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Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives - vol06 (Page 6)

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Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives - vol06
6
THE VOLUNTEER, WINTER 1997-98
He showed only indifference in the face of complaints about the atroci-
ties being committed in the areas under his control during the Civil War.
ty, rather like a good sports coach, to
keep the morale of his followers at
boiling point. During the Civil War, at
bleak moments for the Nationalists,
he would lift heads and spirits by cat-
egoric affirmations of what he called
his "blind faith." His serenity was
revealed repeatedly in his uncanny
ability to ride out damaging storms at
the most difficult moments of interna-
tional isolation at the end of the
Second World War and during the
Cold War, sitting tight when his advi-
sors were convinced that the end of
Franco's rule was in sight.
The great formative experience of
Franco's life was the army and, above
all, his time as a colonial officer in
Africa. After his deeply insecure
childhood, the army gave him a
framework of certainties based on
hierarchy and command. He reveled
in the discipline and the ability to lose
himself in a military machine built on
obedience and a shared rhetoric of
patriotism and honor. In 1912, he
went to Morocco where he spent ten-
and-a-half of the next 14 years.
The bulk of his early career, cul-
minating in promotion to brigadier
general at the age of 33, took place
first with the fierce Moorish merce-
naries of the so-called Regulares
Indigenas
, and then with the brutal-
ized shock troops of the ruthless
Tercio Extranjero. He said later, "My
years in Africa live within me with
indescribable force. Without Africa, I
can scarcely explain myself to
myself." In Africa, he acquired the
central beliefs of his political life: the
right of the army to be the arbiter of
Spain's political destiny and, most
importantly of all, his own right to
command.
Fearless and ferocious
One reason that men accepted
Franco's ferocious discipline was the
fact that he was extremely coura-
geous. There is no record of Franco
ever having manifested fear. His cool-
ness under fire and his practical com-
petence as a field officer won him a
series of rapid promotions which
made him successively, in 1916 the
youngest captain; in 1917 the
youngest major; and in 1926 the
youngest general in Europe.
Behind his bravery as a young
soldier, there was an icy sang froid
which would carry him through the
darkest days of the Civil War, the
World War and the Cold War, and
would permit him to preside over a
machinery of terror. He showed only
indifference in the face of complaints
about the atrocities being committed
in the areas under his control during
the Civil War. The scale of the repres-
sion in the Civil War and into the
1940s surprised the Italian fascist
diplomats Ciano and Farinacci and
even the Nazi, Himmler.
Franco's cruelty was facilitated
by his lack of imagination. In power,
for instance, he could not conceive of
the discontent of others as having
objective justification but saw them
unilaterally as the work of foreign
communist agitators and sinister
freemasons. Such detachment from
reality gave Franco a confidence not
undermined by self-criticism. The
conviction that he was always right
gave him the flexibility endlessly to
tack to changing domestic and inter-
national circumstances.
Nor was he restricted by any far-
reaching ideological vision in the way
that Hitler and Mussolini were.
Instead, he had an idealized notion of
a harmonious society in which oppo-
sition and subversion would not exist.
It would be like a united family ruled
over by a strong, all-seeing father. In
so far as he had a political philosophy
at all, it was extremely narrow, often
negative and derived from his mili-
tary background. Like most Spanish
army officers of his generation, his
overriding hatreds were separatism,
communism and freemasonry.
Irrespective of the human cost, he
was determined to eradicate all three
from Spain, along with socialism and
liberalism. That came to mean the
annihilation of the legacies of the
enlightenment, of the French revolu-
tion and of the industrial revolution
in order to return to the glories of
medieval Spain. His most dearly held
objectives were altogether more
abstract, more spiritual than ideolog-
ical in the modern sense. He wanted,
by bloodshed, to "redeem" the
Spanish people of the burden of the
centuries of failure since the reign of
the 16th century monarch Felipe II,
when Spain's greatness began to
crumble.
For reasons that had no basis in
rationality, he blamed the decline of
Spain and all subsequent misfortunes
of Spain on freemasonry. He held
freemasonry responsible for Nap-
oleon's invasion of Spain, for the loss
of the Spanish empire, for the civil
wars of the nineteenth and twentieth
century, for international efforts to
impede his victory in the war of 1936-
1939 and for the international
ostracism to which he was subjected
after 1945. His obsession with
freemasonry was unusually virulent,
playing a part in his life akin that
played in Hitler's by anti-Semitism.
This obsession was such as to lead
him to suspect both the Moroccan
independence movement of the 1950s
and the Second Vatican Council of
being Masonic inspirations.
To eliminate the historical legacy
of what he perceived as three cen-
turies of decadence, Franco endeav-
ored to create a uniquely Spanish
political model based on a fusion of
medieval absolutism and Axis totali-
tarianism. Accordingly, when his
acolytes referred to Fernando el
Catolico as the first authentic
Caudillo, or when Franco made refer-
ences to the great medieval "Caudillo
kings," the clear implication was that
he belonged to a line of great leaders
that had been interrupted after Felipe
II. He considered himself, like them,
to be a warrior of God against the
infidels who would destroy the
nation's faith and culture.
Franco was particularly taken by
the pseudo-medieval choreography
which characterized many of the great
public occasions in which he took part.
The generalized portrayal of Franco as
a warrior king or specifically as El
Continued on page 14
Continued from page 5

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