Red, Yellow…And Franco Purple: There Will Be Blood in Spain Says Spanish Colonel
Orders across the world are defined by their old fascist or communist proclivities. After fascist periods in Europe, for example, many of the countries (Germany included) appointed individuals from the old, fascist guards. Germany appointed Nazis because it was practical, and Spain appointed fascists because “silence” regarding the bloody period was institutionalized. These old orders still weigh on today, and as antagonisms increase the world over, a major question must be addressed: Will the old fascists, who are really the old fascists, react with violence as they did before. A colonel in Spain says “yes.”
In shocking disregard to the value of human life – especially that of Spain’s own soldiers and citizens – Col. Francisco Alaman responded to the 1.5 million person demonstration in Barcelona last month of Catalan calls for independence for Catalonia by saying: “Independence for Catalonia? Over my dead body…and those of many soldiers.” That’s right, in the 21st century, no plebiscites, just war. But, as the second richest region in Spain, with a GDP of 220 billion euros a year, Spain might have to take the independence movement seriously.
Denying Catalonia independence runs throughout Spanish politics, not just on the right but also on the center left. Throughout a week when thousands of protesters surrounded parliament, he told the website Alerta Digital that “the current situation is very similar to 1936, but without blood. Unfortunately, the data indicate that the situation will only get worse in the coming months and years,” seemingly resigned to the fact that he and his troops will be called upon to spill the blood of Spanish citizens in the near future.
On the heels of General Franco’s rule, in the early years of Spanish democracy, forgetting about the Civil War (1936-1939), a ‘pact of silence’ fell over the nation, forced upon the nation by political players. The historiography always loves to explain such “silences” in the aftermath of staggering bloodletting – like the Holocaust for General Franco’s rule – the truth is talking and therapy are always the best ways to deal with trauma, not only at the personal level, but also at the collective level.
The ‘pact of silence’ after the fall of General Franco, according to BBC, “was seen as a price worth paying for rapid, peaceful transition to a functioning democracy.” Demonstrating the forceful nature of the silence, it was codified into law via the 1977 Amnesty Law which provided immunity to those suspected of crimes against humanity during the Franco era and Civil War.
Today, Spain is opposing EU-led austerity measures, and its riot police are dispensing blows and rubber bullets against demonstrators, passer-bys, as the old traumas begin to resurface. The Spanish people are being forced to confront suppressed historical memory in ways that the entrenched political powers of the nation never allowed the people to do. The austerity and protests represent an old clash in the nation between liberal modernity and religious, monarchic hierarchy. These two cultures within Spain – comparable to the “southern” and “liberal” cultures in the US or intelligentsia Russia versus peasant Russia – are once again butting heads, in a very real and dangerous way.
A culture war is breaking out the world over, and Spain’s has picked up in recent weeks, causing the nation to confront its darker histories. Hitherto, this culture war has been suppressed by the opulence, and this dynamic played out also in Spain. The booming-economy, globalization, liberalization and investment in infrastructure allowed the two antagonistic cultures to co-exist.
But the culture war had seemed suppressed by wealth: the booming economy, the rapid liberalisation of society, and the massive investment in modern infrastructure allowed them to co-exist. For the thirty years after Franco’s reign, Span enjoyed a modernized economy that was linked to the European core by its single currency and the Schengen agreement. The nation also enjoyed its links to the rapidly expanding economies in Latin America.
As the world economy has flailed in depression, austerity plans were launched in certain nations, and Spain was one of them, right alongside Greece. People have moved in with their parents, shared cars and, in small towns and villages, bartering cropped up. But, now the two Spain’s have become antagonistic and vitriolic forces.
Political and economic crisis is heightening. In Spain, accute class division, regionalized politics, street violence, civil disobedience and rampant corruption are weighing on Spain’s political system. Migrants’ rights to free health care have been removed, as sights of uniformed firefighters clashing with riot cops, helmet to helmet, signal a deep social crisis. References to the bloody Civil War have become more common, possibly creating a feedback loop that in the future will lead to carnage.
One week ago, the Catalan government called elections. The ruling party – the Convergence and Union party – has a strong minority desiring independence, although this could be achieved slowly by moving towards fiscal autonomy. The far left, a smaller contingent, also supports independence of Catalonia. The elections came after the 1.5 million Catalan march, with many calling for the region to become a new country within the European Union.
Madrid does not have the patience right now to deal with an independence movement, and tempers are running short. Colonel Alaman wishes defends “the non-negotiable principle of Spain’s unity…even with our lives.” But, the Catalan parliament recently voted for an independence referendum. The Association of retired military personnel in Spain, the AME, has called for “any flicker of secession to be suppressed”: those who call for independence “will have to respond with all rigor to the grave accusation of high treason under the jurisdiction of military tribunals.
Madrid does not have just Catalonia to contend with as, from all over the nation, outrage from economic injustice creates tension. the Spanish youth, who were thought to be apathetic, demonstrated in the streets in May 2011 in a protest that hinted at the coming Occupy movement. The banks are bankrupt, taking bailouts, and Mariano Rajoy’s government has committed to 90 billion in cuts over the next two years. This will cause the economy to shrink, conservatively by 1.5%, sending the nation into unquestioning depression.
The poor in Spain are being driven into staggering poverty. Public sector workers, all wage earners are suffering under austerity measures. Pensions will go next. The unrest in Spain is weight on investors minds. The sovereign debt crisis is a crisis in-and-of itself, but mix in the political risk from violent unrest, and the markets are shaking. ”These are risks we’re used to pricing in the emerging world,” bond analyst Nicolas Spiro said, “but not in the developed world.”
There are many parallels historically between Greece and Spain. Greece had a Civil War, but it took place a decade after the Civil War in Spain. Although the Greek civil war was violent – and had US intelligence and military involvement crawling all over it – and took place as a product of an incipience Cold War. In Greece today, the Civil War is spoken about.
It appears that, also, both Spain and Greece will be dipped in the acid of restructuring together.
Greeks responded to their Civil War much differently than did Spain. Instead of moving on and forgetting the trauma and what each other were capable, the Greeks overthrew the colonels regime in 1974 and held a “Greek Nuremberg” for the deposed officers. Greeks then are able to understand more completely and together that historical episode. Spain is a different story.
In the Spanish Civil War, the people of Spain were taken on a ride via a fascist coup, and democratic countries around the country worried more about communism. The British navy did nothing as Franco’s navy sank British merchant ships, while Hitler’s Condor Legion bombed Guernica. Spain’s neutrality in World War II meant Franco was tolerated in the post-war order. A managed by the top transition to democracy meant that war criminals – perpetrators of gruesome torture, massacre, etc. – did not face any “Spanish Nuremberg.”
Today, there is no official record of the atrocities during the fascist period. That’s because the elite under the fascist order created the new order and made up both sides of the political spectrum. That is the heart of the corruption that, as right wing daily ABC said two years ago “is drowning Spain.”
The corruption was institutionalized by the old rulers under the fascist regime, and it is today defined by an outright nepotism in business, and foreign business people note an unofficial regulatory bias in favor of Spanish-owned large companies. Resources in the nation have been mismanaged, which has led to overspending and incompetent planning that has left Spanish regions with tends of thousands of unsellable homes, and local banks driven to insolvency because of it.
The bailout of 60 billion euros that is now underway will not patch any holes. Spain might not be rioting like Greece or collapsing politically, but the aforementioned antagonisms between Madrid and Catalonia have led to hints of domestic military intervention.
Spain also has a long-standing cultural and political tendency for movements to ignore official power structures and set up alternatives. The Greek left is community, and always has been thus hierarchical and attitudinized by Marxism. But, in Spain, radical movements are shaped by anarchism and anti-clericalism.
Spain is different than Greece, insofar as it is a major global economy. Its survival as a federal state is under threat from a population with tendencies towards anarchism. Whereas in Greece politicians admit to wrongdoing, but continue to tow-the-troika, politicians in Spain are stubborn, maintaining that “everything is alright” in Spain. This despite their citizens maintaining that the European Union is a “Fourth Reich.”
And things are heating up. The crunch point is this: five years after the property bust, a year after further depressionary spirals, the Spanish economy is about to be hit by almighty austerity from those on top.
Clashes in Spain are surely going to continue, as the Colonel suggested. The economy will get worse, overstepping international authorities will become more power hungry, the social divisions will increase and destitution will dot the land. Fascist tendencies will harden as corporate oligarchs grow more desperate to maintain their power. The Spanish people have a historical advantage than most nations, as their anarchistic spontaneity and willingness to simply setup another system appear to be the most effective measures at undermining entrenched, stubborn and elitist power structures.
For, taking on any state in the world today, in a meaningful manner, is akin to a death sentence.