(Translated from the article in Castillian by Alejandro Torrús [Publico 01/24/2021] by Diarmuid Breatnach)
(Reading time text: 7 mins.)
The descendants of Alexandre Bóveda join the ‘Argentine complaint’ together with the grandchildren of Amancio Caamaño, president of the Pontevedra County Council; and Ramiro Paz, editor. The three were murdered in 1936 in Galicia by Franco’s forces. Around 5,000 Galicians were shot by the Franco regime.
– Provided by the family
They say that after the body of Alexandre Bóveda fell to the ground, shot by firing squad, one of his friends approached and placed a small Galician flag in his jacket pocket, near a heart that no longer beat. Thus was the last will fulfilled of the man that Castelao himself had described as the engine of Galicianism. It was August 17, 1936 and Bóveda was murdered after a farce of a trial that sentenced him to die for treason. Just a few hours later, at dawn on August 18, 1936, at the other end of the peninsula, the poet García Lorca was also murdered by the Francoists. In just a few hours, in two of the most remote territories of the country, two elevated minds of the country were murdered. Point blank. One after a sham called a trial. Another, after being arrested as a criminal. Two elevated brains, two unique sensibilities, and two ways of fighting, fighting for a freer, more democratic and more plural country fell by force of arms. The country was entering the long Francoist night.
The figure of Alexandre Bóveda is so spectacular that it is difficult to summarize in just a few paragraphs. He was one of the drafters of the Statute of Galicia of the Second Republic (which would never come into force due to the Civil War); he was the soul and “motor” of the Galician Party; and, furthermore, he had participated in the founding of the first savings bank in Galicia. The list, in a telephone conversation with his grandson, Valentín García Bóveda, is practically endless. To the political successes must be added a good number of professional successes, which led him to participate in the founding of Campsa, the Hacienda de Pontevedra or to expand the funds of the Pontevedra Council using only the existing law. He was only 33 years old.
The focus of his political struggle, however, was Galicia. He was convinced that the economic and social backwardness of the country was due to the centralism of a State that squeezed every last drop of sweat from the workers of the periphery. His love for the land, in fact, was taken to its ultimate consequences and in front of the same court that sentenced him to death he declared: “My natural homeland is Galicia. I love it fervently, I would never betray it. If the court believes that for this love the heavy death penalty must be applied to mey, I will receive it as one more sacrifice for her. “
So it was. Bóveda stood in the February 1936 elections to Parliament in the Ourense constituency, competing against Calvo Sotelo, who would be finally elected. Months later, Calvo Sotelo would be murdered in Madrid, while, just a few weeks later, Bóveda would be murdered in Galicia. He face it tied to a pine tree, in the mount of A Caeira, in Pontevedra, some bark of which is still kept by the family.
His grandson says that he could have escaped, that he was warned on several occasions of the danger he was running, but that Bóveda answered all those warnings with the words he recited in front of the court. “I wanted to do good, I worked for Pontevedra, for Galicia and for the Republic and the confused judgment of men (which I forgive and all of you must forgive) condemns me,” he wrote in a letter to his brother hours before being shot.
“My grandfather was a marvel of the economy and aa elevated brain. Everything he achieved within only 33 years is impressive, which was at the age at which he was killed. I have always wondered what would have happened to this country if people so important such as Bóveda, like Lorca and like so many others who were shot or had to go into exile by Francoism could have lived another 30 years … Surely now we would live in a different country”, explains Valentín García Bóveda, grandson of the political victim and Vice-President of the foundation that bears his name.
Now, almost 85 years after this murder, Valentín takes over the family struggle to reestablish the memory of Alexandre Bóveda and has filed a complaint with the Argentine Judicial system. In doing so, he joins the nearly 1,000 legal actions that the victims of the Franco regime have presented in the last ten years before Judge María Servini de Cubria in Federal Court No.1 of Argentina.
“I go to the Department of Justice of Argentina with several objectives. On the one hand, to reestablish the memory of my grandfather. I do it for him, but also for my grandmother, who had to die seeing how, legally, her husband was listed as being shot for treason to the homeland. I want that sentence to be judicially annulled. On the other hand, I also go to Argentina to fight against this amnesiac democracy that was based on the foundations of oblivion and injustice,” explains García Bóveda, who hopes that Argentina can declare the crimes of the Franco regime to be crimes against humanity.
The case of Alexandre Bóveda is not the only one to reach the Servini court recently. The descendants of the Republican doctor and politician, president of the Pontevedra County Council in May 1931, Amancio Caamaño, and of the printer and political leader Ramiro Paz, have also filed a complaint. Begoña Caamaño, Amancio’s granddaughter, explained to Público that her grandfather was arrested a week after the Francoist coup and shot on November 12, 1936.
“I could never agree with the Amnesty Law or with the Historical Memory Law. In this country the wounds were never closed even though others accuse us of wanting to open them. The Francoist hierarchy passed to democracy without being held accountable. The Police that were torturing was the new democratic police. And for this reason neither my family nor I have been able to sue in Spain about the execution of my grandfather and we have decided to go to Argentina. All I am looking for is justice and for the sentence against my grandfather to be annulled “, Begoña Caamaño explains.
That fateful November 12, 1936, the Francoist forces executed Caamano and Paz in A Caeria, but also doctors Telmo Bernárdez Santomé and Luis Poza Pastrana; the teachers Paulo Novás Souto, Germán Adrio Mañá and Benigno Rey Pavón; the lawyer José Adrio Barreiro; journalist Víctor Casas Rey; and Captain Juan Rico González. Their murders, however, were only a few more drops of pain in the midst of the slaughter that Franco’s forces were carrying out. The repression ended in just a few years with the lives of 4,699 Galician citizens. Seven out of ten (3,233) were executed in the so-called Francoist “strolls”1. The rest, 1,466, were killed by the carrying out of a death sentence, according to data from the Nomes e Voces (Names and Voices) project. A veritable extermination in an area where the war lasted no more than a few days. In the first months of the Civil War alone, the four civil Governors, the Mayors of five of the seven Galician cities and of the 26 most important towns and the highest Galician military authorities who opposed the coup were all murdered in Galicia.
However, selective or indiscriminate murder was not the only means of repression. With the aim of destroying a civil, plural and organized society, 1,597 citizens were sentenced to life imprisonment and 1,981 were sentenced to various shorter prison terms. In total, 28,234 Galician victims suffered some type of judicial persecution by the new military authorities.
The lawsuits of Bóveda, Caamaño and Paz are not the only ones that have reached Argentina for Francoist crimes perpetrated in Galicia. The “Argentine complaint” was born, in fact, after the complaint filed by a Galician citizen, Darío Rivas, for the murder of his father, Severino, Republican mayor of Castro de Rei and the first of the executed exhumed in Galicia.
Likewise, in 2014, Público reported on a good number of complaints filed about crimes committed in Galicia. Among them was the case of the murders of Manuel Díaz González, a doctor from O Incio (Lugo) and the first Mayor of the Republic in that town, and his brother José Díaz, elected in the last elections as the new Mayor of the municipality. His granddaughter Esther García then explained how her grandfather had been dragged for several kilometers tied by the tail of a horse to the municipality to be murdered where he had been Mayor.
The repression in Galicia also led to a long exile to Latin American countries. In 1942 Galician exiles in Argentina established August 17, the day of the assassination of Alexandre Bóveda, as ‘Día da Galiza Mártir’ (Galician Martyr Day) to commemorate a unique generation that was wiped out by the weapons of Francoism.
The dictator and leader of the coup General Franco was himself a Gallego, a Galician. So was Manuel Fraga Ibibarne (despite the Basque second surname), Minister of propaganda during the Franco Dictatorship and director of repression during the Transition years after Franco’s death (“The streets are mine” — yet claimed by some as steering the ‘democratic transition”) and founder of the Alianza Popular/ Partido Popular party. The claim of fascists to uphold and defend nationalism was exposed as a lie in so many examples in history but very starkly indeed in the Celtic nation of Galicia. The foremost national intelligentsia of Galicia, political, cultural and law-making – those that did not flee — was wiped out by the Franco military and the fascist Falange.
The supporters of the military-fascist coup against the democratically-elected Popular Front Government of the Spanish State called themselves “Nationalists” and the media in much of the rest of the world did them the favour of referring to them likewise.
But it was the Spanish imperialist “nationalism” that was upheld by the coupists, one which denied the social aspirations of the population of the central “Spain” and denied the cultural, social and political aspirations of the Basque, Catalan, Galician and Asturian nations within the State and those of its colonies outside, for example the people of Western Sahara.
Today that false nationalism remains in power in the Spanish State, whether the social-democratic PSOE or the right-wing conservative PP are in government. It is supported in effect by sections of the Left as represented by the (old) CPE/ Izquierda Unida/ Podemos and by the extreme right-wing of Ciudadanos and Vox. The struggle between progressive national independentism and that centralist-imperialist bloc continues.
1Translator: Many of those murdered by the Francoist repression were not as a result of firing squad ordered by military tribunal but, in particular by the fascist Falange, by unofficial execution which the perpetrators called “paseos” (strolls). They would collect the victims from places of detention or their homes, telling them that “We are going for a walk”.
According to a report by the left-wing Spanish on-line media Publico.es, the fascist Spanish Catholic Movement1 plans an event glorifying the fascist dictator Franco and the only restriction placed upon them by the city council of Madrid has been to “wear masks and maintain social distancing”. At the time of publication, the Council had yet to reply to enquiries from Publico.es.
José Luis Corral, leader of the fascist Spanish Catholic Movement says all is organised for this Saturday the 18th with a rally at the Arco de la Victoria (“Victory Arch”) to celebrate the “national uprising”: the first military attempted coup against the elected Spanish Government was on 18th July 1936 but was defeated.
The rally is to be followed by a procession to where Franco’s remains now lie, at Mingorrubio Cemetery. The Movement also asked supporters to attend mass (Catholic religious service) at the church in the Valley of the Fallen, the monument and mausoleum to Franquism built by the labour of political prisoners from where finally, after many unfulfilled promises by the PSOE party, Franco’s remains were removed. This took place in October last year among protests by fascists and followed by national TV services in a style reminiscent of an act of national mourning.
Also planned to honour in the event at that cemetery is the memory of the fascist Admiral Carrero Blanco, whose body was also removed from the mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen. Carrero Blanco was Franco’s nominated successor but he was assassinated in Madrid by the Basque armed group ETA in December 1973, two years before the death of the Dictator.
FASCISM IN SPAIN WAS NOT DEFEATED
In 1936 General Franco led a military-fascist uprising against the elected left-republican Popular Front Government which resulted in a war that did not end until 1939, causing an estimated 200,000 deaths by violence. Following the victory of his forces, which had been aided by Italian Fascist and Nazi German armament, transport and men, a fascist dictatorship was established in which thousands of men were imprisoned, shot out of hand, executed after summary court martial or sent to penal battalions. Women were jailed and shot too, many were raped and publicly humiliated. All of the above was with the full support of the Catholic hierarchy in Spain, in Ireland and in most of the world. Only Cambodia has more mass graves than the Spanish State.
After Franco died, the Transition to “democracy” deal with the social-democratic PSOE and Communist Party leaderships ensured impunity for the fascist perpetrators of tortures and murders and a curtain of silence drawn over the whole history, with mass graves remaining unexcavated or even unmarked for decades. Monuments to Franco and his followers remained throughout much of the state. The Transition also imposed a monarchy on the populace and a unionist Constitution which has been the cause of conflict with the Basque Country and Catalonia for decades.
The display of fascist Franco symbols or glorification of fascism has been forbidden by law in the Spanish State for years but fascists regularly hold events, display fascist symbols, sing fascist songs and shout fascist slogans without any police intervention, to say nothing of facing charges in court. This is certain to be repeated on Saturday.
The Fascist leader admitted to Publico’s reporter that he had not applied for permission to hold an event celebrating a military-fascist coup but rather “as a protest against the Historical Memory Law2 and a demand that they care for the Victory Arch3, which is very neglected.”
Also on the same day as the Franco glorification event in Madrid, the ultra-conservative Traditionalist Carlist Communion also plans a commemoration of their own. The ultra-Catholic Carlists took the Basque province of Nafarroa into alliance with the Franco military-fascist forces in 1936, massacring around 3,000 Republicans, Socialists, Communists, Anti-Fascists and Basque Nationalists in the province.
The organisers claim that they are commemorating the 111th anniversary of the death in exile of Carlos VII Borbonne and East Austria (their choice for Monarch of Spain, which was part of the cause of the Carlist Wars) and that the only flags or banners permitted will be the those of the “Cross of St. Andrew”, with or without “the Sacred Hearts” and the “Spanish Flag with the Sacred Heart”. However, the organisers have also let it be known that there are “additional reasons” for the event.
Fascism in the Spanish State was never defeated but instead an accommodation was reached with it. Now, in common with much of the world, the fascist movement is rising again but incensed at the national independentist claims of the Basques and Catalans and also at what they perceive as defilement of the memory of their fascist heroes. The Spanish State, even under a Left-Social Democratic government, at the very least exhibits a tolerance towards the fascist movements and their activities which is far from its response to the independentist movements or to the militant Left.
1This is but one of the organisations in the Spanish state that reveres the memory of Franco. I call them “fascists” because that is what they are but Publico calls them “far-Right”.
2 The Historical Memory Law seeks to remedy some of the silence and fear around the history of the Spanish Anti-Fascist War and of the Dictatorship and is one of the regular targets of fascist diatribes
3The Victory Arch monument celebrates the victory of the military-fascist forces over those of the elected government in 1939.
The iconic Halfpenny Bridge over the river Liffey in Dublin seemed to be flying on Palestinian flags on New Years’ Eve. The annual event organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity campaign was favoured with not only a dry but also mild day this year and supporters and passers-by clicked their cameras to capture the scene, in the midst of which an Irish currach showing Palestinian colours was rowed up and down the river nearby by three women.
Communists, Socialists. Irish Republicans (both pro and anti-Good Friday Agreement) and generally democratic people lined both sides of the Bridge itself and spilled out at each end, which the IPSC had a busy stall on the south side, next to the Merchants’ Arch.
Yesterday brought to an end a year that was far from the worst in the long history of the bloody Zionist occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Arab-Palistinian population. Even so, 149 Palestinians were killed during 2019 according to a statistical collection agency and 35 of those were children. During the same period 10 Israelis were killed, including two children. However, in December alone, nearly 45 Palestinians were killed by Israeli Zionists against no Israelis. The hugely disproportionate balance of death and injury in favour of Israeli Zionism has been a consistent pattern since the the beginning of the Occupation and makes any notion of there being a “war between two sides” deemed nonsense by many commentators who instead, see the conflict as vicious repression by the Israeli State and largely ineffective resistance by what is now a minority Palestinian population, controlled to a prison-like degree by a highly-militarised state.
USA SUPPORTING A RACIST STATE AND ILLEGAL OCCUPATION
2019 was also the year in which the USA Administration for the first time pronounced the Israeli settlements in what are termed “the occupied territories” to be no longer illegal, flying in the face of world opinion and many declarations of the United Nations. This comes after the introduction of the new Israeli citizenship law last year, pushed through by the right-wing and religious coalition with 62 votes against 55, which defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, completing the process of making it officially a racist and religious state, downgrading the political, civil and cultural rights of all other ethnic and religious communities within the territory it controls. The measure was widely criticised by human rights groups around the world and within Israel itself, as also by much of the Jewish world population.
Solidarity with Palestinians is traditionally demonstrated in other places in Ireland too on New Year’s Eve as well as at various other times during the year: between yesterday and today, eight Irish cities and towns demonstrated publicly in support of the Palestinians. Some years ago the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland described Ireland as “the most anti-Semitic country in Europe”. Since what he really meant was “the most anti-ZIONIST country in Europe”, most Irish people took that comment as a compliment. It is the Zionists who try to equate Jewishness with Zionism and the Israeli State in order to further their ideological indoctrination and intimidate democratic opposition; in doing so, the put all Jewish people in danger of the backlash against the crimes of the Israeli State. Fortunately there have been – and continue to be – Jewish people, some of them quite prominent, who speak out against the crimes of Zionism but these are dubbed “self-hating Jews” by the Zionists, who heap insults upon them.
The IPSC continues to organise a number of Palestine solidarity events every year and welcomes wide participation.
When Basque independentists celebrated Gudari Eguna this year, the Day of the Basque Soldier, some of the celebrants were affiliates of the Abertzale (Basque pro-Independence) Left while others were supporters of the Basque Nationalist Party, nominally at least and often in reality, political enemies. However, it is not the same day for each.
The PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) commemorates the execution of 42 Basque fighters in one jail by the Franco forces on 28th October in 1937, whilst the Abertzale Left carries out their commemoration a month earlier, on the 27th of September, anniversary of the last executions under Franco (and, officially, in the Spanish state since): ETA martyrs Juan Paredes Manot (Txiki) and Ángel Otaegi Etxeberria, along with three members of FRAP (Revolutionary Antifascist Patriotic Front) Jose Luis Sanchez Bravo, Ramón Garcia Sanz and Humberto Baena, all shot by firing squads in 1975 (despite world-wide protests and riots outside Spanish embassies).
For much of the Abertzale Left, Gudari Eguna commemorates not only the martyrs of the 27th September 1975 but also all those who fought for Basque independence during the Spanish Anti-Fascist War and all who fought for it since, in particular those martyred in the struggle.
But even in agreement on that date and that purpose, there are differences too. For some years now some commemorations have been by supporters of Amnistia Ta Askatasuna (Amnesty and Freedom), who denounce the “Officials” for dropping the demand for an amnesty for political prisoners but also criticise them on many other political and cultural grounds: ceasing to push for the everyday use of Euskera (the Basque language), making political pacts with social democrats, etc.
Increasingly, ATA and the “Officials” find themselves incapable of sharing a commemoration or a platform as the latter move further down the path of accommodation to the Spanish regime, social democracy and the PNV, commemorating police killed, apologising for the ‘crimes’ of the now-defunct Basque armed organisation ETA.
JARKI – A COMPARATIVELY NEW ORGANISATION REJECTING THE ABERTZALE LEFT “OFFICIAL” LEADERSHIP
In Ireland, though they themselves might reject that appellation, the equivalent to ATA would be called “dissident Republicans” and Basques are not as touchy about being counted part of the dissidencia. But one new group has emerged which does reject that term as descriptive of themselves, while at the same time very clearly against the positions of the “Officials” and resolutely for independence and socialism.
This group is called Jarki, (of various meaning: “Resist/ Stand fast/ Push back/ Commit”; the first letter is pronounced like the Spanish “j” or the Irish “ch”).
Among other posters of factions of the Abertzale Left proclaiming Gudari Eguna in the Basque Country this September, I had seen one, very large, side by side with a declaration of position against the subjugation of the Basque nation, for socialism and class struggle. Curiously, there had been no venue advertised for a commemoration ceremony to take place. Was this group, this Jarki, not intending to have one? I made discreet enquiries, someone spoke to someone ….. who perhaps spoke to someone else ….
On Gudari Eguna this year,
27th September, I was met fairly early in the morning by my appointed guide. The mist gathered high upon the marshes and river and in the valleys as we drove higher, eventually coming out on a scenic site, the day cold but the climbing sun burning off the last of the mists. We rendezvoused with other carloads, then drove to another spot and parked. Asked to leave my mobile in the car, I accompanied my hosts on a long walk in unseasonal sun and heat to a field, where a temporary stage had been set up. It was to be a Gudari Eguna event organised by the Jarki organisation.
The security precautions were not excessive. This was taking place in the Spanish state, where fascism had never been defeated but had instead had a paint-over job in order to allow the Western states, after the death of Franco, to pretend it was a democracy. Until a few years ago, detentions of Basques had been like an epidemic, torture by police and army routine and just as routinely ignored by judges who sentenced the prisoners on the basis of their “confessions” or those of others to long years in jail. In contravention of EU and UN protocols for the treatment of prisoners, the political victims of the State had been dispersed to its furthest reaches, far from spouses, children, relatives and friends. And though the armed group ETA had ceased operation in 2012 and was now disbanded, persecution went on: that very month, 45 people of various organisations arrested in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for supporting the prisoners, including psychologists and lawyers, “supporting terrorism” according to the State, had been brought to trial1.
On the way to the rally, I saw many young men and women, in their middle-to-late teens or early twenties and also many others in ages ranging from late 50’s to 80s, also with a sprinkling of young adolescents. In other words, there were hardly any there of raising a family age. The sun was very hot now and I took off my jacket and tied it around my waist and, even so, was soon sweating.
I and one other were provided with a translator to Castillian (Spanish) for the speeches in Euskera – nobody else seemed to need one, a state of affairs that would not be matched in Irish Republican or Socialist circles with regard to our native language.
The heat beat down and I worried about getting sunburned, while at the same time very interested in what was going on. A large dragonfly wheeled above us, hovered a second then shot off. One of the folkloric Basque names for it translates as “Witch’s Needle” but it is important to recognise that in Basque society, sorgina or “witch” does not have the same negative connotations as can be found in much of western society, even today.
“THE STRUGGLE MUST CONTINUE — IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER”
A man perhaps in his 60s took to the stage and recalled his years in guerrilla resistance (i.e in ETA), his capture and the killing of his comrades (one was executed on the spot by the Guardia Civil2). He went on to talk about his yearsbeing dispersed around Spanish jails throughout the territory of the State. Speaking about the historical memory of resistance, the man commented that it was necessary to keep that alive – both of the Antifascist War and of the resistance afterwards.
Euskal Herria3 was still divided and still not free, he continued and therefore the struggle had to continue in one form or another, despite the abandonment of the path of resistance by the current leadership of the Abertzale Left. Similarly the demand had to be maintained not only for an end to dispersal but for an amnesty for political prisoners.
After his speech, a young male bertxolari stepped forward to sing his composition. This is a cultural form of social and/ or political commentary, composed by those skilled in the art to fixed rules of rhyme, length of line and a selection of airs.4
He was followed by an elderly left-wing journalist who, apologising for her inability to speak in Euskara, did so in Castillian (Spanish). She referred to her family’s history of anti-fascist struggle, both in the War and in the resistance that followed the victory of the military-fascist forces. She too spoke about the need to continue resistance to unjust regimes and for the right to self-determination.
The journalist speaker was followed by the performance of another bertxolari, this time a young female.
Last to speak was a young woman, speaking on behalf of the Jarki organisation. She recalled the anti-fascist resistance in the Basque Country in ……….. (a nearby battle during the Anti-Fascist War) and elsewhere, also by ETA in the years following the victory of the military-fascist forces. While others might try to pacify the people and to wind down the resistance, the need for active participation in resistance is as great as ever, she said. The woman ended with the call “Gora Euskal Herria askatatua eta independentzia!” (“Long live a free and independent Basque Country!”), to which all the audience (myself included) responded with a roar of “Gora!”.
The young woman then led the audience with the song Eusko Gudariak (“Basque Soldiers”, similar in content to the Irish national anthem, the Soldiers’ Song), most of us who knew the words or not with raised fists, then a couple of women let out the irrintzi5 yell, raising goose pimples on my skin.
Obviously, given my presence, not all the attendance had been Jarki activists but on the other hand, not all its supporters had been able to come either, I was told on the long walk back to the caron tired leg muscles in the blistering unseasonal heat. I joked that if I’d had my mobile with me I’d have phoned an ambulance. Some cured sausage sandwiches and a few mouthfuls of ardoa (wine) from a traditional wineskin, kindly offered where the vehicles were parked revived me somewhat for the journey back to my pickup point that morning but thankfully, we also stopped on the way for lunch and a cold beer at a Basque bar (for which my attempts to pay were kindly but firmly refused by my other travelling companions).
“MOST OF THE RESISTANCE NEEDS TO BE AT STREET LEVEL”
Later, at an appointment with a Jarki activist, I asked what the relationship with other Basque organisations was, given that his group will not accept the appellation of “dissident” and others will. He told me that they enjoy friendly relationships with a number of other Basque political and cultural organisations that have also broken away from the “Official” leadership. Jarki is a revolutionary socialist organisation for an independent Basque country and in support of the Basque language, he told me. “Although we do not at the moment put forward electoral candidates, we are not necessarily against doing so as a tactic”, he added, speaking quietly. “But the ‘officialistas’ are only interested in the electoral path and we think most of the resistance needs to be at street level”.
The organisation expects a disciplined commitment from its members, for which it also recognises the need for political education, especially of the youth. There had been wide criticism of the lack of this kind of education within the Abertzale Left since the 1990s and earlier, right up to the present.6
“The national independence and socialism of the Basque Country is of benefit to the world and the independence and socialism of other countries is of benefit to our nation,” he said in reply to my question about the issue of internationalist solidarity. He admitted that the representative of Jarki at their Gudari Eguna commemoration had not mentioned that aspect.
CALL FOR RUPTURE WITH THE SPANISH CONSTITUTION
A few days ago, while I was writing this long-overdue piece from contemporary notes, Jarki issued a national call to Basque society (translated by me from a Castillian version): “The Basque working-class people responds with rupture to the Spanish Constitution.”
The Spanish Constitution, despite not being accepted in the Basque Country7, is being imposed upon us. It is a document edited by the Francoists in a pact with the Spanish political parties. This document denies the self-determination of the peoples and besides accords to the military the role of guarantor of the union of Spain.
This Constitution designed the administrative separation of the provinces of the southern Basque Country.8
Faced with this imposition it is more important than ever that the working-class population of the Basque Country creates a revolutionary alternative which should be a political vision to lead the struggle for national construction and liberation and for socialism, the struggle for a united Basque Country, without classes.
For all those reasons we call for the organisation and mobilisation against the imposition, in which the Basque working-class population should follow its own path. Because of all that, we call for participation in the demonstration to take place on 6th December (Spanish Constitution Day) in Durango.
Although they wished to silence us, they will hear us. We have enough reasons. It is time to take to the streets. This people needs a revolutionary alternative.
1The day after 50,000 demonstrated for the right to support the prisoners and in solidarity with those on trial, Basque society was shocked when those charged admitted their “guilt” in exchange for walking free or a maximum sentence of five years’ jail for the “leaders” (instead of the up to 20 years normal from the Spanish court). The reverberations of that – the act of pleading ‘guilt’ itself but also permitting 50,000 to demonstrate in ignorance of the intention — are still travelling through the Abertzale Left and are likely to cost the “Official” leadership, who must have approved or perhaps even brokered the deal, very dearly. In contrast to the 45, another four, leaders of Askapena, Basque organisation for internationalist solidarity, charged with similar ‘crimes’, had fought the case earlier, for which they had won much respect and had beat the charges. Askapena, however, had quietly split from the Abertzale Left some years previously.
2The Guardia Civil is a militarised police force of the Spanish State with a very political role, the most active in the past against the Basque national movement and now similarly against the Catalonian. In addition the Spanish State has the Policía Nacional, also armed and active against movements for self-determination. Each region also has a separate police force, for example the Policía Foral in Nafarroa, the Ertzaintza in Euskadi, Mossos d’Esquadra in Catalonia, etc. And there are urban police forces too in every town or village.
3Meaning “the country where they speak Basque”, the term is now used to describe the whole Basque nation of seven provinces, three currently within the French state and four within the Spanish territory. “Euskadi”, the former term, now only describes the “Basque Authority” area of three provinces: Bizkaia, Alava and Gipuzkoa.
4This cultural form, at one time perhaps in danger of dying out, has become very popular and national competitions are broadcast on the Basque TV network. I have witnessed two bertxolari given pieces of paper laying out their respective roles (for example an Irish landlord and a Polish tenant) and, minutes later, engage in a battle of bertxos (verses) which had a Basque audience in roars of laughter and appreciation for the wit and skill of each. Close attention is paid by Basque listeners to bertxolari which, for a nation not culturally given to admiration for the song of the single voice (unless they can join to sing along), is truly remarkable. The Irish “comhrá beirte” is a similar performance art form but much less developed, certainly now, in Irish tradition.
5It is a long ullulating or yodelling cry, by males or females, said to be a call to war or to encourage Basques while fighting (it was also the name of a short-lived Basque resistance organisation functioning in the “French” Basque provinces). Such calls are common for communication of different kinds among mountain people, the sound carrying from one mountain to another and echoing but curiously enough it is also a feature of Arab culture in the desert and of some Native Americans. Example with a commentary in Castillian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcSaW6JUnUc
6That this has been neglected for decades in the Abertzale Left is a fact admitted even by many who remain within the “official” line.
7The Spanish Constitution was presented on a “take it or leave it” basis during the Transition period after the death of Franco, with much violence from police and fascist organisations and the fear of a return to the full-blown fascist dictatorship. The Spanish Communist Party with its huge and then militant trade union, Comisiones Obreras and the social-democratic PSOE, with its smaller Unión General de Trabajadores, were both legalised on condition they supported the monarchist and unitary state Constitution. In such circumstances it was hardly surprising that the referendum on 6th December 1978 brought in a huge majority for the Constitution – but not in the Basque Country, where it was rejected.
8Three of the four southern provinces, i.e those currently within the Spanish State, are under one regional government administration while the fourth, Nafarroa, has its own.
Report by RAÚL BOCANEGRA in Publico.es (translation and comment by Diarmuid Breatnach).
“The City Council of Seville has guaranteed on its own to provide the necessary funding — 1.2 million euros — to exhume the Pico Reja pit, in which historians believe that there are at least 1,103 bodies of of victims of the repression, led by the General Queipo de Llano, following the military coup of July 18, 1936.
This exhumation will be the largest ever to be undertaken in Spain, following that which that was carried out in Malaga, in the San Rafael Trench, between 2006 and 2009, and may indicate the path to take for the other capitals (of Spanish state regions – Trans).
The Mayor of Seville, Juan Espadas (PSOE), guaranteed that the grave will be exhumed throughout the mandate of the current Council. “It is a truly historic step in Seville and one of national importance, since it is perhaps the biggest mass grave that [at this moment] has a definite project for its exhumation,” the Councilor said at a press conference.
“And, therefore, it is also one of the most important projects in terms of Historical Memory to be undertaken in our land, due to the importance and volume of the Pico Reja mass grave. It was a commitment that this Government (i.e of the Andalusian region) gave during the past mandate to relatives and memorial groupsand today it is made a reality with this tender,” added Espadas.
“Next Friday the City Council of Seville, through the Governing Board will approve the specifications and, therefore, the public tender for a technical service for the exhumation and genetic identification of the bodies of the Pico Reja mass grave, in the Cemetery of San Fernando,” reads a statement issued by the City Council. “The ultimate goal [of the exhumation] is to dignify the memory of the people who were thrown there, give them a dignified burial and attend to the requests of their families,” adds the Council (statement – Trans).”
BEGINNING AND COMPLETION OF WORK
“Accordingly, Espadas will not wait for the Council of Andalucía or the Regional Government to sign the agreement, to which they had committed themselves. Confirming now, at the start of the mandate, the works, the Mayor ensures that the exhumation will not be delayed and will be carried out throughout this term. Municipal sources assured Público of their belief that both the Council and the Andalusian Government will collaborate with the exhumation, the Andalusian Council not before September.
Should they contribute money, the amount would be deducted from the 1.2 million that the Council calculates as necessary to carry out the works. Espadas recalled that the signing of an agreement in this regard with the Board and the County Council to finance these works is still outstanding. “And let’s hope that it is signed as soon as possible.”
“This contract guarantees the beginning of the work and its conclusion, without waiting for the remaining public administrations –- provincial, Andalusian and national — to finalise their contributions,” reads the Council’s note.
Espadas and the Delegate for the Department for Equality, Education, Citizen Participation and District Coordination, Adela Castaño, related the details of this contract to relatives of the victims and to the different organisations involved in the area of Historical Memory in Seville. “Do not fear, the exhumation and the identification of bodies will be done,” the Mayor assured them.
The company that gains the contract must include at least one historian, five professionals in Forensic and Physical Anthropology, five in Archeology and 10 auxiliary support workers. “With the maximum guarantees of scientific rigor, a survey will be performed, material collected on the surface, excavations made in the pit, exhumations and recovering of bodies and remains,” says the City Council in the note. “Likewise, it must preserve and safeguard, also with all scientific guarantees, the samples of bone remains and biological samples taken from the family members until delivery to the University of Granada for genetic identification,” the City Council insists.
The project will be be completed in three phases, explained the Council. The first concerns the exhumation itself and the identification of the bodies, along with works including: the archaeological excavation; dealing with the remains found (the excavation and the direct and individualized identification of these bodies will determine whether or not they are relatives); exhumation (identification, recording of traces of violence and individual extraction of each body or remains); forensic anthropology (that is, determining sex, age, pathologies or anomalies); anthropological analysis in a laboratory manner; and conservation and protection to preserve these skeletal remains and DNA analysis.
The second phase will consist of the presentation of a final report as a logical contribution to the history of Franco’s repression. And the last phase will be the final destination of the remains.
The City Council will respect at all times the wishes of relations about the identified remains. The unidentified remains and those which the relatives wish to remain in the same place, “will be buried in an authorised space with appropriate technical indications for future identification”.
After finishing the works, “the area will be restored as an expository and explanatory site of the historical significance of the Pico Reja pit”. The successful bidder must submit a proposal for reconstruction of the current site that includes a columned monument to honor the victims.
According to official figures, 120,000 victims have been identified (not exhumed) from 2,591 unmarked graves around the Spanish state. The areas with the largest number of graves are Andalusia in the south and the northern regions of Aragón and Asturias – in Andalusia alone, 55,000.
A mapping work undertaken by the Council of Andalusia region, which was presented publicly in the regional capital in 2011, illustrates 614 mass graves in 359 Andalusian municipalities. Only around half of the 47,000 bodies that were discovered have been identified due to there being no relatives available for DNA tracing or because calcium oxide (quicklime) had been thrown over the bodies.1
“In Malaga province alone there are 76 mass graves in 52 towns, containing the remains of 7,471 people who were killed by General Franco’s forces. The largest of these mass graves was discovered in Malaga city’s San Rafael cemetery. 2,840 bodies were exhumed in early 2010, although more than 4,500 are registered as having been buried there”.2
The usual figure given for the total of non-combat killing by Franco’s forces is 150,000 and which does not include those who died of malnutrition and lack of adequate medical care in prisons and “penal battalions” or through confiscations, or economic and financial sanctions in areas occupied by his forces. Nor does it include the civilian victims of bombing by military-fascist air force, whether of cities or of refugee columns.
Against that, the total figure for non-combat killings by the forces against Franco are estimated at around 50,000. Also, while the latter killings for the most part took place in the early months of the military uprisings, before Republican Government control could be established, most of the non-combat killings by Franco’s forces were carried out after they had beaten the resistance and occupied the area and much of it also after the war was over. Typically too, according to Paul Preston (The Spanish Holocaust (2012), Harper Press), women were routinely raped before they were shot.3
The issue of the executed after a cursory military trial or simply taken out and murdered by Franco’s forces is a live one in the Spanish state today. Before Franco’s death it was not even possible to discuss it publicly and bereaved relatives were not permitted to mourn publicly – to hold a funeral or to have a mass said for their souls according to Catholic custom or even to mark their graves.
The Transition process to convert Franco’s Spain into a “democracy” accorded legal impunity to the perpetrators of even the worst atrocities during the Civil War but unofficially extended beyond, to the years afterwards and even to murders carried out during the “Transición” itself. And why not, when all the upper echelons of police, army, judiciary, civil service, Church, media and business were and are for the most part the same people as before — or their sons and daughters? When the Head of State and of the Armed Forces, the King Juan Carlos, was specifically chosen by Franco to be his successor and even after the Dictator’s death glorified him and his political trajectory.
‘LET THE DEAD STAY BURIED’
The fascists and their descendants want the dead and their stories to stay buried and even when a very senior judge like Baltasar Garsón, who presided over the repression and torture of many Basque and Catalan political detainees (but is incredibly lauded as “a foremost human rights defender” by liberals!) decided to play a power and publicity game and and became a problem by authorising the opening of some mass graves in 2012, he was slapped with legal appeals, charges of wire-tapping and disbarred from office for 11 years.
The other graves they don’t want opened are the mausoleum of Franco himself and of Rivera, founder of the Spanish fascist Falange, who lie in the memorial park built by political prisoner slave labour to honour Dictatorship and Fascism, a shrine for fascists today. The order of the PSOE Government to exhume and transfer them to a family graveyard has been paralysed by the Spanish Supreme Court after protests by Franco’s descendants.
If the Pico Reja exhumation in Seville goes ahead and is properly documented, it will be as the PSOE-controlled Seville City Council says, of huge historical — but also of huge political – importance. Can this happen in the same region where the corrupt PSOE administration has lost power after decades without se
rious challenge and is now ruled by a de facto coalition of all the main parties descended from Franco, the Partido Popular, Ciudadanos and Vox? The Seville City Council says it can and that if necessary they will fund it all themselves. We can hope.
A brief account of the fascist horror between Cantalpino and Villoruela (Salamanca) during the Spanish War, forwarded to me for translation from Castillian (Spanish). I will post the original separately.
Comment: If another reason were ever needed to ensure we crush fascism before it gets strong! Stories like this illustrate how fascism was not defeated, much less rooted out in the Spanish State and remains at its heart to this day. No progress can be made towards democracy in that state without taking that fact into account. DB.
(Translator’s note: Villoruela is a municipality located in the province of Salamanca, Castille and León, in western Spain).
Fear ravaged Cantalpino, where the Falangist hordes killed a woman and 22 men; where they robbed and raped. Mrs. Alejandra tells the story and her eyes seem to look inside herself: “They murdered many here and Eladia Pérez, the Jaboneta, too. They went looking for her son Guillermo, whom they “took for a walk” later, and she did not want to open for them; so the bastards shot and killed her; then they took her to the cemetery and her body did not fit in the hole and the bastards cut off her head with the shovel … the murderers were people from the town and strangers, Falangists, priests, friars and that kind. The priest was the worst, he gave his blessing to the “walks” .. They also cut the hair of about a hundred women to the scalp and, in the rain and everything, they took them in procession, the music playing and the Falangists shouting “Up Spain!” and “Long live Franco!” and … I shit on the mother who gave birth to them! “
Alejandra continues with her story: “… they did a lot to me, they raped others. Five Falangists raped me. They took my husband out of bed, may the poor man rest in peace, and they pushed a pistol against him, in the chest, and there, in front of him, they raped me. Some had me by the arms and others, by the legs, and here, Saint Ines, to what they wanted to do, and the guns on the bed in the presence of my Desiderio. Poor Desiderio! They also stole everything they could. Yes, yes, they were from here, from Cantalpino. Unfortunately, this violation was not an isolated incident. In Poveda de las Cintas, a few kilometers from Cantalpino, the story was repeated, this time with the wife of the secretary of the town hall .. “
On August 24, 1936 the blood did not stop in Cantalpino, the impunity of the murders encouraged the Francoists. That same afternoon they appeared in Villoruela, less than 10 kilometers from Cantalpino, 3 Falangists accompanied by fascist neighbors of the town: They arrested the following people: Eustasio Ramos (51 years old), Elías Rivas (43), the brothers Leonardo (43) , and Leoncio Cortés (41), Daniel Sánchez (35), Esteban Hernández (29) Francisco García (25) and Benigno Hidalgo (18).
The fascists gave criminal replies to the families of the detainees when they went to look for them at home: Leonardo Cortés’ wife was asked where her husband was; she replied that she did not know and they answered: “Do not worry, even though he were underground, we will find him”. Daniel Sanchez had been risking his life to save the lives of other people with his mules and his cart to cross the flood, regardless of what color or what party they were. When they went to look for him at home, the woman said to them: “Wait, he is taking off his clothes, he is all wet”; the answer was: “Do not worry, he will get it all the same”. When they went to Esteban Hernández’s house, his mother told them: “wait, he does not have socks”; the answer was: “Do not worry, he will not need them”. When they went to look for Benigno Hidalgo, his mother told them: “I have to give him an injection”; “Do not worry, we’re going to give it to him,” they replied.
Once captured, they were arrested at the City Hall tied hand and foot with ropes. The members of the City Council called a meeting and decided that the 8 detainees should be shot. So bound, they were put on a truck in Villoruela, after midnight, and they were moved to the end of Salvadiós, a town in the province of Ávila. There, at a crossroads, they were shot and left lying in a ditch. Right there they were buried by neighbors from Salvadiós. The murderers were 7 from the town, the one that drove the truck and the 3 outsider Falangists.
Two of the detainees’ wives, María Engracia Cortés and Angeles del Pozo, went to ask for help from the nuns of the convent. They told the nuns what was happening and the nuns answered that this was a crusade, and that if they had not done anything why had they had been fleeing, to which the neighbors correctly answered: “Jesus Christ was also persecuted and though had done nothing, was crucified. “
Jaime Cortés, the son of one of those shot, said that “after the suffering they caused, the fascists appointed among the townspeople a policeman, allegedly civic, to control our movements from home, the demonstrations of suffering. We spent the whole night crying with my mother and my grandparents in the kitchen .. it takes a lot of patience and resignation to live a lifetime with the criminals who shot your father .. We had to go through calamities and sufferings … I always remembered very well a phrase that my mother told us very often: “Children, I never want to see you with blood on your hands” … the only reasons for which they were shot were their way of thinking differently from the Franco regime, that is, to defend freedom, the rights of workers, social security and education … they were shot for defending the largest right of all person: freedom .. “
From the date August 15, 1936 to June 16, 1939, there is no document or record book of the Villoruela archives. Who were the ones who made that documentation disappear? In the book of death certificates for March 13, 1937 the entry inscribed by the judge Iñigo de la Torre these 8 people shot dead are listed as missing.
Originals by Ángel Montoro in Jiminiegos36 and Foro por la memoria (Intervíu nº 177, 4-10 October 1979). Photo by Xavier Miserachs
Summary: Fascism is mobilising across many parts of the world including the very Spanish state where it caused a war through a military-fascist coup and brought in four decades of a fascist dictatorship. The main point of commemorations of the anti-fascist resistance and of the International Brigades should be of raising the alarm and mobilising resistance anew. Why in some instances is this not happening?
What is the point of commemorations of the International Brigades? Or of the ‘Spanish Civil War’? Yes of course I believe these things should be commemorated but I still want to know what the point is.
I would think that most people would agree with two reasons:
To remind us never to let fascism take over again
To honour the memory of those who fought it, many who sacrificed their lives or their liberty or their health in the struggle against fascism.
I believe there is a third important reason though perhaps most people wouldn’t put it up there right away, though I doubt they’d disagree with it:
To learn from the successes and mistakes of the past.
How is it then that one can go to an event to celebrate the the Irish International Brigaders but at the same time not hear a mention once in a number of hours about the mobilisation of fascist forces in Europe? How is it one cannot hear even a passing reference to the fascist forces that are stridently mobilising within the very Spanish state, at this moment? How is it that there is no mention of the Irish State bringing antifascists before the courts now for allegedly taking part in actions against the intended launch of the fascist Pegida organisation in February 2012?
Sure, we can all forget some very important point in a speech, forget to name somebody who should get a mention, etc. But all throughout the evening? And no placards or posters to challenge the rising fascism of today? That cannot be just a slip. Were it amnesia, it would be bad enough but if a tacit or tactical agreement not to remind us that would be worse, much worse.
Bob Doyle, the last of the Irish Brigaders to die, who is often mentioned at such events, would not have had it that way. In his nineties, I heard him speak a couple of times and he was always clear that the main point is to stop the fascists today. Frank Ryan, who regularly gets references at commemorative events (often without anyone mentioning he was IRA before he went out, as were many of the other Irish Brigadistas), would have agreed with Doyle, I’m sure.
TODAY FASCISM IS RISING IN THE SPANISH STATE – but then, it never went away.
In the very territory where what is usually called the Spanish Civil War and less frequently the Spanish War Against Fascism (and other things)1 took place, Spanish fascists are openly organising, marching, threatening right now. A few weeks ago they were commemorating the dictator General Franco and Primo Rivera, founder of the Spanish fascist organisation, La Falange. Earlier in November they were provoking Catalans by having a rally in Barcelona. A little earlier still, they were provoking Basques by rallying in Altsasu, the town from which Basque youth got jail sentences of up to thirteen years arising out of a late-night pub brawl with off-duty Spanish policemen who provocatively went into an independentist bar and in which the most serious injury (if it was an actual result) was a damaged police ankle.2
All that would be bad enough if it were not that the Spanish State is actively tolerating them. Throwing fascist salutes, flying the Spanish fascist flag and shouting fascist slogans are all illegal under Spanish law; but the fascists brazenly do all these things and they do not get arrested!.
Of course, fascism was never defeated in the Spanish state. Fascism won there. We can shout “No Pasarán” (‘they shall not pass), the slogan for the defence of Madrid3 as much as we like but sadly, eventually sí pasaron (‘they did pass’), despite the enormous sacrifices of Castillians, Asturians, Andalucians, Basques, Asturians, Catalans and other peoples there, despite the bright internationalist spirit of the International Brigaders from well over 60 nations and states. And the victorious fascists tortured, shot, raped, humiliated, confiscated and stole food, valuables, businesses, imprisoned and half-starved the vanquished. And exported prisoners and jews to Nazi concentration camps.
Then the fascist regime consolidated their power, converting the schools to places of instruction in fascist and religious indoctrination, re-imposed a patriarchal ideology and ‘morality’ on girls and women, repressed languages other than Castillian, banned all trade unions except the fascist one, beat up and shot strikers and demonstrators, tortured independentist activists, shot some dead …. All of this went on for 40 years under General Franco.
During the first decade of that fascist reign of terror in the Spanish state, Fascism at first trampled over western and eastern Europe, North Africa, Asia …. until the tide began to turn, first in Eastern Europe and then in Asia and at last the fascist powers were defeated. Fascist leaders faced popular vengeance and Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals, executions and prison sentences. The societies they had sprung from were subjected to anti-fascist education. A great many of the guilty escaped but some were hunted down in following years.
During World War II on the other hand, Spanish fascism gave material and intelligence aid to the German and Italian fascist states and cooperated in hunts for the “French” (i.e Basque, Asturian, Catalan, Occitan and some Spanish anti-Nazi resistance, the maquis or maquisards4along the French-Spanish Border. It also sent back to the Nazis escaped prisoners, Jews and downed Allied airmen.
After the War, nothing happened to Spanish fascism (except that it sheltered hundreds of Nazi war-criminals, either permanently or on their way to South America, often with Vatican help). Fascism continued unimpeded in the Spanish state until ETA assassinated Carerro Blanco, Franco’s nominated successor and Franco himself died5 two years later.
Under internal pressure from Opus Dei and externally by European powers and especially by the USA, it was decided to modernise and rebrand the State6. The social democratic PSOE and its affiliated trade union the UGT were legalised under conditions and so were the Communist Party of Spain and its union, the Comisiones Obreras7. The conditions were that these would control their supporters (hence the trade unions) while the Transition was being carried through with repression; although republicans all, they would agree to the reimposition of a monarchy; that they – God forbid! — not go hunting fascists if they ever got into government; that they support the inviolability of the Spanish state union. The PSOE and the CPE agreed to the conditions and delivered, the latter even swallowing the fascist murder of five of its trade union lawyer members and serious injury to another four during the Transition and the PSOE swallowing the attack on the offices of the CGT.
The Transition took place in an atmosphere of hope and fear, repression against resistance: the new Spanish unionist and monarchical constitution was voted in, with regional autonomy to placate subjugated historical nations within the state; the new King, Juan Carlos de Borbón was installed. Ten years later, the Spanish State was admitted to the European Union8. That same year, the new Spanish Government under the PSOE was conducting fascist-police-military assassination squads against left-wing Basque independence activists9.
But all throughout those years and still, the fascists kept their plundered wealth. The fascist clergy, judges, civil servants, police, military and media all kept their positions and wealth. They just had to open up their ranks a little to let in the climbing social democrats and “communists”. Not one fascist was tried for any of the crimes carried out during the “Civil War” or during the Franco regime afterwards.
WHY THE FASCISTS ARE COMING BACK (but then, they never went away)
Two things are exercising the Spanish fascists at the moment. First among these is the long struggle of the Spanish State to hold on to its forced union of the nations and regions conquered by monarchs of the Royal Houses of Spain and by fascist dictators, then maintained by both the mainstream constitutional political parties, the PP an the PSOE.
As a combination of factors combined with State repression to halt and disintegrate the southern Basque march towards independence, Catalonia took up its own struggle10. The independence movement there, which has left, right and centre elements but at base is popular and democratic and with wide support, has been steadily advancing. At institutional level, the ‘autonomous’ Catalan Government is a coalition of pro-independence forces (but with a numerous, strong, right-wing and Spanish-unionist opposition) and the majority of town councils have pro-independence majorities and Town Mayors. At grassroots level, the cultural organisation Omnium and especially the ANC (National Catalan Assembly) have organised massive independence demonstrations, a referendum on independence (disrupted with violence by the Spanish police11) and a protest General Strike. Some of the movement’s social and political leaders are in jail (four on hunger strike as this is published) and about to go on trial for their activism.
The union of the Spanish state is an article of faith for the Spanish fascists and reflected in the Spanish fascist slogan of España, Una, Grande y Libre!12 The “Una” is the forced unity, the denial of independence to the Basques and Catalans (or any others who might consider going for it).
But it is not only an article of faith for the fascists in the Spanish state, it also the case with regard to the Spanish ruling class. Catalonia and the southern Basque Country are two of the best-performing economic areas in the Spanish state and together account for a substantial part of the State’s exports and revenues, apart from land mass and extent of coast. Furthermore, the successful exit of these two regions would undoubtedly encourage similar plans among others, such as Valencia and the Balearic islands (which are also Catalan-speaking) and the Celtic nations of Galicia and Asturias. Uprisings might be the result in impoverished Andalucia and Extremadura …. None of that is a scenario which the Spanish ruling class is inclined to even consider and it has its Constitution to depend on, with legal punishment for any secession without a majority vote in its Parliament and the ultimate guarantor in the Spanish Armed forces.
All this is bad enough but a substantial section of the Spanish Left is also against any secession from Spanish State territory. The PSOE of course (which also means the UGT), since it takes its turn as the government of the Spanish ruling class, is one opponent but also the Spanish Communist Party (and the Comisiones union), much of the Trotskyist-Communist alliance of Izquierda Unida (the inappropriately-named ‘United Left’) and the populist Podemos, to which it gave unclaimed birth. For those, the argument against secession is about “the unity of the working class”13. That the “unity of the working class” against Spanish unionism, capitalism, imperialism and fascism might be achievable by agreeing to the right of secession and supporting it, while building a united front against all that is reactionary in the state, does not seem to have occurred to them. Of course their issue might be in reality about control.
DIGGING UP THE PAST
The other issue exercising the fascists is the movement around the historical memory of the anti-fascist struggle and the effects of the 40 decades of Franco dictatorship.
Throughout the territory of the Spanish State, which currently includes the southern Basque and Catalan countries, there are graves of dead anti-fascists, usually unmarked and sometimes of many bodies together. The Catholic Church in most areas refused funeral services to the families of “los Rojos” (the Reds, i.e anyone who opposed the fascists) and the terror was such that often relatives were afraid for themselves and their children if they were too insistent with enquiries as to where their relative had been killed or buried. These burial sites are by roadsides, in quarries as well as in or near cemeteries and other places. Many of those were combatant and non-combatant prisoners who were executed, others fell in battle. Historical memory associations in different communities have been documenting the sites and trying to identify the occupants, an activity which fascists and some others consider as “causing divisions in society”.
In 2008 Judge Baltasar Garzón (since disbarred) ordered the opening up of 19 mass graves from that War14. Naive liberals and leftists (or perhaps those with very limited concerns) rushed to hail Garzón as a defender of democratic rights while ignoring his history as a judge presiding over repression of Basque independentists, including closure of newspapers and radio station, and prison sentences based on ‘confessions’ obtained through torture15. Despite Garzón’s repressive credentials there was an outcry from the Spanish right-wing and the exhumations were halted.
Also across the Spanish State’s territory there are plaques, monuments and street names dedicated to Franco and other fascist notables which in some areas have been the scene of protests. Most notable of all these sites is the mausoleum of General Franco and of Primo Rivera (founder of the fascist Falange), located within the Valle de los Caídos (‘Valley of the Fallen’). This monument, constructed in part by political prisoner labour,
“covers over 3,360 acres (13.6km2) of Mediterranean woodlands and granite boulders on the Sierra de Guadarrama hills, more than 3,000 feet (910m) above sea level and includes a basilica, a Benedictine abbey, a guest house, the Valley, and the Juanelos — four cylindrical monoliths dating from the 16th century. The most prominent feature of the monument is the towering 150-metre-high (500ft) cross erected over a granite outcrop 150 metres over the basilica esplanade and visible from over 20 miles (32km) away.” (Wikipedia).
The mausoleum, only 60 kilometres (just under 38 miles) from Madrid is the scene of many fascist ceremonies and demonstrations of adherence to the ideology of Franco and Rivera.
For all of these reasons, varying forces on the Spanish Left and other antifascists‘ spectrum have called for the removal of the cadavers of the two fascists to ordinary graves, the destruction of the mausoleums and the rededication of the whole area to the victims of fascism. When last in government, the PSOE committed itself to some of these objectives but did not carry them out. Now in government again, it has renewed that commitment which is another reason for Spanish fascist hysteria. The two main political parties of the constitutional Right (Partido Popular and Ciudadanos) combined with some smaller right-wing parties in abstaining from a recent Parliamentary motion “strongly condemning” the dictatorship and “any kind of exaltation” of the Franco regime. The motion was passed on 21st November 2918 with 97 votes of Spanish social democrats, Basque and Catalan independentists …. but there were 136 abstentions.
The Spanish Left has a serious difficulty in opposing fascism, committed as so much of the Left is to a central tenet of Spanish fascism, the current territorial integrity of the State. Also the Left in many other places besides the Spanish state is divided on how to respond to fascism in general; responses varying from replying with force by popular action to calling on the State to ban them, campaigning politically against them to generally ignoring their mobilisation.
Is it possible that some notion of preserving the ‘unity of the Left’ could be at the bottom of the silence about the growing fascism in the world and in particular within the Spanish state at some commemorative events?
THE WORTH OF COMMEMORATIONS
The Friends of the International Brigades and other associations of what is often described as “historical memory” have done very important work in recovering the history of resistance to fascism. Not only that but also in tying that history not just to the territory of the Spanish state where battles were fought by the International Brigades but to places where those Volunteers came from in Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland. That work helps the people of those areas to locate themselves within the continuum of history and to emulate the ideals of those Volunteers should they choose to do so. The narratives of the sacrifice made and risk taken by the Volunteers counter the capitalist ethos of greed and of self-preservation above all else and suggest an alternative.
Such commemorations and monuments, if they are to survive and if they are to have real practical meaning, must also serve as calls to action, to mobilise to stop the rise of Fascism and to drive it back. And to support those who are fighting fascism, here, in the Spanish state and elsewhere. If we are to shout No pasarán! let us mean:Ésta vez no pasarán – y nunca jamás! (‘This time they shall not pass – and never again!)
1Although there people of fascist mentality everywhere in the Spanish state, they were outnumbered in most places by anti-fascists and without the logistical and manpower assistance of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, fascism could not have succeeded. Therefore many argue that it was not a civil war but instead a coup, a military uprising though supported by fascists both native and foreign. In the southern Basque Country and probably in Catalonia, some view it as a military invasion rather than a civil war. In Nafarroa (Navarra), because of the reactionary Carlist movement there, it did take on the character of a civil war and the Carlists murdered 3,000 leftists and republicans – when the Falange got there, there was no-one left for them to kill.
2A debate in the EU on a ban in all its membership against fascist symbols took place in December 2012 but has not yet resulted in a decision. A Catalan independentis MEP contributed to the discussion https://www.greens-efa.eu/en/article/press/eu-wide-ban-on-nazi-and-fascist-symbols-and-slogans/ with perhaps a rather tongue-in-cheek declaration that the Spanish Government had no interest in fascist symbolism; the truth is more complicated than that (see WHY THE FASCISTS ARE COMING BACK and DIGGING UP THE PAST sections).
3This slogan is said to have been coined for the crucial antifascist defence of Madrid by Dolores Ibarruri, known as “La Passionara” because of text she wrote in her youth and later her speeches too. She was a Basque and a member of the CPE. The slogan has been repeated many times since in different parts of the world but in Cable Street in 1936 it became a reality when an alliance of forces, chiefly Jewish and Irish community with some local Communist leadership, stopped 20,000-30,000 of Mosley’s “Blackshirts” and their escort of 7.000 police, along with all the mounted police in London, from marching through a predominantly immigrant Jewish quarter.
4“Maquis” is “dense scrub vegetation consisting of hardy evergreen shrubs and small trees, characteristic of Mediterranean coastal regions” (Internet description) which is where the ‘French’ rural anti-fascist or anti-Nazi Occupation resistance fighters camped and hid. “Maquisards” was the word describing those Resistance fighters in French but “the Maquis” was erroneously later applied to the fighters and their organisation.
6The Spanish State was not a member of the European Union and there was concern in many quarters about admitting an unreconstructed fascist dictatorship into membership. However, under USA patronage, it had joined NATO in 1982 and US air bases were being built across the territory. Opus Dei is a Catholic association mostly of people from professional and upper-middle classes and, in Spain, with right-wing views but with a technocratic approach rather than ideological which pitched them against the fascist Falange in the “democratisation” of the Spanish State.
7Both the PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero de España) and the Unión General de Trabajadores had been illegal and persecuted under Franco, as had the more militant PCE (Partido Comunista de España) and the Commisiones Obreras trade union (in acronym in Castillian usually shown as CCOO). Those two trade unions are by far the most widespread in the Spanish state with the majority of members (except in the Basque Country and Galicia). The PSOE is one of the two mainstream political parties in the state, alternating with the right-wing Partido Popular.
8The Spanish State was admitted in 1986 but negotiations had been going on for some time.
9See GAL and BVE assassination squads operating in the Spanish and French states (1983-1987).
10Catalunya is an ‘autonomous’ region under the post-Franco Spanish Constitution, as are the two divisions of the southern Basque Country, Euskadi and Nafarroa (Navarre, Navarra). The Popular Front Government of the Spanish State had recognised the self-administering right of both Euskadi and Catalunya and they were important parts of the anti-fascist resistance; their autonomous status was revoked under the Franco dictatorship.
11On 1st October 2017, one of a number of Spanish police invasions of Catalunya last year.
13This argument has over the course of time been used by sections of social democrats, Communists, Trotskyist and Anarchists against liberation struggles in colonies and also in opposition to a boycott against South Africa or Palestine. The argument of class solidarity has been employed in a manner and in situations which have actually weakened the class struggle, bound the working class to their masters in common cause and also encouraged the growth of racism. As long ago as the mid-19th Century, Marx and Engels and others argued against this identification interest with the ruling class, encouraging the British workers in their own interest to support the Irish people in their liberation struggle against British colonialism.
Summary: Alarm is being expressed in a number of quarters, especially within the Spanish state’s territory, at the gains made by the hard right in the regional elections in the southern Spanish province of Andalucia. Held on 2nd December this year, a fairly new party, hard-right Vox won seats for the first time – 12 of them. Ciudadanos, another hard-right party which has been around longer, increased their share of the seats by twelve to 21. Should we be afraid? I think not …. we should certainly be alert – but for other reasons.
NB: This is not a deep analysis but rather a look at some of the circumstances in Andalusia in relation to those of the Spanish state as a whole and in the context of its history and current situation.
On 2nd December, elections were held in the Andalusian region, one of the 17 ‘autonomous communities’ of the Spanish state. At the time, the social-democratic PSOE controlled the regional government but only with the ‘confidence and supply’ support of the very right-wing party Ciudadanos; the latter withdrew their support and the PSOE called a snap election. The extremely right-wing (to use the most neutral description applicable) political party Vox for the first time had some electoral success and took 12 seats.
Vox is opposed to the right to choose abortion and also to equal same-sex marriage, proposing instead a different “civil union” for gay and lesbian couples. Like all the main Spanish political parties (and many smaller ones), Vox upholds the territorial integrity of the Spanish state but unlike most others opposes also the Statute of Autonomy which created regions with a degree of autonomy (which was part of the deal of ‘Transition’ from the Franco dictatorship, mainly to placate the nations within the state’s territory). The party is critical of multi-culturalism and immigration policies in general and regarding Islam in particular.
The election of those 12 Deputies has caused a wave of panic across many left-wing and democratic sectors across the Spanish state and one hears and reads comments that “this is the first time a party of the extreme right has gained seats in the Spanish state since the end of the Franco Dictatorship.” If that is true, it is so only in the perception of those commentators.
NOT ONLY FASCIST DEPUTIES HAVE BEEN ELECTED SINCE FRANCO BUT FASCIST GOVERNMENTS TOO
The fact is that fascism was never defeated in the Spanish state after the Popular Front Government was overthrown by Spanish military-fascist coup, aided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, in 1938. For four subsequent decades, there was a fascist dictatorship. After that, there was a fake “Transition”1 in which political groupings directly related to the dictatorship formed political parties and the first two governments (September 1975-July 1976) were of unashamed fascist background followed by two of the UCD (July 1976-December 1982), also of fascist background but wearing the veneer of being ‘centre-right’. One of UCD’s most important movers and shakers was Manuel Fraga, the director of murderous State repression of all antifascist, anti-monarchical and independentist resistance during the “Transition”, his slogan being “The streets are mine”.
The next Government was of the social-democratic PSOE, which swept the board, assisted by a panic about the restoration of a fascist dictatorship, aroused by a somewhat farcical very minor attempt at a military coup, the supporters of which entered the Parliament while it was in session and took it over for a while before they surrendered when it was clear they were out on their own.
The PSOE and its associated trade union, the UGT, had been illegal under Franco. The attempt to rebrand the Spanish State as a “democracy” required a bipartisan social democratic party and also a restraining hand on the illegal trade unions (i.e all that were not fascist). But legalising the PSOE and the UGT would be insufficient if the Communist Party of Spain and its allied trade union, the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) were left out in the cold, where they would certainly cause a lot of trouble. Both parties were anti-monarchist — would they agree to to monarchy being foisted on the public after more than four decades without one? Could they guarantee not to go after any fascists for crimes of torture and murder? Would they support a unionist constitution? Would they control their unions? They could, would and did, even putting up with the murder of union lawyers (PCE/CCOO) and bombing of the UGT headquarters during the ‘Transition’.
The PSOE was in government from December 1982 to May 1986, during which time it ran assassination and terror squads (GAL 1983-1987) against the Basque left-wing pro-independence movement with the aid of high-ranking Spanish military and police officers directing Spanish and foreign fascist mercenaries.
A number of scandals including the one about GAL helped push the social democrats out of government and next in was a new party of the ‘centre-right’. Well, a new name anyway: Partido Popular — its founder was “The-streets-are-mine” Manuel Fraga, leading a split from the UCD. The PP has been consistently alternating in government of the Spanish State with the PSOE ever since: 1996-2004; 2011-2018.
The PSOE got into government of the state again in 2004-2011 and is in once more at the moment, in a minority government, having unseated the PP on a vote of no confidence on a corruption scandal.
THE 2018 ELECTIONS IN ANDALUCIA
The first thing to note perhaps is that the total turnout was under 57% which indicates a high level of disenchantment with the electoral and political system. The PSOE had been in government there for thirty-six years, i.e since the incorporation of the regional government in 1982. What had it delivered for the people in those years? One need only look at the region’s place in the Spanish state’s economic tables – second from bottom.
The election results gave the the PSOE a drop of 7.4% in votes on their last performance and they lost 14 seats. However, with 33 seats they remain the party with the most deputies in the regional Government, with a seven-seat majority over their nearest rival, the Partido Popular and its 26 seats.
The other social-democratic party, a coalition around Podemos, also took a drop: 5.57% in votes and lost three seats.
The combined or total loss of seats to parties of social-democracy was 17 and the sum of their loss of votes was 12.61%.
As it happens, the right-wing Partido Popular also dropped votes and seats, -5.99% and seven respectively.
Ciudadanos, a newer party than the PP but just as hard right, benefitted with 12 additional seats and 8.99% increase in their votes. And then Vox took the remaining 12 seats from a previous zero on only a 10.51 % increase in their percentage of votes (they had stood before but got no deputies elected).
Where did the other votes go? Apart from the 1.8% invalid votes (exactly the percentage drop of voters on the last turnout, curiously), they were spread between 22 other parties or platforms, of which no less than 15 were totally new in elections. Some of those are right-wing but most, going by their titles, seem to represent a band varying from soft to hard Left to Independentist or regional.
In conclusion, the election results show no sudden far-right advance in reality but a newish party of the far right, competing with other far-right parties, took 22 seats it had not had before, while the social democrats, though losing votes, remain in government for the moment.
Some commentators, including many on the Left, have sought to ascribe the rise in the support for Vox as a reaction to insecurity around the fear of the secession of Catalonia from the Spanish state. This is bit rich from often the very commentators who have tried to portray the popular Catalan movement for independence as an elitist movement, motivated by selfishness to keep their wealth and not share it with poor regions like Andalusia.
So we can all relax, we needn’t worry? No, we DO need to worry but not so much for the reason of these election results. We need to worry because of the fascist nature and history of the Spanish ruling class and its State; because fascist groups are on the rise in the Spanish territory; because the Left has real problems in countering fascism and because fascism is on the rise in Europe in general.
The fact is that most of the Spanish Left, from social-democracy to ‘revolutionary’ socialists, are also totally committed to Spanish territorial integrity. That, and their reluctance to mobilise the masses to take decisive firm action against fascist mobilisations and provocations, makes it very hard for the Left to build a mass and effective anti-fascist movement.
The southernmost part of the Spanish state is where to find Andalucia, sharing a land strip with the Rock of Gibraltar; it is the most populous and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities in the state and its capital is Sevilla (Seville). It is the only European region with coastline on both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Parts of the province record the highest temperatures of the state but other parts see quite high rainfall.
The earliest known paintings of humanity have been found in the Caves of Nerja, Málaga.2.The region has been under Phoenician, then Carthagenian control, later under the Visigoths, followed by the Romans and even by the Eastern Roman Empire. For three-and-a-half centuries Andalusia became a Moorish domain from which comes the name (Al Andalus) the region bears today. It was an area of great culture and learning and Christians and Jews were tolerated and protected. The Spanish Christian conquest employed divisions among the Moors, conquered Al Andalus and eventually forced all Muslims and Jews to convert to Christianity or suffer expulsion, allowed only to take the clothes on their backs.
Andalucia in the early-to-mid 20th Century was ruled by a landed aristocracy in a semi-feudal relationship with the mainly rural working population. The region got an early visit from Franco’s military invasion in 1936 and, although there was little armed resistance apart from Malaga and that ill-equipped, an estimated 55,000 were killed deliberately, in executions of thousands of workers and activists of the leftist parties during Franco’s repression.3
The region is characterised by a variety of climatic conditions and topography, inhabited by a great biodiversity of flora and fauna, although some of the latter are quite threatened, such as the Iberian Wolf, Iberian Lynx and the Ibex.
Agriculture and husbandry have traditionally been the main products, with olives, citrus fruits, stone fruits, nuts, alongside some other produce in lower percentages; there is also a depleted but active fishing industry. Andalucia is the single largest producer of olive oil with about 40% of the world market. “One-third of Andalucía’s agricultural land is planted with olive trees, and sales of Andalucian olive oil grew a staggering 56 per cent between 2011 and 2015, to a million tonnes, worth 2,000 million euros. Nearly 500 companies export their olive oil from Andalucía, with Britain the fifth-largest market at nearly 100 million euros.
“Another world-renowned product from Andalucía which is exported all over the world is jamón ibérico de bellota, gourmet air-cured ham made from Iberian acorn-fed pigs, nothing less than a religion for Andalucians, while sustainably-caught bluefin tuna caught off the coast is frozen and sent to Japan to be served as delectably tender sushi.
“In total, one-fifth of all Spanish food and drink exports originate in Andalucía, where the number one area is fruit and vegetables – and tomatoes are the top product”.4
What cause would people in that province have for dissatisfaction that right-wing parties could then exploit? Well, there are no shortage of reasons.
Andalucia is the second-poorest administrative region in the Spanish state. Although unemployment has taken nearly a 4% drop over the previous year, it still stands at an average of 24.4%. Averages conceal other realities and though average male unemployment is almost 3% lower, the female average share is higher than the average by 3.5%. As they age profile drops below twenty-five, the unemployment figures soar to almost 50%.
Table unemployment statistics in Andalucia
Unemployment rate (LFS)
Male unemployment rate (LFS)
Female unemployment rate (LFS)
Unemployment rate less than 25 years
Unemployment male less than 25 years
Unemployment rate female less than 25 years
Unemployed rate over 24 years
Male unemployment rate over 24 years
Female unemployment rate over 24 years
Unemployment rate less than 20 years
Male unemployment rate less than 20 years
Female unemployment rate less than 20 years
(Source: see link for “Unemployment statistics Andalucia)
The situation then in Andalusia may be characterised as one where about every fourth person is unemployed as is every second one under the age of twenty-five. Where paid employment is hard to find, wages are likely to be low, trade union victories harder to achieve and conditions therefore far from the optimum obtainable from the system.
“Between 2000–2006 economic growth per annum was 3.72%, one of the highest in the country. Still, according to the Spanish Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE), the GDP per capita of Andalusia (€17,401; 2006) remains the second lowest in Spain, with only Extremadura lagging behind.” (Wiki)
Traditionally a region known for agriculture and husbandry, these sectors are now the lowest contributors to GDP in Andalusia. Construction for the tourist industry siphoned off many workers but the collapse of the construction boom left most of those workers with nowhere to go, much of their old agricultural employment mechanised or replaced with migrant labour. Despite agriculture’s very low position in GDP, 45.74 percent of the Andalusian territory is cultivated. That does not mean that those areas are efficiently5 cultivated however and one of the activities for which one Andalusian trade union movement6 has become known is the occupation of agricultural land which is not being adequately or at all maintained, due to absentee owners or land held by banks but not in production.
“The large landowner past of Andalusia has not changed substantially although the banks and some companies now own much of what belonged to semi-feudal aristocrats. “The agrarian census of 1982 found that 50.9 percent of the country’s farmland was held in properties of 200 or more hectares, although farms of this size made up only 1.1 percent of the country’s 2.3 million farms. At the other end of the scale, the census showed that 61.8 percent of Spain’s farms had fewer than 5 hectares of land. These farms accounted for 5.2 percent of the country’s farmland.”7
In May of this year the trade union SAT (Andalusian Union of Workers) published a denunciation of a new Land Law proposed by the PSOE in which they also pointed to some structural problems and their impact on the working people of the region8.
“The most recent act of savagery is the new Land Law that they (PSOE) intend to approve, to finish hanging any dream of Agrarian Reform for our working people of Andalusia. Andalusia is not understood without the struggle for land, and this is more recent than it seems, much more real and topical than we would like.
“The concentration of land ownership is a problem that annihilates our people, currently in Andalusia, 2% of the owners have more than 50% of the arable land, and the worst is that this figure is increasing.
“If we go to Jaén, this figure is even more scandalous, because 4% have 66%, and much of it without giving a job, as is the case of Cortijo del Aguardentero, our Cerro Libertad, one of more than 150 farms, the majority underutilized by the BBVA9 in the Jaén de Piedras Lunares and Olivares de Miguel Hernández areas.
“These figures contrast with the alarming fact that in Andalusia every three days a worker dies, or that more than 60% of Andalusian employees earn less than € 1,000 per month. Also alarming are the number of marginalizations, risk of poverty and lack of school resources, all at more than 40%.
“There are laws that can put an end to all this, but there is no political will in a government that is more a plug-in factory than a socialist party, which only seeks to perpetuate itself in power, being supporters of corrupt banks, all at the cost of death of our land.
“There are alternatives:
1 ° Repeal of this Land Law proposal.
2 ° Implementation of Law 8/1984 of Agrarian Reform of the Statute of Autonomy of the Junta de Andalucía on farms that can be clearly improved.
3 ° The land has to fulfill a social function, for the human and sustainable development of Andalusia.
4th Comprehensive Agrarian Reform, which allows the Usufruct and Land work in Andalusia. Work in the labor force, in the sowing and harvesting, in the primary sector. We do not want property, which must be of a public entity, we want to work and live in peace.
5th Creation of productive, industrial and agro-sustainable Andalusian fabric, generating employment in the transformation and packaging of the product collected.
6 ° Domestic consumption and export of the sown, harvested and agro-transformed product, giving employment and work in the tertiary sector, services.
“This would suppose a Revolution of our earth, a valorization of what we were, of what we are and what we want to be: A FREE PEOPLE WITH FREE PEOPLE.
“This is possible, but political will is needed, and for that, and more importantly, we need the human will to mobilize, as we are defending with our sweat and our lives El Humoso in Marinaleda, Somonte in Córdoba and Cerro Libertad in Jaén10.
“Challenge to the Andalusian society to face with arguments and mobilization the nonsense and unreason of the government of the PSOE of the Junta de Andalucía.
“We announce mobilizations this summer for this, and we call for you to join.
“Andalusians and Andalusians, get up, ask for land and freedom.”
And then, on top of capitalist exploitation and mismanagement, there is corruption. “A recent probe revealed the extent to which PSOE officials exploited their power in the region of Andalusia, where the party has governed without interruption since the return to democracy. Two former regional presidents, Manuel Chaves and José Antonio Griñán, are currently on trial for their alleged part in a scam that included fraudulent early retirement packages, company subsidies and commissions handed out to the tune of €136 million”.11
A recent corruption table based on individual cases puts Andalucia way over all other regions and the PSOE in about 25% of the corruption cases by party (see References for the link to the report).
There was no huge swing to the hard right although considering how the social-democrats had abused the votes the people gave them, it would not have surprising if there had been (and there still might be).
Despite their appalling record, the PSOE got 33 seats, the party with the most in the regional Government. That is worth thinking about – despite the crap the working people of Andalusia have had to put up with from the PSOE, they still gave most of their votes to the social democrats. Since this cannot logically — on the performance of the party for the people – be as a result of great affection for thePSOE, it seems likely to indicate at least a dislike or fear of the right-wing parties.
What actually happened is that in a regional election in an impoverished region, on a low turnout and with many candidates; within a state where fascism was never overthrown, with huge legal and illegal repression, with the Partido Popular — a part of the Franco heritage — regularly in government and other right-wing parties snapping at its heels, where social democracy and the established communist party colluded most shamefully with fascism and an imposed monarchy, where the history of the Anti-Fascist War is not taught: a new version of the bedrock Right in Spanish politics won seats in a regional government which it had never won before.
That is what happened. But that is far from being the first time the hard Right won seats in the Spanish state – it has done so regularly in all elections outside parts of the Basque and Catalan countries and has regularly been in government.
Those on the Left who are now wailing about Vox’s success have been and are upholding the myth of Spanish democratic politics since the Transition. They are colluding in the decades of suppression of the Basque and Catalan national movements and the propaganda against them. And many of them have marched with the Right – including fascists – in demonstrations in support of permanent Spanish union, against ‘terrorism’, etc.
Those on the Right who are complaining about Vox are being disingenuous too: they marched with Vox and other fascists for a ‘stronger Spain’ and against the independence of the nations; they saw the fascist salutes and emblems and heard the fascist slogans (whether they joined in with those or not). They were happy to have Vox take out prosecutions against Catalan independence activists and politicians.
NEVERTHELESS, WE SHOULD BE WORRIED. Because generally throughout the Spanish state, the fascists are mobilising on the streets. The fascists are particularly worried by the independentist movements in Catalonia and in the southern Basque Country as well as by proposals to demolish the shrine to Franco and Riveras12 and to remove their remains to a common graveyard. The fascists have strong links with the Spanish police and armed forces and the latter have shown themselves particularly tolerant of the behaviour of fascists on the streets. And in preparation for the repression of the working class in economically austere times to come, fascists have been mobilising throughout Europe with state laws and procedures becoming more repressive. Migrants are being targeted both for extra exploitation and for attack by word and action. We need to do more than worry – we need to mobilise and find ways to unite in effective action.
1All the fascist police commanders, senior armed forces officers, judiciary, lawyers, clergy, senior civil service administrators and academics retained their positions. All the business men and media barons continued and kept whatever plunder they had managed to appropriate during the war and after.
3Executions: “ …. in the city of Cordoba 4,000;in the city of Granada 5,000;in the city of Seville 3,028;and in the city of Huelva 2,000 killed and 2,500 disappeared. The city of Málaga, occupied by the Nationalists in February 1937 following the Battle of Málaga experienced one of the harshest repressions following Francoist victory with an estimated total of 17,000 people summarily executed” (Wiki).
5To be confused with “intensively” which usually implies large-scale monoculture, chemical fertilizers and chemical sprays of fungicides, pesticides and insecticides, along with very advanced mechanisation.
6Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores (SAT, ‘Andalusian Union of Workers).
12Valle de los Caídos, a park built in part by political prisoner labour, containing a mausoleum for Franco and Rivera’s remains, a site of frequent fascist demonstrations in homage to the memory of both men.
A mixed audience of anti-fascists were entertained on 23rd November by a range of artists from the Irish trad-folk scene and a Spanish band performing to commemorate on its 80th anniversary the return of the Irish survivors of the International Brigades to Ireland. The event, “The Return of the Connolly Column” was organised by the Friends of the International Brigades in Ireland (FIBI) and the venue, the Workman’s Club on Wellington Quay of the Dublin City Centre, was packed.
The event began with Dougie Dalby introducing Harry Owens, a Spanish Civil War historian and founder member of the FIBI. Owens gave a speech, recalling how the social-democratic PSOE Government in the Spanish State in the 1980s had not wished to support the marking and conservation of graves of International Brigaders who had fallen in battle but had been convinced to do so by Edward Heath, British Prime Minister and by the leader of the Irish Labour Party at the time, Dick Spring. FIBI had become part of that commemoration effort in visiting some of the sites but also in erecting monuments and plaques in various parts of Ireland.
Colm Morgan from Co. Louth followed, with guitar and voice, with some of his own compositions, including one about Frank Ryan – excellent material in my opinion – to be followed by Mick Hanley (guitar and voice again) accompanied by Donal Lunny. Hanley and Lunny have history, of course, not least in that great band of the past, Moving Hearts; both belong to that honourable class of Irish musicians who have not been afraid to support progressive causes including some in their own country – and who have never performed for “any English King or Queen”.
Lunny accompanied various artists at different times during the evening, sometimes on keyboard and sometimes with guitar, as well as adding vocals once also. After his pairing with Hanley, he accompanied Tony Sweeney’s excellent lively accordion-playing which drew more than one whoop from the audience. All however quietened down for Justin McCarthy reading “The Tolerance of Crows” by Charlie Donnelly, Irish poet, member of Republican Congress and Field Commander of a unit of the International Brigades and who fell at the Battle of Jarama on 27th February 1937.
After the break excellent singer Muireann Ní Amhlaoibh sang (accompanied by Lunny) and her rendition of Sliabh Geal gCua na Féile, a song composed by an Irish emigrant working in a Welsh coalmine in the late 19th Century, was particularly beautiful. It is a lament for home and language by Pádraig Ó Míléadha, from the Déise (‘Deci’) area of Wateford.
John Faulkner, virtuoso composer and singer-songwriter, raised in London of Irish background and for many years a resident of Kinvara, Co. Galway (but almost Co.Clare) accompanied himself singing a number of songs, including Patrick Galvin’s great composition Where Oh Where Is Our James Connolly? He performed an anti-war song by Eric Bogle also, All the Fine Young Men, which he introduced saying that some wars need to be fought.
Andy Irvine took the stage second-to-last of the acts for the evening, another London import to Ireland for which Irish folk and traditional music is very grateful, a composer, singer-songwriter and player of a number of instruments, accompanied once again by Lunny, who shares a history with him in Moving Hearts and Planxty. Irvine performed a number of songs, including Woody Guthrie’s All You Fascists Bound to Lose which, though not very creative in lyrics has a chorus with which the audience joined enthusiastically.
Last on for the evening was Edinburgh-based Gallo Rojo1, anti-fascist musical collective, opening with a reading in the original Castillian of La Pasionara’s farewell speech to the International Brigaders at their demobilisation parade in Barcelona (see Links). It seemed to me that this would have worked better for an Irish audience with a simultaneous or interspersed reading in English but it received strong applause from the audience. This was followed by Ay Carmela!, then Lorca’s Anda Jaleo! I had to leave after that but I could hear the band starting on Bella Ciao, the song of Italian anti-fascist resistance of the 1940s but based on an older song of oppressed women agricultural workers.
It did occur to me at that point that among all the great material of the evening, I had heard no song to represent the International Brigaders of nations other than Ireland which is often the case at such events. More unusually, no reference I could recall was made to growing fascism in Europe and especially in the Spanish State (it never went away there), nor to antifascists facing trial arising out of mobilisation against the attempted Dublin launch of the fascist organisation Pegida in February 2012.
Immediately outside the concert hall, the bar area held a large number of people, perhaps as many as a quarter again of the audience inside. The performances inside were being conveyed by electronic speakers to them too but I am unsure how many were listening. There was a FIBI stall there too selling antifascist material.
Overall, the audience appeared to be mostly Irish with some foreign nationals and from a broad range of political backgrounds: Communist Party of Ireland, Sinn Féin, Anarchists and independent supporters and activists of mainly socialist and/or Republican ideology.
I am informed that FIBI are currently finalising the editing of a video of the concert and this will be available as soon as possible.
1. THE INTERNATIONAL BRIGADES
The International Brigades were raised through Communist parties around the world to assist in the defence of the republican Popular Front Government of the Spanish State against a military coup with Spanish fascist (and Basque Carlist) support, aided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Brigades consisted of volunteers from at least 65 nations2 and included Jews from a number. Early Irish volunteers enlisted chiefly in units of British and USA organisation but were present in groups from Australia and Canada too but later some made their way directly from Ireland; later too some of the Irish came to be known as the Connolly Column. The English-speaking units and some others were formed3 into the 15th International Brigade (originally the Fifth, but when added to the ten indigenous brigades of the Spanish Republic – Spanish, Catalan and Basque – became the Fifteenth). Not all foreign anti-fascist volunteers enlisted through the International Brigades, some joined Anarchist or Trotkyist militias4 and at least one, an Irishman, joined a Basque unit.
The Republican Government of the Spanish state disbanded the International Brigades on 23rd September 1938 in an unsuccessful bid to have the non-fascist European powers5 pressure their German and Italian fascist counterparts to withdraw their logistics, soldiers and airforce support from the Spanish military-fascist forces. By that time many of the “Brigadistas” were dead or captured as they had borne some of the heaviest prolonged fighting at Madrid (1936); Jarama, Brunete and Belchite (all 1937); Fuentes del Ebro and the Ebro itself (1938).
Their formal demobilisation parade with their auxiliary recruits (including women) was held in Barcelona on 28th October, where they received the famous oration from the Basque Dolores Ibárruri, “La Pasionara”, prominent anti-fascist and activist of the Communist Party of Spain (see Links). It is notable that she addressed her oration to “communists, socialists, republicans, anarchists” as not only communists fought and died in the ranks of the Brigadistas.
2. A DIFFERENT IRELAND
The Irish Brigadistas returning to Ireland found a society very different from that of today. Anti-communist hysteria was prevalent, whipped up in particular by the Catholic Church and supported in particular – but not exclusively – by Fine Gael (which formed in part from Blueshirts6). The Fianna Fáil Government was not fascist but was of the Irish capitalist class relying heavily on Catholic Church support and so contributed to anti-communism; all of the main media was anti-communist and finally the IRA, as well as having forbidden any of its Volunteers to fight for any other cause than Ireland’s, had expelled communists from the IRA in 1934. As with the time of repression of Republicans by the Free State, the USA seemed a good option for some of the Irish Brigadistas (some had enlisted there anyway) but there too, many antifascist war veterans found themselves subject to anti-communist hysteria and even later, when the USA was fighting fascist powers, labelled as “premature antifascists”!
Today here in Ireland the general attitude is one of respect or even pride in that part of our history, when Irish Volunteers went abroad to fight in defence of democracy and socialism against fascism7. The best-known song to date about the Irish Brigadistas is undoubtedly Viva La Quinze Brigada8 by Ireland’s best-known folk singer-songwriter, Christy Moore. Published accounts by Irish participants include The Connolly Column byMichael O’Riordan (1979) and Brigadista (2006) by Bob Doyle. Moore’s song is very popular in Ireland (and among the Irish diaspora in Britain) and a plaque listing some of the Irish martyrs is fixed to the wall by the entrance to the Theatre building of the major Irish trade union, SIPTU.
Michael O’Riordan survived the War and was prominent in the Communist Party of Ireland, dying in Dublin in 1983. Bob Doyle was the last surviving known Brigadista from Ireland; on 22nd January 2009 he died in England, where he had been living and had raised a family. On February 14th that year his ashes were carried by relatives and admirers in a march from the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin city centre to Liberty Hall, where a reception was held. An optimistic photographer with the byline of “anarchaeologist” reported the following day in Indymedia: “…. in a display of left unity and solidarity we will doubtless see more of on the streets of Dublin over the coming months ….. Groups attending the celebration included the main unions, Éirigí, the WSM, the IRSP and Dublin Sinn Féin. Banners were also carried by the International Brigades Memorial Trust and the Inistiogue George Brown Memorial Committee. Supporters of the Dublin branch of the Irish Basque Solidarity Campaign demonstrating outside the GPO dipped their flags as a mark of respect as the crowd passed by”. The DIBSC actually wheeled in behind the march as the tail end passed, though the reporter seems not to have noticed that.9
FRIENDS OF THE INTERNATIONAL BRIGADES IN IRELAND
“The aim of the concert was to honour the enduring legacy of the 15th International Brigade and its ongoing contribution in the war against fascism”, a spokesperson for FIBI said in a statement. “As such, it was both a commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the disbandment of the Brigade and the subsequent return of the survivors to Ireland but it was also a celebration of their spirit in choosing to sacrifice everything for working-class principles.”
FIBI is an entirely voluntary organisation but does incur costs in erecting memorials, research, promotion etc. “This concert was designed to raise a modest amount to ensure the continuation of this work without having to resort to piecemeal fundraising over the next year or two. We are delighted to say we met our twin objectives of hosting a fitting occasion to coincide with the 80th anniversary of what became known as The Connolly Column and raising funds to help us continue with our efforts to ensure those who went are never forgotten.”
With its work of commemoration ceremonies and erection of plaques and monuments around the country, a work which not only reminds us of the Irish contribution in general but also links it to specific individuals from specific areas, the Friends of the International Brigades in Ireland has been deepening the wider attitude of respect for the International Brigades and pride in the Irish volunteers which has been growing steadily.
Hopefully all of this will combine with and inform any action necessary to halt the rise of fascism throughout the world and of course to prevent it taking hold in Ireland.
3 The Balkan Dimitrov Battalion and the Franco-Belgian Sixth February Battallion.
4George Orwell, who wrote Homage to Catalonia, probably the most famous English-language account of the war by a participant, enlisted in the militia of the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unifacción Marxista), a coalition of Trotskyis organisations (but whose alliance with the Right Opposition was renounced by Trotsky himself). The much larger anarcho-syndicalist trade union and movement Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), closely associated with the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI), also had militias, of which the Durruti Collumn was the largest and is the best known today. Some foreigners also enlisted in those militias.
5These powers, such as France and the UK, were following an allegedly “non-interventionist” policy but effectively forming part of the blockade preventing the Republican Government from receiving aid. Later the governments of those two states in particular tried a policy of appeasement of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy which was unsuccessful (except in encouraging further aggression) and they ended up going to war.
6Former IRA leader Eoin O’Duffy had, with Irish Catholic Church endorsement, recruited many more Irishmen to fight alongside the Spanish military-fascist forces but they acquired a reputation for ill-discipline and in one of their only two brief military engagement mistakenly fired on fascists; they went home in disgrace in late June 1937 (a year before the International Brigades were demobilised and the surviving, non-prisoner Irish were able to return home.
7Republicans and Communists had fought the fascist Blueshirts in Ireland too and the significant contribution of participants from the Irish diaspora to the famous antifascist victory of the Battle of Cable Street (and following guerrilla attacks on fascists at Hyde Park) in London has more recently been recognised (though not yet on the main relevant Wikipedia entry).
8Originally written as Viva La Quinta Brigada (i.e “the Fifth”); however that is the name of a song in Castillian contemporary with the War and later versions of Moore’s song include a line acclaiming “the Fifteenth International Brigade” which would be “la Decimiquinta” which has three syllables too many and so “Quinze”, i.e ‘Fifteen’.
9The DIBSC had already scheduled and advertised a picket to take place on the same day in Dublin’s main street, protesting against Spanish State repression of the Basque independence movement and treatment of prisoners. Upon learning of the planned march to honour Bob Doyle’s memory, I suggested holding our Basque solidarity event earlier, lowering the flags in respect when the march approached and then following it as the tail end passed us. I was unsure of what the reaction of Doyle’s relatives and supporters might be but as soon as those at the front saw what we were doing, a number of them raised clenched fists. It was an emotional moment for me, certainly.
(Written in London as the death of Bobby Sands was imminent or had just occurred, after the author had attended pickets and demonstrations in solidarity with the hunger strikers in attempt to avert their deaths by pressurising the British Government to accede to their just demands. Bobby Sands died on 5th May 1981, to be followed by nine others in the weeks and months that followed. The struggle was one for the human dignity of Irish Republican political prisoners of Britain in the Six Counties British colony).