There is an excellent column in today's El País about Franco's legacy. Unfortunately, I can't copy any of the text to here,
but if you visit http://www.iht.com/pdfs/elpais/ep2.pdf today, you should be able to read it.
Benjamin Prado makes some very interesting points about how if you look around these days you could almost believe that Franco ruled for 36 years "in absolute solitude" – so few are those who admit to having been supporters of the fascist, treacherous dictator.
Articles like Prado's, which actually focuses on the current drive by the ruling Socialist Workers party to remove Fascist images and statues from Spain, always stir up a strong sense of indignation, anger and righteousness in me. Is it something I learned as I grew up? That however conservative boarding schools and naval colleges are, English conservatism is bound not to fascism but to liberalism. Don't get me wrong – there were fascists in the Tory party right through the last century, and even some who admired Franco and Hitler. But in England, this was always extremism. In Spain, it's sad to say, it wasn't.
Indeed, there are many members of Spain's 'conservative' Popular Party who were actively involved in state fascism before Franco died. Not least Manuel Fraga, premier of the region of Galicia – and party grandee. Fraga was minister of propaganda under Franco, and one of the most fervent fascists Spain had. Even now he wields considerable power. There seem to be far too many people around who are not willing to criticise Franco's regime unless pushed to. In many families, almost half a century of recent history is never, ever discussed.
When Spain became a democracy again (remember: Franco overthrew a democratically elected government), it was agreed that all the groups who had been involved in the civil war and the dictatorship would accept an 'act of forgetting'. It seems that the fascists could hold the socialist republicans to this because many atrocities were carried out by anarchists under the republican flag. To be fair though, the anarchists and the republicans certainly seem to have paid for their sins – a 36 year dictatorship which was marked by brutal oppression and tens of thousands of murders by the state.
So what Spain has been left with is a living memory of fascism, but laws to prevent anyone being punished for the overthrow of a democratically elected government, a horrific civil war, the suppression of human rights, state-sponsored murder, destruction of regional cultures and rape of the environment.
Perhaps before Fraga dies, the Socialists would be kind enough to introduce an act of remembrance so that at last Spain can truly bury its dead. If this doesn't happen, this country genuinely risks slipping back towards a time that everyone seems to be forgetting.