Grandizo Munis

Franco’s Dilemma

(February 1941)

From Fourth International, Vol.2 No.3 (Whole No.10), March 1941, pp.69-71.
Translated by Bernard Ross.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In a preceding article on Spain [1], written before the capitulation of France, we maintained that Franco would be compelled to restrain his pro-German sympathies and pursue a foreign policy commercially favorable to the democracies. Hitler’s victory over France, which gave him a zone of contact with Spain on the Pyrenees frontier has altered matters somewhat but, contradictory as it may appear, it has excessively injured Franco, still further compromising the stability of his regime. The Caudillo must bitterly curse fate for the little resistance put up by France, because the constant danger of a Nazi invasion on the northern frontier limits the liberty of his foreign policy. If before he was a friend and debtor to Hitler, today he is virtually his prisoner. Gradually, or by force, and whenever the Fuehrer desires, his Spanish imitation will have to cede the use of the Mediterranean and Atlantic ports (Mahon, Cartagena, Ferrol, Cadiz, Melilla) and give him the facilities to try to destroy the Rock of Gibraltar; perhaps by dragging Spain into the war or allowing the passage of German troops. English naval superiority will be maintained in the Mediterranean so long as Britain controls the key to the Straits, Gibraltar. The latter is practically invulnerable except from Spain and her Moroccan protectorate.

There are two reasons why Hitler has not yet made use of Spanish terrain and Franco’s servility to destroy Gibraltar. He expected to conquer England spectacularly by means of a frontal attack and, secondly, Franco’s internal security is so fragile that to force him into the war could provoke an eruption. The first of these reasons becomes less and less valid; the second, on the contrary, gains strength daily.

Mass Hatred of Franco

Franco governs in the midst of a gigantic passive resistance by the workers and peasants. A great part of the petty and some circles of the big bourgeoisie, as well as numerous officers, are also to some degree or other hostile to him, but the fear of revolutionary consequences which might follow Franco’s fall, restrains them from struggling against the latter and the Falanga Española.

The majority of the population in the Iberian peninsula, more so than even among the Spanish emigration, live under the impression that there will soon be a change in regime. A letter recently received from a city of Old Castille relates: “Situation cloudy; overcast; tempest expected.” Another from Madrid written by one of those individuals who received the conquerer with palm leaves, mournfully says: “Here nobody knows from where the shot will come, but the whole world believes that you will return soon (the refugees); I hope that you have not included me in your blacklist.” Still further strengthening this report illustrating the general aversion to fascism, a fugitive who recently arrived in Mexico from Barcelona refers to what happened during a military parade organized in Barcelona to commemorate the taking of the city by the fascist troops. Many regiments and uniformed Falangist companies were parading. At the end of the line marched a brigade of workers made up, as all of them are, of Loyalist ex-militiamen compelled to do forced labor. The outburst of cheers were so general and prolonged when the latter passed by that the authorities had to remove them from the parade. These anecdotes are confirmed by the Falangist press. Not a week passes without it threatening the dissatisfied and rumor-mongers, admitting that the very ranks of the Falange Española are plagued with “reds and concealed enemies of the fatherland.” The political joke, a weapon which the Spanish people have used with merriment and well-aimed irony, blossoms again. All Spain is overflowing with an endless stream of stories against the regime and its men. Recalling Primo de Rivera whose fall was preceded by a wave of laughter, the Falangist press demands especially strong legislation against jokes. The Spanish people do not eat but they laugh their fill at their rulers; within a short time they will be forbidden to laugh.

The growing instability of Franco grows with the war. Hitler and Mussolini cannot give him anything; they can take away much. The problem of provisions, far from being resolved, is aggravated daily. If Hitler were not on the frontier like a gendarme, Franco would be able to pursue a relatively free foreign policy which would permit him to obtain provisions from the British Empire, the United States and the countries where Wall Street gives orders. The universal discontent arises precisely from the fact that not even the privileged classes for whom Franco rebelled are satisfied. They eliminated the “Marxists,” but the crisis gradually deepens, profits fall and bankruptcies multiply.

Worse than the present situation, the difficulty for Franco is to find a way out that might lead to improvement. The political tendencies of the Falange and the proximity of Hitler force him to tighten the alliance with the Axis. But pursuing that course, all the internal problems which nourish his instability will be aggravated. And if forced by his Italian and German cronies into the war, the edifice of the “new empire” would collapse, perhaps instantaneously, on his head. Franco would be able to find an immediate perspective for improvement in a friendly neutrality toward England and the United States, which would recompense him with loans and sufficient international exchange. Thus, there is no lack of will as far as Franco and the United States and England are concerned. The ambassadors of those two countries persistently exert themselves to make Franco a subject knight, similar to the late Metaxas. While Samuel Hoare, the new English ambassador, on arriving in Madrid, drinks a toast to the future greatness of the Spanish empire, hinting slyly of the restitution of Gibraltar, the American ambassador makes special donations to the Falange Española and delivers speeches praising its patriotism. A commercial accord which as far as we know here has not actually been put into effect has been signed between England and Spain.

Anglo-America’s Two-Way Prospective

In spite of their diplomatic acrobatics to ingratiate themselves into the good graces of the dictator, the Anglo-American bourgeoisie regards with distrust his secret commitments to the Axis. As a warning, the United States has made felt the weight of its economic pressure by refusing to grant a loan to Franco. But in order not to irritate Franco too much, Washington has at the same time allowed Argentina to give him a credit of 100 million pesos for the purchase of wheat. For her part, England regulates commercial relations with restrictions and measures of maritime inspection which would permit England to reduce Spanish imports to virtually nothing as soon as it would be in England’s interest to do so.

Politically, England pursues the same duality. On the one hand, soft words of endearment for the Falange Española, on the other, threats of a monarchist restoration. During the past few months, the English press defended the Spanish fascist party, as if it were its own, calling it a champion of peace and Spanish greatness. At the same time it encouraged the monarchical secret center, holding it in readiness for action. A few weeks ago there appeared in Mexico the Marquis of Castellano, representing, it appears, Alfonso and some generals who favor a Bourbon restoration. A secret accord, known as the “pact of Xochimilco,” was drawn up after conversations with refugee republican and socialist leaders. It is indubitable that without the approval of England none of these gentlemen would dare utter the word restoration. It is a political trick for England with which to attract Franco into her orbit. But England, as well as the United States, knows very well that Franco cannot march toward their camp beyond the point allowed by Hitler, unless the former decides to accept British aid and run the risk of confronting Hitler with arms. It is interesting to point out in this respect a book recently published in England: A Key to Victory: Spain, by Charles Duff. The author, a Fabian no doubt, pleads for democratic intervention in Spain, to be launched from Portugal.

For Franco (as well as the monarchy, if intervention will attempt to restore it), this remedy will be worse than the disease. But if from one angle or another its consummation will be impossible, nevertheless Duff hits the mark when he considers the strategic importance of Spain. The fear of an internal collapse is the only factor which has obliged the Axis to respect, until now, the neutrality of Spain. The defeats of Italy, diminishing the prestige of the dictators, demand rapid reparation. It is also necessary for the Axis to round out its dominion in Europe, to keep Stalin in the panic which retains him as an ally of Germany. The Axis will be able to attain that end only with great difficulty without Spain declaring war on England or, at least, conceding military bases capable of counteracting the strategic importance of Gibraltar and allowing it to be attacked. Mussolini and Franco are discussing this question while we are writing this article.

The consequences of any accord they reach will be to worsen Franco’s situation. The provisioning of the population and trade with England and the United States, indispensable to bolster the economy of the country, will become more and more difficult in proportion to the increase of Franco’s commitments to the Axis. If, on the contrary, resisting the requirements of the latter, Franco develops economic collaboration with the democracies, he exposes himself to a German invasion and, perhaps, as Duff proposes, the soil of Spain will become a theatre of war. In both cases, a black future for Franco and revolutionary perspectives for the Spanish proletariat. I affirm without doubt: Whatever position the Caudillo adopts, the fall of his regime will follow shortly after the last rifle shot, if not before. The tenacious resistance of the Spanish proletariat during the civil war so exhausted the bourgeoisie that, unless the objective international situation comes

to their aid, the Spanish masses will once again take the revolutionary initiative. In every sense, and together with France and Italy, Spain belongs to the number of European countries where the objective and subjective factors, slowly but surely, converge toward great revolutionary upheavals.

Mexico, February 10, 1941



1. Spain: One Year After Franco’s Victory, in the August 1940 Fourth International.


Last updated on 29.5.2005