Valencia’s Historical Context (the Second Spanish Republic and Civil War). Valencia as the center of the Spanish resistance against fascism.
On November 8, 1936, Valencia became the home base of the legitimate government of the Second Republic due to the siege of Madrid after the coup d'état in July 1936. It was a fascist military uprising directed against the Government of the Second Republic that had emerged from the democratic elections of February of that year. The stay of the legitimate Government in Valencia lasted until the end of October 1937. That year of Valencia’s capital status had a decisive influence on city life. The political dynamics accelerated considerably in a climate of intense mobilizations against fascism. Demonstrations, rallies, assemblies, conferences and acts of tribute carried out by different organizations filled the city with posters and banners, and turned the theatres, cinemas and public places into real political spaces for revolution and anti-fascism.
The research conducted by Cristina Escrivà Moscardó and her team based on oral sources has provided the possibility of documenting part of the recent history of the city that during this period played an essential role within the Spanish civil resistance. The guided tour open to the general public in the framework of “Democracy on the Brink” provided the possibility of understanding the daily life and the atmosphere of a city that fought for democracy. It is important to uprise the collective memory of the city for its conservation and promotion since this was a period in which the city became the base of the rearguard and a center of political and socio-cultural vanguards.
Important places for the understanding of Valencia as the center of the fight against fascism during the late 1930’s:
The Plaza de Emilio Castelar or Plaza del Ayuntamiento (now) was currently the central nucleus where the most important events of the Spanish Second Republic took place. Valencia was filled with demonstrations of resistance from the cultural sphere. Here the Spanish parliament; and it was chosen as the place to hold the Second Congress of Intellectuals for the Culture’s Defense organized by the Alliance of Anti-fascist Intellectuals, a civic organization located in Madrid first and Valencia later. The congress had multiple themes, such as the role of writers in society but the fundamental issue was the fight against fascism from the field of culture. The congress brought together some of the most conscious and combative authors of the international scene, Neruda, Machado, Ehrenburg, Brecht and many others.
Excerpts from the final resolution of the Congress:
The writers of twenty-eight nations, gathered for their II International Congress, proclaim:
That the culture that they have committed themselves to defend, has as its main enemy fascism. That they are prepared to fight by all the means at their disposal against fascism. That in the effective war that fascism has opened against culture, democracy, peace, and in general, the happiness and well-being of humanity, no neutrality is possible ...
For those reasons make we make this solemn appeal to writers around the world, to all those who believe deeply and honestly in their human vision, in the effectiveness of written expression, and invite them to fix their position without delay against the threat that looms over culture and humanity...
The House of Culture: In the autumn of 1936 many intellectuals moved from Madrid to Valencia to continue their work. Most of them accommodated in the House of Culture as well as many of the participants in the Second Congress of Writers. It was managed by Antonio Machado among others.
The headquarters’ Antifascist Women's Organization: The Association of Anti-fascist Women (AMA), was an associative entity of feminist nature created in 1933. Here women taught other illiterate women free grammar classes.
Café Ideal Room: It was the meeting place for intellectuals. In this café literary gatherings, understood as manifestations of resistance, occurred during the years of the Civil War. It was one of the most famous and most cited cafés of the time.
On the other hand, as part of the architectural passive defense against fascism, hundreds of anti-aircraft shelters distributed throughout the city were built to protect the population from the frequent bombings. Valencia suffered 442 bombings from the beginning of 1937 until 1939, which left a total of 847 dead in the city, 930 buildings destroyed and more than 2800 injured.
Republican Propaganda: The activity of the Valencian propaganda artists in the civil war was very important, as evidenced by the large number of works they carried out. The artists assumed a commitment to defend the Second Republic, threatened by fascism using art as an antifascist weapon. Propaganda posters covered the city creating a revolutionary atmosphere that incited action. As a result of their artistic activism, many of them were arrested and sentenced afterwards to long prison terms. Others were forced into exile. Josep Bardasano is an example of these artists. He was a Spanish painter and famous poster designer who dominated the republican vision of war propaganda like no one else did.
The defeated Republic in 1939, after 3 long years of war against fascism and the advance of Franco’s army, led to the establishment of a dictatorship: Franco’s fascist regime that lasted until 1975.
Characteristics and ideological foundations of General Franco’s fascist regime
The bases of the Franco regime were (among others) exclusive Spanish nationalism, Catholicism, fascism, anti-communism, anti-liberalism, and authoritarianism. These were the pillars of a totalitarian military dictatorship, so-called “organic democracy" in opposition to parliamentary democracy because the parties’ struggle was considered useless for the state’s progress according to the regime.
Franco’s dictatorship drew upon all kinds of repressive methods of any undemocratic regime. The repression exercised by the Franco regime was extended to the whole of society and can be classified as follows:
Violent and physical repression: Brutal violent repression occurred in compliance with judgments handed down by military courts during the period of the civil war. Daily executions and imprisonments. Many of the victims were buried in mass graves scattered throughout Spain, often outside the cemeteries, throughout the countryside and without their death being recorded on the civil registers. Since the early 2000s, various associations of victims of Franco’s régime have been responsible for locating these graves to identify the remains of the executed in order to give them a decent burial without the economic and legal support of the democratic Spanish governments that followed the dictatorship.
According to a report by the Association of Judges for Democracy, Spain is the second country in the world in a number of disappeared people whose remains have not been recovered or identified. Spain would have around 114,000 missing persons, in addition to 30,000 stolen babies who were given to "trusted" families according to the regime.
According to the British historian Antony Beevor, the total number of victims of Franco’s repression could reach 350.000. Various estimates present figures of around 150,000 victims, some pointing to 400,000 deaths, depending on the period considered and the inclusion or not of the victims killed in concentration camps. As for the hundreds of thousands of prisoners interned in Franco’s concentration camps, 192,000 would have been murdered, sometimes several years after the end of the war, with peaks of several hundred executions per day in 1939 and 1940.
The educational repression: The administrative repression practiced in the Educational Systém was especially intense. Pioneering institutions of higher education and research such as the Residencia de Estudiantes de Madrid were dismantled because they were considered subversive, and the educational contents were revised to comply with the strict political, religious and cultural criteria of the Regime, at all levels of education.
Religious repression: The Catholic religion was established as the official religion of the State, and its doctrine a source of inspiration for legislation. The other religions were limited to the private sphere and their public demonstrations were forbidden.
The linguistic repression: It implied the prohibition or ridicule of the languages of Spain other than Spanish, the only language recognized as official. The postwar period generated hatred for Catalan autonomy and repression against regional languages. In the early post-war years, the régime systematically pursued the Catalan, Valencian, Basque and Galician language and culture.
Economic repression: It was practiced through economic fines (payment of fixed amounts), total or partial seizures of goods and bank accounts. The law applied economic sanctions to "those responsible for damages or losses caused to Spain".
Apart from government fines and seizures, economic repression was also exercised through mandatory patriotic subscriptions. The patriotic subscriptions had a strong propaganda impact. They were anything but voluntary because if someone did not contribute according to their financial means, they were fined, and the fines were published in the press with a clearly intimidating purpose.
Political repression: Political parties, unions, associations, and newspapers not related to the regime were banned. The freedom of expression of opinions against the government or simply disagreements was overridden and systemic censorship of all media was established from the same instances of the government.
Cultural repression: The censorship was applied to subjects not directly related to politics: literature, poetry, songs, plastic arts, film, and theater. A defined cultural model was imposed according to the criteria established by the Regime. The censorship applied affected all intellectual activities and the media and included photographic manipulation. The cinema and the theater would be victims of a double civil and ecclesiastical censorship.
- Declaration of Condemnation of the Franco’s Dictatorship of March 17, 2006 (Recommendation 1736, point 72, 73, 74 and 75).
The transition period from fascism to democracy
After the death of the dictator in 1975 began the so-called Spanish Transition, the period of the contemporary history of Spain by which the country left behind the dictatorial regime of General Francisco Franco and came to be ruled by a Constitution that restored monarchy and democracy to Spain.
The objective of the Transition was to establish a parliamentary democracy based on the institutions that were to be transformed and with the king, Juan Carlos I, as a head of state. The unleashed process led to the legalization of all political parties. It was about overcoming, not forgetting, the tragic and profound division among Spaniards caused by the Civil War.
The first elections after the fall of Franco’s regime were finally held on June 15, 1977. They were the first since the Civil War. That was the beginning of the process by which democracy in Spain was rebuilt. On December 6, 1978, the Spanish Constitution was ratified in a referendum.
It was not until 2007 when the Spanish law recognized and extended rights and established measures in favor of people who had suffered persecution or violence during the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship in the country. This law was written and approved to end the impunity of Franco’s fascist regime, to promote and finance research and to generate mechanisms to raise awareness regarding the effects of the Civil War and Franco's repression. It highlights the importance of developing public policies that promote knowledge about the recent history of Spain.
The law was strongly criticized by the remembrance movements for failing to satisfy the elements of truth, justice, and reparation that should underlie the programs applied in transitions from dictatorships to democratic regimes and for being unable to end the privileges that those who won the Spanish Civil War still hold today. The development of autonomic laws and the incessant push of civil society and social movements are identified as the main advances in the implementation of the measures promised by the law.
The historical research conducted in the framework of this project and the dissemination of its results intend to break with the grounds of the inaccurate and vague story of the past lacking direct consequences on the present. Jarit rejects the neutrality in which a democratic government, with a project of social transformation, was equated to an undemocratic oligarchy that sustained on part of the army initiated the war against a legitimate government. We consider that this idea of neutrality works against the understanding of the past, of human rights and democratic values for current generations.
In many European countries, the concepts of historical and collective memory are very deeprooted, unlike what happens in Spain where there exists considerable backwardness. This project is presented as an opportunity to recover, preserve and disseminate the memory of the people who lived through the Civil War, Franco’s regime and the struggle for democracy. Whose story has been silenced and ignored for decades in Spain and abroad?
Actions of the far right in the last 15 years in the city of Valencia
In 2005 the Spanish Civil Guard investigated and dismantled a neo-Nazi organization. According to the Prosecutor's Office, the group justified the Third Reich, encouraged hatred for immigrants and homosexuals, divulged Spanish nationalism and functioned as an organized crime gang, selling military weapons and planning assaults. A group of 18 fascists and neo-Nazis were arrested and a large arsenal of weapons and Nazi symbols seized.
The group was engaged in hunts of left-wing militants, Muslims, gypsies and immigrants, and the spread of far-right ideas on the Internet. Through several websites, the group disclosed its Nazi ideology and linked to other pages with racist content. The police broke into the home of militant José Andrés Orts in September 2005 and found a real war arsenal. The man, who belonged to this neo-nazi network, decided to demand compensation for the destruction of the weapons and won the trial.
In 2014, all the accused were acquitted when the Provincial Court of Valencia decided to annul the telephone interventions that were provided as evidence against the 18 members of the organization. It is considered that the entire investigation derived from those recordings and that these were not founded at the time the order was given.
The so-called Panzer Operation represents an example of the impunity that the far-right organizations have held and still do in Spain. The impunity that allows these violent groups to perpetuate their actions while denying the Holocaust and spreading fascist propaganda.
After the last events of October 9, Valencia remains the focus of the Spanish far-right. For a decade, only in the Valencian Community, there have been 600 right-wing aggressions most of them ending without legal consequences or burden for the people involved in the aggression.
These groups have led many racist demonstrations, with the excuse of looking after the interests of the Spaniards. They demand the closing of borders to prevent immigrants from reaching the country. In some manifestation, these organizations have decided to become more and more visible.
There is a national far-right ideology party in Spain called Vox that has gained popularity lately with a speech that viscerally alludes to the country and its symbols, raising them to totemic levels. Among its proposals: the suppression of the autonomies (Catalonian autonomy with special urgency), suppression of the autonomic televisions, reinforcement of the borders "with all the material and human resources necessary", involvement in international warlike conflicts that have as an objective the fight against Islam and a long and infamous etcetera. After all, one of its political references is the current Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán. Given the current political and economic landscape that has left the inherited economic crisis, a growing part of Spanish civil society is being convinced by these proposals.
Recent research has concluded that far from preventing democratic decline, the Spanish rightwing parties are currently fanning it, probably due to the increasing delegitimization campaigns of democracy and the growing support given to far-right parties like Vox. In this way, we observe how some political parties have decided to open their wide doors to authoritarianism in Spain.
Racist and xenophobic discourse. Our migratory history.
At the end of the Civil War there was mass emigration from Spain. People fled towards North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) Europe (Germany, United Kingdom), America and the USSR. Their fight was against fascism and the totalitarianism that reigned in the country. It is estimated that 150,000 people traveled to Algeria. For many of them, the port of Alicante was the starting point of exile. According to statistics, Algeria was the second host land for these exiles after France.
On March 28 1939, the Stanbrook was in the port of Alicante waiting to load oranges and saffron. There was a chaotic atmosphere in the city and in the harbor. The captain of the ship, Welshman Archibald Dickson, upon seeing the thousands of refugees in the harbor, challenged the order he had received from the owner who had explicitly forbidden the evacuation of civilians and welcomed all those who could fit on board. "In everyone's mind there was a feeling of flight, defeat, moral sinking, and when we got to the ship, we were greeted by the protests of the passengers who were already there. There was no room, but people kept coming in“.
On March 29 1939, the Stanbrook entered the port of Oran with the Spanish refugees half dead tired and terrified in front of a country they did not know. Today these refugees are considered as the emblem of exile in North Africa.
History teaches us that Spain is a state with a recent past of intense emigration. It is easy to find parallels between the causes of the migratory movements that took place at the end of the civil war with the motives that underlie the migratory movements nowadays. It is now when Spain receives migrant population from North Africa and we must remember and teach in schools that not long ago our grandparents were the ones forced to emigrate, fleeing from war, repression, and fascism in search of a worthy life.
How to identify and combat racism. Conclusions drawn from the public debate.
One of the main factors that determine the undermining of democracies is the ability of established political parties to prevent access to the power of new extremist parties and leaders. The social context is deeply important too since it is under these circumstances of political delegitimization and economic discomfort that the ideal breeding ground is produced so that figures willing to catalyze the population's discontent with despotic and authoritarian acts and discourses succeed.
There is no doubt that the great economic crisis that we have been suffering since 2007 (2008 in our country) has caused social conditions mentioned above. It is obvious that the Spanish labor market is strongly linked to the country’s economic situation due to its great fascination for encouraging rapid growth of employment based on temporality and precariousness. This structure of short-sighted and a socially irresponsible scope, on the other hand, guarantees the easy vote of the electorate. In the middle of the economic crisis the vast majority of the fragile and poorly paid jobs were performed by immigrants and women. Especially concerning the immigrant population, which carried out tasks in terrible conditions. Back then the native population was more reluctant to accept these jobs just because they could afford it. When many Spaniards had no choice but to accept these occupations in order to survive the proliferation of xenophobic tendencies with slogans such as "the Spaniards go first" or "they come here to steal our jobs" became more and more popular (speech that coexists, ironically, with the one which prays "they are lazy”).
Is it possible to resist this trend and protect democracy? We believe it is, but we must keep in mind the importance of demanding our politician's responsibility, which means avoiding the temptation to seek alliances with authoritarian actors and respond to the needs of the population with proposals that do not foster solidarity, civic commitment, and tolerance. It is crucial that in the current time, the democratic systems know how to be up to the political and social challenges that we are facing.
More than fifty Valencian social entities that deal with vulnerable groups have signed a manifesto which condemns the "campaign of racist and xenophobic aggressions" against migrants in Valencia. Albert Mora, a member of the Human Rights Institute in Valencia, expresses his concern about the fact that racism and xenophobia "are booming." Every year there are "violent acts" against foreigners or their property, as well as discrimination practices against them. In 2017 there were 38 cases of discrimination and 87 incidents linked to hate crimes, "but we are aware that only a minimum percentage of cases are reported because the victims are afraid of reprisals."
These types of racist and xenophobic actions are neither new, nor are they isolated events and they occur in a context of "increasing criminalization of immigration and ethnic minorities that favor violence" encouraged by neo-Nazi groups that nourish hatred and fear and are protected by the discourse of some media and politicians who present the arrival of immigrants and refugees as an invasion that threatens our culture and well-being. They maintain that these actions respond to a campaign "planned by organized right-wing groups" that aims to create an "enabling environment" to "justify new and more violent aggression” and the "impunity" with which these organizations act as an incentive.
Mass Spanish media have an important role in this issue because in many cases they are responsible for encouraging xenophobic and racist discourses, using misinformation, bad practices and fake news for the propagation of hatred and intolerance. From the civil society, the University and non-profit organizations we must organize ourselves to fight with concrete programs and projects that at least point out to the use of media for manipulation.
Society demands an increase of preventive measures, the clarification of the neo-Nazi aggressions and forceful actions against those responsible for these attacks, the promotion of campaigns in favor of interculturality and tolerance, and the creation of strategies for the identification and eradication of racism.
We must act immediately against social and systemic racism so it stops being a serious threat to the cohesion of the whole Valencian society because it could lead to conflicts and major confrontations in the future. The Valencian strategy for equal treatment, non-discrimination and the prevention of hate crimes prepared by the Valencian Human Rights Watch Organizations propose fifty measures to fight against these attitudes. Highlighting awareness-raising, educational programs in the formal and non-formal agendas that have transversal axes related to tolerance and non-discrimination, support and participation in social movements with anti-fascist demands, and concrete strategies to guarantee the rights of the population’s most vulnerable groups.
The media, the political institutions, and the civil society must strive to make a conscious, critical and not simplified diagnosis of the reason for the growing influence of racist discourse in some sectors of society. We must not feed the reductionist thinking that encourages the idea of fascist tendencies being directly related to a lack of culture and education.
From Jarit and throughout awareness and education programs for social transformation we aim to promote a critical, participatory and active Valencian citizenship, committed to the construction of a global society of solidarity, that is fair and equitable. We understand that social participation from a critical thinking perspective is part of the key to the fight against racist, xenophobic and fascist discourses and ideologies.
The enhancement and promotion of historical memory, education for global citizenship and the promotion of critical thinking about the part of history that has been written only by those who won the war and ruled during the Spanish Fascist Dictatorship should be the axes of the fight against the rise of the movements and the right-wing tendencies that hover over Spain, Europe and other countries.