Franco: A Biography, by J. Fusi
This book is sort of the middle ground when it comes to biographies that one would expect about a man like Francisco Franco. Some biographies view Franco as a great man and take his claims to have saved Spain from the horrors of the left at face value. Other biographies of his are written by people who hate him and delight in the way that Franco’s regime was unable to survive his death. This book takes a more complex and more nuanced view of Franco and is certainly fascinating both for its evident sympathy with Franco’s efforts as well as in the realization that it is hard to guarantee the stability of regimes in a nation like Spain. If Franco was able to provide some sort of stability during the course of his lifetime to Spain, it was because he was able to join together disparate factions of people who all agreed that he was a better option than the sort of chaos that had plagued Spain for a long time. And even if Franco’s regime did not long outlive him, it did apparently remind the Spanish of the need for government to seek the well-being of all as he did and not engage in the sort of beggar thy neighbor actions that led to the Spanish Civil War in the first place.
This book is a relatively short one at less than 200 pages long and it is divided into eight chapters. The book begins with a preface and an introduction. After that the author looks at the decisive aspect of Franco’s military education and early time in Morocco as shaping his approach to warfare (1). After that the author looks at his experiences in the late Spanish Republic and Spanish Civil War (2) as well as his adroit diplomacy between the Nazis and Western powers (3). The author then discusses Franco’s positioning of himself as the sentry of the Western world against Communism (4) and his politics that sought to gain favor from Muslim powers as well as the Vatican (5). After that the author examines the thorny question of what happens after Franco, something that was openly discussed as Franco got older (6). This leads to a discussion of his last few years of life and the rise of Spanish sectionalist violence (7). Finally, the author discusses Franco’s agony and death (8), after which there are notes, a bibliography, a note on terms, a glossary, a chronology of events, and an index.
Franco’s life is an interesting one to study in large part because he was able to play such an outsized role in the history of the 20th century. Although Spain was by no means a powerful country during the 20th century, Spain was able to use its resources and its strategic position under Franco to gain influence with other nations and ensure its own domestic tranquility by adroit diplomacy and Franco had a lot to manage between the struggle over Fascism, where he was fascism-adjacent but not Fascist, the Cold War, where he had impeccable anti-Communist credentials and was able to capitalize on the lack of coercion that the Western democracies were willing to do to enforce a leftist regime on Spain during the Civil War or during the Cold War when any anti-Communist ally was generally accepted on an as-is basis. It is a great shame that Franco was unable to figure out a way for his regime to endure on a non-personal regime, but being able to ensure decades of domestic tranquility while the nation changed around him was an achievement that few Spanish statesmen of the 19th and 20th century can claim, least of all those who had to deal with civil war and the anarchy of the Spanish Second Republic.