Final years of the Franco era
Even though in the first half of the 1970s, Spain increasingly came to resemble ‘any other’ West-European country, Franco’s support base in the military, police force, and politics remained reactionary and felt threatened, as the rigid dictator aged. This sentiment deepened following the bomb attack carried out by the Basque ETA on Franco’s intended successor Carrero Blanco in December 1973. In 1974 Franco fell seriously ill. He recovered but was never able to resume his role as head of government.
In September 1975 he entered his final sickbed, and this was when a number of opponents of the regime, especially in France, were targeted by right-wing terror actions. The bookshop Mugalde, for example, a centre of Basque literature in Hendaye, was hit twice, in April and May 1975. On 6 June 1975 CISE (Comité d’Informations et de Solidarité avec l’Espagne) in Paris suffered the same fate, followed by the communist Éditions Ebro on 16 June.
On 12 October that year a commando attacked a Paris house of Spanish refugees, including the singer Imanol. And in the night of Monday 13 to Tuesday 14 October 1975 the bookshop and publisher Ruedo Ibérico on the rue de Latran was bombed. The damages were estimated at 5 million old French francs, but there were no casualties. In a telephone call to the press, the ATE (Anti Terroriste ETA) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Franco died on 20 November 1975. During the years of transition from dictatorship to democracy, Ruedo Ibérico had difficulty establishing a niche for itself. José Martínez was deeply critical of the post-Franco national reconciliation policy, which advocated a broad political majority, including the left. Using the pseudonym Felipe Orero, he lashed out separately against the CNT, in the publication CNT, ser o no ser (1979). Continuing to express scathing criticism, even after his move to Barcelona in 1978, he made few friends. In 1982, the year that Felipe González became the first socialist prime minister since Juan Negrín, Ruedo Ibérico closed. José Martínez became rather isolated and died four years later in Madrid.
Clearly, Ruedo Ibérico did not manage to find a new calling after 1975. But that is of little historical importance. The great value of the publishing company and of Martiínez’s contribution lies in the dissemination of accurate counter-information. Without Ruedo Ibérico, Franco’s propaganda machine would have had carte blanche. Thanks to Ruedo Ibérico, however, the generation growing up in Spain in the 1960s and 70s was able to read and study quality texts. And this is exactly what happened. The publications were eagerly read, borrowed, and debated. A generation of students and intellectuals in Spain embraced Ruedo Ibérico’s underground publications as a weapon against Francoist propaganda. Basically, in the words of Jorge Heralde, Ruedo Ibérico was ‘Una formidable arma de contrainformación….’ (a formidable counter-information weapon).