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‘The teoria de caudillaje was a defining contour of the Franco regime, and with it came a flourishing personality cult… this bureaucratic state learned much from the economic policy of Fascist Italy. These lessons also included autarky, the Labour Charter establishing rights and duties of workers (1938), the 'Battle for Wheat' and the INI, a source of state investment for industry (1941). The Falangist Seccion Femenina… 're-educated' women in their traditional roles, analagous to the Nazi Kinder, Kirche, Kuche… Franco regime banned not only divorce but, along with all Catholic countries, contraception. As in Mussolini's Italy and the Third Reich, awards were given as incentive to produce large families… Through the voluntary Youth Front founded in 1940 (Pelayos aged 7-10, Flechas 11-14, Cadetes 15-18) Falangists instilled political doctrine… [and] occupied top positions in the Franco propaganda machine, press, radio, film, theatre, and … orchestrated parades and rallies affirming mass support for the Caudillo with their fascist salute and conspicuous blue shirts.  (Andrew Forrest, The Spanish Civil War p.116, p.118 )

‘Falangists never played a major role in the new state. Most of the key leaders of the Falange did not survive the Civil War, and Franco moved quickly to subordinate the fascist party, merging it as well as more conservative and traditional political forces into the broader and vaguer National Movement under his direct control…Thus, while there was a definite fascist element during the first decade of Franco's rule, most analysts have concluded that early Francoism can more accurately be described as semifascist.` (Eric Solsten and Sandra W. Meditz, editors. Spain: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1988.

‘First, it must be conceded that Franco was a very different sort of man from Hitler or Mussolini. They were first and foremost politicians, but he was pre-eminently a soldier… He was never a member of any political party, and thus there was no equivalent of the Nazis or the Fascists in Spain. The Falange, as we have seen, was the nearest Spain came to possessing a fascist party, but Franco took actions to limit its importance - and members of the Falange responded in 1940 with an assassination attempt.’ (Robert Pearce - Fascism and Nazism Hodder p.86)

‘Franco ruled Spain as the regent of a Conservative Monarchy, like Admiral Horthy in Hungary. Both Franco and Salazar – in differing degrees – were allies of the Catholic Church. During the civil war, in order to humour his fascist backers, Franco uttered fascist slogans and played up the Falange. But at best he was half-hearted, as the German ambassador repeatedly complained.’ (Fascism in Europe – S J Woolf Taylor & Francis, 1981 p.35)

Franco was not a fascist. There is an element of revolutionary politics in fascism, of wanting to provoke a dramatic change in society. That was not Franco’s intention: on the contrary, he wanted to preserve Spain from change… the debate as to whether Franco was a fascist is in many ways irrelevant, since the denial of Franco’s fascism has often been an essential part of attempts to legitimise his actions. The fact remains that his brutality matched or even exceeded that of Mussolini’ (Franco and the Spanish Civil War - Filipe Ribeiro De Meneses – Routledge 2001 p87)

‘…in the last twenty years, scholars have dwelt on the fact that Francoism was not Hitlerism…resulting in an increasingly widespread consensus that Francoism was never really fascism …Such an approach is understandable and unfortunate… An eagerness to exonerate the Franco regime from the taint of fascism can go with a readiness to forget that, after coming to power through a civil war which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands more into exile, the dictatorship executed at least quarter of a million people, maintained concentration camps and labour battalions, and sent troops to fight for Hitler on the Russian front…. the confident exclusion…of the Franco regime from a discussion of fascism cold only be justified if fascism is taken to be synonymous with Nazism at its most extreme, complete with racialistic bestiality. Such a view, since it leads logically to the suggestion that Mussolini’s Italy was not really fascist, is so rigid as to be useless.’ (The politics of revenge - Paul Preston Routledge, 1995 pp10-11)

‘In spite of the Fascist trimmings of the early years—the goose-step and the Fascist salute—Francoism was not a totalitarian regime. It was a conservative, Catholic, authoritarian system, its original corporatist features modified over time. It came to have none of the characteristics of a totalitarian state: no single party parallel to the state administration; after the early years, no successful attempt at mass mobilization.’  (Raymond Carr - Modern Spain 1875-1980, OUP 1980 p.165)

‘The word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else… almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.’ (George Orwell - ‘What is Fascism?’ Tribune 1944.


Table – Was Franco a Fascist?

Characteristics of a Fascist state


Franco’s Spain?

One party state with leadership cult



A dominant fascist party with radical ideology for change



Anti-socialist and anti-liberal



Social policies that reinforce traditional patriarchal values



Nationalistic and militaristic with imperial ambitions



Strict ideological control over the media and education system



Persecution of religious groups and accommodation with the Catholic Church



Fascist economic policies e.g. promotion of autarky




Copy and complete the table ‘was Franco a fascist?’ In order to produce a satisfactory table, you will need to research beyond the information provided in this chapter.

Compare and contrast the views of two recent historians on Franco, Paul Preston and Filipe Ribeiro De Meneses. To what extent do they actually disagree with each other?

Franco ruled Spain for nearly 40 years. Why does this make it more difficult to conclude whether he was a fascist or not?

In 1944 the English writer George Orwell wrote that the word fascism was ‘entirely meaningless’. Does the word have any meaning or use in today’s world?


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