Truly the archives of National Review are a gift that keeps on giving! Here is just one of National Review's Francisco Franco obituaries, this one by James Burnham:
James Burnham (2005), "Spain Minus Franco," National Review November 21): Francisco Franco was our century's most successful ruler.... [H]e outstayed all his great contemporaries, friend and enemy: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Churchill, Eisenhower, de Gaulle... "a patient stubbornness, a flawless prudence, and an unshakable faith in his mission.... Before coming to a decision he meditated before a portable Blessed Sacrament.... 'I Francisco Franco Bahamonde, Caudillo of Spain, conscious of my responsibility before God and before history...' And, besides all the rest, luck."
Franco commanded the winning side in a ferocious civil war... held Spain aloof from World War II.... Under his postwar rule Spain transformed itself... into a modern industrial state.... Illiteracy has been halved....
[W]ith the exit of Franco... the regime was going to confront a formidable array of basic political and social problems. This fact is sufficient proof of how fundamentally Spain's regime has differed from genuine totalitarian regimes like Hitler's Reich.... Under a consolidated totalitarian regime, succession... does not raise issues involving the essential nature of the regime....
The whole concept of "fascism" for that matter has been a fraud from the beginning. Like "peaceful coexistence" and "detente," it is a tactical invention of the Soviet Agitprop, and boils down in practice to the simple definition: fascism is any regime that outlaws Communism....
Of course this is nonsense. Franco was not the twentieth century's most successful ruler. Franco's Spain did not undergo an economic miracle--post-Franco Spain, however, did. We can agree with Burnham that Franco was not as bad as Hitler, and go on to say what Burnham doesn't dare say yet doesn't dare ignore: that Franco was Hitler's friend.
As to fascism: the German philospher Ernst Nolte's classic Fascism in Its Epoch set out six key characteristics of fascism:
- Strong belief that--through social darwinism--morality is ultimately tied to blood and race, understood as descent and genetic relationship.
- Strong rejection of the classical "liberal" belief that individuals have rights that any legitimate state is bound to respect
- In its place, an assertion that individuals have duties to the state, seen as the decision-making organ of the collectivity.
- A rejection of parliamentary democracy and other bottom-up institutions to assess the general will.
- The assertion that the general will is formed by the decrees of the leader.
- A strong fear of twentieth-century Communism, and an eagerness to adapt and use its weapons--suspension of parliaments, mass propaganda, rallies, street violence, and so forth--to fight it.
Franco misses only on the first of these.