by Stefanie Claudia Müller

Spain is different.

It is a slogan of Franco’s tourism minister and it is somehow still valid for other parts of the society and economy. The country continues to have trouble to cope with its past of a bloody civil war that ended in 40 years of dictatorship which many Spaniards evaluate today as a soft version of totalitarianism. After all these years the country remains divided. They did not talk about it for a long time, between “rojos” and “azules”, the “frente popular” and the “frente nacional”. Part of the society sympathizes with the 1975 late dictator with the national movement Falange and the ideas of a somehow “bigger” Spain. They deny a resistance and believe that the transition to the democracy is a merit of Franco and not of the people that fought for it like Manuela Carmena, the former mayor of Madrid. In the current documentary “La defensa, por la libertad” about her work and that of many women lawyers whom defended labor and women rights in the last year of the dictatorship.

Franco still is a hero for some Spaniards

While in Germany it is forbidden to worship Hitler, to use his signs in public or to sing the first part of the hymn which was abused by the Nazis in Spain Franco is buried in a monument for the victims of the Civil War (el Valle de los Caídos). All this is not right feels Spain left-wing segment and wants to change for once the destiny of the country to a real democracy that is not just given by Franco. Although parties like Podemos, PSOE and Izquierda Unida fall very easily in a kind of competition with the other part. “To dismantle a monument of the Franco time or a street to replace it with one of the Republicans, that makes no sense”, says Juan Chicharro, the President of the Franco Foundation that has its days counted.

The current prime minister Pedro Sánchez has to be very careful with his acts although he might have the majority of Spaniards in favor to settle a score in the fight over Franco’s dead body buried close to Madrid in a public monument. What to every foreigner seems to be a scandal, it has been a longlasting monument for many Spaniards. However with the radicalisation in Catalonia, in the right wing fraction and also in the left side of politics the “Valle de los Caídos” has become the center of a battle “to make peace” with Spanish history.

The supporters of the “frente popular” see their time has come to look for their victims and get compensation for the defeat they had to live with the victory of Franco. If Spanish society would be more mature in democratic matters this would be handled by independent organizations or persons that would guarantee certain objectivity in the comprehensive wish to make peace with the past. As the conflict with Catalonia depicts, the communication fails because of insecurities, manipulation and a culture that does not punish lying.

Zapatero started what Sánchez wants to finish

The “republicans” want to have their moment now. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has become the Prime minister that finished with Eta, but also had to handle the worst Economic crisis of Spanish history. But for the supporters of his socialist party (PSOE) Zapatero started a recuperation process for all the families that had to suffer Franco’s dictatorship in their fight for democracy and freedom of speech and women rights.

La Ley de la Memoria Historica was the beginning of the end of the transition as we know it. The socialists wanted to “make justice” over dead bodies, they wanted people to be able to search for heir family members, many of them buried like in the “Valle de los Caídos” in mass cemeteries.

For people like Juan Chicharro from the Franco Foundation this is like pure provocation: “We are against this law and also against the transfer of Franco’s remains to his family”. The real reason why they fight this process is, that Sánchez at the end of it wants to quit the huge stone cross in the “Valle de los Caídos” close to Madrid and also wants to forbid the Foundation that at one point got money from the state to digitalize the personal documents of Franco that they still archive in Salamanca.

These documents are valid to many investigators and should not be destroyed, but to keep up with an organization worshipping a dictator does not just seem odd to part of the Spanish society, but also to the rest of the world. The fear of the old Franco lovers to lose importance explains the hard opposition they make Sánchez, with whom they do not want to cooperate. They pretend it is because of his pact with the separatists, which does not exist. It might be more based on the fact that the very smart strategist Sánchez is a threat to right-wing parties like Ciudadanos, Vox, and PP that maily want to preserve a big Spanish traditional cathaolic nation. That is also the reason why the women rights issue and the way to deal with the catalan seperatism has become so important with the current government that looks for a modernization of the whole way of living together in Spain and therefore wants to say goodbye to all Franco relicts. That means that the Franco Foundation currently based in a small appartment in the centre of Madrid, could soon be shut down.