June 1, 2006


Franco and World War Two : Franco's traditional image has been as a canny neutral in the struggle between the Allied and Axis powers. But in 1940 his aspirations for an African empire drew him to within an ace of war with Britain. (Denis Smyth, November 1985, History Today)
It was not fascist fellow-feeling or gratitude for decisive Axis aid during the Spanish Civil War which drew Franco right to the brink of war with Britain. Franco, for all his authoritarian and patriotic conservatism, was a fascist in neither intellect nor instinct. As leader of the Spanish right-wing cause in the Civil War, and afterwards, Franco was prepared to surround himself with the trappings, rhetorical and institutional, of fascism when he found it useful and/or necessary to employ them. However, the fascist-style Caudillo was quite ready to pose as an 'organic democrat' in the post-Second World War world when a changed balance of external forces required him to make appropriate internal, ideological adjustments. Again, far from being uncritically grateful for the indispensable assistance lent him by the Germans during the course of the Spanish Civil War, Franco had resisted, whenever and wherever possible, Nazi efforts to exploit his temporary dependence on their military aid to entrench themselves in neo-colonial fashion in Spain's economy. [...]

Franco was not likely to be swayed by either solidarity or sentiment in his choice for peace or war, a choice pregnant with such significance for the survival or destruction of his regime. As his cousin and sometime military aide, Francisco Franco Salgado Araujo has testified, General Franco was a 'Francoist above everything - one hundred percent Francoist'. The Caudillo would approach the question of Spanish belligerency with the same self-interested circumspection which had characterised his pedestrian generalship during the Civil War. Franco well knew that the enfeebled Spanish economy, ravaged by civil war and throttled by the Second World War economic blockade, could not support any protracted participation in the war. But Franco's own survival in power could be jeopardised by the Nazi 'New Order' if Hitler were allowed to establish German hegemony in Europe without some Spanish assistance. Old colonial soldier that he was, Franco had territorial designs on French North Africa, which africanista ambitions could only be realised by way of German arms or diplomatic good offices. So, Franco evolved a strategy whereby he sought to reap the rewards of participation in a German victory by making a belated and largely symbolic contribution to the Nazi triumph. As Ramon Serrano Suner, Franco's sometime political confidant and Foreign Minister for a crucial two-year period from October 1940 onwards, admitted later, Spain's policy was 'to enter the war at (the) end, at the hour of the last cartridges'.

One fails to find the contradiction here that the author posits. It appears that Franco consistently put Spain's interests ahead of those of either the Axis or the Allies. [originally posted: 2002-08-04] Posted by Orrin Judd at June 1, 2006 7:55 PM


Posted by: oj at June 2, 2006 7:58 AM