Can the Franco Regime Be Regarded S Fascist

  • -

Can the Franco Regime Be Regarded S Fascist

Category : Articles

Can the Franco regime be regarded as fascist

The rebel movement which erupted in Spain in the 1930??™s brought up the ideologies which would support the proposed ???New State??™, a nation built on religion, tradition and Spanish patriotism; ideas which were absorbed and used by several different political groups and the military to secure the support of the rural populous. The Falanges as an increasingly significant party adopted and created some of these ideals concerning national identity and the creation of a perceivable ???Spanish??™ state, though they lacked the legitimacy of even some leftist parties with the loss of many leaders. In this way the Falanges became more a device of the regime, a mule of ideology which attracted a popular support but was in no position to administer it on behalf of themselves. The image of the movement and of military rebellion was in following through the initial and withstanding aims of ???saving Spain??™, not of specific political rebellion or desire to attain control through a coup, ???The military rebellion did not begin as a specifically ???specifically anti-Republican??™ movement. It had no precise program or ideology other than that of ???saving Spain from anarchy??™???[1] The involvement of the military, initially provocateurs of rebellion, was akin to ones wielded sword; the army requiring a political leader to employ the tool of the military. The military as an institution and with their primary involvement was also important because it saw off any need for militias, a staunch characteristic of fascist regimes in the rise to power. In this one can view the early stages of rise to authoritarianism and determine between a dictatorship which ???represents the national identity of the people??™ and that of the fascist movement in the twentieth century.
On the same thread, the involvement of the Catholic Church in the beginning stages of political upheaval can be utilised to shine light on the form of the regime. Mola??™s declaration, ???We are Catholic, but respect the religious beliefs of those who are not. We believe that the Church ought to be separate from the State, for this benefits both institutions???[2]. The church stayed aloof from the state matters at this time, and though with the advent of the movement taken on a holy ???crusade??™ the Catholic clergy fervently showed its support, the Catholic power structure remained removed from the movement until it was more founded. In terms, the Catholic Church supported the movement from the beginning, disliking the Republican modernism over traditionalism which undermined the churches state influence. The church??™s collusion seems to rely on the consolidation of the ???rightful??™ position in Spain, a historically Catholic nation which is reinforced by the Falangist doctrine of 1933, and by their continuing aims for a return to Spanish nationalism. This infers the movement to be a collaboration of the main state powers: party politics, the military and the Catholic Church, which shape the movement and the civil war into the umbrella of power to which Franco assumes his role. Whether this can be construed as a campaign towards a fascist state or an attempt at realising their shared aims is the query one must continue to examine.
One cannot overlook the European climate prior and during the period of change in Spain, as a background or a catalyst to the arrival of authoritarianism in Spain. The industrial revolution in Europe in the nineteenth century drastically altered the economic situation of most major European powers and has been identified by many historians as part of the cause of radical political development. As Payne highlights, the effect of the revolution effected Spain less than in most other major nations, ???Economic development accelerated more rapidly in Italy from the 1890??™s on, so that after World War One Italy was a full generation ahead of Spain???[3]. This has two major discernable connotations; firstly that the model of Italian fascism was set upon a different social and economic structure to that of Spain. Secondly, it outlines the vast ruralisation of Spain during this period, compared to that of other European nations who saw the increase in urban migration, worker??™s unions and the number of literate people. This could show the likelihood of a legitimate fascist regime arising, or in fact just show the conditions in which radical politics was able to arise in the European political climate of the 1930??™s.
To better understand the rise of radical political thought, I believe it is useful to examine the ideas and doctrine of the Falanges. Though it never gained much official power, it did move forward and gain support for many of the institutional changes that Franco enforces. The doctrine of December 1933, is quite explicit in its description of its aims, developing on the basis of three, main basic points which obstruct their success:

???1. By regional separatisms.
2. By conflict between political parties.
3. By the class struggle???[4]

Separatism had long been entrenched in Spain??™s cultural society, such as with the divisions of the Catalan and Basque regions, and the cancellation of this would aid the Falanges in securing the ???family??™ of Spain, unseperated by language, religion and cultural differences. The document??™s description of Spain as the ???fatherland??™ has strong gender semiotics, the paternity of an authoritarian dictator, the image continued by Franco, holding status in the national family of Spain. The fatherland and the father of Spain, binding the unity of the nation has connotations of fascist behaviour; would be leaders attempting to attract the traditionalist imagination of the masses.
The spectrum of politics is a threat to the Falanges??™ Spain because it places the party over Spain. The range of parties creates argument which is not in the interest of Spain as a whole, instead it should be seen from ???a TOTAL point of view???[5], and so far as can be construed, from a dictatorial point of view.
Finally the Falanges see the class struggle as an unnecessary and constantly shifting conflict wherein the employers and the workforce ???tyrannize??™ each other to destroying national production and themselves. Removing class restraints removes cultural divisions and potential class dissidence.
The Falanges desire to distribute wealth to the masses seems very socialist, ???It is wrong to sacrifice the majority to the enjoyment of the few???[6] especially since they are attempting to alienate the upper classes, the ruling elite providing the greatest threat to the achievement of their goal. The removal of class distinctions generates the natural existence of a new leading body, a movement which undermines centuries of democratic progress, though the interestingly thing is that this is a published document in 1933. Unlike in Germany for example during the rise of fascism, although the national climate was one of very different conditions, the party developed themselves on the image of saviours (much like the Falanges) but with the vigour of worker??™s socialism, under the blanket of popular conception. Indeed it is most important to identify these indicators with regard to each states national conditions and so it becomes dangerous to examine both nations with too much parity.
The foundations of the ???New State??™ are: ???AUTHORITY, HEIRARCHY AND ORDER.???[7]; directed and explained as explicit aims, rather than provisional promises which are then disposed, which I find differs to many other examples o fascism, the dictatorship instated by party successes. On the other hand they use the ???loss of national dignity??™ as a type of scapegoat, much like we can see in Italy, Germany and Portugal during this period. Interestingly again though, the Catholic faith is used as a support device to carry the weight of much of their traditionalist and patriotic ideology, though the Church is institutionally separated from the movement until later on, when the administration is more settled. This highlights if anything, the Falanges requirement of external institutions, achievable some popularity but little real success or power autonomously.

Franco himself, a general and combatant of the suppression in Morocco, was recognised and elevated in his seniority in and amongst the political stratum of the Burgos Junta. Supported or at least respected by many German officials including Eberhard Messerschmitt, he was generally recognised as ???Commander in Chief??™ and a superior general. This being remarked, Franco was listed as only the 23rd in seniority among major generals in The Anuario Militar of 1936. The announcement of his newly appointed position as Generalissimo, an agent to which a hierarchical structure of military officials stood below him. Already in 1936, article three of his draft decree read,

???The office of Generalissimo will also carry the function of Chief of State so long as the war may last. For this reason, it has the authority over all national activities: political, economic, social, cultural, etc.???[8]

Though, this was staunchly opposed by his other members, it was protected and declared and altered to a more liberal standpoint,

???In accordance with the resolution adopted by the Junta de Defensa Nacionale, General Francisco Franco Bahamonde is named Chief of the Government of the Spanish State, and will assume all the powers of the new State???[9]

The liberalisation of the decree shows the sensitivity that was still required at this point. There was still support for the republican cause even following the civil war, and as Franco himself commented, the process of devolving institutions and rebuilding the monarchy would take time. Franco appeared to be moving into his own image of a representation of the monarchy in Spain. The institutional alterations that Franco made mark the beginning of his position in control and help to define the type of regime to which Franco held the reigns. The Junta Technica (to replace the Burgos) took the structure of commissions, and a new ???General Government??™ was created housing predominantly generals. The institutional reforms that Franco made were intended to strengthen the relationship between political power and the military but the ???political organ of Franco??™s general headquarters???[10] lacked ideological standing and existed mainly as an expeditious administrative body, allowing political groups such as the Falange to act with relative freedom; Franco??™s power therefore was generated from his military influence. Franco was trying to refrain from the mistakes of predecessors who were unable to secure their position due to lack of modifications in the establishment being ???careful to avoid the grotesque mistakes and corporate insults that had eventually ruined Primo de Rivera??™s relations with the military community???[11]. His addendum was to retain the link while remaining out of sole politics as mush as possible without undermining his situation.
Franco adopted a strategy of divide and role in order to purge political threats and to stop any sparks of opposition from gaining momentum within the regime. From example, Cabanellas, who was previously regarded with seniority over Franco, was ???kicked upstairs??™[12] into an embellished administrative position in the military. Similar to this tactic of repositioning potential threats, the Catholic Church was adorned in the ???New State??™ of Spain, though separated from state business ruling as an autonomous institution, much like with the ruling class of Spain, ???automatic party membership was also a means of keeping the ruling elite itself in order???[13]. Rather than purging the risky elements as with the SA in Nazi Germany, Franco gave them their autonomy and their part in the national identity of Spain without allowing them the ruling power of the State or ???interfering??™ himself. However the potential power of the pre-war political organisations was regarded by Franco to be too dangerous to the regime, and so the Decree of Unification in 1937 was passed, merging all political parties under the authority of the military, which remained to be the source of his real power. This action seems to strongly suggest administrative fascism, and shows the fear that Franco had of sacrificing his autocratic control to the mass of politics. The web of politics existing in Spain at this time, held strong ideals and thoughts backed up by representation.
Fascist characteristics such as symbolism and ideology can be found amongst the regime of Franco, which help identify the actions and intentions of Franco, though of course at during this period of radical politics it would be simple to adopt the mannerisms of Italian Fascism to reinforce national repression. In 1936 the Falange adopted more oppressive, manipulative tactics with ???the development of its own mass-media; the establishment of party military academies; and the creation of a limited number of social services???[14]. In this way the party had appropriated propagandist means and attempted to centralise their power through a hierarchical structure, introduced during the war to attenuate the civilian damage and to guarantee support. These are developments that the Francoist state would soon embrace as their own model, and continue by introducing symbolism and ideology, borrowing much also from Fascism in Italy, ???The symbols of the Francoist state were those of the Falange: the Dark blue shirt, the five arrows joined by a yoke, the Roman salute???[15]. More than adopting the semiotics of the Falange, Franco purloined it absorbing by this type the body of the Falange who were in submittance to his power. In any case, the uniformity of the Francoist regime at this stage was taking on fascist ideology. The level of coercion experienced in the Francoist regime was levied by Franco??™s strong military position. Violence was not extensively used to repress opposing agents, as many threats were quashed with administrative procedures, but the Falangists and Franco had made it clear that coercive oppression would be used if necessary, ???Violence can be permissible when it is used for an ideal that we can justify???[16]. Therefore, if they deem something a threat to Spain or to the regime, then they are permissible to resort to force, ???In addition to the elimination of the most active opponents, it was necessary to secure the acquiescence of the mass of the population, either by coercion or by co-option???[17].

Examining whether the Franco regime was indeed truly ???fascist??™ is made difficult by the reactionary policy of Franco and how he consolidated his position. Rather than simply purging his threats and potential enemies with his military might he adopted and constructed an entirely separate structure to levy power and ideology. The desire of the dictator to achieve an authoritarian position could be interpreted as a fascist goal, but his formal power base was achieved through relatively associative means, ???For thirty years, Franco would protest that he had not sought power, but, answering the call to ???save Spain??™, had found authority thrust upon him by his colleagues.??? How much of this can be accepted as truth is of course the problem, but in any case he Franco assumed the power and acted on totalitarianism for nearly forty years. What is important is how Franco dealt with the beginning of the regime, the potential political threat from the Falanges bypassed by the creation of the FET which led to the engendering of the Falangist ideas in the Francoist state. The pre-war policies of parties and of General Franco were that of conservatism. It seems perhaps that the adoption and merging of ideologies and institutions to better support the Franco power structure. Also due to the civil war, allegiances shifted and Franco became more aligned politically to adhere to radical ideas to support his conservative authoritarian regime;

???Even if Spanish fascism failed to make headway politically, it constituted a significant phenomenon at the level of political culture, as many hundreds of individual ideologues tirelessly formulated the principles of the New Spain in monographs, newspaper articles, and speeches.???[18]

Bibliography

Roger Griffin, Fascism (Oxford, 1995)

Sheelagh M. Ellwood, Falange Espanola and the creation of the Francoist ???New State??™

Spanish Falange Basic Points, F.E., No. I, December 7th, 1933

Payne, Politics and the military in modern Spain, (London, 1967)

Payne, A History of Fascism 1914-1945

Payne, ???Social Composition and Regional Strength of the Spanish Falange??™ in, Who were the Fascists
———————–
[1] Payne, Politics and the military in modern Spain, (London, 1967) p.365
[2] Payne, Politics and the military in modern Spain, (London, 1967) p.365
[3] Payne, A History of Fascism 1914-1945, (1995) p.252
[4] Spanish Falange Basic Points, F.E., No. I, December 7th, 1933 p.59
[5] Spanish Falange Basic Points, F.E., No. I, December 7th, 1933 p.60
[6] Spanish Falange Basic Points, F.E., No. I, December 7th, 1933 p.63
[7] Spanish Falange Basic Points, F.E., No. I, December 7th, 1933 p.65
[8] Payne, Politics and the military in modern Spain, (London, 1967) p.371
[9] Payne, Politics and the military in modern Spain, (London, 1967) p.372
[10] Sheelagh M. Ellwood, Falange Espanola and the creation of the Francoist ???New State??™ p.212
[11] Payne, Politics and the military in modern Spain, (London, 1967) p.374
[12] Payne
[13] Sheelagh M. Ellwood, Falange Espanola and the creation of the Francoist ???New State??™ p.215
[14] Sheelagh M. Ellwood, Falange Espanola and the creation of the Francoist ???New State??™ p.211
[15] Sheelagh M. Ellwood, Falange Espanola and the creation of the Francoist ???New State??™ p.215
[16] Spanish Falange Basic Points, F.E., No. I, December 7th, 1933 p.66
[17] Cf. E. Mandel, El fascismo (Madrid 1976) p.35-6
[18] Roger Griffin, Fascism (Oxford, 1995) p.185