The false comparison between the Second Republic and the dictatorship of Francisco Franco that Pablo Casado made last Wednesday is not an exception in the speeches of the leader of the Popular Party. “The Civil War was a confrontation between those who wanted democracy without law and those who wanted law without democracy,” said the president of the PP, a phrase contested by historians, who unanimously recalled that the 1936 contest began as a result of the Franco’s coup. But the statement, which Casado had written for his intervention in the Congress of Deputies, is similar to others made by Casado himself and other leaders of the PP and Vox in their speeches to discredit the Second Republic, criminalize communism and whitewash the fascism.
Proof of this is that Casado’s speech, who has come to label the left as “carcas that are all day with the grandfather’s war, with the graves of I don’t know who”, is no exception. The slogan of “communism or freedom” that the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso (PP), coined in the recent regional elections, is part of the same discourse that seeks to banalize fascism, according to the Argentine historian Federico Finchelstein, author from A brief history of fascist lies., University of California Press, 2020). A clear example of this attempt to erase the toxicity of the extreme right is another famous statement by Ayuso: “When they call you a fascist, you are doing it well” (March 15, 2021).
“These statements have the same common thread, which is part of a European trend where there is an extreme form of ethnic and anti-communist nationalism,” says Julián Casanova, professor of Contemporary History at the University of Zaragoza. The author of An indomitable violence. The European 20th century (Criticism, 2020) considers that this ethnic nationalism in Spain, formed by a combination of nationalism and Catholicism, tries to annul “a shared history that the far right perceives as divisive and damaging to the official image it has of Spain, of its national mythology” . “They rewrite the past to swallow the history of anti-fascism, which is the great foundation of Western Europe in 1945 [tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial]”, Add.
There are many explicit examples of this rejection of “shared history” and the anti-communist discourse to which Casanova alludes. Although the mention of “democracy without law” and “law without democracy” was the fragment of Casado’s intervention that attracted the most attention, the PP leader also affirmed: “Our Constitution is a pact by which there can be no democracy without law, nor law without democracy; exactly the same thing that European countries learned from fascism and communism when they founded the European Union ”. Also, on April 14, when the 90th anniversary of the Second Republic was commemorated, Casado reproached the praise that the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, made in Parliament for that democratic period. “We do not celebrate dates that have divided Spaniards, we celebrate concord, we celebrate the rule of law, we celebrate democracy, we celebrate the Constitution and we are not going to allow a socialist government like yours to ruin the future of Spain” , another assertion that places the republican regime as responsible for the Civil War. Or, referring to the 2019 regional, municipal and European elections, the leader of the PP said about the PSOE: “They force the Spanish to choose again, after 40 years, between confrontation or concord, rupture or reforms, radicalism or integration, privileges for some or law for all ”.
Isabel Díaz Ayuso used a more bellicose tone when she asked herself, after the exhumation of the dictator Francisco Franco del Valle de los Caídos, if “the parishes” would burn again as in 1936. Or Vox, when he disparagingly called the “brigadistas” Demonstrators who protested in Vallecas for a rally by Santiago Abascal, leader of the ultranationalist formation. The adjective, which Vox has coined to discredit those who demonstrate against fascism, refers to members of the international brigades, many of them recruited by the communist parties, who fought in Spain against the coup d’état of 1936.
But sometimes, that rewriting of history is more subtle, such as the commemoration of the dates that honor the Reconquest. The City Council of Badajoz, governed by the PP, recently declared the city day on March 19 to celebrate its taking by the Leonese king Alfonso IX in 1230, despite the fact that the city had been founded by Muslims; in Andalusia, Vox tried to celebrate the community day on January 2, to remember the Christian capture of Granada; and in Murcia the Abascal party wants to celebrate the day of the region on February 2, in memory of the conquest of 1266. According to Alejandro García Sanjuán, professor of Medieval History at the University of Huelva and author of The Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula and the misrepresentation of the past (Marcial Pons Historia, 2013), this exaltation of the Reconquest recovers “the old national-Catholic and Francoist narrative that aims to establish that Spain is a nation forged against Islam.” But that “identity discourse” is, according to the expert, “deeply toxic and sectarian, since it serves to establish who is good Spanish and who is not, which is the first step towards the liquidation of those who think differently.”
It is the same speech of the “decent Spanish”, of the “Spain that rises early”, that the leaders of Vox repeat in their speeches to differentiate their followers from the voters of the left. This is how Abascal summed it up at a rally in Fuenlabrada on April 19: “We are many more than them, and better and decent. We are peaceful, decent and orderly people ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.