Sunday, October 28, 2007

Of Long Memory

Today is Sunday, 28 October 2007.

On Wednesday, it seems almost certain that the lower house of the Spanish parliament will pass the “Law of Historical Memory”. Passage in the upper house is also virtually assured.

The law is a watershed because, for the first time, a Spanish government will legally condemn the 1936 coup and subsequent civil war by which the Spanish fascists, led by Francisco Franco, came to dictatorial power for almost 40 years, and the dictatorship itself. The law will reverse the verdicts of summary tribunals by which tens of thousands of Spaniards were condemned and subsequently assassinated by the fascists. (Relatives of the victims will then be able to have the verdicts set aside.) The law also mandates that local governments pay for recovery of remains from hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of mass graves.

Predictably, many of the Spanish right, nostalgic for the “good old days” of the Francoist police state, oppose the law. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Pamplona is typical when he advises victims of the dictatorship to “find ways to forget” because “you can’t change history”.

This is indecent sophistry. Of course, the dead will not be brought back to life. However, the Spanish dictatorship, as all instances of political gangsterism, must be condemned, whatever possible succor must be provided to the victims, and the perpetrators must be punished.

To do otherwise is to encourage such crimes to be committed again and again. One wistfully hopes to live to see the day when such activity of historical memory runs rampant across the planet, and in this country.


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