Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Will Spain erase Franco?

The government of Spain is having a hard time with caudillo Francisco Franco nearly 32 years after his death in 1975. Spanish prime minister José Luis Zapatero is championing a controversial law that would, among other things, ban all images of Franco and his regime from public places, including all Nationalist symbols and references.

So what's the problem, you ask? Hasn't Spain already torn down nearly all of the statues of Franco?

Well, yes. That's not a problem. Zapatero's proposed law goes a step further than simply tearing down Franco's statues, but starts to get into attempting to erase Franco's memory from Spanish history entirely. Zapatero's eerily titled Law for the Recovery of Historical Memory provides monetary compensation, burial with honors, and retroactive political rehabilitation for victims of Franco's fascist government, as well as the relatives of Republican fighters killed during the civil war. However, the attempt to erase the memory of Franco and his government entirely smacks somewhat of Spanish civil war veteran George Orwell's famous "memory hole" from his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the past has been erased, the erasure forgotten, and the new history becomes true by default. Will whitewashing get rid of Franco's legacy?

Not on your life. In fact, Zapatero's attempt to legislate history has brought everyone back into the act of rehashing the Spanish civil war. Parties on the left are outraged that the new law doesn't compensate enough or annihilate Franco's memory enough. Parties on the right are outraged about the selective memory of the radical left's abuses during the civil war. The rancor has been pretty impressive for a war that's been over for 70 years. After Franco's death, the left and right wing political parties themselves had managed to put aside arguments about the civil war itself by means of the unspoken pacto del olvido ("pact of forgetting"), which put rebuilding Spanish democracy and reintegrating with the world ahead of their own civil war squabbling. Considering Spain's fragile democracy was by no means assured in the 1970s and 1980s, the truce was seen as a viable way for the country to move ahead without risking another left-right fissure that led to political discord, or worse, Fascist or Communist radicalism.

However, it can be more or less successfully argued that Spain's democracy is vibrant enough today to the point where it is no longer threatened by a Fascist resurgence. So why has Zapatero put aside the unspoken pact? God only knows, but once he did, the Spanish left and right have been going at each other like cats and dogs, trading body counts, atrocities, etc. with each other nearly non-stop. It could be that Zapatero's attempt to whitewash the history of the Spanish civil war and the Franco regime was either the best idea Spain ever had, or the dumbest. Yet Spain need only look to Germany to realize that political reconciliation and unvarnished history can, in fact, live side by side, if allowed the opportunity. The folly in legislating history should be self-evident, but then again, it could just be that Spain hasn't learned the hard way yet.

UPDATE: Nobody's quite sure yet what this proposed law would mean for the one of Spain's most visited national monuments, the Valley of the Fallen.

1 comment:

Michael said...

1984, indeed...

How are we to learn the lessons of the past of they are swept under the rug?

Yet another bad idea from the Left. Thanks a lot.