“Those who manipulate the world count, above all, on the lack of memory of men,” wrote almost half a century ago the great philosopher Julián Marías, an always intelligent and impartial observer with exemplary good faith. Well, let’s remember. In 1985, ten years after Franco’s death, the Center for Statistical Research (know by its acronym in Spanish CIS, it was at that time a prestigious organization) carried out a survey on the figure of
the dictator. Let us remember that at that time Felipe González’s Socialist Party enjoyed hegemonic power with its 202 seats in Congress (out of 350, a feat never equaled), so the CIS was not suspect of being Francoist. Well, 70% of the Spaniards who responded to that survey, who had a much more vivid and well-founded memory of the times, thought that Franco’s regime had been either clearly “positive for Spain” or a period “that had had both good and bad things”. When asked about the feeling produced by the dictator’s death, only 11% answered that it had been joy, while 55% remembered that his death had provoked in them a feeling of sadness, concern or fear. As late as 1995, a new CIS survey showed, no less and no more, that 30% of Spaniards thought, twenty years after his death, that Franco had been “one of the best leaders Spain had had in this century”.
Was this popularity enjoyed by Franco’s regime among the Spanish people logical? From the economic point of view, no one questions the success of the regime, which facilitated the creation of a broad middle class for the first time in our history: even with all its fragilities and rigidities, the fact is that between 1950 and 1975 Spanish GDP per capita grew at an average annual rate of 6% in real terms (as opposed to 1.5% during the democratic period). This meant multiplying by four the purchasing power of the average citizen in a single generation, an achievement that Julián Marías, little suspected of being a Francoist (he was imprisoned in his youth for a couple of months), would rightly describe as “a spectacular economic change that we had never known in our history”. The average unemployment rate at the end of the Franco regime was around 4% (compared to an average of 17% since 1978), the public debt was only 8% of GDP (compared to 100% today) and the State Administration functioned with less than 800,000 civil servants (compared to 3,000,000 today). Another source of popularity for the regime was public order (the crime rate and the prison inmate population were, then, a third and a quarter of what we have today, respectively), and also the low level of corruption, an issue that would not even come up in the first electoral campaigns of democracy. In short, in 1975 the horrors of war and the harsh repression of the post-war period had ended decades ago, Spain had enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity and the Spanish people
lived reconciled without stirring up the past. While it is obvious that there was no political freedom at all, the degree of personal freedom in everyday life was comparable
to that of other Western countries. The philosopher Julián Marías himself interestingly observed that the absence of political freedom “mattered very little to the Spaniards”, while “social and personal freedom has multiplied and, as long as it does not relate to public power, the Spaniard can do, to a very high degree, whatever he wants”. It was in
this context that the Transition to democracy took place without any interruption or legal rupture, crowned by a Constitution overwhelmingly endorsed by the Spaniards (the 1931 Constitution of the supposedly democratic Second Republic, on the contrary, was never submitted to a referendum). Therefore, since our democracy comes “from the law to
the law” from Francoism, the undoubted legitimacy of the democratic regime of 1978 is inextricably linked to the legitimacy granted to the previous regime. Whoever demonizes by sectarianism, eagerness for power or ignorance the regime from which our democracy comes and which, as evidenced by the data and opinion of the majority of Spaniards who lived it, had its shadows but also its lights, undermines the legal and moral foundations of the current system of democratic freedoms that we must all defend.
An essential feature of the so-called Transition’s “consensus” (the Transition was the smooth, peaceful and joyful change from Franco’s authoritarian regime in 1975 to a full scale democracy in 1978, a feat that won the applause of the whole world) was that
all political parties refused to rehabilitate the memory of the Second Republic (1931- 1936) that had been ended by Franco’s coup d’etat or to consider the new democracy its heiress. Perhaps at that time it was better remembered that the Second Republic, far from being a normal democracy, had been a turbulent period and had ended up as a violent
and pre-revolutionary anarchy in which a left of totalitarian ideology had taken power after elections that have now been proven to be fraudulent by a group of historians. For example, in 1936, in the midst of “republican normality”, a group of policemen and escorts of socialist leaders kidnapped from his home (after having openly identified themselves) and then assassinated with total impunity the leader of the right-wing opposition with two shots in the back of the head (like the Basque terrorist group ETA used to do). Well, those who today lead the Spanish left have weirdly decided to vindicate this period full of hatred, death and misery and to declare themselves heirs of the violent, totalitarian and disintegrating left of that era.
You always pay the consequences of lacking respect for the truth. The consensus and the spirit of harmony of the Transition, which mirrored (not caused) the harmony that already existed in Spanish society in the 1970s, are today attacked by the alliance between the current (and unrecognizable) socialism, the Leninist communism of Venezuela’s influence (Podemos) and the always provincial and sobbing separatists.
The battering ram with which they threaten to destroy our Rule of Law is the Law of Historical Memory created by the sinister Socialist former President Zapatero (currently advisor to the communist dictator of Venezuela), maintained unscathed by the always fearful and indecisive center-right former President Rajoy and radicalized by Sanchez, the unscrupulous, unvoted-for current interim president, known for ostentatiously abusing the perks of his job. Besteiro, a moderate socialist leader of the 1930s, first set apart by his most radical comrades and then unjustly imprisoned after the Civil War, denounced the “Himalayas of falsehoods” that had been invented by the leftist Popular Front (the 1936 alliance between the Socialists, the pro-Stalin Communists and the Catalan, Valencian and Galician separatists, just like today). Nearly a century later that bunch of lies has become the official mandatory truth for brainwashing the people and pushing for regime change.
The spirit of harmony essential for coexistence in any nation must be based on an established account of the past, broadly shared (from the obvious respect for freedom
of opinion) but, above all, faithful to the truth, without parentheses, sectarianism or Manicheism. No nation survives in peace if some of its leaders devote themselves to falsifying history with recalcitrance in order to achieve their spurious ends. In the Transition the Spanish people despised these agitators, liars and sowers of hatred. It is imperative that we do the same today.
The great Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Prize for Literature and survivor of the concentration camps of Soviet communism, affirmed that tyranny always needs lies. I hope that by the time the new generations of Spaniards discover that without truth there is no freedom, it will not be too late.
Fernando del Pino Calvo-Sotelo