Why Franco Was As Big A Killer A Stalin

Here in the US, one never hears the end of the “Stalin the murderer” line. Stalin is simply equated with genocide. The more intrepid on the Far Right even say that Stalin killed more than Hitler, in doing so betraying exactly where their sympathies have lain along (with the Hitlerists).

What does one think when one thinks of Franco, the fascist dictator of Spain. Nothing much. Sure, he was a dictator, but he was a good guy. Anyway, the economy boomed under him. Sure, he was Hitler’s best buddy, but let’s not talk about that. Did he kill anyone? Who knows? Maybe a few?

We know or do not know these things here in the West because the Ruling Class political parties have embedded these memes into our brain. Stalin? Greatest Murderer of All Time. Franco? Huh? I don’t know what to think. Not too bad, maybe?

We will do the math below, but first of all, some background. Why was and is Franco the pal of the US media and political elite. Because he was one of them.

And how did he get started? From 1936-1939, there was a popular regime in power in Spain. They won a democratic election. As we mentioned in the previous post, the Ruling Class never tolerates this, and in this case, they started a war against the state. The state had almost no arms (1 gun for every three men) and Franco’s best friends Hitler and Mussolini rushed in to help him out.

Other than brave volunteers who flooded in from around the globe to help the beleaguered state, not one state in the “liberal to conservative” West would lift one finger to help the Republicans. As Churchill (hero of the West, as I was taught here in the US) a far rightwing British elitist, pointed out, there was fear in the “liberal to conservative” West that aims of the Spanish Republican state would “infect” the masses of the West. And what might be the symptoms of this infection, that is, what did the Republicans want?

1. They put in a land reform which was opposed by big landowners. In the 1930’s, land reform was apparently anathema in the “liberal to conservative” West.

2. They massively expanded public education, antagonizing the Catholic Church which controlled education. In the 1930’s, apparently a massive expansion of public education was regarded with terror in the “progressive West.”

3. They put in a public pension reform, antagonizing the bankers. In the 1930’s, the idea that people should be financially secure and able to survive in their retirement was opposed by the “civilized West,” even apparently Roosevelt, who just put in a Social Security program.

4. They removed many of the top military officers in the reactionary army. This reactionary army had been used the elite to consolidate Ruling Class rule in Spain. Reform of the Armed Forces, that is, making them democratic and not controlled by the Ruling Classes to use to repress the people or fight imperialist war on behalf of Capital, was regarded with terror in the “democratic West.”

5. They encouraged workers to join unions, antagonizing the employers. In the 1930’s, in the “democratic West,” the idea that workers should have democratic rights and equal bargaining power with the bosses in the workplace was clearly to be opposed.

Hitler and Mussolini, along with the Ruling Classes of the “democratic West,” opposed all of these popular measures, giving the lie to the notion that somehow Hitlerism or Mussolinism were “socialist” projects, as the Right is now trying to rewrite them. It also shows that the “democratic states” of the West were completely supportive of the aims of the German and Italian fascists, at least as far as Spain, and probably beyond.

Indeed, a few years hence, the West would turn against their erstwhile fascist allies in a war. But the fact that they were strong allies only a few years prior shows that the differences between the West and the fascists were not over Elite or Ruling Class rule in society. Both the “democratic West” and the fascist dictatorships believed in Elite or Ruling Class rule in society, and both were essentially controlled by conservatives to reactionaries.

It is interesting that “socialist” Roosevelt also lined up with his Hitlerist and Mussolinist buddies, but that’s the way it was back then. The fascists were good for business, and that’s all that mattered. And Roosevelt, while pursuing progressive initiatives at home, was utterly committed to a reactionary and imperialist foreign policy, as have all US “liberal” Presidents to one degree or another.

What’s little known is that after Franco won, he killed 514,266 people. I’ve lived in the West my whole life, and I just learned this today. And I’m a smart guy. Why did it take me 52 years to learn this? Because the US Political and Media Elite (the “free political system” and the “free press”) doesn’t want me to know that deadly little fact.

Indeed, Western support for the Francoists, even after the fact, is a dirty little secret, at least here in the US. There were 200,000 executions, 200,000 dead in prison camps, and 114,266 who simply disappeared. That’s over a 39 year period from 1939 to 1978. Franco died in 1975, but his regime continued for another three years until 1978.

From 1921-1953, under Lenin but mostly Stalin in the USSR, there were at least 2.5 million killed. There were 900,000 executions, 1.2 million died in prison camps, and 390,000 died in the population transfers out of the Ukraine during collectivization (the so-called Holodomor).

The figures do not include the natural famine that occurred in the Ukraine and elsewhere in the USSR in the early 1930’s (the so-called Holodomor) because those were not deliberate killings, hence the Holodomor, or deliberate famine, never occurred. It also does not include deaths during population transfers during WW2 when Chechens, Ingush and Crimean Tatars were transferred to Siberia for collaborating with the Nazi invaders, and possibly other deaths during the war, such at the massacre at Katyn Forest in Poland.

The sources are in the archives, and I don’t feel like digging them up, but they come from the unveiling of the secret KGB archives by Gorbachev in 1990. They made a note of everyone they killed, name, date, the whole works. Since then, there has been a huge argument about the archives in the history journals, with Robert Conquest, etc. taking the tens of millions killed side and J. Arch Getty, etc. taking the side of the archives. Sources should be online; one reference is below.

That’s 2.49 million dead over a 32 year period.

So we see that the length of rule was about the same for both leaders, 39 years in one and 32 years in another.

Stalin still killed more.

Demographics of Spain, 1900-2005.

But who killed a greater percentage of the population?

Look at the graphic above, the demographics of Spain. In 1936, the population of Spain was ~26 million. In 1978, the population was ~36 million. The average population during the period was 31 million.

Demographics of the USSR, 1900-1995.

Now look at this graphic, the demographics of the USSR. In 1921, the population was ~140 million. In 1953, the population was ~180 million. Average for the period was 160 million.

Let us now divide the number killed by the average population in each nation:

USSR: 2.5 million / 160 million = 1.5

Spain: 514, 266 / 31.75 million = 1.6

I suppose to be fair I should average out the final figure by numbers of years the regime was in power, but I don’t know how to do that. From the comments, James Schipper helpfully does the math:

In the case of Spain, 514,266/(1978 – 1936) = 12,244 per year.

In the case of the Soviet Union, we get 2,490,000/(1953 – 1921) = 77,812 per year.

Dividing the yearly figures by the average population, we get 12,244/31 = 395* for Spain, and 77,812/160 = 486* for the Soviet Union.

*I’m not even sure what that figure means. Let’s just call it a “genocide factor.” It’s the number of killed per year in the country divided by the average population in number of millions.

As we can see, Franco was nearly as big a killer as Stalin.

Think the “free press” in the US will ever tell you that?

Keep in mind that the whole time Franco was in power, he had no bigger ally than the USA. The US government supported him to the hilt during his entire reign, and afterward until 1978. Richard Nixon lauded him as a hero.

US liberals like my folks always said, “Well, that was because of the Cold War. We supported fascists in the Cold War.” Well, in 1989, the Cold War ended, and the US has continued to support fascists and murderous rightwing regimes just as strongly as we did during the Cold War. Was this really all about US-Soviet conflict, or was it about something else? Like US imperialism?

One argument is that many or possibly most of the executions occurred during the war years. True, but many executions, disappearances and sentences to labor camps occurred after 1939.

Many former supporters of the Republicans went into hiding and were still in hiding 30 years after the war. Even on his death bed, Franco was still signing death warrants. To this very day, over 30 years after the transition to democracy, fear still rules the country.

In Asturias, where many killings took place and mass graves litter the land, most people simply refuse to talk about the killings under the dictatorship. The terror is still there. The only possible reason that people are still frightened is that the former supporters and officials of the regime must still retain vast power in Spanish society. People are afraid of a recrudescence.


Getty, J. Arch, Rittersporn, Gabor T. and Zemskov, V. N. October 1993. Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Prewar Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence. American Historical Review. [Getty, J. Arch, Rittersporn, Gabor T. and Zemskov, V. N. Les victimes de la repression pénale dans l’URSS d’avant-guerre. Revue des Etudes Slaves, 65:1, 199.]
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24 thoughts on “Why Franco Was As Big A Killer A Stalin”

  1. In fact Franco died in 1975 – So I don’t know where you get a ’29 year period from 1939 to 1979′ from.(In fact it’s a 39 year period, but that’s another point).

  2. Dear Robert
    I quite agree with you that Franco, unlike Mussolini, was one of of the mass murderers of the last century. However, your post calls for a few comments.
    Firsts, most of the executions took place during the period 1936 to 1939, but during the war the Republicans also executed many enemies. Neither side was very gentlemanly.
    Second, some people who die in prison also would have died outside. The average age of political prisoners is usually higher than that of criminal prisoners.
    Third, not all the murders carried out by the “Nationalists” can be blamed on Franco. From 1936 to, say, 1943, the years in which most of the executions occurred, Franco was not the undisputed dictator that he later became.
    Many years ago I read a book Los Topos = the moles, which was about Republicans that remained hidden during the entire Nationalist regime or during the period 1939 – 1969. In 1969 an amnesty was promulgated. They remained hidden because they feared that if they came out, they would be killed. However, the feared killer in many cases was a local potentate.
    Finally, to take the duration of a regime into account, simply divide the total number of killings by the number of years, and then you can take population into account. Using your figures, we get 514,266/(1978 – 1936) = 12,244 per year In the case of the Soviet Union, we get 2,490,000/(1953 – 1921) = 77,812 per year. Dividing the yearly figures by the average population, we get 12,244/31.75 = 385 for Spain, and 77,812/160 = 486 for the Soviet Union.
    The Soviet Union is still a bit higher, but your main is still valid: Franco was a mass murderer.
    Regards. James

  3. I didn’t know any fascist regimes still existed after the Cold War. Even Franco wasn’t indisputably fascist but a monarchist; the Nationalist side was originally led by fascists but after their deaths Franco took command.

    1. A monarchist? please explain your idea of monarchist. Franco didn´t restore monarchy after winning the civil war, he remained in power till his death and the heir to the throne remained in exile, in fact, never becoming king.

  4. Not defending Franco but your figures seem high:

    After Francisco Franco came to power:

    * Ramon Salas Larraza:
    o 22,641 executions
    o 4,000 deaths by guerrilla activity (to 1961)
    o 159,000 excess deaths by disease (1940-43)
    * Hugh Thomas: 100,000 executions
    * 22 October 2002 AP: new research shows perhaps 150,000 political prisoners executed during war and Franco dictatorship,.
    * Gabriel Jackson: 200,000 prisoner deaths, 1939-43
    * Daniel Davis, Spain’s Civil War : The Last Great Cause (1974) says that a Spanish official admitted in 1944 that Franco’s government had executed 192,684 since coming to power. Thomas doubts this number.

  5. What’s your source for Stalin’s death toll? The general consensus seems to be that it was ~20 million; I’ve seen estimates ranging from 3.5-60 million, but never as low as 2.5 million. Perhaps you’re thinking of the death toll during the Russian Civil War, which I seem to recall was estimated at ~2.5 million?

    1. Look in the archives. I’ve already written about it before and I don’t feel like digging it up. This comes with the unveiling of the secret KGB archives after the demise of the USSR.

      They recorded every single death, just about, year by year, even names and dates.

      900,000 executions.

      1.2 million dead in labor camps or gulags

      390,000 dead in dekulakization in the Ukraine early 1930’s.

      Total is 2.5 million. It does not include many deaths during WW2, most particularly the deaths during the population transfers during that era. Entire populations were transferred to Siberia during this time on suspicion of treason, or siding with the Nazi invaders. These included the Chechens, the Ingush and the Crimean Tatars at least.

      Ever since 1990, they have been fighting it out in the history journals about these new death tolls. One side is led by Robert Conquest upholding 10’s of millions and the other side by J. Arch Getty and others upholding the archive totals.

      Bottom line is that there was never any good evidence for that 10, 20, 40, 60, 110 or however many million figure. Most of that stuff were just figures pulled out of a hat by the CIA and MI6.

  6. “What’s little known is that after Franco won, he killed 514,266 people.”

    You have a source for that?

    I like the “266” part.

  7. The KGB records are far from complete. They only include actual political prisoners, not the genocides and mass starvations of captive populations, killings of German POWs.

    ‘The Great Terror’ by Robert Conquest does not agree with your low, low figures.

    I go with Conquest.

    1. There was no genocide or intentional starvation on Moscow’s part. Not even Conquest believes that anymore.

    2. @perceptor1

      Conquest was a former British intelligence asset working for the British foreign offices IRD anti-Communist propaganda unit he is not an impartial historian and his number are not based on any factual documentation.

  8. That’s the way it was back than, as it was for the Americans to kill Indians for their land. They also had slavery and that is all in the past, such as this subject.

    I know what Franco has done, but still he kept the Kingdom of Spain free from becoming a Soviet puppet state, and for that I give him thumbs-up.

  9. “They recorded every single death, just about, year by year, even names and dates. ”

    Yeah! and Getty (the guy who’s just penned an apology for Ezhov, btw) checked and verified them all, one by one. If you don’t know that, the KGB archive is still closed.

    Mr. Lindsay, it’s sad that – in the 21th century – there’s still a pathetic, deluded person like you.

    1. If you don’t know that, the KGB archive is still closed.

      No its not.

      The archives are not fully 100% open (which can be said of every government especially MI6 and CIA which we have gotten virtually nothing) mainly due to evidence of tempering since the time of Khrushchev and during Yeltsin’s rule but the most important documents have been released.

      The KGB or NKVD as it was known yearly arrests, executions, etc. documents are published on this website along with other material and even handed analysis.

      The Melbourne Gateway to Research on Soviet History (MelGROSH)


  10. Thanks for that MelGROSH link, John. I’ve never heard of that. I must admit that I myself thought the Soviet archives had been closed since not long after the period when J.Arch Getty et al did their report. In fact, I believe I read somewhere that big parts of them had been sold, probably to some American jew, but I couldn’t swear to that.

    1. Actually in exchange for western aid during the 70’s when the Soviet system collapsed due to Khrushchev’s actions and the cost of running the Soviet empire periodically archive material was periodically accessible to certain western historian although it was not fully disclosed towards the end of the USSR and its final collapse in 89/90.

      The Kremlin still keeps the most sensitive stuff top secret and has not released it but that is not unique as it is still way more access than that of the CIA and MI6 which would help determine what is propaganda and what is fact.

      The US government I think were given a large archive set and there is a debate which I had never heard of and never mentioned in the western media of allegations that during Yeltsin’s rule during the 90’s that a team forgers were hired to work on material that were to be inserted into the archives.


      Professor Grover Furr site is where I started getting an alternative view of Stalin and names of western historians even emailed him a couple of times to ask him questions about the main western points regarding Stalin.


      In fact it wasn’t until I discovered the Holomodor was a hoax that a found the Village Voice article in the 80’s reproduced on his site.

  11. Knowing so little of the Spanish civil war I have just read Paul Preston,s Spanish Holocaust. If Franco had joined Hitler I feel he would have joined the defendants at the Nuremburg trials.

  12. Kind of makes you wonder just what the hell is the “West”? In reality the West or Europe is way too damn diverse to just simply homogenize it into one single culture. Otto von Bismarck was right when he said “whoever speaks of Europe is wrong, it is a geographic expression.”

  13. Hello! Have been researching Franco for a school project and was hoping you would be able to link me to the evidence for the number of deaths which occurred under his regime as the links currently just lead to a error page! Thank you very much, would be a huge favour!

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