This weekend fascist activities took place across the Spanish state with some more to follow next week. In Madrid fascists demonstrated on two different occasions, i.e to commemorate the dictator Franco and the founder of the fascist Falange, Primo Rivera. They also demonstrated for the unity of the current Spanish state territory and against any interference in General Franco’s shrine. These demonstrators flew Spanish fascist flags, gave fascist salutes and shouted fascist slogans – all illegal under Spanish law — but the Spanish police stood quietly by. Wait! They did intervene — to remove antifascist Femen demonstrators (see El Nacional photo and NBC video link)!
The weekend included anti-fascist events also. On Saturday afternoon there was a march organised by Dignidad Antifascista (‘Antifascist Dignity’), with a rally on Sunday at the entrance to the fascist shrine, the Valley of the Fallen, called by the campaign #NiValleNiAlmudena (‘Neither Valley nor Almudena’, i.e that Franco be buried neither in the Valley nor in the Almudena, the largest cemetery in Madrid).
The specific occasion for the fascist (and hence, the anti-fascist) events are the anniversaries of the deaths on 20th November of the dictator Franco (1975) and of Primo Rivera (1936), the founder of the Spanish fascist organisation, the Falange.
The Falange began with their traditional march of homage to Rivera (yes, the fascist Falange have “traditional” public events in the Spanish state), leaving Madrid around 9pm on Friday night to arrive at the Valley on Saturday morning.
“The Falange returns to the streets to show that the flag of the Homeland and Social Justice is upheld and is more necessary than ever,” they declared in a statement.
On Saturday, the Madrid Antifascist Coordination held its own anti-fascist traditional march under the slogan of Dignidad Antifascista, changing their route to start from Plaza del Sol to arrive at Plaza de España, apparently because of the location of the neo-Nazi group Hogar Social Madrid (Social Home Madrid) in the former HQ of the Comisiones Obreras trade union (see History of the Spanish State Appendix), Plaza de España (see video in media link).
On Sunday a number of groups gathered at the entrance to the Valley of the Fallen to call for “the removal of the tombs of Francisco Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the withdrawal of fascist symbols from the Sierra de Madrid, the converting of the site into an anti-fascist memorial and the dismantling of the Cross of the Valley,” according to a statement by the Forum for the Memory (historical) of the Madrid Region in a statement. This action is part of the campaign #NiValleNiAlmudena and it was the thirteenth time that the Forum for (historical) Memory and the Social Forum of the Sierra have demonstrated against the graves of Franco and Primo de Rivera in the Valley of the Fallen.
On the other hand, the Abbey of the Valley of the Fallen organised a praying of the holy rosary also on Sunday, at 10.30a.m in the basilica, “for the hope of youth and family in Spain,” as they do every Sunday (this might seem harmless but these are specifically traditional concerns of fascists, the traditional patriarchal family and a fascist youth movement). Also, the (fascist) Association for the Repeal of the Historical Memory (Law) convened a demonstration at 11.30a.m on Sunday to take place between Callao and the Plaza de Oriente, to hold their traditional act of Franco homage. A Femen group who tried to disrupt this demonstration, stripped to the waist and with anti-fascist statements painted on their upper bodies were violently thrown to the ground by fascists in the crowd and repeatedly kicked and punched while the women shouted defiance. Spanish police removed the anti-fascist Femen demonstrators and took no action against the fascists.
Masses will be celebrated throughout Spain for the soul of the dictator and, in Madrid, a “Legionary Mass” (i.e for a fascist organisation descended from the Spanish Foreign Legion) is scheduled to take place in the church of Santiago on Tuesday the 20th and the same day at 8:00 pm in the parish of San Francisco de Borja on Serrano Street, as reported by the Francisco Franco Foundation on its website, in which they also announced an annual dinner on November 30th somewhere in El Pardo.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Is all this just the strutting of some crackpots we don’t need to worry about, as some liberals and social-democrats think? Or the last gasps of a dying creed as some others believe?
Some of the participants may be crackpots and the creed may be expiring but that does not make it less dangerous – the lashings of a dying monster’s tail are capable of killing and maiming many people. And it may not be dying.
Fascism has been part of the Spanish State since the 1930s (see following section) and only underwent an essentially cosmetic transformation (or “Transition”) in the 1970s but now it feels itself threatened by important counter-trends within the state. Chief among these in practical content is undoubtedly the strong grassroots Catalan independentist movement but in symbolic content, the democratic demand that Franco’s tomb be removed and his current resting place ended as a rallying shrine for Spanish fascists (hence the events that took place around it this weekend) is huge.
Symbols are important for all peoples and movements and Franco’s mausoleum at the Valle de Los Caidos is one very important for Spanish fascists. For anti-fascists, it is an abomination, built through the sweat of half-starved and abused political prisoners to the glory of their oppressor, an unknown number of which died doing so.
The bunch of arrows and that double-headed eagle on their version of the Spanish flag are also symbols of Spanish fascism, as is the straight-arm salute. Accordingly, these were made illegal in the Spanish state, not without some resistance but everyone knowing that no action was going to be taken against the actual fascists. And so it has proven. The Spanish fascists march, display their fascists symbols, give their fascist salutes, shout fascist slogans and they are never arrested for doing so.
On the other hand anti-fascists, revolutionaries, independentists are constantly under surveillance, often detained and tortured and from time to time jailed for long sentences, often for comparatively minor offences or actions or words that would not be classed as a criminal act anywhere else in Europe.
But of course, Europe is growing more fascist too, in governments in the East and in the rise of fascist movements across most of Europe. And Spanish fascism will inevitably give encouragement to those movements as well as drawing encouragement from them.
Across the Spanish state there are streets named after fascists and monuments to them and some of the regular events glorifying fascism there were listed earlier. Add to that a section of the national media that is very right-wing and legal organisations that are fascist in all but name and most of the support structures for a fascist state are in place. All, if one adds the military and police.
The main Spanish police forces, the Guardia Civil and the Policía Nacional, have a history of brutality on the street and torture in their police stations. The GC is actually a militarised police force. The military itself has a history of violent suppression of colonial resistance and, according to the Constitution, is the guarantor of the territorial integrity of the State. And that integrity is threatened by the pro-independence movements of Catalonia and of the southern Basque Country.
The Spanish fascists are not just defending their symbols and history but also the integrity of the State of the whole Spanish ruling class. And fear, dislike or even hate the fascists as they may, many on the Spanish Left find themselves here on the same side as the fascists. Neither the PSOE, nor Podemos, nor the CPE, nor many sections of Izquierda Unida (the misnamed “United Left”) support the independentist movements, whether from “the good of the economy” or from the credo of “the unity of the working class”. And many of them go further, accusing the independentists of being “nazis”, an accusation which is also thrown, hilariously, by the Spanish Right.
This of course makes any genuine resistance to the fascist movement very complicated for large sections of the Spanish Left, i.e those that actually agree with them on one central plank of Spanish fascism – the territorial unity of the Spanish state.
APPENDIX: SHORT HISTORY OF THE MODERN SPANISH STATE
Like within a number of European states, fascism was the chosen way to go of the majority of the Spanish bourgeoisie, the ruling class, in the 1920s and 1930s. At first this involved military coups and dictatorships but in 1936, a full-blown military-fascist uprising against the elected Government of the state took place, with sections of the Basque and Catalan middle and ruling classes in support. Other sections of Catalan and southern Basque Country society stood by the Republican elected government and fought hard against the military-fascist coup. And the anti-fascists would have won but for the assistance of transport, bombers, weapons and men from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the other European states (apart from the USSR) enforced a “non-interventionist” blockade of the fighting Republic.
The Republic overthrown, there followed a period of intense repression of any form of leftist or democratic ideology as well as of the Basque and Catalan languages and national aspirations and, though the intensity faded in time, the repression was always very much there during the 40 years of the Franco dictatorship (and increased in the Basque Country).
The Franco-fascist repression was not only physical, with imprisonment, torture and executions; was not only against national cultures but also moral and political, intensely patriarchal and pro-fascist and with the very enthusiastic support and at times leadership of the Spanish Catholic Church hierarchy and most of its clergy, monks and nuns, imposed through school and church. And of course the judicial and legal system.
As Franco’s life-term was clearly drawing towards its end, concern began to be raised about his successor and how Spain would be ruled afterwards. These concerns were expressed not only internally but also from abroad, especially by the USA which was building military bases across the state and by the EU, which was concerned to have an ultimately unstable state on its southern flank. Franco had designated Admiral Carrero Blanco as his successor and Juan Carlos, of the Bourbon royal dynasty, to be King. In 1973 ETA, the Basque armed leftist national liberation organisation, assassinated Carrero Blanco in Madrid and a few years later, in 1975, Franco died.
The rush was on now by modernist elements of the Spanish ruling class, in particular advised internally by Opus Dei, to carry the State through this crisis. This was achieved by the legalisation of the banned political parties, the social-democratic PSOE and the Communist Party, which was absolutely necessary for the project since they controlled the two biggest trade unions, the Unión General de Trabajadores and the Comisiones Obreras (these were being legalised too). And Juan Carlos was made king of a country that had been without one for over four decades with the agreement of both those formerly republican parties.
The Basque and Catalan nationalist parties were also legalised but, although the new Constitution being pressed on the people was accepted overall, it was rejected by majority in the Basque Country. The Constitution made secession illegal without a majority in the Spanish Parliament in favour.
And this “Transition” was also accompanied by repression, including even the murder of its union lawyers which the CPE tolerated.
Subsequently the PSOE got elected into Government, replacing the Francoist party but showed itself fit to govern an essentially unreconstructed fascist state by running assassinations squads (“GAL, BVE”) against the Basque independence movement. And of course implementing whatever economic measures required by the Spanish ruling class.
The UGT and Comisiones Obreras are the main trade unions in the Spanish State, the largest in membership everywhere but in Galicia and the Basque Country, with their leaderships generally following the social-democratic lead, colluding with the ruling class, mounting mostly show strikes from time to time but no real resistance. One can expect somewhat more resistance from them when the other main political party, the formerly Francoist Partido Popular, is in government, but as soon as the PSOE is back in, even that dies down.
SOURCES AND REFERENCES
Video of fascist demonstration and disruption by anti-fascists (including violence towards them by fascists and no police action against them): https://www.facebook.com/NBCNews/videos/517780425363019/
Short media report which includes video of anti-fascist demonstration on Saturday in downtown Madrid: https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/11/18/580334/Spain-Antifa-march-on-Madrid-ahead-of-anniversary-of-Francos-death