Economic apologies for Francoist repression, 1937 and 2017

During a research trip to Madrid in April this year, a Spanish friend poked fun at my MA research on Nationalist propagandists in Seville during the Civil War (1936-1939). ‘In Spain,’ he said, ‘the Second Republic [1931-1939] and everything that comes after is still practically journalism’.

His tongue-in-cheek comment referred to what Helen Graham has called Spain’s ‘memory wars’.[i] During the transition to democracy following Franco’s death in 1975, Spanish politicians of all stripes preferred to engage in a ‘pact of forgetting’ or ‘pact of silence’ rather than to pursue a collective reckoning with the crimes of Francoism. Subsequent moves towards such a reckoning have been viewed with suspicion if not outright hostility by some on the Spanish right. The result is that the historical meaning of the Second Republic, the Civil War and the Franco dictatorship is still intensely and very publicly contested.

This summer again saw ‘historical memory’ dominate the headlines, courtesy of the revelation in July that the Fundación Nacional Francisco Franco – an organisation whose ‘primary objective is to promote the memory and works’ of the dictator, to quote its Twitter profile – had been managing visits to the Pazo de Meirás, formerly Franco’s summer residence in his native region of Galicia. The house is owned by the dictator’s descendants but has been designated a ‘site of cultural interest’, obliging the owners to accommodate public visits on at least four days per month.

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The Pazo de Meirás. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

If the controversy caused by this revelation was not enough, on 31 July the Fundación stated that managing the visits would be ‘an excellent opportunity to show the general public the greatness of … Franco’. These comments in turn led to a fractious interview with the Fundación’s spokesman Jaime Alonso on Thursday 3 August’s edition of the current affairs talk show Al Rojo Vivo. (Excerpts from the interview can be viewed here and here, and includes violent footage).

While Alonso’s bizarre claim that ‘Franco didn’t shoot people’ – based on the specious reasoning that he merely acceded to death sentences passed by the courts—[ii] is refuted by a large and ever-growing body of historical research,[iii] another point which caught my attention was his challenge to the presenter, Cristina Pardo. Alonso demanded of the presenter, ‘Who instituted social security? Who created the public health service? Who … industrialised the country? and made state pensions and paid holidays possible?’

It is not uncommon for Franco’s apologists to make such arguments. A very limited welfare state did exist in Spain before the outbreak of the Civil War, but it is true that – as throughout Western Europe – this expanded somewhat during the decades following the Second World War. None of this is to say that a liberal-democratic regime in Spain would not have presided over economic prosperity and expanded welfare provision, a point which those making arguments similar to Alonso’s conveniently tend to overlook.

Although my MA dissertation did not address the post-war era to which Alonso was referring, this use of social policy and economic prosperity to obscure or minimise the use of terror and physical repression was only too familiar. Nationalist propagandists in Seville often used these themes in apparent attempts to appeal to the city’s generally left-leaning workers. These attempts were, however, so deeply inscribed with the logic of terror and authoritarianism that it is often difficult to separate them.

One of the major social-policy initiatives in Seville at the time was the construction of affordable homes, intended especially for the families of Nationalist soldiers killed or wounded at the front, or families with numerous children and only modest means to support them. These projects allowed Nationalist propagandists to claim to be helping working-class sevillanos, yet the provision of affordable housing specifically to these two groups also shows how social provisions cannot be neatly separated from the authorities’ ideological concerns.

The local Nationalist commander, General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, opined that ‘hygienic housing’ would allow workers to ‘fulfil their duties as citizens and as patriots’.[iv] These duties, as defined by Franco’s supporters, implied a stark loss of political agency. Paternalistic social policy pursued, by different means, similar aims to physical repression: the demobilisation of political opposition, and the definition of an apolitical class identity through which Spanish workers could be integrated into the nascent regime in a subordinate position.

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General Gonzalo Quiepo de Llano (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Another policy which the Nationalist authorities in Seville used to appeal to the interests of the city’s workers was imposition of price controls on staple foods. Regulating food markets in this way was, of course, a sensible wartime policy. Yet Nationalist propagandists – including Queipo, in his infamous radio broadcasts – repeatedly asserted that this was indicative of the alleged ‘normality’ of life in the Nationalist zone, which protected ordinary Spaniards’ access to food and general prosperity. The frequent publication in the local press of lists of business owners fined for violating these controls was not only a deterrent to others who may be tempted to do the same; they were also intended to demonstrate that the authorities were taking action to defend Seville’s workers.[v]

Of course, stable food prices were only one aspect of Nationalist ‘normality’ which affected working-class Spaniards’ lives. One of the key measures through which the military rebels hoped to impose their vision of economic ‘normality’ at the start of the conflict was an ‘absolute prohibition’ on strike action. Unlike price-hiking merchants, the leaders of striking unions would not be liable for a fine; they could expect to be condemned to death by a summary court martial.[vi] Although Nationalist propagandists during the Civil War claimed – disingenuously –[vii] that their management of the economy prevented working-class sevillanos from being negatively affected by the economic costs of war, this disparity in punishment is demonstrative of how measures such as price controls functioned within a wider discursive framework in which ‘normality’ meant brutal and often deadly repression for many of these workers.

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‘Happiness of wheat, hope for tomorrow’. The Nationalist press often carried stories purporting to show that food was abundant under Franco. F.E., 18/7/1937 (special edition), n.p Held at the Hemeroteca Municipal de Madrid.

These are just two examples of wartime propaganda which pursued the same goal as Alonso’s comments on Al Rojo Vivo: to justify Francoism in terms of the economic wellbeing of Spain and its people. Yet economic and social policy in Civil-War Seville was comprehensively intertwined with the repressive discourse and practices which underpinned the birth of Franco’s dictatorship. This should not be forgotten, whether in reference to the Civil War or to later Francoism.

Joel Baker is a first-year PhD student at the University of Sheffield’s Department of History. His research is funded by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities, and examines social housing and infrastructure projects under Spain’s Primo de Rivera dictatorship (1923-1930) as expressions of the regime’s ‘anti-political’ populism. You can find him on Twitter at @joelrbaker.

References:

[i] Helen Graham, ‘Coming to Terms with the Past: Spain’s Memory Wars’, History Today 54.5 (2004), pp. 29-31.

[ii] In the immediate post-war period, these were often summary courts martial which tried and found guilty multiple defendants on flimsy evidence in proceedings sometimes lasting mere minutes. Defence lawyers were usually junior military officers who were given little time to prepare by their superiors, who sat as judges. See Peter Anderson, The Francoist Military Trials: Terror and Complicity, 1939-1945 (London, 2010); ‘In the Interests of Justice? Grass-Roots Prosecution and Collaboration in Francoist Military Trials, 1939-1945’, Contemporary European History 18.1 (2009), pp.25-44; ‘Singling Out Victims: Denunciation and Collusion in Post-Civil War Francoist Repression in Spain, 1939-1945’, European History Quarterly 39 (2009), pp. 7-26.

[iii] For a relatively recent synthesis of this research, see Paul Preston, The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain (London, 2012).

[iv] F.E., 16/3/1937, p. 11.

[v] See, e.g., F.E., 1/2/1938, p. 6.

[vi] See Queipo de Llano’s bando de guerra (declaration of martial law) of 18 July 1936. Auditoría de Guerra de la Segunda División Orgánica y del Ejército del Sur, Bandos y órdenes dictados por el Excmo. Sr. D. Gonzalo Queipo de Llano y Sierra, General Jefe de la 2.a División Orgánica y del Ejército del Sur (Seville, 1937), pp. 5-6.

[vii] In fact, ordinary citizens throughout Spain saw their living standards decline drastically during the Civil War as a result of ‘economic repression’, and during the 1940s because the regime’s rationing and autarky policies forced many to accept inflated black-market prices for staple goods in order to survive. See Miguel Ángel del Arco Blanco, ‘Hunger and the Consolidation of the Francoist Regime (1939-1951), European History Quarterly 40.3 (2010), pp. 458-483; Hambre de Siglos: Mundo rural y apoyos sociales del franquismo en Andalucía oriental, 1936-1951 (Granada, 2007); Rúben Serém, A Laboratory of Terror. Conspiracy, Coup d’ état and Civil War in Seville, 1936-1939: History and Myth in Francoist Spain (Brighton / Portland / Toronto, 2017), pp. 147-189.

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Empire and the articulation of fascism: The British Union of Fascists, 1932-1940

By Liam Liburd

The legacy of the British Empire left indelible marks on the political, social and economic fabric of Britain. This was as true on the political margins as in the mainstream and was no different for Britain’s most prominent fascist movement, the British Union of Fascists (B.U.F.). The experience of the British Empire, either first-hand or vicariously, influenced the B.U.F.’s articulation of their fascism.

Founded in 1932 by Sir Oswald Mosley and outlawed in 1940, the organisation wanted a British Empire reborn along fascist lines. In the words of the title of Mosley’s 1932 book

Sir_Oswald_Mosley,_6th_Bt_by_Glyn_Warren_Philpot
Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Bt (1925, Glyn Warren Philpot)

—essentially the manifesto of the movement— the B.U.F. wanted to build a Greater Britain.[1]

Many prominent members of the organisation had encounters with the Empire. William Joyce (the infamous ‘Lord Haw-Haw’) spent his early years in Galway where his associations with the local Black and Tans eventually led to him fleeing the country in December 1921. Similarly, A. K. Chesterton was born in South Africa and grew up in a ‘racially stratified’ white settler community.[2] J. F. C. Fuller had fought in the Boer War and both he and Francis Yeats-Brown spent a number of years serving India. Beyond these examples, a glance at the profiles of the men and women who served as prospective parliamentary candidates for the B.U.F. shows that those with imperial careers —tea planters, colonial administrators and such— were drawn to the movement.

Alongside those with direct experience of Empire were those who had come into contact with the imperialism that permeated British popular culture particularly during the late Victorian and Edwardian period. Stories of imperial heroes were retold in history lessons, plays, music-hall acts and even pantomime. The B.U.F. maintained this tradition, worshipping imperial heroes in their periodicals.

The imperial heroes of legend became the masculine model for the B.U.F.’s ‘new fascist man’. They considered the men of their movement as the reincarnation of imperial pioneers like Sir Francis Drake and Clive of India.[3] Their fascism would mean the rule of the ‘true aristocrat’; the best kind of man because of his character and abilities.[4] Again based on pioneers like Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, this ‘true aristocrat’ was classless and above sectional interest, struggling only in the interests of Britain.

The B.U.F.’s enemies such as the ‘Old Gang’ politicians, socialists and pacifists were all compared unfavourably with the ‘Empire Builders’ they wished to emulate.[5] Next to these ‘rough men’, the others were painted as effeminate, indecisive and treacherous.

The B.U.F. expressed their vehement opposition to Indian nationalism in terms of this imperial masculinity, and when discussing India regurgitated almost unreconstructed the colonial hierarchies of race. When B.U.F. members wrote or spoke of India they employed the language of martial race theory dating back to the 1857 Indian Mutiny. This theory ordered the various ethnic groups of India according to how many qualities they shared with the ‘manly Englishman’. For the B.U.F., the culprits behind Indian nationalism were Western-educated Bengali Hindus. The latter were at the bottom of the martial race scale, referred to by the epithet ‘effeminate babus’.[6]

The B.U.F. made extensive use of this racist colonial stereotype to oppose independence and to advocate fascist leadership of India. For them, an independent India would be a

Clive
‘Clive of India’ was one of the imperial ‘pioneers’ admired by men of the BUF.

country of docile people run by effeminate and cunning ‘Babu lawyers’.[7] They argued that, culturally and psychologically, Indians were better suited to an authoritarian ruler than they were to democracy. In the B.U.F.’s vision of a fascist future, India was to be governed not by way of negotiation and concession, but in the strong and decisive style of the ‘Empire Builders’.

The history of British imperialism was also used to frame the B.U.F.’s support for the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in October 1935. The invasion was discussed in terms of a colonial rebellion in need of quelling. Abyssinians were not simply repelling an invasion but, in the eyes of the B.U.F., were ‘Black Murderers’.[8] A. K. Chesterton described the action taken by the Italians as ‘the heroism of Empire warriors’.[9] Mussolini’s actions were compared with Kitchener’s reconquering of the Sudan in the 1890s and both were found to be simply ‘put[ting] down slavery and barbarism with a strong hand’.[10] The Abyssinia crisis was portrayed as part of an ongoing race war, the fulfilment of the white man’s imperial ‘Destiny’. In this conflict, William Joyce asserted, fascism represented the defender of white civilization against the ‘Oriental and African barbarian’.[11]

Imperialism was not simply a past glory for the B.U.F.; it was a political model for the future. One fascist described the ‘direct object of fascism’ as the revival of ‘the pioneering spirit upon which the magnitude of the British Empire is founded’.[12] From stories of Britain’s imperial past, such as the exploits of Clive of India, as well as from the direct experience of Empire some of their number possessed, fascists took two lessons.[13] One was that imperialism worked best where a suitable person was appointed and given a free hand. And the other, that mistakes were down to the inference of elected party politicians. British imperialism became an object lesson in the qualities of fascist leadership when compared with its democratic counterpart.

Roger Griffin has written of fascism as one of a number of anti-Enlightenment ideologies seeking to give birth to an ‘alternative modernity’.[14] The B.U.F.’s use of the language of imperialism shows that they sought an alternative modernity based on their conception of British imperialism. In imperialism they saw a model of masculinity and a system of government that was anti-liberal, authoritarian, white supremacist and aggressively nationalistic. In short, they saw reflected in Britain’s imperial past their imagined fascist future.

The relationship between Britain’s far-right and the British Empire casts further light on the nature of fascist ideology and is an area ripe for study. The study of the far-right, a collection of nationalistic and racist movements, necessitates an examination of the engagement of these movements with the British Empire, an important aspect of both British nationalism and racism.

Liam Liburd received a BA in History and Sociology from the University of Sheffield, before going on to complete an MA in Modern History. Liam is now in the first year of a PhD, also in Sheffield, exploring constructions of race, gender and empire on the extreme Right in Britain from the 1920s to the 1960s. He has previously written blogs for History Matters, and was heavily involved in the organisation of the ‘Gendering Peace’ conference which took place in Sheffield earlier on this year. Find Liam on twitter @Liburd93

References:

[1] The phrase itself has imperialist roots, originating in the 19th century, as the title of a popular 1868 book by Charles Dilke. It became a shorthand term for the Empire and the imperial ideal.

[2] D. Baker, Ideology of Obsession: A. K. Chesterton and British Fascism (London; New York, 1996), pp. 24-25.

[3] O. Hawks, ‘Revolution is a National Characteristic’, Blackshirt, 87 (December 21, 1934), p. 6.

[4] A. Raven Thomson, ‘Aristocracy of Worth’, Fascist Week, 13 (February 2-8, 1934), p. 4.

[5] “Lucifer”, ‘Pink Dreams in a Yellow Jacket – Sobbing Away the Empire: The Intellectual Noxiousness of Bloomsbury Socialists’, Fascist Week, 2, (November 17-23, 1933), p. 7.

[6]M. Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The ‘manly Englishman’ and the ‘effeminate Bengali’ in the late nineteenth century (Manchester; New York, 1995), p. 2.

[7] T. Lang, ‘The Albert Hall Rally’, Blackshirt, 101 (March 29, 1935), pp. 1, 2, 5.

[8] E. D. Hart, ‘The Bleating Wolf of Ethiopia: Britain’s Press Pets’, Action, 11 (April 30, 1936), p. 7.

[9] A.K. Chesterton, ‘The End of a Stupid Story – Let Eden Follow Selassie’, Action (12, May 7, 1936), p. 11.

[10] A.R.T., ‘With Kitchener to Khartoum’, Action, 2 (February 28, 1936), p. 3.

[11] W. Joyce, ‘The Forces of Darkness Arrayed Against Fascism’, Blackshirt, 119 (August 2, 1935), p. 2.

[12] J. Rudd, ‘Fascism’s Mission to British Youth, Blackshirt, 75 (September 28, 1934), p. 6.

[13] E. D. Hart, ‘Men Who Built the British Empire: A Survey of the Great Colonists’, Action, 65 (May 15, 1937), p. 9.

[14] R. Griffin, ‘Studying Fascism in a Postfascist Age – From New Consensus to New Wave?’, Fascism: Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies, 1 (2012), p. 15.

Full Image Attributions:

Image 1: Glyn Warren Philpot [Public domain], currently at NPG London, via Wikimedia Commons

Image 2: Francis Hayman [Public domain], currently at NPG London, via Wikimedia Commons

Redefining the national community during the Spanish Civil War: Queipo de Llano’s radio propaganda broadcasts

by Joel Baker

On 18 July 1936, the army in mainland Spain followed the colonial troops in Morocco and rebelled against the government of the Second Spanish Republic. The coup was only partially successful, and the resulting division of the country marked the start of the Spanish Civil War.

The leader of the uprising in Seville was General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, commander of the Carabineros (border guards). Queipo’s success in Seville was key to the Nationalists’ rapid advances in the early stages of the war – providing a base for the airlift of Franco’s Army of Africa from Morocco – and is notable for the horrendous scale of violence unleashed in the city and the areas of southern Spain under Queipo’s command.[i]

Queipo is also noted for his vulgar propaganda broadcasts from Radio Sevilla – a nightly occurrence until Franco forced him off air in February 1938. While few recordings of these speeches survive, they were reproduced every day in newspapers published in Seville and elsewhere in the Nationalist zone.

Queipo
Queipo de Llano (centre) during commemorations in Seville’s Plaza de Triunfo marking the first anniversary of the Nationalist rebellion, 18 July 1937 (Source: GGnaomi, Wikicommons)

Aptly, certain fragments from these speeches have often been used to demonstrate the brutality of the Nationalist war effort and repression. However, their regularity and wide coverage in the press, as well as the fact that the Seville transmitter was capable of broadcasting to most of mainland Spain, mean we should see them as an important part of wartime culture and discourse in the Nationalist zone.[ii]

Indeed, one junior Nationalist officer, Domingo Pérez Morán, refers on a number of occasions in his memoirs to troops regularly listening to and discussing the General’s broadcasts. At one point, Pérez Morán refers to Queipo de Llano as ‘Don Gonzalo’; despite the honorific title Don, this reflects a feeling of familiarity one would not necessarily expect for a junior officer referring to a senior commander, suggesting that Queipo’s broadcasts made him a figure with whom the rank-and-file felt they could identify.[iii]

Queipo’s broadcasts can therefore be considered an important element in the formation of a Francoist discourse during the civil war, and so are clearly worthy of more detailed study. This reveals broader themes within them, beyond the familiar and frequent incitements to gratuitous violence. One way in which we can see Queipo’s broadcasts fitting into the broader development of a Francoist discourse is in the redefinition of what Spanish nationality and identity meant.

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One of Queipo’s charlas, reproduced in the local press. (Source: La Union (Seville), 21/1/1938, held by the Hemeroteca Municipal de Madrid)

In one particularly notable instance, Queipo praised the foreign legionaries and Moroccan regular troops fighting among the Nationalist forces, telling his listeners that ‘despite their being foreigners, they have much more love for Spain than all the Marxist scum, and they’d give their lives for us rather than defect to that rabble.’[iv] His rhetoric later elevated the general population of Morocco to a higher level of ‘Spanishness’ than the Nationalists’ opponents:

Very many of them are more Spanish at heart than all the Marxist scum put together … They are incapable of betraying Spain and … if we wanted to remove even the last soldier from Morocco, they would guard it themselves, with exemplary fidelity.[v]

Leaving aside the implausibility of this final claim – it was only ten years since the Spanish and French armies had concluded a bloody and unpopular counterinsurgency campaign in the Protectorate – these examples demonstrate an attempt to reframe Spanish national identity as being determined by one’s politics above all else. In Queipo de Llano’s view, left-wing Spaniards lost any right to claim that national identity, while foreigners who shared the military rebels’ values could consider themselves Spanish.

This logic for excluding political enemies from the national community had been forming in right-wing Spanish circles for some time. During the 1934 Asturias rebellion, the Falangist leader José Antonio Primo de Rivera wrote to General Franco that ‘a socialist victory constitutes a foreign invasion … because the essence of socialism, from top to bottom, contradicts the permanent spirit of Spain.’[vi]

Gonzalo_Queipo_de_Llano_en_Berlín_en_1939
Queipo de Llano during a visit to Berlin in 1939 (Source: Wikicommons)

The broadcasting of such opinions to a mass audience during the civil war was an attempt to legitimise Nationalist violence by excluding its victims from a shared identity with its perpetrators. Similar notions can be seen in later Francoist legislation, particularly the February 1939 ‘Law of Political Responsibilities’ (Ley de Responsabilidades Políticas).

This statute provided the pseudo-legal basis for Francoist post-war repression by retroactively criminalising membership of the Popular Front parties as far back as 1 October 1934. The law carried through the logic evidenced in the examples above by establishing penalties for those who fell foul of it, including not only the forfeiture of property but also of Spanish citizenship.

Another attempt by Queipo to impose his understanding of Spanish identity can be seen in one broadcast in which he ‘apologised’ for having previously suggested that Catalans were all cowards. ‘If I said that’, explained the General, ‘it was in reference to the cowards who serve Marxism in Catalonia’. He insisted that ‘I cannot call the Catalans cowards, because they are Spaniards, and no Spaniard worthy of the name can be a coward.’[vii]

Queipo’s logic here is less circular than labyrinthine, but what is perhaps most striking about it is the unambiguous claim that ‘Catalans … are Spaniards’. Given the Nationalists’ implacable hostility to any kind of regional nationalism within Spain, this can be read as an attempt to impose a national identity which some Catalans may not have wanted – alongside an implication that those who refused it were Marxists, and thus beyond the national community.

Queipo’s speeches were thus part of a wider Nationalist effort to redefine the Spanish nation at the same time as building a new state. They also demonstrate a function of wartime propaganda that is, perhaps, specific to civil wars. Whereas propaganda in a war between two nation states may focus on promoting the essential justice of the relevant party’s cause,[viii] a deeply political civil conflict like the Spanish Civil War can also lead to attempts to cast the enemy rhetorically beyond the pale of the national community in order to legitimise, in this case, a military rebellion and shocking violence behind the lines. Nationalist propaganda such as Queipo’s, which arrogated the right to define Spanish identity, helped lay the ideological foundations for exclusionary and repressive practices for decades to come.

Joel Baker is currently studying an MA in Historical Research at the University of Sheffield, where he will be conducting PhD research on public works and welfarism in Spain under the Primo de Rivera dictatorship (1923-1930) from September 2017. He previously graduated with a BA in Modern Languages (Spanish, Dutch, French) from the same University in 2014, and has also worked as a translator at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He tweets on and off at @joelrbaker.

[i] See Paul Preston, The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain (London, 2012), pp. 131-178.

[ii] Alan Davies, ‘The First Radio War: Broadcasting in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 19.4 (1999), p. 474.

[iii] Domingo Pérez Morán, ¡A estos, que los fusilen al amanecer! (Madrid, 1973), pp. 36, 45, 47, 163-164, 189-190.

[iv] ‘… no obstante su condición de extranjeros, tienen mucho más amor a España que toda la canalla marxista, y dan su vida por nosotros antes de pasarse a esa chusma.’ La Unión de Sevilla, 25/08/1936, pp. 9-10. Translations are my own.

[v] ‘… muchísimos de ellos son mucho más españoles a corazón que toda la canalla marxista junta; […] son incapaces de hacer traición a España, y […] si quisiéramos sacar de Marruecos hasta el último soldado, lo guardarían ellos solos, con ejemplar fidelidad.’ La Unión de Sevilla, 28/08/1936, pp. 9-10.

[vi] ‘Una victoria socialista tiene el valor de invasión extranjera […] porque las esencias del socialismo, de arriba abajo, contradicen el espíritu permanente de España.’ Quoted in Sheelagh Ellwood, Historia de Falange Española, trans. Antonio Desmonts (Barcelona, 2001). p. 57.

[vii] ‘Yo no puedo llamar cobardes a los catalanes, porque son españoles, y todo español digno no puede ser cobarde. Conste, pues, que si eso dije, era refiriéndome a los cobardes que en Cataluña sirven al marxismo …’ La Unión de Sevilla, 24/08/1936, pp. 5-7.

[viii] See, for example, David Welch and Jo Fox (eds), Justifying War: Propaganda, Politics and the Modern Age (New York, 2012).

A Bulwark Made of Words: the Francoist Press during the Second World War

By Miguel Rivas Venegas

In the opinion of Sir Samuel Hoare, British Ambassador in Spain, the Spanish press from the 1940s was a toy in the hands of the Third Reich’s Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels. Newspapers were full of terminology described by the researcher Luis Veres as the ‘lexical arsenals’ of authoritarian regimes, and were as Hoare underlined, ‘literally illegible’.[1] The American ambassador, Alexander Weddel, who would accuse the Home Minister, Ramón Serrano Suñer, of organizing a propaganda campaign coordinated by Nazi agitators, shared the opinion of the British diplomat in Spain.

According to Weddel, the German Press Attaché was indeed behind many of the articles and editorials of the Falangist newspaper Arriba, which were ‘clearly translated from another language’. Stanley Payne also discussed translations in reference to the early fascist newspaper El Fascio,[2] promoted by the J.O.N.S member,[3] José María Alfaro, close collaborator of the German Press Attaché Hans Lazar.[4]  Research on Jonsist language reveals possible translations and adaptations of the ‘Lingua Tertii Imperii’ within the language and rhetoric of Spanish Jonsists, Falangists and Francoist propagandists of the late 1930s and 1940s.[5]

captura-de-pantalla-2016-11-23-a-las-11-02-19
Report in Spanish newspaper, ABC, on Hitler’s activities in Berlin. Source: ABC (Sevilla), 9/4/1943

The enormous power of journalists and Spanish correspondents in Germany under the command of Hans Lazar, as well as the influence of the media in general should not be underestimated. As Weddel would claim, a systematic, coordinated press could be enough to drag the exhausted masses of Spain into a ‘new battle of the same war’ –asserted Franco– against the enemies of the Fatherland.

Spain was represented by the Spanish Caudillo, German propaganda, and General Moscardó (who was in charge of the Deutsch-Spanische Geschellschaft),[6] as the first front of the crusade against bolshevism and its ‘allies’. The press should be, as Home Secretary Serrano Suñer claimed in 1940, ‘Military column, militia, and fundamental backup to the State’.[7] As stated in one Diario Norte article signed by the National-Socialist press agency Arco-SPES, the journalist should become a soldier,[8] and get rid of his civilian clothes. Discipline under a strict chain of command included linguistic discipline:[9] dilettantes or propagandistic improvisation could be more dangerous than enemy counter-propaganda. Arsenals of words, or, ‘purr’ and ‘snarl words’, as Hayakawa would categorize certain political vocabulary,[10] should be cautiously and meticulously chosen.

The so-called ‘New Spain’ needed its journalists on the front lines of combat. Germany would be the best example of the strong power of persuasion of media under a rigid, sophisticated and, according to General Director of Propaganda Dionisio Ridruejo, ‘perverse’ control of the State.[11] Spanish news correspondents were positioned in many European countries, another one of the Generals’ weapons since the First World War.[12]

At first glance, Spanish newspapers showed not only a non-belligerent attitude towards the political and imperialistic aspirations of the Axis, but clear support of their propaganda and propagandistic language. Information relating to Japanese expansionism presented to Spanish readers in the newspaper ABC was similar to the allusions that appeared in Arriba or Levante, in which German imperialism and the offensive against Poland was described as a ‘vital necessity’, clearly supporting the hitlerian principle of Lebensraum. According to these newspapers, the egoism, incompetence, and lack of empathy of the so-called decadent democracies provoked the German reaction and made any pacific solution to the conflict impossible. The newspaper El Norte de Castilla would affirm that German troops were obligated to penetrate the Polish territory, as the Poles rejected any pacific alternative.[13]

Miguel-Rivas-pic-2.png
The Falangist daily, Arriba, delivers Hitler’s speeches to a Spanish audience. Source: Arriba, 31/1/1941

Germany was pictured as a proud nation reacting to the constant provocations and warlike offenses of those ‘false democracies’ that according to Franco ‘did not want peace in Spain’. [14] Salvador Merino, Head of the Falangist Trade Unions, would talk about an ‘obliged war’, a defensive war, of Germany against its offenders. The opinion of the prominent Falangist appears in the Pueblo newspaper right after one of his ‘formative trips’ to National-Socialist Germany.[15] According to his own description of these visits, he contacted prominent Nazi leaders and studied (and in many senses reproduced) the structure of the German Labour Front.

The same subjective, laconic, imprecise and propagandistic description can be found in El Alcázar referring to the German offensive in Norway.[16] The position of certain Catholic newspapers towards Nazi racial measures in occupied territories can be easily perceived in the pages of El correo de Andalucía. They exhale the same anti-Semitism found in the pages of Onesimo Redondo´s Libertad:

‘When going down Nawrek Street the citizen formation decreases and changes, turning, degenerating into filthy residences corresponding to the Jewish suburbs. Even the three-floor buildings look nauseating and disgusting. The “doroskas” stroll around streets full of dirty and ragged kids. The Jewish caftan stands out over any other clothing and the beards are legion as the fear of an epidemic disease’.[17]

The Spanish press commonly pointed towards ‘British egoism’, which was described constantly in ABC. The origin of the Japanese occupations was, according to this newspaper, an ‘obliged’ defence against the British manoeuvres:

The fight of Japan against the Anglo-Saxon powers is a transposition of the social war on the international scene (…) the Japanese archipelago is too small for it’s almost one hundred million inhabitants (…) if the Anglo-Saxons would have understood the vital necessities of the Japanese people, the actual conflict could have been avoided.[18]

The first Press Office Director and member of the Office of Press and Propaganda, journalist, and correspondent Luis Antonio Bolín considered, at the beginning of the conflict, that the war should be won by force of arms. Maybe his early contacts with non-Spanish journalists and propagandists in Salamanca changed his mind. Propaganda and the press were, as Bernays claimed in 1928,[19] a fundamental tool in modern times. Weapons were not enough. A bulwark of words, also serving the propagandistic goals of National-socialist propaganda in Spain, was successfully built in the newly-born ‘España Nacional’.

Miguel Rivas Venegas is a second year PhD student in the deparment of Art History and Theory of the Autónoma University (UAM) in Madrid, where he forms part of the research group  ‘Artistic and Audiovisual Cultures in the Contemporary World’. Miguel currently lives in Berlin, where he has spent time as a scholar at the Humboldt University. His PhD research investigates the similarities and differences between the totalitarian language of Nazi Germany, and that of Francoist Spain. 

[1] Ingrid Schulze Schneider, ‘Éxitos y fracasos de la propaganda alemana en España: 1939-1944’. Melanges de la Casa de Velázquez 31-3, (1995), pp. 197-217.

[2] Stanley Payne, Falange. A History of Spanish Fascism (Stanford University Press, 1961), p. 31.

[3] The Juntas Ofensivas Nacional Sindicalistas was the first relevant political movement in Spain.

[4] Schulze Schneider, ‘Éxitos y fracasos’, p. 200.

[5] The German philologist Viktor Klemperer defined the particular use of language and rhetoric of the Third Reich as “Lingua Tertii Imperii”. See Viktor Klemperer, LTI. Notizbuch eines Philologen (Berlin, Aufbau,1947).

[6] Speech by General Moscardó, president of the German-Spanish Society- Quoted in El Alcázar, 6 August 1941.

[7] Speech by Serrano Suñer to the journalists of Valencia. As quoted in Informaciones, 24th April,1940.

[8] ‘La prensa en la guerra’ Norte. Diario de Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las J.O.N.S., 27th February 1940.

[9] The propagandistic possibilities of the press, particularly during armed conflicts, had been obvious to German propagandists since the First World War. For more information, see Almut Lindner-Wirsching,‘Patrioten im Pool. Deutsche und französische Kriegsberichtestatter im Ersten Weltkrieg‘ in Ute, D. (Ed.) Augenzeugen. Kriegsberichterstattung von 18. Zum 21. Jahrhundert (Göttingen, 2006).

[10] S. I. Hayakawa, Language in thought and action (Orlando, A Harvest/ HBJ Original, 1990 [1939]).

[11] Francisco Sevillano Calero, ‘La estructura de la prensa diaria en España durante el franquismo” Investigaciones históricas: Época moderna y contemporánea, ISSN 0210-9425, Nº 17, 1997, p. 316.

[12] Reinhard Stauber, ‘War and public Sphere. European examples from the Seven Years´ War to the World War I.’ in Seethaler, J., Karmasin, M., et al., Selling war. The role of Mass Media in Hostile Conflicts. From World War I to the “War on Terror”. p. 28.

[13] Appeared in the newspaper El Norte de Castilla. Quoted in Virginia Martín Jiménez, ‘La prensa vallisoletana ante el final de la Segunda Guerra Mundial’, in Pena, Alberto (ed.), Comunicación y guerra en la historia, pp. 343-344.

[14] Paul Preston, Franco (1995), p. 415.

[15] ‘La estancia del Delegado Nacional de Sindicatos en Alemania’. Appeared in Pueblo. Diario del trabajo nacional. 5th of May,1941.

[16] The Carlist newspaper would briefly refer to that 1 September ‘in which the democratic powers declared war on the Third Reich (…) on the triumphal Germany (…) that possessed the moral of victory’. In ‘En vísperas de las grandes batallas’, El Alcázar, 10 May 1940.

[17] ‘La paz  no depende de Alemania’, El correo de Andalucía, 11 October 1939.

[18] ‘Los japoneses han ocupado la capital de Tailandia.’ ABC, 10 December 1941.

[19] Edward Bernays, Propaganda. (Brooklyn, 2005 [1928]), p. 54.

Max Nordau’s pre-Fascist Discourse of ‘Degenerate’ Art and the Authority of Scientific Language

by Charlotte Armstrong

The notion of ‘degeneracy’ in music has often been associated with Adolf Ziegler and the Nazi Party’s attempts to galvanise public hatred of music deemed ‘un-German’ at the Degenerate Art Exhibit in 1938. However, in an interview for the documentary Forbidden Sounds: Composers in Exile, Hans Ulrich Engelmann said:

‘It is not Hitler’s or Goebbels’ fault that after 1945 the appreciation of contemporary music did not increase much […] the word ‘degenerate’ is still used by the older generation, especially in Germany. But I must emphasize, we don’t get much further if we believe that it is purely a legacy of the Nazis. The Nazis simply picked up on it.’[1]

Indeed, whilst the classification of certain art as ‘degenerate’ is almost exclusively associated with the Third Reich, discourses of degeneration in fact emerged within mid-19th century scientific contexts, and were translated into artistic critique as early as the 1890s. Such discourses  condemned artists and artworks deemed to pose a threat to ‘healthy’ aspects of society, due in part to the contamination of the artist by negative aspects of modernity.

Perhaps the most influential of these works was written by the physician Max Nordau in 1892. Degeneration, or ‘Entartung’, ­drew its conclusions on degeneracy in the arts from the

max_nordau
Max Nordau. Source: Wikicommons

bio-medical foundations of degeneration theory, and utilised the language of science and medicine to associate certain artworks with the idea of ‘sickness’.

As a physician, Nordau believed that it was his duty to undertake the ‘long and sorrowful wandering through the hospital’ of European culture, and to diagnose the ‘severe mental epidemic’ of the contemporary arts.[2] Suggesting that ‘we now stand in the midst of a severe mental epidemic; of a sort of black death of degeneration and hysteria’, he lamented that civilised society was growing ‘fatigued and exhausted, and this fatigue and exhaustion showed themselves in the first generation, under the form of acquired hysteria; in the second, as hereditary hysteria’.[3]

For those who theorised artistic degeneration, the legitimacy of medical expertise enabled them to make claims about society that were crafted from medical language. By adopting the biological language of disease, Nordau was able to harness the authority of science in his attempt to prove that the cultural avant-garde was an atavistic and regressive influence on the masses.

During the nineteenth century, doctors were regarded as forward-thinking men of reason and science, and were characterised by their specialised knowledge and commitment to serving others. As such, Entartung spoke largely to a public who would eagerly accept a scientific validation of their growing anxieties and prejudices.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, physicians became accustomed to methodically describing diseases, thus developing an esoteric medical language which was utilised and shared amongst other doctors to classify and treat disease. The development of complex medical language began to elude patients, thus placing the doctor in a position of power

entartete_musik_poster
Poster for the ‘Degenerate Art’ Exhibition, Dusseldorf, 1938. Source: Wikicommons (Reproduced under the Fair Use Rational for the purposes of critical commentary)

and trust.

Foucault has considered the doctors’ associated power of ‘governance’ over their patients.[4] The innate authority of doctors helps to explain Nordau’s use of medical terminology: his reliance upon the works of notable exponents of socio-biological degeneration theory highlights his attempts to measure subjective, artistic value by using an objective, scientific paradigm. As such, Entartung spoke largely to a public who would eagerly accept scientific validation of their growing anxieties and prejudices.

Degeneration warns against the infectiousness of degenerate art and literature, but for the author, music is perhaps the most noxious of all. The distinct approach to artistic criticism conceived by Nordau in his Entartung became increasingly adopted in music criticism following the publication of the work.

In 1912, the Austrian composer and conductor Felix Weingartner suggested that ‘in general terms something is wrong and somewhere things are rotten in the development of music today […] music must become healthy again’.[5]

The notion of degeneracy had begun to appear in German music criticism from the closing years of the 19th century, and continued to be a prevalent theme in the years leading up to

richardwagner
Richard Wagner. Source: Wikicommons

the Second World War. The fact that musical ‘sickness’ became an increasingly popular concept around this time was due – at least in part – to the influence of works that engaged with the concepts of decadent and degenerate art.

Alongside the growing prevalence of ideas about the dangers of ‘diseased’ music, the insidious nature of Nordau’s rhetoric is evidenced in the adoption of the notion of degenerate art by the Nazis.

The Nazi Party would not acknowledge Nordau, perhaps because of his Jewish heritage and his role as a Zionist activist, or even conceivably because of his derision of Wagner and Nietzsche. Nonetheless, the value they awarded to German artworks that celebrated the ‘blood and soil’ ideology echoed Nordau’s derision of late 19th-century decadent culture. It certainly seems likely that, as Richard Taruskin wittily imagines, ‘many copies of Dr Nordau’s Entartung must have fed Dr Goebbels’s bonfires even as the book’s theses were being oh-so-selectively appropriated to fuel the latter’s propaganda mill’.[6]

Charlotte Armstrong is a PhD student in the Department of Music at the University of York. Her research takes place at the intersection between opera studies, disability studies, and the history of science and medicine. In her thesis she considers early-twentieth-century discourses of disability, disease, and degeneration, and their relationship to the presence of a ‘degenerate condition’ in Franz Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten and Alexander Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg, with a particular focus on the representation of physical disability in these operas. You can find her on Twitter: @CharlotteArms

References

[1] Verbotene KLÄNGE: Komponisten im Exil, directed by Norbert Bunge and Christina Fischer-Defoy (Vienna: Winklerfilm, 2004), DVD.

[2] Max Nordau, Degeneration, (London: William Heinemann, 1895), 537-538.

[3] Nordau, Degeneration, 40.

[4] See Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), 159-198 and Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception, trans. A. M. Sheridan (London: Routledge, 2003), 8-9.

[5] Felix Weingartner, “Zurück zu Mozart?” in Akkorde: Gesammelte Aufsatze (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Hartel, 1912), 108-112, quoted in Leon Botstein, “Nineteenth-Century Mozart: The Fin-De-Siècle Mozart Revival” in On Mozart, ed. James M. Morris (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 204.

[6] Richard Taruskin, ‘The Golden Age of Kitsch’ in The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays, ed. Richard Taruskin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 243.

Full Image Attributions:

Image 1: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image 2: via Wikimedia Commons, reproduced under fair use rationale

Image 3: Franz Hanfstaengl [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Language of Authoritarian Internationalism

by David Brydan

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed a rapid increase in international cooperation between scientists, experts, intellectuals, activists and other groups. These developments were prompted both by improvements to travel and communication technologies, and by the belief that international cooperation was required to deal with the political and technical challenges posed by an increasingly interconnected world.

The language of ‘internationalism’ quickly became associated with liberal idealists, or with the emerging socialist and communist movements, envisaging either a world united by free trade and political liberty, or by working class solidarity. International cooperation, however, was not confined to liberals and socialists.

Many experts involved in international technical cooperation belonged to the authoritarian right. Radical nationalists and fascist movements aped their political opponents by promoting international cooperation between authoritarian movements and states. Mussolini’s Italy aimed to forge an international fascist movement under the umbrella of the CAUR (Comitati d’Azione per l’Universalita di Roma). Nazi Germany later took up a similar initiative, attempting to unite Axis and Axis-aligned states during the Second World War within the Anti-Comintern Pact and the ‘New Europe’.[1]

These efforts, however, faced a common problem: how to talk about international cooperation without adopting the language of liberal or socialist internationalism, particularly without recourse to the familiar internationalist language of peace, freedom, tolerance and equality?

During my own research into the international activities of doctors and medical scientists in Franco’s Spain, I found almost no cases of Francoist experts using the terms ‘internationalism’ or ‘internationalist’. This was due to the unacceptable political connotations of such terms, despite the fact that many of those experts worked with organisations such as the League of Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the WHO.

How, then, did Francoists talk about international cooperation? For Spain, during the early years of the Second World War, the ‘international’ primarily meant Nazi Germany and its allies within the ‘New Europe’.

Francoist scientists, intellectuals and politicians were involved in a wide range of events, networks and organisations convened by Nazi Germany, in fields ranging from health and youth politics, to literature and folk dancing. Many of these initiatives were labelled as ‘international’, such as the International Women’s Meeting held in 1942.[2] Other initiatives, perhaps more accurately, were described as ‘European’, as with the European Writers’ Union formed in the same year.[3] This reflected Nazi efforts to promote the war as a defence of a shared ‘European civilization’ against the threat of Bolshevism.

picture1
Leaders of the Wartime International Association Against Tuberculosis

Like their liberal counterparts, fascist internationalists justified the need for international cooperation on practical grounds. Speaking at the first meeting of the International Association Against Tuberculosis in 1941, Reich Health Minister Leonardo Conti argued that, because the increasing levels of cross-border movement caused by the war were helping to spread the disease, it ‘also has to be countered with international measures.’[4]

Though he admitted that ‘international cooperation is not easy’, he argued that the countries in attendance formed a ‘bloc with a unified destiny’ forged by their experience of the war.[5] His arguments were reflected in many of the other international events held under the auspices of the ‘New Europe’, whose participants were keen to distinguish themselves from pre-war ‘Anglo-American’ forms of internationalism.

Instead of the ineffective pre-war international cooperation which had undermined national sovereignty and national identity, they saw themselves as the founders of a new, more dynamic and modern form of cooperation between nationally-conscious individuals and groups, more aligned to the political realities of the ‘totalitarian’ era.[6]

picture2
El Instituto de Cultura Hispánica

This vision had lost much of its credibility long before the final Nazi defeat in 1945. After the war, Franco’s Spain was excluded from the newly-constructed UN system, and Francoists therefore had to search for new international networks and patterns of international cooperation. Many turned their attention towards Latin America, hoping to position Spain at the head of an informal community of nations bound by ties of Hispanidad, or what was often referred to as ‘Hispano-American brotherhood’. As with the ‘New Europe’, this vision rejected the theoretical universalism of liberal and socialist internationalism.

The outlook, ideology and discourse of the Franco regime rested heavily on its claim to represent Spain’s imperial past and lost ‘Golden Age’. The idea of Hispanidad thus represented an attempt to build modern structures of international cooperation rooted in a hierarchical imperial mythology. This model of neo-imperial internationalism, however, depended on vastly overoptimistic assumptions about the willingness of Latin American states to align themselves with Franco’s Spain.

It was Spain’s Catholic intellectuals and politicians who were most willing to engage with the post-war international system emerging around the UN. Some went so far as to participate in debates about post-war internationalism and human rights with their counterparts abroad, although they did not do so uncritically. The majority, however, saw liberal internationalism as both a pale imitation and a corruption of Catholic ‘universalism’.

As the Basque intellectual Carlos Santamaría argued, it was the world’s Catholics who were

picture3
Carlos Santamaría

‘best prepared for international collaboration’, and it was their duty not just to participate in the work of secular international organisations, but to unite within Catholic international bodies to provide a counterpoint to the materialism which dominated the modern world.[7]

Spanish Catholics thus built strong ties with international Catholic organisations and networks during Spain’s period of post-war diplomatic isolation, but struggled to reconcile the authoritarian clericalism of the Franco regime with the post-war Christian Democracy which came to dominate western Europe.

Yet even among Catholics there remained a sense that international cooperation was not a desirable goal in itself, but a necessary response to scientific developments and international ideological threats. The Chilean nurse, Veronica de la Fuente, told a gathering of Spanish Catholic nurses in 1950:

‘Evil is uniting to build its forces and to triumph. We live in the century of ‘Popular Fronts’, of Syndicates, Cooperativism, Leagues, Federations, etc. … In the face of this global spectacle, what do Christians do?… Beneath the standard of the faith and the flag of the ecclesiastical hierarchy we must unite in societies, groups, brotherhoods or whatever we wish to call them; but to band together, never alone nor dispersed, because that way we lose both time and strength.’[8]

It was this sense of global threat which underpinned the internationalism of mid-twentieth century nationalists, both in Spain and abroad. Cooperation between fascists and the authoritarian right was necessary precisely to counter the threat posed by the internationalism of their ideological enemies. Theirs was thus an ‘anti-’ internationalism: anti-communist, anti-liberal, and anti-cosmopolitan. The contradictions, tensions and linguistic contortions which surrounded such efforts reflected a fundamental ambivalence about the idea of international cooperation in and of itself.

David Brydan is a researcher at Birkbeck and a member of the Reluctant Internationalists project. He recently completed a PhD on the history of international health in Franco’s Spain. Find him on twitter at @davidbrydan.

References

[1] Arnd Bauerkämper, ‘Interwar Fascism in Europe and Beyond: Toward a Transnational Radical Right’, in Martin Durham and Margaret Power (eds.), New Perspectives on the Transnational Right (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 39-66.

[2] Elizabeth Harvey, ‘International Networks and Cross-Border Cooperation: National Socialist Women and the Vision of a ‘New Order’in Europe’, Politics, Religion & Ideology, 13 (2012), 141-58.

[3] Benjamin George Martin, ‘”European Literature” in the Nazi New Order: The Cultural Politics of the European Writer’s Union, 1942-3’, Journal of Contemporary History, 48 (2013), 486-508.

[4] ‘La fondazione dell’Associazione Internazionale contro la Tubercolosi’, Lotta Contro La Tubercuolosi , anno XIII, 3 (1942), 240-241.

[5] Ibid.

[6] David Brydan, ‘Axis Internationalism: Spanish Health Experts and the Nazi ‘New Europe’, 1939-1945′, Contemporary European History, 25 (2016), 291-311.

[7] Carlos Santamaría, ‘Notas para un dialogo’, Documentos: Conversaciones Católicas Internacionales, vol. 3 (1949), 90.

[8] Cuarta Asamblea de la Hermandad de Enfermeras y Asistencia Medico-Social “Salus Infirmorum” (Madrid: Publicaciones “Al Servicio de España y del Niño Español”, 1950), 29-30.

Full Image Attributions

Image 1: ‘La fondazione dell’Associazione Internazionale contro la Tubercolosi’, Lotta Contro La Tubercuolosi , anno XIII, 3 (1942), 238.

Image 2: El Instituto de Cultura Hispánica: Al Servicio de Iberoamerica (Madrid: Instituto de Cultura Hispanica, 1953)

Image 3: Archives of the Asociación Católica de Propagandistas