Statue of Franco.

Statue of Franco in Santander.

13-08-2020EFE

Touché, I suppose you could say. One awaits with interest what the Palma councillor for social justice, feminism and LGTBI, Sonia Vivas, has to say on the matter. One would have thought that she would have a view. As noted recently, it was Sonia Vivas who proposed that the Avenida Joan March in Palma be renamed after Pilar Sánchez, who was murdered by the Falange in 1936.

The Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers was founded in 2008. Its aims include the legal defence of religious freedom, of life, of the family, and of all citizens whose rights and liberties have been harmed for reasons of their faith.

The association is against euthanasia, permissive abortion policies, and destructive indoctrination of gender ideology. In terms of religious freedom, it means Christianity; its website doesn’t make explicit reference to other religions. The association, I think one can say, can be defined as being conservative and right-wing. And it has every right to be conservative and right-wing.

Just as it also has every right to question ideologies and indeed the naming of streets. If the left can promote changes to street names from those associated with Francoism, e.g. Franco’s banker, Joan March, then the right can call for changes to street names of those associated with Republicanism at the time prior to and during the Civil War.

Administrative procedures have been initiated by the association in certain cities of Spain.
It wants street names and monuments dedicated to communists to be removed. Among these names are Dolores Ibárruri. She joined the Spanish Communist Party in 1920 when she was 25. She became famous for her slogan - “They shall not pass” - during the battle for Madrid in late 1936. She went into exile, only returning to Spain in 1977.

Another name is that of Francisco Largo Caballero, who succeeded Pablo Iglesias as the leader of both PSOE and the UGT union in 1925. He was to become prime minister of Spain after the Civil War started.

He fled to France, was arrested by the Nazis, held in a concentration camp and died in Paris in 1946. Abogados Cristianos cite a resolution approved by the European Parliament last year. This was on the importance of historical memory. (In Spain, the PSOE government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero from 2004 to 2011 introduced the law of historical memory, an aspect of which was the removal of Francoist symbols, e.g. street names.) The resolution urged European Union countries to condemn the crimes of Nazism and Stalinism and it advised that “the existence of public spaces which extol totalitarian regimes facilitates the distortion of historical facts”.

The association is therefore arguing that symbols in public spaces, e.g. street names or monuments, which stem from “Stalinist totalitarianism”, should be removed, as these names were “authors of religious persecution and of the rape and murder of people for the practice of their faith during the period of the Spanish Second Republic and the Civil War”. Priests, nuns and other citizens were murdered for religious reasons. Why, therefore, should individuals such as Dolores Ibárruri and Francisco Largo Caballero be honoured?

This is contrary to what has been established by EU resolutions and Spain’s law of historical memory, which does recognise that not all sins and evils were perpetrated by Franco Nationalists alone.

I defend the association’s right to challenge these symbols and accept the argument that there were atrocities on both sides, something which can seem at times to be overlooked. Arguably, and in a spirit of genuine reconciliation, symbols from both sides should be removed. But the prevailing view doesn’t allow this, and I don’t believe that this is a view solely confined to the left or a republican left; not by any means. The historical memory is weighed against Franco, and rightly so.

But in saying this, one highlights what can be an at times depressing reliving of the past. It is a constant theme, and one that invades current-day politics as well as society. One almost wishes that they’d let it go, but then I am not they. The Spanish past is not my historical memory; or perhaps it is, but at a distance. Having said this, and while defending the association’s right to challenge these communist/republican symbols, I can’t say I have any sympathy. The association regularly denounces what it disagrees with; there have been various actions against LGTBI symbols, for instance. As such, there is the sense of the politics, those of the far right, and as stated in a comment about the communist symbols (made on Ultima Hora’s website), the association “crosses the boundary of equity and good faith” in filing complaints “against those who hold theses contrary to their programmatic principles”.

There is still that touché though.

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