Hero or villain?

© Godot13 Wikimedia
Valley of the Fallen

1936 saw the start of the bloody Spanish civil war which literally saw brother pitted against brother and allowed the Nazi war machine to test its air force in particular in anticipation of the blitzkrieg (lightning war) that it would unleash on Europe just three years later.

Following the great depression of the late 1920s, the 1930s were not good years and there was a rise to power of extremists on both the right and left of the political spectrum. On one side were Hitler and Mussolini who were to be joined, albeit in spirit by Franco and Stalin on the other and various leaders of other European countries with differing views in between.

The Spanish Civil War was never a really straightforward battle between good and evil or right and left. Franco was the youngest General in Spain and was horrified by the rise of the Republicans who removed the king and took little notice of the conservative church. 


Ironically, he ‘invaded’ Spain as part of a revolution to restore the monarchy and the church at the head of the ‘Army of Africa’ which included a large number of Moslems and of course, he took the title Regent to the King of Spain which he held until he appointed King Juan Carlos in 1975.

Hero or Villain, he did see an improvement in the Spanish economy and was shrewd enough to keep Spain out of the Second World War otherwise it too would have been occupied by the allies.

Francisco Franco was buried at the Valley of the Fallen, the memorial to the dead of both sides despite his wish to be buried in Madrid. He is the only person buried there who did not die in the civil war.


  1. Franco was a villain.

    Your article does not mention that the response to the Generals’ putsch in 1936 by the population at large, wherever they could was to resist military rule.

    In many parts of Spain they conducted a social revolution. This was driven by the anarchist syndicalist CNT, the largest labour organisation in the country. It’s very make-up demanded a social revolution as soon as possible. A civil war was not the time to run one successfully but, hey, what opportunities do you get? Catalunya and Aragon had all industry collectivised, and interpersonal relations took on a freedom only dreamt of before.

    Franco’s forces’ relentless advance killed off this great initiative. Long before the war ended.

    Of course from Franco’s point of view he had to crush the revolution. To him the CNT were “uncontrollables”.
    Historians now agree his aim was to keep the country backward, control industry to prevent labour organising effectively, enroll the priests to help keep the population poor and uncritical.

    I met one uncontrollable during the 1970s in London. Miguel Garcia Garcia spent 23 years as Franco’s prisoner, undermined his health of course, and could not sleep on a bed. Instead he had a door stretched out on a sofa to sleep on. Such a great man, pity it was not Franco who spent over two decades in jail!

  2. Dear Julian

    Thank you for taking the time to leave your detailed comments about the Franco story.

    The reason we chose the headline Hero or villain was because his memory is still loved or loathed across Spain and in the small amount of space we had available, we had to give a general overview of what led up to the civil war and his part in it.

    It does however leave the field free for any of our readers to indicate their opinion through this web site and we are delighted that you have chosen to ‘start the ball rolling’.

  3. An election took place and a leftist party was elected. The establishment said democracy is okay but only as long as you elect parties we want and who will look after our privileged interests. Hence Franco, paid to destroy democracy.

  4. Franco did a lot for Spain, in my opinion he felt he was protecting Spain… and his ideal of how it should be but he also prepared it for a monarch to return and for the opening up of tourism to hopefully help its economy! In Franco’s Spain graffiti and general crime didn’t really exist with streets being safe to walk at night when in the rest of Europe at the time things where becoming a mess, you just had to keep your nose clean and you would not have problems with anyone.

    Sometimes I see myself sitting back and looking at what modern politicians do and the so called democracy that allows them to do it, the death and destruction Blair caused for many people including to the British soldiers he sent to fight his war, the blind eye by Police to much crime because they have not the interest, time nor resources, the many people who are do not get treatment on the NHS because it does not have the resources, the continual crimes by the church towards children that never get punished or sorted out except for a few apologies being given. I think modern politicians actions have inflicted more despair and pain to people of this country and others than Franco ever did, at least Franco got up and did what he felt was right for Spain and its people, he didn’t hide behind lies and excuses as modern politicians do to do what they feel right for them and their party.

  5. To continue, not enough characters:

    What might be better, a life in a country where you always have to look over your back, need to take care walking the streets at night, where vandalism is on more streets than less, people living on the streets and in tents under bridges, as self employed need to work 60 hours a week to pay bills etc. or live in a country where there is no defacing of structures, no or very little vandalism, no fear in walking the streets, where the government kept check of who was in the country where you where not taxed so your money can be given to others who want it and some that don’t but are given it and all you have to do is do is abide by the law and not try and create trouble against the government. People talk about freedom and rights, they stood up and want freedom and rights, it started in the sixties and well over the years they have been given that so called freedom and rights and look what it has got them, less freedom than they have ever had and the people who have the rights are the people who shouldn’t have them!

    BTW, I have found it very strange that I never seem to have met anyone who was an adult in Franco’s days complain about him, all the complaints I have heard come from foreigners or people who where children or not even born when Franco was alive!

  6. We don’t have democracy on most countries. What we have in the West is the finest propaganda machine the world has ever seen – a right wing media owned by the very rich – which convinces most people to vote against their own interests. If hey don’t then we have another Franco imposed. It is mentioned that those who lived under him did not complain!. If hey did, they finished up in a grave yard.

  7. Well this is kind of what I was saying Peter, if you balance it up you can have a reasonably safe and peaceful life living under the dictators law if you respect their law and do not stand up against them or we can be in a society called democracy ‘but its a false democracy’ and say more of less what you want about the ruling person/people of the country but you can no longer be safe and the freedom you think you have you haven’t really got while many thousands suffer and die because of the so called democratic leaders actions and policies… while at the end of the day the country is in more of a mess than it would be under the dictator.

    I am talking about Franco here and Spain, other dictatorships might not be the same as I have no experiances of them.

  8. I am insufficiently informed to judge Franco, however I do recall that during the period when he was dying a British Film Star, called Stewart Granger, flew into U.K.
    Reporters gathered around him at the airport and asked. “Mr. Granger, tell us, what is it like living in a dictatorship?” He replied.. “I have a villa in Marbella. My cleaner comes in during my absence. She does not have a key because I never lock it. There is no need. Whereas my apartment in London is securly locked and I am back here now because my apartment has been broken into for the sixth time in as many months, Does that answer your question.?
    I relate this story so that those who are too young to remember, may compare the daily muggings, robberies and burglaries that prevail today.
    I think Churchill once said that he considered that the best kind of governance was a benign dictatorship.
    I’m just quoting. I do not mean to imply that Franco was benign.

  9. Franco’s Buddy, Adolph, is reported as saying, prior to WW2, Britain is run by a few Rich plutocrats for their own benefit. A lot has changed in Spain on that score since Franco’s demise, with the standard of living of the vast majority of Spaniards improving substantially every year – until recently – and we know who caused that. However, Britain has remained very much as Adolph described it. I admire the Spanish for creating a fairer society and seeing through the big con.

  10. Gosh I feel you are a little naive hear:
    The person who gave the Spanish a lot better standard of living was Zapatero but then the reason Spain is in the financial problems it is in now is a lot to do with him giving away all the money… to buy votes. Blair did the same in the UK, boosted welfare and handouts to get votes, he improved the standard of living but artificially! Also the standard of living in Spain has improved because of corruption and every Tom, Dick and Harry taking everything thats not theirs when they get access to it! Now if you consider that Spain has never had such an educated last generation as they have now and where are they, well most of them are working abroad because the Spanish government cannot generate work for them. 27% of people are unemployed… oh yes the standard of living is improving for the vast number of Spaniards, I am sur e there are a vast number of Spaniards that would disagree, except civil servants and politicians of course who have jobs for life in this democratic society.
    I should also draw it to your attention that currently the Spanish are not allowed to demonstrate in government areas in not in most places at all, also if you speak out or write something negative about the police or a politician then you can and probably will be fines if not sent top jail, this is now in 2015, in English it is related to as the Gag law, do a Google search on it so you can see who democratic and better off the people are here..

  11. Mike, Could people protest under Franco? They finished up in a secret graveyard if they did. Also, the financial downturn was not caused by Governments, but by the Bankers. Blaming Governments is a myth propagated by the Right Wing who own most of the media. The Bankers conned everyone, including governments, into believing they were creating lots of money, but the only real money was the pay and bonuses they pocketed. Ordinary folk and not them, now pay for all their lies. Like I said earlier, the majority of people are brainwashed by a media, owned by the rich into believing much of what you say.

  12. As far as being able to protest under Franco, no we all know you couldn’t but there is a law in Spain now that stops you from doing the same, they do not go out and kill you directly today but they will try their best to beat the **** out of you if you try, also the actions of modern politicians do kill people, just not for speaking out against them, they are a little more cunning. What I am saying there is more pain and suffering inflicted by modern day politicians but they do it in a different way but it is still a huge amount of pain and suffering that some dictators might have problems matching! Just because they go about it a different way doesn’t make it or them any better!

    Everyone keeps talking about bankers, the bankers where the problem this and that but it is the government, the politicians that control the laws that regulate them. If bankers where doing wrong it was because the politicians let them!


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