For anyone that watched Foreign Correspondent tonight, you’ll understand. I’ve studied the Spanish Civil War in some depth both at university and on my own time. It seems that since Franco died in 1975 and Juan Carlos initiated democracy in Spain, Spanish people have been reluctant to disturb the ghosts of the past and deal with the civil war. With a whitewash of propaganda during the 36 years of Franco’s rule, Rupublican views, interpretations and memorials of the war have not even been acknowledged, let alone respected and honoured.
Of course, any historical study of this fascinating but brutal period in history reveals that there were atrocities committed by both sides during the war. Fascist Francoists as well as Republicans killed each other without a second thought – civilians included. However, the fact remains that the Fascist Francoists seized power from a democratically elected government. The Popular Front Government was elected in Spain in February of 1936. In July of the same year, Franco and his posse launched a coup that plunged Spain into a brutal civil war – a war that saw Hitler support Franco with the German Condor legion conducting the first mass aerial bombing of a civilian centre in history. This bombing campaign has since been immortalised in Picasso’s famous “Guernica”.
Franco was a great admirer of Hitler. He even met with him during the early stages of the Second World War in 1940. During his reign, Franco suppressed all Republican interpretations and views of the civil war. He paid homage to the fallen Fascists of the war but never acknowledged those Spaniards on the Left or those who were simply defending the democracy that Fracco set out to destroy. The fact that many Spaniards are now demanding to acknowledge and literally dig up the past is a sign that Spain is now coming to terms with the fact that it was ruled by a ruthless fascist dictator for the most significant part of the 20th century. This dictator set back the political development of Spain for four decades and suppressed the flowering of Spanish democratic culture.
We should all be glad that Spain is acknowledging and honouring the Republican dead. The Republican side most certainly lacked many of the virtues that it was seeking to implement into Spanish society. But the fascist dictatorship that overthrew the democratic Republic was a devastating blow to the political, cultural, artistic and social devlopment of the world both during and after the Second World War. With all their failings, we should not forget the sacrifice that Republican Spaniards made in defending the virtues of democracy in the face of an overwhelming threat from the forces of devastating fascism. Indeed, we should remember and honour this sacrifice and use it as an inspiration to carry on the fight against fascism in all its forms.