Francisco Franco, by Joaquin Arraras
This biography is a fascinating one in large part because it was written and published in 1938 in England while Franco was in the process of leading the Nationalist side to victory in the Spanish Civil War but before that war was over. Most of the time retrospectives like this one are done to discuss the value and worth of someone’s life in the period after their death. But no, this book was written before Franco had accomplished the task of his life in bringing Spain under orderly rule for decades in the aftermath of a brutal Civil War of the sort that some nations have good reason to fear. In fact, this book is laudatory enough to its subject that I do not believe such a work could be easily be published today, given the near unanimity on the part of leftist academics in the evil that was represented by Franco’s efforts and instead trumpets the doomed cause of the leftist coalition of anarchists, socialists, and Communists with whom I have zero sympathy for in Spain or solidarity with in contemporary America. This book is more or less an effort to help the English public at the time to get to know Franco and his background and it serves the same context for contemporary readers who may not know very much about Franco’s military ethic or the deeper origins of his hostility with the leftists he would eventually vanquish.
This book is about 200 pages long and it focuses on the first part of the subject’s life, entering the Spanish Civil War but not knowing the end and so unable to carry it on. The author begins with a discussion of Franco’s family background and childhood in Galicia (1) as well as his experiences in Mellila (2), the call to arms in Spanish Morocco (3), and his efforts in the Spanish foreign legion (4). After that the author spends a great deal of time discussing his efforts to defend Melilla in 1921 (5), defend various blockhouses and convoys (6), reconquer Mellila (7), and help the Spanish military efforts on the road to Annual (8). The next few chapters continue to discuss his leadership of the Spanish foreign legion (9), relationships with the Spanish political leadership at the time (10), his leadership during a Spanish retreat (11), and the daring landing at Alhucemas (12) that allowed him to be unbowed and unscathed through Spain’s efforts to subdue northern Morocco (13). After that the author discusses Franco’s leadership of the abortive General Military Academy (14), his troubled relationship with the Spanish republic (15), and his role in putting down the leftist October Revolution in Asturias (16) as well as his rise to the chief of staff (17). At this point the author discusses Franco’s struggle against the leftist reign of terror (18) in 1936, Franco facing the revolution (19), the explosion as a result of the assassination of a conservative politician (20), his move from the Canary Islands to Morocco (21), and then his victory in the Battle of the Straits against a mutinous leftist Navy (22) to bring his troops from Morocco to Spain (23) and then lead the Spanish Nationalist forces in conquering territory in Spain (24), after which the book ends with some biographical notes.
Overall, this book is highly partisan to Franco in particular and has the feel of one of those “official” biographies that are written to appeal to people at the time and gain political support for the subject’s cause. In particular, the book tends to short-change the other leaders of the Nationalist side during the Spanish Civil War, most of whom conveniently died through plane crashes while leading their troops, leaving Franco the only leader with a high enough profile to lead his side to victory and then into political power afterward. The author also appears to be making the implicit case that lengthy leftist political tampering and formative experiences in Morocco hardened Franco into treating the anarchists, socialists, and Communists he opposed in the Spanish Civil War like the revolutionary Moroccan troops that he so successfully opposed. Perhaps it is not politically correct to think of colonial war as providing the toughening process that leads to success and victory in a Civil War, but the author allows us to make that connection and I think it is wise to do so. In the end, the author is more of a flagrant partisan of Franco than I even I think is advised, but all the same, it does allow one to see the logic of anti-Marxism and what is necessary to lead successful counter-revolutionry forces, which may be a practical matter before too long.