On Sunday, hundreds of Spaniards descended on the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos), a Catholic basilica and monument near the capital Madrid. The left-wing newspaper El País characterized these protesters, who shouted slogans like “Long live Spain!” and “Don’t touch the Valley,” as vengeance-minded. Why? Well, the Valley of the Fallen is home to 33,000 corpses, almost all of whom were killed during Spain’s civil war between 1936 and 1939. One of the protesters, Francisco Javier Feria, who showed up at the protest dressed in the blue shirt of the Falangist movement, said that “the bodies here [in the Valley] have to give an example so that [the Civil War] does not happen again.” That seems sensible enough.
The one major problem for Mr. Feria is the fact that Spain is now ruled by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, or PSOE. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who took power after conservative politician Mariano Rajoy was ousted following a vote of no confidence that came on the heels of several corruption investigations involving the Peoples’ Party (PP), wants the Valley of the Fallen to become a “memorial to the victims of fascism.” Speaking in the typical pabulum that is so often spouted by academics and politicians, Mr. Sanchez supported his government’s grave desecration by saying that “Spain can’t allow symbols that divide.”
The chief dividing symbol seems to be the skeleton of General Francisco Franco, the military strongman and caudillo who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. Under Franco, Spain, having once had a backward and mostly rural economy, experienced an unprecedented boom during the 1950s that saw, by 1959, a $150 million surplus in the country’s foreign exchange account. General Franco, who was once the youngest general in all of Europe, also managed to keep his nation out of that catastrophe known as World War II, even despite the fact that Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany had supplied his Nationalist forces with thousands of men, tanks, airplanes, and money during the civil war.
None of this, of course, matters to the PSOE or the Spanish left, which is still fighting the civil war. Prime Minister Sanchez and his lackeys probably want the Valley to become a shrine to dead anarchists and Communists so that the gullible members of the Spanish public will forget that the Second Spanish Republic oversaw a “red terror” campaign prior to the military revolt of 1936 that historian Stanley G. Payne has dubbed the “most extensive and violent persecution of Catholicism in Western history.” The Republicans and their far-left backers did more than just nationalize church properties throughout Spain; some 6,832 Catholic citizens, including thirteen bishops and over 2,000 priests, were murdered between 1936 and 1939. As many as 20,000 churches were destroyed by the “tolerant” government of the Second Spanish Republic. In the fall of 1936 alone, between 12,000 and 15,000 political prisoners from Madrid’s jails were executed at the behest of Spanish Communists and their Soviet supervisors. Like today, the Spanish dead were not safe from “red” outrages, either. The corpses of nuns were desecrated and propped up in Barcelona’s streets for the enjoyment of pedestrians walking by. Even the left-wing and pro-Republican historian Paul Preston, who has written books condemning Franco and his supporters as genocidal, has admitted that the Republicans killed at least 50,000 during the three-year conflict.
The Spanish Civil War, like all wars, was a tragedy. However, the PSOE and the left-wing intelligentsia of Madrid and Barcelona are intentionally obfuscating the fact that their historical predecessors were neither angels nor pure victims. Indeed, by the time the war reached its climax, the fighters loyal to the Second Spanish Republic were busy killing their own anarchists and socialists at the behest of Moscow rather than fighting Franco and his allies. Prime Minister Sanchez probably does not like to think about the fact that his own party was more victimized by their erstwhile allies than Franco’s “Fascists.”