The Death Throes of Franco: Spain’s New Reckoning with the Dictatorship and Civil War

Franco-spanishcivilwar-jd Julián Casanova in Eurozine:

The arrival of a socialist government under José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero opened a new era. For the first time in the thirty-year-old democracy, politics was to take the initiative in redressing this historic injustice. This was the prime significance of the bill introduced at the end of July 2006, later to be known as the Ley de Memoria Histórica (The Historical Memory Act). This led to memory being discussed more openly than ever before, and the past was to become a lesson for the present and the future. The bill did not deal with different interpretations of the past: it was not trying to define responsibility or point the finger of guilt. Nor did it propose a Truth Commission, as had been set up in other countries to register the mechanisms of death, violence and torture and identify the victims and their executioners.

Even so, it provoked strong reaction from the opposition Right (Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the PP, stated that his party would repeal the Act if it came to power), the Catholic Church and its media outlets. Esquerra Republicana (the Catalan Republican Left party) rejected it because it failed to call for the quashing of Francoist trials, while the moderate Basque and Catalan nationalists also imposed their conditions: the former requiring the return of Basque government documents held in the Archive at Salamanca, the latter calling for clearer acknowledgement of crimes and violence on the Republican side.

Spanish democracy needed this act, which was finally passed on 31 October 2007, and while it did not go far enough, it did open new avenues for moral redress and legal and political recognition for the victims of the Civil War and Francoism.

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