What if Franco had never rebelled?

Posts #26, 30 and 31 in this thread got me to thinking about a “What if?” The Spanish Civil War began in 1936 when General Francisco Franco led a rebellion against the elected “Popular Front” government (a coalition including various stripes of socialists and anarchists as well as Catalan nationalists). As the war developed, control of the government passed to the Communists, the party best situated to deal with the USSR, which was the only important foreign country that would provide the Republicans with military aid (Franco’s Nationalists were getting aid from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy). The Communists turned out to be rather conservative despite their avowed ideology – a grass-roots Anarchist-led Spanish Revolution (seizure of landlords’ estates by peasants, establishment of factories run by workers’ committees, etc.) in some regions of Spain didn’t last long before the state put it down. In the end, and after a lot of killing, Franco won, established himself as dictator, did some more killing, reversed everything the Popular Front government had done, and held on to absolute power until he died in 1975. At last report, he is still dead. :wink:

What if Franco had never rebelled? Would some other officer have done the same, or could the civil war have been avoided? And then what? Would there never have been a Spanish Revolution, however brief? Or would it have happened, and spread throughout the country? Would the Popular Front have been turned out that the next election or remained in power? How would this have affected WWII? (Franco kept Spain neutral during that war.)

Here’s a relevant essay by conservative Catholic intellectual and alternate-history fan John J. Reilly, but it’s about what would have happened if the Loyalists/Republicans won the Civil War. I’m asking a different question.

These [/url=http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0300011h.html#part16]essays by George Orwell (who fought as a volunteer on the Republican side) are worth a read, as is his classic Homage to Catalonia.

Fixed coding.

Franco was not the original leader of the planned military coup. Another more senier general (whose name I can’t recall) was killed in the opening hours of the attempted coup. Most of the other officers involved were rounded up. Franco was overlooked because he was stationed in Morocco where it was felt he’d be unable to do anything. But Italy arranged for the transportation of Franco and his Moroccan troops from Africa to Spain where he became the de facto leader of the right.

As for the outcome if the Popular Front had stayed in power, I think it’s likely that Germany would have invaded Spain and then Portugal (which was a right-wing dictatorship but was pro-British) after the defeat of France. Hitler wanted access to Gibraltar, the Azores, and the Canary Islands, but he held off on seizing them because he felt he had a good chance that Franco would join the Axis voluntarily. He’d have had no such illusions about a left wing government.

The bigger question is how the Fascist/Nazi axis would have developed without the experiences of Spain (where the democracies again took the opportunity to be totally craven in the face of provocation).

Hitler had the option of buying Franco’s support in 1940 but he chose not to because he felt it wasn’t worth the cost and the General Staff didn’t want the bother of propping up the pathetic spanish military. I’m not convinced that dynamic would have changed very much if there had been a different flavour of government.

Spain really didn’t have that much to offer at the time, and when it became apparent that blocking the Allies from the Med was necessary, they had their hands full in the East.

What do you think the impact would have been on Basque and Catalan nationalism? Would autonomist tendencies have been encouraged by the republican government, or would the tendencies be less than they would be now without the grievances of the Franco years?

Hard to say. The left might have talked a good game on self-determination, but as was the case in the Soviet Union, when ethnic groups get to the point of asking for actual independance, left wing governments are just as determined to hang on to territory as right wing ones are.

Perhaps – but I know of no left-wing government in history where Anarchists had as much influence as they did in the Popular Front. That might have changed things. Besides, the Catalan autonomists were in the government and the Basque nationalists supported it.

I’m speculating, here, that the Communists might not have been able to take over the government if the PF had not had a civil war to deal with and needed Soviet aid.

Yeah, but there wasn’t a Spanish civil war because Franco decided to rebel any more than there was an American civil war because P.T.G. Beauregard decided to open fire on Fort Sumter. While both of those incidents were the sparking points, it was only because of massive popular support that they were able to make such an action in the first place.

To assume that the Spanish Republic could have ruled without a civil war ending up as the result also assumes that twenty years of political violence, a powerful yet powerless monarchist-fascist faction, and five hundred years of the Catholic Church being woven into everyday society and the resulting backlash simply don’t exist.
As for Catalan self-determination - that all depends on what elements we’re changing to determine the PF as the winners. Does the PF win by military strength? Then Stalin’s military support of the PF becomes of paramount importance, which means Stalin would have been able to push the PF to rebuff the Anarchists and other semi-Trotskyites at the end or at the aftermath of the war. Does the PF win because the Fascist-Monarchist factions stop working together, or never come to the war in full force? Then the Anarchists might have taken the upper hand and been able to allow Basque and Catalan autonomy.

Of course, this is immediately followed by the obvious question: how does Nazi Germany treat Republican Spain (or independent, Anarchist States of Spain) following their successful invasion of France in 1940? Stalin was willing to allow much greater state autonomy and individualistic state cultures within the SSRs during World War II in order to keep them from breaking away when the fate of the Soviets was in doubt; Spain may well have been pushed into the same position regarding Catalan and Basque.

No, we’re assuming there is no civil war. Why do you think such was inevitable? Couldn’t the monarchists and conservatives just have hoped to do better the next election?

I think they believed there’d be no more elections. And no chance to do well in them. Neither side was really all that hot on the idea of democracy anyway. Of course, in Europe of the day, few nations actually had any real allegiance to a democratic system of government.

BTW, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

Yes, the doctors are very dim on his chances for recovery at this date.

You caught the “Saturday Night Live” reference, naturally! :smiley:

Whoa there, pal! If you mean “pathetic” in the sense that the Spanish military was heavily damaged by the civil war, I’ll agree. In any other sense, the Spanish armed forces have proved their worth and bravery throughout their history over and over again.

Add a correction as well: although Franco met with Hitler to discuss Spain’s involvement in WW-II, Franco was way too slippery/cunning to provide a clear cut response. Hitler is alledged to have said something to the eefct of: “I’d be happy if I never see that man again.” Still and all, Spain did send a contingent of voluntaries (of which there was no shortage) known as the “Division Azul” or Blue Division. Their bravery on the Russian front is the stuff of lore even today. In fact, many of the few that survived settled in Russia – watched a documentary recently on TVE (Spanish state TV) recounting their stories, including interviews with some of the ones still alive and some of their descendants.


As for the OP, no time for a full response. Too many hypotheticals to give a definitive answer anyway.

A better historical account of the Division Azul:

The Spanish “Blue Division”

Franco was #3 in the pecking order. General Mola was the coup leader, and General Sanjurjo was the other member of the junta. Both of them died in plane crashes, first Sanjurjo, as you said early in the coup, then Mola.

I wonder if Hitler knew about the rumours of Franco’s jewish ancestry? (Anthony Beevor’s book mentions it in passing, but makes no connection to Hitler.)

mm