Weathering the Storm (1943–49)
With the wisdom of hindsight, Franco’s admirers later pointed to Serrano’s ouster as proof of the CaudiUo s keen political judgement. It came, they said, because Franco could see that the Axis was going to lose the war, so he wanted to distance the Spanish regime from Germany and Italy. There is little or no evidence to support this argument. Personally, the new Foreign Minister, General Gomez Jordana, was less pro-Axis than his predecessor. Professionally, however, he was a soldier, an africanista, and entirely subservient to Franco. When Jordana informed Ambassador Hayes in November 1942 that an Allied landing in French North Africa would be considered an act of aggression against Spain, he was undoubtedly expressing Franco’s, not his own, view.1 After the Allied landings took place, that same month, Franco’s controlled press continued to assure readers that the Axis still had the upper hand, and the Spanish Foreign Ministry drew up a plan entitled ‘Bases for Political Negotiations with Germany’. Even when Hitler was forced to beat a retreat for the first time, on the Russian front at the end of December 1942, Spanish support did not waver. In January 1943 Party Secretary Arrese discussed political organization in Berlin with his German counterpart. The following month Spain and Germany signed a secret protocol in which Spain pledged to repel any Allied invasion. These were hardly signs of a significant anti-Axis shift in Spanish foreign policy. At the same time, the Spanish regime was not actively
hostile to the Allies, for it needed to obtain from them vital
supplies of rubber, petroleum, cotton and wheat. Yet German setbacks did not make Franco rush to embrace the Allied cause. As he had so often done during the Civil War, he sat behind the battle lines, watching through his binoculars as the two sides fought it out. Franco’s immobility in 1942-43, his smiles first to one side, then to the other, were not the sign of an astute politician, but of the conservative strategist, determ ined not to risk anything by an impulsive action. Unsure where to place his bet (or, indeed, whether he wished to bet), he held his hand; on the alert, but immobile.