The first decade of Franco's rule in the 1940s following the end of the Civil War in 1939 saw continued oppression and the killing of an indetermined number of political opponents. Estimation is difficult and controversial, but the number of people killed probably lies somewhere between 15,000 and 50,000 (see above, The end of the Civil War).
Subsequently Franco's state became less violent, but during his rule non-government trade unions and all political opponents across the political spectrum, from communist and anarchist organizations to liberal democrats and Catalan or Basque separatists, were either suppressed or tightly controlled by all means, up to and including violent police repression. The Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) and the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) trade-unions were outlawed, and replaced in 1940 by the corporatist Sindicato Vertical. The PSOE Socialist party and the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) were banned in 1939, while the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) went underground. The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) went into exile, and in 1959, the ETA armed group was created to wage a low-intensity war against Franco.
Franco's Spanish nationalism promoted a unitary national identity by repressing Spain's cultural diversity. Bullfighting and flamenco were promoted as national traditions while those traditions not considered "Spanish" were suppressed.
Franco's view of Spanish tradition was somewhat artificial and arbitrary: while some regional traditions were suppressed, Flamenco, an Andalusian tradition, was considered part of a larger, national identity. All cultural activities were subject to censorship, and many were plainly forbidden (often in an erratic manner).
This cultural policy relaxed with time, most notably in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Franco also used language politics in an attempt to establish national homogeneity. He promoted the use of Spanish and suppressed other languages such as Catalan, Galician, and Basque. The legal usage of languages other than Spanish was forbidden. All government, notarial, legal and commercial documents were to be drawn up exclusively in Spanish and any written in other languages were deemed null and void. The usage of any other language was forbidden in schools, in advertising, and on road and shop signs. Publications in other languages were generally forbidden. Citizens continued to speak these languages in private. This was the situation throughout the forties and, to a lesser extent, during the fifties, but after 1960 the non-Castilian Spanish languages were freely spoken and written and reached bookshops and stages, although they never received official status.
On the other hand, the Catholic Church in its most conservative form was made official religion of the Spanish State. Civil servants had to be Catholic, and some official jobs even required a "good behavior" statement by a priest. Civil marriages which had taken place under Republican Spain were declared null and void unless confirmed by the Catholic Church. Civil marriages were only possible after the couple made a public renunciation of the Catholic faith. Divorce was forbidden, and also contraceptives and abortion.
Francoism professed a devotion to the traditional role of women in society, that is: loving child to her parents and brothers, faithful to her husband, residing with her family. Official propaganda confined her role to family care and motherhood. Immediately after the war the situation of women suddenly became adverse, because most progressive laws passed by the Republic were made void. Women could not become judges, or testify in trial. They could not become university professors. Their affairs and economy had to be managed by their father or by their husbands.
Until the 1970s a woman could not have a bank account without a co-sign by her father or husband. In the 1960s and 1970s the situation was somewhat relieved, but it was not until Franco's death that a more egalitarian view of the sexes was adopted. The enforcement by public authorities of traditional Catholic values was a stated intent of the regime, mainly by using a law (the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes, Vagrancy Act) enacted by Azaña. The remaining nomads of Spain (Gitanos and Mercheros like El Lute) were especially affected. In 1954, homosexuality, pedophilia, and prostitution were, through this law, made criminal offenses, although its application was seldom consistent.
Most country towns, and rural areas, were patrolled by pairs of Guardia Civil, a military police for civilians, which functioned as his chief means of social control. Larger cities, and capitals, were mostly under the Policia Armada, or "grises" as they were called. Franco, like others at the time,[who?] evidenced a concern about a possible Masonic conspiracy against his regime. Some non-Spanish authors[who?] have described it as being an "obsession".
Student revolts, at universities in the late 1960s and early 1970s, were violently repressed by the heavily armed Policía Armada (Armed Police).
Franco continued to personally sign all death warrants until just months before he died, despite international campaigns requesting him to desist.