Spain Is Denied Entrance into the United Nations Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The General Assembly of the United Nations denied Spain U.N. membership, demonstrating the body’s disapproval of Spain’s authoritarian and fascist-oriented regime, headed by dictator Francisco Franco.

Summary of Event

General Francisco Franco established a military dictatorship in parts of Spain in 1936. After his forces prevailed in a three-year civil war Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) against the Second Spanish Republic in 1939, he consolidated his control of the entire country. Franco’s authoritarian regime was born of a military insurrection against Spain’s legal, leftist government, which had been narrowly elected by the populace. The regime was able to survive until Franco’s death in 1975, in part because it had the support of many segments of the Spanish population, including the army, the fascist party, and the Roman Catholic Church. The military perceived an obligation to intervene to save the nation from the anarchy that plagued Spain’s Second Republic, which included crippling strikes and ferocious attacks by the left on Catholic clergy in which about seven thousand priests and religious were murdered, mostly during the early phases of the civil war. Franco’s ironclad rule protected Spain from the chaos he believed was inherent in democracy. United Nations;expansion Spanish-U.N. relations[Spanish U.N. relations] [kw]Spain Is Denied Entrance into the United Nations (Dec. 12, 1946) [kw]Entrance into the United Nations, Spain Is Denied (Dec. 12, 1946) [kw]United Nations, Spain Is Denied Entrance into the (Dec. 12, 1946) United Nations;expansion Spanish-U.N. relations[Spanish U.N. relations] [g]North America;Dec. 12, 1946: Spain Is Denied Entrance into the United Nations[01920] [g]Europe;Dec. 12, 1946: Spain Is Denied Entrance into the United Nations[01920] [g]Spain;Dec. 12, 1946: Spain Is Denied Entrance into the United Nations[01920] [g]United States;Dec. 12, 1946: Spain Is Denied Entrance into the United Nations[01920] [c]United Nations;Dec. 12, 1946: Spain Is Denied Entrance into the United Nations[01920] [c]Organizations and institutions;Dec. 12, 1946: Spain Is Denied Entrance into the United Nations[01920] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Dec. 12, 1946: Spain Is Denied Entrance into the United Nations[01920] Franco, Francisco Primo de Rivera, José Antonio Mussolini, Benito Hitler, Adolf [p]Hitler, Adolf;alliances

Spain’s fascist party Fascism was known as the Falange Falange party ; it was equally opposed to capitalism, communism, and democracy. The party advocated the creation of a national socialist state. The Roman Catholic Church, battered by leftist persecution, sanctioned Franco’s rebellion and became a part of the state. Franco’s victory saved the church from the violent anticlericalism that had erupted during Spain’s Second Republic. These three pillars of the Francoist state were generally conservative, authoritarian, antidemocratic, and intolerant of the convictions of the Spaniards who supported the republic and were on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War.

When the General Assembly voted to deny Spain membership in the United Nations, it was applying diplomatic pressure on Franco. The assembly wanted him to relinquish power to a provisional government that would respect the civil rights of all Spaniards and give them the opportunity to choose their government freely. The United Nations condemned Franco’s regime not only because it was undemocratic and authoritarian but also because it was founded with the support of the Axis Powers. Franco’s forces won the Spanish Civil War with the help of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Franco’s rule was ultimately guaranteed by armed force; Dictatorships it did not formally derive its authority from the consent of the governed, although large segments of the population supported the regime. It was antidemocratic and inspired by the fascist ideology. Franco himself abhorred representative forms of government. According to his understanding of Spanish history, Spain’s glorious imperial past under the Catholic sovereigns, such as Ferdinand and Isabella, was destroyed by the introduction of representative government and universal suffrage in the nineteenth century. Self-serving party politics and the conspiracies of freemasonry and Marxism caused Spain’s decline as a military and colonial power in this view. Franco believed, moreover, that Spain faced an immediate communist threat when he committed himself to overthrowing the Second Republic in 1936.

Franco replaced Spain’s republican form of government with an authoritarian state in which he exercised ultimate power. As head of state and head of the government, he functioned as prime minister and president. He was commander-in-chief of the armed forces and leader of the only political party, the Falange. Franco ruled without a constitution and therefore without the rule of law. Franco declared that his regime was responsible only to God and history.

Franco’s disregard for human rights Human rights;Spain was evident from the beginning of his rule. Supporters of the Spanish Republic had no rights. Franco’s regime pursued its opponents relentlessly in a large-scale campaign of repression during and after the civil war. The Law of Political Responsibilities Law of Political Responsibilities (1939) , retroactive to October, 1934, even though enacted in February, 1939, decreed that anyone who had supported the cause of the republic in any way, even if passively, could be subject to up to fifteen years of imprisonment. The law also targeted any member of a trade union, a masonic lodge, or a republican or left-wing party and any supporter of Basque or Catalan nationalism. More than 270,000 Spaniards were in prison by the end of 1939. Prison populations did not return to pre-civil war levels for more than a decade.

The average citizen found Franco’s campaign of repression to be arbitrary and ruthless. A slight majority of the Spanish people supported the republic, so the regime decided that it had to administer a campaign of total terror to frighten the population into submission. Even a vague allegation could result in arrest or even death. Franco’s side saw prominent republicans and leftists as incurable and believed execution was a reasonable solution. People who supported the republic, even if they had managed to survive the war and imprisonment, still had to face persecution well into the 1950’s. Franco did not want those who opposed him to have access to power or wealth. Former republicans were silenced, but they were not persuaded that they had been wrong.

When Allied victory in World War II seemed assured, Franco attempted to mask his regime’s violation of human rights by revoking the Law of Political Responsibilities and issuing the Charter of the Spanish People Charter of the Spanish People (1945) in 1945. It purported to be a bill of rights, although the freedoms proclaimed in the charter were severely undermined on several levels. The charter only ensured such freedoms as those of expression, association, and assembly when they did not endanger the principles of the state and did not harm Spain’s spiritual, national, or social unity. Liberty was further limited by the issuance of countermanding laws and decrees. Any right proclaimed in the charter could be revoked in states of emergency. The average Spaniard knew that no more freedom was available than there had been at the height of the repression after the civil war.

Freedom of expression could only be had in private conversation. The regime until 1966 censored all printed matter prior to publication, with the exception of Catholic and Falange materials. Books were banned and theaters were closed. Many topics were forbidden by the regime, including the regime itself, the succession of Franco, political and social agitation, offenses against morals, and any information that would place Spain in an unfavorable light. The government strictly controlled the press, to the extent of determining circulation and allocating newsprint. Freedom of information was not possible under such conditions. Few gave any credence to the news available from newspapers, television, and radio. The media conveyed only what the government wanted the population to know.

The regime limited freedom of association and assembly. No organization could be formed that proclaimed goals contrary to government-endorsed values. Trade unions were illegal, as were strikes. Spanish workers were forced to join the syndicate established by the state for their trade or profession. Spaniards could join only the one legal political party in the country, the Falange. This created much frustration among workers. Politics was the only channel available to seek the redress of grievances, but it served the interests of the state and not those of the worker.

The right to free assembly was also severely restricted. Any gathering of more than twenty people not sponsored by the church or the Falange required government authorization. If the government wanted to harass a known opponent of the regime, the police would raid the residence when a family reunion was in progress because they could claim that more than twenty people were together without government authorization.

While freedom of conscience was theoretically recognized, only Roman Catholicism enjoyed official protection. Other faiths could be practiced only privately. Franco persecuted Spain’s thirty thousand Protestants. Protestant congregations could not own or administer church buildings and could not establish schools or evangelize.

The nature and organization of the judicial system seriously endangered human rights. In addition to being government-appointed, judges were required to swear an oath of loyalty to Franco, jeopardizing the sound and impartial administration of justice. Military courts exercised broad jurisdiction in ordinary penal law and prosecuted political crimes. Activity in opposition to the regime was classified as military rebellion. The police could arrest a suspect without a warrant. Although there was a seventy-two-hour limit on detention, illegal detention could not be appealed.

A police-state atmosphere dominated the court system. If a person was apprehended by the police, family and friends could not prevent detention. The accused had no access to a lawyer while in police custody. Only after preliminary legal proceedings were finished could the accused consult a lawyer. Depositions could be obtained through threats and violence.

The United Nations, organized by the victorious Allies after World War II, abhorred the existence of a fascist regime like that of Franco after the defeat of fascism had cost so many Allied lives. Exiled republicans anticipated that the Allies would overthrow Franco’s dictatorship after defeating Nazi Germany. Some believed that World War II would not be won until all fascist regimes had been destroyed.

Although they deplored Franco’s oppression of the Spanish people, the Allies did not intervene militarily. They limited themselves to isolating Spain diplomatically after World War II, hoping to pressure Franco out of power. The General Assembly’s resolution in December, 1946, reaffirmed the Allies’ previous condemnations of Spain in San Francisco, Potsdam, and London. It not only barred Spain from membership in the United Nations but also banned Spain’s participation in all international agencies associated with the United Nations. Member states were asked to recall their ambassadors from Spain. Finally, the resolution declared that the United Nations would consider other measures if Franco’s regime were not replaced by a government that represented the will of the Spanish people within a reasonable amount of time.


The diplomatic pressures applied by the United Nations did not weaken Franco’s hold on Spain. The United Nations’ policy of ostracism proved counterproductive. Franco refused to change his regime, confident that the Western democracies would eventually value his staunch anticommunism. He was not mistaken. When the Western democracies determined that the Soviet Union was a threat to their interests, they recognized Spain’s strategic value for the defense of Western Europe and softened their condemnation of Franco’s regime. Spain’s diplomatic isolation decreased largely because of the Cold War. By 1951, most countries had returned their ambassadors and were encouraging Spain to participate in various international agencies. The United States valued Franco as an ally in the battle against Soviet expansionism and signed an accord with Spain in 1953 agreeing to provide economic and military assistance in exchange for air and naval bases.

Those who had supported the republic, whether still resident in Spain or in exile, felt abandoned after the European democracies’ failure to intervene against Franco’s dictatorship. Just as aid to the republic had been less than forthcoming during the civil war, the United States and its allies in Europe would do nothing once World War II was over to eliminate the last Fascist state on the continent. The average Spaniard could see no end to Franco’s dictatorship, and in fact Spaniards would have to wait forty years to have the yoke of dictatorship lifted from them.

The General Assembly’s resolution against Spain’s membership in the United Nations was fully reversed in December, 1955, when Spain was finally admitted along with fifteen other nations. Although the nature of Spain’s totalitarian government had not changed, the United Nations had adjusted its policy. U.N. leaders had come to believe that the United Nations should be a universal, worldwide body that offered admission to all nations regardless of their political philosophy. Governments with unacceptable practices would be more likely to change within the United Nations than outside it. Spain was admitted with virtually no opposition. Nevertheless, a residue of dislike for Franco’s rule persisted in Europe: Spain was refused membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), because its government was not democratic. It also was barred from membership in the European Economic Community (EEC). Spain’s diplomatic isolation would not end completely until after Franco’s death. After Spain completed its transition to democracy in 1978, objections to Spain’s membership in NATO and the EEC disappeared. Spain was admitted into NATO and the EEC in 1986. United Nations;expansion Spanish-U.N. relations[Spanish U.N. relations]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carr, Raymond, and Juan Pablo Fusi Azipurua. Spain: Dictatorship to Democracy. Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1979. A thorough overview of all aspects of Spain’s history from 1939 to 1978, including the philosophy and institutions of Francoism; changes in the economy, society, and culture during the Franco period; the crisis of the last years of the regime; and the transition to democracy. Includes an index, a chronological table of events, a glossary of political terms, and a list of main actors.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gallo, Max. Spain Under Franco: A History. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1974. A history of Franco’s regime from 1938 to 1969. Evident anti-Franco bias does not detract from valuable insights into the nature of the regime. Includes a thorough bibliography (mostly of material in French and Spanish), index, and genealogy of the Spanish royal family.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gilmour, David. The Transformation of Spain. London: Quartet Books, 1985. Deals mainly with the transition to democracy in Spain. Opens with a very useful introduction to the nature of Francoism and the structure of the dictatorship. Includes bibliography, index, and glossary of political and other organizations in Spain.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hills, George. Franco: The Man and His Nation. London: Robert Hale, 1967. Combines a biography of Franco with Spain’s history from the beginning of the twentieth century into the 1960’s. Thorough treatment of Spanish foreign relations during and after World War II. Biased against the Left. Includes index. Lists sources and provides an extensive bibliography, much of it in Spanish.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hughs, Neil. “The Problems and Future of Spain.” In New Europe in Transition, edited by Peter J. Anderson, Georg Wiessala, and Christopher Williams. New York: Continuum, 2000. A look at the twenty-first century position of Spain on the world and European stage. Bibliographic references and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">International Commission of Jurists. Spain and the Rule of Law. Geneva: Author, 1962. Useful detail on judicial and legal structure of Franco’s rule with a chapter on civil rights. Detailed description of laws meant to protect the regime from the opposition. Appendixes with the texts of fundamental laws and excerpts from a political trial. Accessible to the layperson.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jensen, Geoffrey. Franco: Soldier, Commander, Dictator. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2005. Brief biography of the Spanish dictator, following his career both before and after his rise to power. Bibliographic references and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Payne, Stanley. The Franco Regime: 1936-1975. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987. Complete history from the civil war through Franco’s death in 1975. Takes a neutral stance. Includes maps, index, and an annotated and select bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Franco’s Spain. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1967. Brief history of Francoism from the civil war through the mid-1960’s. Covers politics and diplomacy, the economy, social change, and cultural affairs. Includes index and annotated bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Whitaker, Arthur R. Spain and Defense of the West: Ally and Liability. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980. Reprint of 1961 Council on Foreign Relations edition. History and analysis of Spain under Franco with focus on U.S. foreign policy. Special attention to the 1953 agreement between the United States and Spain. Includes index and annotated bibliography.

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