The current socialist-communist minority government in Spain is still trying to push through its highly controversial “democratic memory” law. A law which will limit freedom of association, speech and academic expression.
Positive expressions regarding the military coup and Franco’s regime would be banned, while the glorification of the Popular Front regime will become state doctrine. The government intents to use the law to ban the Franco Foundation because it defends the legacy of Franco’s rule.
This is an unprecedented level of censorship in almost any Western democracy, attempted by a partially communist government.
This is nothing but the successor parties to the popular front (who lost the civil war), trying to outlaw any narrative that does not affirm them as the goodguys and the predecessor to their current right-wing political opponents as badguys. The partisan biases and conflicts of interests are as enormous as they are obvious.
The disturbing attempt to sustain and enforce the myth that the Polular Front regime was a progressive democracy overthrown by mean fascists, shows the warped view that the current Spanish socialists must have regarding what democracy means.
The Popular Front government, that came to power via a small (and contested) plurality victory in 1936, contained both Trotkyist communists and anarchists, but was much more influenced by Stalinist communists and socialists (many of whom were close to the stalinists). Said parties had previously supported the revolution in 1934 against the democratic republican government when it was too right-wing (due to the victory of the conservatives in 1933).
Spanish historian Salvador de Madariaga, an Azaña supporter, (who went into exile because he was an opponent of Franco) thoroughly debunked the far left narrative: “The uprising of 1934 is unforgivable. The argument that Mr Gil Robles tried to destroy the Constitution to establish fascism was, at once, hypocritical and false. With the rebellion of 1934, the Spanish left lost even the shadow of moral authority to condemn the rebellion of 1936.”
The socialists and communists didn’t care much for respecting the elected government till they were in power. The right had no problem using their own tactics against them once they were in the opposition. To outlaw glorification of the coup of 1936 but not the revolution of 1934 is pure partisan censorship.
The Socialists further contributed to polarisation by turning police forces into personal executioners. The murder of monarchist of José Calvo Sotelo by socialists of the Civil Guard preceeded the military uprising.
The Popular Front government did not prosecute this terrorism. Instead, censorship was immediately used to hide the truth, while nothing was done to apprehend those responsible. Rather, numerous Falangists and rightists were arrested (this was rather common). A judge, Ursicino Gómez Carbajo, did take up the case independently, but the case was almost immediately removed from his authority by the Assault Guard.
The government enabled the violence. It wasn’t sporadic by some fringe radicals. In fact the communists wanted go further and pushed a law outlawing numerous right-wing parties, including CEDA, Renovación Española and the Falange and ban several newspapers as well.
Even the head of the Supreme Court, Diego Medina y García, was forced to resign by the popular front. That doesn’t seem very constitutional. There was no rule of law, no judicial independence, no political pluralism, no religious freedom buy state terrorism. That is what the current government wishes to enforce as democratic memory.
The main justification for this extremist censorship often given is that glorification of Hitler and nazism is illegal in Germany. Putting aside the fact that this involves an extremely quiestionable assumed equivalency between Hitler and Franco (the latter having been thanked by Gold Meir for saving tens of thousands of Jews) this is especially ironic when this law is being pushed by the Spanish communist party.
The Communist party of Spain dutifully adhered to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and as such took a rather positively neutral stance regarding Hitler for the first 2 years of WWII. Hitler even expressed his regret that he hadn’t supported them instead of Franco whom he loathed (after meeting him once).
Beyond the lack of historical equivalency, there is an important practical difference as well. Hitler lost WWII. Germany was occupied and nearly ruined, its constitution(s) drafted by the victors. Franco stayed out of the war and died peacefully and in power 30 years later. The current Spanish constitution was drafted by his successor government.
Obviously, the 1978 constitution doesn’t single out Francoism as not covered by constitutional liberties, the way the current German constitution prohibits Nazism.
But an even simpler issue is that nazism is a taboo in German society. Only a fringe few defend it. Franco is viewed as having been at least the lesser evil during the civil war by close to half of Spanish society and the Popular Front being a progressive democracy is even more disputed. A constitutional democracy can function when a minority of less than 10 % is censored. A fluctuating 45-55 % leftist front trying to censor nearly the entire opposition is just a tiny bit more complicated.
Countries that were invaded and suffered genocide at Soviet hands, such as the Ukraine and certain Baltic states have enacted laws against communist propaganda. But even their laws only outlaw communist symbols and or parties, not a scholarly perspective on complex historical events. Such a level of censorship can only really be found in Russia, where Putin had a law passed prohibiting people from speaking about the evils of the Molotov-Ribbentrop act.
Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary is a full session ruled against the government on various points in a 15-6 decision.
They held that Francoist speech is protected by the constitutional rights to political freedom and freedom of expression. They also warned against a double standard regarding victims from that period since the left also brutually victimised tens of thousands of civilians.
The government’s response… was to double down on the double standard regarding victims and add humiliation towards the victims as a requirement beyond merelly exalting Francoism without outlawing humiliation of victims of the republic, but it still intents to implement censorship and to specifically use it against the Franco Foundation.
This is meant to heal division apparently. A black and white narrative about an extremely polarising and complex civil war being imposed through government force. Unity through totalitarianism.
About half of society just need to be taught to accept the indisputable (or else) truth that their parties, convictions and often ancestors, are evil and kind of deserve(d) to suffer some marxist or anarchist violence.
Clearly the socialist-communist government is for all intents and purposes disregarding decisions by the independent judiciary and imposing censorship (just like they did last time). No wonder the government is trying to whitewash the history of its predecessors, they’re trying to repeat it. However, is it “democratic”? Certainly not liberal democratic or constitutional democratic, but people’s democracy in the Soviet sense? Definitely.
The Franco Foundation trusts far right party Vox, to challenge the law before the constitutional court. That could become of the most polarising if not the most polarising constitutional court case in Spanish history.
Vox is the third largest party in the chamber at this point. Support for the centre-right and the centre have melted away, just as the centre-left has embraced the far left. An increasingly radicalised left is trying to stigmatise most of the right as fascist and equate their radicalism with democracy.
Constitutionalism, rule of law and liberalism are dissolving along with the centre.
History seems to be repeating itself…