TIMES have changed since the summer of 1940, when gangs of Fascists roamed the streets of Madrid shouting their claims to Gibraltar, and the Franco government put up official posters laying claim not only to Cuba and the Philippines but to California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. In those exuberant days Fascist toughs stoned both the British and American embassies, Fascist newspapers made daily attacks upon the "decadent pluto-democracies" in the best Goebbels style, and either Franco or his brother-in-law Serrano Suñer delivered a weekly speech attacking the Allies and threatening that Spain would enter the war at any moment.

Now, though the Caudillo himself may hang on for a time, he can probably do so only at the price of liquidating the rabble-rousing Falange and putting himself in the hands of the Army, the landowners and the Church. These, as we shall see, have intentions of their own which are contrary to the democratic principles of the American people. But at least they know Spain's weakness and are not likely to risk fighting a foreign war.

The imperial bombast in Spanish publications was as absurdly pretentious as in Mussolini's Italy; its great expectations were built entirely upon the hope of catching crumbs from Hitler's table. Only the most harebrained Fascists failed to understand that Spain's resources were so limited that she could not act independently, but only as an advanced striking base for the Nazis. If ever Franco could have been sure that the democracies were done for, he would have come in at that moment. But Mussolini's glaring miscalculation of June 10 was a standing warning against over-optimism, and the seizure of Tangier in June 1940 -- as France lay on its deathbed -- was Franco's first and only positive step toward fulfillment of his imperial ambitions.

Although Franco still allows himself the luxury of insulting the democracies -- the most striking late example was his message of congratulation to the head of the Japanese puppet government in the Philippines -- he has officially declared that his policy is now one of neutrality. The militia of the Falange were dissolved soon after the Allied armies began to make progress on the road to Rome, and the center of gravity is now shifting in the direction of such men as Count Jordana, the successor of Serrano Suñer as Foreign Minister. It still is possible that Franco, realizing that the Rightists are only biding their time until Don Juan can be put on the throne, may fall back on the Falange, with all its empire-mongering, for support. But since Hitler is now powerless to help, the actual seizure of foreign territory seems to be beyond the realm of possibility. Whether the accent is to continue on Fascism, or on extreme conservatism of a traditional Spanish pattern, the Franco régime has lost whatever opportunity it had to win back the Imperio in Latin America and Africa by force of arms. Franco will never make good his boast of four years ago, when he inscribed in the Golden Book of the Archives of the Indies in Seville: "Before the ashes of our dead Empire, and with the promise of another."

However, Spanish imperialism is still a force capable of creating a great deal of trouble in the world. The special characteristics of Spanish Fascism in this respect warrant review and individual study.


Fascism in Spain was not merely a consequence of an unsuccessful war (the case of Germany) or an unsuccessful peace treaty (the case of Italy), but an outburst against nearly three centuries of humiliation. Mistress of the world in the sixteenth century, Spain had gradually fallen by 1898 to the status of a third-rate Power. There was some reëmergence of national strength and ambition under the semi-Fascist régime of General Miguel Primo de Rivera. With the advent of the Republic, however, expansionist hankerings were put aside more completely than ever before; the Republican constitution explicitly renounced war as an instrument of national policy, and it is obvious that without wars or threats of wars no empire can be won in the closely-settled modern world.

The domestic aspects of Spanish Fascism do not concern us in this connection, but it should be noted that the "Movement" was also a Castilian reaction against the growth of regionalism -- involving the claims of Basques, Catalans, Gallegos and still others to home rule or outright independence -- which the Fascists considered a potent cause for the decline in the might of Spain. But even more disastrous for Spain than regionalism, the Fascists maintained, was what they called the "anti-Spain" influence of the three great democracies, France, England and the United States. They argued that these countries, acting in turn or in concert, had pulled to pieces the empire of Charles V and Philip II.[i] Antonio Tovar, formerly Serrano Suñer's Under Secretary of Press and Propaganda, summed up these feelings in his book "El Imperio de España:" [ii] "We recognize that our enemies of today are also those of yesterday; those who, after seeing us fallen, after destroying us as a world power and making us lose the dimensions of an empire, and after taking away from us, as a result of our exhaustion, all our determination and our will and our faith in the destinies of Spain, hold out to us the false hand of a tourist's curiosity."

The Spanish-American War was the final blow to Spanish imperial power. However, Ernesto Jiménez Caballero, in his "Genio de España," [iii] gives a list of no fewer than 13 "'98's," or crushing defeats, beginning with the Treaty of Westphalia and culminating in the Pact of San Sebastian, of 1930, under which the Republican parties agreed to work together in bringing down the monarchy.

For their sources of imperial inspiration the Spanish Fascists go back to Ferdinand and Isabella. It was Ferdinand who sought expansion on the Continent; it was Isabella who sent out Columbus. Some of the Fascist writers, such as José Maria Peman, believe that it was a mistake for Spain to have concerned herself with European aggrandizement, and regret that she did not concentrate wholly upon the world of Columbus's discoveries. The Falange has a place for Ferdinand; and its symbol, the yoke and arrows, is borrowed from the joint emblem of the Catholic Sovereigns. But the Franco school of imperialism considers Charles V and his son, Philip II, the principal architects of Spain's greatness -- Charles, because he was German Emperor as well as King of Spain, and Philip because under him Spanish territories reached their greatest extent, embracing Portugal, the Low Countries, the Kingdom of Naples, Franche Comté, the Roussillon, and the vast territories of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires in Africa, Asia, and North and South America.

With magnificent inconsistency, the Fascists claim that Spain won these vast territories because of her unique devotion to the Church, and lost them because of this same devotion. Following the example of various American writers, the Fascists picture Philip as gallantly devoting his life and his empire to an unremitting struggle against the heresy and frivolity of the Reformation and the Renaissance. Another passage from Tovar (a contemporary, we must remember) will give the unspoiled flavor of this doctrine:

Spanish bones were to rest on every battlefield in Europe. And in a struggle, not for their own empire, not for the rule of Spain over Europe, but for the Empire, the sole Empire, the arm of Rome . . . for the salvation of all Europe by the Catholic religious faith. Spain hurls itself onto the path of spiritual unity, of humanizing the colored races and raising them to the dignity of Christians, to the conservation of undivided Christendom of the Middle Ages. Against the Protestants it raises the banner of Roman and true unity; against Rome, which with Leo X and Michael Angelo -- who painted Christ in the nude as if he were Apollo -- lost the Christian essence that Rome should represent, Spain presented its discipline, the ecclesiastical reform of Cisneros, its combative spirit, its sober black clothing, the paintings of El Greco. . . . Implacably and serenely, with the consciousness of a sad and firm duty, Spain was to burn its heretics at Valladolid and Seville, at popular and serious autos da fé, the grave fiestas of a nation that knows what it is doing.

And from Tovar we have the doctrine that the act of burning heretics was a favor to them, since it gave them an occasion to repent.

This Catholicism was, of course, a special and Spanish kind of Catholicism; it did not mean subjugation to Rome, for both Charles V and Philip II were excommunicated by a Pope who, as Tovar puts it, refused to fulfill his rôle as head of Christendom. And the sack of Rome was carried out by Charles V's soldiers. For all its devotion to the True Faith, and its intolerance of heretics, Spanish imperialism at times approaches perilously near what the profane might call anti-papal and anti-clerical notions. It stands for the virtual independence of the Spanish Church from Rome, and it insists upon the supremacy of the State in all important matters. Thus, although Franco has restored the full State subsidy to the Church, and provided for religious instruction in all government schools, he has been at outs with both the Vatican and with Cardinal Segura, Archbishop of Seville, and with Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop of Tarragona (who recently died in exile), and others. In all important disputes thus far he has had to give way. But if the Fascist régime had gotten itself firmly established it would have been a more dangerous enemy to the Church than was the Republic. The last of the 26 points of the Falange, the charter of the Franco régime, says flatly: "Our movement will incorporate the Catholic spirit -- of glorious tradition and predominant in Spain -- in the national reconstruction. The Church and the State will arrange a Concordat defining their respective spheres. But the State will not permit any interference or activity which might lower its dignity or the national integrity." [iv]

The empire was lost, according to these imperialists, because the British, French and Americans fought the "arm of the Church" unremittingly -- and because the arm itself became too "liberal." The Fascist intellectuals insist upon their preference for the earlier Spanish monarchs of the House of Habsburg, as against the Bourbons, who ascended the throne in the person of Louis XIV's grandson in 1700. They explain that the Bourbons, while better administrators, lacked the devotion to the Church and to the greatness of Spain which distinguished their predecessors. And as the Spanish branch of the House of Habsburg is now extinct, the Fascists join with the Carlist Requetés in extolling the merits of Ferdinand VII, perhaps the most bigoted and cruel of the Bourbons, and of the Carlist pretenders who twice revolted in the nineteenth century against the constitutional monarchy of Isabella II.

The Falangistas have tried to blend the ideology of the Carlists and their own movement by adopting the Carlist wars as the first of the "national movements" -- that of Franco being the third -- and by claiming such supreme reactionaries as Donoso Cortes, Vazquez de Mella, and Menéndez y Pelayo as the forerunners of Fascism. In the spring of 1937 Franco placed the seal of official approval on the doctrine by unifying Fascists and Requetés in the Spanish Traditional Phalanx of the Offense Councils of National Syndicalism (F.E.T. y de las J.O.N.S.). The red beret of the Carlists and the navy-blue shirt of the Fascists were combined to make the official uniform. Except in their common hatred for democracy and democracies, it is difficult to imagine two systems of thought more different. Yet they have held together in Spain fairly well. In Spain things do not happen as they do elsewhere. And the Fascists and Carlists were correct and genuinely in harmony in one thing: before she could acquire an empire again, Spain had to regain the "will to empire" which she had possessed in the great days of the sixteenth century. The Carlists and Fascists took the lead in instilling this spirit.


The charter of empire drawn up by the Fascists and officially adopted by Franco was sonorous indeed. The third and fourth of its 26 points read as follows:

We have a will to empire. We affirm that the full history of Spain implies an empire. We demand for Spain a preëminent place in Europe. We will not put up with international isolation or with foreign interference. With regard to the Hispano-American countries, we will aim at unification of culture, of economic interests and of power. Spain claims a preëminent place in all common tasks because of her position as the spiritual cradle of the Spanish world.

Our armed forces on land, on sea and in the air, must be as efficient and numerous as may be necessary to assure Spain's complete independence at all times and that world leadership which is her due. We shall restore to the armies on land and sea, and in the air, all the dignity which they deserve, and, following their ideal, we shall see to it that a military view of life shall shape Spanish existence.

Other points of the program are in similar vein, and included a grandiose pronouncement that "Spain is a destined unity in the universe." Anyone who noted the degree to which Spain had developed her resources, appraised the inefficiency of her Government, and understood the resentment of the defeated Republicans, knew that these dreams were impossible of attainment short of a Nazi victory, if then. The Falangistas, however, were insulated from a common-sense -- that is, an "anti-Spain" -- understanding of realities, and pressed their demands with complete conviction. Their claims made Hitler's seem almost modest. Wherever either Spain or Portugal had once ruled, or even been first in the line of discoverers, Spain was entitled to rule again. In view of the fact that Spain's possessions at one time and another had embraced half the world, this was a far-reaching program. The Fascist imagination ran riot; the Prado's collection of Italian and Flemish masters, for example, was the basis of a serious argument that Spain was entitled to reassert Charles V's rule over the regions in which these painters lived.

Since Spain is a nation of many races and languages, no attempt was made to copy the Nazi racial approach to a philosophy of world supremacy. The dogma of imperial Spain had a twofold aspect. First, Spain was destined to rule as the successor of the Roman Empire, for the Catholic Church was the successor of the empire, and Most Catholic Spain, of all nations, possessed the best title to the assertion of the Church's temporal power. Secondly, Spain was entitled to a prominent place in the Teutonic world, through the Goth and Vandal invaders of Spain, and the fact that Charles V (Charles I of Spain) was also Holy Roman Emperor.

Such a state of mind implied, of course, the most faithful partnership with Hitler and Mussolini. The imperialists were more careful, when concrete claims were concerned. After France collapsed it would have been logical, for example, for Spain to press her old-time demand to the Basque provinces of France, or to the French territory bordering on Catalonia, on the grounds both of ethnology and prior possession. But as Pétain's France was collaborating with Hitler, this would have produced complications. Moreover, Franco was committed to the extermination of the Basque and Catalan nationalist movements, and thus was deprived of one of his most useful annexationist arguments. For these and other reasons Serrano Suñer, in an interview with the Völkischer Beobachter in October 1940, stated specifically that Spain had no territorial claims in Europe. With great self-restraint, in fact, Franco even refrained after the fall of France from annexing the tiny state of Andorra, which was allowed to stay under joint Spanish-French control.

Even greater restraint has been shown toward Portugal, a forbearance based in part upon gratitude for services rendered. Franco's cause would have been lost at the outset but for Salazar, who allowed the Nazis to pour their war supplies through Lisbon when no Spanish ports were available. The Spanish Fascists had definite designs upon the independence of Portugal, however. Official Spanish publications merely harped continuously on the theory that the "two Iberian sisters" had their greatest days when they were common subjects of Philip II. But Arriba, the Madrid organ of the Falange, and the more fiery Falangistas were less discreet in their demands for annexation. Franco himself held his hand, knowing that England would never tolerate a move against a country which is so vital to the British defense system as Portugal. His régime has contented itself with talking about what it calls an "Iberian bloc" for maintenance of "neutrality" in the Peninsula. This, in turn, if Franco's plans should work, would be the basis for a Catholic bloc including the France of Pétain, Italy, and possibly Poland. It is too early to say that this project may not be realized in one way or another.

The demand for the restoration of Gibraltar is the most justifiable in the imperialist program, and it is unfortunate for Spain that England will probably be less disposed than ever to hand the Rock back after the present war. If Gibraltar had not been a British possession, Malta could not have been supplied nor could the Allies have maintained or so advantageously improved their position in the Mediterranean. There was incessant clamor for Gibraltar in 1940 and 1941. Manuel Aznar, who was then Franco's Virginio Gayda, hailed the arrival of Sir Samuel Hoare in Madrid (as France was collapsing) with a series of articles demanding that England hand over Gibraltar at once. And the German guns installed during the Civil War were manned on the heights above Algeciras and La Linea; they seemed ready for action. Gibraltar could have been made useless as a naval base at any time; the arsenals all face toward Spanish territory and are within easy artillery range. Franco's impatience was easy to understand. But he never dared give the necessary order, and it was the Vichy French, not the Spaniards, who bombed Gibraltar after Oran.

Spain's demands for territory across the Strait in Africa have been slightly more successful. Taking advantage of the impending collapse of France, Franco occupied the internationalized city of Tangier on June 14, 1940. In violation of his agreement with the British, Franco has since liquidated virtually all the international governmental machinery in Tangier, and, although still not formally annexing the International Zone -- an area of about 225 square miles -- has made it subject to the laws of Spanish Morocco. The British are, of course, greatly concerned lest Tangier be fortified, thus strengthening the Spanish position on the African side of the Strait, for Cape Spartel commands the western entrance of the Straits.

Spain's interest in Tangier is symptomatic of the African school of thought developed under Franco. It is ironical that this area adjoining Spain was neglected while the conquistadores were pushing out to the ends of the earth. After her defeat by the United States and the complete loss of the overseas empire, Spain began to show real interest in Africa; but then she was hampered by England and France, who were most unwilling to see a third Power installed at the western gateway of the Mediterranean. Spain did at last acquire rights to what is now Spanish Morocco. But misfortune pursued her. She spent many years in an effort to conquer the Riffi; and the great disaster of Anual, in 1921, cost her 10,000 men and threatened to undo everything she had accomplished. The Spanish people made it plain that they had no desire for empire, and Primo de Rivera seized power in 1923 with the pledge that he would make peace. Afterwards, however, he was able to obtain the coöperation of the French in a joint campaign which finally brought about the subjugation of the native tribes.

Franco won his reputation fighting the Riffi. Perhaps the sole part of Franco's political beliefs about which there is no question is that he was, and is, an Africanista. So were most of the successful generals on his side. Under their encouragement, therefore, the imperialists have beaten the drum about Africa ever since the Civil War began. The census figures of Or an three centuries ago were cited to show that this city ought to belong to Spain, and the Spanish domination of the name of Casa Blanca was used to support the argument that Morocco also was inherently Spanish.

Although some of the more outspoken Fascists wanted to take over all of northwest Africa, the official presentation of Spain's demands -- "Reivindicaciones de España," published in the summer of 1941 by the Falange's Institute of Political Studies -- was relatively moderate. It demanded only Gibraltar, Tangier, all of French Morocco and most of Algeria plus a broad strip of desert from the southern reaches of Algeria to the Atlantic below Rio di Oro. But given the northwest corner of Africa, Spain would control the sea and air routes through the Mediterranean, and from western Europe to Latin America and the Far East. Too late! The banners of the Allies now fly over all these strongholds beside that of France, again a partner in the war against Franco's Axis sponsors. But it is interesting to recall that Franco's failure to enter the war openly on the Axis side was due to a quarrel over the division of this territory. Everything, or nearly everything, concerned with his declaration of war was settled at his interview with Hitler at Hendaye in October 1940. Mussolini refused to accept their bargain because he wanted Casa Blanca and Gibraltar himself. Franco, dissatisfied with his revised share of the spoils, thereupon contented himself with pro-Axis "non-belligerency," which included, of course, the use of Spain as a Nazi espionage base and as a channel for the importation of vital raw materials.


The Spanish Fascists entertained even more far-reaching ambitions for Latin America, and these have not been cast aside. "Reivindicaciones de España" dealt primarily with Africa, but it made plain that there were other claims. Thus its authors declared:

In this work, it was intended to proclaim above all else the necessity of a foreign policy for the motherland. And Africa, although it is one of the indisputable bases of that policy, is not the only one or even the most important; Spain lives in a peninsular symbiosis with Portugal, the flesh of her flesh and the original key of her existence. At one and the same time Spain looks out upon the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Finally, Spain is the head and spinal column of the Hispanic world scattered over the globe. For our generation has nothing to do with doors half-opened. One by one it wishes to open all, destroying at the same time the wall of lack of understanding and fear with which a certain door, once open, has been sealed up. Our uneasiness must watch all horizons and slopes. Spain cannot limit her new foreign policy to the circumscribed space of a parallel or a meridian.

It is not true that Franco has been "playing Hitler's game" in Latin America. He has been playing his own. But it happens to be just as hostile to the United States as any that Hitler has tried and is thus, in effect, working in Hitler's interests. The recovery of the Philippines was a definite aim, although Franco perceived that Spain would for the time have to make common cause with Japan against the United States. Not even the wildest Falangista really ever believed that the Spanish flag would again fly over any of the twenty nations of Latin America. But there is ample evidence of the Franco régime's determination to assert itself in that area to the maximum. Such actions as the breaking of diplomatic relations with Chile, the simultaneous cultivation of close relations with Argentina, Peru, and other countries having authoritarian governments, carry their unmistakable meaning.

The most significant single step was the formation of the Consejo de Hispanidad on November 2, 1940, with the announced aim of succeeding to the rôle once played by the Council of the Indies. What Franco and his imperialist intellectuals dreamed of was a league of totalitarian governments stretching all the way from Cape Horn to the Rio Grande. Whether they would be out-and-out Fascist governments or would merely lean to Fascism would depend on local conditions. These governments, from the very nature of things, would be coöperative with Franco, as indeed some of them are already. Fascist Spain, therefore, would be in a position to act as their spokesman and tutelary genius in the same way that England, as a democracy, acts in many things for Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In the autumn of 1940 General José Varela, then Franco's Minister of War and not a Falangista, stated that Spain, with this support, would be the only Great Power in the world besides Germany.

The Hispanidad program is the means adopted to "soften up" Latin America. It was set forth in its entirety in Ramiro de Maeztu's "Defensa de la Hispanidad" (Madrid, 1934). It is a characteristic expression of the Spanish imperialist mentality. The imperialists in truth recognize no limitations of meridians or latitudes. Allan Chase, in his book "Falange," has revealed the rôle that José del Castano, Spanish consul-general in Manila, and head of the Falange in the Philippines, played in the collapse of the civilian defense system there. The United States has had difficulties with Franco agents in Puerto Rico as well as in the independent Latin American countries. The recent coup d'état in Bolivia is an example of the influence of Hispanidad.

Spanish imperialism remains a dangerous force in the world even though its territorial aspirations have been defeated. If imperialism were just a matter of running up a nation's flag over another's territory, Franco's schemes could be dismissed out of hand. If, as is quite likely, he himself is superseded by an old-fashioned military dictatorship, with a healthy respect for the might of Allied arms, the more fanatical aspects of Spanish imperialism will be gone for good. But just as the military caste in Germany will remain a danger even after the overthrow of the Nazis, the Spanish Rightists also will remain a problem. Count Jordana, Franco's Foreign Minister, has already told an American journalist that Spain expects to get a good reward out of the postwar settlement. He feels that she deserves enrichment, not in spite of her neutrality, but merely because of it. This, coming from a grandee who is supposed to be anti-Falange, is significant. If by chance we have a reactionary world, or even merely a reactionary western Europe, a reactionary Spain might at last have her opportunity for leadership in a new age of Metternich.

Such a régime in Spain could do us even more harm in Latin America and the Philippines than an avowedly Fascist one. It would be no less hostile to us, and it might have more influence. The anti-clerical aims of the Falange disturbed some of the Latin American first families. The extreme Rightists among our good neighbors were never very enthusiastic about such symbols as the Fascist salute. Their solution was always a dependable dictatorship, based on the sound principles of suppressing labor unions and of being as hostile to the United States as was compatible with the personal investments of the dominating caste. Only democratic governments in both Spain and Latin America can effectively lay the ghost of Philip II.

[i] Although it would be difficult to say definitely which of the three democracies they hated most, I believe that the Yanquis, because of the comparative recentness of Manila Bay and Santiago de Cuba, were their favorite objects of dislike. Many of them spoke with grudging respect of France -- "admirable enemy," as the Fascists usually call it -- or sometimes even of England. Toward us, however, as a Protestant, Anglo-Saxon democracy, and a new country besides, they managed to combine both contempt and hatred.

[ii] Antonio Tovar, "El Imperio de España." 4th edition. Madrid: Aguado, 1941.

[iii] Ernesto Jiménez Caballero, "Genio de España." 4th edition. Barcelona: Talleres Gráficos Rex, 1939.

[iv] This is the official English translation, published in Arthur F. Loveday's "World War in Spain," London, 1939. Owing partly to disputes over the method of appointing Bishops, the Franco régime has not been able to arrange the promised Concordat.

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  • THOMAS J. HAMILTON, former correspondent in Spain of the New York Times; author of "Appeasement's Child;" now on duty with the Navy, though his opinions are not to be taken as reflecting the views of the Navy Department
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