Ferrol - Urban History
'A Tale of Two Cities'. The Memory of Ferrol, between the Navy and the Working class.
Beginning Chapters: < 1 2 3 4 Bib.

Chapter 4

Between the transition to democracy and the rationalization of the shipbuilding industry (I)

In 1975, the dictator's death and the transition to democracy created a new political situation. The fact that the Franco regime's political culture had fallen into disrepute, combined with the lack of organisation amongst the social forces that had formerly provided backing for it, plus the introduction of a new political culture based on public liberties, universal suffrage and free elections would result in the victory of the 'Partido Socialista', that was to govern Spain between 1982 and 1996. Yet the re-organisation of the State based on regional autonomy has enabled the conservative 'Partido Popular' to remain in power in Galicia, a markedly rural region with an ageing population. Ferrol and its neighbouring municipalities were an exception. The working class population employed mainly in the ship building industry and with a tradition in trade union movement and organisational strategies provided the electoral basis that would place left wing parties firmly in power in local authorities. From the first democratic elections held in 1979, and up until 1987, Ferrol was governed by a coalition headed by the 'Partido Socialista'.56

Meanwhile, the globalisation of the Spanish economy would reveal that the enclave economic model the city had employed during the Franco period was no longer viable. Spain's entry into the European Economic Community meant that the Spanish -Socialist- government implemented a programme of rationalization of the ship industry which had a major impact on Ferrol's shipyards. The admission of Spain into NATO also caused a profound reorganization of the Navy and the Army, and a significant reduction in the number of armed forces in the city. Ferrol lost 10% of its population in just under a decade. The trade unions and citizens' associations constantly called strikes and demonstrations, distancing themselves from the 'Partido Socialista' that combined local and national government.57

The new global economic and political conditions were the cause of continuing political unrest in Ferrol. In the local elections that followed, a total of six different political parties were returned, including several 'independent' electoral groups. This led to the need for coalition governments whose evident instability meant that they were unable to remain in power for any considerable length of time. The 1987 local elections were won by the conservative 'Partido Popular'; in 1989, a censure motion brought the left back into power; in 1991, the council elections were won again by the 'Partido Popular'; just six months later, yet another censure motion meant that they were unseated by the 'Partido Socialista'; and in the 1995 elections the 'Partido Popular' again regained the majority.58

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