Franco’s exhumation and the memory war in Spain – an interview with Alvaro Peñas

Interview with Alvaro Peñas, writer of El Correo de España and several digital media from Central and Eastern Europe, and well aware of European patriotic movements.

Alvaro Peñas

1. Could you briefly tell us about memory policies in Spain? What have been the main reasons for General Franco’s exhumation and how does this relate to the ideological heritage of the Spanish Civil War?

The law of historical memory was born in 2007 with the socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. With this law, among other measures, any symbol related to Francoism begins to be removed: street names, squares, statues, monuments, etc. This law has been applied ever since and has not only removed Franco monuments. This year a statue of Franco was removed in Melilla, the last one left in Spain, in which he was represented as commander of the Legion in 1923. Franco and his legionnaires saved the city from being massacred by the Moors, that is, it is a fact that has nothing to do with the Civil War, but they have applied this law to bring it down. In the Balearic Islands last month, the local government of Palma de Mallorca removed several streets related to Franco, among others dedicated to admirals Churruca, Gravina and Cervera, who died in 1805, 1806 and 1909 respectively.  The law is also being used to bring down crosses to those killed by the Republican side. Actually, what is intended is to erase all the past in Spain that does not match its radical ideology. The current social-communist government aims to take the law of democratic memory a step further and make it a crime to defend any policy carried out by Francoism, so that they could fine or imprison a historian for speaking of historical facts. All this while streets and statues have been dedicated, for example, to international brigades organized by the Komitern.

Franco: Melilla enclave removes last statue of fascist dictator on Spanish  soil - BBC News
Franco statue in Melilla

Franco’s exhumation was one of the commitments of the current president, Pedro Sánchez, and the reason for the claim was that the Valley is for people fallen in the Civil War (on both sides) and that Franco was not. The Valley was a symbol of reconciliation, but this government took that step as a propaganda measure, to satisfy the radical sectors of the left and promote confrontation between Spaniards. There are some who want to win the war they lost eighty years ago today.

2. Is Franco a hero to the Spanish population in general? On the one hand except Spain from communism, but, on the other hand, not everyone is familiar with the consequences of communism like Eastern Europeans.

Внуки Франко заявили, что власти Испании осквернили могилу диктатора |  История | Общество | Аргументы и Факты

Franco is continually used in political debate, but at the same time he is a great unknown and the aim is that this period of Spanish history is less and less known. The historical version that is being imposed on the basis of laws is that Franco ended up with a democratic regime. It is a version of good and bad in which some crimes are forgotten and others are repeated or exaggerated to the full. In this version the Socialists, the Communists and Stalin struggled to defend democracy and freedom, and Franco is a fascist who wanted to oppress the Spanish people. It’s basically the same story told in the Civil War. It’s not about history, it’s pure ideology.

Indeed, here we do not suffer from the dictatorship of the proletariat thanks to the victory of the national side and as in much of Western Europe there is an idealistic and even romantic view of communism. Chekas, political assassinations, persecution of Catholics or massacres are topics that they don’t want to talk about. Not forgetting the nearly a thousand dead caused by the Basque separatist band ETA, a Marxist-Leninist organization whose political heirs are in Parliament and support the government. We are told that we must turn the page with this matter, his last fatal attack was in 2009, but they remind us every day of the victims of national side in the Civil War.

3.What are the main arguments of the leftists against Franco?

Franco is absolute evil. Franco strikes a coup against democracy, although two years earlier the left tried to overthrow the Republic. Franco bombs civilians, although the first to do so were Republicans in North Africa and Cabra in 1936. Franco is supported by dictators, although the Republic’s main support is Stalin. And so on. It is a purely ideological argument that refuses to accept the  responsibility of the left in the Civil War. And the same goes for the post-war period, there is nothing good about Franco’s regime. The funny thing is that those who speak the most about Franco’s dictatorship have no problem posing with DDR symbols or to praise Lenin.

4. Is there any ideological or historical conflict between those who supported each side of the conflict in the Spanish Civil War?

Долина Павших в Испании

The transition to democracy was supposed to mark the end of the open confrontation during the Civil War, but the truth is that this has not been the case and wounds have been reopened by purely political interests. Besides that, these policies seem to have no end, the future of the Valley of the Fallen is yet to be seen because Franco’s exhumation has been nothing more than the beginning. The idea of the government is to create a center there that explains what happened in the Civil War, that is, that counts its version, converts it into a civilian cemetery and expels the Benedictine monks who run it. The future of the 150-metre-high cross that Podemos has asked to demolish has also been raised, something that is not on the table according to the Socialists at the moment. Hatred of the Catholic religion remains present in much of the Spanish left.   

5.This year the Spanish Socialist Workers Party and Podemos have allowed the expropriation of properties of those who have more than ten floors. Does this mean that Spain has Venezuela’s fate waiting for you if these policies continue?

This is a move that has so far been taken in the Balearic Islands, where the socialist government with the support of communists and independentists has expropriated 56 homes for seven years in exchange for low compensation to its owners. Podemos want to take the same action nationally, but for now it has been rejected by the Socialists. What they have promoted is the illegal occupation of homes, a problem that is becoming a real plague in Spain. However, some measures of our government seem typical of Venezuela, such as control of the media and justice. The direct relationship between Podemos and the Chavistas leaders has also caused compromising situations for the government, such as the visit of Delcy Rodríguez, Venezuelan vice president, who is prohibited from entering the European Union, but met with a socialist minister at Madrid airport. Or the unexplained $53 million bailout to Maduro’s government related Plus Ultra airline.

6. Can we say that historical memory policies caused greater polarization? If so, could Spain avoid the processes that have taken place in the United States since 2020?

That’s right, and that’s precisely what was sought, to generate tension and provoke confrontation. The worst part is that this law of historical memory has had the support of all parties, not just the left, and the liberal right (People’s Party – PP) and the center (Citizens) have entered through the hoop. Only VOX has asked for this law to be derogued. Right now, there are regional elections in Madrid. The campaign slogan of the PP candidate, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, is “Communism or Freedom” and Pablo Iglesias, of Podemos, runs for election to “stop fascism”. There is a return to the speech of the past.

Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse. In this same campaign in Madrid, as in the previous ones, there have been increasingly violent incidents by the antifascists against the political acts of VOX. We have also seen the violence of the far left independence in Catalonia. Violence that in many cases is encouraged by members of the parties that are in government, both regionally and nationally, or tolerated by the government. Therefore, the situation is very complicated. Even with a change of government, the breeding ground for confrontation and violence has been created. It must be borne in mind that Spain is a true laboratory for globalist policies and that the first person our Prime Minister met with was George Soros, so a scenario like the North American one cannot be ruled out.