Matilde Eiroa, professor: “We have not had a de-Franco government policy”

From the beginning of his government, the dictator Francisco Franco built a series of propaganda mechanisms to exalt his figure. To illustrate the construction of Franco’s myth and its subsequent demystification, the tenured professor at the Carlos III University of Madrid, Matilde Eiroa, publishes Franco, from hero to comic figure of contemporary culture (Tirant lo Blanch, 2022). In this work, the author analyzes the self-propaganda of the regime, how it survived and was deconstructed in the Transition, and includes a study on the image of Franco on the Internet, a space that has served to ridicule the character.

How did Franco present himself at the beginning of the dictatorship?

He had a strong propaganda apparatus through which he did the job of presenting himself to society. That image, created at the beginning by Millán Astray, was that of the invincible soldier in the war that saved Spain against communism.

Within this entire propaganda system, what value did you give to symbols?

They were very important. The new flag, uniforms, parades, symbols related to order, unity, homeland glory… The symbols were essential to unite a nation and more so in a State that is being forged. The “New State”, as it was called, needed new symbols and the recovery of some old ones that would reinforce the new ideas of the fundamental principles of the Movement, of the thought and action of Francoism.

As which?

For example, the Catholic Monarchs, which is a very common topic today in the discourse of the ultra-right. The Catholic Monarchs, religious unity, territorial unity, and even the single thought.

Within the symbols, the monumental construction…

Of course. Some examples are the nomenclature of the streets, the construction of sculptures of Franco on horseback or the busts. And, of course, the construction of an architecture that exalted the patriotic values ​​and the war that he had won. We have many examples throughout the country. The closest to us now is the Arco de la Victoria in Moncloa. There is also the Valley of Cuelgamuros. And all the statues that have been removed. The omnipresence of the undefeated general in all public places was essential.

When you ordered the construction of the monuments, did you intend to aspire to immortality through these structures?

We don’t know what he thought but that construction of symbols implies the continuous reminder to the citizens of who he was. Also the memory of what his successes had been and what the “New Spain” was. When monuments of these characteristics are built, the intention is that they are imperishable, that they have continuity over time. The continuous memory of what happened. For this reason, I believe that Franco made almost perfect memory policies because he was continually recalling what had been the origin of his success and what the new Spain should be like.

The propaganda task continued during the 40 years of dictatorship, but it changed over the years. How did Franco adapt self-propaganda based on national and international circumstances?

The propaganda was modified to achieve the adaptation of the dictatorship to the new times when Hitler and Mussolini fell. Franco’s government placed the entire Press and Propaganda apparatus in ministries or administrations that could adapt to the new times. At first, the management of propaganda was located in the Ministry of the Interior. Later, in the General Secretariat of the Movement, then in the Ministry of Education and finally in the Ministry of Information and Tourism.

When it was created in 1951, propaganda became increasingly linked to a broader strategy to spread an image of modernization, which offered new faces of the dictator. In the context of the Cold War, the anti-communist facet was strengthened. There also appeared that of a modernizing Franco, who wanted to get out of autarchy, and a Franco who tried to improve the lives of the Spanish. Therefore, the entire operation to maintain the good image of the dictator responded to a strategy of greater dimensions and different from when it was located in the Interior or in the General Secretariat of the Movement.

How do you deconstruct this image that Franco had created once the dictatorship ends?

Deconstruction was very difficult and slow after 40 years of government and that fine rain of repetition of the messages that were penetrating all public and private spaces. The deconstruction was difficult and slow. Franco was no longer there but there was a whole guard that tried to maintain the basic principles of the dictatorship. Initially, some city councils, such as the one in Madrid, subtly renamed some streets and some monuments erected in honor of Franco were removed, but this happened in the 1980s. In Germany there was denazification, but we have not had a government policy of de-Francoization. They were rather local initiatives and not state Memory policies.

What part of the image that Franco had built of himself lasted during the first years of the Transition?

During the first years of the Transition, what lasted was the anti-communist Franco and the Franco of unity and order, especially because in the Transition the autonomies were approved and it was feared that Spain would dismember. It was also a period of much violence, many public disorders, demonstrations, strikes, attacks, etc. The idea that is installed is that “with Franco this did not happen”, “with Franco we lived better.” Spain drags the economic crisis of the late 70s, there is a lot of unemployment. So, the idea that lasts and is maintained is that nostalgic idea of ​​a bygone era in which there were no robberies or disorders. This is an absolute hoax because with Franco it was clear that there were disorders and common crime.

And it was not counted because it was censored during the Franco regime.

Censorship lasted until the end of the dictatorship. As of the Press and Printing Law of 1966, known as the Fraga Law, censorship officially disappeared, but in reality it was a constant. However, at that time keeping quiet about all these things was very difficult because there was also television. There were new media, new publications, especially magazines, which did talk more about everything that was happening, even if that entailed sanctions.

You have talked about the myths that persist in the Transition, but which ones survive today?

Currently there is much unknown. He has penetrated a discourse on the history of the dictatorship that, as it has been elaborated for many years, remains in many textbooks, in teacher training, and in transmission to students. I believe that there are still myths such as that of the Franco of peace and order, or that dictatorship in which there was unity. I believe that an update of the knowledge of the teaching staff and a modification of the programs of the subject of History and other subjects linked to history are needed so that the teaching staff can transmit to the students the history that we already know today, based on the investigation of the last years.

As for popular culture, in your book you mention that in some films the dictator is shown as a fearful character, half dumbfounded, who didn’t know anything… why has this image of the dictator reached us?

The movies are fiction, but it is true that this image permeates. It is the idea of ​​an absent, abstract character, who is not interested in certain details of daily life because that is what his assistants or his ministers are for, who are the ones in charge of resolving issues. That image has come down to us because there is evidence that this was what happened in the last years of his government when he was very old. His obsessions related to the fight against the fragmentation of Spain or against communism are shown and he was very out of date with the real problems of Spanish society. That is the image that has come down to us. In the movies, the figure of Franco is also very ironic. Fiction tries to send messages that are not exactly historical knowledge. The harmful thing is that a real image is not transmitted, but the producers will say that for that it is fiction. To me, however, it seems to me that some films have lost the opportunity to convey an image that is more subject to historical rigor. For example, As long as the war lasts. It seems to me that it is a missed opportunity because there was a lot of expectation, but many historical mistakes are made.

As which?

Put Franco as a shy gentleman. It seems to me that it is a serious mistake because Franco was always very ambitious. But they are the film production licenses. Therefore, we cannot say that it is a mistake. After all, they are visions that movies give, but it seems to me that they do a disservice to the knowledge they spread among people who go to the movies.

And how does the Internet affect the image of Franco in the collective imagination?

Since the Internet is a means of communication where each user navigates in the spaces they want, what they build is a personal imaginary depending on the spaces in which each one enters. Currently, what there is is a very large memorial associative movement that has a lot of representation on the Internet. Therefore, it is a critical representation against the dictatorship. Despite what it may seem, there are not so many spaces whose main object is Franco. They exist, but they are not the majority. What is the majority is the associative movement for Democratic Memory. The spaces that recover the figure of Franco are, above all, the website of the Francisco Franco National Foundation and some others, but they have a very small number of followers. The spaces on the Internet that glorify his figure usually have very little activity and few followers. However, although we do not have many spaces specialized in Franco, there are many far-right social networks that mention and praise him, but mix it with other topics, which are the classics of the far-right.

Can the Internet be a space to dismantle the myth of Franco?

Perfectly. In fact, I think it is, much more than fiction or history books, which are not read by many people.

It has a greater range.

And a greater diffusion capacity. In addition, users can share images, maps, speeches and a number of audiovisual documentation that shows that it is not opinion but information.

But in the same way that the Internet can be a space to dismantle the myth, it can also be a space to exalt the dictator.

Yes, but today there are not the majority of spaces on the Internet that exalt the figure of the dictator. They are absolutely minority.

Within the image of the dictator that is given on the Internet, what is the role of memes?

They appeared above all with the subject of exhumation and the message they sent was that it is a matter of the past that must be settled but that it does not have to be a reason for confrontation. The message of the memes is the message of the demystification of Franco. They conveyed to the public the idea that he is a character in our history who should not be afraid of. In the end, the dictator is ridiculed.

Related articles

Food consumption collapses, but the tax burden on the final value increases

While consumption of basic products collapses, The burden of national taxes increases as a percentage of the total shelf value and the participation of...

Celebrate Aucas and Barcelona! Independiente del Valle and Liga de Quito tied and...

Liga de Quito visited Sangolquí to face Independiente del Valle in a match that ended 1-1. The first stage of Pro League is...

Renowned fashion designer was found dead in strange conditions, Police investigate

The authorities of New York (United States) investigate the strange death of a Brooklyn designerwho was found dead in a room in her house...