Julio Anguita, one of the most emblematic figures of the Spanish Left, died on May 16th, 2020 aged 78 in Cordoba, where he spent most of his life. Having had a long history of cardiopathy, which he described in a book titled “Red Heart-Life after a heart attack”, he had suffered an ultimately fatal cardiac arrest a week ago.
Between 1979 and 1986, Anguita was the mayor of Cordoba, becoming the first communist to rule a provincial capital since the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939. This Andalusian city with a population of about 325,000 people is known for its splendid Moorish architecture. Therefore, he soon received the nickname “Red Caliph”.
Coming from a rather conservative household, with his father fighting communist guerrillas as a soldier in the Pyrenes during the 1940s, he first took teaching studies (magisterio), later earneing a degree in modern and contemporary history at the University of Barcelona. Already a primary education teacher during the last years of Francisco Franco’s rule, in 1972 Anguita joined the clandestine Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and after its legalization in April 1977, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Andalusia (PCA). Since 1982 he served as a member of the regional parliament for two consecutive terms.
The PCE twice gained around 10% of the votes, until it dropped below 5% in 1982. Afterwards, it began developing closer relations with other left-wing groups, with in 1986 resulted in a broad left coalition called Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left). Anguita was elected secretary general of the PCE in February 1988, and exactly one year later took over as IU coordinator.
Surprisingly, the collapse of institutionalized communism in Europe in 1989 strengthened IU. Under his guidance, and in strong opposition to both Socialists and Conservatives, which he saw as the “two banks of one river”, IU received around 10% of the votes, matching the old PCE results. He developed the ambition to surpass the Socialist Party PSOE and gain hegemonic power on the Left in Spain, but failed at the end miserably. He left his PCE post in December 1998 and in October 2000, for health reasons and differences of opinion about the right election strategy, also quit his position at IU. Anguita went back to teaching in his adopted city, and retired there in 2004.
He felt more and more estranged from the PCE’s political positions and the new IU leadership, as the coalition abruptly lost more than half of its voters and ended up with less than 4% in 2008. At the end of his career, Anguita helped younger Leftist extremists to found Podemos, a party that did surprisingly well at the European elections in 2015, and is now part of the Spanish government.
After his expected decease, even his supposed ideological adversaries were quick to point out his personal dignity, honesty and coherence. He once said “I have been a communist, I’m a communist and will be a communist until the end.” He actually kept his word. Spain thereby seems to have forgotten that Anguita was defending to the grave the most murderous ideology in history.