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70 years on – smashing Franco’s fascism

April 24, 2007

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.

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4 comments

  1. How glad a foreigner person talks so well and truly about Spanish republic! Where are you from?
    I’ll tell you one thing: John Charles I was designed for Franco as his successor. During the democratic transition, all the democratic Spanish parties, from right to left wing, had to pact with the king and his government for can be legals. The last party that obtained legacy was the Spanish Communist Party, due to the fiercely ultra-right opossition.
    Actually, the republican thought has get more strength.
    ¡Salud!


  2. Hi, yes – sorry for such a late reply. I’m from Australia. I recently went to Spain, but did not get a chance to see much from the civil war as I had to take care of a group of students while there. I plan to return in the next few years.


  3. By chance I have arrived to your blog.
    I also greet you for your interest on the spanish history, but I have to note you that the reflected point of view is the one promoted from the actual left and far-left goverment, wich hardly shares half of the spaniards.

    During the democratic transition all facts regarding the Civil war were discussed and the casualties of both sides remembered. Also, even during the francoist regime all who fell in war were remembered with a notable mausoleum named “Valley of the Fallen”, in wich construction, this is true, some war prisioners worked on, and it’s located in Madrid, near the historic El Escorial’s Monastery.

    The actual use of the memory of this war is a dirty resort of the leading left party, Socialist and Labour Party of Spain, to attack the opposition party, bond to the agreements of the Transition and the foundation of the democratic Spain.

    Finally, Gustavo here talks about republicanism in Spain. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of the spanish population agrees with a parlamentary monarchy, and it is revealling that no one national political party declares itself republican at all.

    Kind regards to our antipodes 😉


  4. Hi Carlos, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Of course, when you say: “The actual use of the memory of this war is a dirty resort of the leading left party, Socialist and Labour Party of Spain, to attack the opposition party, bond to the agreements of the Transition and the foundation of the democratic Spain”, I’m inclined to agree. I wouldn’t put anything past any professional party politician, left or right, and that most certainly includes distorting facts and removing context in order to advance their various interests.

    However, from what I have read (and I admit that this has been from afar here in Australia), things such as the supression in Barcelona (and other areas of Catalonia as in other areas of Spain) that continued in the 10-15 years after the war has not been fully emoitionally dealt with nor have all of the peoples’ questions been answered. Yes, the transition to democracy was relatively quick and this was an awesome conscious effort by the Spanish people who did it amazingly. And of course, I think this was an ultimate result of, among other things, King Carlos’ actions in bringing the nation together for a leap foward into modernism after such a long period of supression after the death of Franco.

    You’ve misinterpreted my original point, which was not about the parliamentary monarchy alone. One of my original points was one that you’ve actually repeated yourself: that the Spanish people do support parliamentary democracy – and this is proven by the fact that they voted for it in 1936.

    It was Franco and his crew that actually set out during that year to destroy that democratically elected government. They ultimately succeeded in 1939 and brutally ruled the country for 36 years. Note that I also originally said above that BOTH Republicans and Fascists committed atrocities during that war. But another one of my points was that the side who won the war was acknowledged and the side that lost was first silenced and suppressed under Franco’s rule and quickly told to move along after Franco’s death and try to forget the war for a greater good. Also, the atrocities that the left and their allies suffered were only primarily dealt with in a short period of time because most Spanish people were eager to move on after Franco’s death (both left and right).

    As for the Monarchy… Franco disregarded them as well anyway. He kept the king as a convenient figurehead to keep the “old soft right” happy. Juan Carlos was an active supporter of the transition to democracy immediately after Franco’s death – I don’t deny this at all. He did a good job in difficult circumstances. But that wasn’t what I was getting at anyway.

    Lastly, while your claim that the “left” does not represent half or more of the Spanish population may be true, it could also be said of the “right” who were, I might add, voted out of office in a landslide because they made some dirty lying claims of their own for their own advantage back in 2004. There are a number of people across the political spectrum in Spain, just like in most “democratic” countries. I am saying that one side has had respect and been glorified because they won the war, while the other continues to struggle relatively silently with the result of wounds inflicted on them during a period of fascistic police state repression without any really meaningful public forum through which to talk.

    “The winners always write history” – this is most certainly true. But moving on should see a flowering of dialogue among the people of Spain. They are a vibrant, inventive, hard working and very cool mix of cultures. It was such a shame that this flowering was held down for 36 years. Spain and the world were poorer for it.

    Fascism can exist on both left and right, and are both bad. The left had alot to offer during 1936 and were democratically elected to form a popular front government that was only in office for four and a half months when Franco launched his long and bloody campaign.

    Republican and Fascist is, as you say, no longer relevant. But it is important that the history of that period be studied and acknowledged from all angles, particularly those who were opressed.



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