On September 15th, 2020 the Spanish Council of Ministers approved the Draft Bill of Democratic Memory that will repeal the controversial, very one-sided Law of Historical Memory approved by the leftist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in October 2007.
The even more biased new law of 66 articles and 5 titles plus provisions is based on a proposal made by the PSOE in January of this year, when incumbent socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez entered a coalition with Unidas Podemos, led by Communist Pablo Iglesias.
It supposedly entails the “recognition, reparation and dignification of the victims of Fascism,” of those who disappeared during the Civil War and the dictatorship, and of the exiles, so that history will not be built “on the oblivion and silence of the defeated” in the Spanish Civil War (1936/39).
First Vice President Carmen Calvo, Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory, appeared at a press conference following the Council of Ministers meeting to state that Spain “could not afford another day” without it.
She called it an effort to prove to the world that Spanish democracy is committed to human rights. Hard work will be required to find the truth, so Spaniards can face their past.
Without abandoning the usual discourse of the fratricidal war’s victims (the Left) and executioners (the Right), she unashamedly assured that the law would facilitate coexistence.
The key points of this officially approved vision of history are:
-The State will assume responsibility for the exhumation of the bodies of those who disappeared during the conflict, most of them buried in mass graves. In case that’s not possible, “measures of symbolic and moral reparation” are contemplated for the relatives.
-A National DNA Bank for Victims of the Civil War and the Dictatorship will be generated.
-“Places of democratic memory” will be traced and a census of victims and a comprehensive map of graves will be compiled. If these are located on private properties, temporary occupation for exhumation work may be authorized.
-All the verdicts issued by the Francoist courts during the Civil War and the Dictatorship “against those who defended the previous institutional legality and sought the reestablishment of a democratic regime in Spain”, referring to the very instable Second Republic, will be annulled and their full rights restored.
-The Court of Political Responsibilities (1939/45), the Court for the Repression of Freemasonry and Communism (1941/63), the Court of Public Order (1963/77) and all court-martials will be declared illegal.
-The Francisco Franco Foundation and those considered to be apologists of the Dictatorship or “inciting hatred” will be outlawed. To this end, the 2002 Right to Association Law will be modified. Public activities of exaltation and praise of the Dictatorship will be prohibited.
-The Valley of the Fallen, a huge Catholic basilica and a monumental reconciliation memorial near Madrid built from 1940 to 1959, will be turned into a civil cemetery.
The foundation through which Benedictine monks manage the abbey on the site will be dissolved. There will be “considerations” about demolishing the tallest cross in the world that serves as its landmark.
In addition, only those who died in the Civil War will be allowed to rest there and “any mortal remains that occupy a preeminent place in the enclosure” will be relocated.
This is a clear reference to José Antonio Primo de Rivera (1903-1936), the Falangist leader who was executed in Alicante by the Republicans and buried in the compound before its opening in 1959.
-Organizations that attempt, encourage or tolerate practices against democratic memory will be denied subsidies and registered in cross databases.
-Sanctions in order to avoid “humiliation” in public spaces will be implemented. Fines range from 200 to 150,000 euros for very serious infractions, such as destroying graves or places of democratic memory.
-To help in the search for victims, a new Prosecutor’s Office will be opened at the Supreme Court to investigate facts of the Civil War and the Dictatorship until 1978, when the current Constitution came into force.
-The Official Secrets Act will be modified to gain access to information from those years.
-There will be audits and inventories of property plundered by the victors: investigation of seizures made for political, ideological and religious, or for reasons of conscience. They contemplate “economic sanctions” for those who benefited from it.
-To help the victims who did forced labor during the Dictatorship obtain recognition, an inventory will be made of buildings constructed by the Disciplinary Battalions of Laborers (1936/40s), prisoners in concentration camps (1936/47) or Militarized Prison Colonies (1939/47).
Attempts will be made to have companies and firms that used these laborers to their advantage to offer financial compensation to those affected.
-Distinctions, awards, police medals or honors “for having been part of the apparatus of repression of the Dictatorship” and their associated rewards will be revoked, including the Order of Merit of the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard), created in 1976 after Franco’s death.
-Noble titles granted between 1948 and 1978 will be removed and the Imperial Order of the Yoke and Arrows of 1937 for outstanding services rendered to the Spanish Nation will be eliminated.
-First or second generation descendants of Spaniards exiled due to the Civil War or the Dictatorship will be granted Spanish nationality.
-Those names of towns, streets as well as public, private and religious centers that are considered symbols of Francoism will be changed. Should some of their elements have artistic value, an explanation will be added to reinterpret them.
-It will have a clearly feminist component. Women will be considered a double victim “since they were humiliated, vexed, raped, retaliated against or killed because they were women, mothers, daughters of persecuted and executed for having tried to exercise their right to free personal development and transgressed the limits of traditional femininity”.
-Through an updating of the curricular content for mandatory secondary and high school education focused on democratic memory, classroom training for students and teachers will be provided. They will be indoctrinated with the “brilliant history of freedom”, which needs to enter their collective conscience.
-October 31st will be established as Day of Remembrance and Homage to All Victims (this is the date the 1978 Constitution and the Zapatero Historical Memory Law were approved) and May 8th as the Day of Remembrance and Homage to the Victims of Exile and Fascism.
This is another cheap attempt by Sánchez and Iglesias to distract public opinion from their catastrophic handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its dire consequences for Spain at every level. It must also be seen as just another big step on the road to an Orwellian Ministry of Truth.