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Post Corruption Under Franco
Created by John Eipper on 11/02/16 8:56 AM

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Corruption Under Franco (Angel Vinas, Belgium, 11/02/16 8:56 am)

I should like to complement some of the thoughts expressed by Jordi Molins and Enrique Torner in their posts about corruption in Spain during the Franco years. But first of all let me express my heart-felt thanks for the kind remarks addressed to me.

Corruption was inextricably enmeshed in the dictatorship´s DNA. It couldn´t be otherwise. Franco´s regime was built on repression, mythography and the manipulation of public opinion. There was no free media, no political parties, no countervailing judiciary and Franco himself was the ultimate source of law. This provided for a very fertile ground in which corruption flourished unabated. However, two facts must be additionally considered.

Repression was not only physical. It was also economic. The vanquished were widely expropriated under cover of draconian laws. Those who remained in Spain found no voice in fighting the ubiquitous application of the 1939 Law of Political Responsibilities. Those fortunate who were able to flee into exile, lost everything.

The second fact is that Spain´s economy had nothing in common with a capitalist, market-oriented system between 1936 and 1960. On the contrary, it was a highly regulated economy in which one needed authorization for the simplest of transactions. In order to get those authorizations, one needed to grease palms and hearts. What with? With whatever was at hand: money, goods, favors, political and ideological fervor and... sex.

Corruption was simply stated a way of living. So wrote Ridruejo, who knew the system from the inside. Corruption acted as a trickle-down mechanism from the elite down to all social classes.

Franco himself was corrupt. So were his generals. So was the Army with its exorbitant privileges. So were business people and so were the common folk. One had to survive somehow.

Unfortunately, empirical research on corruption is a highly complex and difficult endeavor. Much evidence has been destroyed. Would you believe that the masses of documentation of the regulatory bodies such as the military ones reporting to the Presidency of the Government or substantial files from the Ministry of Commerce have vanished?

My thesis is that Francoism utterly and thoroughly corrupted Spanish society and, in particular, the moneyed classes. No wonder it has raised its ugly head as soon as conditions permitted.

JE comments:  An excellent point from Ángel Viñas:  How do you quantify corruption?  Or even prove it, when the whole point of corruption is to cover it up?

Corruption, as we're now learning yet again, never goes out of style.

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  • Thoughts on Corruption (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 11/06/16 6:49 AM)
    I have read recent WAIS posts about the Franco regime's corruption (Enrique Torner, Jordi Molins, Ángel Viñas) and I can´t say I was surprised. Like Enrique and Jordi, during my childhood in Spain I was subjected to the regime´s propaganda about the honesty, disinterestedness, generosity and many other virtues and merits of the Caudillo and his acolytes.

    I must admit that it was not until many years later that I found it hard to believe these myths and lies. I recall the Lord Acton dictum was a revelation, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  This maxim expressed and revealed to me clearly the high risk of corruption derived from authoritarian or absolutist regimes. More recently, I have had the opportunity to live with such a situation currently in Venezuela.

    Incidentally, this famous statement is almost the philosophical principle for my Anarchist sympathies. Not even the most democratic societies are free from the risk of corruption.

    JE comments:  Has there ever been an absolutist or near-absolutist regime that wasn't vilely corrupt?  I'm going to scratch my head on this for a while.  In the meantime, what do WAISers say?

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    • Mussolini Was not Corrupt (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 11/27/16 7:27 AM)

      Commenting on José Ignacio Soler's post of 6 November, JE asked: "Has there ever been an absolutist or near-absolutist regime that wasn't corrupt?"

      If you consider Italian Fascism to be a near-absolutist regime, then the answer is "yes."

      In spite of the many laws for the purge of Fascists, the first on 9 August 1943, and the Commissions to Investigate the Profits of the Fascist Regime, including the ridiculous work of the Allied Control Commission, no corruption was found.

      When Mussolini when was hung by his feet, no coins fell out of his pockets, and no funds were ever found. This is also the case for the major Fascist figures. Arnaldo di Crollananza, minister of Public Works and builder of the new towns of Littoria, Sabaudia, Pontinia, Aprilia, Pomezia, Carbonia, etc., did not even own a house.

      At a time in which we are dealing with a series of horrible earthquakes in Italy, we may remember the one of 24 August 1930 at Vulture with a magnitude 6.7 and 1404 deaths. The reconstruction of 3746 houses and the repair of 5190 other houses was ready by 28 October of the same year, and well under budget. In 1980 another earthquake hit the same area, and the "Fascist" houses did not collapse. Only those built after 1945 collapsed.

      The town of Littoria (name purged in Latina) was constructed in 6 months.  See The National Geographic of August 1934, with photos, one of which has the following caption: "radiant and confident, colonists' children pass in review in the city that was wrested from a swamp."

      Now, in this Italian republic (lay, democratic and antifascist, born from the resistance), the bridges are collapsing one week after dedication. Just see the Scorciavacche bridge at Palermo, inaugurated on 23 December 2015. It fell down on 1 January 2016, and of course the construction cost far more than the original budget. The famous autostrada Napoli-Reggio Calabria, started in 1961, will reportedly be completed on 23 December 2016. The amount spent over these 55 years is practically impossible to determine, especially the significant part that ended up in personal pockets.

      JE comments:  This one from Eugenio Battaglia arrived a couple of weeks ago, but the US election intervened.  My thanks to Eugenio for his patience.  Eugenio:  I know Mussolini made the trains run on time, but how could he reconstruct an entire town in two months?  Even if you send in the Army, it sounds impossible.  I'd be interested in the logistics.

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      • A Tale of Disaster Relief in Mexico; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 11/28/16 11:58 AM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        Here's an odd sequel to Eugenio Battaglia's (November 27) recollection of the Mussolini
        government rebuilding an earthquake-ravaged town in two months: In April 2007
        a freak EF3 tornado devastated a remote portion of the US-Mexico border, hopping
        disastrously through the Rio Grande cities of Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras,
        Mexico, the latter in the border state of Coahuila. FEMA deployed into the US-side ruins, but soon was embarrassed, for while talking and plans proceeded in Eagle Pass, the
        Mexican state authorities over on the other side had already cleared away their debris--and were offering to come across the river and help the US do likewise.

        A small army of
        volunteers, composed largely of Coahuila state employees turned responders, did cross
        and help, in one of the signature efforts of cross-border cooperation. The Coahuila
        state governor, Humberto Moreira, came off as the can-do cutter of Gordian knots,
        along with his brother and adviser, who was heavily involved. I was in a position, in
        that time and place of ironies, to delve into the mysterious lag that made US efforts
        slow: It was because FEMA, unlike authorities in Mexico, was constrained by US checks
        and balances, and had to individually obtain permissions from all the different property owners
        from whose land debris had to be removed. Mexico simply went in and did it--the opposite
        of the initiative picture in the stereotypes, with their lagging Mexico and snappy US.

        In this peculiar tale are an infinitude of lessons, cautions and hidden snares, one of the
        smaller of which was that at that time, in 2007, Piedras Negras prided itself as the "white city"
        that was free of Mexico's then-emerging drug-cartel violence, if for no other reason
        because it was so far away from anything else. You could drink--or sing--in the landmark
        watering hole in Piedras Negras where John Wayne had hung out during filming
        (another irony) of The Alamo, and then you could walk the streets of Piedras at any hour
        unmolested. I never dreamed what was coming.

        A few years later the Zetas expanded
        west from Nuevo Laredo. Coahuila was engulfed by such human storms as the Allende
        massacre (my previous post). Now the miracle-maker, Humberto Moreira, is in exile
        in Spain, after arrest for awhile for involvement with the gore of organized crime.
        What does this say about rebuilding villages in record time? Maybe it says that in the
        real world there really are ways to make the trains run on time--but it's dicey business,
        on both the front end and the back, and deals with many tornadoes.

        JE comments:   Eugenio Battaglia sent in a correction:  the Vulture earthquake occurred on July 23rd, 1930.  Still, rebuilding a town in three months might only be possible through the strong hand of authoritarianism.  Or consider China's ability to construct massive high-speed railways in record time.  Gary Moore gives us another example, from Mexico.

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