The Plundering of the Vanquished

The Economic Repression during Early Francoism

by Julio Prada Rodríguez (Author)
©2019 Monographs 198 Pages


Economic repression became a keystone of the social exclusion policies of the Franco dictatorship from the stage of the coup dʼétat. Beyond its utility in provisioning the warfronts and for the proper functioning of the rearguard, it became a valuable deterrent and a weapon of intimidation that smothered any expression of non-conformity. If its efficiency was so remarkable, this was due to the fact that it did not act in an isolated fashion, but projected itself on the social body that had already suffered the combined effects of the Civil War, the physical repression and the rest of the coercive and social control mechanisms employed by the regime.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • The Literature on the Franco Regime’s Economic Repression
  • Requisitioning in the Rebel Rearguard
  • The Asset Seizures Before Decree No. 108
  • Financial Penalties and Fines
  • The Patriotic Subscriptions
  • Civil Liability
  • The Political Responsibilities Act
  • The Activity of the Political Responsibilities Jurisdiction
  • The Profiles of the Repressed
  • Accusers and Informers
  • The Beneficiaries of the Seizures
  • The Defence Strategies
  • Zealous and Reluctant Collaborators
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography


Attempts at fathoming the logic of the violence unleashed in the rebel rearguard, due to the partial failure the coup d’état and its degeneration into civil war, were, during the 1990s, accompanied by important theoretical efforts to specify the meaning of concepts such as ‘social control’, ‘coercion’, ‘political violence’ and, unsurprisingly, ‘repression’. A quarter of a century later, Julio Aróstegui, to whom we owe most of those efforts, wrote that, to his mind, Spanish historiography still had not managed to come up with a convincing explanation for the conceptual scope of the repression, how it was related to those concepts, its origin and implementation, the characterization of its main actors and how it differed from other processes of violence implemented by the powers that be (Aróstegui 2012: 14).

Notwithstanding this, it must be said that a number of provincial and local studies published as from the end of that decade and, above all, at the beginning of the new millennium, while not overlooking the multidimensional character of the Francoist repression, were not seduced, in the main, by such an intriguing debate. Consequently, to a greater or lesser extent they strove – we are still striving, in fact – to go beyond the purely quantitative aspects to offer a fuller picture of that repressive microcosm affecting the most insignificant aspects of the lives of the vanquished during the toughest years of the Spanish Civil War and the post-war period. It was thus realized that the repression could only be understood by placing it in the framework of an all-encompassing action plan which, although it first sought to quash any hint of resistance, ended up being employed to impose a specific political, social and economic order.

Accordingly, there arose the need to address the Francoist repression employing a multidimensional approach that distinguished between at least three interrelated levels, which would not have been able to function without the collusion of different centres of power and of specific social sectors and individuals who were involved in its implementation for many different reasons. At the bottom, there would have been diverse manifestations of the physical repression, whether in its most extreme form, i.e. extrajudicial or judicial executions, or in the shape of the many types of deprivation of liberty suffered by the vanquished. This would have been followed by an ‘intermediate level’, which was incapable of isolating itself from the effects of the terror that it provoked and which would include different types of repression liable to be studied from an economic, administrative, social and cultural perspective. And, lastly, a third level, or ‘top stratum’, deriving ←11 | 12→from the other two, which would have involved psychological repression and self-repressed mental structures.

For different reasons to which we will refer in the section dealing with the evolution of the historiography on the economic repression, that lower or base level is the one to which historians have paid most attention to date. Even particular aspects of the administrative purges, the cultural persecution or the attempts to shape a social body adapted to the outmoded restoration project that the victors imposed, aroused greater interest than the repression’s economic aspects. If we exclude, as is logical, scholars working in the field of economic history or public finances, who tended to focus much more on analysing the role of the different levies to which both sides resorted in order to finance the war. Thus, although not altogether ignored in many of those monographs, the economic repression took time to come into its own and, above all, to benefit from the new approaches that, from social and cultural history, were finding their way into other fields.

Some of the most significant contributions of those who decided to head down these paths to analyse the Franco regime focused, to greater or lesser extent, on scrutinizing the thousands of reports generated by the regime’s repressive network. This enhanced the importance of some of the documents relating to the economic repression, particularly the records dealing with civil liability and political responsibilities, which substantially enriched the versions that had prevailed hitherto in this respect. For what is beyond doubt is that the repression played a decisive role when defining and shaping social attitudes during the process of constructing and consolidating the Franco regime. Those of us who include a more clear-cut social dimension in our research and incorporate the analysis of the life stories and daily experiences of individuals, have held that the distinction between the victors and the vanquished was much more decisive in outlining and redefining the positions of individuals in the new order than the mere link to a social class or a specific status. But as progress has been made in their study, associating them with dynamics and mechanisms of building consensus/obtaining consent and of opposition, a much more complex reality has emerged.

Thus, that distinction, hitherto so clear-cut and enlightening, is now ineffectual for shedding light on the many individuals who did not identify with one side or the other. Men and women for whom the Civil War and the post-war period did not entail the explicit and unavoidable need to take sides. Neither were they affected by the most visible aspects of the repression nor did they benefit from the distribution of privileges reserved for those loyal to the regime after its victory. Nor, for that matter, did they feel the need to belong to any of the opposing political cultures, inasmuch as the establishment of the new regime ←12 | 13→did not bring about any drastic changes in their traditional way of life or in their dealings with the different powers with which they interacted. This observation has obliged us to multiply the categories of analysis, thus surmounting the traditional division established by the regime itself between ‘the loyal’, ‘the indifferent’ and ‘the disaffected’. Furthermore, we have realized that those attitudes were dynamic, inconsistent and changeable over time and that it is not always possible to distinguish clearly between them. In the words of I. Saz, we are not dealing with self-enclosed areas, but with ones that would give rise to ‘the most varied combinations and transformations. But among which an immense intermediate area tinged with all the shades of grey would stand out’1 (Saz Campos 1999: 35).

In parallel, we have asked ourselves whether the notion of consensus can be applied to characterize political regimes that neither recognize the most basic civil liberties (Cazorla Sánchez 2002: 312) nor develop mechanisms to manage differences that make the permanent recourse to violence as a tool for settling political disputes unnecessary. Regimes, in a nutshell, in which adaptation to the system seems to be the result of a combination of instruments of repression and coercion and of a system of incentives for those sympathetic towards the regime, rather than the voluntary and active acceptance of the citizenry. A complexity that the aforementioned concept cannot deal with since it oversimplifies attitudes towards power, which in any case could be analysed using a scale that would range from acceptance – including resignation, support and endorsement – to alienation – encompassing deviation, dissidence and opposition – without forgetting that several of these attitudes can often be shown by the same individual at different times (Burrin 1996).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (September)
Requisitioning Asset seizures Patriotic subscriptions Civil liability Political responsibilities
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 198 S.

Biographical notes

Julio Prada Rodríguez (Author)

Julio Prada Rodríguez is a professor of Contemporary History at the University of Vigo. He is specialized in the study of the Second Republic, Franco’s regime and the transition to democracy in Spain. He is the author of more than twenty books and two hundred articles and contributions to congresses.


Title: The Plundering of the Vanquished
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