Rotten to the Core?
How America’s Political Decay Accelerated During the Trump Era
NOW that hostilities are over in Spain, General Francisco Franco's troubles are just beginning. It is easier to run a country in war than in peace. In war everything is subordinated to the single goal of victory and any method or policy gains validity on that basis; in peace there are multiple goals, not the least of which is the well-being of the people you rule. Franco must begin at the beginning, not to reconstruct a previously existing state but to create a new one, for Spain can never return to what it was. One may well question whether the Caudillo will have time and opportunity to create his new state, for events are moving fast in Europe and Spain is riding the same storm as Germany and Italy. But whatever the immediate future brings -- war or peace -- Franco's problems are worth examining.
First, the reader must grant certain premises for which proof is easily available but outside the scope of this article. From its inception, the Rebel movement was militantly supported by the army, the aristocracy, the Church and "big business," and by certain representatives of the working, farming and student classes to be found chiefly in the Carlist and Phalangist organizations. It had the forced acquiescence of the traditionally peaceful "man-in-the-street." But it could not have succeeded without the constant and overwhelming military support of Germany and Italy, aided indirectly but effectively by the so-called "nonintervention" policy of England, France and the United States. Unless those things are kept in mind, there can be no understanding of what has happened or is about to happen in Spain.
What, in the light of this, are Franco's problems? They can be expressed simply, but not so easily solved. He must form some sort of a permanent government, restore order, disband the army, get business going normally and the land working, reconstruct what has been destroyed, resume education, decide what part the Church is to play in education and national affairs, and what part Spain is to play in world politics. There it is, all in one sentence. Yet there is no single factor involved that does not have its heartbreaking difficulties.
If the Loyalists had won there would have been no question about forms of government: the Republic would have picked up where it left off. The supporters of Franco are in the position of all revolutionists who have succeeded. They must put their political theories into practice, and that means a new start.
In general, Franco has made it clear that some form of totalitarian government will be installed, but the details have been left vague. During the war he kept saying that he would define and protect the rights and duties of individuals and of capital and property -- after the victory. He did indicate, however, that everything was going to be subordinated to the interests of the State. "The racial doctrines of Germany and Italy will not be applied to Spain," he told the United Press correspondent on November 7 of last year, "but the epoch of the liberal régime is over. The State must intervene directly in the national life." One can call that at least a form of Fascism. Even the promise not to introduce racial doctrines will not apply if, as seems possible, the Phalanx assumes a dominating rôle in the government.
The Phalanx is a frankly Fascist body which according to all accounts is receiving strong support from Italy and Germany. It has a curious Spanish touch of Anarchism along with a mystique based on the past glories of the Spanish Empire in the same way that Italian Fascism recalls the glories of the Roman Empire. During the civil war it was accused by its enemies, especially the Carlists who fought so magnificently, of shirking front line duty, of playing a predominant part in the bureaucracy behind the lines, and of opening its ranks to radicals in general and Anarchists in particular. Significantly enough, it was the Anarchist Party on the Loyalist side which welcomed presumably penitent Rightists in the early months of the war. The FAI (Federación Anarquista Ibérica) was facetiously called the "Failangistas," while on the Rebel side it was always a good joke to play on the phonetic resemblance between "FAI" and "FE" (Falange Española). The joke is slightly sinister now, since the Anarchists in the central zone turned on the supporters of Negrín and helped General Casado give Madrid to Franco.
The Caudillo is reputed to be finding much opposition to his policies among the other generals. The Carlists have earned glory, but heavy casualties have weakened them. Nevertheless many Spaniards believe that the "Legitimist" Monarchy will be restored, probably with an invitation to Alfonso, who will decline in favor of his son, Juan. Even so, Italy has proved that a monarchy is not incompatible with Fascism.
In short, if Franco and his supporters remain in power -- and it seems as if they are going to, at least for the time being -- any régime other than an authoritarian one would be very surprising. No one can yet gauge the depths to which liberal, democratic, republican ideals have sunk into the minds and hearts of those millions of Loyalists who considered them worth fighting for. Nor do we know how great is the explosive force of the hatred engendered by the Rebels' totalitarian warfare or by the terrible reprisals now taking place. For the present, all such sentiments must go underground.
We can expect General Franco to restore at least an outward semblance of order without too great difficulty. He has his army still intact and it will certainly not be disbanded until the new régime has a firm grip on power. He still has his Italians, who were reinforced as lately as April of this year by several thousand new arrivals. He has the German Gestapo, credited with doing extremely efficient police work during the war. And above all, there is the "cleanup" now taking place. Last November the Generalissimo gave an interview to a United Press correspondent in which he is reported to have said (the Associated Press and other sources later received the same information): "I believe in redemption through the penalty of labor. Once it has been established what penalty fits the crime in question, the criminal will be able to redeem himself through work and good behavior. We have more than 2,000,000 persons card-indexed with proofs of their crimes, names and witnesses. Those who are granted an amnesty are demoralized."
On February 13 there was decreed a "Law of Political Responsibilities" establishing the loss of citizenship, imprisonment, exile, confiscation of property as punishments for "offenses" going as far back as October 1, 1934 (the time of the Asturian uprising). Anyone who between that time and the beginning of the civil war "contributed to the aggravation of the subversive activities by which Spain was victimized" is to be punished. Further, anyone who during the war was guilty of "grave political acts of omission or commission" is also to receive retribution. In other words, not to have helped the Rebels actively is a crime.
Then there are the executions which have taken place and those which are to come. The details are not available yet, but it is to be hoped that history will record them. After all, Franco cannot hope to rule in peace until he has destroyed his enemies or put them out of harm's way. Fascism has improved its technique in recent years, so this should not be a long process.
Meanwhile business ought to return to something like normal. In the Loyalist area there was an economic displacement caused by the necessity of turning every available factory over to war production. That was particularly true of the Catalan zone after Negrín moved his Government to Barcelona and took the situation in hand. Catalonia is the most highly industrialized region of Spain and its forced contribution to the economy of the war alone made it possible for the Loyalists to fight after having been deprived of the right to buy arms abroad. We may assume that Franco's régime will keep those industries going on a war basis, considering the present state of European tension and his close contacts with Germany and Italy.
Dr. Negrín likewise concentrated on producing those industrial and agricultural commodities which could be exported to provide the desperately needed foreign exchange: the Government bought nothing on credit and Negrín wanted to save the Bank of Spain's huge gold stock -- which he did to a surprising extent. Catalan rayon and Valencian oranges are two good examples of exports which yielded high returns. Minerals provided another fruitful source of revenue, the Almadén mercury mines alone bringing a huge income. Needless to say, they and other mines were fully exploited and are in perfect condition. During the last Rebel drive on Almadén in the autumn of 1938, it appeared for a short time as if the mines would be taken. If the Government had flooded them to prevent this, two or three years would have been needed to get them going again.
To be sure, there was considerable destruction of factories, chiefly by Rebel bombing; much farming land was also devastated and many cattle were slaughtered. However, the losses were not so great as might be imagined. In the coastal region of the Loyalist zone the Italian bombers from Mallorca wrought great havoc; yet the arms factory at Sagunto, which was bombed nearly 200 times, never ceased operation! The plant in Badalona, outside Barcelona, where electricity was made from coal after the Rebels took Tremp in March 1938, was bombed about a hundred times without stopping production: all four of its smokestacks were still standing at the end of the war. Still, there is much reconstruction to be done -- and there seems little doubt as to who will do it: not the British, nor the French, nor even the Italians, but the Germans. During the war foreign attention was centered on Italian intervention. But while Mussolini was glorifying his Legionaries, the Germans, though in the background, were helping Franco immensely -- with matériel and technicians rather than soldiers -- and in the process they quietly obtained control over the major portion of Spain's economic structure. I was amazed after the war to discover how few Americans knew of this. Italy has reaped the glory, Germany the profit.
Here again, the full details are not yet available. The writer was never in Rebel Spain and can offer no firsthand information, but the agreement on the subject among those who have been there is convincing. For instance, the Dépêche de Toulouse reported on October 24, 1938, that among other things "the Spanish exports to Germany are increasing every day. They already exceed the total for all of Spain during 1935, although in that year the majority of the exports came from that part of Spain now under the control of the Government. Of the total monthly exportation of iron ore from the Basque provinces, which varies between 90,000 and 120,000 tons, more than half goes to Germany. The Basque smelting industry exports pig iron and steel ingots to Germany: one plant alone has a contract for 60,000 tons per year. Germany also took 38,000 tons of rough-dressed skins between July 1936 and June 1938. In August 1938, 4,200 tons of sugar from the Alava factory were sent from Pasajes to Hamburg. Complete boatloads of oils, fats, skins, fruits and even wheat (very scarce in Spain) are regularly shipped to Germany: for instance, 18,000 tons of wheat were sent to Hamburg on July 25, 1938. Because of the needs of the 'Siegfried Line' the shipments of cement have greatly increased of late."
Those who claim to know will tell you that the Ollorgan mines in the Basque country have passed under the control of Krupp; that Pach Brothers bought the Meazuri and San Narcison mines from the Irún Lesaca Company; that the Berrobia mines are now German and that another German group is seeking control of the Somorrostro mines. The semi-official "Hisma Rowak" are supposed to monopolize the Moroccan ferromanganese mines. The new machinery going into Spanish mines is German. After all, it will be recalled that Hitler, in expressing his satisfaction at the final conquest of the northern provinces, used the phrase "because Germany wants the mineral ore."
Germany wants other things, too. British newspapers last November reported that Continental A.G., one of the largest tire manufacturers in Germany, was about to enlarge its factory at Torrelavega, near Santander. In the debate in the House of Commons on the second of that month it was pointed out that, while the number of British ships going to Insurgent Spain had declined about 60 percent, German ships had increased by about 65 percent. The Basque paper industry is said to have been virtually ruined by German competition, because of a preferential tariff. Germany and Italy have a monopoly of the air services. One could go on at this rate indefinitely. The two countries complement each other to such an extent that the Germans claim Spain can find in Germany all the manufactured articles she needs and can in turn supply Germany with raw materials. A huge system of barter is already under way.
What about Italy? In the first place, Italy cannot supply many of the manufactured articles which Spain needs. In some industries -- rayon, for instance -- the two countries compete directly. Even more serious is the competition in one of Spain's two great export fields: agriculture. Both countries are in the same climatic belt; both export citrus fruits, olive oil, wines. It is doubtless in Spain's mines that Italy hopes to get her material reward; but on that score she must come to terms with Germany first. The Almadén mercury mines alone could go far toward repaying Italian expenditures in the civil war, for Spain and Italy together virtually monopolize the world's mercury supply (mercury is a necessary ingredient in many types of explosives).
To be sure, there is the awkward fact that British -- not to mention French and American -- capital has a large investment in Spanish mining. But this disturbing factor did not prevent Franco and his allies from taking over the output of the mines during the war and paying for it at the rate of 42 pesetas to the pound -- pesetas that had no gold backing. The British company which owns the majority of the shares in the Rio Tinto copper mine marked its annual income down to one penny during the war. It remains to be seen whether foreign investors will fare any better now that the war is over. British capital is already wooing Franco in the hope of buying him away from Germany and Italy. Spain needs capital to get her factories running again and to reconstruct what has been destroyed. The City has money to lend. Spaniards have never in modern history tolerated foreign invaders on the Peninsula -- a fact on which England and France have been counting. But the latter have apparently overlooked two factors: first, that Spain will need time to get rid of the foreigner; second, that in the present state of European affairs Germany and Italy might fight to preserve their hold on Spain.
There is a good deal of physical reconstruction to be done in Spain. In the last offensive, to my personal knowledge, every single bridge of any importance in Catalonia was blown up by the retreating Loyalists. In many cases stretches of road were destroyed. All along the coast port facilities have been wrecked by Italian bombers. The port of Barcelona, for instance, will have to be completely rebuilt. Then there are the houses, the public buildings and the factories that were wrecked by bombs and shells. Spain herself can furnish a large part of the iron and cement needed for this work of reconstruction, and Loyalist prisoners are already providing the man power. Germany could easily arrange for the rest; indeed, whenever new territory was conquered during the war Germans were reported to have been in charge of reconstruction activities.
We do not yet know whether the industries will be returned to their former owners and the great landed estates to the grandees. Presumably they will; certainly the industrialists and aristocrats would not have supported Franco on any other supposition. Still, we should remember the fate that has befallen capitalists and large landowners in Italy and Germany. In recent decades Spain's agrarian problems have furnished a prime source of discontent. They were not solved in Rebel territory during the war, though the Caudillo has made promises for the future. Two factors will now work for change: the feelings of those hundreds of thousands in former Republican territory who knew for a brief time the joy and pride of owning their own land, and the reforms demanded in the program of the Phalanx. Millions of workers and peasants have learned what it means to enjoy some degree of economic and political freedom, and one may well ask whether they will ever again submit to the same degree of repression that obtained before the Republic. They are now utterly war-weary and cowed, but if the new régime is wise it will recognize that the old order can never be restored intact.
This is no place to go into the unhappy question of the rôle of the Church in Spain. For our purposes it need only be kept in mind that during the war Franco had the complete spiritual and material aid of the Church, while in the Loyalist area the Church was stripped of all its material and most of its spiritual power. Here again, we must take into account the fact that an established church has so far proved incompatible with Fascism. If the State is all-important and all-absorbing, the rôle of the Church presumably has to be subordinated to it. As a huge owner of land and of industries, the Church will necessarily face the same difficulties that await the industrialists and the aristocratic landowners. The real clash, however, will come over the question of education. By raising these questions the writer does not mean to imply that the Church will cease to play a great rôle in Spain -- it has violent champions among the Fascists themselves. But it will never return to precisely its former status. Already there are signs that the Church is finding this out.
No matter from what angle one looks at the Spanish situation, the dominating factor, internally and externally, is Fascism. The decision about Spain's immediate future still lies with Germany and Italy. Are they about to embark on the ultimate adventure? There is no question that the German and Italian military control of Spain and its colonies is already playing an important part in European politics. Spain is a key to the Mediterranean. Most military and naval experts agree that Gibraltar could be isolated immediately and held only so long as its food and munitions hold out. On the other side of the Strait is Ceuta, under Italian control, while the Germans hold Larache and other points of the Spanish Moroccan coast. The Italians have the Balearics, including Minorca, handed over to Franco so graciously by the British. The Germans dominate the Canaries and the Cantabrian coast: German submarine bases, for instance, have been established at Pasajes, Ferrol and Villagarcia in the north, and Seville and Malaga in the south. New aërodromes have been built at Vitoria, Sondica, Bilbao, Lasarte, León, Jaca, Pamplona and many other localities.
Where does this leave Great Britain's life line via the Suez Canal, her route around the Cape, or even her communications with South America? What about France's link to her African colonies? Do not the Riff Mountains of Spanish Morocco dominate the "Taza Corridor" through which run the only road and railway connecting Morocco and Algeria? And what about France's third and unfortified frontier along the Pyrenees? Ask any military expert and he will tell you that it is much easier, from the geographical point of view, to invade France from Spain than to invade Spain from France.
Nor must we forget that General Franco could put a million men under arms today and that it would be the only army in Europe aside from Italy's which has seen real service since the World War. The Spaniard is a superb soldier on his own; he did not need Italian infantry to help him. It was Italian and German matériel which won the war for him. And it was not on the Rebel side alone that France and England were hated. In the event that Germany and Italy had Franco's support in a general war, neither one would need to send an army to Spain -- only munitions, planes, technicians and staff officers. They probably would have that support.
But suppose the new régime were to remain neutral? Among other things this would mean that Spain could buy war supplies from the United States, now that we have recognized Franco. How convenient it would be for Germany and Italy to have the vast production of America's factories at their disposal via Spain! Many Americans will not consider that a pretty prospect. But after all, it was the American arms embargo which helped as much as anything to insure the Government's defeat. "Non-intervention" lost the war for the Republic. And for its part in this the United States is going to pay a price in South America, where in many countries the ruling classes already have strong Fascist leanings. I do not see how it can be denied that the policy of the United States in the Spanish civil war has definitely helped open the door to Fascism in our own hemisphere. Spain is culturally and traditionally the Mother Country, and a Fascist Spain will enormously strengthen the totalitarian trend among her South American children.
The best that may be hoped for is to gain time. In the long run, Spaniards can be counted upon to rid their country of foreigners. Given time (and inclination), General Franco could perhaps "get out from under" by selling himself, financially speaking, to England. One may well doubt, however, whether there will be time. At the present moment it is not to be supposed that Germany and Italy, having paid for Franco's victory, will step gracefully aside and permit England and France to reap the benefits. Spain is too great a prize to be relinquished without a struggle.