Spain has been contending with a surge in far-right sentiments and support for political parties embracing this path in the recent years, even as 2020 marked the 45th anniversary of the end of one of Spain’s darkest periods in history: the Franco regime. Time has the insidious power of erasing the urgency of historical events, softening edges on grueling periods if people are not reminded about the horrors. As the generations of Spaniards are being renewed, so is the appetite to review the Franco regime. This happens at a time where the flux of information is difficult to manage, making the possibility to engage in revisionist acts far easier. As of 2017, the far-right party, VOX, has been making gains and casting a favourable light on Franco’s regime. Currently, VOX ranks as the third largest party in Spain’s national assembly, and it has frequently come at odds with the current approach of the 2007 Historical Memory Law and of the Socialist government, which has made it a priority to provide reparations to the victims of the Franco regime. The current process and legislation foresee the fact that Franco era symbols, including statues or street names are to be removed, which has led to the last statue of Franco to be removed in 2021 from Melilla. However, the battle is still being fought on the existing street names.
At all points of this process, VOX has been riling up a sentiment of nostalgia around the period of dictatorship, contesting every single effort of removing the insensitive commemoration of Franco and his supporters. Such efforts open the door for the repetition of history to occur, and for this reason, it is essential to counteract such approaches with a coordinated educational effort. The 2021 edition of SOLIDAR Foundation’s Citizenship and Lifelong Learning Monitor included a national focus on Spain as well, looking into education for environmental sustainability and the civic space situation. The research becomes essential in the context of the continuous VOX efforts to reframe the years of the dictatorship as the civic space must be protected to ensure that citizens can participate and have space to react to any reframing. To avoid a repetition of the past, active participation in the civic space is required to prevent apathy and ensure that the minority far right voices are not hijacking the debate and changing the Spanish context on behalf of the entire population. In this sense, the current situation of the civic space in Spain is not encouraging, with many pieces of legislation preventing the engagement in debates and critically reflecting on the role of the state and the years of the dictatorship.
Have a look at our 2021 Monitor Spanish national report to start a reflection on what is actually needed in relation to education so that a vibrant civic space can be ensured in order to prevent the atrocities of the past returning.