Suarez appeared on the cover of time magazine

at the end of 1975, the famous Spanish dictator Franco died. In 1977, including the legalization of all opposition parties in exile, such as the Communist Party, held the first democratic election. After the constitution was made in 1982, Spain held the second general election, and the ruling power was peacefully transferred to the opposition party. In just a few years, Spain completed the political transformation from Franco dictatorship to modern democratic system, which is known as the most successful democratic reform in the world in the late 20th century. In this process of political transformation, there is a legendary figure, which is the then Spanish Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez.

I. the reliable successor of the old system

Franco maintained dictatorship for nearly 40 years since the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939. For 40 years, the only legitimate political party in Spain was the “National Movement” personally led by Franco. Trade unions, youth organizations, women’s organizations and other mass organizations can only be controlled by the “National Movement”. Spain’s disastrous history of conflict made Franco believe in stability through repression. He severely suppressed all political opposition parties and the calls for regional autonomy in Basque and Catalonia. From before World War II to the 1970s, everyone knows that the world has undergone earth shaking changes. The footsteps of the world’s progress have rumbled in my ears. There is a new world outside, and Spain has been completely different from the period of civil war. Although, since the 1960s, Spain’s economy has taken off and limited reforms have been carried out at the institutional level through the press law, the corresponding fundamental changes have not appeared, and the basic pattern of Franco’s one party dictatorship has not changed. In Franco’s later years, the pressure for change formed an uneasy tension under the surface stability. This is a very natural law of development. Strong countries are decreasing, and repression cannot always be the way of governance. Everyone knows that the turning point of change is at hand. The change remains unchanged, and the rebound of strong pressure will form unnecessary unstable factors. Franco, as a Spanish person, can understand his own position at this time. Franco, like everyone else, saw that the most dangerous time of the old system was the period of transformation and reform. Therefore, he trained a preparatory king whose knowledge framework completely belongs to the new era, but he didn’t want to make trouble for himself in his old age. This is almost the law of senior politics. At the moment of his sudden illness, he was forced to hand over power to the king, but as soon as he got better, he took it back in a hurry. It was Franco’s prescription in his later years to maintain the established situation until the last moment of his life, but this pot of medicine had to be drunk with all Spaniards. Even Franco himself knows that once he gives up, profound changes will take place in Spain.

but the problem is still there: great change is the most dangerous moment. The longer it is delayed, the more so. In the face of danger, where will Spain go?

after Franco’s death, Juan Carlos I, 37, grandson of former Spanish King Alfonso XIII of the Second Republic, was crowned king of Spain, and Spain officially restored its monarchy. However, Juan Carlos I publicly stated long before Franco’s death that Spain would be a constitutional monarchy and democratic system in the future. After Franco’s death, Spain will carry out political reform and transformation, from one party autocracy in Franco’s era to a democratic system with sovereignty in the people and multi-party competition. Juan Carlos I himself is just an empty monarch. He has no final executive power and cannot interfere in government affairs. So Juan Carlos I needed to choose a prime minister to lead the change.

in 1976, the old parliament left by Franco began to discuss the candidate of the new prime minister according to the instructions of the king. After a series of complex political operations, the candidate for the new prime minister was shortened from a long list of recommendations to only a few people. At the end of the list is a young man who everyone thinks is a foil, Suarez, 43. At that time, there were many Franco comrades in arms who had gone through the civil war in the old system and occupied important military and political positions. Most people think it’s impossible to turn this young man. However, to his complete surprise, the king chose Suarez as his prime minister.

generally speaking, the qualifications of a political power are lined up according to their military achievements. So, why is a young man on this list? This is also the conventional practice of cultivating successors after the regime has been maintained for many years, that is, there should be “Youth League successors”. Suarez is such a “clique”. In the eyes of the old people in the system, Suarez can stand the test. Although he had not experienced civil war, his life path was within the Franco system from the beginning, and had nothing to do with the opposition outside the system. He started from the youth organization participating in the “National Movement” and climbed up the political arena step by step. In his early 30s, he served as governor of Segovia province and accumulated local administrative experience. Later, recommended by Franco’s confidants, he served as the director of the official Spanish television station. The year Franco died, he was the Deputy Secretary General of the “National Movement”, in charge of the most critical ideological position. Suarez can adapt to the system and is also a young man who is good at observing words and colors. During his tenure as TV director, he tried his best to meet the wishes of his predecessors to shape his own image, and everyone was happy. Therefore, he not only stood out among the younger generation and was able to enter the candidate list of prime ministers, but also did not cause a rebound in the system when he was elected, because he was undoubtedly regarded as a reliable successor to the old system.

for Suarez, perhaps not so surprised by the accident, he had an old friendship with the king in his stomach. When he was the head of the TV station, he and the king, aged 36 and 31, forged a friendship between young people. At that time, the older generation of conservatives did not pay attention to Juan Carlos as a prince, while Suarez and the prince had a common language.They have no burden on the older generation and can look at social changes from a young perspective.

as a new generation of politicians in the autocratic system, they are convinced that institutional reform is the only way out for Spain. If Spain stops on the old road, it is always an alternative to Europe. As a politically backward country, it can not really enter the ranks of advanced countries in Europe.

in 1975, when Franco died, Suarez was instructed to draft a report. In this report, Suarez concluded that the generals in the Spanish army and the older generation of the existing system could accept moderate and gradual political reform. Looking back now, it seems commonplace. At that time, it was very difficult to make this judgment. This requires not only a detailed and profound understanding of the personnel in the old system, but also insight. This judgment has found a starting point for political reform. Suarez’s outstanding feature is that when he climbed all the way up the bureaucratic ladder as a salary eater of the old system, he had political ideals. He saw the inevitability of reform and was willing to stand in the forefront. Suarez’s judgment impressed the future king deeply. When the new king needs a prime minister, on the one hand, he can only choose a “own person” who can be accepted by the old system. On the other hand, he needs a person who has a strong desire for reform and believes in the feasibility of reform. He should be good at dialogue with conservatives within the system and guide them to participate in reform. He should also be able to communicate with the opposition outside the system and integrate them into the process of political transformation.

only Suarez has such personal ability.

II. A key step in the legalization of political parties

the political reform led by Suarez is to transform the old system left by Franco into a modern democracy. The key to the transformation is to change from a one party system to a multi-party system, and legally recognize the legitimacy of all opposition parties, that is, the legalization of political parties. In Franco’s time, all opposition parties were illegal, but Communist led underground groups spread all over Spain. Once the political reform was launched, the left and right political forces saw the inevitability of the future multi-party system and began to form parties, including the right-wing political parties organized by people in the system and the left-wing Socialist Party supported by the Socialist Party International. However, the well-organized Communist Party was regarded as a mortal enemy by the old system. Military conservatives warned that the legalization of political parties could not include Spain’s enemies, not the Communist Party. If the Communist Party is also legalized, the conservative general may use the tradition of Spanish military intervention in politics and use force to block it, so as to prevent the country from embarking on a dangerous path.

therefore, how to make conservatives accept the legalization of the Communist Party has become the most difficult thing in the early stage of political reform. Many people think it is impossible at all. What Suarez excels in is that he can see “possibility”. Unlike rigid dogmatists, he always believes that real politics needs wisdom and compromise, which is true for everyone. He is also different from the realists who often hold a skeptical attitude. He believes that the ideal is possible and does not predict success or failure first. Success or failure depends largely on how to operate. He is a politician with political imagination. He believes that when the situation is unfathomable, sometimes a major change may depend on trivial details in hindsight, such as the time, place and discretion of action, and even how to say a word and on what occasion. Especially under the opaque autocratic system, what to do and what not to do depends on personal judgment. Suarez has lived in the system all his life. Making this judgment is not only his specialty, but almost his instinct.

since the second half of 1976, Spain has experienced political reform. That year, it was the most dangerous time to start removing the high pressure that had been maintained for a long time. It was the most likely to cause extreme accidents on the left and right wings, which may make the transformation retract, reform, or chaos out of control. Previously, the king and Suarez had sent secret envoys to France to meet with the leaders of the Communist Party, and promised to make the Communist Party legitimate and participate in Spanish democratic politics, on the condition that the Communist Party would not use the situation to launch a violent revolution in the stage of removing high pressure. Suarez also knows that such a tacit understanding is only temporary. He must hurry to fulfill his commitment, otherwise the other party will think that “you are unkind, I can be unjust”.

from September 1976 to June 1977, Suarez moved towards multi-party politics step by step in an amazing way.

after the gradual easing of the political atmosphere, some left-wing organizations that have been missing for decades have reappeared, among which the largest and oldest is the Spanish socialist party. This is a newly formed political party, but it inherits the old brand. General secretary Gonzalez is only in his early thirties. Suarez and he met for many times and had long talks and reached consensus. The socialist party is a leftist party that believes in socialist theory, but they also keep pace with the times, greatly revise the party platform, give up the ideal of completely destroying the old system, and believe that as long as the free election of Congress is realized under the existing regime, it is a democratic success.

obviously, no matter how far there is a gap between the left and right in politics, it is much easier for young people to reach a consensus on the future, and the difficulty is how to persuade conservative old people.

on September 8, 1976, Suarez met with the most powerful conservative general in the Spanish army and informed him of his political reform plan, mainly to legalize political parties and realize multi-party politics. He told the generals that the plan was agreed by the king. He asked these patriotic Spanish generals to support his implementation. For the generals, the king agreed that the weight was heavy, and Suarez’s low posture was like “his own child” to ask his elders for help. Facts have proved that Suarez is right in judging that they can accept moderate reform. They asked the most concerned question: does the legalization of political parties include the Communist Party? Their feud with the Communist Party in the civil war is difficult to dissolve, and it is unacceptable for the Communist Party to return to Spain in a dignified manner. This cannot be supported by conservative forces in the army.

however, they can still accept without the Communist Partymulti-party system. Suarez replied to the generals that it was impossible to legalize them in the current state of the Communist Party. The answer of




reassured the generals, who promised that they would support Suarez’s political reform.

two days later, Suarez presided over the cabinet to discuss the political reform bill, and the military cabinet members did not object. A few days later, the cabinet drafted the trade union organization law and first opened up workers to organize trade unions. A general cabinet member objected on the grounds that many trade union organizations were chaotic and out of control, leading to civil war. But Suarez believes that trade unions are a necessary way for workers to participate in politics, which is a necessary step. The general insisted on opposition, and Suarez unexpectedly took a tough attitude, forcing the opposing general to resign from the cabinet.

on October 8, 1976, the Spanish parliament left by Franco voted on the political reform law submitted by Suarez, with 425 votes in favour, 15 votes against and 13 abstentions. This also shows that reform is a trend and the courage of parliamentarians. They are not unaware that the old Congress is signing its own death penalty execution letter. Suarez’s judgment has been confirmed again. It is possible for the old system to start reform itself, rather than overthrowing the old system by external political opposition. It is also an inevitable step in contemporary peaceful political reform.

on December 16, 1976, Spain held a referendum for the political reform law. 78% of the voters participated, of which 94.2% voted for it. According to the plan of the political reform law, after half a year, Spain will hold national elections, and all members of Parliament will be elected. The power structure left over from the Franco era is coming to an end. At this time, politicians inside and outside the system began to form a party and participate in the election campaign before the election, because this means that the source of power will change 180 degrees. The original power comes from the top, you are responsible for the top, and later the power comes from the bottom. It is the people’s vote that determines the distribution of power. This change means a fundamental change in the rules of the political game. The so-called political power or political power is no longer manipulated by organizations within the system or political parties, but depends on how many votes you can get.

however, at the moment, the Communist Party has no legal status and is still an underground illegal organization. Suarez believes that if the Communist Party is excluded from political reform, democratic politics cannot succeed.

on February 27, 1977, Suarez and kaliyo, general secretary of the Communist Party of China, held a secret talk for eight hours and reached a consensus and agreement. Suarez asked the Communist Party to start from changing itself, and asked the Communist Party to publicly announce that it recognizes the Spanish monarchy, adopts the royal flag, abandons the violent revolution, complies with the law and the rules of the game of democratic politics. Under this premise, Suarez promised to legalize the Communist Party as soon as possible and let the Communist Party participate in the upcoming general election.

in April 1977, the Spanish government announced the legalization of the Spanish Communist Party. The Communist Party leader who had been in exile for 38 years immediately returned to Spain and participated in the first general election held in June, obtaining 9.2% of the votes and 20 seats in Parliament. Suarez himself led a center right multi-party coalition Democratic Federation, became the largest party in Congress and continued to serve as Prime Minister of Spain. Franco’s dictatorship officially ended. However, this is only the first step in democratic transformation.

III. after the first election of

on Jose Louis night, there are still a series of institutional construction steps to go, including formulating a new constitution and establishing a democratic system in law. The new constitution must answer a series of questions that involve not only the state system of government, but also the lives of thousands of families, such as the constitutional monarchy, the status of the Chinese king and royal family, the distribution of state power, the economic system, labor relations, religion, marriage, family system, regional autonomy and independence, etc. It is these problems that have led to intertwined troubles in the modern history of Spain. Forty years ago, it was the differences on these issues that led many political parties and trade unions on the left and right sides to insist on the only right and do not give in to each other, leading to violent conflict and sliding into the abyss of civil war. At present, the left and right political parties in Spain only agree with the inevitability of political reform, and there are still many differences in the face of specific issues. However, it is impossible to get around. To formulate a new constitution is to reach a compromise consensus on these specific differences.




after taking the first step of political reform, the whole country suddenly reduced pressure, some social problems and economic difficulties in Spain. The economic crisis after the first step of democratic reform is almost a regular phenomenon of democratic transformation in the late 20th century. There are the problems of the connection between the old and the new brought about by the great reform, as well as the lagging attack of the existing economic hidden dangers before the reform. At that time, Spain experienced inflation, rising raw material prices, rising unemployment, poor welfare system and declining people’s living standards. The inflation rate remained high at more than 15%, and the unemployment rate was two and a half times higher than that in 1973. Democratic reform does not promise to improve the economy immediately, but people who hope for political reform first hope for economy and life. If the subsequent economic performance of political reform is contrary to expectations, people will naturally think that political reform has damaged the economy.

under such circumstances, it is particularly difficult for the people to continue to support political reform. This is also an opportunity for all those who oppose political reform to express their “foresight”. In fact, economic difficulties will cause confusion and doubt among the people. If this confusion and doubt persist, political reform may still die prematurely, and people will still come out to appeal to the people to support the old order and support power to rectify the economy.

Suarez still firmly pursued the political reform plan in the face of economic difficulties. He knows very well what his advantages are. Spain today is completely different from the Second Republic 40 years ago. In Spain in the 1930s, the left and the right were completely opposed. Various international thoughts camped in Spain, causing the fragmentation of the people. And now, for the first timeSpain held its first national election after the constitution was made in 1979, and Suarez continued to serve as prime minister as the leader of the largest party. In the 1980s, the inevitable problems of economic and social transformation after political transformation, coupled with the unique requirements of Basque autonomy in Spain, put more and more pressure on the democratically elected government. The stubborn conservative forces in the army believe that Suarez led Spain down a wrong road. Due to various factors such as health reasons, Suarez gradually felt unable to deal with these problems and sprouted the idea of brave retreat in the torrent. At the end of 1981, he submitted his resignation to the king and asked the parliament to approve the interim Prime Minister appointed by the king.

Suarez was less than 50 at this time. Under Franco’s old system, he was an official who worked hard to climb up the national leadership from the bottom. He will not fail to understand that it was the old system that gave him a prosperous era. If the old system is maintained for decades, he will be familiar with it and will not be an official without him. However, he understood as early as the king that reform is inevitable. It is his own responsibility and opportunity given by fate to comply with the trend of the times and start political reform for the benefit of future generations within the system. He will not fail to understand that the person who initiated the historic political reform is destined to be a transitional figure. After the reform, democracy has been implemented, and his hard luck in official affairs has come to an end. The king is lifelong, but he must be ready to step down at any time.

fate gave Suarez the last chance to appear. On February 23, 1981, parliament voted to pass the appointment of interim prime minister, which was broadcast live throughout the country. Suddenly, a group of soldiers rushed in, shot at the flower board and ordered the parliamentarians to lie on the floor. This is a military coup led by several conservative officers. Under the sudden attack, the congressmen lay on the floor in horror. There were only two people sitting in their seats, motionless, facing the soldier’s muzzle.

one is caliyo, the Veteran General Secretary of the Communist Party, and the other is Suarez, the gentle prime minister.

the coup was dissolved with the king’s personal intervention. Suarez’s dignified gesture of fearless soldiers in the face of the coup remains in the memory of people who still remember him. Since then, Suarez gradually faded out of the Spanish political stage, and gradually no one mentioned him anymore. While traveling in Spain, we saw photos, portraits and statues of the king in urban and rural areas. In the Spanish newspaper news, we can also read from time to time the news of the leaders of the left and right major parties who were active on the political stage with Suarez during the period of political reform. However, there was no news of Suarez in the news. Until March 2005, Suarez’s son revealed his father’s situation. Over the years, Suarez suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and gradually lost his memory. He can no longer remember being the Prime Minister of Spain.

Spain’s peaceful political reform in the 1970s made Spain from a backward autocratic country to an advanced democratic country. This is a miracle in the political history of the 20th century. Together with this miracle, there are important people who create miracles.