POLITICS
The Good Dictator
by Diego Jasson
2015-12-09 08:00:00
Most remember Franco as a sort of proto-Hitler who stalled Spanish democracy. In reality, Franco was exactly what Spain needed at the time. It was Franco vs. the communists.

Freedom isn’t free. Americans around the country live with extraordinary liberty. They live in a democratic country where power is checked. They have freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and the ability to participate in a diluted form of a market economy. Democracy and classical liberalism, as justified by rational thought, is the greatest system of governance to grace the planet. Democracy is by no means perfect. Winston Churchill once quipped that “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

The American Revolution was a remarkable singularity. The American people obtained freedom and democracy after a bloody war, yet their government endured, surviving a civil war without deviating from their Constitution’s principles. France would undergo three revolutions and two relapses to monarchy before it would assemble modern France’s government. Revolutions bring with them volatile ideologies that swing from extremes, and coupled with their liberty, young democracies can cannibalize themselves, returning to more unjust forms of government.

Recently, Sr. Ocaña addressed the Upper School, taking the opportunity to talk about Fascist Spain and its transition into today’s democracy as the anniversary of its former dictator’s death approached. Sr. Ocaña demonstrated an admirable love for democracy, and highlighted the incredible privilege voting Americans have. He rightfully denounced many of Franco’s actions on moral and ethical grounds. Your columnist and this publication champions freedom, liberty, and free-markets. Yet your columnist, a man with both American and Spanish passports, would like to argue that Franco was the right leader for Spain at that time. Although many of his actions were wrong, Franco is directly responsible for today’s Spain’s political and pre-crisis economic success.

When civil war broke out in 1936, Spain’s descent into chaos worried European nations, who saw the post-war European stability beginning to unravel. The fascist military was led by a general by the name of Francisco Franco. Supported by Italy and Nazi Germany, Franco’s Nationalists gained control of cities such as Sevilla, Granada, and Córdoba, while Republicans suppressed the uprising elsewhere. Neither side defended liberalism; both sides repressed opposition violently within their territories. The Republicans, supported by Communist Russia, saw the war as a revolution.

Foreign support accelerated carnage. Both sides turned abroad for support. As weapons and troops flowed into Spain, the war became infernal. Spain’s civil war would be foreign to most Americans. It lacked a noble cause or majestic fields on which men fought for “God and Country.” The Spanish Civil War instead was one characterized by grit and blood spilled in cities, civilians killed, residential areas blasted to rubble by planes. Your columnist’s own grandmother was born in Zaragoza, her family fleeing Madrid. Ultimately, it would be the nationalists who emerged triumphant, led by Franco.

When war finally erupted across Europe, Francoist Spain watched from the sidelines. By no means a Nazi, in ideology or practice, Franco had not come to agreement with Adolf Hitler over the Spanish role in the war at their meeting with Hitler at Hendaye. Franco did not take his ailing country to the aid of Hitler and Mussolini, who were ultimately defeated. Fearing a Nazi invasion, Franco did relocate troops to the French border, ready to defend Spanish sovereignty. While the rest of Europe was decimated by familiar bombs and planes tested in the Spanish Civil War, Franco set out to rebuild his country, its flagging economy, and bruised national identity.

The blood soaked streets of Spain were a mess, and Franco’s strong leadership helped solidify the country. Franco used Catholicism as a medium to unite the state and its people. Spain lacked significant religious diversity; in 1492, Catholic Kings Fernando Y Isabella finally united Spain, defeating the ruling Muslims kings and expelling all Jews. Long before a trace of globalization, the Spanish population stayed homogenous. The Spanish people viewed the State as a strong proponent of their faith, and a structurally sound Spain began to emerge.

Franco went on to reinforce the Spanish cultural identity. Spain, which had long been four distinct kingdoms, was home to a mixture of cultures. Under Franco, these regional languages, Catalan and Basque to mention a few, were suppressed, requiring all peoples to speak and learn Spanish. Furthermore, Franco selected certain cultural activities, such as bullfighting, and made icons out of them. These icons created activities all Spaniards could enjoy, whether it be a matador successfully slaying a bull, or Real Madrid facing off against Futbol Club Barcelona.

This is not to say Franco’s salvaging of Spain was flawless. The economic conditions of Spain post-Civil War were atrocious, with infrastructure and laborers ravished. Instead of liberalizing the economy, Franco stagnated economic trade, and maintained an absolute grip on the economy. Leading to a terrible crisis, people starved and dubbed the era “Los años de hambre,” or the years of hunger. As the situation became dire, the United States and the International Monetary Fund successfully managed to talk Franco into liberalizing the economy, ever so slightly.

Franco’s absolute reign allowed him to unilaterally liberalize the economy, and the Spanish Miracle began. As Spain began to re-industrialize, economic growth exploded. Without the weighing down of strikes or unions, there was little impediment to industry and economy. Companies, both state owned and private, took advantage of the situation and industrial behemoths such as carmaker Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo, S.A., commonly referred to as SEAT. Spain’s tourism sector blossomed. Centuries of rich history could now be enjoyed by tourists. Spain’s economic development was historic, similar to immense initial growth in nations such as China

Franco’s staunch anti-communist position, as well as Spain’s abstinence from World War II, allowed Spain to align itself with the United States in the late 50s as the Cold War began to emerge. In 1953, the US signed the Pact of Madrid, pledging support for the regime. In 1955 Spain joined the United Nations, and Eisenhower visited Spain, marking a relaxation of the regime’s oppression. Spain by no means was a bastion of liberalism and modern thought, but it started to be viewed as a respectable country that was viable for investment, a tremendous transformation for the once destroyed nation.

Progress takes time. It is important to remember that although Spanish textbooks may have held ridiculous views of colonization and the discovery of the New World, so did American ones at the same time, a country praised as the pinnacle of liberty and freedom. Franco did terrible things, but the alternative was much worse. Spain under the communists would have brought more terror and injustice. No communist nation on the face of this earth has stood the test of time. No communist nation has granted rights and liberty to its citizens. No communist nation has allowed multiple parties and free elections. No communist nation has been able to better the lives of its citizens. Franco took a volatile country that was falling apart and was able to gel it together into one of the most advanced European countries. Although Franco’s actions in of themselves were morally wrong, they were objectively right. Spain emerged as an end-game European winner, bypassing the Second World War and unleashing incredible economic growth. Yet one could very well argue that no fascist nation stood the test of time. In the case of Spain, however, this argument would not apply.

Franco’s bulwark was his vision for Spain, far beyond himself. He had no intention of continuing his regime or francoism. He had no heir, or plans for succession. Instead, Franco envisioned a parliament and a constitutionally bound monarch governing Spain. Prince Juan Carlos was chosen as the next king, and Franco’s death successfully ended his mission of transforming Spain, with young King Juan Carlos guiding the country to a full democracy. Spain was now ready for liberty and democracy.

Although Spain would have to weather years of terrorist attacks from Basque radicals seeking independence from a united Spain, a failed Coup by power hungry generals, and shootings by communist terrorists, the bloodshed was minimal and short lived compared to the destruction of civil war which marks so many faltering dictatorships; look no further than the Arab Spring for evidence.

The history presented in this article is a distilled version of a complex and faceted history. It seems that all too often Americans forget the privilege it is to live in a democracy, to have the right to vote, and to live with freedoms challenged by few if any nations. The wake of Hispanic influence is seen around the world, from Argentina’s tango with Fascism to Mexico’s drug war. These situations have profound implications for Brunswick students and alums alike. In an attempt to address the necessity to explore these topics, Señor Ocaña, your columnist, and others, will be founding a historical society. This society will address situations in the world where peoples are exiting totalitarianism and moving towards democracy, with a focus in Hispanic areas.

By analyzing both successful and failed cases, members will receive insight into leadership, government, human nature, and ideals of liberty during revolutionary times. The sacrifices and intricacies of liberty and liberalism will be studied, as well as the passion and adoration of those who protect them. It is after all this love and protection of freedom that allows a dissenting voice, like this column, to exist, whether it be challenging the legacy of a despot, or the nuances of history.



The Good Dictator

Freedom isn’t free. Americans around the country live with extraordinary liberty. They live in a democratic country where power is checked. They have freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and the ability to participate in a diluted form of a market economy. Democracy and classical liberalism, as justified by rational thought, is the greatest system of governance to grace the planet. Democracy is by no means perfect. Winston Churchill once quipped that “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

The American Revolution was a remarkable singularity. The American people obtained freedom and democracy after a bloody war, yet their government endured, surviving a civil war without deviating from their Constitution’s principles. France would undergo three revolutions and two relapses to monarchy before it would assemble modern France’s government. Revolutions bring with them volatile ideologies that swing from extremes, and coupled with their liberty, young democracies can cannibalize themselves, returning to more unjust forms of government.

Recently, Sr. Ocaña addressed the Upper School, taking the opportunity to talk about Fascist Spain and its transition into today’s democracy as the anniversary of its former dictator’s death approached. Sr. Ocaña demonstrated an admirable love for democracy, and highlighted the incredible privilege voting Americans have. He rightfully denounced many of Franco’s actions on moral and ethical grounds. Your columnist and this publication champions freedom, liberty, and free-markets. Yet your columnist, a man with both American and Spanish passports, would like to argue that Franco was the right leader for Spain at that time. Although many of his actions were wrong, Franco is directly responsible for today’s Spain’s political and pre-crisis economic success.

When civil war broke out in 1936, Spain’s descent into chaos worried European nations, who saw the post-war European stability beginning to unravel. The fascist military was led by a general by the name of Francisco Franco. Supported by Italy and Nazi Germany, Franco’s Nationalists gained control of cities such as Sevilla, Granada, and Córdoba, while Republicans suppressed the uprising elsewhere. Neither side defended liberalism; both sides repressed opposition violently within their territories. The Republicans, supported by Communist Russia, saw the war as a revolution.

Foreign support accelerated carnage. Both sides turned abroad for support. As weapons and troops flowed into Spain, the war became infernal. Spain’s civil war would be foreign to most Americans. It lacked a noble cause or majestic fields on which men fought for “God and Country.” The Spanish Civil War instead was one characterized by grit and blood spilled in cities, civilians killed, residential areas blasted to rubble by planes. Your columnist’s own grandmother was born in Zaragoza, her family fleeing Madrid. Ultimately, it would be the nationalists who emerged triumphant, led by Franco.

When war finally erupted across Europe, Francoist Spain watched from the sidelines. By no means a Nazi, in ideology or practice, Franco had not come to agreement with Adolf Hitler over the Spanish role in the war at their meeting with Hitler at Hendaye. Franco did not take his ailing country to the aid of Hitler and Mussolini, who were ultimately defeated. Fearing a Nazi invasion, Franco did relocate troops to the French border, ready to defend Spanish sovereignty. While the rest of Europe was decimated by familiar bombs and planes tested in the Spanish Civil War, Franco set out to rebuild his country, its flagging economy, and bruised national identity.

The blood soaked streets of Spain were a mess, and Franco’s strong leadership helped solidify the country. Franco used Catholicism as a medium to unite the state and its people. Spain lacked significant religious diversity; in 1492, Catholic Kings Fernando Y Isabella finally united Spain, defeating the ruling Muslims kings and expelling all Jews. Long before a trace of globalization, the Spanish population stayed homogenous. The Spanish people viewed the State as a strong proponent of their faith, and a structurally sound Spain began to emerge.

Franco went on to reinforce the Spanish cultural identity. Spain, which had long been four distinct kingdoms, was home to a mixture of cultures. Under Franco, these regional languages, Catalan and Basque to mention a few, were suppressed, requiring all peoples to speak and learn Spanish. Furthermore, Franco selected certain cultural activities, such as bullfighting, and made icons out of them. These icons created activities all Spaniards could enjoy, whether it be a matador successfully slaying a bull, or Real Madrid facing off against Futbol Club Barcelona.

This is not to say Franco’s salvaging of Spain was flawless. The economic conditions of Spain post-Civil War were atrocious, with infrastructure and laborers ravished. Instead of liberalizing the economy, Franco stagnated economic trade, and maintained an absolute grip on the economy. Leading to a terrible crisis, people starved and dubbed the era “Los años de hambre,” or the years of hunger. As the situation became dire, the United States and the International Monetary Fund successfully managed to talk Franco into liberalizing the economy, ever so slightly.

Franco’s absolute reign allowed him to unilaterally liberalize the economy, and the Spanish Miracle began. As Spain began to re-industrialize, economic growth exploded. Without the weighing down of strikes or unions, there was little impediment to industry and economy. Companies, both state owned and private, took advantage of the situation and industrial behemoths such as carmaker Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo, S.A., commonly referred to as SEAT. Spain’s tourism sector blossomed. Centuries of rich history could now be enjoyed by tourists. Spain’s economic development was historic, similar to immense initial growth in nations such as China

Franco’s staunch anti-communist position, as well as Spain’s abstinence from World War II, allowed Spain to align itself with the United States in the late 50s as the Cold War began to emerge. In 1953, the US signed the Pact of Madrid, pledging support for the regime. In 1955 Spain joined the United Nations, and Eisenhower visited Spain, marking a relaxation of the regime’s oppression. Spain by no means was a bastion of liberalism and modern thought, but it started to be viewed as a respectable country that was viable for investment, a tremendous transformation for the once destroyed nation.

Progress takes time. It is important to remember that although Spanish textbooks may have held ridiculous views of colonization and the discovery of the New World, so did American ones at the same time, a country praised as the pinnacle of liberty and freedom. Franco did terrible things, but the alternative was much worse. Spain under the communists would have brought more terror and injustice. No communist nation on the face of this earth has stood the test of time. No communist nation has granted rights and liberty to its citizens. No communist nation has allowed multiple parties and free elections. No communist nation has been able to better the lives of its citizens. Franco took a volatile country that was falling apart and was able to gel it together into one of the most advanced European countries. Although Franco’s actions in of themselves were morally wrong, they were objectively right. Spain emerged as an end-game European winner, bypassing the Second World War and unleashing incredible economic growth. Yet one could very well argue that no fascist nation stood the test of time. In the case of Spain, however, this argument would not apply.

Franco’s bulwark was his vision for Spain, far beyond himself. He had no intention of continuing his regime or francoism. He had no heir, or plans for succession. Instead, Franco envisioned a parliament and a constitutionally bound monarch governing Spain. Prince Juan Carlos was chosen as the next king, and Franco’s death successfully ended his mission of transforming Spain, with young King Juan Carlos guiding the country to a full democracy. Spain was now ready for liberty and democracy.

Although Spain would have to weather years of terrorist attacks from Basque radicals seeking independence from a united Spain, a failed Coup by power hungry generals, and shootings by communist terrorists, the bloodshed was minimal and short lived compared to the destruction of civil war which marks so many faltering dictatorships; look no further than the Arab Spring for evidence.

The history presented in this article is a distilled version of a complex and faceted history. It seems that all too often Americans forget the privilege it is to live in a democracy, to have the right to vote, and to live with freedoms challenged by few if any nations. The wake of Hispanic influence is seen around the world, from Argentina’s tango with Fascism to Mexico’s drug war. These situations have profound implications for Brunswick students and alums alike. In an attempt to address the necessity to explore these topics, Señor Ocaña, your columnist, and others, will be founding a historical society. This society will address situations in the world where peoples are exiting totalitarianism and moving towards democracy, with a focus in Hispanic areas.

By analyzing both successful and failed cases, members will receive insight into leadership, government, human nature, and ideals of liberty during revolutionary times. The sacrifices and intricacies of liberty and liberalism will be studied, as well as the passion and adoration of those who protect them. It is after all this love and protection of freedom that allows a dissenting voice, like this column, to exist, whether it be challenging the legacy of a despot, or the nuances of history.