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Post Juan March
Created by John Eipper on 04/13/15 1:32 AM

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Juan March (Sasha Pack, USA, 04/13/15 1:32 am)

It seems to me that some WAISer (was it Anthony Candil?), once mentioned Juan March's role in managing the accounts used to bribe members of Franco's staff to promote pro-British positions. I have come to believe that, whatever his dealings with the Italians in 1936, March always represented an Anglophile element of the Francoist constituency.

March was a classic frontier robber-baron (as the historian Mercedes Cabrera aptly describes him), and there are those who will insist his only loyalty was to his business. But his smuggling empire was based on a model that assumed weak and uncoordinated law enforcement, and it had him dealing with sovereign powers routinely. He had his own intelligence networks, his own "protégés," "treaties" with states, and occasionally conflicts with states. Like other quasi-independent potentates of the Western Mediterranean, he consistently worked best with the British.

In World War I, his network dealt commercially with both Entente and Central Powers: he sold fuel to German U-Boats, and probably helped the Germans send arms to Moroccan warlords to tie down French forces there. But I believe March provided his most valuable good, naval intelligence, only to Britain; and only Britain could provide him with the cover of the Union Jack, which flew over many of his vessels.

Fast forward two decades: March detested the Spanish Republic, which attempted to prosecute him for accumulated collusion and corruption, and which represented all the Spanish day laborers who worked in Gibraltar and smuggled home a little tobacco on their way home each evening--cutting into March's profits. He turned to the age-old Mediterranean practice of financing an insurgent political movement in the hopes of a payoff--only on a far larger scale. But it's difficult for me to believe that March desired to see an Axis revolution in the Western Mediterranean in the way Franco did (though March surely could have accommodated himself to such a world).

Franco calculated (correctly) that only with the prestige of a German alliance could he win over the Moroccan populace; and he calculated (incorrectly) that Spanish territorial ambitions in Gibraltar and Morocco somehow aligned with some broad Axis vision. March wanted the environment that provided the most flexibility to his shady businesses and his international financial operations, and British Gibraltar had always given him that.

I am looking forward to seeing Ángel Viñas here in Buffalo in a few weeks. Officially speaking, he will come wearing his "Brussels insider" hat, but I hope he also packs his Spanish Civil War historian hat.

JE comments: And beside Ángel, I'll have the chance to meet Sasha Pack.  I'm looking forward immensely to the 24th's WAIS mini-summit.

And thank you, Sasha, for this insight on what made Juan March tick.  Answer:  the interests of Juan March.

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