Date: Tue, 21 Jan 97 12:34:54 CST
From: NY Transfer News Collective <>
Subject: Spain: 1936-1996—Confronting History/GL Wkly
Article: 4192

Spain 1936–1996: confronting history

By Sonja Klein, Green Left Weekly, #258, 22 January 1997

A recent article in the Swiss left weekly Die Wochenzeitung stirs up some haunting truths: the Spanish Civil War, which began 60 years ago, has never really come to an end.

The antifascist struggle against the Franco regime is not acknowledged by the present Spanish government to be of historical importance. Thus there was no welcome by leading politicians at the official ceremony for 370 former members of the International Brigade who came from all corners of the globe late last year to commemorate history.

Spain s right-wing Partido Popular government still harbours sympathies for the fascist rule in its country s past. Neither King Juan Carlos nor any minister attended any of the many events organised in honour of the visiting brigadistas.

The war was relived by the ageing antifascist veterans when they visited old battlefields: they were met with a deep hatred by right-wing segments of the population, a sentiment reserved for ``those who killed the fathers of my friends”, as it was put in the daily El Pais, a mouthpiece for the right.

Further controversy has erupted over the promise by the Spanish parliament in January 1996 to honour the surviving 1000 of the once 60,000 international brigadistas who fought on the side of the republic in 1936-1939 by issuing them a Spanish passport.

This turns out to be an empty promise, since applicants would have to give up their own nationality. A new proposal by the parliamentary opposition to permit dual citizenship may take years to be adopted, by which time there would be few or no surviving brigadistas.

While dedicated crowds of communists, trade unionists and social democrats were giving an overwhelming welcome to the 350 in Valencia and elsewhere, with cheers of ``No Pasaran!” and singing of ``The Internationale”, the German Sozialistische Zeitung reports that the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) in Germany—the successor to the former Socialist Unity (Communist) Party in East Germany—was organising a public forum on the Spanish Civil War, held in Berlin in late November.

This occasion was to provide German antifascist left organisations with an opportunity to come together in a panel discussion, presenting the broad anti-Francoist resistance of 1936. A divided left is trying hard to come to terms with history, but as preliminary debates showed, this is not an easy task because of strongly held differing analyses.

Debate raged over the inclusion of Ken Loach s film Land and Freedom, scheduled to be screened before the forum.

Criticism came from the Organisation of Those Persecuted by the Nazi Regime, the oldest existing postwar, antifascist organisation in Germany. Its founding members were German Communist concentration camp survivors who not only suffered persecution under Hitler, but have since experienced various forms of harassment and persecution by subsequent German governments. They reject Loach s critical examination of the role Stalinists played in the civil war.

The 60th anniversary of the Spanish fascist coup provides the opportunity to intensify the fight against the rise of neo-fascism today. While the historical debate will likely never be resolved, the focus now has to be on the future. Fighting neo-fascism could result in a strong, unified left.