Golpismo, a tendency to engage in golpes or coups d'état, was the word used in the Spain of the 1970s and 1980s to designate the attitudes of hard-right elements in the armed forces towards the emergent democratic state. The armed forces had long been suspicious of civilian politicians, and regarded themselves as the ultimate arbiters of political development, reserving the right to intervene when events were taking a course of which they disapproved. The reluctance of successive governments during the transition to democracy to grasp the nettle of military subversion, combined with the failure of the intelligence services to keep the civil authorities informed about the existence of conspiracies against the state, encouraged the "ultras" in the armed forces to believe that they could plot with impunity.
   In addition to these political attitudes, certain general features of military culture fostered the golpista mentality. The networks of personal loyalty among those who had served together created strong bonds which extended not only through and across military units, but also linked these units to right-wing civilian groups. Furthermore, the command structure of the armed forces meant that small numbers of politically committed officers could mobilize large numbers of personnel, independently of whether those under their command shared their superiors" views. It was reported at the time of the Tejerazo, for example, that the rank-and-file members involved did not know that their objective was the parliament building until they actually arrived there.
   The ultra-right press, too, had a role in creating a climate favourable to a military take-over. The newspaper El Alcázar (The Citadel), whose main readership was composed of serving members of the armed forces, and whose editorial line was uncompromisingly anti-democratic, carried on a virulent campaign against the reforming Minister for Defence, Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado. In the months before the Tejerazo (between December 1980 and February 1981), the paper published a series of articles under the signature of the Colectivo Almendros (the Almond-Tree Group), advocating military intervention. It has been suggested that the reference to almond-trees was a coded warning that a major action was planned for late February, when the almond-blossom appears.
   The golpistas, however, were ultimately not to have it all their own way. The vast majority of armed forces and security personnel were loyal to the new democratic system. Besides, the same features of military culture which favoured conspiracy could work in the opposite direction. The command structure made it relatively easy to remove disloyal officers from key positions and replace them with others committed to the defence of the constitution, some of whom had a crucial role in aborting illegal actions. For example, in November 1978, General Antonio Pascual Galmés ensured the failure of the attempted coup which became known as Operación Galaxia by preventing a crack armoured division from joining other units involved in the conspiracy. At the time of the Tejerazo in 1981, the police, then under the command of a seconded army officer, José Sáenz de Santamaría, surrounded the Cortes building, and prevented other units from joining Tejero's force. Two other key factors in the eventual decline of golpismo were the fact that the conspirators had offended against a cardinal principle of the military ethos by disobeying orders from their superiors, and also the fact that their repeated failures drove them to increasingly desperate measures which alienated all but their most hardline supporters. In acting against democratic institutions, they were also rebelling against their ultimate military superior, King Juan Carlos, in his capacity as Comman-der-in-Chief of all the armed forces, a point underlined by the King himself when he appeared on television on the night of the Tejerazo. While the plan in February 1981 had been to install a "government of national "salvation", a further plot discovered in June of that year would have entailed much more violent measures, including the bombing of the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona during a Catalan nationalist rally, the deposition of the King and the elimination of democrats, whose names were already on prepared death-lists. Another plan to seize control prior to the 1982 elections would have involved the execution of senior staff officers who refused to join the rising.
   The process of bringing the armed forces finally under civilian control was consolidated by the reforms carried out by the Minister of Defence, Narcis Serra, and by the decision to press ahead with NATO membership. Gradual replacement of hardline personnel, as well as increasing professionalism and involvement in international peace-keeping, finally brought about the depoliticization which successive governments had failed to achieve since the early nineteenth century.
   See also: poderes fácticos; politics
   Further reading
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapter 8 is an excellent, clear account of the political role of the armed forces, and their development since 1975).
   - Preston, P. (1986) The Triumph of Democracy in Spain, London and New York: Methuen (a highly readable and well-documented account of the events of the transition; for the military conspiracies, see especially chapters 5–8).
   - Ross, C.J. (1997) Contemporary Spain: A Handbook, London and New York: Arnold (chapter 4 provides a useful summary).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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