culture

Feeling good to be Spanish?
Part 2

fight between the Tricolor and the Rojigualda. The initial optimism of the Republic turned sour quickly as it Francoist flag 1938-194 5 became apparent that consensus on how and what to reform was very difficult to secure. The 1933 election victory for the right wing CEDA and Radical parties meant the repeal or stifling of the reforms made in the previous two years. It sealed the terminal polarisation of Spanish politics and this is the moment where I think the years of edging in its direction became a plummet towards conflict. Both the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War were times filled with important events to write about, but I think there is very little to talk about for our purposes here. Fighting in the Civil War became simplified as left wing against right wing. One event that is very important to us was what happened behind the front lines in April 1937. Franco, who had become head of state and military leader of the Nationalist side, issued the Decree of Unification forcing all its political parties to unite. The trickiest part of this was the incompatibility of ideologies between the deeply traditionalist Carlists and the fascist Falange. The resulting mouthful of Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva NacionalSindicalistas (FET y de las JONS) became known as the Movimiento Nacional by the end of the war in 1939 and survived as the only legal political party until after the death of Franco in 1975. Again, I’m going to focus on a flag, this time the one that Franco chose to represent the Nationalists. The Monarchist Rojigualda flag officially adopted by Franco’s ‘Spanish State’ in 1938 had a customised coat of arms to feature elements of the major forces on his side and the slogan Una Grande Libre (One, Great, Free) harnessed them all together.

Luc Ciotkowski continues his series, extended to three parts, which looks at how Spain has viewed itself through history on the way to finding out if today’s sport is having a uniting effect on the Spanish.
WORDS by Luc ciOtkOWSki

1

898 will forever be remembered in Spanish history for the definitive end of Spain’s once global empire and the most disastrous year since the French invasion and occupation almost a century before. The ‘Disaster of ‘98’ as it came to be , known, refers to Spain’s unmitigated humiliation at the hands of the US in the Spanish-American War stripped her of her last three notable colonies, Cuba, Puerto Rico and The Philippines. As well as marking the US’ step up to becoming a world power (significantly today, also the event which allowed them to force Cuba to sign away Guantánamo Bay), it marked the end of Spain as an imperial power and provoked a period of profound introspection and soul searching in the Peninsula. The so-called ‘Generation of ‘98’ were a number of philosophers, writers and poets whose work embodied Spain’s existential crisis. One of the generation’s leading poets, Antonio Machado (now reviled by several generations of Spanish schoolchildren who have had to study his poems), famously spoke of “The Two Spains” – “…one that dies and the other that yawns.” This idea of a divided Spain was becoming ever more apparent, but nobody would be yawning for much longer. As Spaniards had to redefine their identity, they also had to reassess their loyalties. The revival of regionalism was, in no small part, heightened by this loss of empire. It had suited everyone to belong to an Imperial Spain: being Spanish meant access to trade and riches from the colonies. With these financial incentives taken away, what was the point? Pride in being Spanish? There wasn’t much pride to go around, as was the case with democracy. The turno pacífico system of rigged elections, where one government’s function was to

undo the reforms of the previous, was losing its appeasing effect and divided opinion on what should be the political solution. Not all was negative however, the return of capital from the colonies injected vitality into the economy and Spain’s industrial centres forged into the twentieth century. Neutrality in the First World War allowed more time for Spain to catch up economically and the country’s workforce was spared the decimation suffered by the rest of Europe, until the outbreak of Spanish ‘Flu in 1918 (rather unfairly named as it had broken out earlier in France; it killed 25 million people worldwide in the first six months). In 1923, Captain General Miguel Primo de Rivera, with the backing of the army and the endorsement of King Alfonso XIII (gaining him enemies among the parliamentary class), pronounced the dissolution of the parliamentary system and installed a military dictatorship with himself as its leader. Known as ‘the benevolent dictatorship’ , the general’s six-year rule saw an enormous investment in public works and infrastructure, not just the predictable repression of regionalism, political freedom and freedom of speech. The surge in employment resulting from the new public works kept the working class docile initially. Improving economic conditions and censorship temporarily papered the widening cracks between different groups in Spain. However, a new fissure had appeared: Alfonso XIII’s approval of the dictatorship had alienated much of the growing urban middle class, who expected their voice to be heard, all regionalist groups and the former parliamentary class which the dictatorship displaced. The ‘benevolent dictator’s rule might have continued for longer, but

the cost of all those public works, along with the fallout from the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and a woeful harvest in the same year, finally brought his government to a state of near bankruptcy; Primo de Rivera resigned in January 1930.

When pro-republican parties won an overwhelming victory a year later and the army said it would no longer protect him, the king fled the country and the Second Republic was proclaimed. The new democratic constitution was a feel good moment for many Spaniards and filled them with optimism for the future. The Republic’s constitution made Spain semi-federal, giving the right to autonomy to all Spain’s regions. Universal suffrage was granted immediately to men and in 1933 extended to women. Freedom of speech and freedom of association, even the right to divorce, were written into the charter and the church was separated from the state. These were all very important things, which could give Spain a claim to one of the world’s The final victory of Franco’s Namost modern-thinking, liberal tionalists in April 1939 came after constitutions at that time. the war had cost over 400,000 However, if our focus is feeling Spanish lives. Another 400,000 good to be Spanish, I’m going to pick something that you may think Republicans fled the country and, quite trivial as the most significant in the reprisals in the aftermath of the war, another 200,000 were aspect: the new flag. Of course, executed and around 2,000,000 I’m not talking about the visual were imprisoned. There were change from the red and yellow Nationalists who could feel proud Monarchist flag to the red, yelof a Spain that they believed had low and indigo tricolour of the won a crusade against godless Republic. What I’m talking about Communism, while all survivare the different Spains behind ing former Republicans were those flags, and there were many utterly disenfranchised from more visions of what Spain was Spain. The only thing and where it was going they could share in was than the two outward the uneasy conscience representations. Every that to be Spanish was political group in Spain to have participated in went on to make and fratricide. fly its own flag, but it’s Second Republic flag analogous of what happened over the next few years that it came back down to a straight TO BE CONTINUED...

28

jan 09

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