The Exhumation of Franco: or, How to Dig Up a Fascist

September 14, 2018


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several weeks (and maybe you have) you’ve heard about the exhumation of Franco.

Yes, just a bit more than 40 years after his death, Spain’s latest military dictator is going to be dug up from his resting place in Valle de los Caídos (just outside of El Escorial, Madrid) and moved…


His family gets to choose, I guess.

Try as I might, I can’t manage to feel very strongly about the whole thing. But some certainly do. 

Follow along, then, ’cause we’ve got a scandal to cover…

Franco’s exhumation rocks the calm of newly-socialist Spain

So here’s the deal:

A few months ago, we had a vote of no confidence in Parliament, which the more conservative “Popular Party” lost.

The government was taken over by the Socialist party, who have been working hard to remove any trace of Franco for quite a while. 

In 2005, shortly after I arrived in Madrid, the Socialist government removed the last statue of Franco from the city. In those days there was a lot of talk about “Memoria Histórica” and digging up of mass graves to try to locate people’s loved ones.

In 2011, when the Popular Party came to power, most of that died down. Anyway, we were in a profound economic crisis at that point, and people had other worries.

But now, months into their new and tenuous tenure in La Moncloa, the socialists are digging up the dictator.

So what is one to think? 

The fact is, there are a lot of people buried up in Valle de los Caídos – many of them Republicans (in the Spanish sense) who were executed for being on the wrong side of the fight during the Civil War.

Teresa de Jesus’ church up in Ávila. Franco was a fan, and the Catholic church was always pretty friendly with fascism.

I went up to the mausoleum myself years ago, and don’t have much to say. It was more bad fascist architecture. Blocky statues, the plaza a blatant ripoff of Saint Peter’s in Rome. Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera – founder of Spanish fascism – were buried together right in the Basilica. (The roof was leaking, and someone had put a plastic bucket to catch the drops. That’s what I remember most.)

The rest, whichever side they were on, are in unmarked graves somewhere.

Anyway, I guess in the end it’s a good thing they’re digging him up. 

Don’t exalt dictators, don’t glorify fascism.

(In Germany and Italy, fascist symbols are illegal, and have been for a long while. So is apology for fascism. Because free speech clearly needs limits, but this humble blogger isn’t the one to say where they should be.)

But is fascism really on the rise in Spain?

I’m saying no.

Some people saw the protest at Valle de los Caídos this summer – in which hundreds of fascists got together to sing Cara al Sol and give their little salute – and decided it was the new rise of fascism in Spain.

I’m not convinced, though.

It’s really easy to get Spanish people to protest. In any Spanish city, on any given day, there are at least a dozen diverse groups of people protesting something.

I remember years ago, people in Madrid protesting against the planting of trees on one of the plazas. A few blocks down, they were protesting against the cutting of trees on the street.

Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate.

exhumation of franco and fascism in spain
Anti-tourism posters in Barcelona… A sign of creeping fascism?

Also, if you’re interested, Spain’s largest neofascist (or at least far right) party, Vox, isn’t even clocking 1% of the vote in most places in Spain. Without a single representative in Parliament, they pretty much suck donkey balls.

(That’s the official term for it, in PoliSci. Sucking donkey balls.)

In fact, online magazine Xataka says that fascist and far right parties can get about 1 to 3% support in surveys, but received only 0.2% of votes in the 2016 elections.

Rise of the far right, indeed.

I’ve been hearing, in any case, about the rise of naziism, white supremacy, the far right, and whatever else for years. Every time there’s an election anywhere in Europe, people say: is this the big day for the far right?

So far, not really. The right seems to be (mostly) sucking donkey balls across the EU, and most of what we’d consider to be the “first world”, too.

This morning, I was trying to think of what a rise of fascism would actually look like. And here’s what I’ve got…

Rather than people by the hundreds protesting outside Franco’s tomb, a real actual rise of the far right would have a million kids giving up weed and Pokemon Go to join fascist youth organizations.

Is that happening?

Doesn’t look like it.

(And what would that even look like? I imagine them doing early-morning calisthenincs in large groups on cold winter days, while loudspeakers shout about the superiority of the Spanish race. Um… yeah, not likely.)

A real rise of fascism would have actual far-right parties with seats in Parliament – whereas here in Spain the biggest change we’ve seen over the last decade is the beginning of Podemos. With 69 seats in Parliament, is anybody panicking about the rise of the far left? Not anybody I know…

A real rise of fascism would mean large far right protests in every city in Spain – just like there are protests of every other kind, basically daily.

So let’s just relax.

Don’t let a few hundred fachas ruin your day.

They get together twice a year, and other than that, they’re such a small minority that they can be safely ignored.

And anyway, fascism just isn’t cool anymore. Not like Pokemon Go, avocados and Ariana Grande are cool. 

So chill. Get some cañas. And enjoy living in a place (and a time) where the far right is largely obsolete.

Apolitically yours,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. The more I think about it, the more I feel like most people would be better off dedicating their lives to something other than endless worry about politics – Spanish or otherwise. But that’s just me. What do you think? Hit me up in the comments… Thanks!

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. You are probably right about the rise of (far) right in Spain. But PP social base is ranging from far right to almost center or center right. In fact PP was founded by Manuel Fraga who was a ministry of Franco (and important one). Probably in big cities like Madrid people tend to be more moderate but outside there in places like where I was born, Castilla y León if you are a liberal center or center right you are almost a communist. Here PP has been winning every election since almost beginning of democracy except a short goverment of Demetrio Madrid that resigned by a case of corruption that later proved was all made up.

    I haven´t seen so many Spanish flags since Catalonia started their “proces” in my home town, Salamanca. Not even when Spain won the world cup. I have seen many demonstrations when following the “Memoria historica” law, the Franco shield was going to be removed from the Main Square of Salamanca. People were protesting about it and said that Franco shield should remain there. Because it´s part of history. Where he was Franco shield? Where all kings were. Pretty nifty, isn´t it?

    It´s not a coincidence that Radio Nacional de España was born in Salamanca during the civil war, because Nacional meant to be in Franco´s side. Also it´s where all the famous Salamanca papers were. Those papers were in fact, all the papers that Franco took from any left worker union or party to start killing people when the war was over.

    So maybe the far right is not in the parliament, but in some places in Spain, there is a social base.

    1. Hey Miguel, yeah, you’re right. The Xataka article I link to explains what you’re saying pretty well. There are of course plenty of “small town fachas” – I’ve met enough of them – but they’re not really politically active, they vote PP, and I’m not sure they know or care much about actual fascism. They’re just nostalgic for back in the day or whatever. Thanks for commenting!

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