There’s no point letting dogs lie if they’ve never been asleep. Everywhere one looks in Spain, one hears the howling, or at least growling, barks of the Civil War.
It ended in 1939. One would think the ensuing 83 years should be enough time to find reconciliation. But the reservoir of posthumous hatred of Franco never seems to be depleted.
The other day the Spanish parliament, dominated by socialists of various hues, passed a law that ought to raise serious concerns about the MPs’ mental health. They removed the amnesty for Franco-era atrocities and declared the 40 years of Franco’s rule illegal.
Let’s see. No veteran of the Civil War would be under 100 years of age. I don’t know how many are still around, but I doubt they’d add up to even a platoon. I also suspect that those few crumblies have more important things to worry about than an amnesty or lack thereof.
The post-war martial law lasted until 1948, after which few atrocities were committed. Again, I don’t know how many nonagenarian veterans of Franco’s 1940s secret police still survive, but I do know they’d have to be in their 90s at least.
So the gesture is strictly symbolic, but far be it from me to downplay the importance of symbolism. Symbols are concrete messages, not just abstract representations. And Spain’s socialist government is sending them to do what socialists do everywhere: falsify history to score political points du jour.
This isn’t to say that no atrocities were committed by Franco’s men. They were, and they were horrendous. But in any internecine war it takes two to paso doble.
Franco landed on the Spanish mainland to save the country from the blood-soaked mayhem into which it had been thrown by the extreme Left government of Largo Caballero, nicknamed the ‘Spanish Lenin’. The Spanish Lenin fell short of the original’s systematic monstrosity, but he was getting there.
The Spanish Left enjoyed the support of Stalin’s Comintern, a global cabal of communist subversion run and financed out of the Kremlin. And Stalin clearly saw the disintegration of public order in Spain as the troubled waters in which he could fish.
The Loyalist side of the war was quickly turned into a Stalin proxy. Thousands of Soviet ‘advisers’, pilots, tankers and of course NKVD officers poured into Spain. The latter instantly kicked off Stalinist purges, drowning Spain in blood. Franco had no option but to seek help from Hitler and Mussolini.
But, although Franco was happy to trade salutes with them, he wouldn’t trade favours. Thus Spain never entered the Second World War, and Franco even refused the Germans right of passage to Gibraltar. Talking to Franco is worse than having one’s teeth pulled, complained a frustrated Hitler.
Today’s ‘liberal’ historians like to portray Franco as a fascist. In fact, he was anything but.
Il Caudillo was a traditional God, king and country conservative, and the fascist Falange was only one element in his army. Apart from the Moroccan troops, the bulk of it was made up of the monarchist Carlists, traditional conservatives, Catholic radicals and just regular Catholics who were aghast at the on-going butchery of their coreligionists.
Communists hate religion more than they hate even Marx’s bogeymen, capitalists. Thus every Spanish Catholic was seen as an enemy. That was the theory.
The practice was the Loyalists destroying churches, murdering priests and monks, raping and eviscerating nuns (not always in that order) – and committing wide-ranging atrocities against all other groups communists loathe with spittle-spewing passion: aristocrats, conservatives, businessmen, non-communist intellectuals and politicians.
Had Stalin been allowed to have his way, Spain would have looked forward to decades of, well… If you want to know what it would have looked forward to decades of, just consider the fate of any country that fell into Stalin’s hands. Romania? Bulgaria? Albania?
Instead Spain got four decades of Franco’s rule, of which the last three were relatively vegetarian. Franco gradually rebuilt Spain, while managing to keep the worst aspects of modernity at bay. Moreover, he provided for a lawful transition of power to parliamentary government and constitutional monarchy.
This reminds me of the American admiral Ernest J. King. Before Pearl Harbour, his truculent nature had kept him from the highest command. Yet when the war started, King was immediately appointed Commander-in-Chief of the US Fleet. “When the shooting starts,” snarled the admiral, “they send for the sons of bitches.”
That’s what happened in Spain, 1936, and the son of a bitch the country sent for was Franco. He doubtless merited that sobriquet, for Franco was no angel. Yet the other side weren’t angels either. They were demons, of the worst kind so far known to man, although that may soon change.
The people running Spain now are heirs to those demons, capitalising on every part of their legacy except, for the time being, unbridled violence. They have a vested interest in depicting the Civil War as a struggle between good and evil, with their kind representing the former. And they don’t care how illiterate and disingenuous their rewrite of history is.
What about the amnesty for all those murderers of priests and rapists of nuns, chaps? Do they even need one, or are they seen as heroes?
Both sides murdered roughly the same number of people during the Civil War, about 50,000 each. At the risk of sounding biased, I’d even dare suggest that the Loyalists murdered better people, on average, than the rebels did. But I’m prepared to accept parity.
So what about Loyalist murderers? Why, they are allowed to live out their days in peace, of course. They were on the side of the leftist angels.
Three years ago, Franco’s remains were exhumed and taken out of the moving memorial in the Valley of the Fallen. Heirs to Caballero and Comintern thus won the battle against Franco dead, avenging the battle lost by their typological ancestors to Franco alive. The law they just pushed through is another battle won – against truth, knowledge and decency.
I use the Spanish Civil War as a litmus test consisting of just one question: “Which side would you have supported?” I once put this question to a good friend, a prominent Catholic academic.
Since his politics aren’t exactly stridently conservative, the question caused him some discomfort. After much inner turmoil he had to admit that, for all his reservations and against the better side of his nature, he would have been with Franco. “The other side were murdering Catholics,” he said ruefully.
No such compunctions for the Suarez government.