It is breathtaking to watch the unfolding saga of how deeply entrenched fascism is in the Spanish political establishment. Do not forget, Spain has been an EU member for 35 years.
Chris Bambery is author and broadcaster. Co-author (with George Kerevan) of Catalonia Reborn: How Catalonia Took on the Corrupt Spanish State and the Legacy of Franco (Luath Press, June 2018)
Seventy three retired military officers have sent a letter to King Felipe of Spain warning him that Spain’s “social-communist government”, the current coalition of the Social Democrats and Podemos, was a threat to national unity and is supported by groups that favour terrorists and secession.
The generals and colonels argue that Spain is in “deterioration” with a serious risk to “national cohesion . . . in its political, economic and social aspects,” blaming “the social-communist government” for risking “the decomposition of national unity”.
It follows reports that a similar warning sent to him by senior retired air force officers .
The retired officers involved all graduated from Spain’s military academy during the dictatorship of General Francisco. They included a lieutenant-general, two generals of division and four brigadier generals, one of whom led a special forces assault on Parsley Island, a tiny Spanish possession briefly occupied by Morocco in 2002. Sixty-six retired colonels also signed the letter.
Despite being retired they signed the letter in their military capacity and it was addressed the king in his role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces
You might have already asked yourself how was it you and the world had not noticed there was a “communist” government in Spain. The retired officers seem to believe that the coalition Socialist Party and Podemos government led by Pedro Sánchez fits this bill. That is not the view of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, and they would surely sound the tocsin if Spain was in the slightest danger of going communist. We know that because the day after reporting this Murdoch owned London paper The Times carried an editorial praising Pedro Sánchez as a pragmatist but also carrying this punch line:
“The monarch is the formal commander- in-chief of Spain’s armed forces and the intent of the letters is clear: to mobilise behind-the-scenes royal support against government collaboration with extremists. In a country that laboured under the yoke of military dictatorship for many decades and which experienced a bungled army coup in 1981, that is a dangerous game. It serves only to dig trenches.”
It also turned out that a similar warning, signed by 39 retired Air Force commanders from class XIX of the General Air Academy, was sent to both Felipe and the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli on earlier in November. Neither Sassoli nor Felipe made this public but on 17 November the far-right OkDiario reported this letter.
The letter stated:
“We are deeply concerned, Your Majesty, that a government that swore or promised to comply with the Constitution is capable of attempting to breach its oath by promoting changes other than those established therein”.
They claim that the Sánchez is a threat to the Spanish Monarchy and the Spanish and is set on the “annihilation of our democracy.”
They went onto say they were “deeply disappointed and offended by relations between the Executive” and the Basque nationalists, who are “the heirs of terrorists.”
The spark for these interventions by the retired senior officers is that since coming to office in 2018 Sánchez has not been able to muster sufficient votes in parliament to pass a budget but has now done a deal with the left wing pro-independence Basque Party, EH Bildu, and its Catalan sister party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, Catalan Left Republicans). The latter want in return greater economic powers for the Catalan government.
Spain’s Finance Minister, María Jesús Montero argued that the government had sought agreement with all political parties, adding that recent decisions to move Eta prisoners to or close to the Basque country had nothing to do with the budget negotiations.
The leader of the right-wing opposition Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, said that in accepting the backing of certain parties, Sánchez had “crossed a red line in exchange for unspeakable support”. Casado and others on the right have cast these alliances as part of a drift by the government towards undemocratic radicalism.
More worrying for Sánchez is dissent within his own party’s ranks. Emiliano García-Page, the president of the Castilla La Mancha region, is one of several high-profile Socialists who have voiced concern. He suggested that Sánchez’s coalition partner might be leading him astray.
“I am worried that Podemos might be setting the agenda and dragging us to a corner of the political stage that is a long way from the usual space for the Socialist Party’s broad majorities,” García-Page said.
The right is also up in arms over a recent law aimed at encouraging school pupils in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia being bi-lingual in the native languages and Spanish.
The Times is right to point to the fact that in July 1936 the Spanish Army rose in an attempt to overthrow an elected left of centre Spanish government and to abolish the Spanish Republic. The initial coup failed but resulted in a four year Civil War in which Franco unleashed mass terror against his opponents, allied with Hitler and Mussolini and denounced the “Jewish-Communist-Separatist-Freemason” conspiracy to destroy Spain.
Some 160,000 people were executed by the military and its far right allies and after the war ended in victory for Franco in April 1939 500,000 were put in concentration camps. Franco remained in power until he died in November 1975. In the transition to parliamentary democracy all Spain’s political parties, from “reformed” fascists to the Communists agreed to a Pact of Silence regarding these atrocities while an amnesty applied to those guilty of carrying out the regime’s executions and torture. Franco’s police chiefs, generals and judges remained in place.
The two letters written by the retired officers use Francoist language, though even they grasp they cannot blame Jews and Freemasons anymore, but they have no sense of shame about trying to subvert a democratically elected government, which one might hope for given the Spanish military’s appalling record. The fact they don’t speaks volumes about the botched nature of the transition which followed Franco’s death.