Can Franco be described as a truly fascist dictator?

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Can Franco be described as a truly fascist dictator?

General Francisco Franco served as head of state of Spain from victory in the Spanish Civil in 1939 until his death in 1975. Since Franco's death there has been much debate as to whether the Generalissimo’s dictatorship can be described as a truly fascist regime. The crux of this debate hinges on each individual historian's definition of a fascist dictator. Therefore first of all it is important to define what makes a truly fascist dictator. To do this it is essential to bear in mind the definitions of other historians. Firstly as Payne states a fascist dictator must adhere to the concept of 'anti isms', this means a fascist's inherent ideology is antiliberalism, anticommunism and antidemocratic. Secondly Paxton says a fascist dictator 'pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraint goals of internal cleansing and external expansion' which means a fascist dictator uses tactics of terror and violence and holds expansionist foreign policy aims. Thirdly as Passmore states all aspects of a fascist dictator's policies are suffused with ultranationalism. Fourthly as Griffin states a fascist dictator must implement an authoritarian and totalitarian form of government. These are the four key components of what makes a truly fascist dictator. It is clear that Franco shared some of these key components for instance Franco applied an authoritarian style of rule. Franco also shared similar characteristics to other fascist dictators such as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Although simply sharing similar characteristics does not constitute a fascist dictator and Franco's regime lacked other key components such as expansionist foreign policy. Furthermore it will become clear that in the later years of Francoism, Spain gradually moved away from the more extreme fascist elements and policy. It is fair to say that Franco's regime changed from a semi fascist state to a Catholic conservative authoritarian state. The main themes which will be assessed are Franco's rise to power, Franco's style of rule, Franco's social policy, Franco's economic policy and Franco's foreign policy.

Firstly it is important to assess General Franco's rise to power. Franco gained power through victory in the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939. Bosworth states that Franco united Spain's two main right wing factions, the corporatist Falange and the monarchy supporting Carlists into one single Nationalist movement and defeated the Republicans who supported the Democratic Second Republic of Spain. It is worthwhile to point out that Franco achieved power through violence which is in contrast to both Hitler and Mussolini, who gained power fairly peacefully and within the democratic apparatus. Franco was supported by both Hitler and Mussolini and Nazi Germany provided extensive help to Franco's forces, the most prominent example being the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the Luftwaffe in 1937. It should be noted however that Franco failed to show the same level of support during World War II and instead opted to remain neutral. During and in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War Franco's forces committed various atrocities. A recent estimate by Beevor suggests that up two hundred thousand people were executed by Franco's forces between 1936 and 1945. Preston argues that the atrocities committed by Franco's forces between 1936 and 1945 constitute a 'Spanish Holocaust'. Preston is a renowned historian in this field of study and his works have created new debate on this subject. Preston's argument of a Spanish Holocaust remains a highly sensitive and controversial debate within Spain. Preston states that Franco's regime established concentration camps and executed anyone who opposed the new regime, including Republicans and Basque and Catalan separatists who wanted independence from Spain. Although this was not on the same scale as the Nazi Holocaust committed during World War II, it is still a clear attempt of an annihilation of a group of people within society and led to the murder of a massive number of innocent civilians, so the use of the word 'holocaust' is justified in this instance. However it should be pointed out that the use of mass violence and murder is not unique to fascism. For instance various communist regimes such as the Soviet Union under Stalin applied similar tactics. An example of this is 'The Great Purge' of the 1930s and 1940s. Yet clearly no credible historian would describe Stalin as a fascist dictator. Therefore the use of violence and mass murder does not make Franco a truly fascist dictator.

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It is also important to examine Franco's style of rule. Roger Griffin describes Franco's form of government as authoritarian. This is true to a large extent. As Franco served as head of state of Spain with all power and authority. Franco himself described Spain as a totalitarian state. Franco ran an oppressive regime which implemented various authoritarian and totalitarian policies. For instance Franco abolished all political parties except for his own, banned the trade unions and kept firm control over the media. Franco also fiercely suppressed the left and communism. In 1938 Franco stated that 'One thing that I am sure ...

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