What happened to Valencia?

This post could have been a kind of thebadPoll but in the end, I decided an open question suits the subject matter better.

Gemma and I watched the Granada TV (UK) 1983 documentary about the Spanish civil war this weekend. Among many other conversation points, it raised an issue I’ve never quite understood since the first time I read about the war: how did Valencia move from being one of the last bastions of the Republic to becoming the key PP stronghold it is today? I’ve heard claims that Valencia was ‘settled’ by Francoists in an attempt to break left-wing loyalty there, though I’ve never seen any evidence for this.

So what happened? Was there a concerted effort to change Valencia’s demographics, and therefore politics, or did this shift occur ‘naturally’ because of changes in industry and other conditions there? Or maybe it was a mixture. Or maybe Valencia was never as socialist as I’ve been told. All opinions are welcome, but what I’d like best is some evidence supporting your position.

14 thoughts on “What happened to Valencia?

  1. Interesting question. I don’t think that the fascists took away so many children of the Reds as reported on Newsnight recently so I will go with pragmatism and disloyalty.
    Valencians are very pragmatic in their allegiances, ie they don’t seem to have strong allegiances to anything, be that politics, football or anything really. My other exprience of living in Spain is Asturias and the characters couldn’t be more different.
    As for disloyalty if I shared my thoughts on that then a real hornets’ nest would be stirred up. Remember I am a Guiri and as such don’t have the right to give an opinion!
    Therefore I think the answer is something to do with bread being buttered on a certain side.

  2. The Valencian PP is pork barrel-conservate-regionalist–a moderate southern version of CiU, its vote not split by pro-/anti-independence rhetoric.

    Your assumption that there is some inherent contradiction between socialism and Francoism endears but ignores the hordes of (children of) prominent supporters of the regime’s authoritarian statism who seem to have settled quite happily in the PSOE. Or do the names De la Vega, Bono, and latterly Maru Menéndez mean nothing to you?

  3. (I’m covering for followthebaldie holiday leave in Valencia at the moment and can thoroughly recommend it over Barcelona: safer, cleaner, better value, and on Friday walking out of the central market we met a gypsy lady with a large, live iguana slung over each shoulder, apparently hoping to make a sale to one of the butchers.)

  4. Yeah, I still think there’s quite a lot of room between being a Catholic centrist PSOE and a hard-right Valencia PP voter. I guess your answer is that ‘nothing much has changed’, which I’m perfectly willing to accept as the correct response (it often is).

  5. I always take anything our revisionist expat says with a huge pinch of salt. I just like to keep to the facts.

    Valencia was a stronghold of the republic as the electoral results of 1931 and 1936 show. If anything, Valencia was always at the vanguard of Spanish republicanism in terms of new parties (splits) or different places (ateneus/casals) for debate between/against other Republican factions.

    After the war, thousands of Valencians emigrated to Mexico, Russia and France –where they joined the Resistance. In the aftermath of the war, Alicante and Valencia city was certainly resettled with many Francoists and this is well known. A lot of people also changed sides very quickly as well. The Spanish army opened barracks in towns in Valencia and Alicante where there were none before the war. New officers and personnel were resettled. If you combine the mass exodus of natives Valencians and the arrival of mono-lingual Spaniards, plus the repressive policies of 40 years, it is no wonder that Valencian language has all but disappeared from the big cities.

    In terms of the right/left split, the Valencian PP is firmly anchored to the right and one of the few in Spain to have completely privatised every public service they could get away with, including some councils which now employ private security firms of dubious credentials for what in the rest of Spain is a public service job. The Valencian PP, and most of the young generation of future PP leaders coming through, are staunch free-market liberals. (Except when it comes to Endesa/Gas Natural, or any Catalan firms, obviously). In this respect, Thatcher would have been proud. CiU is not a Thatcherite party and has never been. To say that PP and CiU are similar is nonsense. Only some elements in UdC might share some of the economic policies of the Valencian PP.

    But the identity conflict in Valencia comes from a long time ago, before the war. The Spanish state (right/left) has always seen Valencia as the example how to assimilate one national identity into another. Lerroux focused on Valencia once his attempts in Barcelona failed. The self-hating inferiority complex of many Valencians has been working its way through the system for the last two centuries.

    But the main driver of change in Valencia is very recent and it has its origins in the “transición”. The Spanish right, having conceded “defeat” in Euskadi and Catalonia, played its strongest hand in Valencia –and they won.


    The campaign of violence and intimidation by the Spanish nationalist right, and its control of key media outlets (Las Provincias, local COPE station) had the desired effect: divide and rule. And it secured Valencia for the Spanish right and away from any “temptations” coming from the north. In recent years, the PP has poured money into the local party structure like in no other area of Spain. Once the PP won the city, it was only a matter of time before they won the Generalitat. Their total control of the local media and funding for community associations is ultra effective. That, plus the arbitrary electoral threshold of 5% and the incompetence and divisions of the PSOE means Valencia is safe PP ground probably for decades, in order to “ofrenar noves glòries a Espanya”.

    I used to go to la Pobla de Vallbona and Llíria for my holidays as a kid while my dad worked at the IBM building site there. Later in life, I used to go to the Sound&Light fair in Valencia every year in my previous life as sound engineer. I have great memories of the place and most of its people but the political situation there is beyond redemption.

  6. Rab’s been in (self-imposed and presumably lucrative) exile so long he’s getting out of touch, specifically with (1) role of republicanism in Valencian (and Spanish) politics, (2) the balance of political forces in Valencia, and (3) the history of the Valencian Nation.

    (1) In the 1930s all the major parties, including the CEDA, were at least nominally committed to some kind of republic, while today neither PP nor the PSOE are republican. Republicanism as a left-right/good-bad marker is a red herring. It was generally fashionable for a while and no longer is so.

    (2) Election results from the 30s (http://es.geocities.com/carlestek/e1931r.html) show a fairly even balance between those who regard themselves as being of right or left. The various participants in the war all killed people and drove them away, and the balance hasn’t changed significantly If the PSOE could get its act together, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t repeat its triumphs in the 80s and early 90s and return to power in Valencia capital and community.

    (3) Valencian nationalism is a modern phenomenon, the Valencian Race only having been invented in some mad declaration at the end of WWI by a bunch of left-fascists who I believe held Valencia city in the early 1930s. As was the case in Cataloonia, the War of the Spanish Succession was in Valencia fought for control of the Spanish state, not in order to secede from it. Modern Valencian nationalism in its extreme form has principally been a miniscule anti-imperialist movement directed at Catalan hegemonists. The Valencian PP uses regional culture and in particular the language (which is not certainly not dead, even in Valencia city) to exert pressure on central government, to hang on to its traditionalist electorate, many of whom speak or otherwise value Valencian, and to keep outsiders out of cushy bits of the labour market. So it is directly comparable to CiU, large sections of which would also not vote for independence.

  7. I think it’s all pretty obvious if you look at the demographics. The population in Valencia has doubled since the 1960’s, from 2.5 million to 5 million. This is most likely not due to endogenous growth, but to a major influx of immigrants from central Spain, I think.

  8. There’s this thing called Google where, if you look for “Valencia” and “demografia”, you discover that for the city overall population growth rates post-war are not radically different from pre-war, and where there is an obvious relationship in both periods with economic growth. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Demograf%C3%ADa_Valencia_%28Espa%C3%B1a%29.PNG Ockham he say: in the absence of evidence to the contrary, population decline in the late 50s is about “Valencians” moving elsewhere as Spain grinds to a halt, while rapid growth in the 60s comes from people moving of their own free wheel, often in the face of official opposition, from impoverished central and southern Spain in order to enjoy the economic boom on the coasts. You haven’t got any evidence of deliberate “racial” swamping, have you?

  9. Hi Tom,

    I cannot help you with your question but agree that it’s interesting and therefore read, filter and learn. What a great discussion you have here. Promise to become a more regular reader.

  10. What compounded the issue is the total impunity under with Spanish Fascists gangs intimidate, threaten and beat up anyone involved in the revival of Valencia/Catalan culture. This happens in Valencia more often than anywhere else.

    Read Racó Catalá:

    Check the links on the right with more news of violent attacks. Nobody has ever been prosecuted or charged. The Spanish media are not interested and Spanish police are complicit –after all they beat people up for daring to use their language at the airport.

  11. The swing to the right in Valencia is quite recent (early 1990s) so has little or nothing to do with any Francoist resettlement. At the 1979 general election, arguably the first true post Franco election since many emigrees hadn’t returned for the 1977 one, Valencia, Alicante and Murcia were among just 13 provinces won by the PSOE. Now Murcia is the safest PP district of the lot. There are great maps here. http://www.electionresources.org/es/maps.php?election=1979&map=provinces

    One reason is that overall Spain’s electoral politics are a-changing. Have a look at this table I created for wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_general_election,_2008#Regional_variations The PPs biggest increases in recent times have been in Andalucia, their worst performances in Galicia. So old generalisations no longer apply.

    The economic boom that hit the Spanish costas has played a part but the PP have also been helped by the implosion of rival rightist parties. In 1989 the PP had 24% in Valencia province against a combined 18% for the CDS and Unio Valenciana. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valencia_(Spanish_Congress_Electoral_District)#Vote_share_summary_1977-2008 Thereafter the PP embarked on a deliberate policy of absorbing those parties and while both still exist today they are a pale shadow of their former selves struggling to get even 1% of the vote while many of their activists have joined the PP.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.