest at Madrid University, the first one under Francoism. Within an already tense atmosphere, the Falange's commemoration of the death of one of its "martyrs," Mateo Moral, evolved into a public scuffle on the streets of Madrid between students and members of the Falange, during which an eighteen-year-old Falangist was shot. In response, Franco forced the resignation of Minister of Education Joaquín Ruíz Giménez, a Christian democrat, and the leader of the Movimiento, the Falangist Raimundo Fernández Cuesta, who was replaced by Arrese. Moreover, the country's unfavorable economic situation was further aggravated by a 20 percent raise in workers' salaries, championed by the minister of labor, José Antonio Girón, who privileged the Falange's idea of social justice over the parameters of economic rationality. These accumulated political and economic tensions foreboded a kind of turning point for the regime. Within that atmosphere of crisis, Arrese's proposals for reform served as a catalyst that exacerbated existing disagreements within the regime. By the same token, the failure of his initiative and the composition of a new government, in which "technocrats" from Opus Dei took charge of economic development, were the signs of a new era, one dominated by an overtly anti-Falangist doctrine that Arrese characterized as "capitalist, monarchic and liberal."

Given the futility of Arrese's efforts, and the absurdity of his attempt to legislate the future, his frustrated legal reform could be seen as a minor affair, a nonevent. Why would anyone pay attention to doctrinal disagreements among Francoist factions, especially given that, in the aftermath of Arrese's failure, things didn't take a dramatic turn for him, the Falange, or the regime itself? Following the proclamation of the new cabinet in 1957, Arrese went on to occupy a ministerial post in the Department of Housing (Ministerio de Vivienda) created especially for him; another, watered-down version of the Law of Principles of Movimiento Nacional was approved in 1958; and, if anything, the regime and Spanish society benefitted from the era of economic growth that resulted from the reforms championed by Opus Dei ministers. I engage here with Una etapa constituyente, Arrese's lengthy (and often tedious) chronicle of the events that transpired between the beginning of his work on the new legislation and the failure of his project. Arrese's text is unique in that it provides an insider's account of the regime's inability to find a solution to the problem of its transitoriness. Moreover, it is precisely his compulsively detailed report of day-to-day interactions between Franco and his collaborators that illuminates the nature of stasis, restlessness within immobility, which was not only an external feature of Francoism — possibly a reflection of the calculatedness and the stalling that characterized el caudillo's style of leadership — but an inherent trait that was necessary for the regime's survival. As we shall see, Arrese's initiative, which sought to establish the continuity of the Movimiento's fundamental principles by constituting them into law, evolved into a typically liberal exercise of endless debate among different factions of the regime. The intensity of that debate diverted attention from the principles themselves and undermined the purpose of securing them.


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Table of Contents

Introduction: Unstable Stasis
1. Legislating Francoism
2. The Movement of Divergence: Dionisio Ridruejo from Totalitarianism to Liberalism
3. Paradoxes of Francoist Stasis: Miguel Espinosa and the Art of Protest
4. Standstills of History: Nothingness, Tragedy, and Exile in María Zambrano’s Thought

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