Bartolí on Fascist Spain

Josep Bartolí i Guiu’s graphic art covered news of Fascist Spain with the information provided by underground and global networks of dissidence. Bartolí’s satirical commentary contested the US Cold War narrative about Francisco Franco’s Spain as an ally of world peace and Christianity. His artistic production displayed a proletarian sensibility that mocked the many facets of Fascist Spain: the imperial rhetoric, the military life, the Spanish fascist party Falange, the cult of the unique leader, National Catholicism, censorship, and the socialization of youth. Furthermore, Bartolí’s visual language exposed Francisco Franco’s anti-intellectualism, elitism, corruption, and demagogic propaganda, thus, breaking down mainstream notions of Spain for American readers. At the same time, he documented the US freedom fighters’ “good fight” for posterity.

"Will to Empire"

The notion of Catholic and traditional Spain promoted by Franco’s regime not only included the desire for an Imperial Spain, but an empire was its starting point. The Rif War (1921-1927) was a catalyst for the fascist habitus, in terms of Justin Crumbaugh and Nil Santiáñez, as did World War I for German Nazism and Italian Fascism.

Francisco Franco’s Marruecos: Diario de una Bandera (1921), among other fascist publications in the 1920s and 1930s, shows glorification of war as purification of the race, transformed into violence against local populations in the protectorate of Morocco, and later exported as direct action to ignite a civil war in Spain and during the war itself (Crumbaugh and Santiáñez 12-15). Ramiro de Maeztu’s Defensa de la Hispanidad (1934) proclaimed the “will to empire” or the repudiation of the Enlightenment and the profound nostalgia for the Golden Age and its mission as the chosen people of Spain to redeem the world (Crumbaugh and Santiáñez 25).

The independence of Morocco in 1956 brought about commentary and Bartolí’s graphic art for years until 1969, when Ifni was returned to Morocco. However, it did not gain administrative powers until the late 1970s.

Paris-Rabat illustrates Ramón J. Sender's essay about the demagoguery of Franco’s propaganda; Ilustra el ensayo de Ramón J. Sender sobre la demagogia de la propaganda de Franco.


Bartolí’s art also expose Franco’s supporters in his will to empire. One of them was the Falange Española de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista (FE-JONCS), the Spanish fascist party.

Bartolí published several drawings about the Falange with Franco. Although the Falange seems to be helping Franco in these cartoons, Bartolí was mocking their alliance as a disastrous one.

Bartolí used the technique of drawing the enemies as animals. In Ibérica, Falangists were violent animals, monsters, ruthless men, or fools. For instance, they were represented as orangutans (May 1956), as a stature of a mule with the Falange symbol (Dec. 1957), or as a Falangist who hid behind a bishop to shoot his rifle (June 1961), the Opus Dei as a rabies dog that controlled a Falangist (Nov. 1969).

Nonetheless, these violent monsters, men, and animals are mocked by the artist who makes them fall from trees, be poorly patched up, act pretentious, and in need of protecton of the Church or the Opus Dei, rending them more stupid than dangerous.

Falangists were also compared to Communists and Nazis.

Censorship of the Press and the Arts, Education, and Socialization of the Youth

One of the main themes of antifascist humor was Spanish censorship, which allowed for the control of the public sphere. The Law of the Press (1938) gave all control of censorship of the press, which became a mere apparatus of Franco’s propaganda. By 1940, the Press of the Movement was formally instituted and not only the Falange had control over publications and in the 1940s there was a proliferation of fascist imperialist literature in Spain, despite the failed negotiation with Hitler for Spain to enter the world war (Crumbaugh and Santiáñez 33). Bartolí’s graphic art denounced the regime’s censorship on the press and the arts. 

Another means of reproducing the will to Empire was by the socialization of the youth. US antifascist periodicals examined the consequences of a fascist education. The Catholic Church contributed to this elitist and fascist socialization of the youth and the control of the population from schools and churches with lists of prohibited books, repression against teachers, and readings of autos de fe from the imperial and inquisitorial past (Viñas 31). Bartolí told the hierarchy of the Church to listen to dissenting voices.

While a rational and intellectual education was dismissed in Franco’s Spain, football and flamenco were promoted to entertain the people. Bartolí builds on the stereotypical vision of football, bullfighting, and folclóricas promoted by Franco and redirects his reader’s attention to the exile intellectuals and scientists. Bartolí’s translated this fascist education into visual language


Violence was one of the main tools to build a Fascist Empire. After the coup, Franco’s rule was characterized for brutality and cruelty, anyone who did not support him was considered unpatriotic and an enemy to be eradicated. The extreme violence perpetrated in North Africa was inflicted in Spain during the war. Once a city fell under the rebels, the process of “cleansing” started. During and after the war, military leaders recruited and armed local authorities and civilians, who killed anyone accused of unpatriotic liaisons, often by generalized denunciations caused by fear, paranoia, o personal vendettas (Nieto Ruiz 12, 20, 26). The celebration of 25 years of peace in 1964 included posters in all towns and cities celebrating the purge of Reds and atheists (Nieto Ruiz 31).

Poverty, corruption, and the black market was another way to opress the population into submission.

Prisons and Prisoners

Prisons and camps were overcrowded with dissidents in Franco’s Spain, over 10 and 15 times their capacity. Hundred died because of the unhealthy conditions (Nieto Ruiz 27).

Bartolí i Guiu, Josep
Bartolí on Fascist Spain