The Politics of Revenge: Fascism and the Military in Twentieth-Century Spain

By Paul Preston | Go to book overview

5

Populism and parasitism: the Falange and the Spanish establishment, 1939-75

Threatened by the reforms of the Second Republic, the Spanish right's instinctive response was obstinate and violent. However, given the initial failure of attempts to destabilize the Republic by violence, sponsored by the patrician right, less rigidly traditional elements confronted the possibility of mobilizing popular support in defence of rightist interests. Alongside the traditional groups of monarchists, Alfonsines and Carlists, there emerged the populist Catholic authoritarian party, the CEDA, and the much smaller and overtly fascist Falange Espanola. 1 All of these organizations threw in their lot with the army officers who organized the uprising of July 1936. The Falange started out as the weakest of them but the circumstances of the war and the external influence of the Axis powers pushed it to prominence. The mass support of the CEDA and its youth movement, the Juventud de Acción Popular, had already started to flood into the Falange in the spring of 1936. It was further swelled by wartime recruits. For three decades thereafter, even as its own ideological edge was dulled, it was still playing a central role in the regime. Indeed, it was the dictatorship's identity tag in the outside world. That was hardly surprising since it was the agency which organized mass mobilizations and controlled labour relations and was also the source of the regime's lexicon, iconography and ideological paraphernalia.

The relationship of Falange Espanola to the other components of the Francoist coalition was complex and constantly shifting. Both the aristocratic and the upper-middle-class right saw the primordial task as the destruction of what they perceived as the threat of disorder, anti-clericalism and communism. Ties of family and class made it natural for them to turn

1 Paul Preston, Las derehas espanolas en el siglo XX autoritarismo, fascismo y golpismo (Madrid, 1986); Martin Blinkhorn, Carlism and Crisis (Cambridge, 1975); Ricardo de La Cierva, La derecha sin remedio (Barcelona, 1986); Paul Preston, The Coming of the Spanish Civil War (London, 1978).

-111-

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