Francisco Franco: a spanish Dictator

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Courtney Contreras

SPAN 4312

Dr. Taylor

Francisco Franco: A Spanish Dictator

Francisco Franco, still an icon to some of the people of Spain, has forever left an impression on the country that he once led. Even after his death more than thirty years ago Spaniards are still loyal to his power while others are glad their country has a new leader. He lived a life full of power and excitement in wars and various battles. His upbringing and education play a major role in the life he lead, and what he left was a legacy behind him.

Early Life

Francisco PaulinoHermenegildoTeódulo Franco y Bahamonde Salgado Pardo de Andrade, also known as Francisco Franco Bahamonde, was born at the costal center of El Ferrol in Galicia, an autonomous community in Northwestern Spain on December 4, 1892.Nicolás Franco y Salgado-Araújo, his father and a naval paymaster, and MaríadelPilarBahamonde y Pardo de Andrade, his upper-middle class Roman Catholic mother, raised him as well as two brothers, Nicolás and Raymond, and his sisters María del Pilar and María de la Paz.

Franco’s grandfather, Francisco Franco Vietti, was also a naval paymaster with a rank equivalent to brigadier general in the Spanish Army (Preston 1). He married Hermenegilda Salgado-Araujo with whom he had two children: Nicolás Franco and his sister Hermenegilda. Due to Vietti’s Naval and Army experience, Nicolás Franco followed his father and rose to be Intendente-General, a rank also equivalent to brigadier general. On May 24, 1890, when he was nearly thirty-five years old, he married twenty-four year old MaríadelPilarBahamonde y Pardo de Andrade. Together, they had five children: Nicolás, Francisco, Paz, Pilar, and Ramón.

Franco worked hard all throughout his childhood to be pleasing towards his father, including trying to enlist in the Navy when he was only an adolescent. Although he worked hard and attended the ColegiodelSagradoCorazón and the Colegio de la Marina, both schools specializing in preparing children for the Navy, the Spanish Navy was not accepting officers due to the Spanish-American War. The loss of much of the navy and many colonies lead there to be no need for more officers, leaving Franco and his father both disappointed. Franco spent a lot of his childhood being brought up by Doña Pilar. “His childhood was dominated by the efforts of his mother to cope with the overbearing severity and later the constant absences of his father, the shadow of whose infidelities hung over the home” (Preston 3). Shortly after María de la Paz died from an unknown illness, only four years after she was born, Nicolás Franco sank back into his bachelor ways of drinking, card games, and infidelities, leaving his family at home only fearing his return.

The town in which they lived was a town very concerned with the social hierarchy. The naval officers and their families were seen as the privileged caste, whereas naval administrators or merchant naval officers were considered to be of a lower category (Preston 2). Being surrounded by this military culture, both within his family and within his town, led Francisco the desire to be a part of what his father and grandfather were both a part of. Franco hoped to never let his father down, and only worked harder and harder to be part of the Spanish Military.

Military Career

Franco attended the Infantry Academy at Toledo in 1907 – when he was only 14 years old – and graduated three years later. During this time Spain was involved in a conflict with native Moroccans called the Rif War (1907 – 1927), in which Spanish efforts tried to occupy their African protectorate. After graduation from the Academy as a lieutenant, Franco volunteered for active duty in the colonial campaigns and was later transferred in 1912. Almost immediately, in 1913, he was promoted to first lieutenant in an elite regiment of native Moroccan cavalry. He quickly won a reputation for efficiency, dedication, and concern for his troops’ well-being. He also became known as a severe disciplinarian prepared to have men shot for minor infractions of regulations (Francisco Franco Bahamonde). In 1915 Franco moved up to rank of captain, being the youngest in the Spanish Army.Franco took no time reaching higher ranks and was appointed second in command of the newly formed Spanish Foreign Legion in 1920 by Colonel Millán Astray, receiving full command only three years later.This legion became notorious for the ruthlessness and brutality of its attacks on Moorish villages and plays a decisive role in bringing the Moroccan revolt to an end, leaving Franco to become a national hero (Francisco Franco Bahamonde).

Another important change occurred in 1923 – Franco got married. On October 22nd of that year, thirty-year-old Franco married twenty-one-year-old MaríadelCarmen Polo, a member of a wealthy merchant family (Francisco Franco). Although there were important political issues going on during this time, Franco found it important to focus on his new command and his impending marriage, for which royal permission had finally been granted (Preston 41). The marriage took place in the Church of San Juan en Real in Oviedo (Preston 41). Like most famous marriages, Franco and Carmen’s marriage grew from spontaneously affectionate to a more formal relationship as Franco gained more and more power.

In 1926 Franco was promoted to brigadier-general, becoming the youngest soldier of this rank in all of Europe (Francisco Franco Bahamonde). After the fall of the monarchy in 1931, the leaders of the new Spanish Republic undertook a major and much needed military reform, and Franco’s career was temporarily halted (Payne). King Alfonso XIII abdicated and went into exile, leaving the General Military Academy was dissolved and Franco being placed on the inactive list. When conservative forces gained control of the republic in 1933, Franco was restored to active command and was promoted to major general the next year. During this time, there were Austrian miners who opposed the administration of conservative members in government, and Franco was called to settle the quarrel. “His success in this operation brought him new prominence. In May 1935 he was appointed chief of the Spanish army’s general staff, and began tightening discipline and strengthening military institutions…” (Francisco Franco).

Spanish Civil War

After the ruling center-right coalition collapsed after the Straperlo corruption scandal, an election was called into order. Two strong parties were up against each other: the Popular Front (left) held those from the Republican Union Party to Communists, and the FrenteNacional (right) was home to those from center radicals to the conservative Carlists (Francisco FrancoBahamonde). The left Popular Front wins by a hair and they begin to restart the social reform program.Conservatives were afraid that, because the left side had so many ties with the Soviet Union, Spain would become just another communist state. Both sides begin to argue and Spain is put into a chaotic state. Franco wanted to declare a state of emergency, however his appeal was refused.

Franco, accused of being an antirepublic conspirator by the lefist government, was removed from the general staff and sent to be a military governor of the Canary Islands, a position in which he had few troops. During this time a conspiracy was taking place. Military rebels had been plotting to overthrow the government, and with Franco’s help, they were able to achieve their goal. “At dawn on July 18, 1936, Franco’s manifesto acclaiming the military rebellion was broadcast from the Canary Islands, and the same morning the rising began on the mainland” (Payne). Franco, now commander of Army of Africa, was chosen by the rebel group to be the commander in chief, or generalissimo, who would also head the Nationalist government in opposition to the republic. He appealed to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini for help in the war effort, and both fascist leaders provide personnel, aircraft, tanks, and other important military necessities for Spain (Francisco Franco Bahamonde).

Many different countries contributed to Franco and his troops for the war efforts. Among Hitler and Mussolini was a Spanish multi-millionaire Juan March, former King Alfonso XIII and international businesses(Francisco Franco Bahamonde). The Nationalists weren’t the only ones receiving help; France and Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin decided to help the Republic by providing aircraft, arms, and munitions. Mexico also contributed, selling rifles, field guns, ammunition and food. The Republic looked to Western democracies for help, such as the United States, Britain, and France, but was refused. Although the Nationalists went at the government with full charge, it would be three years before they gained entire control of Spain.

The Nationalist Army held great strength, mostly coming from the help that aided it. It included large amounts of Moroccan troops and battalions of the Foreign Legion – the Legion in which Franco commanded in Africa – along with The Carlists, Mussolini’s 50,000 or more Italian “volunteers”, and the German Condor Legion (The Spanish Civil War).Although the Nationalist Party held this kind of power, they did not have it all at once. “Only during the final year of the war did this swelling mass of manpower take full organizational form… the organizational structure moved into more composite brigades and larger groups in 1937, but divisional structure took place only at the end of that year” (Payne, 135). On August 28, 1937, the Vatican officially recognizes Franco’s regime, and the Republic begins to have internal problems. Communist and anarchist factions began to battle over ideological differences and for control over strategic cities (Francisco Franco Bahamonde). Because of the fighting within Republican troops, Juan Negrín – a procommunist socialist who was just recently named prime minister – realized that Spaniards could not win the war, but he hoped to make the war last until it broke into a European war, which he thought was imminent (The Spanish Civil War).

In January 1939 Barcelona finally fell to the Nationalists, and Valencia, the temporary capital, fell just two months later. When fighting broke out in Madrid, the Republicans seized control of what remained of the government and surrendered. By this time Britain and France had already recognized Franco’s regime, but the surrender made it official. An estimated five to six hundred thousand people died during the war, along with thousands of exiled people headed toward France, Chile, and Mexico. “The new regime faced massive debt, owing 400 million Reichsmarks to Germany and five billion lira to Italy alone” (Francisco Franco Bahamonde). Although the war was over, to Franco, the enemy was not dead. He then imprisoned and executed or killed 200,000 Republicans between 1939 and 1943 (Francisco Franco Bahamonde). By now, Franco is more than well-known as a military leader, but instead of being brash and quick to act, he takes time in planning:

“As commander in chief during the Civil War, Franco was a careful and systematic leader. He made no rash moves and suffered only a few temporary defeats as his forces advanced slowly but steadily; the only major criticism directed at him during the campaign was that his strategy was frequently unimaginative. Nevertheless, because of the relatively superior military quality of his army and the continuation of heavy German and Italian assistance, Franco won a complete and unconditional victory on April 1, 1939” (Payne).

World War II

A few months after the Spanish Civil War had finally come to an end another war broke out, this time, all over Europe. By this time Franco had fit into the profile of a powerful dictator who was very influential and very harsh with those who chose to not follow him. WWII officially began in September of 1939, and although he received help from communist countries in the midst of his own country’s war, he refused to directly involve Spain with foreign battles, with the exception of a division of troops (volunteers) to fight next to the Germans on the Eastern Front called the Blue Division (Francisco Franco Bahamonde). Despite his desire to leave Spain out of the war in the West against liberal democracies, he still offered his support to Germany and Italy.

Hitler tried to convince Franco to join the Axis side of the war, yet Franco turned him down time and time again. They met once in Hendaye to discuss his entry, however Franco’s demands – food, military equipment, Gibraltar, French North Africa, Portugal, and several others – were far too much and no agreement was reached (Francisco Franco). Several times Hitler and Franco met to discuss conditions for Franco joining Germany, but Hitler would not be able to meet the requirements Franco insisted. Some historians believe that Franco made conditions he knew Hitler could not provide him because he wanted to stay out of another war. Others think that, since he was now in control of a chaotic country, he would have nothing of real value to offer Hitler. Even though he provided little aid to the Germans and Italians, he officially declared his country’s neutrality in 1943.

While seeking aid from the United Nations, Franco and his state were declined any help. “The report of a special subcommittee of the United Nations Security Council declared that ‘the Franco regime is a fascist regime’ and found it a ‘potential’ though not an ‘actual menace’ to peace’” (Payne, 358). With this report, the members of the UN voted and a majority won for the complete withdrawal of the “international diplomatic recognition from the Spanish regime if a representative government were not soon established” (Payne 358). Franco pulled the Blue Division out of the German Army and began to openly support the Allies, convinced that the Axis powers would be defeated; because of this Spain was now a new home to Jews running from German oppression.

Franco as King

In 1947 Franco officially named Spain as a monarchy, mostly to please the Carlists and Alfonsists, and left the throne empty while assuming titles and privileges that the king normally would. The Law of Succession (1947) – the first fundamental law – proclaimed that “’Spain would be a Catholic, social, and representative monarchy’ and that Franco would be regent for life (unless incapacitated). Franco had the authority to name the next king… and also to revoke his choice at a later date if he so desired” (The Franco Years). His law also required specific requirements for the future king: he must be male, Spanish, Catholic, at least thirty year old, and must promise to keep to the Fundamental Laws of the Regime and the Movement. The Succession law also provided two new institutions, a Regency Council and a Council of the Realm. The Regency Council held the president of the Cortes, the most senior general of the armed forces, and the “highest ranking prelate serving as Councillor of the Realm for the longest period.” The Council of the Realm would have precedence of the nation’s bodies and also assist the king with as much as possible. The legislation recognized Franco as “supreme organ of the state” who would not be able to be removed from power unless all of the following occurred: a two-thirds vote from the Council of the Realm, a two-thirds vote from the Cortes, and two-thirds of the government’s ministers. Seeing as how all of these positions were assigned by Franco, the voting out of his power would not happen unless he was to fall into a coma (Payne, 372-373).Of course there was opposition to Franco’s new law; the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church complained about his dictatorship and Basque separatists were a constant problem.

Now that the war had ended and Franco made it known that he was very anti-communistic, relations between Spain and the United States grew stronger. During the Cold War, Franco was seen as a safe bet against the spreading of communism, resulting Spain’s admittance back into the United Nations in the 1950s. In 1953 Spain signed a 10 year military contract with the United States, allowing four US air and naval bases in Spain (Payne, Francisco Franco). “In return NATO (National Atlantic Treaty Organization) protected his regime from foreign invasion” (Francisco Franco).Also in 1953, “The Vatican confirmed the Church’s recognition of Franco’s power by granting him the right to final choice of a bishop from a list of several candidates proposed by the pope” (Francisco Franco). Ultimately, Franco held most if not all of the power for Spain and the Catholic Church. His opinion governed all other opinions and his decisions were the ultimate decisions.

During the 1950s and 1960s Franco spent much time reorganizing the Spanish government. He wanted Spain to have a more “professional approach to economic management, with military administrators being replaced by civilians with business expertise” (Francisco Franco Bahamonde). Franco’s main foreign policy was to recover Gibaltar and to keep Spain’s colonies in Africa. He was unsuccessful in trying to get Britain to give Gibaltar to Spain and eventually has to come to terms with the sultan of Morocco (Francisco Franco).

In 1958 the government passed the sixth fundamental law, the Law on the Principles of the National Movement. This degree further defined Franco’s government and reaffirmed the nature of Spain as a traditional Catholic monarchy. All government officials, as well as possible successors to Franco, were required to pledge their loyalty to the principles of this law (The Franco Years). Also in 1958, Spain joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A year later Spain developed under an IMF stabilization plan that required liberalization of trade and capital flows. These overturn of early isolationist economic policies resulted in growth and economic prosperity. With these enhancements, Spain became a more economically prosperous place and a new location for tourist attraction (Francisco Franco Bahamonde).

In the 1960s Spain was thriving with their newly enhanced economy and government. The country was continually getting money and staying pretty content, and in return Franco decided to loosen the reigns of his tightly bound government. In the mid-sixties workers were given the right to strike over non-political issues (Francisco Franco Bahamonde). Because of this, there were many worker strikes along with student revolts in universities resulting in Franco’s “state of exception”; the rights to freedom of expression and assembly were temporarily suspended. In 1969, as Franco’s health was quickly diminishing, he designates 32-year-old Juan Carlos de Borbón, a prince and grandson of King Alfonso XIII, to be the heir to the Spanish throne as his successor (Francisco Franco Bahamonde).

Franco’s Death and Aftermath

In 1973, just a few years before his death, Franco resigned as leader of the government but remains head of state, commander-in-chief, and head of the National Movement. Up until a few months before his death, Franco continued to personally sign death warrants, although international campaigns requested that he stop (Francisco Franco). Franco fell very ill in 1974 and Juan Carlos took over head of state. Although he seemed to get better, he grew ill again the next year and died on November 20, 1975 (the same date as the death of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Falange) at the age of 82 (Francisco Franco). His body is buried at ‘The Valley of the Fallen”, a graveyard built for Nationalist soldiers killed during the Civil War (Francisco Franco Bahamonde).

Juan Carlos I began to take control of Spain, breaking down the authoritarian institutions of Franco’s regime and encouraged political party revival. Within three years of the dictator’s death, Spain had become a fully democratic constitutional monarchy, with a prosperous economy and democratic institutions similar to those of the rest of Western Europe (Francisco Franco Bahamonde, Payne). To this day, symbols of the Franco regime – the national flag with the Imperial Eagle – are now banned by law while the national anthem, the Marcha Real, is no longer accompanied by the lyrics Franco wrote.

Many of the people of Spain are still split in their opinions about Francisco Franco. Many are still in accordance with his rule, while others are gladly free from the oppression their families or they themselves once suffered. While many of the oppression and sufferings still remain with the people of Spain, Franco’s rule and government has been completely transformed. The Spanish people have more freedom and are welcoming to internationals. The government Franco tried to establish was not completely totalitarian, but rather authoritarian. He was a dictator with much power, force, and followers. Although he had no intentions of making Europe under his rule, he successfully managed to get all of Spain under his wings and controlled the country without a shadow of a doubt. He will forever be remembered by the people of Spain, whether famous or infamous.

Works Cited

"Francisco Franco." Spartacus Educational. 27 October 2010

"Francisco Franco Bahamonde." 13 January 2009. More or Less: Heroes & Killers of the 20th

Century. 27 October 2010 .
Payne, Stanley G. "Francisco Franco (Ruler of Spain)." Britannica Online Encyclopedia. 24

October 2010 .

—. The Franco Regime: 1936-1975. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press , 1987.
Preston, Paul. Franco: A Biography. New York: BasicBooks, 1994.
"The Franco Years." Country Studies. 27 October 2010 .
"The Spanish Civil War." Country Studies. 27 October 2010

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