[Marxism] Spanish Civil War Re-Enacted in Fight Over Franco's Legacy (WSJ)
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Tue Dec 5 15:03:19 MST 2006
December 4, 2006
Spanish Civil War
Re-Enacted in Fight
Over Franco's Legacy
Socialists Push Law to Erase
His Name From Streets;
Rash of Dueling Obituaries
By KEITH JOHNSON
December 4, 2006; Page A1
WALL STREET JOURNAL
MADRID -- Recently, the obituary sections of Spanish newspapers
began publishing some unusual entries. One death notice honored a
grandfather "murdered by fascists while defending the legitimate
government of the Republic." Days later, another paid tribute to a
relative "vilely murdered by the vicious Red hordes." Both men died
The last shots of the Spanish Civil War were fired in 1939, but Spain
is suddenly fighting the battle all over again. Ordinary Spaniards
are unearthing the memory of grandparents slain in the brutal
three-year conflict. Current-events shows are dedicating entire
programs to the topic. And a bill is winding its way through
Parliament seeking to rewrite history by officially reassigning blame
in the bloody war.
The Civil War that tore Spain in half, as immortalized in books by
Orwell and Hemingway, began with a 1936 military uprising by Gen.
Francisco Franco and led to a 40-year right-wing dictatorship.
The period was all but relegated to the history books -- until Prime
Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero came to power in 2004. Mr.
Zapatero, a self-described "red" and pacifist, is pushing a new
historical reading of the Spanish Civil War that includes literally
rubbing Gen. Franco's name off the map.
As part of a proposed new "law of historical memory," Mr. Zapatero
wants towns across Spain to erase all vestiges of Franco -- from
street names to statues. Hundreds of streets are still named
"Generalisimo Franco," or "Avenue of the Caudillo," as he was known.
Many towns across Spain still carry Franco in their name, such as
Ribadelago de Franco.
Like many of the families who paid to place death notices 70 years
after the fact, Mr. Zapatero caught the Civil War bug because of a
grandfather. Juan Rodríguez Lozano, Mr. Zapatero's paternal
grandfather, was a Socialist army captain who helped put down a
left-wing rebellion in 1934, but was later executed by Franco's
military for his radical ideas.
Mr. Zapatero says he was inspired to enter politics at age 18 by the
hand-written testament his grandfather left just before facing a
firing squad. While running for prime minister, he repeatedly invoked
his grandfather's life and death as a rallying cry. His first speech
as prime minister quoted his grandfather's last words, a paean to "an
infinite yearning for peace, love of good, and the social betterment
of the less fortunate."
As he pushes for a new reading of that period, Mr. Zapatero is
unleashing an army of ghosts that had been dormant for decades -- and
a torrent of criticism.
"For no reason at all, Spain is being forced to relive all the
conflicts of the last two centuries," says Ignacio Astarloa, senior
official of the opposition center-right Popular Party. Mr. Zapatero
declined requests for an interview.
The five-year period preceding the Civil War, known as the Second
Republic, was Spain's first true experiment in democracy, but it was
also a fractious and bloody period in which anarchists, socialists
and communists burned churches, raped nuns, and assassinated
political foes. Supporters of Gen. Franco point to that turmoil as
justification for the 1936 coup, which eventually restored order at
the cost of about a half-million deaths.
After the Franco dictatorship ended in 1975, Spain embraced a
no-grudges, no retaliation policy. No one was tried for crimes from
the dictatorship, and Spaniards agreed to forget the past and focus
on the future. Former fascists and communists sat down together to
draft a new constitution, and held peaceful elections. Not even an
abortive coup attempt in 1981 could derail Spain's new path.
Mr. Zapatero is now pushing for a law that would place the blame for
the Civil War squarely on Gen. Franco and rehabilitate the image of
the Second Republic, which he fervently believes should be considered
the forerunner of Spain's modern democracy. "We have to recognize the
victims of Francoism, because they suffered the fruit of a military
dictatorship," Mr. Zapatero said earlier this year.
Part of Mr. Zapatero's policy involves an aggressive urban makeover.
Last year, in the dead of night, cranes hauled off a prominent statue
of Franco in downtown Madrid, leading to bewildered stares the next
day as passersby stumbled past the uprooted and empty concrete base.
The government has also prohibited visits to Franco's grave, though
only a handful of right-wing fanatics usually bothered to show up.
The Spanish government recently feted nonagenarian foreign veterans
who volunteered to fight against Franco in the Civil War. The
historical-memory bill proposes giving them Spanish nationality.
Renewed debate in Spain over the Spanish Civil War is playing out in
death notices, editorials, cartoons, and a slew of new books,
including 'The Great Payback' (bottom left).
"The law above all aims at providing moral relief to the victims of
both sides of the conflict," says Diego Lopez Garrido, a top
Socialist Party official who organizes the legislative agenda.
The bill and the broader issues surrounding the Civil War have come
to dominate many corners of contemporary political debate. Recently,
on a prime-time TV show, Mr. Zapatero's top spokesman and a senior
official from the Popular Party angrily debated government policies
from 70 years ago.
As ordinary Spaniards are being drawn into the battle, death notices,
also known as "esquelas," have become the weapon of choice.
In late October, for instance, a newspaper notice honored the victims
of the "Spanish Holocaust," when about 5,000 people were dragged out
of makeshift prisons by anti-Franco Republican militias in November
and early December 1936, then gunned down by machine guns, and thrown
into mass graves.
Araceli Ezquerro's grandfather, Tomás García-Noblejas Quevedo, was
shoved into the back of the last truck that trundled out of Porlier
prison, located in the middle of Madrid's swankiest neighborhood,
before dawn on Dec. 4, 1936. An industrial engineer running the
family business, Mr. García-Noblejas hadn't taken part in the
military uprising that summer and he'd fought in no street battles.
But he was a member of a Catholic association, and wore a cross
around his neck. His bullet-ridden body was dumped into a mass grave
near the main runway of the Madrid airport. Passengers taking off can
still see the huge white cross laid into the hillside commemorating
On Dec. 4, Ms. Ezquerro plans to publish her esquela in the
newspaper. Most of the grandchildren have pitched in to cover the
roughly $660 cost. The death notice will mention that Mr.
García-Noblejas was "assassinated by the Marxist hordes run by the
socialist-communist government of the II Spanish Republic."
"I never would have even thought about doing this if Zapatero hadn't
started with his own grandfather," says Ms. Ezquerro, who gives her
age as "sixtyish." "We just want to let him know we had a
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