Repost: In Defense of Francisco Franco

Here’s another slightly revised and improved repost of something from my old blog. For better or for worse, this is a very short and polemical piece about a very large topic–for a more sober and in-depth overview with a greater focus on Franco’s economics, you can listen to this episode of Voice of Reason Radio’s The Orthodox Nationalist. (Incidentally, TON is worth listening to in general, despite the host’s slightly eccentric terminology. I mean, “social nationalist”? I realize they’re going to call us Nazis anyway, but why egg them on?) There’s also Stanley Payne’s Franco and Hitler–I haven’t read it, but I have heard good things.

There are certain topics, all sacred cows of modern liberalism, which if introduced into a discussion will turn most otherwise intelligent people into drooling, fallacy-spewing morons. One such topic is the Spanish Civil War and the Spanish State which followed it — for though Generalissimo Francisco Franco remains very dead, his reputation, such as it is, lives on.

Let’s start with what the average person is liable to know about Franco and the Civil War. We are told by our liberal overlords that wars are usually nuanced affairs, that it is wrong and old-fashioned to side too vigorously against Adolf Hitler or Osama bin Laden, and that it is bigoted and ignorant to assert that insurgents who murder American soldiers may not always be nice people. But though all wars are nuanced, the New Jacobins hasten to add, some wars are more nuanced than others. For during three violent years in the late 1930s, the Iberian Peninsula miraculously ceased to be a real place, becoming instead a one-dimensional fairytale landscape, a Sorelian myth made earth and flesh, populated on one side by savage Nationalist ogres, and on the other by decent, innocent Republican champions of Truth and Justice, if not of the American Way. The Republicans, who were simply good and innocent souls desiring a free and democratic Spain, eventually collapsed against the juggernaut as all uncompromising idealists must, leaving the evil Franco free to establish a dictatorial fascist state, which by the time of his death 40 years later had declined so badly that Spain elegantly segued back into its current state of Enlightenment, Democracy, and Progress virtually by its own accord.

How are traditionalists to respond to this narrative? Simply by pointing out that it is nonsense.

Undoubtedly the most striking aspect of the modern view of the Spanish Civil war is its two-faced speciousness. The Left has constructed a magnificent set of double standards in its discussion of the war, allowing room for either praise or condemnation of any action depending entirely on which side of the conflict in emanated from.

Thus, while left-wing intellectuals and elites started romanticizing foreign voluntarism on the side of the Republicans before the war was even over, the thousands of Irishmen, Frenchmen, Moroccan Muslims, Americans, Britons, Norwegians, Finns, Russians, Belgians, and Turks who joined the Nationalists with equal bravery and earnestness have not even been dignified with Hollywood demonizations, but rather have simply been ignored. Unlike Bertolt Brecht’s repugnant little poem The Interrogation of the Good, the Left’s narrative about the Spanish Civil War seems incapable of accommodating the idea that “the other side” might have been sincerely and intelligently committed to its cause.

Thus, while the atrocities committed by the Nationalists are said to clearly demonstrate some fundamental moral failing, the Republicans’ merciless and planned slaughter of priests, nuns, women, and children was simply a “regrettable mistake” or a “necessary evil.” (After 1975, the Spanish Left has campaigned, not unsuccessfully, to ban all public commemorations of Republican atrocities during the Civil War.) Needless to say, the fact that the war was presaged in 1934 by a Communist mob’s orgy of murder and arson in Asturias is not the sort of thing one generally mentions in polite company.

And thus, while the support lent to the Nationalists by Hitler and Mussolini clearly demonstrates that Franco was a fascist (scholars of fascism are in nearly universal agreement that he was not: Spain had its fascists – the Falangists of Primo de Rivera – and though they constituted part of the Nationalist alliance, this, like the support of the Italy and the Third Reich, was more a matter of “the least of two evils” than of genuine and enthusiastic agreement), the support lent to the Republicans by that great humanitarian Josef Stalin is ignored with equal gusto. In a sense, we can of course say that Franco was a fascist because he received military support from fascists; by the exact same token, we may label Churchill and Roosevelt Communists because they cooperated with Stalin during the Second World War.

The real key to Left’s animosity towards Franco is not to be found in the Civil War, but in the peace which came after it. Consider some of the Spanish State’s accomplishments just in its last decade: while many parties of the European Left were openly opposed to the notion of an age of consent, Spain was alone in restricting its pedophilia laws; while the post-Vatican II Catholic Church was losing both disciples and principles by the boatload, the nacionalcatolicismo of Franco ensured the continued place of the pious and sacred in the lives of ordinary Spaniards; while the rest of the world felt trapped between the destructive avarice of American capitalism and the totalitarian attrition of Soviet Communism, the “Spanish Miracle” proved that any nation willing to disregard the false dichotomy between these two economistic and materialistic ideologies could have its proverbial cake and eat it too; while atheism, androgynism, and multiculturalism cruelly beset most of Western Europe, Spain, along with Salazar’s Portugal, remained a lone outpost of decency in a seemingly infinite sea of muck; while leftists went from Stalin and Hoxha to Mao and Pol Pot – from one form of evil and totalitarianism to another – Franco remained an unwavering anticommunist; and while liberals went hoarse in their condemnation of all things non-democratic, the humanity, stability, and healthy pluralism of the Spanish State seemed to be providing a vindication not of liberal democracy, but of Cortés’s theory of dictatorship. Indeed, the sins of the Spanish State – the two most significant being its poorly-advised oppression of regional cultures and its failure to follow through in practice on its de jure monarchism – were neither as egregious nor as numerous as those of any other government of its time, democratic or dictatorial. (It is one of the least discussed facts of modern politics that even genuinely oppressive and inhumane right-wing dictators – Pinochet, Videla, the Greek military junta of the 1970s – are nearly always far less murderous and far more willing to yield power peacefully than their counterparts on the Left.)

It is in the success of Spain’s post-Civil War government that we find the real reason for the Left’s animosity towards Franco. For though the convictions of the useful idiots who volunteered for the Republicans were probably earnest enough, the Civil War is today simply a tool of propaganda. So explosive are the lessons we may learn from an unprejudiced investigation of Franco’s legacy, so destructive to the founding myths of liberalism, that no man can be allowed to examine them for himself.

34 thoughts on “Repost: In Defense of Francisco Franco

  1. You say that this “40 years later had declined so badly that Spain elegantly segued back into its current state of Enlightenment, Democracy, and Progress virtually by its own accord” is a fallacy but nowhere do you rebut this. Spain is a Leftist Socialist country now. Franco may have won the battle, but he ultimately lost the war just like Metaxas and the Greek Colonels did.

    It has approved of homosexuality, abortion, and has removed the Church from a great many things. The communists have won. They have won across the board.

    • The Left always wins eventually. Delaying a Leftist victory by 40 years is about as good as any conservative can hope for.

    • It is revolting. The same thing is happening with Chile and General Augusto Pinochet. Neither Spain nor Chile can fathom the nightmare that living under a fully totalitarian leftist is. To make it worse, there is this Orwellian rewriting of history under this “Historical Memory” nonsense.

      • Of course, one could always follow the course of condemning injustice and murder when it’s carried out by the left and when it’s carried out by the right. It revolts me when the likes of Castro and Allende get a pass from the western left, but it equally revolts me when murderers like Franco and Pinochet get a pass from the right because they’re part of “us” and they were against “them”. You can be tribal or you can be moralistic, but don’t fool yourself that you can be both.

  2. Bonald, what would you suggest the traditional/conservative strategy should be? Just make babies until leftism collapses on itself and pick up the pieces, or did you have something else in mind?

    • Hello DC Al Fine,

      I wish I could suggest a winning strategy, but all realistic scenarios I can think of end in our defeat, whatever we do. In terms of effect, the only question is how many moves before checkmate. On the other hand, some strategies allow us to go down with more integrity than others. That’s why I always say “to hell with moderation”. If we’re going to go down fighting, we might as well do it fighting for what we really believe.

    • Almost this. Traditionalists should become almost like the Amish. The exception is that we should encourage those especially talented and strong sons who do not become priests to become lawyers, doctors, and artists. Places like St Marys, Kansas should send traddie elites out like a plague of locusts upon modernity. The traddies should ruthlessly network and self-promote. In short, we should do what works in the modern world: build a cadre of self-conscious, entryist revolutionaries.

  3. Readers who find themselves demoralized by the Left’s seeming monopoly on artistic talent should read Roy Campbell’s “Flowering Rifle,” a hymn to the Francoist forces. Campbell wasn’t as gifted as, say, Eliot (who is?), but readers who like their traditionalism espoused in traditional verse will enjoy his work.

    Campbell was a white African, a reactionary Catholic, and a war correspondent who traveled with anticommunist fighters in Spain. (He also made up stories years later about fighting beside them, unfortunately.)

    His poetry and his excellent translations of St. John of the Cross and Garcia Lorca (!) are still in print, I believe.

    • “Readers who find themselves demoralized by the Left’s seeming monopoly on artistic talent”

      I and a few other people have compiled a list of right-leaning artists, though we take a fairly broad definition of “right-wing” so that it doesn’t solely mean Catholic traditionalists, though they are represented as well.

      The contributions in comments section are better than the first list. If you scroll down, you’ll find some prominent Spanish artists and intellectuals who were on Franco’s side during the Civil War.

  4. Just an aside: From what I recall, the historian Paul Johnson provides something at least of a defence of Franco in his book Modern Times. Also, a funny joke during Franco’s regime – Franco once saw a baby elephant in the zoo, and cried because he knew that someday he would have to see it die.

  5. Thank you for this interesting essay, Svein.

    When Franco’s regime is discussed, liberals often bring up the work of Professor Paul Preston, a historian at the LSE. Preston’s book “The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination during the Civil War and After” supposedly demonstrates a marked asymmetry between Republican and Francoist atrocities, both in qualitative (for example, Republican violence was spontaneous whereas Francoist violence was planned and officially sanctioned, etc) and quantitative (Francoist violence occurred on a much larger scale) terms.

    Are you familiar with his work? What do you think of his thesis?

    • I am very skeptical of the interpretation of events that includes the word “holocaust” in it. To compare the systematic murder of 6 million Jews with the Spanish Civil War is at least, a hyperbole. This WSJ review explains some of the errors of interpretation of the facts.
      Additionally, it seems to me that leftist victimization history seems to start at the point when the Right reacts to their abuses, they don’t address the cause of the reaction.

      • I have read Paul Preston’s work and, while I don’t agree with everything that he says, I would respectfully recommend that you read his book and evaluate the evidence for yourself rather than relying on a hostile review in a right-wing newspaper.

      • Thanks for the link, Ralph.

        I agree that the title is hyperbolic, but still wonder whether there is any truth to his argument.

    • Preston is a left-wing propagandist. Stanley Payne’s work is more objective. Without polemics he dismantles the Left’s myth of the ‘democratic’ Republic as well as its inability to deal with leftist and anarchist violence. The same goes for the massacres willfully performed by both sides with equal brutality. For all his warts Franco was adept enough to save Spain from Hitler and Stalin which is no small feat and was impossible without blood. He managed to use Hitler and Mussolini, i.e. play them, without giving them any power over Spain. He even got many of the real hard-core Falangists to get themselves killed in Russia as part of the volunteers of the Blue Division.

  6. In a sense, we can of course say that Franco was a fascist because he received military support from fascists; by the exact same token, we may label Churchill and Roosevelt Communists because they cooperated with Stalin during the Second World War.

    The analogy as stated is not exact, because Churchill and Roosevelt aided Stalin, they did not receive aid from him. The exact analogy — Stalin is a democrat (small d) because the democracies are aiding him — was, in all seriousness, actually made during WW2 by useful idiots in the USA and Britain.

    the support lent to the Republicans by that great humanitarian Josef Stalin is ignored with equal gusto

    It is ignored except when the Left wants to contrast Stalin’s virtuous aid to the enemies of fascism with the vicious, objectively pro-fascist inaction of Britain and France.

  7. The tough part about this is if things get bad, I don’t see a modern Franco emerging in the United States now… and the way the military is going it would be even tougher to imagine ten years from now.

    Although as the military is transformed into an engine for ‘social change,’ I suppose the force that can be employed by the government behind it will only diminish.

  8. I am a Spanish guy. I lived my first years under the Franco regime, which has been demonized in my country (now, one of the most radical leftist countries in the world).I remember the door of my parent’s house being completely open (without lock) so everybody could get in without ringing the bell.

    This was a stable, happy time with stable families and kids playing in the street. A religious country of happy people who cared for each other.

    When the democracy came, my father put a lock in the door so we had to use a key to get into a house. Some 20 years ago, he installed a security door. Some five years ago, he installed an alarm system so, if anybody enters the house at night, the police is notified.

    Throughout all this process, all the world we knew and love has disappeared. Churches have only old people. (I’m 42 and I am often the youngest guy). People became materialist, hedonist. Everybody looks only for itself. Telling you’re a Christian is like telling you are an idiot.

    But I still dream of these years when the door was open.

    • I’m British, and people would say exactly the same thing about lower crime and higher church attendance in Britain before the 60s and 70s. The difference is that we had those things without needing a right-wing military dictatorship to enforce them. My point is not to denigrate Spain, but to note that we’re dealing with long-term social trends here which are independent of the political complexion of different governments.

      • Is that really true, though? It seems like the trend in the political complexion of governments has all been in one direction, and so has the trend in crime rates…

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  11. This is an interesting post. I have long had an interest in Franquist Spain, and I have a number of comments to make both in praise and in criticism.

    First, in praise, you are right to say that modern western liberals tend to be naive about what was at stake in the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish left in the 1930s did not consist of nice, responsible democratic progressives. Many of them were anarchists or communists who would have ruled at least as brutally as the Franquists did. You are also right to note that Franco was not a fascist: the Spanish fascists were part of the Nationalist coalition, but not an especially important part. The Falange was forced into a shotgun marriage with the Carlist conservative Comunión Tradicionalista at a relatively early stage.

    On the other hand, I fear you caricature the views of your opponents. Everyone accepts that the Republicans committed atrocities, and I have never heard these described as “regrettable mistakes” or “necessary evils” (you present these phrases in inverted commas, and therefore as quotations – I feel sure you will be able to provide sources for them
    ). As your President Reagan said, facts are stubborn things, and the fact is that the Nationalists killed many more people than the Republicans did. To an extent, this is explained by the simple fact that the Nationalists were the victors, but this isn’t a complete explanation. The uncomfortable truth, which is quite well documented, is that the Nationalists behaved in a more violent and homicidal manner in the areas under their control than the Republicans did. It might be argued that a Republican victory followed by a communist or anarchist regime would have been more murderous still, but (1) this gets us well into the realms of hypothesis and conjecture, and (2) saying that Franco was a less efficient murderer than Maurín would have been isn’t much of a compliment. There’s also the point that many of Franco’s victims were devoutly Catholic Basques, and many of his murderers were Muslim Africans.

    I fear you have an unduly rosy view of Franquist Spain, which was no Christian paradise. In the early period of Franco’s rule, Spain was impoverished and diplomatically isolated (the “hungry fifties”). From the 60s onwards, the economic miracle (the desarollo, as it’s known) brought prosperity to millions of Spaniards, but this was a result of reversing previous policy and embracing liberal capitalism (Franco was spending most of his time on the golf course at this point). It would be naive to believe that the Spanish population was composed of devout Mass-going Catholics. Catholicism was in long-term decline in Spain years before Franco came along. Don’t be fooled by the official veneer of piety, which was often hypocritical and cynical. Going back to the Civil War, the Nationalists were originally a secular anticommunist movement who tried to win the support of right-wing anticlericals.

    My own view of the Spanish Civil War is similar to Sir Winston Churchill’s – it’s a shame both sides couldn’t lose.

    • Everyone accepts that the Republicans committed atrocities, and I have never heard these described as “regrettable mistakes” or “necessary evils”

      That is very hard to believe since it is an utterly standard part of the leftist story of the Spanish Civil War. This wikipedia article is written provides a relevant quote or two and pretty accurate characterization of the usual leftist take on the war, which is precisely to minimize communist brutality.

      Furthermore, you do a similar thing yourself:

      Many of [Spanish leftists] were anarchists or communists who would have ruled at least as brutally as the Franquists did . . . It might be argued that a Republican victory followed by a communist or anarchist regime would have been more murderous still, but (1) this gets us well into the realms of hypothesis and conjecture, and (2) saying that Franco was a less efficient murderer than Maurín would have been isn’t much of a compliment.

      “At least” is praising with faint damns, and in the second part you go on to issue absurdly faint damns quite explicitly. Communist revolutionaries don’t engage in mass killings rarely or per accidens. Rather, they engage in mass killings routinely and nearly per se. Collectivization of smallholding peasants and of petite bourgeoisie is difficult. First, because they resist. Second, because the parts of the economy they were formerly responsible for go promptly to shit after collectivization. Mass killings are usually perceived to be required to get the collectivization done. Then, more mass killings are required to get them to produce anything much after the collectivization is done and to get them to yield up the produce to prevent the cities from starving and/or falling apart. So, the view that Spain would have experienced killings numbering in the millions post-revolution is not speculation, rather it is by far the most likely outcome. And you have to remember that, in the 1930s in Europe on the right, the Holodomor had not yet been pushed down the memory hole. They knew what was coming if they lost. And the priest-torturing, nun-raping pieces of garbage in “Republican” Spain helped anyone who was in danger of forgetting.

      Franco would have and did fail to engage in mega-killings not because he was incompetent but because that was neither his intention nor was it instrumentally useful in accomplishing his intentions. As the Wall St Journal points out:

      What is more serious is Mr. Preston’s failure to explain how this “holocaust” or policy of “extermination” came to an end several years after the war with the vast majority of the defeated left in Spain still very much alive. When Franco finally had the Republicans completely at his mercy after the collapse of the republic in 1939, he did not “exterminate” them.

      This, too, is part of a broader phenomenon. With non-communists, killings tend to fall off very rapidly after the new rulers take power. You get killings necessary to take power. Then you get killings intended to destroy the previous regime’s power base. Then killings tail off.

      Not with communists. Real communists like Mao, Lenin, Trotsky, or Pol Pot have an insane, delusional worldview. When that worldview collides with reality, they have a choice: admit that the struggle that defines their whole life was in the service of delusion or deepen the delusion. This deepening involves conjuring up imaginary armies of wreckers who need to be killed. Killings increase after the communists are firmly in power and able to enact their crazy policies.

      Don’t be fooled by the official veneer of piety, which was often hypocritical and cynical.

      Yes, established religious are like this. What’s your point? This certainly is not an argument against established religions.

    • I see you have bought some of the myths about our Civil War and Franco’s rule. Most historians writing about this period of history are left-leaning and it shows. The Civil War has become a foundational myth for the Spanish Left (which rules the cultural life of my country) and everything who tries to disagrees is silenced, mocked or insulted.

      You see very well documented. But being documented is different from being right. History is always written by the victors. And nowadays the victors are the leftists.

      When speaking about the Civil War and Franco’s rule, I tried to ignore official history (both from Franco’s regime and for today’s regime). I try to read about how the civil war was in small areas, trying to be as close as possible to the eyewitnesses and as far as possible to the professional historian who has got a college tenure by repeating the political correct shiboletts.

      When it comes to my town is easy. Families, friends tell you how it was. There are also books who tell it like it is but they are few and far between.

      This is a good book:

      You can also read some books from Pio Moa or Cesar Vidal. Then you can contrast them with the books you have read before to have a balanced treatment. Then you will see how misled you were in some of your beliefs.

    • Hello Reggie,

      Though I don’t think I ever contributed to them, I always enjoyed your discussions with Bonald over at Throne and Altar, so I’m honored that you’ve decided to comment on this post. Since you raise many good points, this will run a bit long.

      As I said, this is a short and polemical piece about a large and complicated topic, and as such, you’re certainly right that it glosses over and oversimplifies some important things. As I respond to your rejoinders, I’ll try to nuance myself somewhat.

      Regarding Republican and Nationalist atrocities and the perception thereof, you may be right that I caricatured my opponents’ views somewhat. There are indeed people who think the Republicans were in the right, but who also admit that they committed horrible atrocities. Still, it’s also been common to gloss over those atrocities, though probably more so in the past, before the openly Stalinist (or at least pro-USSR) Left became a spent force. Furthermore, the “necessary evils”/”regrettable mistakes” line still seems to be an implicit assumption for many people, even if it isn’t stated outright. This holds generally as well: Real or fictitious atrocities of the Right are taken as proof that right-wing ideals are corrupt, while atrocities of the Left are ignored or excused away to a much greater extent, and rarely endowed with the same argumentative power, except in openly partisan right-wing polemics. For example, compare the amount of emotion and time modern educators and intellectuals dedicate to the Holocaust with the amount they dedicate to the Gulag or the Holodomor. (To be absolutely clear, my point is not that the Holocaust wasn’t abhorrent, but that the Gulag and the Holodomor were equally so.) By the way—and you’ll have to take me at my word here—I certainly didn’t mean for those scare-quoted phrases to be read as direct quotations. If they were, I would have given a source. Of course, rightness of cause is no excuse for atrocities, but as Ralph points out, wars are fought by human beings, not angels, and are always ugly and immoral. That, however, doesn’t mean that they aren’t sometimes necessary, as I’m sure you’ll agree. (An incidental and very minor quibble, by the way: Reagan was not “my” President, as I am Norwegian.)

      Regarding the desarollo: Franco did indeed delegate the management of economic policy to other people—this, though, was probably less because he was anxious to get back to the golf course, and more because he didn’t have the knowledge or competence to deal with the details of such matters himself. My impression has been that well into its final days, Franquist Spain opted for a degree of corporatism and economic nationalism that can not readily be described as either liberal or capitalist, but since you seem more well-read on this topic than I am, I’d be happy if you could point me to some books or articles that argue for the opposite view.

      Regarding the Spanish State and religion: I’m with Bill on this one. Of course you can’t force anyone to be pious, but it still seems pretty self-evident that a society in which the state openly recognizes and favors Christianity will be more devout than one in which the state is religiously neutral or openly anti-Christian (especially since the former has a tendency to segue into the latter), even if the results are never perfect. Because of the fallibility and complexity of human nature and the realities of practical statecraft, there will always be some superficiality and hypocrisy when one mixes politics with abstract ideals, religious or no, but provided the ideals are sound and the state doesn’t think itself capable of creating a utopia, it’s still better than the alternative. Catholicism being in long-term decline is no argument against nacionalcatolicismo—in fact, I see it as a powerful argument for it. And while it’s certainly true that the anti-clerical Right played a very large role in the Nationalist coalition, especially early on, I think it’s safe to say that the more traditional Carlist-Catholic-conservative wing eventually seized the reins, hence the strong links between the Spanish State and the Catholic Church and the appearance of nominally dissident Falangist or Fascist groups in the decades after the Civil War.


  12. Can you please expand on the “pass”? Who’s saying that the murders were justifiable? The point is that of the opposing forces, the Right was the best for the advancement of the common good, or as you may say it, the least evil. When these things happen, they are generally fought by men, not angels.
    Additionally, to move to the democratic phase, both in Chile and Spain, an amnesty was agreed upon. In both cases, the left decided to disregard its terms and create, as always, more discord in their respective societies.
    Naturally, it is perfectly OK to wear a Che Guevara t-shirt or hear Allende’s conversations with Fidel Castro, who still rules as a tyrant in Cuba while celebrated by the leftists who are still obsessed with crimes more than half a century ago.
    Shall we create a Historical Memory commission in England and the US for the indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations in WWII? Perhaps we should eliminate any celebration of the Battle of Britain, as it was won by a force that would eventually create a firestorm over Hamburg and turn it into ashes. Down with the monuments!
    Just get of your high horse and deal with reality.

  13. Paul Preston is a standard liberal/leftie (he is also an anti-Catholic bigot – it usually goes with the territory) from the LSE – they churn them out on an industrial scale from that institution. So he would regard Das Kapital with approval. No need therefor to take his writings on the Spanish Civil War with anything but large grains of salt. A much more objectice history is Warren Carroll’s “The Last Crusade.”

  14. I am late. But, as a Spaniard, I wanted to praise you for this article. I was born 5 years before Franco died and I have seen the destruction of my country produced by the Left, in the name of anti-Francoism. When I was young, I had the worse opinion of Franco, but now I know better. My country has not had a better time than the 36 years under Franco’s rule, whatever the shortcomings of the “Generalisimo” and the destruction brought by a civil war.


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