The challenge between Real Madrid and Barcelona has long been surpassed the sporting dimension, thus elections to these clubs presidency are strongly politicized. As early as the 1930s, Barcelona had developed a reputation as a symbol of Catalan pride and identity, opposed to the centralizing tendencies of Madrid. In 1936, when Francisco Franco started the golpe against the democratic Second Spanish Republic, the president of FC Barcelona, Josep Sunyol, member of the Republican Left of Catalonia and Deputy to The Cortes, was arrested and executed without trial by Franco's troops.
FC Barcelona was on top of the list of organizations to be purged by the National faction, just after communists, anarchists, and independentists. During the Franco dictatorship, most citizens of Barcelona were in strong opposition to the fascist-like regime. Phil Ball, the author of Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football, calls El Clasico "a re-enactment of the Spanish Civil War." A similar analogy was made by American author Robert Coover, which described the 1977 match between the "archrivals" FC Barcelona and Real Club Deportivo Espanol as "more like a reenactment of the Spanish Civil War than a mere athletic event."
Though the first socialist party in Spain was founded in Madrid, almost all the ideas that have shaped the country's modern history -republicanism, federalism, anarchism, syndicalism and communism- have been introduced via the region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital. During the dictatorships of Miguel Primo de Rivera and Francisco Franco, all regional languages and identities were frowned upon and restrained. In this period, FC Barcelona gained their motto més que un club (English: More than a club) because of its alleged connection to progressive beliefs and its representative role for Catalonia. During Franco's regime, however, the blaugrana team seemed to be granted profit due to its good relationship with the dictator at management level.
The links between senior Real Madrid representatives and the Franquist regime were undeniable; for most of the Catalans, Real Madrid was regarded as the establishment club, in spite of the fact that presidents of both clubs like Josep Sunyol and Rafael Sánchez Guerra, suffered in the Spanish Civil War. This image was further affected by the creation, in 1980, of the fascist-leaning Real Madrid hooligan group. FC Barcelona also had the creation of a radical hooligan far-right group, called "Boixos Nois", who have committed violent acts. For different but not contradictory reasons, for many people living in the rest of Spain, FC Barcelona considered as "the alternative pole to Real Madrid's conservatism".