PR in fascism

The videos about the Spanish fandom of Franco’s fascism and German clothes symbolizing the ideas of the extreme far-right showed a contemporary cultural and even emotional attachment to far-right movements including fascism in Germany and Spain, to the point where it seems like the participants or rather the ones that spread it are willingly ignoring the atrocities committed under the name of fascism, so that only a romanticized side of the ideology is diffused. A nostalgia, not unlike the one associated with the good sides of communism remembered by the older generation of East European countries, appears to emanate. Acts of dressing with German clothing brands that bring to the fore elements of the fascist Nazi ideology such as the purity of the race, or of going to a café dedicated to the dictator Franco, or to participate in a commemoration of him, can be interpretated as a way to put forth the old iconic symbols of the movement to bring back the same fervor it enjoyed years ago, and maybe voluntarily only focusing on the components that serve the actual resurgences (such as the anti-immigration stance) and putting aside the former extreme actions (concentration camps).

German fascism in the 1930s and then Spanish fascism in the 1960s employed similar tactics of propaganda to try and create craze among the population, as discussed by the articles on tourism. It is interesting to note the different approaches of the two countries. Baranovski’s article depicts cruises organized by the Nazi party destined to the workers in order to promote, and kind of present to the local population of the countries visited, the German nation as a united one. In this line of thought, there were efforts in order for the passengers to mingle in ships apparently devoid of social segregation, or at least tentatively hidden. The reality said otherwise, as people stayed with others from their native region, and Party members and people from different hierarchical backgrounds behaved accordingly and had access to privileges. This traveling enabled Germans to witness for themselves their racial superiority compared to other populations, and in a public representation way, to showcase it, in an environment of propaganda where leisure and enjoyment were reserved to the ones reaching the racial standards, and the ones below were deprived of it. The analysis of German photographs of Umbach supports this comparison between people, as Germans are pictured in advantageous ways and other population are captured in lazy moments for example. These kinds of photographs also support the idea of presenting fascism in a good and positive way, which aligns with today’s romanticizing of it.

While Germans traveled outside, Franco’s Spain brought tourists in, as explained by Crumbaugh’s article. The positive image of the country was meant to be achieved by tourist coming in to visit, and the fact that people could travel was meant to show that there was freedom under the regime. The goal was to instill a sense of national pride that only fascism could bring, as with Germany. As recent (but pre-pandemic) protests against mass tourism in Barcelona happen (see https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexledsom/2019/07/12/barcelona-is-ready-to-shut-out-tourists/?sh=4c3d940f5546), one can conclude with a stretch that maybe the job was done and carried on a little too well and Spain ended up victim to its own campaign of promoting tourism!

On an amusing side note, the German fascist cruises show that surveillance by infiltration was not exclusively a feature of the communist regimes as they are well known for! Clearly all political regimes need inside informers and some got lucky and ended up with a paid vacation.

Works cited:

Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the ThirdReich(Cambridge, 2004), pp. 1-10, pp. 162-98

Justin Crumbaugh, “Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of Tourism” in Destination Dictatorship: the Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boomand the Reinvention of Difference (SUNY Press, 2009), pp.15-41.

Maiken Umbach, “Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in GermanPhoto Albums, 1933-1945” Central European History Vol. 48, Special Issue 3 (Photography and Twentieth-Century German History): 335-365.

Cynthia Miller-Idris, “The Extreme Gone Mainstream” IIITMedia lecture, May 2018https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHYcakSDUCE

Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqKSXPiGe7U

2 Replies to “PR in fascism”

  1. This was a very well written piece. I enjoyed reading it very much. My question is, do you believe this perceived opening and freedom to travel to and from Franco’s Spain ultimately lead to the collapse of the regime?, or do you think it was simply one aspect of the problem as Spaniards and people from around the world were able to show the oppressive realities that were very prevalent in Spain at the time?

  2. Hi, thank you! I don’t think that the traveling led to the collapse because from what I understand, this perceived freedom is a thing fondly remembered. But I think it yours is a very good point that traveling enabled tourists to spread the word about what was going on and that is certainly something that contributed!

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