Franco

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Thanks to Myles Kantor, we read about a recent “biography” of Bill Clinton. The poor author, no doubt knee-deep in swill, remarks about Franco’s “archconservative” Spain that our wandering Rhodes scholar found it “as awful and as stifling as the Soviet system Bill Clinton had encountered in Moscow and Prague.”

Now the poor chap who wrote this clearly decided that he was going to be dealing with a lot of lies, a genre Clinton made into a new paradigm. Sadly, however, the biographer has been infected with the Clintonian fiction gene. That is, he possesses an irrepressible urge to make things up. In this case, he has a lot of leftist and anti-Catholic company.

I worked in Spain in 1976, the year after Franco’s death, and traveled there from the 60s to the 90s. I did not visit the Soviet Union until 1991, on the last May Day of Gorbachev’s reign, because I never would have gotten past the KGB’s visa screeners (as Bill Clinton obviously had — hmmmm….). Of course, Spain required no visas, and in 1976, the year I lived there, I recall there being 37 million tourists and a population of 36 million.

I remember having to get a “work permit” for me and my American piano player. We went to the U.S. Consulate in Valencia, filled out some innocuous forms that identified us as “musicians,” that we would later hand over to the Spanish somebody-or-other.

The American State Department chap cheerfully helped us along, gave us our required slips of paper, and then asked, affably: “So what do you really do?”

Let’s see, where was I. Ah, yes. As a rule, Franco left you alone, as long as you didn’t dabble in politics. And you wouldn’t want to, with the likes of scum like the corrupt “Olympian,” Juanito Samaranch, and the other third-rater hangers-on elbowing each other around in the relatively harmless political sandbox. The place to be was business, which Franco gave a relatively free hand. The universities were full of leftists (just like all those right-wingers at Moscow U., right?), and, most importantly, you could leave whenever you wanted to. When I lived in Mexico, I had many Basque friends who had done just that. They had moved to Mexico after Franco defeated the communists in 1939 (he did not stop them). They found Mexico corrupt (Spain was not), virulently ideological (Spain was not), racist (Spain was not), and anti-business (Spain was not).

In the 1950s, The United States State Department, in the wake of stalwarts like Alger Hiss, was in the thrall of the “Abraham Lincoln Brigade” mentality of the communist party “volunteers” that fought Franco in the 1930s alongside the Stalinists. So Eisenhower was urged to “move things along” in Spain, and sent envoy Vernon Walters, who would in the 1980s represent the United States as ambassador to the U.N. and to a reunited Germany, to see Franco. Walters knew Franco would brook no flim-flamming.

After some pleasantries, Franco changed the subject: “You have been sent to find out what I have planned for my succession. This is what you can tell your president: when I am gone, I will leave a Spain that has a restored monarchy (Alfonso XIII had fled in 1933), a professional army subordinate to the civilian democratic government, and a strong and vibrant middle class.”

Franco delivered on all three. When I lived in Spain in 1976, July 1 was a widely anticipated “turning point” in the developing democracy (Franco had died the previous December). The conniving third-raters who were running the “post-Franco democracy” show decided to really teach the Spanish people how free they had become. Following the pattern of MacArthur in Japan and Garner in Iraq, the Spanish people were treated to — pornography! I will never forget my medical-student friend coming over to tell me, a twinkle in his eye, about this auspicious epiphany of Spain’s budding democracy: “Marisol, Desnuda!” Marisol, the Brittney of her Spanish day, in the nude, was featured on the cover of the country’s largest weekly magazine.

Spain had arrived.

Spain after Franco featured a lot of Angst engendered by the prevailing socialism of the European scene. Somehow, all sorts of leftists had survived Franco’s “Soviet tyranny” that Boy Clinton had bemoaned. In politics and culture, they emerged to harmonize with the international Franco-haters to demand more “freedom.” Many Spaniards did not want to have to go around apologizing for Franco — as though they would have to: he kept Spain neutral in World War II, driving Hitler nuts; and he recovered from the civil war’s carnage of 1936—39 without any foreign aid — even though the Soviets had shipped the Spanish gold reserves to Moscow during the war.

The long-standing leftist tradition of hatred of Catholic Spain was very carefully laid out by Professor Philip Wayne Powell in his classic Tree of Hate. Socialist Europe would undoubtedly have preferred a Soviet Franco, who could do to Catholic Spain what FDR’s treachery allowed to happen to the Catholics of Eastern Europe after World War II — which Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., actually had the gall to praise ten years ago in the Wall Street Journal as a small price to pay for “winning” the war.

When I lived in Spain, I could not find black bread anywhere. “Too many years of black bread, because we couldn’t afford white bread,” a friend explained. Yes, Spain was impoverished in the 40s and into the 50s, like the rest of Europe. To the left, Franco was a “fascist” because the left called all of its enemies “fascists,” since conservatism abounds in true diversity, while the left congeals like sludge around the constant lust for power. Augustine, in his City of God, had long before pointed out the burning desire of the City of Man for “power over one’s equal.” The left’s attempt to take over Spain failed under Franco, and they’ve never forgiven him for it. Evidently, Bill Clinton hasn’t either.

Christopher Manion Archives

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