General Francisco Franco.
By Owei Lakemfa
After his death, there were still stories circulating whether he had actually died. So there were jokes about “Francisco Franco is still dead” Sometimes, some would say: “Francisco Franco is still dead but getting better.” How do you pray that the souls of men like Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco should rest in peace?
General Francisco Franco, the fascist who was dictator of Spain for thirty three years from March 28, 1939 until his death on November 20, 1975 is lucky to have a grave. This is why his family had the basis to protest against the exhumation of his corpse on October 24 from the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos), where it had laid for 44 years.
Franco was luckier than his main ally, Adolf Hitler, a fellow fascist and brutal dictator. He was luckier because, while Hitler had to commit suicide at 56 for his crimes, Franco who also committed unspeakable crimes against humanity died peacefully at 82. While Hitler had to account for his criminalities, Franco never did; in fact he remained in office for another three decades. He was also luckier because where he has a grave, Hitler has none; his corpse was cremated by his loyalists, so it would not fall into the hands of the then advancing Soviet Army, which had lost over 20 million people in the Second World War ignited by the Hitler regime. After that war, as war criminals were brought to book, Franco who had declared neutrality in the war but sent Spanish fighters to fight alongside the Nazi German military, was never made to account for his crimes. Also, he was never brought to book for organising a military coup on July 17, 1936, which resulted in the Spanish Civil War and the slaughter of some one million people, including Europeans, Americans, Africans, Asians and Latin Americans.
Franco was so brutal that many prisoners his army captured, were simply pushed against walls and executed. He was one of the most bestial human beings that ever existed and it is to the eternal shame of then American president, Richard Nixon who at death eulogised Franco: “General Franco was a loyal friend and ally of the United States. He earned worldwide respect for Spain through firmness and fairness.”
Hitler was better than Franco in some respects, including the fact that he went through elections. In contrast, Franco was opposed to elections of any kind. He said: “We do not believe in government through the voting booth. The Spanish national will was never freely expressed through the ballot box. Spain has no foolish dreams.”
He also believed Jews and communists had no right to exist. He argued that: “The Jewish spirit, which was responsible for the alliance of large-scale capital with Marxism and was the driving force behind so many anti-Spanish revolutionary agreements…” should be extinguished.
The Spanish acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, explained why Franco’s body has to be exhumed: “Today, Spain is fulfilling its duty to itself. This decision marks an end to the moral insult that the public glorification of a dictator constitutes. We are taking another step towards the reconciliation that can only exist in the democracy and the freedom we all share.”
He also saw no reason to be answerable to the Spanish people. The dictator said: “I am responsible only to God and history.” But history can never be kind to people like him who drowned his country in the blood of innocent people. It is part of history catching up that there is the general consensus that his being buried in the Valley of the Fallen, where many of his victims and decent persons are interred, is a desecration of that final resting place, therefore his corpse has to be exhumed and reburied in a private place.
The Spanish acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, explained why Franco’s body has to be exhumed: “Today, Spain is fulfilling its duty to itself. This decision marks an end to the moral insult that the public glorification of a dictator constitutes. We are taking another step towards the reconciliation that can only exist in the democracy and the freedom we all share.” Expectedly, his family and supporters put up a stiff fight all the way to the Supreme Court.
Franco is one of the big “Ifs” in history. He was the first of the evil troika of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini of Italy who decided to cleanse the world of decent opposition, which meant decent human beings that did not agree with their fascist ideology. This included wiping out Jews, Blacks, communists and committed democrats. The Spanish Civil War, which went on for 2 years, 8 months, 2 weeks and 1 day (17 July 1936 – 1 April 1939) was the dress rehearsal of the Second World War in which some sixty million people died. It is a conjecture of history that most of these souls, including the one million who died in the Civil War, might have been saved had Franco not ignited the Spanish War and carried out horrendous massacres.
When the fascists, nationalists, conservatives and the Catholic Church, led by the 58,000-strong Spanish Army, began the Civil War in order to overthrow the democratically elected Republican government, many saw it as a dangerous movement to destroy democracy and impose fascist dictatorship across the world. They were proved right when Nazi Germany sent 16,000 fighters; fascist Italy, 50,000 combatants; and Portugal sent 10,000 soldiers to fight on the side of Franco and overthrow the Spanish government. The Vatican and some foreign fighters also supported the fascists.
…only France, amongst the so-called free world, supported the democratic resistance; European countries like Britain and powers like the United States watched events unfold, and where possible, stopped their youth from going to fight on the side of the Spanish people.
Tragically, only France, amongst the so-called free world, supported the democratic resistance; European countries like Britain and powers like the United States watched events unfold, and where possible, stopped their youth from going to fight on the side of the Spanish people. That however did not stop 59,380 youth, including the famous writer, George Orwell, from travelling to Spain, and fighting for world peace. Mexico and the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR) were the other countries that joined France against the fascists. The Soviets sent 3,015 technicians and fighters, and 772 pilots to fight on the side of the Republicans.
The USSR particularly analysed that if the fascists triumphed in Spain, Hitler and Mussolini will also strike and that the world would be endangered. This proved to be a correct analysis. Just five months after the 1939 victory of the fascists in Spain, Hitler, backed by Musolini, started one by one, plucking off European countries, while the rest, including Britain, watched hoping to appease Hitler.
Nazi Germany first marched into Austria to applause, then it rolled over Poland, then Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, France and then tried to sink Britain into the sea with relentless bombings. All these while, the United States maintained neutrality until December 1941 when it alleged attacks by Japan.
In 1975, there were frequent mentions about the state of Franco on his death bed. Stories that he had died were soon countered by those that he was still hanging on to life. After his death, there were still stories circulating whether he had actually died. So there were jokes about “Francisco Franco is still dead” Sometimes, some would say: “Francisco Franco is still dead but getting better.” How do you pray that the souls of men like Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco should rest in peace?
• Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of African workers, is a human right activist and journalist.