FUNERAL OF PROMINENT DUBLIN SOCIALIST MANUS O’RIORDAN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 4 mins.)

On Friday morning passing pedestrians, public and private transport drivers and passengers on Dublin’s Finglas Road witnessed a funeral cortege in which trade union banners and flags were carried by some of the mourners. The hearse leading the procession, followed by a lone piper did not bear the Starry Plough-draped coffin which instead was carried on the shoulders of a rota of family, comrades and friends on the approximately one-kilometre walk from the home of Manus O’Riordan to service at the famous Glasnevin Cemetery.

A large crowd participated in the funeral procession composed of a wide cross-section of the Irish Left, from revolutionaries to radical reformers to sedate social democrats. Manus was well known in Irish left-wing circles for a number of reasons. At various times he had been an active socialist, a member of the very small but influential and very controversial B&ICO, a senior official in the major trade union SIPTU and an active senior member of the Friends of the International Brigades Ireland. This last owed much to the fact that Manus’ father had fought in Spain and the veneration in the Irish Left and much of the Irish Republican movement for the Irish volunteers who fought to defend the Spanish Republic against the fascist-military uprising led by General Franco and aided by Nazi German and Fascist Italy. Mick O’Riordan survived the Spanish Antifascist War and was General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland and the last time some of the mourners had walked this route was in the elder O’Riordan’s funeral in 2006.

One of a number of combined Spanish Republic and Starry Plough flags attached to lampposts along the funeral route (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The trade union banners marked Manus’ trade union work while another signalled his support for the Cuban Republic against the blockade imposed upon it by the USA. Two large flags in the red, gold and purple of the Spanish Republic of 1936-1939 were carried too, bearing the legend “Connolly Column” (in Irish and in English) to represent the Irish volunteers who fought against the military-fascist coup. Along the route, copies of a combined Spanish Republic and Starry Plough, attached high upon lampposts, fluttered or strained outwards in the breeze. Among the procession a number of Starry Plough flags flew also, the green and gold version of the Irish Citizen Army, along with a Basque and a Palestinian flag, the latter recalling the stand of the Basque country against Franco and the former, Manus’ solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people. At one point, the Catalan Senyera (flag) was also displayed, recalling that in the Ebro Offensive, Michael O’Riordan had been chosen to carry the Catalan flag across the Ebro river. A number of people also wore scarves of the Bohemian Football Club, with supporters among Manus’ family and friends.

Banner of SIPTU, the largest trade union in Ireland (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Banner of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union, precursor of SIPTU (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Though cold, the day remained sunny and most thankfully of all, rain-free. Upon reaching the cemetery, the coffin was taken into the chapel near the entrance at which non-religious or religious services may be chosen. Due to Covid19 restrictions, the service was reserved for family and close relatives only.

The rest of the crowd gathered outside and perhaps before 11 am a burst of applause heralded the approach of the President of the Irish State, Michael D. Higgins, accompanied by a senior member of the Irish armed forces in ceremonial uniform. The applause was no doubt in appreciation for Higgins’ appearance and due to his office but also certainly in approval of his decision not to attend a forthcoming British colonial state function to celebrate the centenary of the partition of Ireland in 1921. And also no doubt in sympathy to the controversy regarding his decision whipped up by sections of the British and Irish media and a handful of politicians, not only British and Unionist.

Another IT&GWU banner bearing a scene from Bloody Sunday 1913 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

There was an ex-president of a different kind present too, Jack O’Connor, who was elected General President of the SIPTU (trade union) in 2003 for three terms and in 2009, President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. O’Connor took a stint sharing the weight of the coffin and though no doubt he had his supporters in the crowd he had a substantial number of enemies in the trade union movement too, though this is not the place to speak of the reasons.

Among others who attended to pay their sympathies to the O’Riordan family and Manus’ partner Nancy Wallach were Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin TDs Louise O’Reilly and Sean Crowe.

Former Labour Party leader Ruairí Quinn, former Press Ombudsman and Labour TD John Horgan, Communist Party of Ireland Gen. Sec. Eugene McCartan and retired trade union leader Mick O’Reilly of Unite were also there.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

After the service, some of the attendance repaired to the not very distant Maples Hotel in Iona Road, where food had been prepared and refreshments could be purchased. Even with the crowd by then much diminished, they were spread over two reception rooms and had to be fed in shifts.

Manus’ sister Brenda playing a piece on the harp by medieval Irish musician Turlough O’Carolan while his daughter, Jess read a poem by Charlie Donnelly, who died fighting fascism in Spain, “The Tolerance of Crows” and his son, Luke sang the “Roll Away The Stone” song celebrating workers’ leader Jim Larkin (a song often sung by Manus himself in the past.

Manus was a regular participant in the singing session of the Góilín where he sang songs, in some of which the lyrics were his translations into Spanish, Irish or English and some were of his own composition. He composed poetry too. Accordingly, a significant section of the attendance at his funeral was composed of singers and participants of the Góilín and it was strange to hear no song sung during the procession or among the crowd outside; however folk singer Radie Peat of Lankum sang Liam Weldon’s song Via Extasia and Gerry O’Reilly sang The Parting Glass before Francis Devin sang the socialist anthem The Internationale before Manus O’Riordan’s coffin draped in The Starry Plough was removed for cremation.. At least one occasion to pay respect to Manus’ memory is promised in the future and no doubt song will play an important part of the proceeding then.

Manus O’Riordan wrote and lectured copiously over the years on a number of topics and over time revised some of his opinions, never shrinking from doing so publicly and renouncing a previous position strongly held. All his assertions were backed by arguments in favour and never merely by assertion.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Approaching the corner of the cemetery (guarded by a watchtower), with the coffin and procession just out of shot. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Despite the numerous verbal battles in which Manus took part in speech and print, a number of them quite heated, he managed to remain on speaking terms with most people including his political enemies and had a wide range of friends and of people with whom he was on good terms. He lived an active and useful life but one cut short too soon at the age of 72.

There will be a number of groups and occasions where his absence will be keenly felt and of course by his family and his partner Nancy Wallach.


Manus O’Riordan/ Manus Ó Ríordáin, (1949- 2021)

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/funeral-of-manus-o-riordan-told-he-protected-legacy-of-those-who-fought-fascism-1.4688834

End.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Flags of Palestine, Starry Plough (Irish workers) and the Basque Ikurrina among the mourners (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Dear Auntie Masker

Thank you so much for taking the time to explain to me how I am being manipulated and why I should not wear a mask. It is true as you said that fearful people are controlled more easily and what is more fearful than an invisible danger, an alleged virus?

But the thing is always of course: controlled by whom and what for?

When you explained that I was going to be controlled by Jews that was worrying but the lizards who were going to control me (as well or instead of?) were really scary. Then the Chinese Communists, with one of the permanent seats on the UN Security Council taking over those of the other four powers – that was terrifying. And then controlling the whole EU!

It’s amazing that the secret manipulators have managed to frighten or fool nearly every doctor, nurse and medical expert in the world – must be millions of them — into supporting the hoax and masking and vaccines. Thank God we have a handful of medical people spilling the beans. Still, it’s all quite terrifying.

And the plan to replace all white people through contraception, abortion, LGBT rights is frightening too – well, I’m white of course and I don’t want to be replaced. I’ve already been replaced by a machine at the checkout desk where I worked, which was easily done since most people during the pandemic – sorry, the hoax – preferred to use the machines and pay by bank card. Of course the bosses took advantage of the situation to replace some of us but nobody warned us about that.

Like you advised, I have refused to have the vaccine because I don’t want nanobots injected into me so They can control me and see where I go and what I do – even when I’m in the toilet or the shower. I can’t understand how all those controlled people are still managing to hold protests – like about housing, or people killed by police, or for the Palestinians. It’s very confusing so you’ll have to explain that to me again.

I told Brigid (remember, next door but one) about all the antifascists being pedophiles and she said does that mean all the people who fought against Hitler and Mussolini were pedophiles too? Then she said some disrespectful things like if you’re really concerned about pedophilia how come yous are always defending the Catholic Church? When I told her about Hillary Clinton running a pedophile ring from above a pizza restaurant, Brigid just burst out laughing so hard she said she’d have to go to the toilet. When she came back, she asked if John Kennedy and Bill Clinton couldn’t even keep their affairs secret from the public, how would Hillary Clinton manage to run a whole pedophile ring and keep it quiet? I didn’t know what to say and felt quite stupid. I wish you’d been there to answer her.

Brigid’s nephew has been wearing a mask in public since the authorities advised it. He got 99% in one of his exams and mostly around 90s, so I was wondering about that Dolores Cahill saying our children would end up stupid through inhaling carbon dioxide. Then I was wondering whether Brigid was lying or being manipulated. Or her brother, the boy’s father, was. Or the school, faking the results. Or the Government forcing the school to fake the results and fool the father and the son.

So anyway I’m confused and frightened. Tell me what to do, please.

Signature redacted.

Accessed by: Diarmuid Breatnach 17 September 2021

Five mass graves in Badajoz reinforce antifascist historical memory

GUILLERMO MARTÍNEZ @ GUILLE8MARTINEZ

(Changed headline and translated from article in Publico.es by D.Breatnach)

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

Franco’s repression in Fregenal de la Sierra executed more than 80. Now, a second excavation seeks to recover the bodies of those who did not come to light in 2012, when the skeletons of 43 victims were recovered. The remains found indicate cruelty towards women, disrespecting them even after they were shot.

Central plaza Badajoz, probably influenced by its Moorish heritage — what the tourists are advised to see of Badajoz. (Photo credit: Stephen Colebourne via Wikipedia)

When they gave her the jacket of her son, who had just been shot, she lost her speech. She was like this for two and a half years, in silence, until she died. The father, a lifelong labourer, said on his deathbed that he bequeathed his little house to his five children. “You only have four,” one of the witnesses told him. “Until they give me the body of my son, I still have five,” replied the man. They were the mother and father of Juan Serrano García, shot in September 1936 in Fregenal de la Sierra (Badajoz1), when the rebels tricked him into returning: “They said that all those who had not committed crimes of blood, would be free of reprisals,” adds Andrés Serrano, representative of the Association of relatives of the executed from the town and Juan’s nephew.

His body was found in 2012 in a mass grave in the town’s cemetery along with 42 other bodies, although many more are still waiting in the ground. At that time, there were seven graves opened. Now, five more are uncovered to try to account for the more than 80 murdered by Franco’s troops of which there is a record. Among the bodies there is an unusually high percentage of women for the situation, points out Laura Muñoz-Encinar, archaeologist and forensic anthropologist at the Institute of Heritage Sciences (Incipit), attached to the Higher Centre for Scientific Research (CSIC), and who is participating in the exhumation.

The forced and almost physical silence of Juan’s mother testifies to the decades and decades of internal repression of the thousands of victims of the Franco regime. So much so, that Serrano learned about the story of his uncle obliquely from his mother, the political one of the family. She did not tell him directly: “An anthropologist friend wanted to interview her for a job, so I took the opportunity and told him to ask her about what happened in the Civil War. I hid in a room next to the terrace, where they were and thus I was able to hear first-hand and for the first time in my life about the execution of my uncle, the hardships my grandparents went through and the stigmatization my family suffered for being, for everyone else, ‘reds’ “, related the historical memorialist at 68 years of age.

Massacre by the fascist-military in the Bullring in Badajoz 1936, artist unknown (image sourced on Internet)

They were in a hurry to kill them

The case of Juan, a militant in the UGT2 and of socialist sympathies, assassinated at the age of 21, is just one more. In Fregenal, more than eight dozen people who were related to politics and social struggle during the Republican period were executed. Located in Badajoz, many townspeople joined “The Column of 8,000”, coming from the north of Huelva, to flee from the fascist barbarism between the air raids. The troops took Fregenal on September 18 and three days later Juan returned to the town together with another comrade. They thought that nothing would happen to them, because they had not committed any blood-crime.

“They arrived at 10:30 in the morning and at 11:15 they were both arrested. They were taken to jail, and no matter how hard my grandparents tried to intervene with some powerful people from the town to save him from being shot, on September 22 he was murdered”, relates Serrano. The same thing happened a few meters away, in those days, in the town square: “They shot about four people in the center of town; it was an exemplary shooting. They wanted to increase the fear that there was already,” he says.

That same September 22nd, Juan’s parents had already guessed the worst. They knew that their son had been detained and that the Francoists had no mercy. Their suspicions were confirmed when, a few hours later and for greater confirmation, they were given the jacket that their son had been wearing. According to Serrano, the rebel soldiers also told them that they should stop searching, that they already knew where he was, and not to bother people, referring to the people to which they had gone to ask for compassion for their young son.

The first exhumation: 43 bodies

More than 70 years later, the team to which Laura Muñoz-Encinar, the archaeologist belongs, arrived. It was 2010 and they couldn’t start the excavation for two years. After the surveys and a research project approved by the Ministry of the Presidency, they excavated seven mass graves. “There were men and women. They were from young to very advanced ages. Among the seven women we found, one of them had a full-term fetus of between 7 and 9 months,” explains the Incipit scientist.

A bullet found in the mass graves excavation in Fregenal de la Sierra this year.
(Photo credit: Laura Muñoz-Encinar)

The change of central government in 20113 meant the cancellation of the funding allocation related to the investigation of what happened during the Civil War and the Dictatorship, so they had to wait nine long years until they were able to return to the town. Muñoz-Encinar explains that “During this time almost all the children of the victims, of which there were many, have died. There is only one daughter living, María Lobo Villa. The Francoists executed her mother, three uncles and a grandfather. Now, mainly, grandchildren and great-nephews and great-nieces remain. “

In that excavation they found the body of a woman buried between two men, something recurring according to the expert. Once again, and as always, they got the worst of it. This is demonstrated by what happened to Antonia Regalado Carballar, known as “La chata carrera” (“the flat racer”?-DB). A 22-year-old political activist, this woman transgressed the traditional roles of the patriarchal culture of the time. “They detained her and took her to the cemetery. There they physically and psychologically abused her, and several of them raped her. After killing her, said the undertaker, they put her in the ditch between the bodies of two men,” Muñoz-Encinar explains further. Serrano adds what the rebels who were there said, as the gravedigger recalled, “As men tempt you, there you have men for your whole life.” They haven’t found her body yet.

This type of symbolism, highly contemptuous for all victims and sexualized in the case of women, is not an isolated event. “In the current excavation we have already found a body face down. In a Judeo-Christian culture like ours, the placement of the bodies responds to a ritual of elevating the soul to heaven, that is why the bodies are placed face up and with the limbs stretched , and not doing it like that is a post-mortem humiliation”, the archaeologist explained.

Killed without trial years after the War

She herself points out that all the remains already found and those they are still looking for were civilian victims of extrajudicial repression, executed on the basis of the war party in force from 1936 to 1948. That is that, almost ten years after the end of the war, it was still possible to execute civilians without the need to bring them through a judicial procedure. That is what happened in Fregenal de la Sierra in 1946 to a party of guerrillas4. This is how Muñoz-Encinar relates it: “We know that they were fighting in the mountains, that they were pursued, until one night they entered a brothel. There they were betrayed and, after a scuffle, they were arrested. They were murdered, their bodies were exhibited in the street entrance to the cemetery and then put in a grave.” Also victims of extrajudicial repression years after the Civil War ended, the team of experts does not know if their bodies will be in the five graves they are currently studying and in which they have already found three bodies.

Human remains uncovered in 2012 excavations in Fregenal de la Sierra, Badajoz. (Photo credit: Laura Muñoz-Encinar)

End report.

COMMENT:

By Diarmuid Breatnach

The Spanish state territory holds more mass graves than any country in the world with the exception of Cambodia. Most of their occupants were killed during the Spanish Antifascist struggle with or without a military court hearing outside of conflict zones, that is to say, either in the rear areas of the fascist-military forces, i.e areas already safely conquered. In some of the areas, there had been little or no military resistance whatsoever but that did not halt the arrests and executions. And after the conclusive defeat of the Republic, the executions continued. Many victims, perhaps even the majority, had never even fired a gun in defence of the Republic but were considered enemies of the fascist State through their support for the Republic, their political ideology, social attitude or sexual orientation.

Photograph taken of massacred bodies in Badajoz before they were burned and buried (Photo sourced: Internet)

The punishment was not always a death sentence but people died also in prison due to massive overcrowding, disease, inadequate food or clean drinking water, water for washing or inadequate medical care.

Despite the frequent assertion that the 1936 military-fascist uprising against the elected Republican Government was to “restore Christian values” and was supported by most of the Spanish Catholic Church hierarchy, rape of women and girls was frequent, whether they were afterwards shot or not. This was widely attested in evidence by victims, witnesses and even some war reporters.

Those who survived or did not go to jail faced constant harassment, confiscation and theft of land, animals and produce; fines and public humiliation, in particular the women who were force-fed laxatives and then paraded in nightclothes or underclothes through the neighbourhood, sometimes to the doors of the Catholic church, unable to control their bowels as they walked.

Babies were also taken from murdered supporters of the Republic and later from working class women (who were told their baby had been stillborn) and given to childless fascist couples. Children of the “Reds5” were taunted at school and insulted by teachers.

After its sharpest form abated the repression nevertheless continued throughout the nearly four decades of the Dictatorship and it was extremely dangerous to even speak of disinterring the mass graves and reburying the victims in dignity, not to speak of honouring them as antifascist martyrs. Even after the death of Franco and the Transition to an alleged democracy, many kept silent to protect their families. Schools suppressed the history6. Murderers and torturers were not prosecuted. Thieves kept what they had taken. The ruling class consisted for the most part of supporters of the fascist-military uprising and their descendants and they thronged the civil service, military, police, judiciary, church hierarchy, media (State and private), the education system – along with many businesses and a number of political parties.

More recently, the work of generations of those keeping the historical memory alive, investigating, speaking, marking areas, even disinterring on their own initiatives, is bearing fruit. The Law of Historical Memory, passed through the Spanish Parliament under a social-democratic Government in 2007 helped for a little while but then fell into disuse under the PP Government, though it was not abolished.

Its renovation in 2020 by the PSOE-Unidas Podemos coalition has spurred more excavation bu the Law and its renovation had been preceded by the work over decades by volunteers of historical memory associations in many different parts of the State, such as the Basque Country, Catalonia, Asturias, Galicia, Andalucia and Madrid. The associations have been assisted by forensic experts working voluntarily. This work has helped create the political-social-cultural atmosphere in which in October 2019 the long-promised removal of the remains of the Dictator General Franco and the leader of the fascist Falange, Primo Rivera, took place from their fascist mausoleum in the Valle de Los Caidos7 (“Valley of the Fallen”, a fascist monument constructed with prisoner labour and a shrine for Spanish fascists).

Nevertheless the renovated Historical Memory Law, or its program posted by the Government, has been criticised by relatives and other historical memory activists, because it rules out any reparations. They are bitter that most of the known torturers, murderers and rapists died natural deaths without having faced even a trial and their accusers8 and that not only do their families hang on to their ill-gotten gains but that the State does not acknowledge its duty to the victims. The State itself, or one of its departments, is also engaged in a judicial-political struggle to recover from organisations and families some properties, including national monuments and one of them of UNESCO World Heritage status. Some local authorities face prosecution and reductions in allocation of central funds because they are holding on to commemorative signs exalting Franco or someone of his supporters.

Of course, the fascists and most varieties of the Right in the Spanish polity are angry at these events and link them to the struggle for Catalan independence as fatal to the Spanish State; they demonstrate and threaten a coup or some kind of repercussion, retired Army senior officers sign declarations and some rattle their sabres in public, the spokesperson of the Franco Foundation reminds the current King Felipe that it is entirely due to Franco that his father became monarch (which is true and Juan Carlos also swore allegiance to that regime, an oath which he never recanted).

Even some liberals are uneasy, feeling that “it’s reopening old wounds”, to which the relatives of the victims and others reply: “the wounds have never closed.”

end item.

SOURCES:

https://www.publico.es/politica/dictadura-franquista-memoria-revive-pueblo-badajoz-exhumacion-cinco-nuevas-fosas-comunes.html

https://alchetron.com/Battle-of-Badajoz-(1936)#Massacre-of-civilians

https://www.hoy.es/opinion/peldanos-historia-20210110005509-ntvo.html

FOOTNOTES:

1City in Extremadura, SW Spain.

2Unión General de Trabajadores, a general workers’ union allied to the social-democratic PSOE party. The union was outlawed by Franco and many of its supporters suffered imprisonment or even execution or murder without trial. It is one of the largest unions in the Spanish state today and the PSOE is one of the traditional parties of government.

3In that year’s General Election the right-wing Partido Popular won a landslide victory against the PSOE and the political climate changed considerably. Both the PP and the PSOE support the unionist and monarchist Spanish Constitution but the PP contains a harder Right, including supporters of the Franco regime and memory and outright fascists, some of which have split off at times to form the right-wing Ciudadanos and fascist Vox parties.

4Guerrilla struggle persisted in parts of the Spanish state after the defeat of the Republic, in some cases for decades.

5To sustain the fiction that they were fighting against “Communism”, (no doubt believed by many), those leading the fascist-military uprising constantly referred to their enemies as “Reds”. Some of course were but the Republic was also supported by Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalists, democrats, social-democrats, revolutionary socialists, anarchists, libertarians and anarcho-syndicalists. The foreign press mostly referred to them as Republicans (sometimes as “Government supporters”) and the fascist-military side as Nationalists (sometimes as “rebels”). Communists, revolutionary socialists and anarchists predominated among the foreign volunteers who joined the Republican forces through the International Brigades and other routes (for example, Orwell, a member of the Independent Labour Party, fought with the mostly Trotskyist POUM) but they also included socialist Republicans from Ireland for example along with simply dedicated antifascists.

6Indeed, writing a review of the city history this very year, the author skips from 1921 to the 1970s, missing out the entire Antifascist War and the Massare of Badajoz, in an article featuring photos of the bullring where much of the massacre took place! https://www.hoy.es/opinion/peldanos-historia-20210110005509-ntvo.html

7An event covered in detail on Spanish TV in the style of a state funeral.

8Notable exceptions were Melitón Manzanas, Commander of the Political-Social Brigade of the Guardia Civil, a notorious torturer and Nazi collaborator, assassinated by the Basque armed group ETA in San Sebastian/ Donosti in 1968 and Admiral Carrero Blanco, Franco’s nominated successor, also assassinated by ETA in Madrid in 1973. Manzanas was awarded posthumously the Medal of Civic Merit by the Aznar Government in 1998 as “a victim of terrorism”.

WELCOME TO REFUGEES ON SANDYMOUNT STRAND

WELCOME TO REFUGEES” EVENT SANDYMOUNT 3 SEPTEMBER 2015

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

On 13 September 2015, six years ago a remarkable event took place on the strand in Sandymount (Dumhach Trá) in Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath), of which I have been reminded by the Facebook anniversaries function. I wrote a short report with photos for a FB album at the time but it deserves a more easily accessible record on Rebel Breeze. Text from the album follows:

WELL OVER A THOUSAND PEOPLE (that will be just “several people” for RTÉ1), gathered at Sandymount strand today to spell out the message “Refugees Welcome” on the sand.

The day looked bad earlier with rain and, at the original time set, was still raining. But due to tide conditions, the start time had been set back an hour and the rain had stopped and there was even some intermittent sunshine as the crowds assembled.

I had to strip off rainproof clothes under which I was already sweating. Starting was slow and some singers tried to keep us entertained as we waited. We were also led in shouting some slogans — all in English (would using the word “Fáilte” have hurt?). We were each assigned to a column behind the letter we were going to spell out.

Section of the crowd standing on the wet beach, formed up in their letters. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Eventually we were led off by our letter-leader to a spot marked out in the shape of the letters by string tied to pegs stuck in the sand. We shuffled into shape obediently.

A drone flew over us filming (I had unpleasant associations with the word, especially in a US-Syria context) and then we all had to be reformed, as according to the drone operator, the letters didn’t look right. So yes, we all became reformists .

Drone in the sky — refugee-friendly one for a change (top right). (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Then it was finally right, the “heart” had to be reformed too — it was bleeding people out at the edges. Finally, we were judged to be right, waved to the drone, film was taken.

Then the organisers thought it would be good for us to “scatter” for the film effect. We did, kind of, a half-hearted scatter …. nothing like we would have done from incoming ordinance. And then we went home.

After standing in the wet sand I discovered that dubbin did not keep the water out of my boots and, no matter how much knocking of boots together, I still had some sand on them when I got home. Remember how you always managed to bring some sand home from the beach, no matter how hard you tried not to?

The event followed on the more than two thousand (“hundred” according to RTÉ) who gathered at the Spire yesterday to extend the hand of welcome to refugees fleeing murder and even sexual slavery (by ISIS); a counter to the xenophobia and especially Islamophobia which had awoken echoes of the anti-Irish Catholic rantings of Cromwell and his kind in the 15th Century. Well done to the organisers and those who turned up to support the event.

Wide view of Sandymount beach as the “letters” break up (Photo credit: uncertain)

POSTCRIPT:

A lot of organisations had put their name to the event but effectively it had been organised by a coalition of ENAR Ireland (now Ireland Network Against Racism), Migrant Resource Centre Ireland and Irish Refugee Council — maith iad in conception, planning and execution.

Section of crowd forming up on their letter-group prior to going out to form up on the wet sand for the aerial photos. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

As though their traumal from the cause of leaving and its own pain were not enough, many die in the attempt. Thousands of refugees have died trying to reach Europe, most of them in the Mediterranean. Those who survive face racism and ghettoisation.

“From January to June 2021, it was estimated that 827 migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In 2020, the number of deaths amounted to 1.4 thousand. However, the accurate number of deaths recorded in the Mediterranean Sea cannot ascertained. Between 2014 and 2018, for instance, about 12,000 people who drowned were never found”.2

Casualties and missing people

“Worldwide, it was estimated that eight thousand people died in the attempt of fleeing their country. According to estimations, over five thousand refugees lost their lives in the attempt to reach the European shores in 2016. Therefore, the Mediterranean Sea was the deadliest migration route. Indeed, over the last couple of years, the Mediterranean Sea held the largest number of casualties and missing people”.3

Western, Central, and Eastern route

“According to migration studies, the Mediterranean Sea is crossed by a Western, a Central, and an Eastern route. Out of these routes, the Central Mediterranean route was the deadliest. In 2016, roughly 4,6 thousand people lost their lives while pursuing this route. Sadly, the identification of bodies is challenging due to the sea. In 2019 for instance, the vast majority of refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean were not identified and their country of origin was untraceable.”4

Aerial view of the letter-volunteers on the sand photographed from the drone (Photo credit: Stephen Kingston)

REMEMBER

Remember? Remember when we were migrants?

Remember when we fled murder and rapine

and many another terrible scene

When death and torture were at hand

and we sought succour in other lands?

Remember?

Remember when our little nation

was devastated by starvation.

disease and desolation,

our hope in emigration ….

Remember?

Remember when we died by

mountain, valley and sea

or we braved

the rolling waves

to go where we might be free?

Remember, oh do you remember?

Escape, the vote,

in leaky boats

in anything to float,

fear in throat,

today they launch

for our shores.

Remember?

We must remember!

Diarmuid Breatnach

End.

Side view of the crowd that formed the “heart” on the sand (Photo: D.Breatnach)

FOOTNOTES

1Radió Teilifís Éireann, the state broadcasting service.

2https://www.statista.com/statistics/1082077/deaths-of-migrants-in-the-mediterranean-sea/

3Ibid.

4Ibid.

LINKS

Migrants Rights Centre Ireland: https://www.mrci.ie/

Ireland Network Against Racism: https://inar.ie/

Irish Refugee Council: https://www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie/

SEPTEMBER 8, START OF NEARLY 900 DAYS OF NAZI SIEGE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

SEPTEMBER 8, START OF NEARLY 900 DAYS OF NAZI SIEGE

On 21st June 1941 Hitler broke Nazi Germany’s non-aggression Treaty with the Soviet Union and invaded through Poland, sending roughly 3 million personnel through, in addition to its Finnish and Romanian allies, in a three-pronged attack.

Leningrad was one of the primary objectives as it was the most industrialised next to Moscow, with numerous arms factories among its 600 factories turning out 11% of all Russia’s industrial production, along with being the port of the Russian fleet. For those reasons it was important to the Soviet Union too but there was another very important one: the Petrograd Soviet had played a key role in the 1917 February and October revolutions in Russia.

The Nazi German advance in its various Army Groups through Soviet Russia overcame most resistance fairly easily but in September the advance of Army Group North was finally halted in the Leningrad suburbs. The German and other Axis troops had air dominance and a massive artillery capability. Hitler instructed his troops not only to besiege the city but to wipe it out. The Finnish troops controlled the area to the north and the Nazis placed the División Azul (the Blue Division), the fascist Spanish unit, along the south-east1.

“The Führer has decided to erase the city of Petersburg from the face of the earth,” he wrote in a memo. “It is intended to encircle the city and level it to the ground by means of artillery bombardment using every caliber of shell, and continual bombing from the air.” The memo stressed that requests for surrender negotiations were to be ignored, since the Nazis didn’t have the desire to feed the city’s large population.2

Civilians in Leningrad worked frantically on the construction of defences, digging trenches and constructing antitank fortifications as the Red Army and partisans lost one battle after another. The town of Mga was taken, recaptured and then taken again by the Nazis, severing the city’s last rail connection. With the capture of Shlisselburg in early September, the last road was cut. The only way to supply Leningrad now was across Lake Ladoga.

IRON RING AROUND THE CITY

Artillery and air bombardment of the city began almost immediately; the city could receive supplies only by barge across the lake which could also be targeted by Luftwaffe attack. Incendiary attacks caused huge damage and destroyed vital supplies of oil and food and on September 19th Nazi aircraft dropped 2,500 high explosive and incendiary bombs.

Buildings damaged by Nazi German artillery in Leningrad during the siege (Photo credit Vsevolod Tarasevich)

The authorities evacuated around 600,000 civilians before the Nazi “iron ring” closed around the city but 2.5 million civilians still remained inside. It is said that officials had been negligent in stockpiling food, so the only way to feed the city was to bring fresh supplies across Lake Ladoga, the only open route into the city. Transport of Food and fuel was by barge until the lake froze, then by trucks and sleds – all of these frequent targets of Nazi aerial attack.

Women on the move during the siege of Leningrad, perhaps being evacuated or merely relocated from damaged buildings (Photo credit Unknown)

“By November, food shortages had seen civilian rations cut to just 250 grams of bread a day for workers. Children, the elderly and the unemployed got a scant 125 grams—the equivalent of three small slices.”3

The winter of 1941-’42 was bitterly cold and as many as 100,000 a month died of starvation. “In their desperation, people ate everything from petroleum jelly and wallpaper glue to rats, pigeons and household pets. For warmth, they burned furniture, wardrobes and even the books from their personal libraries. Theft and murder for ration cards became a constant threat, and the authorities eventually arrested over 2,000 people for cannibalism. As the famine intensified, one 12-year-old Leningrader named Tanya Savicheva recorded the dates of the deaths of all her family members in a journal. “The Savichevs are dead,” she wrote after the passing of her mother. “Everyone is dead. Only Tanya is left.””4

And yet the city held out. Another 500,000 civilians were evacuated early the following year, 1942, which reduced the city’s population to 1,000,000. As the city thawed in Spring, the survivors went out to bury the dead lining their streets and cleared bombardment rubble. Courtyard areas and parks were planted for vegetables but even so and despite the “Road of Life” across Lake Ladoga, food was short.

Young girls assembling machine guns during siege of Leningrad (image source uncertain)

A number of Red Army attempts to break through to the city failed, with very high loss of Russian soldiers. In January 1943 the Red Army won a land strip from the Nazis and its engineers built a special railway link to run through it which, by the end of the year nearly 5 million tons of food and other supplies had been delivered into Leningrad. Machinery and ammunition were soon being turned out in the factories by a workforce nearly 80% composed of women.

Trucks driving on the “Road of Life” across the ice of Lake Ladoga to bring food and material to the besieged city (Photo credit Unknown)

MUSIC OF RESISTANCE

In august 1942 it was played and broadcast towards the Nazi German lines over loudspeakers.

The Red Army finally broke the Nazi blockade on 27th January 1944 and, with the Nazi forces all over Russia in retreat, the city was free. Survivors celebrated but the death toll was huge; some had lost all their family during the siege.

Altogether an estimated 75,000 bombs were dropped on Leningrad during the period of the siege and killed many – but more died from hunger and hunger-facilitated illness.

Because of the declared intentions of Hitler and the Nazis and the effect on the civilian population of the city, many historians categorise this siege as genocide; it was also the longest siege of WWII and one of the longest in history.

“In total, the siege of Leningrad had killed an estimated 800,000 civilians—nearly as many as all the World War II deaths of the United States and the United Kingdom combined. Soviet-era censorship ensured that the more grisly details of the blockade were suppressed until the end of the 20th century, yet even while World War II was still underway, the city was hailed as a symbol of Russian determination and sacrifice.”5

Perhaps the most appropriate accolade to the resistance of Leningrad was penned by the New York Times in 1945: “There is hardly a parallel in history for the endurance of so many people over so long a time. Leningrad stood alone against the might of Germany since the beginning of the invasion. It is a city saved by its own will, and its stand will live in the annals as a kind of heroic myth.”6

End.

FOOTNOTES

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Leningrad

2https://www.history.com/news/the-siege-of-leningrad

3Ibid.

4Ibid.

5https://www.history.com/news/the-siege-of-leningrad

6Ibid.

SOURCES

https://www.britannica.com/event/Siege-of-Leningrad

https://www.history.com/news/the-siege-of-leningrad

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Barbarossa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Leningrad

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._7_(Shostakovich)

Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony performed by the Frankfurt Radio Symhony in 2019 (Russian composition, played by a German Orchestra, conducted by a Finn!) almost 1 hour 25 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB3zR_X25UU

MONUMENT TO THE HEROIC DEFENDERS OF LENINGRAD AND SCULPTURAL GROUPS IN VICTORY SQUARE PETROGRAD

Sculptural group airmen and sailors in front of the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad (image sourced: Internet)

Aerial view of the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad and sculptural groups in Victory Square (image sourced: Internet)
Sculptural group workers building the city’s defences, front the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad in Victory Square (image sourced: Internet)
Sculptural group snipers (one saying goodbye to a child) in front of the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, Victory Square (image sourced: Internet)
Sculptural group partisans (one being bid goodbye by a woman) in front of the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, Victory Square (image sourced: Internet)
Death, loss and resistance depicted by sculptural group in front of the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, Victory Square (image sourced: Internet)

BULLFIGHTING ENDS IN GIJÓN AFTER BULLS NAMED BY RACISTS AND SEXISTS

Fascist supporters of bullfighting in Asturias thought they were having fun by naming two bulls due to be killed “Feminist” and “Nigerian” respectively. But their racist and sexist joke-jibes backfired on them in Gijón (Xixón), cultural centre and largest city of Asturias, the celtic nation in the north of the Spanish state.

Map of Asturias.

Bullfighting is generally supported by a traditionalist conservative constituency in Spain, including fascists, who often project it as integral to their image of Spain. On the other hand, the practice is opposed by large sections of the Left and those who want independence for their nations from Spain, such as Catalonia (banned some years ago) and three southern provinces of the Basque Country (where it was suspended for years but limited fights permitted again recently).

BULLFIGHTING IS ENDED IN GIJÓN

Translation by D.Breatnach from Publico.es report

The El Bibio de Gijón bullring will no longer host the traditional Begoña bullfighting fair, as the City Council will not renew the licence of the bullring because it considers that bulls cannot be used to “deploy an ideology contrary to the human rights”.

“The bullfighting festival is over,” said the mayor of Gijón, Ana González, in statements to journalists, after stating that what happened in the last running of the fair this year, where two of the bulls from Daniel Ruiz’s cattle ranch were named “Feminist” and “Nigerian”, has caused great discontent among feminist and animalist associations and has precipitated a decision that was already in the pipeline.

“A city that believes in the equality of women and men, that believes in integration, in doors open to all cannot allow this type of thing,” said the Councilor before stating that “several lines have been crossed”.

Bullfight in Las Ventas (Photo credit: EFE)

González explained that the idea was to end the licence of the El Bibio bullring and later put an end to it, as contemplated in the resolutions of the PSOE congresses but these events have advanced the decision. For this reason, the Consistory will not grant a third extension of the concession signed in 2016 nor will it issue a new call, despite the fact that the payment of the successful bidder represents 50,000 euros per year for the city council.

“The bullfighting fair is over because it seems that too many things were hidden,” explained the Councilor, who argued that if the world of bullfighting is what was seen in the last run of the fair “it does not contribute much to a city like Gijón “.

“The Mayor indicated that in recent years the bullfighting was “clearly challenged” and that there were more and more voices calling for an end to the bullfighting fair in Gijón, a demand that has now been met.

“The names given to these two bulls which were fought by Morante de la Puebla last Sunday, August 15, in Gijón, generated controversy on social networks and have aroused complaints from feminist and animalist associations.”

End.

SOURCE:

https://www.publico.es/sociedad/ayuntamiento-gijon-acaba-feria-taurina.html?

WWII AGENT “GARBO” WAS ACTUALLY A HUSBAND AND WIFE TEAM

Many people know of “Garbo”, the Catalan spy who passed false information to the Nazis but few know of his partner, the Galician woman from Lugo who changed history.

By IVÁN FERNÁNDEZ AMIL06: 00 · 12/06/2020

(Translated from Castillian https://www.elespanol.com/quincemil/articulos/cultura/araceli-gonzalez-la-espia-gallega-que-engano-a-hitler? by D.Breatnach)

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Araceli. https-//blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk

On June 6th 1944, a flotilla of more than 4,500 ships would transport 130,000 soldiers, and 20,000 vehicles across the English Channel, becoming the largest movement of people and material in the history of mankind. Known as D-Day, the Normandy Landing was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany, but it would not have been possible without the key participation of a Spanish double agent, Juan Pujol, alias “Garbo,” who led Hitler to believe that the invasion would take place in Calais, 300 kilometers away. Garbo became a legend but recent investigations seem to indicate that perhaps the spy was not he but rather his beautiful wife. Today we know of a film-like story, the story of Araceli González Carballo, the Galician who deceived Hitler and who changed the course of a war1.

Araceli was born in Lugo in 1914, into a wealthy family. In the middle of the Civil War she volunteered to work in a blood bank hospital, until in 1938 she decided that she wanted to leave her hometown. Her father got her a position in Burgos, where she would work as secretary to the Governor of the Bank of Spain.

A young Araceli https-//www.garboespia.com

In February 1939, she met Juan Pujol, a young Catalan officer who had started the war on the Republican side and later switched to the National2 side, although he no longer believed in it. They get married and move to Madrid.

Juan Pujol Garcia in his uniform as a lieutenant in the Spanish Republican Army. https-//www.npr.org.jpeg

The two were of the opinion that Hitler would eventually lead Europe into disaster so they decided to offer themselves to the British to act as spies on the Germans in Madrid.

The British turned a deaf ear to her offer, so, in a risky decision, Araceli suggests to her husband that if they win the trust of the Third Reich, then they will be accepted by the British. Pujol, an officer in Franco’s army, appears at the German embassy in Madrid and offers himself to the Nazis. The ploy works and he begins working for the Third Reich’s Secret Services, the Abwehr. He is christened “Arabel” (from Araceli bella) and Friedrich Knappe is assigned as his contact.

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris https://es.wikipedia.org

Without knowing a single piece of information of interest, they pass reports to the Nazis, making them believe that they reside in London and that they have a network of informants when, really, they live in Lisbon and all they share with the Germans are inventions and rumors.

Declassified MI5 Index card for Araceli https://www.elespanol.com

Knowing that their cover was really weak, Araceli travels to Madrid to fake a fit of jealousy in front of Knappe. She shows up at the Embassy to tell him that she knew the German had held meetings with her husband and to ask him if he knew anything about Pujol, since she had left for London unannounced and had no news from him, fearing that he has abandoned her. Knappe succumbs to Araceli’s tears and beauty and reveals to her that Juan Pujol is doing essential work for the Third Reich. The deception had worked.

Juan’s identification card declassified by MI5. https://elpais.com

After that meeting, Pujol sent Germany highly valuable information about a British fleet that had left for Malta. He had learned the details by chance and considered it to be as false as the rest of the information he sent to the Nazis. But this time he was right, and the Abwehr took the information as a sign of Pujol’s skill.

That report was intercepted by the British and made their Secret Services very nervous so Araceli, without informing Pujol, decided that it was time to try again. And for this she turned to the North American Naval Attaché in Lisbon, Edward Rousseau, who got her an interview with the English. Araceli drops the bomb: “The spy you are looking for is my husband.” British Intelligence recruits Pujol and that is how “Garbo” was born, one of the most important and decisive double agents of the Second World War who, from London, and with a network of 27 false spies, misinformed the Nazis from the year 1942 until the end of the war.

At the orders of MI5, the British Secret Service, they transmitted information to the Germans about which areas should be bombed by their air force, the Luftwaffe, without the Nazis knowing that they were unpopulated targets and without strategic interest. To confuse them, they sent them doctored photos of ruins and corpses, making them believe that the bombings had been a success.

London bombed WWII. https://www.independentespanol.com

But it is in 1944 when his performance becomes so decisive that there are those who consider that thanks to this couple the Allies won the Second World War3. With their fake spy network, they informed German Intelligence that the D-Day invasion would take place at Calais and not on the beaches of Normandy. That information delayed the German response long enough for the invasion to be a success. The same morning of June 6th, Pujol sent a message to the Germans in which he told them that the real landing was not the one that was taking place, but that it would be in Calais, days later. Hitler bought it.

Normandy’s landing. https://www.worldwarphotos.info
USA troops moving inland from Normandy landing beaches. https-//www.worldwarphotos.info

What is surprising is that, according to declassified MI5 reports, Araceli almost ruined the entire operation. In 1943, Pujol was keeping his wife and his two children confined and controlled at home, which eventually enraged Araceli. “I don’t want to live another five minutes with my husband. Even if they kill me, I’m going to the Spanish Embassy to reveal the truth about him”. To avoid this, the British deceived the Galician woman into believing that her husband had been arrested because of her, so that she would come to her senses, which she finally did.

Despite the collapse of Germany, the Nazis never suspected Garbo, and Hitler would award him the Iron Cross, the highest decoration of the Third Reich.

Iron Cross, Nazi military decoration awarded to Pujol
. https://es.wikipedia.org

He would also receive the Order of the British Empire, becoming the only person decorated by both sides of World War II, but was unable to collect it, since he returned to Madrid with his family before he could receive it. In Madrid he was summoned by the Abwehr but it was Araceli who attended for fear that it was a trap. However the Germans just wanted to give him a monetary bonus for services rendered to the late Reich.

Order of the British Empire — Pujol is the only person to have received both the OBE and the Iron Cross. https://es.wikipedia.org

Now separated from MI5, they moved to Venezuela but Araceli did not adapt to that life, so she returned to Lugo with her children and separated from Pujol. Three years later, in a precarious financial situation, she settled in Madrid, where the British remembered that Garbo’s wife also got them to win the War, so they helped her with a job as an interpreter for the British and American embassies.

Venezuelan passport of Juan Pujol. https://albertonews.com

In 1956 news reached her that her husband had died in Angola4 from malaria and she married Edward Kreisler, with whom she maintained a hectic social life in the capital, where they received the most illustrious guests from the United Kingdom and the United States, and they founded an art gallery that would eventually have branches in New York and Miami and which is still in operation today.

However, a twist in this real-life film script was still missing. In 1984 the writer Nigel West met Pujol on the shores of Lake Maracaibo and convinced him to return to London and receive formal recognition of his achievements during the war. It turns out that his former boss at MI5 had spread a rumour that he had passed away in order to get the spy out of circulation. All the British and Spanish newspapers and different European television stations presented him as the hero that he was. And Prince Philip of Edinburgh publicly paid tribute to him in a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.

Juan Pujol with the Order of the British Empire outside Buckingham Palace in 1984. https://www.xlsemanal.com

The former spy traveled to Spain and, after asking Araceli for permission, he was reunited with his children and met his grandchildren. The Spain-based family also traveled to Venezuela where Pujol had rebuilt his life and had three other children.

DEATHS

Juan Pujol died in Venezuela in 1988, in Choroní where, in one of his residences, can be read: “Here was the greatest spy in history.” Araceli would die too just two years later, in Madrid, following a stroke. Her remains rest in the Sacramental Cemetery of San Isidro.

San Isidro Cemetery, Madrid. https://www.pasionpormadrid.com

No one knew her true story until MI5 declassified a large part of the files that revealed Araceli’s true participation in her husband’s adventures, and writers and journalists such as José de Cora, director of Progreso de Lugo, Ben Macintyre, editor from The Times, Javier Juárez or Edmond Roch (winner of a Goya for his documentary on Garbo), began to investigate.

But Garbo was not a person, it was a team. It would not have existed without Pujol, but neither would it have existed without the help and courage of Araceli. One has to wonder which of the two was really the spy. The answer is not as clear as it might seem.

The Garbo spy team – Araceli and Juan https-//www.garboespia.com

This is the story how a Galician from Lugo allied herself with a Catalan from Barcelona to have an adventure that would change the course of history, in which they would deceive the Third Reich, the Nazis and Hitler himself. Without them the history of Europe and of the world would have been very different.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Certainly the Nazi focus on Calais allowed the the US, British and Dominion troops to fight their way ashore and eventually establish a beachhead. But most analysts would say that it was the Battle of Stalingrad that was the real turning point in the War and sealed the fate of the Nazi’s military plans and of the regime.

2The military-fascist side called themselves the “Nationalists” and much of the world’s media used that description in their reporting and many historical references continued that description. They were engaging in a coup against a democratically elected government and in so far as they were “nationalists” they were Spanish nationalists but suppressing the nationalist aspirations of the Basques, Catalans and Galicians, also doing so with foreign military forces of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. They should be called what they were: military-fascist coupists.

3This is obviously an inflated claim, if it is indeed true that historians are of that opinion; there is rarely one point other than the final battle which can be said to “win” a war (see also earlier footnote with reference to Stalingrad).

4Angola was then a Portuguese colony

SOURCES AND REFERENCES

  • MACINTYRE, B. La historia secreta del Día D: La verdad sobre los superespías que engañaron a Hitler. Editorial Crítica, 2013
  • JUÁREZ, J. Juan Pujol, el espía que derrotó a Hitler. Ediciones Martínez Roca, 2004
  • DE CORA, J. El estornudo de la mariposa. Editorial Edhasa, 2016
  • es.wikipedia.org
  • elpais.com
  • elprogreso.es
  • lavozdegalicia.es
  • farodevigo.es
  • galiciaunica.es
  • elespanol.com
  • radiomitre.cienradios.com
  • garboespia.com
  • blogs.20minutos.es
  • laopinioncoruna.es
  • elpais.com
  • finanzas.com
  • lasexta.com



SPANISH CATHOLIC HIERARCHY EXPRESSES FEAR OF REVOLUTION

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 10 mins.)

Actually what the hierarchy referenced fearing in a recent 95-page statement was “two Spains”, which most commentators took as being a reference to a repeat of the Anti-Fascist war of 1936-1939, with Republican Spain and Fascist Spain. The statement of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) spoke of the “stability” which the 1978 Constitution has given the Spanish State. So have they suddenly now become democrats? Of course, one can think of another way of imagining such a dichotomy: Rich Spain and Worker Spain. I think the Bishops fear another kind of civil war – i.e revolution.

The 95-page document entitled ‘Faithful to missionary sending’ was prepared not only by the collegiate bodies of the CEE but also by external collaborators. Less open to different interpretations are the other concerns raised by the Bishop’s Conference, regarding the increasing secularisation of society, the scandals around abuse of those in the care of Church institutions and pastors, along with the other scandal of church appropriation of public property, including even a UNESCO site1. The Bishops feel that some of these processes and issues are not merely accidental or incidental to modern times but rather are deliberately driven by people in hostility to the Church.

CHURCH AND POLITICS

It is customary and has been so throughout history for the dominant religious institution to have a close relationship with the dominant class in society and this has certainly been the case with the Catholic Church in the Spanish Kingdom. The Spanish ruling elite at the turn of the last century, in a country with underdeveloped capitalist industry was an alliance of two different social classes, the aristocracy and the capitalist-financier class. The social atmosphere was deeply conservative and dominated by the Catholic Church hierarchy which, through them and the religious male and female orders, controlled institutions of social and educational provision. Progressive artists were penalised and often enough went into exile.2

The First Spanish Republic, a brief attempt to liberalise and democratise the State after the abdication of King Amadeo in 1873, survived not even two years before being overthrown in a military coup, followed by repression causing the exile of many of republican leaders and supporters.

However, a wave of revolt against the conservatism and lack of democracy of the Spanish Kingdom came around again and in 1931 the Second Republic was created, overthrowing the dictatorship of General Primo Rivera. Initially the composition of the government was right-wing and the revolt of the Asturian miners was cruelly suppressed by the Army and the militarised police force of the Guardia Civil3. The right-wing government fell in 1936 when a democratic left-wing Popular Front government was elected, which set about legislating for greater social freedoms, equality and discussing autonomy for nations4 within the State.

DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT AND MILITARY-FASCIST UPRISING

That was the signal for the forces of reaction to strike and most of the military high command, allied with the fascist Falange5, staged a coup. In Barcelona, the coupists were quickly suppressed by a popular upsurge which took on a revolutionary character. In some other parts, particularly in Madrid, the coupists were suppressed too but without a revolution.

General Franco in partnership with another three generals and senior naval commanders led or joined the coup but Franco’s forces were isolated in part of North Africa (then a Spanish colony). While the ‘democratic’ European powers ‘blockaded the conflict’, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy provided the logistical support6 to get Franco’s forces to the Canary Islands, then to Spain, where they found little organised opposition but nevertheless carried out a reign of terror. The Spanish Catholic Church hierarchy and most of its priests and religious orders supported the military and fascist rebellious forces with enthusiasm.

Spanish Catholic hierarchy supporting fascist military (Photo sourced: Internet)

A conflict variously called “the Spanish Civil War” or “the Spanish Antifascist War” followed, ending in 1939 with victory for the military-fascist forces, who lost an estimated 175,000 killed in action, and 110,000 died fighting for the Republic.7

Following the earlier pattern of areas the fascists had conquered, a wave of repression ensued against republicans, communists, socialists, anarchists, democrats, trade unionists, Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalists, gays and lesbians, with summary executions, military tribunals and executions, mass jailing, public humiliation of women …. Estimates of executions behind the fascist-military lines during the War range from fewer than 50,000to 200,0008. Most of the victims were killed without a trial in the first months of the war and their corpses were left on the sides of roads or in clandestine and unmarked mass graves.Spain has the highest number of mass graves anywhere in the world with the exception of Cambodia9, with 740 mass graves containing the remains of some 9,000 people having been found so far. The support of the Catholic Church for the military and fascists did not waver throughout.

THREE DECADES OF FASCIST DICTATORSHIP

After that initial phase, three decades of political and social repression followed under the Franco dictatorship, again fully supported by the Spanish Catholic Church.

However, the dictatorship was always resisted to some degree or another and that resistance began to grow apace during the 1960s. The Partido Comunista de España and the social-democratic Partido Socialista Obrero de España, both banned, were organising underground and becoming increasingly popular. Both had affiliated trade union organisations and the Comisiones Obreras10, linked to the PCE was particularly widespread. The youth of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) broke with the conservative and inactive leadership and, joining with a revolutionary socialist movement in the southern Basque Country, formed ETA11, taking up armed struggle at the end of the 1960s.

Fascist dictator General Franco (R) with his protege and nominated successor, Juan Carlos (L), later King of Spain. (Photo sourced: Internet)

As the Dictator aged the imperialists began to worry about the potential for a revolution in Spain and contacts in influential circles were sought to persuade the ruling class to replace the Dictatorship with a parliamentary democracy. Some elements in the Spanish Catholic Church opposed those initiatives but one which embraced it was the technocratic Opus Dei, which with some others, steered the country through the Transición.

Amidst a wave of repression including murders of activists by State and other fascist forces, with fear of an indefinite continuation of the Dictatorship, a Referendum on a monarchist and unitary state constitution was held. The PCE and the PSOE were legalised and, with their support, the 1978 Constitution received majority support. It is that Constitution which is regularly quoted when the State declines to permit the Basque and Catalan nations to even hold a referendum on independence.

In summary then, the Spanish State has evolved from a deeply conservative and repressive state, through a fascist-military uprising to a fascist and socially conservative dictatorship, all along with the support of the Spanish Catholic Church. When a revolution was feared, in consultation with imperialist advisers, the technocrat section of the Church, with the support of the social democratic and communist parties, helped prepare a transition to a parliamentary democratic form. Central to the Transition was preserving the mostly fascist ruling class and ensuring it would remain safe from any reparations, not to speak of criminal charges for murder, rape, torture, large-scale thefts …

But now, the Church hierarchy is sounding a warning. If it fears revolution, it has cause to.

VULNERABILITY OF THE SPANISH STATE

The possibility of revolution in Spain may seem far distant to most external and internal observers but two things should be taken into account:

  1. Revolution often grows and matures very quickly from what seemed like unready conditions and
  2. the Spanish State is by far the most vulnerable in the whole of the EU.

INTERNAL FORCES HOSTILE TO THE SPANISH STATE

The Spanish State consists of a number of nations, of which Catalonia, the Basque Country (Euskal Herria) and Galicia (Galiza) are the most obvious. But “Paisos Catalans” includes also Valencia and the Balearic Islands, all areas where Catalan is spoken and Asturias also consider themselves a Celtic nation (as does Galiza).

Map showing regions and nations of the Spanish state (Photo sourced: Internet)

The southern Basque Country has spent decades mobilising for independence in a wide social and political opposition to the Spanish State and though the official leadership of its movement is now pacified, a strong potential remains there. As the momentum of the latter declined, the movement for independence in Catalonia increasingly matured and in 2017 an unsanctioned referendum returned a majority for independence. Spanish police raided polling booths, attacked the voters and later nine social and political leaders were jailed by the State while others were obliged to go into exile. The 2021 elections returned a majority of pro-independence candidates and the total vote for independence exceeded 50% for the first time since pro-independence candidates presented themselves in elections.

The movements for independence respectively in Galiza and Asturies are nowhere near at the same level as those of the Basque Country or of Catalonia but they are growing. This is true also of the Paisos Catalans and the Islas Canarias.

With regard to the wide workers’ organisations, while the Comisiones and UGT at present maintain overall control, the majority of organised workers in the Basque Country and Galiza belong to trade unions supporting independence. Intersindical, a class trade union12 movement, also supporting independence, is growing in Catalonia and the Canaries.

Generally the Spanish State finds itself increasingly isolated at home and abroad. Its repression measures against the Basques and Catalans have not only disaffected people in those nations but also, despite general media and fascist propaganda, sectors of the Spanish intelligentsia. Writers, actors, artists have experienced repression or have spoken out against the repression of members of their sector. Political activist and rapper Pablo Hasel is in jail while Valtonyc, another rapper, is in exile to avoid imprisonment, both because of their lyrics.

Repeated financial corruption scandals have increasingly undermined confidence in the political and business classes.

FORCES SUPPORTING THE SPANISH STATE

The image of the Spanish Monarchy has suffered probably irreparable damage. The previous King, Juan Carlos, who was a visible link between the Dictatorship and the current parliamentary system but credited by liberal commentators as managing the “transition to democracy”, has abdicated. His personal reputation was damaged by a number of public relations disasters and he is now being pursued on allegations of financial and political corruption. His son-in-law is serving a jail sentence for financial and political corruption too. The current King, Juan Carlos’ son Felipe VI, though by no means compromised to any similar degree, has not built up any significant social support either, despite a generally sycophantic Spanish media.

Coronation King Felipe VI of Spain, son of the abdicated King Juan Carlos (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Catholic Church, the great organisation of social control for centuries and throughout the Dictatorship, has lost much of its influence, a fact bewailed by the Bishops in their communique. In the Basque Country and in Catalonia, the Hierarchy had little influence anyway because of its support for Franco. But the scandals of physical and sexual abuse in church institutions and by pastors, common across much of the western world, have impacted on the Church across the Spanish state too. In addition, the increasing secularisation of modern western society has also weakened the Church’s influence, as have its opposition to contraception and abortion, divorce, homosexuality and of course same-sex marriage, all of which are now legal.

(Photo sourced: Internet)

Surveys indicated that only 3% of Spaniards consider religion as one of their three most important values, lower than the 5% European average, though religious festivals remain popular on a mainly cultural level.

According to the Spanish Centre for Sociological Research, as of July 2021, while 58.6% of Spanish citizens self-identify as Catholic, only 18.6% define themselves as practicing, with 40% as not practicing. Another 37% have no religion, identifying variously as atheists (15.1%), agnostics (11.5%) or non-believers (10.4%)13. The total number of parish priests, i.e the level of Church personnel most in direct contact with the population, shrank from 24,300 in 1975 to 18,500 in 2018, with an average age of 65.5 years.14

However, the COPE radio network, owned by the Catholic Spanish Bishops’ Conference, broadcasts material ranging from the conservative to the fascist and always for Spanish unionism. COPE, an acronym for Cadena de Ondas Populares Españolas (“People’s Radiowaves of Spain Network”) formerly called Radio Popular, is the second most played among Spain’s generalist radio. COPE owns music stations Cadena 100, Rock FM and Megastar FM, in addition to the Spanish generalist TV channel Trece. The station is associated with the right-wing Spanish journal Diario ABC.

The privately-owned media in the Spanish state, whether favouring the PSOE (e.g El País) or the Partido Popular (e.g El Mundo and ABC) tends to be supportive of the union and the status quo15, with the state TV networks even more so. The bias against for example Basque or Catalan independence activists is remarkably obvious, with TV cameras accompanying police on raids to arrests of activists and publication of prejudicial statements long before the accused face trial and again during the trial itself.

Both traditional main political parties have their origins in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War. In common with most European parliamentary democracies, the two-party system has lost support in the Spanish state, resulting in recent governments being coalitions of political parties. This increases the potential for political thinking along class rather than party lines while also creating internal difficulties for the coalitions.

The right-wing Partido Popular was formed in 1989 but was a reconfiguration of the Alianza Popular, formed after the State’s change to the parliamentary system to give fascists and deep conservative supporters of Franco a representation in elections. Much reduced now, the PP has given rise to a chain of splits, first to form Ciudadanos, in turn shedding some members to form the more or less openly fascist Vox party. Any return of the PP to governing the Spanish state would require it to form a coalition with one or both of Cs and Vox.

The PSOE, formerly illegal under the Dictatorship, has on the surface many of the features of a western social-democratic party. However, it has been deeply implicated in repression of struggles in the Basque Country, including wide-scale torture of prisoners. Further, under the Felipe Gonzales presidency (prime ministership), the Spanish State ran terrorist squads carrying out kidnapping, torture, murder and bombings against pro-independence Basques. The operation was exposed in a series of articles in El Mundo and, although Gonzales didn’t face even a police interview, the eventual resulting list of convictions included the Minister of the Interior, Director of State Security, Sec-General of the PSOE in the Basque province of Bizkaia, Czar of the “Antiterrorist Struggle”, Bilbao Chief of Police Intelligence Brigade, another Police Chief, regional Governor for the Spanish State in Bizkaia, and a colonel, Chief of the Guardia Civil HQ in Intxaurrondo (Basque Country).

Although successfully unseating the PP Government on a vote of “no confidence” in the Government’s 2018 budget, the PSOE’s leader, Pedro Sanchez, was only able to enter government by forming a coalition with Unidas Podemos16, itself a coalition of left social-democrats, trotskyists and communists. Since the new Government took over the repression of Catalans of its predecessor, only releasing imprisoned Catalan activists on parole recently, it does not have the support of the Catalan independentists, with the exception of one major party which voted to help the Government’s budget scrape through, as did the official leadership of the Basque independence movement17.

Fascism was never defeated in the Spanish state, it merely put on a democratic mask, albeit faded and patched. The current members of the ruling class are mostly descendants of the military-fascist alliance of 1936 and virtually all beneficiaries of the Dictatorship, often sitting on wealth, industry and media expropriated from their opponents defeated in the Antifascist War. There are sections of active and militant fascists across the Spanish state with wide police and military connections, denouncing the independence initiatives in Catalonia, criticising immigration, ridiculing equality measures and parading with fascist symbols and salutes to exalt the memory of General Franco and Primo Rivera. Although some of those activities are illegal, they act with visible impunity. The Vox political party has stated openly that it wants to amend the Constitution to remove the status of regional autonomy, which they believe encourages aspiration for independence and thereby endangers the unity of the Spanish State.

Spanish fascists demonstrating in Madrid in 2018, fascist salutes and symbols illegal but none arrested (Photo sourced: Internet)
Spanish fascist flags and salutes, Catalonia 2019 (Photo sourced: Internet)

Some government antifascist measures of late, along with the rise of independence activism in Catalonia have caused apprehension among this section of fascists, which finds expression in more rallies and demonstrations and increasingly threatening language and displays. The Government measures include the removal — long-promised by the PSOE — of Franco and Rivera’s remains from the mausoleum in the fascist monumental park of the Valle de los Caidos (“Valley of the Fallen”) which was built with political prisoner labour. The State’s TV service covered the event at length and in a manner resembling a homage ceremony.

Currently historical memory legislation is being promoted to assist in the discovery, investigation and honouring of the graves of the victims of Franco, while another piece of legislation seeks to make illegal any promotion of Franco or of fascism generally. The future of these initiatives is uncertain but the fact that even the current anti-fascist legislation is not upheld does not inspire confidence.

Map of known mass grave locations across the Spanish state (Photo sourced: Internet)

In conclusion,

The Bishops’ concerns about the safety of the 1978 Constitutional State seem to be twofold: on the one hand they see the demands for self-determination of nations within its territory as a threat to the State while on the other hand they fear that the fascists will push matters to an extreme, i.e that “civil war” – and this time, the fascists will lose, in the course of which the State will fall. However a close reading also looks like a threat to the national liberation and democratic forces, a warning to desist from their challenges to the status quo – or else!

As to their concerns for their Church, the Bishops are correct in believing that it is under attack but misunderstand the nature of the opposition, a large part of which is more to do with resenting the privileged position of the Church within the Spanish State than a hatred of the institution and faith as a whole. The Church received €144 million in funding from the State18 in 2019, ultimately from the taxes levied on people, no matter what their religion or state of faith, their opinion of the institutions or of their activities. And the tax-payers have no control over those institutions.

Of course, the Church does have its enemies, people who will never forgive it for the role it has played in the abuse of people and for its role in history, in particular its support for the military-fascist uprising, the horrific repression during that war and again during the subsequent dictatorship.

But the Bishops are right about one thing – the Spanish state is very vulnerable. Which is no doubt also the reason for the general contradictory stance of most other states in the EU, which on the one hand wish the Spanish State would act in a more subtle way than naked repression, while on the other fearing the spillover effect of possible revolution and the territorial breakup of “Spain”.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1This is too big an issue in itself to detail here but in essence it refers to property titles given over to the Catholic Church by Franco early in the Dictatorship and subsequently extended to cover 34,961 by Aznar’s PP government since 1998. One of those is the Cordoba Mosque, a UNESCO Heritage site. More about that controversy may be read about here: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/c%C3%B3rdoba-s-mosque-cathedral-dispute-puts-spanish-identity-at-centre-stage-1.4195391 and the general issue in further detail but in Castillian (Spanish) here: https://elpais.com/sociedad/2021-02-16/todas-las-propiedades-inmatriculadas-por-la-iglesia.html?rel=listapoyo

2Cervantes, the most famous Spanish writer and much praised by the State today, never received any support from the Spanish Kingdom. In 1569 he fled a warrant for arrest due to wounding an opponent a duel. Later, his family could not afford his ransom when captured by Corsairs but his freedom was eventually bought by an organisation working to free Christian slaves in the Ottoman Empire. Employed later by the Spanish as a tax collector he was jailed briefly a number of times for “irregularities. He is celebrated as a writer not only in Spanish but his Don Quixote de la Mancha has been widely read in translation.

3The Guardia Civil is a Spanish state-wide police force but militarised — they have military ranks and live in barracks. The gendarme-type force is one common in states needing to control a disparate population with a history of rebellion, eg: the Carabinieri of Italy, Gendarmerie of France, Royal Irish Constabulary of Ireland under British rule (then the RUC in the colony, now the PSNI).

4Catalonia got its autonomy during its popular suppression of the coup attempt and, once the war was underway, three southern Basque provinces got theirs too, while the conservative Carlists in the fourth province, Nafarroa (Navarra) sided with the coup and massacred any supporters of the Government they could find. Galician autonomy was under discussion but after only two weeks of fighting in July 1936, the fascists took control and the project was abandoned. The fascists killed 800,000 people there, mostly civilians and after the hostilities.

5La Falangia Española, a fascist organisation founded by Primo Rivera (son of the General of the same name) in October 1933. It was later remodeled by Franco to unite all the fascist and right-wing nationalist organisations and from then was the only legal political party during the Franco Dictatorship.

6Both fascist powers also provided personnel, weapons, military transport, tanks …. the infamous urban centre bombing of Gernika was carried out by German and Italian planes. The Republican side received some assistance from the Mexican Government and in particular the Soviet Union and volunteers for the International Brigades. The balance of equipment and trained personnel was always however in favour of the fascist-military insurgents.

7See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Civil_War

8Historians differ — Hugh Thomas: 75,000; Secundino Serrano: 90,000; Josep Fontana: 150,000; and Julián Casanova: 100,000

9See map

10The Comisiones today is much less under the influence of the PCE and, together with UGT, which remains under the control of the PSOE, form the two main Spanish trade unions, their leaderships institutionalised and generally collaborative with the State and for the union of Spain.

11Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Country And Freedom) was much more than the depiction of “terrorist” organisation one finds in most descriptions. It was a cultural and social Basque liberation organisation, persecuted by the Spanish State, against which it took up arms after almost a decade of repression and torture. After years of decline but during which the wider movement expanded hugely, ETA disbanded around 2012. Many of its convicted fighters remain dispersed throughout the jails of the Spanish and French states while others are in exile.

12A class union does not recruit members repressive forces (e.g. police, jailers, armed forces), nor of management in work places. Also Intersindical has a very democratic structure with an elected General Secretary permitted to serve for only two years.

13See Sources and References, Religion.

14Ibid.

15An exception is the attitude to the Catholic Church, which is generally critical in El País, in line with its more secular identity.

16Izquierda Unida (United Left), the often disunited coalition of mostly Trotskyist small groups coordinated by the CPE, formed an electoral coalition with Podemos just before the elections. Podemos arose from a small group of Trotskyists that emerged from 13M, the huge popular opposition to the Spanish State, especially in Madrid, in turn engendered by the protest movement commonly known as “Los Indignados”. Podemos rode that wave of indignation to win five seats in their first participation in elections, those to to the European Parliament in May 2014. In the 2015 General Elections on 20 December 2015, Podemos received 21% of the vote and became the third largest party in the Parliament, with 69 out of 350 seats. In subsequent elections, as part of coalitions, Podemos’ number of MPs in the Spanish Parliament has fallen consecutively to 49, 47, 32 and 26, with its 5 MEPs reduced to three. Conversely, the party’s membership is growing, according to reports.

17Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya and Amaiur.

18In addition to €284m through 7% voluntary deductions from people’s tax returns, a benefit which no other organisation is permitted.

SOURCES AND REFERENCES

Statement of Spanish Bishops: https://elpais.com/sociedad/2021-08-02/los-obispos-dibujan-un-panorama-catastrofico-de-la-politica-espanola.html

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/spain-sliding-back-to-civil-war-era-bishops-warn-kxlcrww58?fbclid=IwAR0mHPwCJAfQGo8_pY7kzsDKa_v6usf4Pgxz65IlhVskWHTrxFWQEMx8nf4

Executions behind fascist-military lines: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Terror_(Spain)

Mass graves etc: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spain-mass-grave-ring-idUSKBN26626T

Overall number of deaths: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Civil_War

Trade unions (site very biased against Intersindical): http://progressivespain.com/labourfile-a-guide-to-spanish-trade-unions/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_trade_unions_in_Spain

Religion and the Catholic Church: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Spain

https://english.elpais.com/society/2020-02-21/catholic-church-gets-a-record-284m-of-donations-from-spanish-taxpayers.html

Podemos political party: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podemos_(Spanish_political_party)

EX-SPANISH KING BEING PURSUED ON CORRUPTION

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 8 mins.)

Spanish Government split with

  • Governing Social-democratic PSOE voting with the Right and Far-Right
  • Coalition partners Unidas-Podemos voting with Basque and Catalan nationalists to hunt down the King

The royal house of Spain is of the Bourbons, a fact settled as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), which drew in all the major European powers (and in which the Basque and Catalan nationalists supported the losing side). Its current representation and recent history is immersed in controversy, largely but not only around the figure of ex-King Juan Carlos, his former support for a fascist dictatorship, wide allegations of financial corruption and his wildlife shooting hobby.

Rumours of Juan Carlos’ intention to abdicate in the midst of reports of investigations into allegations of financial corruption were denied earlier in 2014. However the King declared his wish to abdicate on19 June 2014, news which was met with celebrations by leftist groups, republicans and groups seeking independence for the nations within the Spanish State.1 Many of these began to press for a referendum to choose between monarchy or republic.

Juan Carlos’ abdication was approved by majority vote by the Spanish Parliament in June 2014 and his son Felipe VI declared King. Backed by the right-wing Partido Popular in government and the formerly republican PSOE in opposition, 299 voted in favour with only 19 MPs of small leftist parties and of Basque, Catalan and Canarianpro-independence parties speaking against and with 23 abstentions.2

Scene from the coronation of Felipe VI after his father’s abdication (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Spanish Constitution (1978) gave the monarch legal immunity for actions taken in accordance with his duties but provided no protection for a former monarch. However, the Government changed the law, leaving him accountable only to the Spanish Supreme Court, a status shared with many high-ranking civil servants and politicians in the Spanish State3.

As reports in the media indicated that a Swiss prosecution alleging financial corruption might be imminent, in 2020 Juan Carlos left the Spanish State for an extended period to a secret destination, rumoured to a country from which he could not be extradited. The former king’s exile was officially confirmed on 3rd August 2020, his current location reported by the Royal Household as being in the United Arab Emirates. There is no extradition agreement between the UAE and the Spanish State.

The leadership of the governing PSOE wants to protect the ex-King and votes in accordance with that position, finding itself voting alongside MPs of the Right, the Far-Right and fascists. PSOE’s governing coalition partner Unidas Podemos (itself a wide Left coalition), backed up by the votes of Basque and Catalan independence MPs, wants to have the King officially exposed and brought to court on corruption charges.

FASCIST DICTATORSHIP BACKGROUND OF JUAN CARLOS

When the electorate in the Spanish kingdom voted in a republic in 1931, the monarchy was abolished and King Alfonso XIII fled. In 1936 a left-democratic government was voted and the fascists and a number of armed forces senior officers staged an uprising against the Republic. In an extremely brutal war, with massive assistance from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, they overthrew the elected government and instituted a dictatorship under General Franco.

In 1947 Franco reinstated the monarchy and skipping the line in succession for the Spanish Crown and, disregarding the exiled Juan, son of Alfonso XIII, who appeared to Franco to be too liberal, the Dictator in 1969 named Juan’s son, Juan Carlos, his successor as head of State. Juan Carlos had been studying in Italy but had returned to the Spanish state in 1969 and had the status of Prince of Spain under the Dictatorship; he was taken under Franco’s wing and in turn Juan Carlos promised to uphold the fascist regime.

Two days after Franco’s death, Juan Carlos became King of Spain on 22 November 1975 and Head of the Spanish State.

(L-R)Juan Carlos and the Dictator Franco. Juan Carlos was appointed as his replacement as Head of the Spanish State by the fascist Dictator. (Photo sourced: Internet)

After Franco’s death the Spanish State embarked clumsily on the long-envisaged Transition to a parliamentary democracy. The ban on the social-democratic PSOE and Communist Party and their affiliated trade unions was lifted and, in 1978 a referendum was held on a unitary constitution (no right to self-determination for the Basque Country, Catalonia or Galicia nations) and a return to monarchy. Amidst a wave of repression and threat of return to dictatorship, with the PSOE and CPE leaderships advocating a vote in favour, the Constitution gained a majority overall throughout the Spanish state (not however in the Basque Country) and Spain was once again a constitutional monarchy.

The Monarch has substantial reserve powers in his role as the defender of the Constitution and insulting him is a crime in Spanish law, for which political activists, cartoonists, singers and rap artists have been tried and convicted.4

Much is made by liberals and supporters of the State of the fact that Juan Carlos broadcast a statement seeking support for the elected Government in 1981 when Antonio Tejero5, a Lieutenant-Colonel of the Guardia Civil led his short-lived coup attempt. The King’s name had been used by the conspirators to gather support and Juan Carlos’ statement at midnight on the first day of the coup attempt undermined the coup leaders. Subsequently Juan Carlos was presented as a staunch defender of democracy, hailed by liberals, social democrats and the leader of the Communist Party. Juan Carlos’ previous role as a staunch supporter of Franco’s fascist Dictatorship was revised or excused and his role in promoting parliamentary democracy in the Transition exaggerated (still to be found in Wikipedia etc).

Supporters give the impression that the King’s intervention was crucial in ending the coup. In fact, at the outset the plotters had little military backing and had failed to even secure Madrid; Valencia had been taken and surrounded with tanks by the coupists but the commander of the nearby military airport not only refused to support the coup but threatened to send fighters to rocket-bomb the tanks. Elsewhere, in cities and ports, despite a background of calls for insurgency by fascists and discomfort with parliamentarianism in the armed forces, these stayed quiet.

Rarely acknowledged too is that even after Franco’s death Juan, Carlos spoke of his ideological and emotional debt to the Dictator and not once did he retract his oath to uphold the fascist order.

Juan Carlos and his family receive receive the support of substantial funds allocated through the State and are also in possession of properties that were confiscated by the fascist victors of the Spanish Anti-Fascist War. In addition, they have wealth accumulated through business connections.

King at the time Juan Carlos with trophy elephant shot in Botswana in 2006. When he was reported injured in Botswana in April 2012 in the midst of an economic crisis at home, photos of this scene found a new circulation. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Whispers about corruption in the financial deals of Juan Carlos began to circulate around the turn of this century the King’s overall popularity remained high. However a stunned population learned in April 2012, in the middle of an economic crisis in the Spanish state, that a Spanish Air Force jet had to be dispatched to collect the King from his secret trip to Botswana, Africa, where he had broken his foot. Since he had been photographed in 2006 standing by the body of his trophy elephant shot in Botswana it was widely assumed that had been the purpose of his secret trip.

Although a cartoon mocking the King and Queen had been published in a newspaper in 2007, with copies seized by the Government (but defiantly republished by the right-wing El Mundo), it was not until the Botswana episode that condemnation of him began to be widespread throughout social media, spilling over into the mass media. In April 2012, Spain’s unemployment was at 23% and nearly 50% for young workers. A controversy also arose over his Presidency of the Spanish section of the World Wildlife Fund and an online petition on the actuable.es website said more than 46,000 people had backed a petition calling for the king’s resignation from WWF and in April the presidential position was abolished.6

At the time, the King’s son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin, was also being charged with financial and political corruption7, along with the youngest princess, Cristina.

CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS AND INVESTIGATIONS INTO JUAN CARLOS

  • Kickbacks from commercial contracts in the Gulf States, particularly construction of the €6.7 billion Haramain high-speed railway in Saudi Arabia, lodged in a Switzerland bank account and the purchase of properties in Monaco in the name of his former mistress Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, who is registered domiciled in Monaco. These details emerged in a 2018 leaked telephone conversation between herself and a former police chief. She also alleged being warned into silence by the head of the Spanish State Intelligence Service.

Very recently zu Wittgenstein-Sayn alleged publicly that Juan Carlos had asked for the return of the money, which she had refused and that she has received threats and fears for her safety.

On 14 March 2020, The Telegraph newspaper reported that his son FelipeVII appeared as second beneficiary (after Juan Carlos) of the Lucum Foundation, recipient of a €65 million donation by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. On 15 March 2020, a spokesperson for the Royal Household declared that Felipe VI would renounce any inheritance from his father and that the former king would lose his public stipend from the State’s General Budget.

Former King of Spain Juan Carlos (L) meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (R) in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi [Twitter/Saudi Foreign Ministry]
  • Royal Family credit cards from undisclosed Swiss bank account. Juan Carlos and the Royal Family had credit cards drawing on what appeared to be an undeclared Swiss bank account, with card drawings exceeded €120,000 in one year, comprising undisclosed income and was therefore a tax offence in Spain. Mexican millionaire and investment banker Allen Sanginés-Krause has been named as the owner of the cards, a friend of Juan Carlos to whom he donated sums of money using Air Force Colonel Nicolás Murga Mendoza as an intermediary.

In December 2020, Juan Carlos reportedly paid €678,393.72 to Spain’s tax agency with regard to the “opaque credit cards” used between 2016 and 2018 by himself, his wife and some grandchildren, to avoid further scrutiny from the Supreme Court’s prosecutor, the payment being an admission of fraud.

  • Jersey and Swiss bank accounts. A third investigation is being undertaken by the Spanish authorities over an attempt to withdraw nearly €10 million from Jersey, possibly from a trust set up by or for Juan Carlos in the 1990s. Juan Carlos claims he is “not responsible for any Jersey trust and never has been, either directly or indirectly.”

A further investigation is taking place regarding the fact that until August 2018, Juan Carlos maintained a bank account in Switzerland containing almost €8 million.

  • 2002 trip to Kazakhstan

It is reported that Juan Carlos made a private trip to Kazakhstan in October 2002 to hunt goats with Presiden Nursultan Nazarbayev and that on departure from the country he was given 4 to 5 briefcases purportedly containing $5 million in cash.

  • Zagatka Foundation

Founded in Liechtenstein in 2003 and owned by Álvaro de Orleans-Borbón, a distant cousin of Juan Carlos who lives in Monaco, the Foundation received a large sum of money from Switzerland in which Juan Carlos is named as the third beneficiary. In 2009 Álvaro de Orleans-Borbón paid a cheque from Mexico for €4.3 million into the account which the Swiss adjudicated was from Juan Carlos. Juan Carlos appears to have drawn down funds from the Zagatka foundation to spend €8 million between 2009 and 2018 on private flights, receiving around €6.1 million.

Zagatka used commissions due to Juan Carlos and paid to Zagatka to invest millions, mainly in Ibex35 companies between 2003 and 2018.

A Swiss prosecutor is investigating.

  • Lucum foundation

A Panamanian Lucum foundation had Juan Carlos as the first beneficiary and his son, now King Felipe VI named as second beneficiary (although Felipe VI later relinquished any inheritance from his father Juan Carlos). Lucum received $100 million from the Saudi royal house in 2008. Swiss prosecutors are concerned about who at the Swiss bank, Miraboud & Cie knows who the account was for and what was discovered about the source of the funds from the Ministry of Finance of Saudi Arabia. They are also concerned about a transfer of €3.5m from Lucum to an account held by Dante Canónica in the Bahamas. In 2012 the Mirabaud bank, which had concealed from its employees the beneficiary owner of the account, asked for the account to be closed, due to possible adverse publicity; this was when the bulk of the funds were transferred to Juan Carlos’ ex-mistress Corinna zu Wittgenstein-Sayn.

Then King Juan Carlos and former lover Corinna Larsen in happier times between them at the Laureus Award Barcelona event 22 May 2006 (Photo credit: Schroewig/ Maelsa/ Gtres)

With the election of the right-wing Partido Popular under Aznar to Spanish Government in 1996, privatisation of public companies in telecommunications, gas and water were carried out. Under the guise that the Monarch had to be involved in the sale of state companies, Juan Carlos’ investment company Los Albertos received financial packages. And later, in 2003, his Royal status and links with the Windsor household were used as intermediary to sell the Zarogazano bank, whose two Chairmen had retired after fraud convictions earlier bank to huge British bank Barclays. Juan Carlos’ intermediary work gained him a €52 million payment.

Recently too the online newspaper Publico revealed that after Juan Carlos abdicated he still carried out ceremonial visits and was on an annual stipend of €190,000 but had made five trips to Saudi Arabia which he had not declared on his schedule. The Spanish State sold armaments to Saudi Arabia in particular during the Saudi war in Yemen, during which Juan Carlos was reported by the Saudi royal information organisation as expressing his support for the Saudi side.

PUBLIC ATTITUDES IN THE SPANISH STATE TODAY

Attitudes of the public vary across the Spanish state territory, with opposition to the Spanish monarchy probably highest in the southern Basque Country and Catalonia but Madrid also has a high Leftist population, along with a high membership of the Right.

The attitude of genuine republicans in the Spanish state is that they don’t want a monarchy, that they had got rid of it democratically and that it was later foisted back on them. Such people include various kinds of socialists and communists even though, as noted earlier, the formerly republican PSOE and Communist Party leaderships encouraged their members and supporters to vote for the monarchist Constitution in 1978. Supporters of Basque, Catalan and Galician independence are also generally republicans.

Currently the PSOE leadership in the Spanish Parliament is resisting the campaign against the ex-King, voting with the Right against the PSOE’s coalition partners who are further on the Left spectrum.

For the Spanish Right generally, the Monarch is a touchstone of their concept of a unitary Spanish state. Even though fascism originally, including its Spanish variant, favoured a fascist republic as opposed to a monarchy, since the Dictatorship, Spanish fascism upholds the symbol of the monarchy along with the memories of Franco and Rivera. The 1971 coupists (unsuccessfully) invoked the name of the King (Juan Carlos then) and fascist party Vox has been doing so again recently with regard to Felipe VI “in defence of his person against insults”.

The anti-monarchical corruption campaign is aimed at having Juan Carlos charged with financial corruption but for many the target is the institution of the monarchy itself. Many remember how Felipe VI in October 2017, rather than condemn the Spanish Police violence against voters in the Catalonia referendum, instead praised them in a special broadcast and lectured the Catalan people. Also, unfavourable comment is passed regularly in some public quarters from time to time on the attitudes and expenses of the Royal Family.8 All this is occurring at a time when the unity of the Spanish State is also coming under strong pressure. Ultimately the whole institution of the Spanish Monarchy – and much associated with it — is once again vulnerable to a degree that has not been seen since the Republic of the 1930s.

End.

Rapper Pablo Hasel during performance, burning an image of the flag of the Spanish State. One of the reasons Hasel is in jail is form insulting the former King, calling him corrupt. (Photo sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1These include the Basque, Catalan and Gallician nations but some also include Asturias, Andorra, Canaries, as well as the extended Catalan “family” of Valencia and the Balearic Islands.

2https://www.diariodealmeria.es/almeria/Congreso-activa-coronacion-Felipe-VI_0_815618789.html

3See Sources and References re immunity and paternity claims.

4Including Basque independence activist Arnaldo Otegi, cartoonist, a puppeteer, 18 singers and rap artists including Strawberry, Pablo Hasel and Valtonyc. https://www.dw.com/en/spain-imprisonment-for-royal-insult/av-56659019. Some of those, like Strawberry for his lyrics and two jailed Catalans who burned a photo of the King in public, were eventually cleared on appeal to a higher court whereas Otegi’s appeal to the European Court of Human Rights was successful and awarded damages against the Spanish State.

5An examination of the trajectory is instructive with regard to the democratic status of the Spanish State and the role of its military. Tejero was courtmartialed with another senior officer of plotting a coup in 1978, along with a third officer whose name has never been publicly revealed (!). Both were sentenced to the minimum, six months’ imprisonment, remained in the armed forces and retained their rank, Tejero’s accomplice even being promoted later. After the 1981 coup attempt, Tejero and some co-conspirators were sentenced to 30 years in jail but when and unrepentant Tejero left jail the last of the conspirators to walk free, he had only completed half of his sentence. He is considered a hero by fascists and right-wing military veterans.

6In 2005 Juan Carlos had also shot nine bears, one of which was pregnant. He was finally removed in as President of the Spanish section of WWF in July 2012 by 226 votes against 13 to delete the post. (See References and Resources).

7Urdangarin was later convicted of embezzling about €6 million in public funds for sporting events since 2004 through his nonprofit foundation, the so-called Nóos case, and of political corruption by using his former courtesy title of Duke of Palma de Mallorcas as the husband of Infanta Cristina (youngest daughter of Juan Carlos). In June 2018 Urdangarin was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison; he is currently imprisoned in Ávilla en relaxed conditions in Ávila (Wikipedia) which are the subject of criticism as being too lax and privileged.

8It was not until 2011 that these became public knowledge, being declared as an annual budget of €8.3 million, excluding expenses such as the electricity bill, paid by the State.

REFERENCES & SOURCES

Coalition partners split on chasing down the ex-King: https://www.publico.es/politica/unidas-socios-gobierno-vuelven-pedir-congreso-investigue-fortuna-emerito-traves-venta-armas.html?

Insulting the monarch is a crime in Spain: https://www.dw.com/en/spain-imprisonment-for-royal-insult/av-56659019

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jul/21/spain.gilestremlett

1981 attempted coup: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1981_Spanish_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat_attempt#Armada’s_soft_coup

Juan Carlos’ secret Botswana trip: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17730857

https://web.archive.org/web/20120723051920/http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/spains-king-juan-carlos-ousted-as-honorary-world-wildlife-fund-president-after-elephant-hunt/2012/07/21/gJQAsyAC0W_story.html

Shooting bears in Romania: https://www.rferl.org/a/1057122.html

Abdication Juan Carlos and coronation new Felipe VI: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/spanish-mps-back-abdication-of-juan-carlos-z2kgw73967m

https://www.diariodealmeria.es/almeria/Congreso-activa-coronacion-Felipe-VI_0_815618789.html

Legal immunity up to the Supreme Court (amidst paternity claims): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/31/spain-supreme-court-king-juan-carlos-paternity

Corruption investigations and allegations:

https://www.publico.es/politica/exclusiva-juan-carlos-i-llevo-52-millones-comision-venta-banco-zaragozano-e-impulso-apertura-fundaciones-zagatka-lucum.html?

Involvement in PP Government’s privatisations of state companies: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgzGkZZrjJzwPhWlsBFQmrXDpkwJM

Undeclared trips to Saudi Arabia: https://www.publico.es/politica/juan-carlos-i-escondio-cinco-viajes-arabia-saudi-agenda-publica-2015-2018.html?

Allegations by former mistress: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/spanish-ex-king-s-lover-due-to-testify-in-defamation-trial-1.4458558

The Wall of us All

Words and photos by Diarmuid Breatnach

This is a section of a limestone wall. You can see that it is composed of limestone blocks.

Small section and detail of a limestone wall

Each block is roughly rectangular but of different sizes, shades and colour.

Section of limestone wall in shade.

All of the blocks in different shades and sizes and types go to make the wall.

A different section of the same wall in strong sunlight.

It takes all of them together to make the wall; if put together well, the wall stands for centuries against all kinds of weather.

End.