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Neither Spain was different, nor Franco was useless, nor was the dictatorship a one-man thing.

2024-02-21T13:43:09.618Z

Highlights: Historian Nicolás Sesma has published a new history of Franco's regime. The book, Ni una, ni grande, ni libre, is 572 pages long and includes 186 bibliography and notes. He says the dictatorship was not a one-man thing, but a system of selectors. The historian is now a professor at the University of Grenoble-Alpes, in the south of France. He is also the author of several other books, including The Origins of Totalitarianism and Anatomy of Fascism.


The historian Nicolás Sesma publishes 'Ni una, ni grande, ni libre', a new and ambitious updated history of Franco's regime


At the same table where he spent three and a half years engaged in the somewhat crazy project of telling in 572 pages (plus 186 of bibliography and notes) 40 years of Francoism, the historian Nicolás Sesma displays some of the books that inspired him and continue to inspire him in their jobs.

And in life.

Here are

The Origins of Totalitarianism

, by Hannah Arendt, and

Anatomy of Fascism

, by Robert Paxton, his teacher from New York and companion a few years ago on a bird-watching expedition in the Gallocanta lagoon, in Aragon.

He takes from the shelves the diaries of Joan Estelrich and Gaziel and the comic

Paracuellos

, by Carlos Giménez, about the terrible post-war period.

And the books by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, who discovered a neologism that was valuable to him: the selectors, “people who you select to be part of the power, to whom you have to offer a sufficient part of the pie already the ones you have to control so that they don't threaten you.”

In dictatorships, there are no electors, but selectors, and Franco's regime was a system of selectors.

A collective.

Sesma releases more bedside books.

The volumes of

Master and Commander,

by Patrick O'Brian, one of whose characters (he discovered it during the ornithological excursion with Paxton) was inspired by Paxton himself, a friend of O'Brian.

It shows the diaries of Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law, and his foreign minister.

The copy belonged to Arturo, his father, a bank employee addicted to reading, and from Aragon.

Her mother, Jacqueline, was Norman and after living in England (and seeing the Beatles in Paris) she arrived in Zaragoza, where she was an interpreter for the Americans at the air base, an essential piece in Franco's foreign policy.

Arturo and Jacqueline died during the preparation process of

Ni una, ni grande, ni libre.

Franco's dictatorship

, published by the Crítica publishing house and in bookstores this week.

“The book was almost my lifeline,” confesses Sesma, 46 years old, raised in Huesca and with an academic career in Zaragoza, Florence, Madrid, New York, Wisconsin.

Today he is a professor at the University of Grenoble-Alpes, where a large community of highly qualified Spaniards is concentrated who ended up in this comfortable corner of France due to lack of opportunities in their country: “The Spanish taxpayer has put a lot of money into my training... "It is a shame, if you have trained these people, not to give them the opportunity to consolidate them."

Nicolás Sesma.

Here, in a small house on the outskirts and under the intimidating shadow of the Vercors massif, the legendary focus of the resistance during World War II, Sesma locked himself up every night to write what, in reality, was the fruit of 20 years of research. about a period—'the' period—that continues to haunt us.

And about which not everything has been said: "Our generation, those of us who were born after the end of the dictatorship and in many cases have been trained outside, needed to give our vision."

Neither one, nor great, nor free

is a book that more than once disorients the reader and dispels misunderstandings.

No, the Francoists were not a bunch of undocumented immigrants: Franco showed that he could be a skilled politician, and he surrounded himself with often competent and even first-rate personnel.

No, Francoism was not a one-man thing either: it was a choral work.

And no: contrary to Manuel Fraga Iribarne's

Spain is different

slogan , Spain was not different.

“Forget about the fact that we are different!” cries the historian while we have lunch in the center of Grenoble.

“There are particularities, obviously, all countries have them, or specific moments, but they do not justify you completely breaking away from your geographical area.”

Give three examples.

First, “in the sixties, the same movements that reached all of Western Europe also reached Spain: the feminist movement, the expansion of higher education to the middle classes with the multiplication of university students and secularization.”

Second example, "the development plans are the IMF's head book applied to all countries and in Spain they apply it like the catechism."

And third, “in the years immediately after World War II, which would be the moment of greatest isolation, actually being a dictatorship is not so exceptional either, because in the defensive framework of the United States, Spain occupies the first peripheral crown, a “a place very similar to Japan, South Korea, and some Latin American dictatorships.”

And yet, the idea is rooted that Spain is exceptional, that it was always late for everything, that it drags a cursed and shameful history that would continue until the repeated refrain that Franco died in bed.

No, the Francoists were not a bunch of undocumented immigrants: Franco showed that he could be a skilled politician, and he surrounded himself with an often competent staff.

“No fascism falls due to internal resistance, they all fall within the framework of an international war,” Sesma responds.

And he quotes a phrase from the historian Manuel Tuñón de Lara that he heard from the Zaragoza professor Eloy Fernández Clemente: “Never be ashamed of Spain.

It is the only country that fought a war for three years before letting fascism prevail.

This does not happen in Italy or Germany.”

Another misunderstanding that Sesma tries to undo: the excessive personalization of the dictatorship in the dictator.

It is no coincidence that the subject of

Ni una, ni grande, ni libre

is the Franco dictatorship, and not Franco.

The book opens with the Fellini scene of Franco's departure from the Valley of the Fallen, where he reigned alone, or with José Antonio, to the Mingorrubio cemetery, where the remains of a good part of the regime rest (Carrero Blanco, Arias Navarro, Camilo Alonso Vegas…).

Mingorrubio better represents the nature of Francoism, as something collective, than the individualism of the Valley of the Fallen.

“Franco is the top of the pyramid,” says Sesma, “but he is supported by the thousands of daily decisions made by many people who, out of revenge, opportunism, interest or inaction, end up making the dictatorship last so long.”

He adds: “It is very easy to blame him for everything and say that the dictatorship was only Franco and Franco decided from the Sunday menu to the most important thing.

This is not how a State works, and there is something perverse in this way of thinking.

Since Franco was to blame for everything, the rest of us can get away.”

There is a desire, on the part of Sesma, to construct a story at the pace of a television series, with cinematographic scenes and 11 chapters that can be read individually.

Fascinating secondary characters appear.

Like Ismael Herraiz, Arriba

's Rome correspondent

who, despite admiring fascism, seriously worried the new Spanish regime with his truthful coverage of the Mussolinian collapse.

Or the proto-feminist and Falangist Mercedes Formica.

Neither Franco was the only protagonist of the regime, nor was Francoism solely centralist.

When writing the book, Sesma wanted episodes, characters and stories from all the Spanish provinces to appear, to demonstrate that Francoism was evolving throughout the territory and not just in Madrid or Barcelona: “The administrative decision-making of the dictatorship was always centralized. , but at the local or provincial level it has more waist than we have sometimes thought.”

The abundance of Basque and Catalan surnames in the hierarchy is striking: “Franco has more Catalan ministers than Castilian ones.

And it is normal, if the economic and university elite comes from Catalonia and the Catalan industrial world.”

Arrival of a helicopter to the Valley of the Fallen for the exhumation of Franco on October 24, 2019.JULIÁN ROJAS

Neither one, nor large, nor free,

forces us to qualify the idea according to which Francoism was a regime of ridiculous characters who did not understand what world they lived in.

In the pages about the year that Francoism lived dangerously, 1943, when the defeat of fascism and the victory of democracies were in sight, we read: “In this regard, and as always throughout his career, Franco demonstrated his ability to make an adequate reading of the scenarios that were imposed on him both by circumstances and by his own initial errors.”

When this passage is quoted to him, Sesma comments: “Criticizing the dictatorship as if they were mediocre or useless, the person who criticizes the most is anti-Francoism.

If their foreign policy had been so mediocre or so bad, for example, the blame would be on the anti-Franco regime for not having known how to bring it down.”

He remembers the role of the Institute of Political Studies, created by Falange, where Fraga, the political scientist Juan José Linz and “people of high level, people who studied at the London School of Economics and in Germany” were trained.

“They were not mediocre,” he points out.

“I wish they had been!”

Regarding Franco, he points out: “There comes a time when Hitler does not listen to anyone, neither his generals nor his advisors.

Mussolini enters World War II against the advice of his military leadership and the king.

Franco, at the beginning, follows the same logic, which is normal, because he has just won the war, everything has gone very well for him and he considers that he is always right.

But when he sees that he is about to make a mistake - because he does not enter World War II because Hitler does not want to: this is beyond doubt - then he realizes that they have been close to the abyss, he learns and says: 'Let's listen.' .

The last chapter ends by imagining that George Orwell, chronicler of the Civil War, returns to Aragon in 1978 and discovers, upon opening the newspaper, how politicians like President Adolfo Suárez or journalists like his spokesman, Fernando Ónega, “were presented as 'democrats of every kind'. life', whose time in the Movement was not even mentioned."

“As he anticipated in

1984

, what was taking place in Spain was a new falsification of historical records by the

Ministry of Truth.”

It might seem like the author is contesting the transition.

False impression.

Because the epilogue arrives, and its ending is different: an enumeration of the social and political movements that “knew very well that the changes were not going to occur by magic, but that it would be necessary to conquer them together, so that one day, at "Look up, they would see a land where they could be free."

The first stone of democracy.

“Perhaps it is an old vision,” summarizes Sesma, “but, for me, the transition is a football match in which the regime has Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, Casillas, Xavi and Iniesta, and you play with him. Tato Abadía, with Sánchez Jara and with the Higuera Package.

And you get a tie.

For me, it is a success.”

When the reader closes the volume, an obvious thing is imposed: this is just the beginning and, although it is not written, in his head he reads: “To be continued…”.

The sequel to

Ni una, ni grande, ni libre

, or the second season, is yet to be written.

Nicolás Sesma has a job.

Look for it in your bookstore

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Source: elparis

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