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Franco liked order. He believed in rules. An early story tells of how on parade in the North African campaign a newly promoted Franco shot a soldier in the head for laughing at his high squeaky voice. In the Legion insubordination was punishable by death – a rule.

Franco Flicker Book. As you flick through the cards Franco raises his arm in the fascist salute.

He was clever and manipulative – I don’t think we can discount the possibility that he was behind the ever so convenient deaths of General’s Sanjurjo and Mola. He certainly had his cousin – a fellow officer – executed for failing to join the rebellion. He knew what he wanted and how to get it.
From 1936 through to his death he had a wonderful talent for appearing to support everyone whether it be the Army, the Falange, the Church or the ‘establishment’ and yet he did exactly what suited him.

See Division Azul

See Falange

I have to admit I don’t like Franco – in common with much of Spain (in public at least) but I do have a sneaky respect for his dedication and certainly his skills of manipulation.
Was he is fascist? Stupid question? Maybe, he could certainly do a mean fascist salute and sure he was Hitler & Mussolini’s spiritual drinking buddy for a while. However I believe he was largely apolitical, he was a soldier – if it suited him and Spain he was a fascist.
Ultimately he was always going to be anti-socialist because it clashed with his sense of order.  The USA ambassador in Madrid during WW2 makes the point in his biography that Franco had the ability to be Germanys loyal ally and at the same time cheerfully trade with the USA and Britain – this was a talent.

P1010002.JPGHis big weakness wasn’t vanity or his fondness for elaborate uniforms or even believing he was some kind of crusader but his cold cold heart. He was without a sole, even Hitler found him sterile and unflinching.  In the 1940’s and 50’s he used to spend part of each day signing death warrants. At no time did he say enough is enough – let’s unify the country. No, he thought the job could only be done once all the reds were dead.

What was his big mistake? Living in the past and surrounding himself with advisors who thought like him. It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that the last ‘Republican’ brigand was killed. Around this time the first tourists were arriving on the Costa Brava. Franco was out of touch. Spain was finally coming into the 20th century and liking it. You cannot flood the country with foreigners without aspects of their culture rubbing off. The Spanish no longer wanted Francoism – they wanted freedom of choice. Furthermore Franco wrongly assumed Juan Carlos, Prince of Spain was his man but he was cleverer than that – he played Franco’s own game and went with the ‘flow’. Ultimately Juan Carlos read the mood of the country and Franco declined into senility.