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The Schizophrenia of Spain
June 5, 2011 1:22 AM   Subscribe

Leonard Cohen has been honored with the Prince of Asturias Prize for Letters.
His connection to Spain came through his personal interest in the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca.
Cohen and García Lorca came together spiritually when the late flamenco singer Enrique Morente (Previous) used their poems as the basis of his seminal 1996 album Omega. ( More on Omega (Spanish)
At the same time The new Spanish Dictionary of Biography's historical revisions tell us more about what's wrong with Spain now than in the past;
F is for Franco but not for fascist. (It's worth reading down the comments as well).
posted by adamvasco (17 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Regarding the Spanish Biographical Dictionary, you've maybe missed this fascinating trainwreck of an interview to the director of the Spanish Royal Academy of History (in charge of the dictionary) in which he notably:
a) defends the author of the Franco entry (a notoriously rightwing historian who's both a fellow of the Academy and a personal friend of the director), while admitting that he hasn't bothered himself to read the entry yet despite the raging controversy;
b) claims that he's "exhausted" and tries to leave when the interview starts to go seriously awry; and
c) when handed a softball question to close the interview ("what do you think the Academy still needs?"), he starts giving a PR-approved answer ("More women"), the goes gloriously off course by explaining that the reason why there aren't, in his opinion, enough female top-flight historians is that the kids and family prevent them from dedicating enough time to research.

More than the scandal itself, the interview reveals one of the things that's wrong in today's Spain: too many elderly mediocrities refusing to stand aside and leave the field to younger, better educated colleagues.
posted by Skeptic at 2:06 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


previous winners of the prize

On the Franco controversy, it's turning out to be nothing more than old right wing guy is right wing. It is indeed disgraceful, ignorant and short-sighted, but it seems we'll have to wait for these guys to finally die; options like history by comittee kind of trigger my gag reflex.
posted by valdesm at 3:33 AM on June 5, 2011


the correct list of winners link is this
posted by valdesm at 6:01 AM on June 5, 2011


You know, I don't think you can call Franco an out-and-out facist. Like many a journalist, Murado gets it wrong on the facts in order to get a great headline.

Although Franco did every bad thing Murado says he did, and the dictionary is wrong, Franco never joined the Falange nor espoused the corporatist views it or the other facist parties believed, nor ever tried to remake society in the way that Hitler and Mussolini did, or in the way that Action Francaise wanted to in France. Indeed, he was more of a Carlist, and he essentially drew support from the Carlists and the Falange, while tending politically towards the latter. It is no surprise, therefore, that he put King Juan Carlos in charge upon his death.

Franco, rather, was an old-line conservative in the most anti-democratic and anti-republican sense. He most certainly saw the idea of human rights as laughable and used force and war to overthrow a democratically elected system. But fundamentally, he wanted to bring back the past, not create a modernist future state like Hitler or Mussolini. This does not make him any better than them, nor his crimes any less real. But it puts into perspective his particular form of evil and also gives us an insight into the current crop of crypto-Francoists. The other thing it does is highlight the incredible courage and intelligence of King Juan Carlos, who, when confronted with the post-Franco coup of 23 February 1981, went on national TV, denounced the rebels, and called for continuing the new democracy that Spain had become.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:30 AM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ironmouth, I quote from Murado from the comments section (which I suggested you to read ) as this canard is laid to rest :
Franco did the Fascist salute, presided over a Fascist organization, modeled his administration on that of Italy and Germany, praised Hitler and Mussolini constantly, suppressed democracy (not communism, which didn’t exist in Spain) and declared his to be a “Totalitarian State”. He used all the iconography of fascism and prosecuted those who described themselves as “antifascists”. Of course he didn’t call his regime, officially, Fascist, for the same reasons Hitler didn’t either: they were both nationalists who didn’t want to appear as importing something Italian. But Hitler called himself “Führer” which is the German for Italian “Duce”, which in Spanish reads “Caudillo”, which is what Franco declared himself to be.
posted by adamvasco at 7:39 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Franco would not have been what Franco stood for without the full support of the Catholic Church.
The nice thing about Franco's departure? topless beaches.
posted by Postroad at 8:21 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My heart of silk
is filled with lights,
with lost bells,
with lilies and bees.
I will go very far,
farther than those hills,
farther than the seas,
close to the stars,
to beg Christ the Lord
to give back the soul I had
of old, when I was a child,
ripened with legends,
with a feathered cap
and a wooden sword.
posted by kersplunk at 9:06 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Spain’s conflicting memories refuse to fade
posted by homunculus at 9:42 AM on June 5, 2011


Honoring Baltasar Garzón
posted by homunculus at 9:44 AM on June 5, 2011


I do not know from Spanish history and politics, but I am fully in support of Leonard Cohen getting any award out there.

If men are pack animals, Mr. Cohen is my Alpha.
posted by Danf at 10:21 AM on June 5, 2011


Ironmouth isn't arguing that Franco was nice, just that his flavour of evil wasn't fascist. Stalin also wasn't fascist, though still very evil.

It is true that Franco was allied with fascists and took some imagery from them. But his underlying philosophy/ideology was far less revolutionary than the Fascists, and more socially/culturally conservative, while being equally as dictatorial.
posted by jb at 11:15 AM on June 5, 2011


Franco led the Falange Española Tradicionalista, a fascist organization which was the merging of the Carlists with the Falange founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera.
It doesn't matter what else you want to call it but it was fascist and it more than borrowed a few baubles and phrases.
Under Franco's fascist rule over 150,000 people put to death in zones controlled by his forces.
This figure excludes the unknown numbers killed in the bombing campaigns against Republican cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. Nor does it include the many thousands of refugees who died in bombing attacks as they fled Francoist advances, nor the tens of thousands of refugees and prisoners who later died from disease and malnutrition.
Rape was a weapon as were disappearances, and in many cases, the murders of entire families, along with theft of young children from widows whose husbands had died fighting for the Republican cause. Franco believed that it was necessary to break the spirit of the civilian population by liquidating any potential threat or opposition, however slight.
If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck etc etc.
I am pretty sure he did not eat children or kick his dog but that does not vindicate him from being the leader of a monstrous fascist regime which repressed Spain and her citizens for nearly 40 years. That needs no revising; it is a fact.
posted by adamvasco at 12:42 PM on June 5, 2011


just that his flavour of evil wasn't fascist
This is true but an evil occurs when you use an evil system, he turned his country be a staging ground to prove Hitlers premise of the communist world domination.

found this interesting about Philby:

"His controller at the time, Theodore Maly, reported in April 1937 to the NKVD that he had personally briefed Philby on the need "to discover the system of guards, primarily of Franco and then of other leaders."

With the goal of potentially arranging Franco's assassination, Philby was instructed to report on vulnerable points in Franco’s security and recommend ways to gain access to him and his staff. However, such an act was never a real possibility; upon debriefing Philby in London on 24 May 1937, Maly wrote to the NKVD, "Though devoted and ready to sacrifice himself, [Philby] does not possess the physical courage and other qualities necessary for this [assassination] attempt.""


and cheers for Mr. Cohen.
posted by clavdivs at 12:52 PM on June 5, 2011


Franco was a fascist. He was also a Carlist, a conservative, a colonialist, an anticolonialist, an anti-American, a pro-American, a monarchist, a republican, and even, for a short period in the early thirties, a democrat. Most importantly, he was each and every single one of those things when and how it suited him best. It's pretty pointless to argue about his ideology: he was, above all, a consummate opportunist, with superb skills in the art of political and diplomatic intrigue. A man with a burning ambition who managed to elbow his way to the top of a singularly ill-assorted coalition of right-wing forces, keep it together, and by skillfully playing its factions against each other, survive both Hitler and Mussolini by thirty years. You can't manage that by sticking to an ideology. Any ideology.

As for the petty scandal about his biographical entry, this isn't unfortunately not just about an old right-winger being a right-winger. This is, in my view, the least important issue. I find it rather more scandalous to discover that, rather that getting the best qualified historian for each entry, the fellows of the Royal Academy of History had first pickings, regardless of their field of expertise. Or that, in the age of Wikipedia, the RAH found peer review unnecessary for its biographical dictionary. Or that 15 of the 36 fellows are over 80. The degree of cronyism and amateurism revealed by this sorry affair is disgraceful.
posted by Skeptic at 1:01 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, I quote from Murado from the comments section (which I suggested you to read ) as this canard is laid to rest :
Franco did the Fascist salute, presided over a Fascist organization, modeled his administration on that of Italy and Germany, praised Hitler and Mussolini constantly, suppressed democracy (not communism, which didn’t exist in Spain) and declared his to be a “Totalitarian State”. He used all the iconography of fascism and prosecuted those who described themselves as “antifascists”. Of course he didn’t call his regime, officially, Fascist, for the same reasons Hitler didn’t either: they were both nationalists who didn’t want to appear as importing something Italian. But Hitler called himself “Führer” which is the German for Italian “Duce”, which in Spanish reads “Caudillo”, which is what Franco declared himself to be.


Franco combined the Falange with the Carlists. But there is little doubt that beside the few times he did the fascist salute, he was fully a monarchist and a catholic at heart, positions far removed from those of the Falange and other fascist parties. I think he used the Falange the best he could but at heart was a Carlist.

The problem is that in this country, the term fascist is improperly used. It is thrown about as a term meaning authoritarian right winger. It is most definitely not so. The fascists were essentially modernists, who wanted to remake society and substitute a nationalist, corpratist state (meaning that each economic class was to be represented at some national level in a corporate body, and that those bodies would then be tied together by nationalism), for the reactionary right of the past. If one must pick a place for Franco, however, it is with the reactionary right, not with the fascists.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:52 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, calling Franco a Carlist is, in my opinion, about as accurate, or inaccurate, as calling him a fascist. Sure, he adopted the red beret, just like he adopted the fascist salute, and he also professed the traditional religiosity of the Carlists, but, on the other hand, he certainly didn't reinstate the old feudal fueros, very much THE core demand of the Carlists, and maintained the centralizing tendencies of the Spanish Army going back to the anti-Carlist "Cristinos" of the XIX century. He also made the successive Carlist throne pretenders' lives as difficult and precarious as he could. When it suited him, he used the Carlists against the Falangists, just as he used the Falangists against the mainstream monarchists, and the mainstream monarchists against both Carlists and Falangists, but, quite frankly, he never felt any particular allegiance to any one of those groups. Franco was, above all, a Francoist.
posted by Skeptic at 11:56 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


A 3 part essay published 2006 on the World Socialist Website explaining how the Right wing in Spain attempts to rehabilitate Franco 1; 2; 3;
I think Skeptic nails it pretty well. Franco was primarily for Franco and to achieve his ends he heavily allied himself with the Falange together with the Catholic Church a politicical ideology some have described as National Catholicism. That these dinosaurs still have influence in acadamia and the judicary is a little unsettling at times. The Movement for Historical memory is thwarted at every turn by such groups as Manos Limpios a modern version of Fuerza Nueva . Spain has no Freedom of Information act (one of only five countries in the EU which still lacks this).
posted by adamvasco at 12:54 PM on June 6, 2011


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