So why isn't Franco considered a fascist by many historians and political science gurus? It's quite simple; actions speak louder than words. Despite the fact that Franco was allied with Hitler and Mussolini, he wasn't a fascist. He never had expressed any fascist ideology prior to the Spanish Civil War, and after the war, he gave the fascist party no power in the government.
People want to consider Franco a fascist because he received support from Hitler and Mussolini during the Spanish Civil War. True, the war became an anti-fascist campaign for many on the left after Hitler and Mussolini gave support to Franco's side in the conflict. But it's important to point out that Franco's side in the civil war was made up of many different groups… the military, Catholic Church, rich land owners, urban elite, and conservatives (including the fascist party of the time). One only has to quickly compare Franco's support groups to those of Hitler and Mussolini to realize that they had next to nothing in common. The military did not support Hitler and Mussolini until after they took power… the Church wanted no part of their fascism
since the Church was marginalized and disliked by fascists. Many land owners and the urban elite didn't support the fascist parties in Germany and Italy. Fascists in Germany and Italy were attracted to fascism because of the stress it put on the state, the failures, usually financial, of the liberal democracies in place in these countries, many came from the left, and were centered around the rural, often farmers, of the country. This can't be stressed enough, the Nazi party attempted to recruit follower from urban centers in Germany, but failed miserably. The rise of the fascist party had much to do with the failure of farmers in the 1920s, agriculture was the biggest loser of the 'boom' of the 1920s. Farmers were losing money and faith in the political parties of their countries, and turned to the fascist party and their promises and attempts to help them by organizing tax strikes, protests against banks, and also ambition and opportunity ceased by the fascist parties at this moment (p 65). In Spain, the Nationalists were a mix of everyone… those who wanted to keep things as they were and supported the monarchy. Franco didn't come to power thanks to a gradual fascist movement; he came to power due to a political conflict between many different parties, cultural and economic conflicts that lead to the Spanish Civil War.
And once the war ended in 1939 and Franco was victorious, Franco then moved quickly to consolidate and establish power for him self in Spain. Unlike in Germany and Italy were the fascist party was part of the power structure of those courtiers, Spain was radically different.
Franco wanted, after three years of civil war, order and quite in Spain. A frantic, dynamic fascist party or fascist country would not fit into those desires.
Franco never wanted a "revolution of the soul". He never went to war or created war to promote Spain's 'greatness'. He allowed no share in policy making or administration with fascists or a fascist party like Hitler and Mussolini. He was the solo ruler, the dictator of Spain. Franco actually submerged the Falange (the single party in Spain that some may consider the fascist party) under umbrella organizations with both fascists and monarchists. When one of the leaders of the party tried to assert independent authority, Franco had him arrested. After the Second World War, the Falange became a "colorless solidarity association" and by 1970 its name was abolished. "By then Franquist Spain had long become an authoritarian regime dominated by the army, state officials, businessmen, landowners, and the Church, with almost no visible fascist coloration." (p. 150).
Franco was a military dictator, an authoritarian. To consider any, or all, military dictatorships fascist would be wrong. "Authoritarians would rather leave the population demobilized and passive, while fascists want to engage and excite the public. Authoritarians want a strong but limited state. They hesitate to intervene in the economy, as fascism does readily, or to embark on programs of social welfare. They cling to the status quo rather than proclaim a new way" (p. 217). We don't see the public excitement or desire for a "revolution of the soul" or proclamation of a new way in Spain. We see Franco holding on to what Spain was in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries… a strong, authoritarian leader who has close ties to the landowners, rich/nobles, and the Church.
There is no doubt that Franco did barrow some ideas from Mussolini, referring to himself as Caudillo and making the Falange the only party in Spain (but as we saw, they were powerless). The Allies viewed Franco as a fascist because of his closer than most relationship to Hitler and Mussolini, the blood spilled immediately following the civil war, and the regime's efforts to close down cultural and economic contact with the world. But then again, so did Stalin in the 1930s and after the Second World War. He signed the non-Aggression Pact with Hitler, he killed millions in fortifying his power, and closed the borders of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc.
Franco was much more interested in establishing and keeping his power than any fascist movement. He and Spain were "always more Catholic than fascist, built its authority upon traditional pillars such as the Church, big landowners, and the army, essentially charging them instead of the state or the weaker Falange with social control. Franco's state intervened little in the economy, and made little effort to regulate the daily life of people as long as they were passive" (p. 217). You saw little or none of this in Germany and Italy; the fascist party was the most important part of political and often daily life in Germany and Italy during their rules. Everything else took a back seat.
Was Franco a cold, ruthless, and brutal dictator? Without a doubt, but to call him a fascist would be incorrect. He was a military man, one who had little to no respect and ideological desire of fascism. He didn't separate the state from the Church, the economy was not war based, the party was not at the center of daily and political life. His rise to power had little, if anything to do with fascism and the fascists, and everything to do with his position in the army. Franco was a military dictator, a brutal and ruthless dictator. But a fascist? There just isn't enough there.