X Close

Is Spain too late to apologise for fascism? A new civil war is breaking out over history

Franco still has his admirers. Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

Franco still has his admirers. Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images


January 16, 2023   5 mins

A year ago, I met a man in Madrid who expected to be sued for body-snatching. He gave me the news with a shrug. It was the price, he said, of joining a socialist government that was drafting a new law to reshape the way Spain tells its 20th-century history of civil war and dictatorship under General Francisco Franco.

Among other measures, the authors of this new “democratic memory” law, which was finally passed in September, planned to remove some of the 34,000 corpses from Spain’s biggest civil war cemetery at the controversial Valley of the Fallen outside Madrid. Hence the threat of a private prosecution alleging body-snatching, or what Americans call “corpse theft”, brought by Franco’s ultra-Catholic supporters.

The disinterring of bodies should start later this year, so no body-snatching cases have yet been brought, but Spain is shaping up for a bruising history war in 2023. Franco died in 1975, almost half a century ago. So, why bother now?

Blatant government meddling in history is more easily associated with totalitarians than democrats, but it can cut both ways. Poland’s illiberal Law and Justice party, for example, uses its Institute of National Remembrance to implement “decommunisation” laws (the last one from 2017) that purge monuments, monsters and memory from its time in the Soviet bloc.

Yet Spain remains a special case. A country that never properly confronted its dark 20th-century history is trying to play catch up. The problem is that this comes too late.

After Franco’s death in 1975, Spain tried to forget the brutality of his regime. Fear that his military henchmen would strangle the country’s new democracy in its cradle meant that Franco’s people got a free pass, formalised by a 1977 amnesty law. There were no trials or truth commissions for up to 170,000 people killed off the civil war battlefields in the Thirties, or for the victims of four decades of state repression.

A new democratic Right led by former Francoist ministers wanted a complete break and moderates on the Left agreed. “There were implicit and explicit agreements. One was that we Spaniards don’t want to look to the past,” the first elected Right-wing prime minister, JosĂ© MarĂ­a Aznar, declared two decades later.

Historians did their research, but schools, media and politicians stayed away. It became known as the “pact of forgetting”. If the past stank, the logic ran, why stick your nose into it?

Yet the smell lingers. Nowhere is it more fetid than in the gloomy, musty troglodyte basilica tunnelled out by Franco at the Valley of the Fallen, in the mountains 40 miles north of Madrid. This 260-metre long underground chamber is both a place of worship and home to those 34,000 war dead, whose bodies are hidden away in damp, crumbling chambers that no one can visit.

The new law wrests control of the site away from the Church, returning it to the state and formally erasing its name since this was imposed by Franco. He claimed to be honouring all the fallen of the war, but the fascistic iconography inside the basilica praises only his side. The “fallen” were stage props; the only visitable graves were Franco’s own, and that of the ideologue of the fascist Falange party that backed him, JosĂ© Antonio Primo de Rivera. Little surprise, then, that the valley has had its ancient, pre-Franco place-name of Cuelgamuros restored.

Since the basilica took until 1959 to build, the dead of both sides of the civil war (1936-1939) were dug up from elsewhere, sometimes to the horror of their families — who will now be able to recover and rebury them closer to home (180 of them have already requested this).

A Benedictine monastery, hidden behind a granite outcrop topped by a 150-metre high stone cross, will also be closed. That sounds like an attack on religion, but we need not be fooled by the monks. For decades after Franco’s death, they said masses in his name and lobbied for the man whose doctrine became known as “national Catholicism” to be canonised.

On the November anniversary of his death, they would hand the basilica over to European fascists who sang their anthems and indulged in chilling, stiff-armed revelry of a kind unimaginable in any other place of worship outside of Putin’s Russia. That continued for four decades — and I occasionally went to watch —regardless of the fact that the monument belongs to the state.

Under the new law, public Francoist symbols and street names must be removed, or fines paid. The state will search for and disinter death squad victims from their often-secret graves and, in a symbolic gesture, strike out the sentences — some carried out by firing squad — which Franco’s retroactive justice imposed on elected officials of the democracy he overthrew.

Much else is also symbolic. Titles and medals awarded by Franco have been taken away. His victims will be listed and named. A DNA bank will allow relatives of those still missing to help identify the remaining corpses. Democratic memory will be taught at school — although no one knows how.

Since the Francoists are now all dead or doddery, there is little else to do. Nor is this the first attempt at dealing with the past. The 1977 amnesty was followed by a tepid “historical memory” law in 2007, which carried no sanctions, refused to name perpetrators of regime abuses and left governments to fund fieldwork, or not (Right-wing governments cut funds off when in power).

Such laws are usually passed to overcome recent trauma. When they arrive late, they risk failure. In his 2016 polemic, In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies, David Rieff claimed they could even make things worse: “Remembrance may be the ally of justice, but, despite the conventional wisdom of the human rights movement, it is no reliable friend to peace, whereas forgetting can and at times has played such a role.”

Rieff produces some powerful arguments, not least the way genocidal Serb nationalists in the former Yugoslavia justified their cruelty by referring to the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. In Spain’s case, however, peace is not at risk. “Forgetting is not an option in democracy,” the law states.

Shortly after Spain’s new law was passed, the Argentine-Spanish tech entrepreneur and investor Martin Varsavsky found himself at a Madrid dinner party arguing that Franco had been a uniformly bad thing. His was a lone voice; none of the other guests agreed. “Eleven people defending Franco against me arguing that on top of being a terrible dictatorship Franco kept Spain in the stone ages of social, political and economic development for 39 years,” Varsavsky tweeted.

Varsavsky was dining with that part of conservative Madrid society which believes a modest middle class that emerged from Francoism went on to “save” Spain from its long history of confrontation, backwardness and chaos by setting up democracy — and that the dictator should be thanked. This conveniently turns Franco’s winners and collaborationists (including, I suspect, the families of some dinner guests) into heroes.

Varsavsky may have been alone, but he was right. Franco overthrew an elected government, wrecked the economy and provoked half a million deaths. His war saw brutality on both sides, but the excuse that he saved Spain from political turmoil and a communist takeover is a lazy game of counterfactual history. Even today, few Spaniards realise that — despite a belated spurt of catch-up growth that is still presented as proof of overall brilliance — Francoism was an economic failure, pushing Spain further behind other southern European nations such as Italy (Spain’s per capita GDP, in relative terms to Italy, fell by a fifth during Franco’s years in power).

Given that there is barely anyone left to recompense or punish, Spain’s new law is very much about the present. In what its authors undoubtedly saw as a dig against Spain’s newly successful far-Right party Vox, the law aims “to avoid the repetition of any kind of political violence or totalitarianism”. Among other things, it lures opponents into the trap of defending Franco, just because they dislike socialist Prime Minister Pedro SĂĄnchez and his coalition government with far-Left Podemos. “It is an ideologically-driven law that reopens the hatreds of the Civil War,” the leader of the moderate Right-wing People’s Party, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, complains.

In fact, the law missed out on creating the best space for reconciliation — a national civil war museum where Spaniards could understand the horror and debate what it all meant, or still means. Spain has nothing of the kind. Civil war battle sites are either ignored or, worse still, built over.

The Valley of the Fallen, now Cuelgamuros, is the perfect place for that museum. Franco, whose own body was removed from its place of honour in the basilica by Sánchez’s government in 2018, cynically claimed he had built it to be a place of reconciliation. Fifty years later, an opportunity has been missed to make it exactly that.


Giles Tremlett is a British author, journalist and broadcaster based in Madrid, Spain. His latest book is España: A Brief History of Spain.

gilestremlett

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

75 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

If the Spanish right is meant to apologise for Franco, then the Spanist left must repent for the Spanish Red Terror where many, including priests, conservatives and nuns, were slaughtered by Marxist leftists.
People truly think only the right has hard lessons from history. I have no words.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Agreed. This article is just so biased throughout it’s pointless going through the weak arguments.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Agreed. This article is just so biased throughout it’s pointless going through the weak arguments.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

If the Spanish right is meant to apologise for Franco, then the Spanist left must repent for the Spanish Red Terror where many, including priests, conservatives and nuns, were slaughtered by Marxist leftists.
People truly think only the right has hard lessons from history. I have no words.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

“A country that never properly confronted its dark 20th-century history is trying to play catch up.” No it is not. A one sided interpretation of a complex period is being promoted by the current leftist government to smear its political opponents, encourage political tribalism, and distract from the government’s failures in the here and now. Incidentally, failure to match Italy’s economic performance from 1945 -75 was not unique to Spain; relative to Italy, both the UK and Ireland did much worse.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

No surprise that the first comment is defending Franco and his murderous and criminal junta. You people are utterly predictable and predictably obnoxious in your support of fascism.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

And you, it seems, can’t differentiate ‘support for’ and ‘understanding of complexity and nuance.’
If Franco had lost it’s almost certain that the Republicans would have overseen a similar level of Terror.

When I was in Chile, in the 90s, locals told me that about 1/3 supported Pinochet, 1/3 hated him, and 1/3 were neutral BUT that almost all were grateful for where Chile was at that time.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

You people?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

The ranting of a bitter old Commie. Love it!

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Yes, you people.

charles bradshaw
charles bradshaw
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

I believe he’s quoting Alan Partridge.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

The ranting of a bitter old Commie. Love it!

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Yes, you people.

charles bradshaw
charles bradshaw
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

I believe he’s quoting Alan Partridge.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

In two of the most-liked comments I’ve seen on these pages, one mentioned “reluctant” prospective support for Richard Spencer in some Manichean dual with Ibram X. Kendi and his ilk–defensive Nazism, I guess–and the other began with the sentence “White Supremacist here”. Dozen of upvotes for both, with little explanation or pushback, mostly just anonymous thumbs-up.
I’d like to see UnHerd publish separate upvote and downvote scores, to help measure engagement in addition to net-popularity, and record whether the response to a noxious comment is in fact, for example, 127 to 85, or just 42 big ol’ thumbs up.
Yet the comment above may not be as pro-Fascist as it may seem–I hope not!–though it makes an oblique economic defense of the Franco era. For most of us, denunciations of especially terrible governments are (understandably) deaf and blind to things like the “good side of Mussolini” or “Lenin’s saving graces” or “Ivan the Terrible’s best quality”.
It’d be nice if we could discuss the details without breaking into hostile camps right away, but I admit I’m impatient myself with anyone who wants to discuss, let’s say, Mao or Pinochet’s overall improvements. But it’s true that these terrible governments often replaced and were followed by other terrible governments, though individuals and specific groups assign different relative scores to each.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You seem to be comparing Mao and Pinochet. Hope not.

Pinochet did some terrible things (about 3000 executed and tens of thousands imprisoned and/or tortured) but he left Chile a functioning uncorrupted (relatively) administration and a successful democracy. Allende was usurping the constitution and may well have created more death and disaster.

Mao, in a much larger country admittedly, killed tens of millions, was personally disgusting and left his country a totalitarian mess, which it still is. He replaced Chiang Kai-Shek who was running what seems to have been a much less evil regime. See Taiwan for what it may have become.

There is no comparison.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Nock

I intended no comparison–certainly no equivalency–but provided two examples, one from the left and one from the right, according to our reductive political spectrum. The more proportionate comparison would have been to “go nuclear” and play the A.H. card, but he is regarded by many–not without defensible cause–as uniquely evil and comments sometimes take much longer to publish here when he is named.
I agree that Mao was a far bloodier and more oppressive dictator who had a more disastrous effect the state of the world, within and outside his region. But can we agree that all bloodthirsty tyrants are bad, even if our choice seems to lie between two or three who qualify as bloodthirsty tyrants? You made part of my point about terrible governments often being preceded by other terrible governments, followed by them, or both (Allende).
For instance: The Tsars then the Bolsheviks; French Absolutism and High Aristocracy then Revolution and its Terror; Montezuma then Cortez; Saddam Hussein then ISIS; A succession of bad governments in Afghanistan that includes US mismanagement.
We can argue who’s worse and why–and I have my own working answers–but that doesn’t make any of these governments admirable or even truly defensible, in my view. True, murderous and oppressive governance is, to a dispiriting extent, almost the historical norm, but not an inevitable one. Bloody rule begets bloody rule and enduring mornings after of hatred and retaliation. I’m not saying you can run a city or a nation with a peace pipe and a drum circle, but winning a war or hobbling the perceived human enemy is never a total win, especially when you live where the battles took place.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Despite my own participation, I think the Bad Ruler Olympics should be cancelled until further notice, when we’re talking to instead of at one another a bit more often, trying to listen to the Other Side(s) and not just waiting to return a prepared reply. I’m directing that at myself too.
Anyway though: Castro or Trujillo, who’s your favorite y’all?

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I can, obviously agree that all bloodthirsty tyrants are ‘bad’ but the problem is that if the alternative is between ‘totally evil’ and ‘unpleasant/evil’ then their is a relativistic argument to be made that the second is good. In the ideal world there would always be a good option but in the real world….
AH was obviously evil but I think anyone with a reasonable understanding of history would find it very easy to find many who were in almost every way more evil than him: 20th C alone: Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao. And of course does just because he had more power and thus effect make him more evil or does it just make his consequences/actions more evil? What would would PolPot have done to the world if he had had the power to enable him to do what he would have liked?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

While I understand the valid point about other’s being in AH’s league, for me there can be no one worse. He wanted to eradicate an entire people’s global population and got about half way there. Though Pol Pot, Stalin, and Mao can give him a run for his pilfered Deutschmarks, to me, they are at most “tied for worst” with big Dolphy.
If you wanna talk death numbers–which I don’t, but here I go again–I think you have to keep in mind that it took Stalin and Mao, for example, more years than you-know-who to reach those estimated totals. I agree that Pol Pot, AH himself, and probably hundreds of others throughout history had/have the sick potential for even more violence and cruelty, if they could have managed it. I think that potential can grow over time, alongside mounting death tolls and growing personal madness. [end Bad Ruler Olympics post]

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

While I understand the valid point about other’s being in AH’s league, for me there can be no one worse. He wanted to eradicate an entire people’s global population and got about half way there. Though Pol Pot, Stalin, and Mao can give him a run for his pilfered Deutschmarks, to me, they are at most “tied for worst” with big Dolphy.
If you wanna talk death numbers–which I don’t, but here I go again–I think you have to keep in mind that it took Stalin and Mao, for example, more years than you-know-who to reach those estimated totals. I agree that Pol Pot, AH himself, and probably hundreds of others throughout history had/have the sick potential for even more violence and cruelty, if they could have managed it. I think that potential can grow over time, alongside mounting death tolls and growing personal madness. [end Bad Ruler Olympics post]

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Despite my own participation, I think the Bad Ruler Olympics should be cancelled until further notice, when we’re talking to instead of at one another a bit more often, trying to listen to the Other Side(s) and not just waiting to return a prepared reply. I’m directing that at myself too.
Anyway though: Castro or Trujillo, who’s your favorite y’all?

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I can, obviously agree that all bloodthirsty tyrants are ‘bad’ but the problem is that if the alternative is between ‘totally evil’ and ‘unpleasant/evil’ then their is a relativistic argument to be made that the second is good. In the ideal world there would always be a good option but in the real world….
AH was obviously evil but I think anyone with a reasonable understanding of history would find it very easy to find many who were in almost every way more evil than him: 20th C alone: Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao. And of course does just because he had more power and thus effect make him more evil or does it just make his consequences/actions more evil? What would would PolPot have done to the world if he had had the power to enable him to do what he would have liked?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Nock

I intended no comparison–certainly no equivalency–but provided two examples, one from the left and one from the right, according to our reductive political spectrum. The more proportionate comparison would have been to “go nuclear” and play the A.H. card, but he is regarded by many–not without defensible cause–as uniquely evil and comments sometimes take much longer to publish here when he is named.
I agree that Mao was a far bloodier and more oppressive dictator who had a more disastrous effect the state of the world, within and outside his region. But can we agree that all bloodthirsty tyrants are bad, even if our choice seems to lie between two or three who qualify as bloodthirsty tyrants? You made part of my point about terrible governments often being preceded by other terrible governments, followed by them, or both (Allende).
For instance: The Tsars then the Bolsheviks; French Absolutism and High Aristocracy then Revolution and its Terror; Montezuma then Cortez; Saddam Hussein then ISIS; A succession of bad governments in Afghanistan that includes US mismanagement.
We can argue who’s worse and why–and I have my own working answers–but that doesn’t make any of these governments admirable or even truly defensible, in my view. True, murderous and oppressive governance is, to a dispiriting extent, almost the historical norm, but not an inevitable one. Bloody rule begets bloody rule and enduring mornings after of hatred and retaliation. I’m not saying you can run a city or a nation with a peace pipe and a drum circle, but winning a war or hobbling the perceived human enemy is never a total win, especially when you live where the battles took place.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You seem to be comparing Mao and Pinochet. Hope not.

Pinochet did some terrible things (about 3000 executed and tens of thousands imprisoned and/or tortured) but he left Chile a functioning uncorrupted (relatively) administration and a successful democracy. Allende was usurping the constitution and may well have created more death and disaster.

Mao, in a much larger country admittedly, killed tens of millions, was personally disgusting and left his country a totalitarian mess, which it still is. He replaced Chiang Kai-Shek who was running what seems to have been a much less evil regime. See Taiwan for what it may have become.

There is no comparison.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

The first comment did not actually defend Franco but made a comparison. Having read a lot about the Spanish Civil War I have little doubt that in the Spanish case the ‘white’ side did kill more than the ‘red’, and carried out a brutal suppression of the Republicans well after the war was over.

However taking a global view, it is a very different picture. Leftists and even Marxists – do not only not apologise for the vastly greater number of deaths caused by Bolshevism – tens of millions – but idiotically (at best) still defend and promote Marxist-Leninism to this day. No monument or memorials to THEIR victims.

No one is teaching National Socialism or Falangism in universities, but many if not most academics absolutely do lean to the totalitarian suppression of views they do not agree with and defend Marxism. We have Susan Michie, a Stalinist for Christ’s sake, sitting smugly on SAGE!!

So, many of the comments on UnHerd are about decrying double standards, and the transactional way that the Left in countries such as Spain does not actually want an honest attempt at the truth or reconciliation, but to use the past in a entirely politically partisan way to discredit the modern non Marxist opposition. Since most people, especially the young, have a pretty limited idea of history in any case (including who Churchill was for example), the idea that ‘there can be no forgetting in a democracy’.

I think the whole ‘reckoning with history’ decades after the events is in any case fraught with difficulties. The immediate victims are very long dead. Had there not been the Pact of Forgetting etc, the democratic transition would / could not have happened in the first place.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I mostly agree but the Pact of Forgetting needn’t become an Orwellian “down the memory hole” and Truth and Reconciliation efforts, not blame games, have great potential upside. I don’t think we can, for example, move on from the current racialized hell in the US without a real “reckoning” and a patient season of conversation–something that has barely ever happened. We shout and tear our hair and blame one another, little more in most cases. Not looking to reach a kumbaya drum-circle paradise but a bit more mutual understanding. Pipe dream? Maybe but I’m not stoned and I stand by it.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Ah well put Andrew. I’m no fan of Franco just because I’m prepared to understand there were two sides that started committing atrocities. This polemic is the kind of one eyed nonsense some people write about Northern Ireland/Ulster.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I mostly agree but the Pact of Forgetting needn’t become an Orwellian “down the memory hole” and Truth and Reconciliation efforts, not blame games, have great potential upside. I don’t think we can, for example, move on from the current racialized hell in the US without a real “reckoning” and a patient season of conversation–something that has barely ever happened. We shout and tear our hair and blame one another, little more in most cases. Not looking to reach a kumbaya drum-circle paradise but a bit more mutual understanding. Pipe dream? Maybe but I’m not stoned and I stand by it.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Ah well put Andrew. I’m no fan of Franco just because I’m prepared to understand there were two sides that started committing atrocities. This polemic is the kind of one eyed nonsense some people write about Northern Ireland/Ulster.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Jeez Graeme you get very irritated by the intelligent people commenting here with their balance and insight. I think you need to read sources where everyone agrees with you – try the Washington Post or the Guardian?

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I find it amusing to point out when people try to defend fascist dictators. Not a great look…

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I find it amusing to point out when people try to defend fascist dictators. Not a great look…

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

And you, it seems, can’t differentiate ‘support for’ and ‘understanding of complexity and nuance.’
If Franco had lost it’s almost certain that the Republicans would have overseen a similar level of Terror.

When I was in Chile, in the 90s, locals told me that about 1/3 supported Pinochet, 1/3 hated him, and 1/3 were neutral BUT that almost all were grateful for where Chile was at that time.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

You people?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

In two of the most-liked comments I’ve seen on these pages, one mentioned “reluctant” prospective support for Richard Spencer in some Manichean dual with Ibram X. Kendi and his ilk–defensive Nazism, I guess–and the other began with the sentence “White Supremacist here”. Dozen of upvotes for both, with little explanation or pushback, mostly just anonymous thumbs-up.
I’d like to see UnHerd publish separate upvote and downvote scores, to help measure engagement in addition to net-popularity, and record whether the response to a noxious comment is in fact, for example, 127 to 85, or just 42 big ol’ thumbs up.
Yet the comment above may not be as pro-Fascist as it may seem–I hope not!–though it makes an oblique economic defense of the Franco era. For most of us, denunciations of especially terrible governments are (understandably) deaf and blind to things like the “good side of Mussolini” or “Lenin’s saving graces” or “Ivan the Terrible’s best quality”.
It’d be nice if we could discuss the details without breaking into hostile camps right away, but I admit I’m impatient myself with anyone who wants to discuss, let’s say, Mao or Pinochet’s overall improvements. But it’s true that these terrible governments often replaced and were followed by other terrible governments, though individuals and specific groups assign different relative scores to each.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

The first comment did not actually defend Franco but made a comparison. Having read a lot about the Spanish Civil War I have little doubt that in the Spanish case the ‘white’ side did kill more than the ‘red’, and carried out a brutal suppression of the Republicans well after the war was over.

However taking a global view, it is a very different picture. Leftists and even Marxists – do not only not apologise for the vastly greater number of deaths caused by Bolshevism – tens of millions – but idiotically (at best) still defend and promote Marxist-Leninism to this day. No monument or memorials to THEIR victims.

No one is teaching National Socialism or Falangism in universities, but many if not most academics absolutely do lean to the totalitarian suppression of views they do not agree with and defend Marxism. We have Susan Michie, a Stalinist for Christ’s sake, sitting smugly on SAGE!!

So, many of the comments on UnHerd are about decrying double standards, and the transactional way that the Left in countries such as Spain does not actually want an honest attempt at the truth or reconciliation, but to use the past in a entirely politically partisan way to discredit the modern non Marxist opposition. Since most people, especially the young, have a pretty limited idea of history in any case (including who Churchill was for example), the idea that ‘there can be no forgetting in a democracy’.

I think the whole ‘reckoning with history’ decades after the events is in any case fraught with difficulties. The immediate victims are very long dead. Had there not been the Pact of Forgetting etc, the democratic transition would / could not have happened in the first place.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Jeez Graeme you get very irritated by the intelligent people commenting here with their balance and insight. I think you need to read sources where everyone agrees with you – try the Washington Post or the Guardian?

Kevin Kilcoyne
Kevin Kilcoyne
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Bit of a misnomer including Ireland in the comparative list. A country that during this period was engaged in a trade war with it’s closest neighbor and former colonizer. Ireland was the sick child of Europe economically for a very long time and didn’t make any meaningful progress in developing until the late 80’s or early 90’s. Trying to emulate the communists in Russia after our independence kept us in the dark ages – with mass emigration for a lot longer than was necessary.

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Kilcoyne

“Trying to emulate the communists in Russia”? Is this some other Ireland you’re talking about here, Kevin? Both parts of Ireland did a lot of stupid stuff down the years but thankfully emulating Russian communists wasn’t one of them. What do you mean?

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Kilcoyne

“Trying to emulate the communists in Russia”? Is this some other Ireland you’re talking about here, Kevin? Both parts of Ireland did a lot of stupid stuff down the years but thankfully emulating Russian communists wasn’t one of them. What do you mean?

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

No surprise that the first comment is defending Franco and his murderous and criminal junta. You people are utterly predictable and predictably obnoxious in your support of fascism.

Kevin Kilcoyne
Kevin Kilcoyne
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Bit of a misnomer including Ireland in the comparative list. A country that during this period was engaged in a trade war with it’s closest neighbor and former colonizer. Ireland was the sick child of Europe economically for a very long time and didn’t make any meaningful progress in developing until the late 80’s or early 90’s. Trying to emulate the communists in Russia after our independence kept us in the dark ages – with mass emigration for a lot longer than was necessary.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

“A country that never properly confronted its dark 20th-century history is trying to play catch up.” No it is not. A one sided interpretation of a complex period is being promoted by the current leftist government to smear its political opponents, encourage political tribalism, and distract from the government’s failures in the here and now. Incidentally, failure to match Italy’s economic performance from 1945 -75 was not unique to Spain; relative to Italy, both the UK and Ireland did much worse.

Nic Thorne
Nic Thorne
1 year ago

One-sided piece. One doesn’t have to like Franco to be concerned about this new law.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nic Thorne
Nic Thorne
Nic Thorne
1 year ago

One-sided piece. One doesn’t have to like Franco to be concerned about this new law.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nic Thorne
R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

This article, which is borne out of the author’s well known left bias, has many problems. Anyone who has read even a popular history book on 20th century Spain is aware that Franco was not a fascist, and the head of the Falangists was murdered in a republican prison. While the left murdered priests like the author in the streets and seized property the nationalists fought for their own cause. Neither was inherently illegitimate. In Spanish culture military putsches are not viewed in the same way as in northern Europe, so the author betrays his narrow minded ‘liberal’ credentials.

The idea that Franco saved Spain from a radical left coup is not ‘counterfactual history’ given that there were multiple overthrows, starting with the Catalonian and Aragon revolutions led by anarchists and ending with communists seizing Madrid in 1939. This punitive and vicious set of acts is likely to do little more than set Spain down the path to yet another civil conflict.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

This article, which is borne out of the author’s well known left bias, has many problems. Anyone who has read even a popular history book on 20th century Spain is aware that Franco was not a fascist, and the head of the Falangists was murdered in a republican prison. While the left murdered priests like the author in the streets and seized property the nationalists fought for their own cause. Neither was inherently illegitimate. In Spanish culture military putsches are not viewed in the same way as in northern Europe, so the author betrays his narrow minded ‘liberal’ credentials.

The idea that Franco saved Spain from a radical left coup is not ‘counterfactual history’ given that there were multiple overthrows, starting with the Catalonian and Aragon revolutions led by anarchists and ending with communists seizing Madrid in 1939. This punitive and vicious set of acts is likely to do little more than set Spain down the path to yet another civil conflict.

Janko M
Janko M
1 year ago

The entire idea of “reckoning with history” is often a political cudgel aimed at present convenience rather than any historical justice. On the topic of Spain I warmly recommend Payne’s book “The Spanish Civil War” and Beevor’s “The Battle for Spain”. Liberalism was destroyed by both sides who proceeded to pursue mass political violence in their areas of occupation, from the Cheka-like SIM (secret police) which also hounded rival Marxist party POUM, to the systemic execution lists of every member of the left by the Nationalist cause.

I often find it suspicious when present day politicians declare to want a reckoning for the other side. Any attempt to sanitize history and purify a narrative is an act of significant hubris. Reconciliation would be possible if both sides accepted the injustice of their own side FIRST, before seeking to reckon with the opposite. If nobody is self-aware enough to do that, then leave the history to historians instead.

Janko M
Janko M
1 year ago

The entire idea of “reckoning with history” is often a political cudgel aimed at present convenience rather than any historical justice. On the topic of Spain I warmly recommend Payne’s book “The Spanish Civil War” and Beevor’s “The Battle for Spain”. Liberalism was destroyed by both sides who proceeded to pursue mass political violence in their areas of occupation, from the Cheka-like SIM (secret police) which also hounded rival Marxist party POUM, to the systemic execution lists of every member of the left by the Nationalist cause.

I often find it suspicious when present day politicians declare to want a reckoning for the other side. Any attempt to sanitize history and purify a narrative is an act of significant hubris. Reconciliation would be possible if both sides accepted the injustice of their own side FIRST, before seeking to reckon with the opposite. If nobody is self-aware enough to do that, then leave the history to historians instead.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago

Incredible article. How can the forcible closing down of a monastery by a secular government not be considered an “attack on religion”? I am not a roman catholic but the fact that this is legitimised in the article basically says it all about the author’s one-eyed view of history. The disinterring and degrading of dead bodies against the wishes of family members is completely hypocritical – something that atheists used to laugh at the inquisition for doing. You couldn’t make it up. Even very pro-republican views of the Civil War admit that religious institutions were targetted by anti-fascist groups (they justify it by saying that they were centres of fascist support). Could reconciliation not have been better fostered by, for instance, promising to never again “wrest” control of religious houses from their members? But that is what you get for holding unpleasant opinions and “saying masses” in 21st century Europe.

Can the author provide evidence of religious communities in Russia giving space for “stiff-armed revelry”?

When he says it “lures opponents into the trap of defending Franco” it is almost as if this is a cause for celebration – pulling up (literally) old rivalries to cement current political power. If it was the other way round would this not be considered divisive? The author also states that moderate leftists and centrists not alligned to the dictator agreed to forget the past but then tries to paint the new laws as moderate. The story about Varsavsky just illustrates how out of touch this issue is with normal people and yet the author deigns to ignore this.

Needless to say Franco’s Spain was a horrible dictatorship and Spain is very much better off as the democracy it is today.

Last edited 1 year ago by Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago

Incredible article. How can the forcible closing down of a monastery by a secular government not be considered an “attack on religion”? I am not a roman catholic but the fact that this is legitimised in the article basically says it all about the author’s one-eyed view of history. The disinterring and degrading of dead bodies against the wishes of family members is completely hypocritical – something that atheists used to laugh at the inquisition for doing. You couldn’t make it up. Even very pro-republican views of the Civil War admit that religious institutions were targetted by anti-fascist groups (they justify it by saying that they were centres of fascist support). Could reconciliation not have been better fostered by, for instance, promising to never again “wrest” control of religious houses from their members? But that is what you get for holding unpleasant opinions and “saying masses” in 21st century Europe.

Can the author provide evidence of religious communities in Russia giving space for “stiff-armed revelry”?

When he says it “lures opponents into the trap of defending Franco” it is almost as if this is a cause for celebration – pulling up (literally) old rivalries to cement current political power. If it was the other way round would this not be considered divisive? The author also states that moderate leftists and centrists not alligned to the dictator agreed to forget the past but then tries to paint the new laws as moderate. The story about Varsavsky just illustrates how out of touch this issue is with normal people and yet the author deigns to ignore this.

Needless to say Franco’s Spain was a horrible dictatorship and Spain is very much better off as the democracy it is today.

Last edited 1 year ago by Milton Gibbon
Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago

The lesson for me from the Spanish Civil War is that sometimes there is not a good guy side. Sometimes it is just murderous fascists and communists who are doing the world a favor by killing each other.

Ann Jenkins
Ann Jenkins
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Unfortunately they dragged a hell of a lot of unwilling ordinary people into that misery.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ann Jenkins
R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

The lesson from the war is that as I see it is that moderate socialists and conservatives will get supplanted by radical marxists and card carrying fascists the moment actual warfare starts. Scruples vanish overnight.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Many of the moderates will reveal themselves to be extremists, at least under extreme conditions.
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains…an un-uprooted small corner of evil.Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person” –Solzhenitsyn

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Many of the moderates will reveal themselves to be extremists, at least under extreme conditions.
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains…an un-uprooted small corner of evil.Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person” –Solzhenitsyn

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I felt the same about a number of other wars!

Ann Jenkins
Ann Jenkins
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Unfortunately they dragged a hell of a lot of unwilling ordinary people into that misery.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ann Jenkins
R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

The lesson from the war is that as I see it is that moderate socialists and conservatives will get supplanted by radical marxists and card carrying fascists the moment actual warfare starts. Scruples vanish overnight.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I felt the same about a number of other wars!

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago

The lesson for me from the Spanish Civil War is that sometimes there is not a good guy side. Sometimes it is just murderous fascists and communists who are doing the world a favor by killing each other.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago

My understanding (I am sure that you will tell me if I am wrong) is that both Franco and Pinochet overthrew elected governments that were abusing their power and ignoring the constitution and so in that aspect at least Franco, and Pinochet, had cause.

That is NOT to say F&P were ‘good’ but that history is complicated.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago

My understanding (I am sure that you will tell me if I am wrong) is that both Franco and Pinochet overthrew elected governments that were abusing their power and ignoring the constitution and so in that aspect at least Franco, and Pinochet, had cause.

That is NOT to say F&P were ‘good’ but that history is complicated.

Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
1 year ago

Franco and acquiescent Spanish Catholic Bishops certainly perverted the principle of universal human dignity (Imago Dei) – but the left of the time abandoned it explicitly and deliberately – and very early on in the conflict. Had the communists won the civil war, the result may well have been worse. The government would have been on more solid ground it it had simultaneously acknowledged the Red Terror – and particularly the 6,832 priests who were thrown over cliffs and shot in cold blood – most of these in July and August 1936 (and included grotesque crucifixions, disembowellings).. It doesn’t justify but it certainly helps to understand the subsequent role of the Church. This piece obscures more than clarifies – and I suspect it is driven by the obsession of the post-68 English left with the international brigades and the perceived romance of heroic defeat. Across the West as a whole, it is the left that needs a reckoning and to grow up. The right has for the most part thoroughly inoculated… The left is still in denial about the manifest catastrophes of central planning, and the aggressive religiosity of socialism, the modernist hubris of left-wing humanism, the scale of the atrocities and genocide carried out by communist regimes – but also the formative involvement of the Fabians, and social democrats in Europe and America in eugenics, state-sponsored abortion, and all manner of grim modernist institutions whose raison d’ĂȘtre was to remake human nature and destiny in the image of man. The eugenic commitments of the Bloomsbury Group and liberals such as Keynes, the murderous death squads of both the anarchist CNT and the communists, the racist abortion regime designed by planned parenthood to reduce the black birth rate – and the Dantesque orphanages of Ceausescu’s Romania – and indeed the socialist underpinning of both Italian fascism and German national socialism ….all stem from the same revolutionary humanist root that starts by subordinating the dignity and worth of the individual to some Promethean plan for collective human betterment.

Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
1 year ago

Franco and acquiescent Spanish Catholic Bishops certainly perverted the principle of universal human dignity (Imago Dei) – but the left of the time abandoned it explicitly and deliberately – and very early on in the conflict. Had the communists won the civil war, the result may well have been worse. The government would have been on more solid ground it it had simultaneously acknowledged the Red Terror – and particularly the 6,832 priests who were thrown over cliffs and shot in cold blood – most of these in July and August 1936 (and included grotesque crucifixions, disembowellings).. It doesn’t justify but it certainly helps to understand the subsequent role of the Church. This piece obscures more than clarifies – and I suspect it is driven by the obsession of the post-68 English left with the international brigades and the perceived romance of heroic defeat. Across the West as a whole, it is the left that needs a reckoning and to grow up. The right has for the most part thoroughly inoculated… The left is still in denial about the manifest catastrophes of central planning, and the aggressive religiosity of socialism, the modernist hubris of left-wing humanism, the scale of the atrocities and genocide carried out by communist regimes – but also the formative involvement of the Fabians, and social democrats in Europe and America in eugenics, state-sponsored abortion, and all manner of grim modernist institutions whose raison d’ĂȘtre was to remake human nature and destiny in the image of man. The eugenic commitments of the Bloomsbury Group and liberals such as Keynes, the murderous death squads of both the anarchist CNT and the communists, the racist abortion regime designed by planned parenthood to reduce the black birth rate – and the Dantesque orphanages of Ceausescu’s Romania – and indeed the socialist underpinning of both Italian fascism and German national socialism ….all stem from the same revolutionary humanist root that starts by subordinating the dignity and worth of the individual to some Promethean plan for collective human betterment.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

There was a need to reduce power of the Roman Catholic Church in 1931 and landowners. What the Republican Government could have done is give monastic land to those who worked it and also sold it to those who could afford to buy. The republicans could have pensioned off the monks and nuns at a labourers wage. The clergy could have shared houses and earned money through teaching, which would would have enbled them to live middle class life. Basically copy Henry VIII where monks and nuns were pensioned off at 1d per day,(labourers wage) and the sold of the land which greatly increased the size and wealth the middle class.
The Republican Government could have set up schools which were non religious. The RC Church would have existed; people could have worshipped but it would ahve lost it’s power through land ownership and control of schools.
What happened was increase in destruction of churches , killing and rape of RC Clergy from 1931 onwards. By 1936 priests were being castrated and murdered, nuns raped, churches burnt and death toll of about 8,000 to 10,000.
Franco and the Army then reacted to the violence. The Republican Government was heavily influenced by the NKVD which at the time was undertaking mass murder in the USSR.
Franco kept Spain out of the WW2. If Spain had joined it would have probably captured Gibralter and Britain would have lost control of the Mediterranean, Malta, Egypt and the Suez Canal.
At the end of the Civil War Franco committed mass murder: he could have pardoned and granted clemency.
There is saying ” Do not start a fight but make sure one finishes it”. The Republican Government started a figth and lost it.
The election of the Republican Government was reaction against the power of the RC Church and the way land owners treated labourers like feudal serfs who suffered malnutrition and disease. However, the sadistic cruelty inflicted on the RC produced a counter reaction.
When one looks at Spain, the machismo character, blood lust; cruelty, desire to undertake acts of revenge if one’s honour is slighted ( what ever that is ), rigidity with a lack of give and take, is a reaction to the poverty and 700 years of Muslim arab Rule. It took the Spanish 700 years to retake their land during this time they endured slavery which included castration of male slaves. The Spanish character is like the Russian and Sicillian in that harsh rule in harsh land produces harsh people. There is no toleration or forgiveness; one is either master of serf; never equals. Spain and Portugal produced the Inquisition yet if we compare with Northern Italy in the 15th to 18th century we find a far more tolerant, open minded society where the RC Church is not nearly so hated or feared but often treated with amusement.
If one looks at Britain, the Civil War resulted in about 10% of the male population being killed in battle. Yet there were few cases of slaughter of non combatants. After the Parliamentary victor, few Royalists were killed, some were fined at about 10% of the value of their property and when Charles II came to power he acted against those whom were alive who signed his Father’s death warrant.
By 1690 the Civil war was well in the past.Wilkes said England was ” Beef and liberty “, Spain has had little until recently.
It said the sins of the Fathers will vested in children and childrens’ children which is about 75 years. So how long will the Spanish keep past sufferings alive, 700 years?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Thanks for a helpful account, with far more balance than the article.
Interesting that given your account of the culture, that it has become so ‘liberal’ in the last 20 years. Don’t know if that is real or the chattering Spanish middle classes.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Thank you. My family’s experience of Spain goes back to 1953 or thereabouts when my Mother worked in the country in the south. She talked about very rigid Catholic Conservatism with absolute power, wielded by Civil Guardia( power of life and death ) and priests. Middle class women were chaperoned.
Former girlfriend from the south said that prior to Franco’s death, there photographs of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini on the walls of her school. Her younger sister who went to school after Franco’s death did not have that experience and had a much freer education. As late as the 1980s it was difficult for middle class girls to live away from home o study at university.
The attempted coup by the Civil Guardia in 1981 was only stopped By Juan Carlos who orderd the Valencia Division back to barracks. A friend who was translator said her father, a Liberal journalis,t was onthe Civil Guardia’s arrest, of not death list.
A friend from the Balkans asked ” How long had we had democracy in Britain” . I replied Magna carta was in 1215 and we had a representative Parliament by 1300 .” Precisely he replied, you have had time to develop.”
The tolerance we enjoy is a result of a temperate climate producing plenty meat and wool, so people are not starving:a set of laws which binds all( from Aethelbert of Kent inabout 650 AD), minimal corruption, property rights and liberty such that honest hard work enabled people to move from serfdom to land ownership or be freemen of a town. Men were trined to fight and were armed by law from 1182. The yeoman archers were volunteers who were freemen.
In England by 1300 there were armed trained farmers, merchants and craftmen who have responsibility for running their village and can speak their mind at hustings, emotional maturity and responsibility develop. Edward III said ” That which affects all must be consulted by all” and the House of Commons agreed on taxation.Emtional maturity responsibility develops perspective and balance and the realisation that compromise, a sense of fair play, tolerance, give and take enables a consus to be reached without blood shed.
In Britain younger sons of landowners became apprentice to merchants. In Spain ther wa total barrier bertween aristocracy and trade. If a aristocrat entered trade he lost his status.
Rural Spain was close to feudal serfdom in 1931.
The cruel blood lust of the Republicans was similar to the French and Russian Revolutions. Absolute monarchy and rigid atistocracy produced a violent reaction and then reaction from Franco.
Spain basically lacked a strong competent middle class with a tolerant outlook.
Hello magazine originated in Spain and was called Ello: I was amazed reading about the Spanish aristocracy. Until a few years ago, one could travel from Madrid to the Mediterranean and leave the land of the Duchess of Alba
Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba – Wikipedia
Duke of Medinaceli – Wikipedia
Catalonia is wealthier and more cosmopolitan than the rest of Spain, due to climate, and commercial activities, especially shipping which explain why there is support for independence.
If one takes the S from Spain one gets Pain. Both sides have wounded each other but healing will not occur if dirt is rubbed in.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Interesting facts and largely plausible but the broad-brush characterological claims you make based on geography and climate are too convenient and absolute.
“There is no toleration or forgiveness; one is either master of serf; never equals”. You place that in a sort of eternal present sense. Always and forever with that asserted “never”. The weather was hot so Franco was too overheated to show clemency?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

No the semi- desert conditions of much of south and south east Spain produced poverty and hunger. Wilkes talks about beef and liberty. The French poor stormed The Bastille for want of bread yet in Britain navvies( took two years to train by which they had to excavate 20 T of soil per day)breakfasted on steak and beer. When British navvies went to France in the 18th century, the French were amazed how much excavation a they could accomplish in a day.
Spain was incredibly autocratic, dominated by aristocracy and clergy where senior positions were from this class, producing a very rigid country. The middle class was minute and in most of Spain comprised a few doctors, lawyers and shop keepers. Sicily has similarities to Southern Spain. When British forces entered Sicily they were amazed how small were the Sicilians , which was due to poverty and the complete indifference of the aristocracy to the poor.
There is a video by a former colonel in Finnish intelligence who eplains how hundreds of years of Mongol rule of Russia produced a people steeped in acceptance of autocratic rule, absolute obedience to authority, cruelty and corruption.
Russia Analysis by Finnish Intelligence Colonel [English subtitles] – YouTube
Compare Sicily with Florence: Barcelona/ Catalonia with Andalusia: Spain and Russia of 1500 AD and Florence /Northern Italy of 1500 AD.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I respect your knowledge and have no reason to dispute your generalities (in general), but I know for certain, with or without further research, that statements like these two: “the complete indifference of the aristocracy to the poor” and “absolute obedience to authority, cruelty and corruption”–are overstated. As a reader not already steeped in your specific learning and point of view, I’d be more persuadable and amenable to instruction if your sweeping claims were friendlier to nuance, exception, and degree.
I still appreciate what I was able to take from your posts. I’ll give more attention to geography and national history as shaping influences–though not determinative or altogether prevailing ones.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Comments on Russia from Finnish intelligence colonel backs up comments from family member and reading of Russian history, Rod Braithwaite’s former (ambassador to Russia 1988-1992.Russia) , Myths and Realities is good summary of history.Solzhenitsyn and V Shalamov describe the horrors of the Soviet Gulag. Braithwaite is very good at explaining how the Fourth Crusade and Sack of Constantinople in 1204 AD shaped Russian attitudes to The West. For Britons to consider that actions in 1204 are relevant today is ridiculous; to Putin it is not.For Britons the Depression of 1931 is irrelevant, yet in Spain this date is not.
As Northcote Parkinson said , much of modern history teaching has been distorted by a Marxist prism of class war and economics.
Much of what I have said would have been supported by pre WW2 Liberals such as G M Trevelyan and and A Toynbee; C Northcote Parkinson, Arthur Bryant ( liked by Attlee, Wilson and Thatcher) , Ibn Khaldun, and John Glubb- Glubb Pasha. Development of technology is well covered by Jacob Bronowski and James Burk and Civilisation by Clark.What all these historians possess is much wider academic knowledge than most of those of today plus experience outside of a suburban life and academia.
There is Yiddish saying ” Half the truth is whole lie “. Hitler and Putin used partial truths to manipulate the populations of their countries and we have been too lazy or stupid to realise what was taking place until war broke out.
The use of partial and half truths is being used by Falangists and extreme Left in Spain which means wounds are being re-opened and infected with hatred.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Thanks for the additional, far-gathered lecture notes. Your final two paragraphs make sense to me but you seem caught in a belief that all the Greats of the Past–including AJ Toynbee, whom I know some of and respect–are the only greats, and that that will forever remain the case. The ripples of influence you cite do not establish some unbroken, let alone conclusive chain of causation that emanates from earlier centuries or millennia.
Do you pretend to some unique and comprehensive view of the past and resulting present? I don’t want to be rude, but that is what I sometimes detect from your comments as a whole. Please re-assure me that I am mistaken.
“The Golden Age was never the present age”–Ben Franklin (under the pseudonym Poor Richard)

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The past was largely short, brutal and nasty. What interests me is why certain events occur. Why did England have a representative Parliament by 1300 where the House of Commons could vote on taxation and not others? Why did  The Renaissance start in Northern Italy and especially in  Florence ? Why not Turin, Milan, Genoa, Venice or Rome and why was the creative force largely spent by 1600? Why did only England develop the military capability of the long bow: become a naval power under Elizabeth overtaking Spain and start the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions?
A Toynbee’s view was that civilisation occur where there are sufficient challenges to encourage creative solutions. Where they are too great, say with the Innuit, though they have developed remarkable technologies, all their time and creative energies are spent in survival. Where there is no need for survival there is no need for a creative force to survival, no civilisation is created. 
All the writers quoted cite growth to overcome obstacles/challenges, reaching affluence and security, stagnation and then decay, usually ending with conquest by more vigorous group.
J Burke has written about the history of technological jumps in history.
None of my comments are particularly rare when one reads historians trained before WW2. However, the one dimensional view of Marxist history as that of class struggle (as C Northcote Parkinson said) has pushed out views of pre WW2 trained   historians.
As historians appear to study more and more about less and less and with lacking experience outside of the comfortable middle class suburban academia they appear to have lost an understanding of the ebb and flow of history and especially a knowledge of different countries and regions at the same time. This article is about Spain. Compare Spain, England, Russia, France, Florence and Russia in 1492 when Grenada was captured, then say 1692 and 1892: what are the changes and why? Spain obtained vast amounts of gold and silver from South America so if all that is important is capital why did it not create The Industrial Revolution? If all that is important is capital, why by 1665 has England, which had a quarter or less of then wealth of France created the Royal Society and Newton, Hook and Wren are developing the science which underpins the Industrial Revolution.
A pre WW2 explanation is that the aristocracy despised commerce in Spain and France but not England and Florence   and the Protestant Work Ethic Created the Industrial Revolution( Weber ).
The Civil War in England ends in 1660. The Spanish are discussing events 82 years ago. In Britain 82 years after the end of the Civil War 1742, Parliament was sovereign, Newcomen had invented the steam engine, A Darby had developed coke for iron production and new casting methods, James Brindley was working and the Agricultural Revolution was underway.  I would have thought the Spanish Socialists would be better employed providing the population with the education and technical skills to enter advanced manufacturing in order to compete with Asia. It was the Dissenting Academies who educated the Non Conformists who created most of the Industrial Revolution ( J Burke ).
Is there a Spanish word for  vendetta ?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Though I like the field of history and know some from Herodotus and Tacitus onward, including Burke’s TV output, I confess I don’t know enough to comment on your individual points.
But I have one thing to offer anyway: the historiography of the past was often too reliant on a single Grand Narrative, or a somewhat forced, even manufactured teleology. The historical canon (if you will) is obviously too varied and rich to be so easily dismissed, but so are some of the newer, less self-assured, and–let’s face it–less unreflectively ethnocentric authors and approaches. Would you agree with any of that? Are there any post WWII historians whom you admire? Because I’d genuinely like to hear whether you can recommend anyone who’s been published during my roughly 50 years on earth, or even my father’s 75.
Perhaps one of the reasons that older histories seem so insightful and accurate is that there are few to no remaining contemporaneous witnesses or participants still alive to dispute them. Yes, some of it is documented elsewhere–especially once into the 20th century–and there are contrary accounts, but that is largely under the curation or control of the historian. Also, the better and histories are likelier to endure and you may not be factoring in most of the pre-WWII garbage historical writing that almost no one reads anymore, perhaps not even you, sir. Thanks for the exchange.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The World at War had a post script by Steven Ambrose, called From War to Peace who summarises WW1 and the result of WW2. I have never heard someone explain so clearly the consequences of WW1 and WW2.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGYwk6yuQGM
Watching the twelve Part Series ” World at War ” I think gives a superb description of the history of the conflict.
James Burke’s “Connections”, “The Day the Universe Changed”, Clark’s “Civilisation” and Bronowski’s “Ascent of Man” give superb descriptions of science, technology and culture.
The say history is either c..k up or conspiracy> Historians lack of experience on managing practical operations means they often do not have insights how mistakes occur. The Ukraine could be said to be a result of many c..ck ups from the fall of Communism in 1990.
Northcote Parkinson said viewing history through the single facet of marxist class war dogma damaged the ability to understand that history was multi faceted it included military, naval, economic, political, technical, social, legal, regal, religious aspects. I do not think think there is is a grand narrative: there are many aspects and some are dominant at any one time.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The World at War had a post script by Steven Ambrose, called From War to Peace who summarises WW1 and the result of WW2. I have never heard someone explain so clearly the consequences of WW1 and WW2.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGYwk6yuQGM
Watching the twelve Part Series ” World at War ” I think gives a superb description of the history of the conflict.
James Burke’s “Connections”, “The Day the Universe Changed”, Clark’s “Civilisation” and Bronowski’s “Ascent of Man” give superb descriptions of science, technology and culture.
The say history is either c..k up or conspiracy> Historians lack of experience on managing practical operations means they often do not have insights how mistakes occur. The Ukraine could be said to be a result of many c..ck ups from the fall of Communism in 1990.
Northcote Parkinson said viewing history through the single facet of marxist class war dogma damaged the ability to understand that history was multi faceted it included military, naval, economic, political, technical, social, legal, regal, religious aspects. I do not think think there is is a grand narrative: there are many aspects and some are dominant at any one time.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Though I like the field of history and know some from Herodotus and Tacitus onward, including Burke’s TV output, I confess I don’t know enough to comment on your individual points.
But I have one thing to offer anyway: the historiography of the past was often too reliant on a single Grand Narrative, or a somewhat forced, even manufactured teleology. The historical canon (if you will) is obviously too varied and rich to be so easily dismissed, but so are some of the newer, less self-assured, and–let’s face it–less unreflectively ethnocentric authors and approaches. Would you agree with any of that? Are there any post WWII historians whom you admire? Because I’d genuinely like to hear whether you can recommend anyone who’s been published during my roughly 50 years on earth, or even my father’s 75.
Perhaps one of the reasons that older histories seem so insightful and accurate is that there are few to no remaining contemporaneous witnesses or participants still alive to dispute them. Yes, some of it is documented elsewhere–especially once into the 20th century–and there are contrary accounts, but that is largely under the curation or control of the historian. Also, the better and histories are likelier to endure and you may not be factoring in most of the pre-WWII garbage historical writing that almost no one reads anymore, perhaps not even you, sir. Thanks for the exchange.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The past was largely short, brutal and nasty. What interests me is why certain events occur. Why did England have a representative Parliament by 1300 where the House of Commons could vote on taxation and not others? Why did  The Renaissance start in Northern Italy and especially in  Florence ? Why not Turin, Milan, Genoa, Venice or Rome and why was the creative force largely spent by 1600? Why did only England develop the military capability of the long bow: become a naval power under Elizabeth overtaking Spain and start the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions?
A Toynbee’s view was that civilisation occur where there are sufficient challenges to encourage creative solutions. Where they are too great, say with the Innuit, though they have developed remarkable technologies, all their time and creative energies are spent in survival. Where there is no need for survival there is no need for a creative force to survival, no civilisation is created. 
All the writers quoted cite growth to overcome obstacles/challenges, reaching affluence and security, stagnation and then decay, usually ending with conquest by more vigorous group.
J Burke has written about the history of technological jumps in history.
None of my comments are particularly rare when one reads historians trained before WW2. However, the one dimensional view of Marxist history as that of class struggle (as C Northcote Parkinson said) has pushed out views of pre WW2 trained   historians.
As historians appear to study more and more about less and less and with lacking experience outside of the comfortable middle class suburban academia they appear to have lost an understanding of the ebb and flow of history and especially a knowledge of different countries and regions at the same time. This article is about Spain. Compare Spain, England, Russia, France, Florence and Russia in 1492 when Grenada was captured, then say 1692 and 1892: what are the changes and why? Spain obtained vast amounts of gold and silver from South America so if all that is important is capital why did it not create The Industrial Revolution? If all that is important is capital, why by 1665 has England, which had a quarter or less of then wealth of France created the Royal Society and Newton, Hook and Wren are developing the science which underpins the Industrial Revolution.
A pre WW2 explanation is that the aristocracy despised commerce in Spain and France but not England and Florence   and the Protestant Work Ethic Created the Industrial Revolution( Weber ).
The Civil War in England ends in 1660. The Spanish are discussing events 82 years ago. In Britain 82 years after the end of the Civil War 1742, Parliament was sovereign, Newcomen had invented the steam engine, A Darby had developed coke for iron production and new casting methods, James Brindley was working and the Agricultural Revolution was underway.  I would have thought the Spanish Socialists would be better employed providing the population with the education and technical skills to enter advanced manufacturing in order to compete with Asia. It was the Dissenting Academies who educated the Non Conformists who created most of the Industrial Revolution ( J Burke ).
Is there a Spanish word for  vendetta ?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Thanks for the additional, far-gathered lecture notes. Your final two paragraphs make sense to me but you seem caught in a belief that all the Greats of the Past–including AJ Toynbee, whom I know some of and respect–are the only greats, and that that will forever remain the case. The ripples of influence you cite do not establish some unbroken, let alone conclusive chain of causation that emanates from earlier centuries or millennia.
Do you pretend to some unique and comprehensive view of the past and resulting present? I don’t want to be rude, but that is what I sometimes detect from your comments as a whole. Please re-assure me that I am mistaken.
“The Golden Age was never the present age”–Ben Franklin (under the pseudonym Poor Richard)

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Comments on Russia from Finnish intelligence colonel backs up comments from family member and reading of Russian history, Rod Braithwaite’s former (ambassador to Russia 1988-1992.Russia) , Myths and Realities is good summary of history.Solzhenitsyn and V Shalamov describe the horrors of the Soviet Gulag. Braithwaite is very good at explaining how the Fourth Crusade and Sack of Constantinople in 1204 AD shaped Russian attitudes to The West. For Britons to consider that actions in 1204 are relevant today is ridiculous; to Putin it is not.For Britons the Depression of 1931 is irrelevant, yet in Spain this date is not.
As Northcote Parkinson said , much of modern history teaching has been distorted by a Marxist prism of class war and economics.
Much of what I have said would have been supported by pre WW2 Liberals such as G M Trevelyan and and A Toynbee; C Northcote Parkinson, Arthur Bryant ( liked by Attlee, Wilson and Thatcher) , Ibn Khaldun, and John Glubb- Glubb Pasha. Development of technology is well covered by Jacob Bronowski and James Burk and Civilisation by Clark.What all these historians possess is much wider academic knowledge than most of those of today plus experience outside of a suburban life and academia.
There is Yiddish saying ” Half the truth is whole lie “. Hitler and Putin used partial truths to manipulate the populations of their countries and we have been too lazy or stupid to realise what was taking place until war broke out.
The use of partial and half truths is being used by Falangists and extreme Left in Spain which means wounds are being re-opened and infected with hatred.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I respect your knowledge and have no reason to dispute your generalities (in general), but I know for certain, with or without further research, that statements like these two: “the complete indifference of the aristocracy to the poor” and “absolute obedience to authority, cruelty and corruption”–are overstated. As a reader not already steeped in your specific learning and point of view, I’d be more persuadable and amenable to instruction if your sweeping claims were friendlier to nuance, exception, and degree.
I still appreciate what I was able to take from your posts. I’ll give more attention to geography and national history as shaping influences–though not determinative or altogether prevailing ones.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

No the semi- desert conditions of much of south and south east Spain produced poverty and hunger. Wilkes talks about beef and liberty. The French poor stormed The Bastille for want of bread yet in Britain navvies( took two years to train by which they had to excavate 20 T of soil per day)breakfasted on steak and beer. When British navvies went to France in the 18th century, the French were amazed how much excavation a they could accomplish in a day.
Spain was incredibly autocratic, dominated by aristocracy and clergy where senior positions were from this class, producing a very rigid country. The middle class was minute and in most of Spain comprised a few doctors, lawyers and shop keepers. Sicily has similarities to Southern Spain. When British forces entered Sicily they were amazed how small were the Sicilians , which was due to poverty and the complete indifference of the aristocracy to the poor.
There is a video by a former colonel in Finnish intelligence who eplains how hundreds of years of Mongol rule of Russia produced a people steeped in acceptance of autocratic rule, absolute obedience to authority, cruelty and corruption.
Russia Analysis by Finnish Intelligence Colonel [English subtitles] – YouTube
Compare Sicily with Florence: Barcelona/ Catalonia with Andalusia: Spain and Russia of 1500 AD and Florence /Northern Italy of 1500 AD.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Interesting facts and largely plausible but the broad-brush characterological claims you make based on geography and climate are too convenient and absolute.
“There is no toleration or forgiveness; one is either master of serf; never equals”. You place that in a sort of eternal present sense. Always and forever with that asserted “never”. The weather was hot so Franco was too overheated to show clemency?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Thank you. My family’s experience of Spain goes back to 1953 or thereabouts when my Mother worked in the country in the south. She talked about very rigid Catholic Conservatism with absolute power, wielded by Civil Guardia( power of life and death ) and priests. Middle class women were chaperoned.
Former girlfriend from the south said that prior to Franco’s death, there photographs of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini on the walls of her school. Her younger sister who went to school after Franco’s death did not have that experience and had a much freer education. As late as the 1980s it was difficult for middle class girls to live away from home o study at university.
The attempted coup by the Civil Guardia in 1981 was only stopped By Juan Carlos who orderd the Valencia Division back to barracks. A friend who was translator said her father, a Liberal journalis,t was onthe Civil Guardia’s arrest, of not death list.
A friend from the Balkans asked ” How long had we had democracy in Britain” . I replied Magna carta was in 1215 and we had a representative Parliament by 1300 .” Precisely he replied, you have had time to develop.”
The tolerance we enjoy is a result of a temperate climate producing plenty meat and wool, so people are not starving:a set of laws which binds all( from Aethelbert of Kent inabout 650 AD), minimal corruption, property rights and liberty such that honest hard work enabled people to move from serfdom to land ownership or be freemen of a town. Men were trined to fight and were armed by law from 1182. The yeoman archers were volunteers who were freemen.
In England by 1300 there were armed trained farmers, merchants and craftmen who have responsibility for running their village and can speak their mind at hustings, emotional maturity and responsibility develop. Edward III said ” That which affects all must be consulted by all” and the House of Commons agreed on taxation.Emtional maturity responsibility develops perspective and balance and the realisation that compromise, a sense of fair play, tolerance, give and take enables a consus to be reached without blood shed.
In Britain younger sons of landowners became apprentice to merchants. In Spain ther wa total barrier bertween aristocracy and trade. If a aristocrat entered trade he lost his status.
Rural Spain was close to feudal serfdom in 1931.
The cruel blood lust of the Republicans was similar to the French and Russian Revolutions. Absolute monarchy and rigid atistocracy produced a violent reaction and then reaction from Franco.
Spain basically lacked a strong competent middle class with a tolerant outlook.
Hello magazine originated in Spain and was called Ello: I was amazed reading about the Spanish aristocracy. Until a few years ago, one could travel from Madrid to the Mediterranean and leave the land of the Duchess of Alba
Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba – Wikipedia
Duke of Medinaceli – Wikipedia
Catalonia is wealthier and more cosmopolitan than the rest of Spain, due to climate, and commercial activities, especially shipping which explain why there is support for independence.
If one takes the S from Spain one gets Pain. Both sides have wounded each other but healing will not occur if dirt is rubbed in.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I would be interested to know how rich, powerful or influential the RC church was in Spain in the 1930s. I don’t think it had that much wealth, much of which had been confiscated by secular governments. There was a long history of anti- clericalism in Spain as in other countries.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

The RC controlled many schools, hospitals and charities. It helped to underpin a near feudal aristocracy like France before the Revolution. Much of south and south east Spain was near desert so land was not worth much but ownership provided power, mainly in ability to employ landless labourers. There was also the issue of whether the RC was taxed? By the RC owning land, which is a finite resource, it deprived labourers of owning it, which often proviuded politcal rights such as ability to vote, stand for election, etc.
Many people hated the RC in Spain but fewer in Bavaria or Northern Italy because it behaved differently in these regions. In the 1930s, Cardinl Graf von Galen of Germany opposed Hitler and the Nazis.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

The RC controlled many schools, hospitals and charities. It helped to underpin a near feudal aristocracy like France before the Revolution. Much of south and south east Spain was near desert so land was not worth much but ownership provided power, mainly in ability to employ landless labourers. There was also the issue of whether the RC was taxed? By the RC owning land, which is a finite resource, it deprived labourers of owning it, which often proviuded politcal rights such as ability to vote, stand for election, etc.
Many people hated the RC in Spain but fewer in Bavaria or Northern Italy because it behaved differently in these regions. In the 1930s, Cardinl Graf von Galen of Germany opposed Hitler and the Nazis.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Thanks for a helpful account, with far more balance than the article.
Interesting that given your account of the culture, that it has become so ‘liberal’ in the last 20 years. Don’t know if that is real or the chattering Spanish middle classes.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I would be interested to know how rich, powerful or influential the RC church was in Spain in the 1930s. I don’t think it had that much wealth, much of which had been confiscated by secular governments. There was a long history of anti- clericalism in Spain as in other countries.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

There was a need to reduce power of the Roman Catholic Church in 1931 and landowners. What the Republican Government could have done is give monastic land to those who worked it and also sold it to those who could afford to buy. The republicans could have pensioned off the monks and nuns at a labourers wage. The clergy could have shared houses and earned money through teaching, which would would have enbled them to live middle class life. Basically copy Henry VIII where monks and nuns were pensioned off at 1d per day,(labourers wage) and the sold of the land which greatly increased the size and wealth the middle class.
The Republican Government could have set up schools which were non religious. The RC Church would have existed; people could have worshipped but it would ahve lost it’s power through land ownership and control of schools.
What happened was increase in destruction of churches , killing and rape of RC Clergy from 1931 onwards. By 1936 priests were being castrated and murdered, nuns raped, churches burnt and death toll of about 8,000 to 10,000.
Franco and the Army then reacted to the violence. The Republican Government was heavily influenced by the NKVD which at the time was undertaking mass murder in the USSR.
Franco kept Spain out of the WW2. If Spain had joined it would have probably captured Gibralter and Britain would have lost control of the Mediterranean, Malta, Egypt and the Suez Canal.
At the end of the Civil War Franco committed mass murder: he could have pardoned and granted clemency.
There is saying ” Do not start a fight but make sure one finishes it”. The Republican Government started a figth and lost it.
The election of the Republican Government was reaction against the power of the RC Church and the way land owners treated labourers like feudal serfs who suffered malnutrition and disease. However, the sadistic cruelty inflicted on the RC produced a counter reaction.
When one looks at Spain, the machismo character, blood lust; cruelty, desire to undertake acts of revenge if one’s honour is slighted ( what ever that is ), rigidity with a lack of give and take, is a reaction to the poverty and 700 years of Muslim arab Rule. It took the Spanish 700 years to retake their land during this time they endured slavery which included castration of male slaves. The Spanish character is like the Russian and Sicillian in that harsh rule in harsh land produces harsh people. There is no toleration or forgiveness; one is either master of serf; never equals. Spain and Portugal produced the Inquisition yet if we compare with Northern Italy in the 15th to 18th century we find a far more tolerant, open minded society where the RC Church is not nearly so hated or feared but often treated with amusement.
If one looks at Britain, the Civil War resulted in about 10% of the male population being killed in battle. Yet there were few cases of slaughter of non combatants. After the Parliamentary victor, few Royalists were killed, some were fined at about 10% of the value of their property and when Charles II came to power he acted against those whom were alive who signed his Father’s death warrant.
By 1690 the Civil war was well in the past.Wilkes said England was ” Beef and liberty “, Spain has had little until recently.
It said the sins of the Fathers will vested in children and childrens’ children which is about 75 years. So how long will the Spanish keep past sufferings alive, 700 years?

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 year ago

The article itself doesn’t actually talk about apologies as the title “Is Spain too late to apologise for fascism” implies.
However, I am uncomfortable with the modern fashion for apologising for things other people did in the past.

I don’t believe I can apologies for something my ancestors did any more than I can take credit. Beyond that its all political gestures.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 year ago

The article itself doesn’t actually talk about apologies as the title “Is Spain too late to apologise for fascism” implies.
However, I am uncomfortable with the modern fashion for apologising for things other people did in the past.

I don’t believe I can apologies for something my ancestors did any more than I can take credit. Beyond that its all political gestures.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Recently desecrating Franco’s grave was NOT a wise move.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Recently desecrating Franco’s grave was NOT a wise move.

J. Hale
J. Hale
1 year ago

I read an article once about a teenage Spanish girl who attended a rock concert in Madrid in the 1970s. Her parents had no problem letting the girl and her young friends travel unaccompanied to the concert. I was surprised when she nonchalantly noted that safe streets were taken for granted in a police state.

Last edited 1 year ago by J. Hale
Thomas Doherty
Thomas Doherty
1 year ago
Reply to  J. Hale

Spain is still pretty safe

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Thomas Doherty

Depends where. There are areas where the control lies in the hands of criminals. Chicago University lecture theatres are safe, other parts of the city are not.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Thomas Doherty

Depends where. There are areas where the control lies in the hands of criminals. Chicago University lecture theatres are safe, other parts of the city are not.

Thomas Doherty
Thomas Doherty
1 year ago
Reply to  J. Hale

Spain is still pretty safe

J. Hale
J. Hale
1 year ago

I read an article once about a teenage Spanish girl who attended a rock concert in Madrid in the 1970s. Her parents had no problem letting the girl and her young friends travel unaccompanied to the concert. I was surprised when she nonchalantly noted that safe streets were taken for granted in a police state.

Last edited 1 year ago by J. Hale
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

When the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain Charles V was offered the chance to dig up and desecrate the body of Martin Luther, he declined apparently saying “No! I fight the living NOT the dead”.
Perhaps Modern Spain should heed this advice before it is too late?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

When the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain Charles V was offered the chance to dig up and desecrate the body of Martin Luther, he declined apparently saying “No! I fight the living NOT the dead”.
Perhaps Modern Spain should heed this advice before it is too late?

Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
1 year ago

I don’t know a whole lot about the details of why the Spanish civil war started but I’m sympathetic to looking over at what happened in Russia and saying no thanks.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

It has its roots in decades of Spanish government failure and is definitely worth reading a book on. The war was never meant to be a war, but was a military coup that went wrong. What was supposed to take 3 days took 3 years. It is a textbook example of what happens when the centre collapses in a society.

David Walters
David Walters
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

The Socialist government had forced the King into exile and formed a republic about 5 years earlier, disaffecting the Right. Then they came third in the next election but the socialist President refused to put the election-winner, the Right, into government and appointed the second placed party, the Radical Republicans, instead. His reason was that the Right had ‘monarchist sympathies.’
The next year, 3 token Rightist ministers were appointed after negotiations. In response, the socialists triggered an armed uprising and general strike against the republican government. The province of Asturias was successfully taken over; policemen, religious types and businessmen were killed; churches and the part of the University of Oviedo were destroyed; proletarian revolution was proclaimed; and money was ‘abolished’ The republican government sent in one F. Franco to restore order, which took two weeks of fighting.
Rather than appoint the largest party to government after the crisis, the socialist president, Alcala-Zamora, called an election. This produced a narrow victory for a Left coalition, running on a platform of ‘”bloody workers’ revolution”, which began ‘Collectivising’ agriculture i.e. dispossessing landowners.
The Communist ghoul Dolores Ibarruri (‘La Passionaria’ in Stalinist propaganda) threatened the parliamentary leader of the Right, Calvo Sotelo, across the chamber, telling him he’d never make another speech. Shortly afterwards he was knifed to death in the back of a police van by the Socialist leader Indalecio Prieto’s personal driver. His funeral was attacked by gunfire and four people were killed.
It’s not too difficult to imagine that when they heard, a few days later, that the army was staging a coup many people felt it was the least worse option, if not positively relieved. The fact is the Second Spanish Republic was not a democracy – even token representatives of the Right were not allowed into government even when they came first in elections – it was under violent attack from the Left and was teetering on the brink of becoming a failed state and sinking into chaos.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Walters
R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

It has its roots in decades of Spanish government failure and is definitely worth reading a book on. The war was never meant to be a war, but was a military coup that went wrong. What was supposed to take 3 days took 3 years. It is a textbook example of what happens when the centre collapses in a society.

David Walters
David Walters
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

The Socialist government had forced the King into exile and formed a republic about 5 years earlier, disaffecting the Right. Then they came third in the next election but the socialist President refused to put the election-winner, the Right, into government and appointed the second placed party, the Radical Republicans, instead. His reason was that the Right had ‘monarchist sympathies.’
The next year, 3 token Rightist ministers were appointed after negotiations. In response, the socialists triggered an armed uprising and general strike against the republican government. The province of Asturias was successfully taken over; policemen, religious types and businessmen were killed; churches and the part of the University of Oviedo were destroyed; proletarian revolution was proclaimed; and money was ‘abolished’ The republican government sent in one F. Franco to restore order, which took two weeks of fighting.
Rather than appoint the largest party to government after the crisis, the socialist president, Alcala-Zamora, called an election. This produced a narrow victory for a Left coalition, running on a platform of ‘”bloody workers’ revolution”, which began ‘Collectivising’ agriculture i.e. dispossessing landowners.
The Communist ghoul Dolores Ibarruri (‘La Passionaria’ in Stalinist propaganda) threatened the parliamentary leader of the Right, Calvo Sotelo, across the chamber, telling him he’d never make another speech. Shortly afterwards he was knifed to death in the back of a police van by the Socialist leader Indalecio Prieto’s personal driver. His funeral was attacked by gunfire and four people were killed.
It’s not too difficult to imagine that when they heard, a few days later, that the army was staging a coup many people felt it was the least worse option, if not positively relieved. The fact is the Second Spanish Republic was not a democracy – even token representatives of the Right were not allowed into government even when they came first in elections – it was under violent attack from the Left and was teetering on the brink of becoming a failed state and sinking into chaos.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Walters
Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
1 year ago

I don’t know a whole lot about the details of why the Spanish civil war started but I’m sympathetic to looking over at what happened in Russia and saying no thanks.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

This does sound as if history is being dug up to fight today’s battles. There was a lot to be said for Spain’s collective forgetting, a way of confronting a complex and bloody past. It worked for a while, both sides could claim a victory in the end. Franco saved Spain from a worse fate, and the Republic triumphed in the end. The statues came down and a new generation would get on with a peaceful and prosperous life. It seems regressive for one side to go back and pick apart old wounds, for it will be a one-sided agenda, without allowing for nuance, the passions and politics of the time, and the merits of forgiving and forgetting. Even the Spaniards who acquiesced and conformed (probably the majority) must be made complicit.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

This does sound as if history is being dug up to fight today’s battles. There was a lot to be said for Spain’s collective forgetting, a way of confronting a complex and bloody past. It worked for a while, both sides could claim a victory in the end. Franco saved Spain from a worse fate, and the Republic triumphed in the end. The statues came down and a new generation would get on with a peaceful and prosperous life. It seems regressive for one side to go back and pick apart old wounds, for it will be a one-sided agenda, without allowing for nuance, the passions and politics of the time, and the merits of forgiving and forgetting. Even the Spaniards who acquiesced and conformed (probably the majority) must be made complicit.

Quo Peregrinatur
Quo Peregrinatur
1 year ago

Cool, we can talk about the Terror Rojo, now, then.

Quo Peregrinatur
Quo Peregrinatur
1 year ago

Cool, we can talk about the Terror Rojo, now, then.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago

Clearly, the idea of another view of history depends on your politics. If you are on the left you think that Franco was disgusting and all memories of his life should be wiped out.

If you are on the right you think that people shouldn’t mess with history and that anything new is a conspiracy of the left.

People are incredibly predictable. Is there nothing new? I suggest that UnHerd articles should arrive in pairs with two views, one from the left and one from the right. Then we would a proper view of history.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

The problem with your suggestion attractive as it might be is that usually both left and right are engaging in propaganda and the “proper” view of history is not the result of listening to both propagandist versions. A version that both admires the conflicting ideals that animated the various sides and condemns the savagery with which they were pursued is unlikely to be provided. My own limited view of that period is through the partial but trusted lens of George Orwell on his time fighting in the Civil War.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Homage to Catalonia should be mandatory reading in British schools. It would obliterate any utopianist ideas they have very quickly.

Jon Barrow
Jon Barrow
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes. It’s an error to think that a ‘middle line’ is necessarily the right one. And there’s the further problem of where a ‘middle line’ is, opinions not being neatly binary. Sometimes everybody is wrong, sometimes everybody right but in different senses. What might a ‘middle line’ look like in a totalitarian state: ‘no don’t liquidate the kulaks, just exile them all to Siberia’.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Homage to Catalonia should be mandatory reading in British schools. It would obliterate any utopianist ideas they have very quickly.

Jon Barrow
Jon Barrow
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes. It’s an error to think that a ‘middle line’ is necessarily the right one. And there’s the further problem of where a ‘middle line’ is, opinions not being neatly binary. Sometimes everybody is wrong, sometimes everybody right but in different senses. What might a ‘middle line’ look like in a totalitarian state: ‘no don’t liquidate the kulaks, just exile them all to Siberia’.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

The Guardian used to have page on Monday called Agenda. Read two articles side by side: one by Michael Foot the other By Enoch Powell. This was in the 1980s.
One one realises the massive reduction in knowledge and experience in those brought up post late 1950s and those before it. Someone who read, engineering ( would have Ltin and French O Levsl ),did National Service overseas and then spent years involved in construction, mining, oil production or plantations in remote areas ,are long gone.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

The problem with your suggestion attractive as it might be is that usually both left and right are engaging in propaganda and the “proper” view of history is not the result of listening to both propagandist versions. A version that both admires the conflicting ideals that animated the various sides and condemns the savagery with which they were pursued is unlikely to be provided. My own limited view of that period is through the partial but trusted lens of George Orwell on his time fighting in the Civil War.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

The Guardian used to have page on Monday called Agenda. Read two articles side by side: one by Michael Foot the other By Enoch Powell. This was in the 1980s.
One one realises the massive reduction in knowledge and experience in those brought up post late 1950s and those before it. Someone who read, engineering ( would have Ltin and French O Levsl ),did National Service overseas and then spent years involved in construction, mining, oil production or plantations in remote areas ,are long gone.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago

Clearly, the idea of another view of history depends on your politics. If you are on the left you think that Franco was disgusting and all memories of his life should be wiped out.

If you are on the right you think that people shouldn’t mess with history and that anything new is a conspiracy of the left.

People are incredibly predictable. Is there nothing new? I suggest that UnHerd articles should arrive in pairs with two views, one from the left and one from the right. Then we would a proper view of history.

k r
k r
1 year ago

In times where the left is increasingly following the facist playbook this may also be considered a distraction.

k r
k r
1 year ago

In times where the left is increasingly following the facist playbook this may also be considered a distraction.

Reynaldo Miranda
Reynaldo Miranda
1 year ago

Unherd should retract this piece and apologize to its readership for such a parti pris hit piece!

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago

Oh look, another apologist for fascism!

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago

Oh look, another apologist for fascism!

Reynaldo Miranda
Reynaldo Miranda
1 year ago

Unherd should retract this piece and apologize to its readership for such a parti pris hit piece!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Latin countries are historically prone to dictators…

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Latin countries are historically prone to dictators…

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

‘It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, and everyone consciously or subconsciously writes as a partisan’ – so said Eric Blair in Homage to Catalonia. And of course later the famous ‘ who controls the past controls the future and who controls the present controls the past’.
History has many perspectives and layers and it is all the greater for the sharing. If it’s just an attempt to rebalance the Franco legacy it is supportable. To entirely re-write and underplay the Republican atrocities would not though have been supported by our George.

Marcos Molinero
Marcos Molinero
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Dear Giles, sorry to talk about personal things but it will give context, I hope, to what I want to say. I was born into an Anglo Spanish family, and for the best part of 50 years I have tried to learn about and love, as they are, the two countries that I call home. In my family, both my grandads fought in wars, the Spanish one in the Guerra Civil, on the side of the nacionales, and the English one in WWII with Britain. I learnt many years after he died that my Spanish Grandad had been discharged from service at the  end of the war, as a Captain and with the “Medalla Militar Individual”, the second highest military  distinction, and had left a wonderful collection of personal photographs with his comrades of the 6ÂȘ Division Navarra. After his war years, he resumed his career as an architect and was very much involved in the reconstruction of Bilbao.  I am curious about his experiences in war, but I am even more curious about his motivations to join the nacionales, running away from republican Bilbao. Was he a fascist leaning man? I don’t think so. Could he be seriously concerned about the path chosen by the Spanish republic to become a soviet style federation? Most likely. Loving his hometown of Bilbao as he did, and considering himself Spanish, could he be worried about the Basque`s regional government efforts at  creating a fictional Euskalherria, separated from Spain? Very possibly. Was he an ultra-catholic on a mission? Definitely not. Was he deeply distrustful of socialist, communist and anarchist propaganda? For sure, all his life. Motivations. What did he want? More important, what did he want to avoid?  Could my grandad’s motivations be similar to the millions that sided with the nacionales during the war, and that seemed to prosper and live fairly happy lives under Franco the following 36 years.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a direct account of their experiences or motivations, since my English grandad I never met, and the Spanish one never spoke about the war, not to us his grandchildren nor, it seems, to his own children. Perhaps I am wrong, but I have always felt the trauma of the civil war years, both individually and as a society, were so deep that people chose to have a “closure” of sorts, and carry on with their lives as best they could. We, the grandkids of that generation have no right to change this. We also have a duty to be honest with ourselves, and not to twist History to fit our views, as the Spanish Government is doing nowadays with their efforts to re-write history to fit a Marxist interpretation of recent history, and to outlaw any other points of view. You, I am sorry to say, are also contributing to this, by criticising the timing but not the criminal stupidity at the core of all this. I do not ask you to have sympathy for the nacionales, or to my grandad, but if you decide to go public, I have a right to demand from you a bit more intellectual honesty trying to understand why all this happened, and to help avoid it happening again. 

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

Thank you for sharing your personal family history. We cannot judge with hindsight from the comfort of our own peaceful and prosperous lives. We might still conjecture about what we would have done in 1641. We can’t say, honestly. And shouldn’t judge.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

Why the constant nagging for apologies and reparations from establishment figures? Why not celebrate how far we have come and put aside historical grievances? If anything, this reopening of old wounds is pushing people into fascist modes of thinking.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago

How long I wonder until someone on Unherd writes something critical of Hitler and the usual suspects will pop up in the comments to say, “well, of course mistakes were made but he was a lot better than those bloody lefties would have been!”?
It is comical and bit sad how absolutely dogmatic you people on the right are, all the way from defending Trump’s latest idiocy to sticking up for murderous fascist regimes.
Sadly predictable though…

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

I agree with much of the substance of this take. Statements like “at least Mussolini made the trains run on time” bring me a similar queasy feeling as the idea of the so-called Chinese economic “miracle”. However, I’d rejoin that the dogmatic and antagonistic reflexes on both the far left and far right are a bit comical and a lot sad. While there’s more literal dogma on the right because of traditional religious views, there is plenty of inflexible ideology and secular demonization on the left (and right, and even the self-proclaimed center).
On this website, the extremists on the right, especially the vocal ones, far outnumber those on the left. The opposite is true at the Guardian and NYT. Far be it from any of them to ever join a herd or become tribalized against huge swaths of humanity–unless they deserve it and they are “forced into it”.
Permit me to close with a sincere hyperbole: Why is everyone so angry all the time?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The rise of outrage media. Angry people spend money to read bad news.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Too accurate.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Too accurate.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The rise of outrage media. Angry people spend money to read bad news.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

There have been many articles written over time about A.H. but I’ve never seen a post from anyone, besides the dozen or so openly proud, skin-headed, tattoo-covered, multiple-pierced, completely inebriated, self-proclaimed fascists (who don’t even know the definition) roaming the planet in search of the next opioid-laced mosh pit, who would say such a thing.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

I agree with much of the substance of this take. Statements like “at least Mussolini made the trains run on time” bring me a similar queasy feeling as the idea of the so-called Chinese economic “miracle”. However, I’d rejoin that the dogmatic and antagonistic reflexes on both the far left and far right are a bit comical and a lot sad. While there’s more literal dogma on the right because of traditional religious views, there is plenty of inflexible ideology and secular demonization on the left (and right, and even the self-proclaimed center).
On this website, the extremists on the right, especially the vocal ones, far outnumber those on the left. The opposite is true at the Guardian and NYT. Far be it from any of them to ever join a herd or become tribalized against huge swaths of humanity–unless they deserve it and they are “forced into it”.
Permit me to close with a sincere hyperbole: Why is everyone so angry all the time?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

There have been many articles written over time about A.H. but I’ve never seen a post from anyone, besides the dozen or so openly proud, skin-headed, tattoo-covered, multiple-pierced, completely inebriated, self-proclaimed fascists (who don’t even know the definition) roaming the planet in search of the next opioid-laced mosh pit, who would say such a thing.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago

How long I wonder until someone on Unherd writes something critical of Hitler and the usual suspects will pop up in the comments to say, “well, of course mistakes were made but he was a lot better than those bloody lefties would have been!”?
It is comical and bit sad how absolutely dogmatic you people on the right are, all the way from defending Trump’s latest idiocy to sticking up for murderous fascist regimes.
Sadly predictable though…