Friday, March 22, 2013

The 49ers: Spain's politics in 1964

I am in my element. A historian by degree, I am surrounded by the stuff of historical research. Original source material. Aisles of newspapers are bound into volumes. The early volumes consist of parts of years, the later ones are by month. They form the grand archive of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" and of other Grupo Serra newspapers and publications. This is a gold mine, a journey into the past as revealed by a collection. I am in an inner sanctum of fifty years of history.

Why am I here? I am doing research; research into the news of the past fifty years as reported by the "Bulletin". To do justice to all this source material would take weeks, months. It is perhaps unfortunate that there is not a more convenient way of accessing all this material: in digital form, all referenced, all keyworded. Convenient it would be, but it would be an enormous project. Maybe one day it will be done.

I know, more or less, what I am looking for. My pre-research has identified news stories, most of which I have a date for. These are stories mainly to do with Mallorca and Spain but not exclusively. I know what some of the "biggies" will be. There is a temptation to go to these first - Franco's death, the coup attempt of 1981, for example - but no, I have to be systematic. Year by year, starting back in 1963. Which is where a problem arises. 1963 isn't there. Not the best of starts. Perhaps someone has taken it out. Not to worry. It can wait for now.

Two volumes covering 1964 are, therefore, the first to be examined. A story I want to find is that to do with Spain winning the European football championship, the old European Nations Cup. I find it but I look at random at other issues from the first six months of 1964. Well, not quite at random. I go back exactly 49 years. In the absence of a more scientific approach, taking an anniversary seems like the most obvious way of making sense of randomness. 

I had not expected to uncover any critical articles about Franco and nor did I. Censorship wouldn't have allowed them anyway. There would have been little point anyone attempting to be critical and making life difficult for him or herself. But there, on this 49th anniversary, I was drawn to an article entitled "Harmony Between Spaniards, The Major Political Concern Of Today". A political discussion. I don't know that I had expected to even find one of these.

Above the article was an advert for holiday apartments in San Agustin, Majorca's residential zone "par excellence", so the ad read. The apartments had, among other things, central heating. How innovative must that have been in 1964? The unattributed article was surprisingly measured in its consideration of socialism. Its context was a political trial that had been taking place in Madrid. Though measured ("we respect" the fact that Spanish socialists are "different" and have "nothing to do with the type of socialism we knew in Spain before and during the War"), the article was a firm defence of conservatism. It pointed to British politics, de Gaulle and even Tito's Yugoslavia and Russian communism as examples of conservatism in a rather peculiar advocacy of conservatism as being progressive (I don't know that the Soviets were all that progressive in 1964).

But what was most extraordinary about this article was that it quoted a Spanish intellectual in exile in Peru. It quoted him at length, and this was all it did. It didn't take issue. Yet, this intellectual, Felix Montiel, was quoted thus: "Would it be advisable to overthrow Franco, leaving the solution to the luck of events?" Montiel wasn't in fact proposing that Franco should be overthrown. He disagreed with the regime but he had no wish for "democratic groups" who would "not hesitate to take the path of violence".

What this article suggests to me is that, by 1964, the left, even if it had not become totally reconciled to the Franco regime, was capable of accepting it. Montiel didn't want a return to the war days. He may also have recognised, had he seen a copy of the newspaper, what was happening. As indicated by the ad above the article.

This was just one article, just one I stumbled across, but it was an important article, a genuine surprise. Not only because it was in the "Bulletin" but also because it showed that both right and left were gradually moving towards each other. It would be eleven years before right and left could engage in genuine dialogue, but that dialogue had already begun.

Any comments to please.

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