*4. [Because this is evaluative, avoid boxing yourself in at the beginning and limiting yourself to arguing only for 'accuracy' or against it. Also comment on the nature of the source.]
Ciano is able to comment reliably on the immediate outcome of the war. Beyond that, we must depend to some extent on hindsight - out of Ciano's reach when he wrote these entries on 28 March and 5 June 1939. On the other hand, Ciano's final comment on the postponement of war, coming only two weeks after the Pact of Steel in which Germany had failed to give Italy such guarantees, can be read either as self-delusion or as desperation not to weaken the close ties he perceived to exist between Italy and Spain. Elsewhere, the extracts suggest that Ciano is on a 'high', projecting a celebration of military and diplomatic triumph for the benefit of his own self-esteem, his Duce and future generations of admirers.
In the 28 March entry Ciano's reference to a 'new, formidable victory for Fascism' is right to the extent that Italian Fascist help had played a vital part in Franco's defeat of the Spanish Republic. As a result of that victory the European balance of power had moved further towards nationalist dictatorships. But was Franco's regime 'fascist' and was that victory truly 'formidable' and 'perhaps the greatest so far'? The latter claim is understandable in that Fascism's victory in the earlier Abyssinian War had delivered rather shallow proof of Italy's prowess. In Spain, on the other hand, the demands of combat had been much tougher and the adjective 'formidable' more appropriately describes the cost of intervention to the Italian economy, which Denis Mack Smith has estimated as twice Italy's annual military budget.21 This in turn throws into doubt those 'glorious results' referred to on 5 June. Spain joined the Anti-Comintern Pact in March 1939; but how deeply, despite Ciano's effusive picture of relations between Serrano Suner and himself, did friendship penetrate between Spain and Italy? To what extent was Franco's Spain 'at the side of the Axis . . . by feeling and by reason'? Franco bonded psychologically with the Axis cause and gave as much material assistance as he could afford. But his international relations were multilateral. Economic ties with Britain remained. The limitations of his active commitment to the Axis are further shown by the succession of 'flags' flown by Spain between September 1939 and October 1943: neutrality; non-belligerence; moral belligerence; neutrality.
The extent of friendship connects also with the 'gratitude' Ciano says was affirmed by Spain's Foreign Minister 'for what Italy has done and her way of doing it'. The inventory of Italian aid is mind-boggling, and, subsequent to the airlift of Franco's troops to the mainland in July and August 1936, Italy had a high-profile role in the rebels' victorious campaigns. But this profile may have been too high. Franco resented boastful and condescending Italian generals and he recoiled both at the Italian terror bombing of Barcelona and the humane surrender terms the Italians granted the Basques, which Franco promptly revoked.
Seen in context, it might be expected that an element of melodrama and distortion would intrude into these extracts. With hindsight, some misgivings about them are equally predictable. In compensation, however, Source F offers not only Ciano's vivid impression of the 'historical moment' as it occurs, but some true-to-life insights into the post-war aims and aspirations of Fascist Italy and Francoist Spain.
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