Francisco Franco Is Back: The Contested Reemergence of a Fascist Moral Exemplar

Comparative Studies in Society and History 2021; 1–30
Autor: FRANCISCO FERRÁNDIZ Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Madrid, Spain

Based on long-term ethnographic research on contemporary exhumations of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), as well as analysis of the exhumation of Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen, this paper looks at the ways in which the dictator’s moral exemplarity has evolved over time since his military victory in 1939. During the early years of his dictatorship, Franco’s propaganda machine built the legend of a historical character touched by divine providence who sacrificed himself to save Spain from communism. His moral charisma was enriched by associating his historical mission with a constellation of moral exemplars drawn from medieval and imperial Spain. After his death, his moral exemplarity dwindled as democratic Spain embraced a political discourse of national reconciliation. Yet, since 2000, a new negative exemplarity of Franco as a war criminal has come into sharp focus, in connection with the exhumation of the mass graves of tens of thousands of Republican civilians executed by his army and paramilitary. In recent years, Franco has reemerged as a fascist exemplar alongside a rise of the extreme right. To understand the revival of his fascist exemplarity, I focus on two processes: the rise of the political party Vox, which claims undisguised admiration for Franco’s legacy (a process I call “neo-exemplarity”), and the dismantling in October 2019 of Franco’s honorable burial and the debate over the treatment that his mortal remains deserve (a process I call “necro-exemplarity”).

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