Friday, April 15, 2016

Paying Homage: 85 years on

They were paying homage yesterday. In towns and villages across the island, they remembered the victims, though the date is more of a celebration. Eighty-five years ago on 14 April, the Second Republic came into being. It was to herald a period of chaos, extraordinary even for a nation that had endured decades of chaos and violence. It was the culmination of all that had been unleashed at least since the time of the Napoleonic War and the drafting of the 1812 Liberal Constitution (some one hundred years earlier, in truth). It ushered in the years of the great dictator - great in the sense that Franco was far more important in dictatorial terms than Primo de Rivera (who had preceded the Republic) had been. Franco can never be considered in isolation. His regime had an inevitability about it: one created by political, religious, monarchical and military disasters. To quote Bismarck: "I am firmly convinced that Spain is the strongest country in the world. Century after century trying to destroy herself and still no success."

Some villages suffered more than most. Pollensa was one of them. Some 26 Republicans were executed. They, and the around 150 people who were imprisoned, were remembered in the town's Seglars square yesterday evening. The executions and imprisonments were often just politically motivated. Being a Republican was a sufficient enough crime. Others who were victims of the Nationalists were so because of motives of revenge. Vendettas, only partly related to the division that fostered the Civil War, were an excuse for payback. Charges were often spurious and weak. I learned recently about a gardener from Pollensa who was imprisoned merely because he had been employed by a Republican.

Pollensa town hall recently expressed its support for the regional government's law on war graves and for the Argentinian legal initiative in respect of violations under Franco. There was almost unanimous backing. The one Partido Popular councillor abstained, out of step with former PP colleagues, including the ex-mayor, who formed a rival group prior to last year's election. For the most part, even the right sympathise with pro-Republican sentiment in Pollensa. Or is this better expressed as anti-Francoist sentiment? There is a difference.

In Palma the homage paid was on a grander scale. Well, there was a DJ as well. It was held in the town hall square - Plaça de Cort. "Visca la República!" said the poster. The gathering had the support of the town hall, Podemos, Més, unions, feminists, a Palestinian group, a Greco-Mallorcan solidarity group and others, one of which was the Fundació Emili Darder. He was the Republican mayor of Palma, shot in 1937. Pollensa's Republican mayor, Pere Josep Cànaves, was shot in 1938.

Why some of these groups were lending their support was not totally clear. But if they wished to, then that was up to them. There was, though, a question about the support shown by the town hall. The PP and the C's questioned it. The town halls' official social media accounts were used to promote the event; Ajuntament de Palma appeared on the poster. The administration, argued the PP/C's, should not be involving itself in something of an ideological and partisan nature.

Absent from the political parties named as supporters was PSOE. By implication, though, it was a supporter. The mayor is a PSOE man, after all. The mayor, José Hila, has appeared to be easily swayed by Republican initiatives. Whereas he once agreed that the Feixina monument should become a monument to the victims of war and so lose its Francoist symbolism, he now heads an administration which has formally announced the specification for the monument's demolition on the Official Bulletin. Hila bends to the will of his political partners, one can't help but feeling. Previous PSOE mayors - all previous and surviving mayors of the democratic era in fact - are opposed to the demolition.

The monument has been allowed to become a cause célèbre, a case of whipping up a storm unnecessarily in the pursuit of ideological righteousness. By some, that is. Does Hila truly subscribe to it? Maybe he does. In the process, division has been created. It may have existed previously but it has been allowed to become more visible, while there are those without strong sympathies either way who have no wish to see the monument go.

One can understand that passions of 80 or more years ago still burn. Heaven knows, it will be 80 years on 17 July when the Civil War broke out with the military uprising in Morocco. There are bound to be events. The past cannot and should not be forgotten. For family descendants, the war graves act might allow them to get that now clichéd word "closure". Remembering and remembrance are appropriate. Ideological posturing is quite a different matter.

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