I only write letters to the editors of publications very rarely, but the Catholic Herald was decent enough to publish a missive I sent defending Franco as the lead Letter to the Editor in this week’s edition. Readers of the Times Literary Supplement will recall seeing a brief note from me on the subject of Wodehouse & banking published in that weekly’s letters page a few months ago.
30 January 2009
From Mr Andrew Cusack
SIR – David Barrett (Letter, January 23) is certainly right that atrocities were committed by both sides in the Spanish Civil War, but is wrong to deny the Church’s debt to Franco. Mr Barrett claims that the presence of Communists in local government in France is proof that they were no threat to civilisation, but he must certainly recognise a vast difference between being in control of rubbish collection and street naming and being in control of the entire vast apparatus of a nation.
According to Mr Barrett, Franco “was an ally of Hitler and Mussolini” but while these two leaders did give the Nationalist forces tremendous aid and support during the Civil War, they received very little in return for their trouble. At the end of the traumatic struggle, Franco held a Te Deum at the Church of St Barbara in Madrid, giving thanks to God for the victory. He laid his sword upon the altar and vowed never to take it up again unless Spain was threatened with invasion. Thus Franco refused to declare war on France and Britain (the two countries whose arms embargo against him during the Civil War in fact forced him to accept Hitler and Mussolini’s help) because the two powers obviously bore no warlike intent against neutral Spain. Mr Barrett rightly asks: “How was an actual Fascist dictatorship any better than a possible Communist dictatorship?”
To begin, Franco’s dictatorship was not actually Fascist, but rather of an authoritarian reactionary sentiment. Franco only ever attended a single national mass meeting of the Falange and many of the proper Spanish Fascists (such as the Fuerza Nueva) thought very poorly of Franco’s regime.
Secondly, the Communist dictatorship was not merely possible, but very real. The areas of Spain which fell under Communist control were places of brutal repression, not only of the Catholics who rightly opposed Communist power, but even of the Communists’ fellow travellers: the anarchists, Marxists, Trotskyites and other Leftists. Under the Communists 12 per cent of Spain’s clergy were martyred – the Diocese of Barbastro alone lost 85 per cent of its priests. Over 20,000 churches and chapels were damaged or destroyed, and in Barcelona every single Catholic altar was desecrated. Compare this with the quite broad freedom (and patronage) the Church enjoyed under Franco – one archbishop repeatedly attacked him from the pulpit with no interference.
Given the choice between the total physical destruction of the Church in Spain and a dictatorial regime in which the Church’s freedom was guaranteed, I am sure we must join with Mr Dytor in admitting that “we all owe Franco a huge debt of gratitude”.
University of Stellenbosch,