Franco's Spain, 1946-1960

February 24, 2010 by William P. Meyers

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Notes from The Yoke and The Arrows, A Report on Spain by Herbert L. Matthews

New York, George Braziller, Inc., 1961 revised edition, second printing, hardcover

Herbert Matthews was a New York Times reporter covering Spain during this period.

Matthews believes that during the Spanish Civil War, in 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sympathised with the Loyalists (aka Republicans, the elected government), but refused to give them actual support for (unstated) political reasons. Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, determined the "neutral" policy of the United States. [p. 40]

Polls showed Americans as a whole favored the Republicans. Even among American Catholics (the rebels, led by General Francisco Franco, where Catholic), 30% were for the Republicans, 31% were neutral, and 39% were pro-Franco. [p. 42] [But in the U.S. the Republican Party was almost entirely Protestant, and almost all Catholics were in Roosevelt's Democratic Party - WPM]

On December 8, 1941 the Spanish Government (now headed by Franco) "sent congratulations to the Japanese Legation on the successful attack against Pearl Harbor." Later during the war President Roosevelt noted that Franco "had been openly hostile to the United States and had tried to spread its Fascist party ideas in the Western Hemisphere." However, especially as it became apparent that the Allies would win the war, Franco had cooperated with the U.S. In 1944 it allowed the U.S. to use air bases in Spain. [70-71]

In the 1950's the U.S. negotiated the right to establish military bases (air force and navy) in Spain, in a Cold War alliance against Communist nations. Franco signed his Concordat with the Pope on August 28, 1953, before signing the military agreement with the U.S on September 26, 1953. The Roman Catholic hierarchy in Spain opposed the agreement because it would mean "thousand s of American Protestants would come into Catholic Spain. [149-150]

The Spanish Government under Franco worked with the Roman Catholic Church to suppress all other religions in Spain. "In 1940, the Franco regime confiscated all the Protestant Bibles they could lay hands on." On April 24, 1956, Protestant Bibles were seized despite protests from the British Embassy. "The Spanish Church always supported feudalism, monarchism, centralism, authoritarianism, the aristocracy, wealth." The Church uses the education system "to inculcate qualities of obedience, acceptance of the established order, suspicion of modernity." [162-163]

Franco was awarded the Supreme Order of Christ about the same time the Concordat was signed. [166]

The Concordat "is largely an economic document." The Church is to be paid "as a contribution to the work of the Church in favor of the nation." "The Spanish State guarantees the teaching of the Catholic religion, obligatorily, in all institutions of instruction, whatever their rank or grade and whether they be State or non-State schools." "The Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Religion continues to be the sole religion of the Spanish nation." [166-167]

The role of Opus Dei and its rivalries with other Catholic organizations is discussed [176].

The government estimates there are only 25,000 Protestants in Spain out of a population of 30 million, but "Protestantism is treated by the Church and by the Government as though it were a great threat to the Catholic faith of Spain. In 1937 General Franco said there would be freedom of religion after the Civil War ended, but later reneged on that promise. [176-177]

Throughout the book it is made clear that Francisco Franco is the only real power in Spain (during the period covered). Everything is subordinate to him; every important decision must be made by him. Franco saw to it that the Civil War was characterized as a war between communists and his patriotic troops. The Spanish people are characterized as having become apolitical because of the Civil War. Not many really like Franco, but almost no one wants another round of violence.

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