Toma La Calle: An Analysis of The Influences Behind the Anti-Franco Student Protests of February 1956 at the University of Madrid

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Toma La Calle: An Analysis of The Influences Behind the Anti-Franco Student Protests of February 1956 at the University of Madrid Department of History Honors Program Rutgers, The State University of New
Toma La Calle: An Analysis of The Influences Behind the Anti-Franco Student Protests of February 1956 at the University of Madrid Department of History Honors Program Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey The School of Arts & Sciences Written under the Direction of: Professor Temma Kaplan Department of History By: Ian B. Gabriel Table of Contents Introduction 1 1. A Stifling Syndicate: Student Discontent and the SEU Laín and Liberalism: Foundation for Dissidence Ridruejo and Poetry: Expression as Dissidence Semprún and the Young Intellectual: Organization of Dissidence 39 Conclusions.. 49 List of Works Cited. 51 Introduction During the first two weeks of February 1956, thousands of students at the University of Madrid publically protested against Generalissimo Francisco Franco s dictatorship and its total control over the Spanish university system. Franco authorities and groups of pro-government students violently suppressed the demonstrations, detaining protestors and temporarily closing the university. The regime s press cited the quelling of the protests as evidence of their failure, but the events had a significant impact. While they did not depose Franco, they forced him to fire important members of his administration and confirmed the growing unpopularity of his regime among Spanish youth. The uprising also marked the first time that students, most of whom were members of the middle and upper classes, had gathered en masse to challenge the authoritarian regime that had ruled Spain since Historians focusing on the Franco regime usually cite this uprising as the beginning of the student opposition movement that would continue to be an important and robust source of resistance to the government until 1975, when Spain began its transition to democracy following the dictator s death. The primary activists in the uprising were a small group of intellectual students from various backgrounds. Its most influential members were Enrique Múgica, a law student from San Sebastián; Ramón Tamames, a law student and the son of a famous surgeon; Javier Pradera, a law student and the grandson of a famous conservative leader who died in the Civil War; Miguel Sánchez Mazas, a philosophy student and the son of an important fascist ideologue; Jesús López Pacheco, a philosophy student and young poet; and Julián Marcos, who studied both law and philosophy. These students felt that the government s dominance over the university made higher education expensive and 1 inaccessible to most Spaniards, limited post-graduation job opportunities, and impeded intellectual development. They shared this sentiment with a majority of university students, but were distinct from the student mass because they converted their views into militant political action. But what was the inspiration behind their action? What were the forces that turned these philosophy and law students, some from pro-regime families, into the radical leaders of the first major anti-franco youth uprising? What characteristics and qualities did these students possess that the rest of Spanish students did not? This thesis attempts to provide answers to some of these questions by examining how University of Madrid rector Pedro Laín Entralgo, poet and former fascist ideologue Dionisio Ridruejo, and Spanish Communist Party leader Jorge Semprún influenced the radical students. Simultaneously, each of these older men, who underwent their own crises of conscience regarding Franco and other party leaders, personally interacted with the student leaders, guiding them towards political activism. Laín instituted his own form of liberalism at the University, which allowed the students to organize intellectual symposiums. Ridruejo, once a member of Franco s administration, turned against the regime and participated in a new poetry movement, which exposed the students to censored and subversive poets. And Semprún attempted to emphasize the importance of the Communist student fight against Franco, which introduced the students to organized militancy. Without their help, it seems unlikely that the uprising would have occurred. 2 Chapter 1 A Stifling Syndicate: Student Discontent and the SEU Beginning in the 1950s, young people in Spain, especially university students, became increasingly dissatisfied with the state of their country. These students were born during or just after the end of the Civil War, so they lived their entire lives under Franco s oppressive rule. Unlike many older Spaniards who sympathized with Franco s movement, many of the students were unconcerned with the ideological conflicts of the war. But they were concerned with how Franco s authoritarian government negatively impacted their life at universities, and how student life and freedom in other countries trumped theirs. These students were restless, lacking the older generation s emotional attachment to the Civil War and the Falangist movement. 1 By the mid-1950s, a number of clandestine newspapers including España Libre reported that the majority of Spanish university students opposed the Franco regime and wanted social and political change. 2 In 1955, University of Madrid psychology professor José Pinillos conducted a study called Social Attitudes in the University to gauge student opinion of the Franco regime. The study revealed that 74 percent of students believed that Spanish politicians were 1 Note: The Falangist movement, or the National Movement, refers to Spain s only official political organization during the Franco dictatorship. Originally, the term referred to the nationalist Falangist party (Falange Española Tradicionalista) that José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the son of the former dictator, founded in 1933, during the Second Spanish Republic. In 1934, the Falangist party merged with Ramiro Ledesma and Onésimo Redondo s 1931 movement, Juntas of National-Syndicalist Offensive (JONS), to form a single organization often abbreviated as the FET and the JONS. Franco assumed control of the Falangist ideology after the Civil War and altered it slightly to emphasize Catholicism and Spanish nationalism. Under Franco, the Falangist movement became the corporatist structure that organized all workers, students, and economic sectors of the country. 2 Cosme de Asclepios, Soltando amarras los universitarios españoles, España Libre, Febraury 12, 1956, 1. 3 incompetent and ignorant; 90 percent believed that the military was incompetent and useless; 70 percent believed that the church had no place in politics; and 67 percent believed that theirs was a generation without authentic and dedicated university professors. According to the same study, only 20 percent of Spanish university students believed that the present government could solve these problems. 3 The average Spanish student seemed restless and worried about the future. By early 1956, students transformed their restlessness into political activism. On February 1, 1956, a group of students at the University of Madrid circulated a petition. Students Enrique Múgica, Ramón Tamames, Miguel Sánchez Masas, and Jesús López Pacheco, and non-student Dionisio Ridruejo, wrote and edited the Manifesto to the University Students of Madrid, on behalf of their organization University Congress of Young Writers. 4 The writers argued that, as students, they had the right and the obligation to find a solution to the problems that plagued the university. They addressed their remarks to The Government of the Nation, the Ministers of National Education, and the Secretary General of the [Falangist] Movement, in order to give voice to the Spanish university students who believed that the government s control of the university system did not satisfy their educational desires. 5 The authors of the Manifesto expressed student dissatisfaction with basic aspects of their university life: what they were learning in the 3 José L. Pinillos, Las actitudes sociales en la Universidad de Madrid, in Jaraneros y alborotadores: Documentos sobre los sucesos estudiantiles de febrero de 1956 en la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, ed. Roberto Mesa (Madrid: Editorial Complutense, 1982), Note: In Spanish, the Manifesto s title was Manifiesto a los universitarios madrileños and the organization s name was el Congreso Universitario de Escritores Jóvenes. From this point onwards, I will refer to the Manifesto as the Manifesto and the organization as the Congreso de Escritores. 5 Manifiesto a los universitarios madrileños, in Jaraneros y alboratadores ed. Roberta Mesa, 65. 4 universities, the costs of attending school, and the lack of jobs available to them when they finished their degrees. The Manifesto harshly criticized Spanish universities and called for the democratization of the system, including the right to directly elect student representatives that would work with the government to create policy to improve those aspects of student life. Franco exercised his control of higher education with the Spanish University Syndicate (SEU). 6 The SEU was the government organization that dominated all aspects of university education in Spain, and also the Manifesto s primary target. José Antonio Primo de Rivera originally created the SEU in 1933 to inject Falangist propaganda into the university. The theory behind Primo de Rivera s version of the syndicate was that young people had historically been the first group to mobilize behind fascist movements, as was the case in Italy and Germany. 7 So, as a way to create a pro-falange student movement, Primo de Rivera created the SEU, which also included high school students. But unfortunately for Primo de Rivera, his Falange was not in power under the Second Spanish Republic. 8 Thus, other student organizations that did not subscribe to the politics of the Falange, like the Republican University Scholastic Federation (FUE), existed. 9 6 Note: In Spanish, Sindicato Español Universitario. 7 Miguel Ángel Ruiz Carnicer, Spanish Universities Under Franco, in Universities Under Dictatorship, eds. John Connelly and Michael Grüttner (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005), Note: The Second Spanish Republic refers to the government of Spain between 1931, when King Alfonso XIII abdicated the throne, and 1939, when Franco s Nationals won the Civil War and assumed control of Spain. Primo de Rivera s Falange was a party that he created during this period, and although it slowly gained membership, it never garnered majority support. 9 Note: In Spanish, Federación Universitario Escolar. The term Republican refers to the Republican faction, a collection of political parties and organizations who supported the Second Spanish Republic. The Republicans would lose the Spanish Civil War to Franco s Nationals. 5 But once Franco came into power, he adopted the syndicate, making slight changes to its statutes in 1943 to better fit his regime s program. These changes included making participation in the SEU obligatory, which meant that to be a student in Spain was to be a member of the SEU. Franco s version of the SEU, according to his regime, was supposed to benefit students. According to the first article of the SEU s statutes from 1937, two of the SEU s primary functions were to create, maintain, and promote mutual services that assisted students and protected their rights, improving their social status within the university, and to make education affordable to all qualified Spaniards. 10 These seem like positive efforts on behalf of the government to improve student life. Surely students would not be opposed to a system that sought to improve their rights and provide financial assistance. But the SEU was deeply contradictory, and its overall goal was not to protect the rights of students, but to protect the longevity of the National Movement. The same article of the official SEU statutes that professed a concern for student rights also stated that the syndicate s purposes were to extol professional intellectualism within a deeply Catholic and Spanish framework and to foment the syndicalist spirit amongst students. 11 It also deemed the SEU as the sole and obligatory syndicate of education. 12 The SEU s obligatory quality and single ideology seemed to be more of a violator of student rights than a protector because students had no choice but to 10 Estatutos del Sindicato Español Universitario de Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las J.O.N.S, 1937, 1-2. Original quotes: Crear, mantener y promover servicios mutuales y de asistencia y protección a los derechos estudiantiles, mejorando su condición social dentro de las normas univeristarias, and Hacer asequible la enseñanza a todo español capacitado. 11 Estatutos del SEU, 1-2. Original quotes: Exaltar la intelectualidad profesional dentro de un sentido profundamente Católico y Español, and Fomentar el espíritu sindical en los estudiantes. 12 Estatutos del SEU, 1-2. Original quote: Tendiendo a la sindicación única y obligatoria. 6 adhere to the syndicate s rules. Because the Franco regime effectively chose what Spanish university students learned, academic alternatives to the SEU s rigid curriculum did not exist. The SEU s stated goal of fostering intellectualism amongst its students could never succeed so long as the government allowed only one ideology. The SEU s contradictions became even more institutionalized in 1943 when Franco issued the University Organization Law (LOU), which outlined his changes to the SEU that adapted the syndicate to his regime. 13 The law integrated the SEU with the Falange by making the Falangist movement the fundamental doctrine of the university system. Its goal was to group all university students together under one organization and to fuse the ideology of National Movement with student activities and institutions. Students did not learn about liberal philosophers or literature in their classes, and the SEU censored much of the curriculum. The SEU even designed certain courses, especially those with political subject matter, so that they would agree with the Falangist doctrine. The LOU went so far as to specifically enumerate the courses that each department could offer. 14 This strict educational code did not allow for much flexibility, as breaching the law meant harsh disciplinary action. Much of the stifling nature of the SEU and the LOU came from professors who Franco s government appointed. The government expected professors and administrators to uphold its laws and to indoctrinate rather than educate students. Article 33 of the LOU said that the primary role of professors was to spread the spirit of the FET and the JONS, and to strictly follow the hierarchy of appointed members of the SEU. The head of the 13 Note: In Spanish, the law was called Ley de ordenación universitaria. 14 Ley de ordenación universitaria, in Jaraneros y alboratadores ed. Roberta Mesa, SEU appointed the chiefs of each university district, who in turn appointed the rectors of each university, who then appointed the deans and professors of the departments. 15 Professors who spoke freely and criticized government policies faced dismissal. In 1956 most of the university professors in Spain were associated with the National Movement. In fact, as early as 1944, five years after Franco had won the Civil War, Les Temps Modernes, in Paris had explained that half of all the professors at the University of Madrid had been hired since the end of the Civil War. 16 This meant that the remainder were either comfortable with the Falangist doctrine prior to the Civil War, or that they modified their views to fit with the movement. Falangist professors saturated the university system in 1956, and contributed to student discontent. In the Manifesto, the students complained that this system provided only a mediocre education. The dim academic perspective was also related to the emphasis on the Catholic faith in Francoist society. The third article of the LOU outlined the fundamental role of Catholicism in education. It said that Catholic sentiment must be the inspiration for university education, as is the tradition with Spanish universities, and must accommodate its teachings to the dogma and morals of Catholicism and the canonical law. 17 It is understandable that students would be unhappy under a system for which the Catholic dogma formed the basis for education across the entire country. A theistic foundation for education seriously compromises many academic fields, especially those in the sciences, as conservative religion and science are often incompatible. If, for example, a science 15 Ley de ordenación universitaria, in Jaraneros y alboratadores ed. Roberta Mesa, Ana Alcalá, Le mouvement étudiant dans L Espagne de Franco, in Les Temps Modernes 31 (1976): Ley de ordenación universitaria, in Jaraneros y alboratadores ed. Roberta Mesa, student subscribed to the ideas of Darwinian evolution, he or she would have been out of place studying in a setting where the professors took the Catholic notion of creationism as fact. The rigidity of the SEU caused significantly negative consequences for Spanish students. The most debilitating problem was that university graduates had very little opportunity to use their degrees. According to the LOU, the Franco government s educational code and mission statement issued in 1943, one of the goals of the university was to prepare students for administrative jobs, technical professions, teaching positions, and scientific occupations. But many students earned degrees in other fields that did not offer many jobs. Because the authoritarian and syndicalist state often controlled the quantity of and types of jobs that could legally exist, students who earned degrees in faculties like law, philosophy, politics, and other humanities experienced great difficulty in finding employment after they graduated. The government placed graduates in jobs within the state bureaucracy, so there were more positions available for administrative and technical jobs. Given the amount of students graduating from college, there was a shortage of available positions, and students often waited years for the government to place them. In this time between graduation and job placement, graduates lived marginally and relied on their parents for financial support. In a letter to the clandestine newspaper Amistad in 1956, a student at the University of Oviedo tells the story of his friend who graduated with a degree in veterinary medicine and waited two years before the municipal veterinarian inspector (a government official) gave him a job. 18 The Oviedo student jokes that if it were not for the financial support of the veterinarian s father, his 18 Quién puede estudiar?, Amistad, January, 1956, 9. 9 friend would have had more than enough time to die of starvation with a degree that had not even afforded him a pack of cigarettes. The second consequence of the problem of the lack of positions in Spain was that thousands of university graduates emigrated to France, the United States, and Mexico, where they could find jobs that corresponded to their degrees. In the Manifesto, the writers called these voluntarily exiled Spaniards some of the country s best graduates. Even though part of the mission statement in the University Organization Law of 1943 was to produce graduates who could contribute to developing the Spanish economy, the economy had stagnated. 19 The student protesters felt trapped in their country and were angry that their futures were bleak. Even though the SEU claimed one of its goals was to make university education affordable, the reality was that university education was hardly accessible to the average Spaniard. The Manifesto argued that tuition was too high, and so were the costs of dormitory housing, textbooks, and health insurance, which placed a large financial burden on the families of the students. One New York Times article from 1959 said that u
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