One of Spain’s greatest leaders is none other than Francisco Franco, the person who led the destruction and defeat of the Republican regime. He is an undisputed leader and dictator during his time, and was known to have established the “Spanish State,” the new term that defines the difference between his rule from that of monarchy and a republic. He was Spain’s leader until his death in the late 1975. Francisco Franco gained is position when he was elected during a meeting of the Nationalist senior generals, and was given the position as the leader of the Nationalists.
During this time, his rank was that of a “Generalisimo” or the commander-in-chief of the Nationalists movement. He assumed position as the head of state when the initial leader of the movement died. During this period, he was not only recognized as the commander-in-chief, but also assumed the highest position in the Spanish society, where he nearly has unlimited and absolute powers (Preston, 1993). He was the leader of the provisionary government that was set up during the Civil War. He controlled all the territories held by the Nationalists during this time.
As a government, it aimed to unify all the heterogeneous political forces in the rebellion under one roof, a single party known as the Falange Espanola Tradionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista. All the Republican militants and sympathizers during and after the civil war were all repressed by the Nationalist government, and this is to answer all the repression to the Nationalists on the other side. Francisco Franco’s Nationalists achieved victory in 1939, thus making the FET-JONS as the sole legal party recognized in Spain during that time.
Francisco Franco’s rule during that time was recognized as fascist, as it consistently supported all the fascists in Spain as well as those in other countries. However, there was some who considered Franco as a mere reactionary who took refuge under fascism as Spain was continually confronted by Communism, Socialism, or Anarchism during his time. His lack of a core ideology has led him to be under fascist rule as these three were widespread in the Spanish territory during that time, as well as their neighboring nations.
Francisco Franco’s rule was considered to emphasize on order and stability, rather than having definite political visions as that of hard core fascism. His rule lacked the initiative to create a “new man” out of his people, especially because he focused in keeping his nation safe and peace as it strives to survive the years of war that followed. During his reign, Francisco Franco’s rule greatly considered his people, as he strived to maintain order and stability in his nation no matter what it takes, even if it means making deals with the likes of Adolf Hitler.
Francisco Franco ruled his country with caution, so as not to arise other uprisings which could complicate matters for him, especially during the time of the World War. Because of this, all cultural activities during his time was put into strict censorship, as others were plainly forbidden on certain political and moral grounds. Being a Nationalist, Francisco Franco implemented the strict usage of Spanish as the only recognized language of the country, despite the fact that Spain was composed of millions who have other native languages like Catalan, Basque, and even Galician.
Franco’s reign forbade the use of this language in most public places, and discouraged its actual usage. Despite this strict cultural policy, as time went on, it has also relaxed, making it safe to use other languages or dialects. Francisco Franco considers himself as a monarchist, but has expressed no desire of being a king, as there was a conflict between him and the legitimate heir to the throne during that time, who was Don Juan de Borbon. Because of that, the throne was left vacant, and he assumed the position of being a regent. In 1947, Francisco Franco proclaimed Spain’s monarchy, yet did not establish or designate any monarch yet.
He didn’t assume the position himself, but he did set the basis for his succession. He sported the uniform of a captain general, which is by tradition, a rank that is reserved for the country’s King. Along with this, his portrait appeared on most Spanish coins, something that could designate his high position in the state. Despite all this, he was referred to as the Jefe del Estado or the Head of State, and the Generalisimo de los Ejercitos Espanoles or the Genealissimo of the Spanish Armed Forces. He was also known as the Caudillo de Espana por la gracia de Dios, or “by the grace of God, the Leader of Spain.
This designates the legal formulation that states sovereign dignity in the case of absolute monarchies, something only used by monarchs before it was used by Franco himself. Francisco Franco clearly has a hunger for power, a trait which propelled him to the highest position of his country. Despite all this, he also has strived to improve the situation of his fellowmen. Spain was just recovering from the wreckage brought about by the civil war, and Franco was doing his best to help his country. He was however confronted by yet another perilous task, and that is to survive from the World War II.
With his warring neighbors, he is left with no other decision but to take sides, which he did, and went under the then dominating Axis powers. As Spain’s leader, it was up to his hands to save the country from the wrecking ball of the World War II. It was up to his decisions on which sides to take in order to lessen the damage that they will take. The World War II was an inevitable event for all European countries including Spain. It is up to Francisco Franco to stir his country into the right direction by joining up with those who could save them from destruction as well as invasion.
After France fell in 1940, Spain took a pro-Axis side without directly engaging into war. They are officially non-belligerent or don’t in a war, but instead offered considerable help to the Axis side. They gave material, economic and military support as a symbol of their affiliation with the Axis powers without directly engaging into battle. Because of the damage that was dealt to them by the civil war, Francisco Franco was forced to disband what was left of the military in order to fill in for the workers and the farmers to reestablish their economy.
This has left Spain almost defenseless from attacks from other countries. The Spanish government during that time was divided into two groups of people: the Germanophiles and the Anglophiles. Despite having pro-Axis stance, Franco instated an Anglophile as a Minister of Foreign Affairs at the start of war. When Germans are gaining an upper hand, he substituted a strong Germanophile, Ramon Serrano Suner in the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs. When the Allied forces had their victories during 1942, he again placed an Anglophile as a new minister.
When it comes to taking sides during the World War II, it was clear that Spain favored or in other perspectives, was pressured by the Axis Powers who was at that time victorious in most battles as compared to the Allied troops. They have similar ideologies which made teaming up easy for Spain. Aside from this, Spain had a great debt to Germany, as it was the Germans who supplied the necessary materials for them to win the Civil War. So in 1940, when France was defeated, Franco forced himself towards the inevitable.
He declared that Spain was ready to enter the war alongside the Axis powers. Adolf Hitler took no serious consideration of Spain’s declaration of their interest in joining the war, because the Axis powers were convinced of being victorious in the end. However, when Britain showed signs of resilience, Hitler recognized Spain’s efforts in joining the war, as it would greatly contribute to toppling the resilient Allied forces. Hitler promised help for Franco in return for his active participation in the war. This is to ensure the British power in the Mediterranean would be eradicated.
The Axis forces brought up Spain along with the newly reinstated French regime to fight against Britain with their posts and possessions in the north western part of Africa. Adolf Hitler, in order to sway the decision of Franco, promised that Germany would do everything it can in order to help Spain. This includes recognizing the Spanish claims to some parts of French territory in Morocco, in exchange for some Moroccan raw materials that they could harvest (Preston, 1992). Francisco Franco’s respond toward this proposal was warm, but has shown no firm commitment.
In his later military consultation and better judgment, he decided to stay away from the war and chose to remain neutral. This means that they have to turn down everything offered to them by Germany and refuse to aid them, in order to be in the safe zone. It was not only Adolf Hitler who met with Francisco Franco in order to convince him into joining the war. Franco has also met with Italy’s leader, Benito Mussolini, as requested by Hitler himself. Hitler was hoping that Benito Mussolini could put some sense into Franco and persuade him into entering the war.
However, Mussolini was not that eager in doing so, as his own forces were suffering defeats in the Northern parts of Africa as well as the Balkans. Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco finally negotiated at Hendaye on the 23rd of October in 1940 to fix and finalize the details of a possible alliance. But by this time, the advantages being set were not clear for both sides, as one would likely take advantage of the other. Franco wanted too much for Spain and asked too much from Hitler. He requested for heavy fortifications of the Canary Islands, as well as great amounts of vehicles and aircrafts at his disposal.
He also demanded to have Gibraltar and French North Africa as a part of his deal to join the war. Because of this, Hitler gave threats to Franco about a possible invasion of Spain, the annexation of the Spanish territory to the Vichy France. The two ended up with no clear agreement, and Hitler decided not to meet up with Franco anymore because he demands too much from him. There were speculations that Franco has overplayed his hand and has intentionally blown up his end to large proportions.
He never intended to join the war, so in order to discourage Hitler from convincing Spain to join their side, he demanded too much that Hitler would be the one to decline the offer. There were also rumors that Franco might have been convinced not to agree with Hitler’s demands when information has leaked about several German plans after the war was over. Another factor which could have possibly led to this was that Spain relied on the United States for their oil supplies. Because of British recommendations, the Spanish oil supplies would be restricted.
If ever they would enter the war alongside the Axis powers, Spain would have to rely on Germany for oil. Germany on the other hand, relies only on capture French oil reserves, so Spain’s needs wouldn’t be addressed surely. At this point, they were left with no other option but to withdraw from the war (Preston, 1976). Francisco Franco and Adolf Hitler did not arrive to any agreements regarding Spain joining the war as an Axis force. Because of this, Franco and Spain has returned to complete neutrality in 1943, and this is also the time where Germany is losing all of its efforts in the war with the Allied forces claiming all the victory.
Spain, despite suffering minimal loses during the World War II, was still a pain in the eyes of the Allies (Smyth, 1985). Because of this, the Allied forces used Spain’s connection with the Axis powers so that they won’t be able to join the United Nations. This is because Franco’s rule was seen as a remnant of the central European fascists that has been there adversaries during the World War II. There has been a United Nations resolution which condemns Francisco Franco’s government.
The content of the resolution states that countries are encouraged to remove all their ambassadors in Spain, and if Spain chose to remain authoritarian, then they will be forced to resort to measures against Spain. There were only a few countries like Portugal and Argentina who which did not comply to this UN advisory. The Isolation of Spain has also resulted to the establishment of an embargo against the Francoist government during 1946 where it includes the attempted closure of the French border. After the World War II, the economy of Spain was in great disarray. This has led them to move towards autarky or self-sufficiency.
During this time, Spain aimed to reduce their imports, continue on various self sufficient methods, as well as state-controlled production and the commercialization of their first order goods, and many more, which all intends to revive the country’s economy. They also construct new infrastructure which was heavily damaged during the previous civil war. In all these efforts, Franco was the main proponent of change for the improvement of the country, showing how good he was as a leader. During the 1950s, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic were starting a war of their own, which was known as the Cold War.
As the tensions between the two superpowers increase, the American government felt the need to search for new allies in Europe. Francisco Franco himself claims of being an anti-communist, so he is a potential ally for the US in the upcoming Cold War (Balfour and Preston, 1999). In 1953, Spain was finally set free of isolation when the United States signed with them in the Pact of Madrid, where various agreements were made, including giving Spain sufficient economic assistance through grants and loans.
In return, they will be asked to host American military bases in strategic areas of the country. Also at the same year, the Spanish government has signed the Concordat with the Vatican, making way for the recognition and privileges for the Catholic Church in the country. By opening up to both the Church and the outer world, the isolation ended for Spain, which means a chance to reestablish their war-torn economy and country. In 1955, the wealth of Spain has obviously increased, reaching up to the levels before the Civil war.
It is as if it has fully recovered from all the disasters the country has faced including the various faces of war and their struggle to survive isolation from other countries. Spain was then recognized and admitted by the United Nations in 1955. After 3 years, the country was admitted by the World Bank in 1958. Because of that, Francoist Spain has gained back international recognition, and other Western European countries like Italy were eager reestablish their relationships with Spain.
Francisco Franco as an effective leader is the most important factor that has enabled Francoist Spain to survive the Second World War despite having close links it had established with the Nazi Germany and the Fascist Italy. Francisco Franco’s authority can be rooted from his victory in the Civil war (U. S. Library of Congress, 2005). The armed forces he commanded brought security in his regime, and it was made legitimate by the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Movement. Loyalty to Franco has united various groups in the Spanish society.
Despite overlapping beliefs, they remained loyal to Franco, which was essential in keeping a peaceful regime. Franco was skillful manipulating his followers, that’s why there was no one who challenged his authority(Payne, 1987). Franco wanted to remove the remnants of parliamentary democracy, because for him, it is alien to the Spanish political traditions, a big deviation to what they have been accustomed to, thus greatly changing the government and the people as well. He is not supportive of political parties, because he blames them for all the chaotic conditions which have led to the Civil War.
He did not permit freedom of expression in his regime as he equated it to treason (Grugel and Rees, 1997). Francisco Franco was indeed a great leader, and he was the reason why Spain survived all the hardships that war has brought upon them. Despite having affiliations with people like Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini, he was able to manage his way in order to avoid the cruelties of war for his country. It was also because of him that the country regained international recognition, and it was also because of him that the country recovered from the past, as if nothing had happened.
BALFOUR, S. & PRESTON, P. (1999) Spain and the Great Powers in the Twentieth Century, London. GRUGEL, J. & REES, T. (1997) Franco’s Spain, London, Arnold. PAYNE, S. (1987) The Franco Regime, Wisconsin UP. PRESTON, P. (1976) Spain in Crisis: Evolution and Decline of the Franco Regime, Brighton Sussex, Harvester. PRESTON, P. (1992) Franco and Hitler: The Myth of Hendaye 1940. Contemporary European History, Vol. 1. PRESTON, P. (1993) Franco: A Biography, London, Harper Collins. SMYTH, D. (1985) Franco and World War Two. History Today 35. U. S. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (2005) The Franco Years.
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