There’s an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal which will raise hackles but probably reflects a fairly widely-held view at the moment. It says basically that “Generalísimo Zapatero”, hiding behind his electorate, has returned Spain to the lost years of the 40s, when the isolationism and anti-Americanism of the Franco administration ensured that Europe really did end at the Pyrenees. Piergiorgio Stiffoni, Italian senator for the Northern League (“Northern” relative to which galaxy?), made roughly the same accusation yesterday, and, with ERC, the Catalan separatists, calling the new Socialist defence minister a Falangist, things are probably going to heat up before they cool down.
Some things in the WSJ article are obviously ridiculous: Zapatero is an elected politician, while Franco never sought democratic legitimisation, and Spain now is a prosperous democracy, not the shadow that emerged in 1939 from a bloody civil war. However, since across the whole panoply of left-wing and regional nationalist/separatist politics people feel no shame in comparing ultra-democratic politicians like Aznar to Franco, it does seem fair to pose the question from another perspective.
I assume that La Vanguardia’s owners, if they chose, could have closed their business when Franco took power. They did not, and the paper served as one of the regime’s voices during the 40s and 50s. Here, for your information, are a couple of rapidly translated excerpts from the editorial published on May 8th 1945, a day of great joy for many other Europeans, but significant to some here for a meaner reason:
Neither inside nor outside Spain in there a single Spaniard, of any of the thousand ideologies, opinions or factional passions imaginable, who in the course of the five years and eight months that have passed since September 1st 1939 could reasonably have discounted the possibility, nay the probability, of our nation becoming implicated in the global war then unleashed. Spain’s seas and its intercontinental frontier with Europe shuddered on many critical occasions from the upheavals of change to the point of sinking the firm will to remain neutral of the Spanish who, with their Leader foremost, had placed themselves at the service of the historic, national Destiny of the hour.
[Various repetitive blather & shite, including a lovely line about holding in custody a civilisation common to all of Europe.]
But … our task today is not one of analysis but of synthesis. And the synthesis is this, dry, clear, incisive and irrefutable: Franco, from September 1st 1939, had no other notion of his mission al frente of Spain than to save us from the war [compare, however, Hitler’s Falangist bride]. All of his programme of government and of State, arduous, complex and profuse in terms of the need for domestic moral and material reconstruction, was subordinated to this objective, talking in military terms of preserving Spain from (the) war, maintaining it in a vigilant and generous neutrality, neither fearful nor egoistic. Did he succeed? The facts speak. Once more, Franco has delivered. Once more, Franco has saved Spain. [Omitted, some more plaza mayor rhetoric.] Franco’s victory …, because he has maintained Spain in peace, is unquestionable.
Some of the words remind one of contemporary motifs, but the context is just so different that it seems to me as foolish to compare Zapatero to Franco as it is to play that game with Aznar and the dead dictator. What really interests me is why the left here unanimously and invariably prefers to ally itself with the interests of fascist rulers like Saddam rather than risk being called imperialist by more-Leninist-than-thou colleagues. I just don’t get it.
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