In this hour of gore salesmen and compulsive liars; Today, when you can get to hear, not historical inaccuracies, but outright blatant manipulations in all kinds of matters, it is convenient that serious things be dealt with rigorously. More when they are broadcast on a large scale. Not long ago we had to listen to Pablo Casado, leader of the PP, laugh at the grace of former UCD minister Ignacio Camuñas for denying the coup d’état of July 18, 1936. An outrage like that will not be heard even remotely in The harsh truth about Franco’s dictatorship, the documentary series of the German public channel ZDF that broadcasts Netflix. Simply because it is not true.
For a long time, that faction of the right that still sympathizes with the Franco regime – not only in Vox, but also within sectors of the PP – has successfully endeavored to continue carving out the torturous and divisive discourse of the victors that remained throughout the postwar period. . Even outside a country in physical and moral ruins, the rigorous vision that foreign and Spanish historians from exile had not been able to build later on had yet to be built.
With the transition came some light and crystallized a consensus on truths difficult to refute with facts that various scholars, from Gerald Brenan to Tuñón de Lara, from Pierre Vilar to Raymond Carr, Gabriel Jackson, Hugh Thomas, Paul Preston or Ian Gibson; from Miguel Artola to Carlos Seco Serrano and later Santos Juliá, among others, had been trying since the 1950s as an alternative to the systematic manipulation of the regime’s bleaches, led, among others, by José María Pemán or Father Tusquets. The conscientious role both played in the systematic and narcotic construction of hoaxes is attested by Preston in his latest book, Architects of terror (Debate).
But we are immersed in the era of alternative events: that is, of the vulgar lie distributed at the speed of light. The desirable consensus of the birth of democracy began to be demolished again in the 1990s with that slogan launched by José María Aznar, as skillful as it was dangerous: “Without complexes.” And that fragile but indisputable vision of history began to falter torpedoed, among other forums of power, by the think tank that Aznar still leads from FAES.
That is why it is good that on platforms such as Netflix, that is, massive, they choose to issue rigorous positions. The series that Klaus Kastenholz and Isabel Andrés sign uses reliable, honest and proven sources. The testimonies of biographers and scholars of the stature of Preston, author of the best biography that exist on the dictator, but also of Anthony Beevor, Carlos Collado and Ángel Viñas, whose contribution to dismantling the corrupt structure of the regime, is leading today of reference.
The journey through those four decades of horror, his ambiguous and bloodthirsty profile, ambitious to the point of eliminating his rivals inside and out, the cunning that kept him in power until he died in bed, coexist in the series next to the footprints that even today mark our lives, with the obvious and natural invisibility of everyday life.
Franco survives in us, among us, beats alive in aspects that the series deals with: from the preeminence of the Church with its still prominent weight in education to the repopulation of the countryside or the exodus to the cities, from the still unresolved infamy of crimes such as children stolen from the emergence of tourism, which has made up a large part of that productive fabric on which we depend today. All this magma, the traumas, the survivals, the fear and even the learning of freedom, all this sociology, comes from the same trunk. Hence the difficulty in building consensus on the cold bases of events, away from a certain emotional chain that is difficult to get rid of.
It is something that occurs in all nations that have suffered the yoke of authoritarianism and tyranny, as Géraldine Schwarz masterfully recounts in Amnestics. Story of a European family (Tusquets). Some countries like Germany did a good collective job to shed that bond, even if it still resonates. France traumatized by the occupation and Italy, not so much. In Spain, we have not yet passed the first course. See a documentary series like The harsh truth about Franco’s dictatorship, maybe it will help us move forward.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.