Spain Fights Civil Wars Last Battle

Dissertation

Spain fights civil war’s last battle

Introduction

“Remembrance as a vital human activity shapes our links to the past, and the ways we remember define us in the present.? [1] 

It has been almost 75 years since the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, which was not only a war but also a revolution which would result either in a victory for Fascism or Communism. In the event, General Francisco Franco’s Fascist party won the war. After the victory of the rebellious generals, Franco took power thus inaugurating the longest dictatorship in the history of Europe (1939-1975). It is still remembered not only for the horrors of the war itself but because it inflicted a deep and long lasting wound on Spanish society. It has remained a significant war [2] , which is still recognised internationally, long after the conflict has ended, and especially in Spain. It was not just a struggle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ but to do with cultural life, unhappiness, gender issues and many underlying social and political issues.

“After Franco died, in 1975, la Transicion had seemed truly miraculous. At this point, there had been no falling of the Berlin wall and no full-scale toppling of Latin America’s rightwing dictatorships. Nor had Spaniards, unlike their neighbours in Portugal, pushed dictatorship out with peaceful, carnation-wielding revolution. There was no road map for going from authoritarian, dictatorship government to democracy. Spain was unique. It had to find its own way. And it did so by smothering the past.? [3] 

‘La Transicion’, ‘The Transition’ was the era when Spain moved from the dictatorship of Francisco Franco to a liberal democratic state.

‘El pacto del olvido’, the pact of forgetting was in complete contrast to the attitude taken up after the First and Second World Wars, the familiar memorial injunctions and inscriptions such as ‘Lest we forget’, and ‘We shall remember them.’

The ‘Historical Memory Law’ (Ley de Memoria Histórica or La Ley por la que se reconocen y amplían derechos y se establecen medidas en favor de quienes padecieron persecución o violencia durante la Guerra Civil y la Dictadura, ‘The Act to recognise and extend rights and establishing measures for those who suffered persecution or violence during the Civil War and Dictatorship’) is a Spanish law passed by the Congress of Deputies on the 31st of October 2007. [4] It was based on a bill proposed by the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party government of Prime Minister José Zapatero. The bill condemns the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco and mandates restitution to its victims. The law recognises the victims on both sides of the Spanish Civil War, but especially the victims under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. The other provisions it enforces are:

- Sentences handed down by kangaroo courts during the dictatorship, which sent thousands of dissidents and opponents of the regime to jail, will be formally declared "illegitimate."

- Local governments must help locate, exhume and identify the bodies of victims from mass graves. Tens of thousands of Republican partisans are believed to be buried in concealed normal graves throughout the country, their fates never officially recognised.

- Demonstrations are banned at El Valle de los Caidos, or the Valley of the Fallen, a mausoleum and tourist attraction where Franco is buried, sometimes used for fascist rallies.

- Spaniards who lost citizenship after the dictatorship which forced them into exile can regain it; descendants of exiles will be allowed to apply for citizenship during a two-year period.

- Plaques, statues and other symbols honoring Franco "or statements in exaltation of the military uprising, the civil war or the repression of the dictatorship" must be removed from public view.

It has been very controversial as many people feel it is opening up old wounds.  My dissertation is going to focus on the issues at stake here, the challenge of memory in the face of tragedy. Spaniards especially younger generations whose grandparents and parents had often kept their silence, suddenly wanted to know more, which is a “direct result of the graves being opened? [5] .

Spaniards especially younger generations whose grandparents and parents had often kept their silence, suddenly wanted to know more.

John Snow in the ‘Genius of British Art’ said, “Art commemorates and moves generations to come,? I shall question and analyse whether Spain should incorporate art into their commemoration rather than just uncovering mass war graves and removing fascist monuments. Realistically we commemorate and express what we are or want to be. Destroying the past and removing fascists monuments makes no sense at all: we have to remember what happened, and try to give a new meaning to it all. Spain should transform some of those monuments and built new ones. History does not and cannot disappear, history is continuing to be made everyday, and we have to make history as well, not just for the past but also for today and the future. As a society, how do we remember the past, and in what form? Does this remembrance change, and, if so, what does this tell us about our collective consciousness and cultural identity? Each separate part of Spain seems to have its own version of Spanish history and what happened before and during the Spanish Civil War. How does a country tackle this commemorative issue. This essay will be a critical analysis of the commemoration of historical events and the issues which have arisen, with specific reference to the Spanish Historical Memory Law and The Spanish Civil War. To do this, this essay will explore the interlocking themes of memory, remembrance and commemoration with case studies…

Chapter 1: Spanish Civil War and the introduction of HML

“One reason that Spaniards, especially older Spaniards, do not like to talk about the Spanish Civil War is that they still disagree so radically on it.? [6] 

General Francisco Franco, together with other generals, and with the military support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, headed a coup d’état in 1936 that interrupted the democratically elected government of the Second Republic (1931-1936). Since the coup d’état faced stiff opposition from many loyalists to the Republic, it gave rise to a civil war that lasted from 1936 to 1939. The 1930s in Spain were an intensely ideological era; it had already become apparent in the early 1930s that Spain was going through a time of political radicalisation and growing social disorder. General Francisco Franco’s rising popularity in Spain was a clear reaction from a country tired of a chaotic 130 years composed of many different regions, which at the time all wanted to be independent, both the Basque country and Cataluna who were nationalists were looking for international support to become independent. Spain was once one of the world’s most powerful countries [7] .

By the 20th Century it was a poor and backward country where corruption was rife; there were huge social tensions between the poor and the wealthy. Spain also suffered greatly by losing all its colonies especially Cuba in the disaster of 1898 and many people desperately wanted Spain to be a strong empire again. There were many other reasons behind the cause of the Spanish Civil War, in 1923 the establishment of General Primo de Rivera dictator of Spain, with Alfonzo XIII as King meant that Spain had a monarchist government. By 1930, opposition to Rivera’s right-wing government was growing, and this eventually led to his resignation and he left Spain. In 1931 the monarchist government was rejected in las elecciones populares, (the popular elections), which forced the abdication of Alfonzo XIII. Spain, now a republic for the second time (the Second Republic), began to suffer a huge amount of political unrest as various political groups within Spain fought about the degree and speed of reform, with lots of opposing views. Left-wing parties formed a coalition, which ordered that the Spanish parliament call for significant social reform while at the other end of the political spectrum, conservative parties threatened this weak coalition and in the years leading up to 1936, politics in Spain became more and more polarised. [9] was stuck in Morocco, they were meant to play a key role but the crews of the Spanish War ships stayed loyal to the Republican government and Franco was not able to transport them to mainland Spain. When Franco realised the Republican government were becoming stronger, Franco appealed to Mussolini and Hitler, both who sent over help, and Franco was able to bring the Army of Africa over, who headed north, causing destruction and death as they swept across Spain.

“The long rows of tombstones at Paracuellos de Jarama, with their tragic inscriptions to beloved fathers, husbands, brothers and sons, were eloquent proof that the left, too, had blindly butchered unarmed opponents.? [10] 

“It was clear that neither side had clean hands. These dead, however, were in holy ground. They were not in a ditch.? [11] 

Chapter 2: Memory

EXPLAIN WHAT I MEAN, OPENS UP TO DISCUSSION ON ‘OFFICIAL MEMORY’ discussion about memory which is in fact only what has been accepted as truth by successive generations.

Collective memory is understood as a representation of the past shared by a group or community. [18] it will inevitably manage to modify their interpretation of the past. The media was very tightly controlled under the Franco regime and it produced a series of values and historical myths which had a significant influence on the perception of the war over society, not all members of society but a considerable amount. This was not helped by the fact that no one spoke about the war, ‘El Olvido’ the unwritten ‘pact of forgetting’ meant that it was easy for Franco to plant this ‘official memory’ as Spaniards were happy not to remember the past and the war the way it actually was. In the 1960s, Spain witnessed a progressive replacement of the ‘official’ memory of the war.

The reburials and uncovering of mass graves since 2000 has brought an end to the silence which for the whole of Spain had kept the Civil War out of people’s conversation, if not their minds. Now, Spanish right-wingers are accusing Zapatero’s government of also creating an ‘official memory’ of the Spanish Civil War.

Chapter 3: Memorials

“The memorial is about moral uncertainty; it has been described as embodying “the delicate, almost imperceptible line that separates good and evil, life and death, guilt and innocence? [20] 

Events of violence and tragedy, wielding much emotional power invoking deep emotional responses, can be the most difficult to commemorate. Public memorials are an important component of a holistic transitional justice approach. They confront the legacies of atrocity by drawing on representations of the past to teach lessons about democratic citizenship and human rights. Memoralisation and memorials have become tools of human rights education in the broadest sense of the word-combining public art in recent, civic space, and the power of memory to help build better societies in the future. The tradition of commemorating the dead may have started with the ancient practice by which individual warriors would deposit stones to make up a cairn before going into battle. They would return and remove a single stone for those who did not return, leaving a memorial. [24] These may have been set up at different time and under different circumstances. The annual televising of the ceremonies at the Cenotaph in Whitehall is the best example of how those who died during Britain’s wars are annually remembered in Britain. These established practices and modes of remembrance are notably in Britain and France but also elsewhere. In Germany, the Holocaust is…… … and in Britain a remembrance day for the Holocuast, 27th January has been in the national calendar since 2001.(explain why in a footnote)

Spain’s best known war memorial is ‘Valle de los Caidos’, the Valley of the Fallen. The Valley of the Fallen is a monumental memorial in the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, erected at Cuelgamuros Valley in the Sierra de Guadarrama, near Madrid. [29] 

The monument is a landmark of 20th century Spanish architecture and was designed by Pedro Muguruza and Diego Mendez. Pedro Muguruza was a leading Spanish architect of the twentieth century. Supporting the winning side of the Spanish Civil War he held a high position in the government and was regarded as Francisco Franco’s lead architect. [30] He was Director General of Architecture, and organized the rebuilding of Spain after the ravages of war. Was he the Albert Speer of Spain?

A committee of ministers in Spain has been set up to consider ways to memorialise the suffering of Franco’s victims, and Jaume Bosch, a Catalonian senator in the Spanish parliament’s Upper House, is proposing important changes to the way in which the tens of thousands of visitors to the monument would interpret what they are shown.

“I want what was in reality something like a Nazi concentration camp to stop being a nostalgic place of pilgrimage for Francoists,? Señor Bosch said. “Inevitably, whether we like it or not, it’s part of our history. We don’t want to pull it down, but the Government has agreed to study our plan.?

He wants “a monument that not only remembers the dictatorship in a one-sided way, but also denounces it. For millions of Spaniards, this place continues to be an insult to our democracy.? Ideas range from information boards telling visitors what really happened to the incorporation of a new memorial honouring the republican dead. Señor Bosch is confident that, within a year, the Valley of the Fallen will no longer be as it is today. “The previous Socialist governments didn’t dare touch the subject, it was too soon. But that’s no longer the case, we’ve all grown up.?

Chapter 4: Comparisons and how others have tackled commemorative issues

Holocaust

The Nazi Holocaust is regarded as one the most momentous events of modern history. It has become a central reference point for humanity and is no longer dismissed as a tragic by-product of the Second World War or explained away by simplistic, monolithic theories. Until the 1960s, the world of scholarship and virtually every other section of society, received the Holocaust in stunned silence. For almost two decades philosophers, historians, psychologists and theologians could find very little to say or to explain the Holocaust. In the 1960s the subject began to generate a huge amount of literature, the shock still there but no longer silence about the subject. The Holocaust theme is a powerful subject. It is an inspirational subject that is capable of being mediated to spiritually enrich and morally uplift those who choose to use it in the right way. Although the two are very different, Spain suffered a Civil War not two world wars. Spain could turn to Germany and take example from how they tackled their commemorative issues and perhaps should look to how Germany has dealt with their need to do some soul searching. The Holocaust is both unique and universal and is utterly without parallel in its significance. It has become something global, and it is a highly effective educational tool.

The Historikerstreit ("historians' quarrel"[1]) was an intellectual and political controversy in late 20th-century West Germany about the historical interpretation of the Holocaust. The German word Streit translates variously as "quarrel", "dispute", or "conflict". The most common translation of Historikerstreit in English language academic discourse is "the historians' dispute", though the German term is often used. EXPAND + MORE TO MAKE RELEVANT

Art – Picasso’s ‘The Charnel House’ vs ‘Guernica’

Although, In Germany the “Final Solution? makes it a case apart. It has been proved that there was no ‘Sonderweg’, no special historical curse for Germany. And the same applies to Spain. Its history is different because is made by human beings and we have our peculiarities, but Spain has been connected with what happened in Europe and the rest of the world more than what we think. That is why is so surprising how we have failed to remember and commemorate our traumatic past, when others like Germany, France and even Italy have done it and dealt with it. Pablo Picasso used two overtly political and powerful paintings to compare and comment on the Spanish Civil War and the Holocaust. Picasso’s work was not consistently political, but in 1945 he said the following:

“What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes if he’s a painter, or ears if he’s a musician, or a lyre at every level of his heart if he’s a poet, or even, if he’s a boxer, just his muscles? On the contrary, he’s at the same time a political being, constantly alive to heartrending, fiery, or happy events, to which he responds in every way .... No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war for attack and defense

against the enemy.? [31] 

Through Picasso’s two paintings Guernica, 1937 and the Charnel House, 1945 he frames his war years. In both paintings Picasso communicates the loss of innocent lives. Unlike Guernica, the Charnel House does not explicitly represent an historical event, and the title of the work is unspecific, but there are similarities between these paintings in their linear style, the triangular composition in the center, muted colour scheme and the subject matter. Like Guernica, The Charnel House addresses the effect of conflict on civilians. . Between completing Guernica in 1937 and 1945, when he painted Charnel House Picasso worked in many different styles, but he returned to the style of Guernica when creating his image of the horrors of World War II. In the Charnel House Picasso concluded the series of pictures that he had started with Guernica. One of the greatest tragedies resulting from the Spanish Civil War was the bombing of Guernica on April 26, 1937. Guernica is a village in the Basque country that was bombed by German and Italian warplanes at the command of the Spanish Nationalist forces. For over three houses, twenty-five or more of Germany’s best equipped bombers, accompanied by at least twenty Messerschmitt and Fiat Fighters, dumped one hundred thousand pounds of high-explosive and flammable bombs on the village, slowly and thoroughly destroying the whole village into rubble. The Spanish Republican government commissioned Pablo Picasso to create a large mural for the Spanish display in 1937 at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans le Vie Moderne (Paris International Exposition). Picasso’s Guernica shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. Guernica has gained a monumental status, becoming an eternal reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol and an embodiment of peace. When Picasso handed the piece over, Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed. This tour helped bring the Spanish Civil War to the world’s attention. The painting is full of imagery and different themes. Picasso filled his painting with different characters representing different aspects of Spanish culture. The mother and child on the right are a symbol of civilian destruction; the destruction of nature and beauty is present through the horse and the flower and the crushed bird a representation of the crushed Spanish spirit. In one of the first drafts of the mural, Picasso included the classic Republican symbol of the clenched fist surrounded by a halo, however he chose to eliminate it, perhaps due to its obvious significance. Guernica shows the suffering of people, animals, and buildings torn by the violence, chaos and despair of war. Even after it was finished, Guernica’s meaning and role kept changing, mainly politically. While it was in the Spanish pavilion it served as an instrument of propaganda, Picasso had evoked in a painting “a disintegrated world afflicted by the horrors of war? [33] Rather than depicting the event in realistic terms or recording the actual bombers and perpetrators of violence, Picasso assembled a cast of allegorical characters: a fallen classical warrior (suggesting, perhaps a collapse of civilized standards); a bull and horse (recalling the traditional Spanish ritual of the bullfight); a lady with a lamp (possibly representing hope); and weeping women with children as a somber reminder that this violent act was perpetrated against innocent civilians.

Picasso transformed his shock and outrage of the bombings into images of terror, violence and suffering, these images carried a huge emotional weight and personal meaning. He never attempted to represent the event of the bombing or to symbolise war but instead through many levels of meaning and emotion he created a powerful painting which would represent it all.

Only eight years after the bombing of Guernica Pablo Picasso painted ‘The Charnel House’ 1945. Possibly inspired by a 1944 film set around the Liberation of Maidanek [36] it transcends emotional trauma through the audiences own interpretation of the picture. The corpses in Picasso’s painting also invite comparison with the pile of bodies strewn to the left of Goya’s highly politicized painting of The Third of May, 1808 (1814). Both Guernica and The Charnel House have had their meaning of the painting removed from their original context to become representative of all conflict and its victims, regardless of time or place.

How Germany tackled memorials + commemoration

The first ‘memorials’ to the Holocaust period were not in stone, glass or steel but in a narrative form. [37] These were in the form of ‘memorial books’ called The Yizkor Bucher, they recalled in the most ancient form of Jewish memorial media, the book; both the lives and the destruction of Europeans Jewish communities.

Chapter 5: Opinion/ Politics

Conclusion