The guiding principle of the Franco dictatorship's economic policy during the years 1939–59 was self-sufficiency or autarky. Numerous factors influenced this strategy, although historians continue to argue over the relative significance of each of them. The regime itself, and historians sympathetic towards Franco, have stressed that the country was affected by world war within months of the end of the Civil War and was then "ostracized" by the international powers. The world conflict certainly made trade difficult. Moreover, the Allies were reluctant to provide Spain with food and other material when Franco's sympathy for Nazi Germany was so manifest. However, this ostracism was never total; Spain continued to trade with both the Axis powers and the Allies. Indeed, Britain had signed a trade agreement with the insurgents as early as December 1936. Although exports to Britain and France declined from 1939, trade with Germany and Italy rose spectacularly. In fact, considerable resentment was caused in Spain when it became known that food was being exported to Hitler's Germany in return for technical equipment. Research on the early decades of the Franco dictatorship has drawn attention to the ideological commitment of the regime to autarky as an expression of extreme nationalism, a rejection of liberalism, a desire for national industrialization, a sympathy for fascist ideas, and a readiness to enter the war on the side of the Axis. Moreover, autarky fitted very well with a broader ideological belief in the need to seal Spain off culturally from the outside world. The making of the Francoist "New State" was seen as being dependent upon a Catholic "moral reeducation" based upon the "essential values of Spanishness". The physical and psychological suffering that this largely self-imposed isolation created was seen as being a punishment for the "sins" of those Spaniards who had questioned the social system of pre-Republican Spain.
   Economic self-sufficiency was a disaster for the Spanish people. The attempt to achieve autarky in the wheat production sector was disastrous and, ironically, the country became dependent upon imports from the Perón regime in Argentina from 1946 until the early 1950s. Amid the already bleak landscape of mass executions in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish conflict, approximately 200,000 people died of hunger during the first few years of Francoism.
   The regime finally discarded autarky in 1959 when a programme of economic liberalization— the so-called Stabilization Plan—was agreed. However, this did not signal an ideological change of course. Franco remained reluctant and was persuaded only by the manifest failure of autarky to industrialize the country.
   Further reading
   - Harrison, J. (1985) The Spanish Economy in the Twentieth Century, London: Croom Helm (this deals with the strictly economic aspects of autarky).
   - Richards, M. (1996) " Terror and Progress: Industrialization, Modernity, and the Making of Francoism", in H.Graham and J.Labanyi (eds) Spanish Cultural Studies: An Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press (an attempt to show the social and cultural aspects of autarky).
   - Viñas, A. (1984) Guerra, dinero, dictadura. Ayuda fascista y autarquía en la España de Franco, Barcelona: Crítica (a detailed study of the ideological roots of autarky).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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