Why was opposition to Franco so ineffective for so long?

“The regime of General Franco considered its greatest political achievement to be the establishment of an era of peace and order without precedent in the history of Spain.”
Opposition to Franco was ineffective for so long due to a wide variety of factors, the Franco regime itself was very oppressive yet it cannot solely explain the lack of opposition as it did not prevent strikes, student demonstrations and the activities of ETA in the 1960s. There was tacit acceptance by the large sections of the Spanish population of the Francoist system, the Franco regime represented the restoration of traditional values in education, family, religion and social order; values which were more deeply rooted in Spanish society than the liberal-democratic reformists of the 1930s had believed. The Franco regime also benefited from the sheer exhaustion of the Spanish society after three years of bloody civil war and it can be said that there was majority social support for Francoism within Spain.

Conflicts in Spain were much more severe than was apparent in the regime’s propaganda or reflected in a manipulated media. The resistance was heroic but its repercussions in Spain were limited, it revealed the repressive nature of the regime and the inadequacy of its institutions for solving the conflict of a modern society. The regime’s repression was very efficient, between 1939 and 45 the clandestine Socialist Party saw six executive committees imprisoned and until the end of the diplomatic isolation of Spain in the 1950s the government was not concerned with the effect of brutal repression on its image abroad; it in fact capitalised on international hostility. Harsh repression prevented any effective action by clandestine unions, when these unions were ineffective the workers were demobilised, concerned with the satisfaction of their individual needs rather than with collective action. Ridruejo spoke in 1961 of ‘a loss of working-class consciousness.’ Leaders of the ‘historic’ opposition were mostly forced into exile and therefore cut off from the clandestine struggle within Spain. Only the Communists successfully survived the difficulties created by exile combined with repression at home. They grasped the importance of action within Spain itself in the fight against Franco; they formed the only continuous and significant clandestine organisation. Nevertheless their guerrilla action between 1944 and 48 failed due to the strict press censorship there were no echoes of their activity outside of a few rural districts, thereby not reaching the average Spaniard. Yet, however severe and effective the repression was it does not itself explain the widespread political indifference, the demobilisation of opinion and the lack of serious overt social unrest in the 1940s and 50s. The regime in fact enjoyed more support than its opponents liked to admit and this support was reflected in the tacit consent of the Spanish society. In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Spain was in turmoil and needed strong leadership, rationing only ended in 1952 and with the Spanish population so isolated internationally and scared domestically there was no desire amongst the people to rise up against Franco. So many of the opposition had been exiled, killed or imprisoned during the ‘causa general’ that there was no internal opposition to even support if the people had wanted to. If the people had risen against the state they would have risked losing their livelihoods as the state ran all industries and so the people depended on the state for their jobs and income.

The only official party in Spain at the time of Franco’s regime was the Falange party founded by Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera. Primo de Rivera denied his party was fascist, calling fascism fundamentally false. His political philosophy was based on Catholicism, saying that man "carries eternal values" and carries "a soul that is capable of damning or saving itself". He called for "the greatest respect for... human dignity, for the integrity of man and for his liberty." Primo de Rivera called for what he called "organic democracy". In Spain, the Falange was an authoritarian political organization founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera in 1933 in opposition to the Second Spanish Republic. After the war, the party was charged with developing an ideology for Franco\'s regime. This job became a cursus honorum for ambitious politicians; new