Analysis 2 To What Extent Was Francos Regime Fascist

In November 1936 Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy accorded Franco diplomatic recognition as Chief of State. By January 1938, when by decree he installed his first government, Franco was firmly established as 'National Chief' of the Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las JONS -the monumental 'movement' that was to underpin his dictatorship. In February 1939 Franco's regime was recognized by Britain and France and, on 1 April and with the Caudillo's deceptive termination of the Civil War, by the United States.

The use of 'fascist' in the title of this analysis conjures immediate associations with Fascist Italy and the Third Reich. However, the founder of the Spanish Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, was at pains to emphasize: 'The movement we have initiated in Spain is not a copy of any foreign movement. It has learned from fascism what fascism has of the idea of unity, authority and the subjugation of the struggles among classes by the idea of cooperation.'7

Always aware of the political value of continuity, Franco projected himself as Rivera's * heir, just as in the Soviet Union Stalin had done with Lenin. Moreover, he elevated Rivera in death as the icon of the Nationalist movimiento. 'Franco could safely share the leadership of Spain with a dead man who could not contradict the myth imposed on him.'8

The Falange would prove a valuable weapon in Franco's hands, and, although its place in his political cosmos was to fluctuate, it would never be totally eclipsed. Many of the Falange's ideas were used, and distorted, by Franco; others were jettisoned. Indeed, revolutionary Falangism was in practice anathema to the Caudillo; thus the banks would not be nationalized, nor would agricultural holdings be redistributed. Instead, the Franco regime repealed the Republic's Agrarian Reform Law and returned collectivized property to its 'original' owners.

In his speech inaugurating the Falange Española in October 1933, Rivera's references to authority and hierarchy implied the centrality of strong leadership. The teoria de caudillaje was a defining contour of the Franco regime, and with it came a flourishing personality cult. In the words of the Falangist intellectual Miguel Machado in late 1937, 'the man of providence, chosen by God to carry out the great work, is our unconquered Leader. The man of war and peace. The man of Spain. Franco, Franco, Franco.'9 Franco embodied, charismatically, the destiny of the Fatherland, a destiny which, as Rivera had argued, would be resolutely protected by rigorous discipline and in a spirit of service and sacrifice. But with the hindsight of the Civil War and particularly the impoverished post-Civil War years, Franco's pledge on his October 1936 investiture that 'Our work requires sacrifices from everyone, principally from those who have more in the interests of those who have nothing' is disingenuous in the extreme.

Order and discipline would promote the cause of a centralist Spain. Rivera had said in November 1934, 'Spain is an indivisible destiny. All separatism is a crime.' Franco was to ban the public use of Galician, Basque and Catalan, and in April 1938 the Autonomy Statutes for the Basque Country and Catalonia were abolished. Ironically, the Galician Franco personified a 'Greater Castilian' chauvinism, just as the Georgian Stalin basked pitilessly in his role as 'Greater Russian' chauvinist.

* All mentions of Rivera in this chapter refer to José Antonio Primo de Rivera unless otherwise stated.

The Falangist obsession with unity was also reflected in Rivera's call for a corporate state and for the abolition of political parties, the Cortes and the class struggle, of Marxism and its ramifications. Franco himself did not convene a Cortes until 1943. Although no more than a two-thirds-nominated advisory body, for Franco this 'Cortes' was hard political currency. For example, as Sheelagh Ellwood has suggested in her biography, it showed that the political class endorsed 'Franco' legislation such as the 1947 Law of Succession.10 A subsequent referendum emphasized the point that Franco proceeded by consent. Concerning divisive class conflict, strikes (Rivera's 'anarchy in the workplace') were treason and thus capital offences. Labourers involved in agricultural collectivization were also victimized, and the property of anyone suspected of 'red' tendencies was confiscated. General Queipo de Llano, in Seville, summed up the aim: 'We shall go on to the bitter end and continue our good work until not a single Marxist is left in Spain.'

The Falange, as had others before it, called for national regeneration 'through a fusion of the modern age with the quintessential quality of Spanish nationhood' or Hispanidad. 11 Franco certainly sought national regeneration, but he turned his back on modernity. Nevertheless, he shared Rivera's ultra-nationalism and his passion for empire: thus, the Caudillo looked covetously on Gibraltar, Portugal, French North Africa and French Catalonia. Moreover, he embraced the Falangist concept of Spain as 'the spiritual axis of the Spanish-speaking world [which] entitles it to a position of preeminence in world affairs'.12 Individuals would contribute to national regeneration through the collective task of all Spaniards, namely, work - the right and obligation of all. There would be no 'parasitic citizens'.13 The concept of Hispanidad invoked Spanish distinctiveness and tradition. It thus embraced cultural as well as economic self-sufficiency. 'Death to Culture!' implied death to works considered Marxist, liberal or anti-religious; books which offended against the 'Spanish' spirit were burned in autos-da-fe.

Thus, Spain would be 'purified', as it would be by relentless violence against those individuals and groups whose loyalty to the true Spain was suspect. But there were cracks in the consensus concerning the 'dialectic of fists and pistols' that Rivera had believed necessary to combat attempts to 'poison' the Spanish people and to subvert 'justice or the fatherland'. The Franco regime took this brutality to horrific extremes; but, in contrast, Rivera's controversial successor Manuel Hedilla believed in enhancing the working-class 'basis', not destroying it. And the Falangist General Yague called in April 1938 for Republican prisoners to be set free, despite his record of repression at Asturias in October 1934. Concerning the Civil War and post-Civil War years, Michael Richards has produced a meticulously documented analysis (ranging from Falangist reports, through communiqués from British diplomats and anecdotal evidence, to contrasting Spanish histories of the period) which underlines the scale of the Francoist repression. Badajoz, Málaga, Seville, Granada, Barcelona - these regions were disciplined like many others by 'Purification Brigades' and bureaucratic 'justice'. As Richards has written, 'Francoist political terror and violence [was] state-directed oppression in the pursuit of a reactionary political project . . . it disoriented Republican strategy and wiped out much of its social support.'14 Underlining the continuity of war into peace, Preston has concluded that 'Franco's regime would be the institutionalization of his victory in the Spanish Civil War.'15 The victorious Francoist state was highly bureaucratic. At this level the Falange played a pervasive role. However, whether they were always 'docile executants of the Caudillo's wishes' is open to question: thus, many Falangists were notorious black marketeers, corrupt in local government and, as in the case of vertical syndicates organizer Salvador Merino, too radical.16 These vertical syndicates demonstrate the fact that this bureaucratic state learned much from the economic policy of Fascist Italy. These lessons also included autarky, the Labour Charter establishing rights and duties of workers (1938), the 'Battle for Wheat' and the INI, a source of state investment for industry (1941 ). The Falangist Sección Femenina organized Franco's Social Service programme, and 're-educated' women in their traditional roles, analagous to the Nazi Kinder, Kirche, Küche. Rivera had argued that 'the family' was crucial to national strength. Indeed, as Grugel and Rees, for example, have highlighted, the Franco regime banned not only divorce but, along with all Catholic countries, contraception. As in Mussolini's Italy and the Third Reich, awards were given as incentive to produce large families, though, again as in Fascist Italy, the 'Battle of Births' was lost. Laws discouraging female 'employment' were passed and there was now an 'extreme form of patriarchal rule based on an ideology of separate spheres'.17

Through the voluntary Youth Front founded in 1940 (Pelayos aged 7-10, Fléchas 11-14, Cadetes 15-18) Falangists instilled political doctrine. The compulsory Falangist students' union, however, was to prove a radical source of anti-Franco opposition. In further contrast, Falangists such as the soon to be disaffected poet Dionisio Ridruejo occupied top positions in the Franco propaganda machine, press, radio, film, theatre, and so on, and its corollary, censorship. Falangists also enacted high-profile propaganda in another vital sense: well-orchestrated parades and rallies affirming mass support for the Caudillo with their fascist salute and conspicuous blue shirts.

The April 1937 Decree of Unification, which established the FET and diluted Rivera's Falange within a Francoist movement, lived up to Rivera's fear of 'the establishment of a false, conservative fascism without revolutionary courage and young blood'. Both Griffin and Kedward have offered succinct definitions of fascism's fate under Franco. Thus, for Griffin, Franco 'neutralized fascism's revolutionary impetus by absorption', while Kedward has concluded that 'In reality the Spanish Civil War was as much the graveyard of idealistic fascism as idealistic communism.'18

The word 'Tradicionalista', as in FET, was an overt reference to the Carlists. But it also implied that 'revolution' was the doctrine of the past, tradition the concept of the present - and of the future. Much to the chagrin of the Falange 'left', the compliant 'Franco-Falange' agreed. José Luis Arrese, Franco-Falangist Secretary-General of the FET in 1941 -5, wrote, 'Spain - and may some who wear the blue shirt but hide the red shirt hear it quite well - will be nothing if it is not Catholic . . . we believe in God, Spain and Franco.'19

Arrese's reference to the Catholic Church underlines the fact that the Franco regime sought a broader national ideal than fascism alone could provide. Indeed, Carr and Fusi in Spain: Dictatorship to Democracy (1981) have pointed to the existence of seven 'families' attached with varying degrees of influence to Franco's regime. The original 'institutionalized families' were the army, Church and Falange, the first two often at odds with the third. There were also the 'political families'. These were 'integral Francoists' who defined themselves by Franco's person exclusively; monarchists, whose loyalty was not unconditional; technocrats ('experts'); and professionals (modernizers in the civil service and academia).

This diversity points to the changing nature of the regime over time. Thus, for example, Catholic organizations - the reactionary Association of National Catholic Propagandists and then the more forward-looking Opus Dei - came to replace the Falange from the mid-1940s as providers of the defining 'tone' of the regime and the precise needs of the system and its leader. This new tone reflected, in turn, changing international circumstances.

Although economic ties with the Allies were maintained, until 19423 Franco's foreign policy was predominantly pro-Axis. In fact, the Caudillo ideologically identified himself with that cause well beyond any 'watershed' and he continued to assist the Axis whenever possible.

Previously Minister of the Interior, the Falangist Ramón Serrano Suñer became Foreign Minister in 1940. Franco's brother-in-law, Serrano was more an admirer of Mussolini than the Nazis. However, successful Blitzkriegs against Poland and the Western continental democracies showed imperial Nazism in the ascendant. So did initial German triumphs against the Soviet Union, to which the Falangist Blue Division lent ardent, and sacrificial, support. Serrano's fall from power in 1942 was due more to domestic tensions than to the turn of the wartime tide, but his dismissal is nevertheless symbolic of the Falange's own fall from grace.

Axis setbacks from 1942 encouraged Franco to camouflage his intuitive empathy for Hitler and Mussolini. However, despite the installation of a 'Cortes' in 1943, the 'Catholicization' of the regime and Franco's cordial greetings to Churchill and recognition of De Gaulle's previsional government following the war, Franco's own regime was still perceived as 'fascist'. Therefore, the United Nations Organization closed its doors to the Caudillo. But there was to be no coup against him. He had not ruled out an eventual restoration of the Spanish monarchy. Moreover, and more significantly in the shorter term, his 'fascist' regime would prove useful as a Cold War ally against communism. In this sense, 'fascism' and democracy shared a common identity.

Roger Griffin has described the Franco system as 'a stagnant neo-conservative regime . . . with no genuine commitment to create a national community'20 Indeed, there is a problem in equating years of unemployment, hunger, poverty, fear and vindictiveness with regenerating the nation's health. But revulsion against Franco's self-righteous cruelty is offset by uneasy admiration for his consummate statecraft: it would not have remained 'Franco's regime' without the Caudillo's unerring skill at balancing factions and interests and his adjustments to change. It is apparent that Franco's regime did indeed demonstrate fascist tendencies, both ideologically and institutionally, though always, as was the intention, on Franco's terms.

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