15 Oct, 2007 @ 12:20
3 mins read

Why do some want us to forget?


If Spain’s judges can chase, hound and illegitimise Latin American dictators, why can’t they do the same to their own asks Carlos Pranger

WITH the processing in parliament of the Ley de Memoria Histórica (Law of Historical Memory), Spain is taking a step towards the consolidation of its democracy. This process, which began after Francisco Franco’s death, was called the la Transición, the transition. But Spain is still full of symbols, such as statues, monoliths and street names, in honour of that dictator. The victims of repression during the war and throughout Franco’s reign have never had any official recognition and there are mass graves all over Spain that contain the remains of more than 30,000 Republican soldiers, politicians, workers and trade unionists.

Spain’s new legislation, which failing any last minute hitches is set to become law on October 30, could oblige the judiciary and the Government to cooperate in the investigation, location and exhumation of mass graves.
All symbols honouring Franco’s totalitarianism will be removed from public spaces, including churches – which are full of them.
Trials dating from the dictatorship need to be revised. More than 30 years after the brutal ruler died, many people still appear in the judicial records as criminals, accused and condemned for holding different political ideas.

The initiatives included in the law are a matter of controversy between those who think that this will reopen old conflicts and those who think that it is a matter of necessary justice and restitution.

The real path to democracy

Spain, if it is ever to become a true democratic country, must be capable of looking back at its recent past without trying to cover up what it would prefer not to see. Democracy is not static, it is continuously developing and a solid background is important to be able to confront the future. In 2002, 27 years after Franco died, the Spanish parliament, approved a resolution that condemned the military coup of 1936 and promoted a moral recognition of the victims of both sides, the opening of mass graves and the possibility of economic help for the exiled.
Even the Partido Popular (PP) reluctantly agreed, but they are not carrying out what they signed.

The PP is a right-wing political party formed during the transition by Manuel Fraga, an ex-minister of Franco’s government. For five years, the PP has been obstructing any initiatives or negotiations related to the Law of Historical memory. It looks as if it has not been capable of getting over Franco’s influence and that they are still prisoners of the past. When they say that the Law of Historical Memory is useless, they are trying to influence history. Propaganda makes memory easy to manipulate. They are trying to sow confusion by claiming that the military coup in 1936 was the same as the democratic elections of 1934 and that Franco’s dictatorship was as legitimate as the Republic. In this way, Franco is turned into a soft dictator who saved Spain from the evil ‘Reds.’
It is true that the dictatorship relaxed a bit in the mid 50s when the sound of money from tourism began, but of course a lot of that money went into the pockets of only a few.
The attitude of the PP is a barrier against increasing the rights of the Spanish people.

What is good for the goose…

It is amazing that Spanish judges have prosecuted South American dictators such as Augusto Pinochet, but what about Spain and its 40-year dictatorship and all those who took advantage of it?

There has always been a veil of silence over these years.

In 2006, Amnesty International published a report on the victims in the Spanish Civil War, and they concluded that the truth was being repressed, specially with the restriction of access to judicial and police archives and to documents from the Civil War.
We live in a lawful state. The victims of Franco’s repression have the right to ask for justice.

As we know, wars are terrible and its victims are usually innocent people. In the Spanish Civil War, there was brutality, murder and hatred on both sides. However, the Republicans have had to wait more than 30 years to receive any gesture from a Spanish government. They were massacred in the name of God and an imaginary religious crusade. On the other side, churches were burnt and nuns and priests killed. Those victims have been recognised for 40 years. However, on October 28 of October 2007, the Spanish Church, an organization always very close to dictatorships, is going to beatify 400 martyrs of the Republic. Will members of the PP go to the event? Spain has always been too full of people who think God is on their side.

Spain must get over the last remnants of a dictatorship by looking back at the past and calling things by their true names– both healthy democratic exercises. In democracy, there is no place for concealment and the faults of both sides must be recognised. I hope the new law will is passed for those who suffered repression in the war and during the dictatorship.
These people will be restored and recognized officially, but a law has been necessary to return their lost dignity.


  1. I have just got back from staying in Cordoba where I went to visit the San Rafael cemetery. My interest in this place had been aroused by reading, in Ronald Fraser’s book BLOOD OF SPAIN, that many people had been executed there in the first few months of the Spanish Civil War by the Francoist civil governor, Major Bruno Ibanez.I spent a long time walking about in the cemetery but could find no marked graves or memorials to indicate that anything of the sort had ever occured in that place. While in Cordoba I did notice several newspaper items about the beatification of those killed for their religious beliefs by supporters of the Republic. I would be very interested to know if there is a memorial to the executed supporters of the Republic that I may have missed in the San Rafael Cemetery or if their bodies lie there unrecorded and un-investigated.

  2. Geoff,
    I used to live next to the cemetery for years. The neighbours didn’t talk about it at all; understandably. From what my union (CNT)could tell me, the victims were shot against the outside walls of the cemetery and then buried in mass graves right there at the edge of Cruz Conde park.

  3. Carlos Pranger,
    what an excellant article and says it nearly all except he does’nt mention that many of these Catholic priests were practising paedaphiles who had never been held to account and acted with impunity.

    Many Catholic nuns were extremely brutal in their handling of children. All these ‘holy’ men and women virulently opposed democracy in any form and actively lauded the Austrian/German and Italian Fascists – it was for these reasons they were killed NOT because they were Catholics.

    Of course the PP does’nt want this to happen, this party was formed from the amalgamation of all the Fascist splinter groups.

    The Anarchists of Cataluyna used to take these priests and nuns out to the cliffs above Sitges and shoot and then push them
    over the edge.

    He is quite right that democracy cannot really take root until all these horrors have seen the light of day.

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