In “Homage to Catalonia,” his memoir of the Spanish Civil War, George Orwell remarks that Francisco Franco’s military uprising against Spain’s elected government “was an attempt not so much to impose fascism as to restore feudalism.” Paul Preston’s magisterial account of the bloodshed of that era bears this out. Fascism may belong to the 20th century, but Franco’s grab for power evokes earlier times: the parading soldiers who flourished enemy ears and noses on their bayonets, the mass public executions carried out in bullrings or with band music and onlookers dancing in the victims’ blood. One of Franco’s top aides talked of democratically chosen politicians as “cloven-hoofed beasts,” and anything that smacked of modernity — Rotary Clubs, Montessori schools — seemed to draw the regime’s violent wrath. Echoing the Inquisition, Franco ordered particularly despised foes put to death with the garrote, in which the executioner tightens an iron collar around a person’s neck.
more from Adam Hochschild at the NY Times here.