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Keith Kikuchi

Daniel Shimon

Tremper High School

Francisco Franco and the Spanish Nationalist Regime

25 October, 2009
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Francisco Franco, the authoritarian dictator of Spain, rose to power in the midst of a civil war

and emerged ruler of Spain. His rule is comparable to that of Mussolini, Hitler, and Big Brother.

Franco's persistent use and control of the media mirrors that of organizations like the Ministry of

Truth in the novel 1984 by George Orwell. Twisting myths and folklore, Franco established an

image of leadership among his people by creating an aura of power around himself. To cement

his rule, Franco won the support of his subjects by exploiting three ideas: anti-communism, anti-

Semitism, and the defense of Catholicism. Although not ranked among the great dictators,

Franco should still be recognized as the "Big Brother" of Spain.

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The Beginnings of a Tyrant

On the 4th of December, 1892, Francisco Franco Bahamonde was born in El Ferrol Spain. Born

into a military family, Franco set out to be a sailor in the Spanish Navy; Spain, however, had

reduced its navy, and therefore, Franco joined the army. In the early 1920's, Franco saw action

for the first time in the Rif War in Morocco. Serving in the Tercio de Extranjeros, the Spanish

Foreign Legion, Franco and his commanding officer encouraged the mutilation and execution of

prisoners. After gaining a reputation as a great leader and strategist, Franco rose through the

ranks of the Spanish Army. In 1926, Franco became Europe's youngest general (Simkin).

In 1931, five years after the war, King Alfonso XIII agreed to allow democratic elections.

The people voted unanimously for a republic, and the right-wing party or the Popular Front,

which is made up of socialists, communists, and republicans; seized control. The Popular Front,

fearing a military takeover, sent many of its high ranking generals out of the country, including

Franco. The Nationalists and the army, considered enemies of the Popular Front, planned a coup

d'état. The coup failed, and a civil war ensued, with many of the original coup members dead,

Franco assumed control of the Nationalist army. After many years of fighting, Franco dissolved

the Popular Front and became the military ruler of Spain also appointing himself as regent and

added in his title "by the grace of God" (Simkin).

Franco and 1984

Originally written in 1948, the novel 1984 by George Orwell is a handbook on how not to rule a

government. It depicts the worst form of government imaginable. Although not directly aimed at

Franco and his government, 1984 is a political satire on totalitarianism and democratic socialism.

One of Orwell's biggest influences came when he fought in the Spanish Civil War. Drawing

upon what he learned from the war, Orwell began to write 1984.
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The use of media

Franco emerged from a civil war and assumed total control and it is this rise to power that bears

a striking resemblance to how Big Brother came to be the ruler of Oceania. One of the ways

Franco controlled the people was through the media. During the civil war, José Antonio Primo

de Rivera, a member of the Nationalist movement and good friend of Franco, was executed by

the Popular Front. Mirroring Hitler and Big Brother, Franco had colossal posters of him and José

posted all over Spain along with the slogan, "One State! One Country! One Chief! Franco!

Franco! Franco!" (Simkin).

One of Franco's top priorities was substantial control of the media. This was to keep up his

mythical image among the unwavering populous. Much like the images of Big Brother, Franco

had posters of himself everywhere, telling all of Spain how great their leader is. The most

astonishing thing to his subjects was that their great leader rarely gave public appearances. From

an article found in the Salamanca Daily “People gaze upon him…but only in photographs. He is

a man who doesn’t appear in parades….He is felt, but not seen….Miracles evolve from his hours

of hermitic solitude…and labor” (Simkin).

Much like the Ministry of Truth in 1984, Franco censored all forms of media that depicted his

government in a negative way. In 1984, Watson, the main character, worked for the Ministry of

Truth. His job was to eradicate any form of media that was deemed unacceptable by Big Brother.

Manipulating Myths

Big Brother and Hitler both used pre-existing myths and beliefs to manipulate them for their own

purposes. A prime example is Hitler's belief in the pureness of the Arian race. Both men used
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myths to accumulate an aura of power and leadership around them. According to an article by

Carmen Ortiz (1999) ,Franco twisted the Spanish folklore by, "resorting to some supposedly

pristine, spiritual values of the Spanish people, as symbolized by the peasantry. Other uses of

folklore were the practical exploitation of models, symbols, and characters of traditional poetry

to present an epic image of Franco and his regime and the recourse to folk music presentations

abroad with diplomatic and propagandistic purposes."

Employment of Rhetoric by Franco

During his reign, Franco used three ideas: anti-communism, anti-Semitism, and the defense of

Catholicism to gain the support of the people. Before the civil war, the Popular Front consisted

of communists. After their defeat, Franco used the fear of communism to provide support for a

strong, military-based government. Much like other fascists at the time, Franco tied communism

to the Jews, providing a scapegoat for the civil war and further increasing the distrust in the

Jews. Lastly, Franco's mutual support of the Spanish Catholic Church was a decisive factor in his

quest for power. Spain has been a predominantly Catholic country for hundreds of years. So,

when Protestantism began to spread throughout Europe, the need to keep Catholicism the main

religion of Spain was of dire importance. With the church backing up Franco calling him a

"crusader in favor of the Catholic religion...", Franco used the church's influence to unify the

country under his authoritarian rule (U.M).

Franco's Last Years

After World War II, Franco ruled Spain until his death on the 20th of November, 1975. On his

deathbed, it was announced the Juan Carlos, the grandson of King Alfonso XIII, would succeed
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him. Within two years what was left of Franco's rule disappeared. Although not nearly as horrific

as dictators such as Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, and Big Brother; Franco should still be recognized

as a tyrant. Franco was a man obsessed about his public image. He controlled his subjects by

censoring the media to such a degree that his people saw him as the greatest leader. Not normally

recognized as a military dictator, Franco has faded from history as a tyrannical ruler. Therefore,

it should be that the world does not remember the "Big Brother" of Spain (Simkin).
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Francisco Franco. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved

October 25, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:


Fromm, E. (2003). 1984. Plume Books.

Ortiz, C. (1999). The Uses of folklore by the franco regime. INIST, Retrieved from


Simkin, J. (n.d.). Francisco franco. Retrieved from


University of Michigan. (n.d.). Fascist personality cults: francisco franco. Retrieved from


U.S. Library of Congress (n.d.). Franco's political system. Retrieved from

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