• Steven Heller

Spanish Fascists Were As Bad As Any Fascists

On July 18, 1936, Francisco Franco announced a military rebellion against the Spanish republic. After landing in Spain, Franco and his army marched toward Madrid. He became head of the rebel Nationalist government on October 1 but did not gain complete control of the country for more than three years. Spain’s fascists were as repressive as any fascists, only they lasted longer in power.

During its civil war, Spain’s Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista, or Falangism, founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera, was a fascist ideology, which, along with the Carlist nationalist party, merged into the Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista (J.O.N.S) and adopted the yoke and arrows symbol. It was Spain’s equivalent of Germany’s swastika.

It had geometrical simplicity, warlike symbolism and an historical backstory, representing the union of the five kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Granada and Navarre, and both national unity and the glories of the period of Ferdinand and Isabella. The party and later the government was headed by Francisco Franco, who nonetheless diluted the radical elements of emerging European fascism and forged an authoritarian ideology. Although ties existed between Hitler’s Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists, Franco’s rule (from 1936 to 1975, the longest 20th century fascist regime) avoided the same fate—he kept out of World War II and was not a target of the Allies.

Yet like all totalitarian regimes, Franco’s government used propaganda weapons on its people. Posters, books and magazines were visible to young and old, literate and illiterate. HAZ, the Sindicato Español Universitario (SEU) magazine, is poorly printed in black and blue (the color of the original Falangist shirt) but it contains many of the symbols that continued to brand Franco’s regime until the end. De Rivera’s sister (pictured on a page below) was an icon of the movement. Years after the dictator’s death in 1975, the law of October 2007 mandated removal of all remaining symbols from public buildings, with some exceptions for works of particular religious or artistic significance.