Dear fellow researchers

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Dear fellow researchers

Hereby you get a draft of a chapter in my coming thesis.

For those of you who are not familiar with my research, let me describe it briefly. My study is concerned with the representation, principally within press discourse, of the Spanish nation and national history in post-Franco Spain. In particular I look at the anniversaries of a series of important historical events, such as the beginning of the Civil War, which are all occasions for reflecting on the national history to a larger or lesser extent. The present period and past epochs are evaluated and it is these discourses concerning the legitimacy of past and present actors and regimes, which interest me as they reveal the discursive foundations of the Spanish nation after Franco.

I also attach a draft of the table of contents of my thesis, which I hope you want to discuss with me. The idea, which emerges from my sources, is to let them constitute an account of the last approximately 200 years of Spanish history as it is represented in the commemorative activity related to these anniversaries. What appears from this is of course not a balanced professional historiographical narrative, but rather a 'bumpy' account that emphasises certain events, actors, and epochs and silences or omits others. It is precisely these 'bumps and holes' that interest me because they are informed by the logic of the narrative.

Although the newspaper material will constitute the most important empirical source I intend to also study other sources, which are important for understanding the representation of Spanish history. Certain legislative and parliamentary texts like parts of the constitutional debates and specific laws like Law of the Flag contain valuable information on the struggle between different representations of Spanish history. Textbooks on Spanish history, monuments, and electoral programs of political parties are also useful for these purposes.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

Nationalism, History, and Commemoration

Sources and Methodology

  • The discourses on the nation in Spain (1808 - 1975)

19th century origins

The conjuncture around 1898

The Franco regime

  • Historical origins remembered and forgotten: commemorating the nation (12th of October & 2nd of May)

  • The last democracy: remembering the republican past (14th of April)

  • Victory becomes peace: remembering a civil war (18th of July & 1st of April)

Official commemoration of the victory

Official commemoration of the uprising

Commemoration in the newspapers after Franco

  • The end of an epoch is the beginning of a new: remembering a dictatorship (20th of November)

  • >From the Monarchy of the Movement to the King of all Spaniards: commemorating the monarchy (22nd of November)

  • >From reform to rupture: commemorating change (15th of June & 6th of December)

  • Conclusions?

Just for your information the anniversaries refer to the following events:

  • 1st of April – anniversary of the victory of the Civil War in 1939

  • 14th of April – anniversary of the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931

  • 2nd of May – anniversary of the upheaval against French occupation in 1808 which marked the beginning of the War of Independence

  • 15th of June – anniversary of the first democratic elections in 1977

  • 18th of July – anniversary of the military uprising in 1936, which marked the beginning of the Civil War

  • 12 of October – Día de la Hispanidad, anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492

  • 20th of November – anniversary of the death of Franco and of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Falange in 1975 and 1936 respectively

  • 22nd of November – anniversary of the proclamation of Juan Carlos I as King of Spain in 1975

  • 6th of December – Día de la Constitución, anniversary of the constitutional referendum in 1978

Victory becomes peace: Remembering a civil war

Commemorative activity in the Spanish press on the anniversaries of the Civil War

The coming to terms with the Francoist past in Spain is marked by a seeming contradiction between explicit criticism of wilful forgetting on the one hand and signs of obsessive remembering on the other. It has become commonplace among analysts of the Spanish transition to talk of "pacts of forgetting" or "collective amnesia"1, which supposedly were a precondition for its success as they aimed at overcoming former divisions and resentments. However, as Emilio Lamo de Espinosa has recently done2, I would question this very much. I believe it would be more proper to talk of pacts of silence or collectively accepted silencing instead of "pacts of forgetting" etc. And behind the silences, where they occur, generally lies an almost obsessive act of remembering, which becomes detectable, precisely, in the virulent attacks against the so-called "pacts of forgetting".

In the following I will examine the social memory of a couple of the events, which have been subject of these conflicts of interpretation and evaluation. Namely the beginning of the Spanish Civil War on the 18 of July 1936 and its end on the 1thst of April 1939. The analysis is based on the commemorative activity on the anniversaries of these dates principally in press editorials3.

The Civil War was a central event both to Francoism, in terms of history and political legitimacy, as well as to the post-Franco transition to democracy. The victory in the Civil War constituted the founding myth and principal source of legitimacy of the Franco regime. But, as Paloma Aguilar Fernández has pointed out, the discourse on the victory changed over time and was phased out from the early 1960s onwards in favour of a discourse on peace, stability, and economic development. Gradually, the victory itself was de-emphasised to instead stress the achievements of the Franco regime4. Signs of these changes are that around the same time, the Victory Parade, traditionally held on the anniversary of the victory, the 1 of April, was moved to another date in late May or early June, and that from 1966 the 1stst of April ceased to be a national holiday.

These gradual changes also implied a different social learning from the war; from being represented as a heroic deed it became a more and more tragic event albeit inevitable due to the ungovernable character of the Spaniards. Towards the end of Francoism the war was generally interpreted as a national tragedy in which everybody had their share of guilt; "we were all guilty" was a common phrase in relation to the war. This was the closest the Franco regime could come to reconcile the Spaniards. A real reconciliation would have meant an acknowledgement of the cause of the republican side thereby undermining the historical legitimacy of the regime and was therefore impossible.

To see the war as a tragedy and sharing the guilt of having caused it constituted a particular dynamic of legitimacy, which determined that the fundamental issue to be taken care of by any post-Franco regime was the real reconciliation of the Spaniards.

After the death of the Generalísimo the majority of actors opted for moderation and consensus in order to overcome the fears derived from the violence of the Civil War itself and from its later social construction during the Franco regime. The recycled Francoists, who landed on the rightwing and centre-rightwing in the new political spectrum, feared the revenge of the former opposition, the left- and centre-leftwing; and they on their side feared to once again suffer military intervention in politics and subsequent repression. The fear of a return of the Civil War scenario became the basis for the construction of real peace and reconciliation. As stated above, the Franco regime made the victory in the war its basic myth and it was commemorated year after year as the political foundation of Francoism, but paradoxically, it also therefore became a founding myth of anti-Francoism, although with opposite value.

This illustrates one of the fundamental characteristics of the Spanish transition, namely that it was based on mutual forgiving of guilt and silencing of the historical memory of certain aspects of the Second Republic, the Civil War, and of the Franco regime. The silencing necessarily, however, was accompanied by a remembering of certain other aspects of the same historical epochs in order to avoid repetition.

Official commemoration of the victory

The victory of the Civil War on the 1st of April 1939, immediately baptised "Day of the Victory" by the Francoist regime, constituted the foundation myth of Francoism. The regime considered both the 1st of April and the 18th of July, the anniversary of the military uprising that started the Civil War, worthy of commemoration and celebration. Both dates were converted into national holidays5 and various events of symbolic content were celebrated on the anniversaries.

In the beginning of May 1939, just over a month after the victory, a large military parade called the Victory parade ("Desfile de la Victoria") was celebrated and in the following years these parades were repeated on the 1 of April to commemorate the victory. The goal of these celebrations was that nobody should forget that Franco had obtained power through the force of arms and that the victory gave him the right to use that power. However, as Aguilar Fernández has shown, to celebrate the victory in a civil war over con-nationals is difficult due to the incompatibility between the joy of having put an end to the war with the fact of having won over fellow nationals. The only really memorable thing remains the end of the war, which is exactly what the victory parades end up embodyingst. These difficulties are probably the reason why the Victory parades were moved into the month of May already from the late 1950s or early 1960s6. A few years later, in 1966, but responding to the same reasoning, the 1 of April ceased to be a national holiday. To celebrate the victory in a fraternal war on the actual anniversary of the victory had become too problematic. The Victory parades in late May - early June, however, continued to be celebrated until the end of the Francoist regime.

Also in 1976 the Victory parade took place as usual in May, in spite of a proposal to change its symbolic content into a homage to the Armed Forces. In the rapidly changing Spain of 1977, however, the pressure against this Francoist ritual became too great and the Victory parade was changed into "Day of the Armed Forces" ("Día de las Fuerzas Armadas") by a royal decree from Mayst. It was the still Francoist government, however, that sanctioned the decree, which is easily detectable in the text when it mentions the value of the soldiers who have "exposed themselves to unquestionable risk and sacrifice" and of their "sense of honour and love of the Fatherland". In any case the decree was passed so late that the news of the change of symbolic content did not have time to spread and in many official and media texts the parade was still denominated "Desfile de la Victoria".

In 1978 in the democratically elected government sanctioned a new royal decree on the Day of the Armed Forces substituting the former one and changing the rhetoric substantially7. The shadow of the Civil War and the mention of patriotic sacrifices of soldiers etc. disappear and instead the decree defines the day as a "national celebration (…) of the Armed Forces of the nation [aimed at] contributing to a warm and real integration of the Spanish people with its armies."

Official commemoration of the uprising

In another sense than the 1 of April, but parallel to it, the 18stth of July 1936 represented a founding moment of the Franco regime as it was the day when the uprising soon to be captained by Franco began. It probably also represented a less problematic memory than the evocation of the victory and the regime was often denominated "the regime of the 18th of July" by its sympathisers. From official side, the date was commemorated by the inauguration of many of the most important public works, and Franco usually celebrated a reception in La Granja de San Ildefonso for the diplomatic corpse and other personalities. In the first decades the commemorations were aimed at evoking the Civil War as the basic source of legitimacy of the Franco regime. However, also this became too problematic and from the late 1950s the commemorative activity was instead related to the legitimacy deriving from the achievements of the Franco regime. Aguilar Fernández has found various official glorifications of the 18th of July over the years in Boletines Oficiales de las Cortes Españolas. Significantly, however, the last one appears in July 19588. The official inaugurations ceased immediately after the death of Franco, but the 18 of July remained holiday until and including 1977th.

Gradually, the 18 of July becomes the anniversary of the Civil War, in general, whereas the 1thst of April remains the anniversary of the victory, which determines its destiny as less politically correct when the issue of reconciliation becomes important. This is detectable even during late Francoism when the 1st of April is abolished as holiday whereas the 18th of July is maintained. But also after the death of Franco the anniversary of the victory is commented on less than the anniversary of the uprising. Generally, it is not reflected on at editorial level in the newspapers except sometimes at special anniversaries as the 40th, the 50th or the 60th anniversary9. It is also on the 18 of July that the supplementary pages on the Civil War are published in the newspapers rather than on the 1thst of April.

With regards to the discourse on the Civil War presented on the occasion of the two anniversaries, there is hardly any difference between them, even during late Francoism. The 18th of July is interpreted as the beginning of a new epoch, which became characterised by peace, economic and social development, and stability. The 1st of April from the beginning of the sixties is interpreted not as the victory of one party of Spaniards over another, but as the end of the Civil War and therefore as the anniversary of peace. Both of them develop into a discussion of the legitimacy of the Franco regime mixing the legitimacy derived from the victory and the one derived from the achievements of the regime.

Commemoration in the newspapers after Franco

El Alcázar10

In spite of general disappearance of the rhetoric of the victory that emphasises the origin of the Franco regime over its achievements from early 1960s on, this discourse to a large extent survives in El Alcázar due to its political affinities. The main preoccupation on the occasion of the anniversaries of the Civil War is to defend the legacy of the uprising and the victory, and the legitimacy derived from both.

In this daily there is a strong resistance against defining the war as a civil war preferring instead to call it War or Crusade of Liberation. On the 1 of April 1975 the larger part of the editorial is dedicated to this argument. The editorialist maintains that it was not an internal affair between 'brothers', but a war of resistance against foreign (Communist) interference in Spanish politics and lifest. It is also described as a war between two revolutions, an international Communist revolution against a national - defensive - revolution11. The war is seen as the inevitable consequence of the chaotic situation created by the Second Republic, which was necessary to achieve the purification of Spain. In these editorials the Civil War and the victory are always present as the sacred origin of all good things in present-day Spain, and both the uprising as well as the victory are events to commemorate. The legitimacy derived from the achievements of the Franco regime is also present, but always as a derived result of the war and the victory.

Nevertheless, the falling popularity of commemorating the victory is visible in a dwindling number of editorials and articles on the victory and its commemoration. 1977 is the last time the victory appears in the editorials around the 1 of April and the commemoration is the subject of a falling number of opinion and news articles. In comparison the 18stth of July is constantly present in the editorials and the news and opinions sections12.

The Francoist myth of the ungovernable character of the Spaniards, which served as a legitimisation of the dictatorship, appears in this relation as the fear of revenge of the loosers of the Civil War13. Franco is said to have controlled the lack of acceptance of the interior 'other' and the tendency to violently erase the remains of any former regime and always begin anew, but now due to the lack of control inherent to democracy they are coming back14.

In spite of all the Francoist rhetoric, El Alcázar is also buying into the new transition rhetoric. It is thus maintained that the victory and the derived peace was for all Spaniards15, an argument also common in late Francoism but which nevertheless demonstrates the need for reconciliation. Following the same argument, the editorials on more than one occasion actually do pay homage to the combatants on both sides in the Civil War16. The statement about "never again" can also be found although it is much less common than in other media17. More interestingly, when democracy had become a value in itself, El Alcázar tries to ascribe the coming of it to the Franco regime. The merit of the political hara-kiri committed by the Francoist parliament on the 18 of November 1976 by voting the law on political reform is thus attributed to the Francoist themselves, when the newspaper itself and other ultra-Francoist personalities were advocating a negative vote at the timeth. Also with respect to the issue peaseful vs. violent change a right-wing journal like El Alcázar is forced to make use of the dominant discourse. In 1981, a meeting of the ultra-rightwing to commemorate the 18 of July had caused a polemic due to the fears of an escalation of violence as it was barely 5 months after the misfortunate coup-attempt of Tejero on the 23thrd of February. The editorial on the day after is thus able to celebrate that the meeting took place without any incidents buying into the discourse on a peaceful transition18.

Thus, even El Alcázar is obliged to follow the change in discourse in such important issues as democratic legitimacy, non-violent methods, to stop commemorating the victory etc. Its discourse is basically defensive from the beginning of the transition to the final closure of the newspaper in 1988, protecting firstly the legacy of the Civil War and the Franco regime, then the democratic legitimacy of the Franco regime and the non-violent nature of the discourse of the newspaper, and lastly the right to commemorate events like the 18 of July admitting its own status as minority discourse. This is probably the one characteristic that best describes the discourse of El Alcázar and at the same time its marginalisation in the context of the Spanish transition.


In ABC, which was if not pro-Franco then at least never anti-Francoist, some of the same discourses as in El Alcázar appear, but the fact that ABC sides with the Monarchy and the democratic developments gives the discourse of ABC a different trajectory. It still contains a defensive element but it is more connected to defending the former position of ABC - with Franco during and after the Civil War - than to defending the legacy of Francoism as such, and it is thus different from that of El Alcázar.

In 1965 the editorial on the uprising is still seen as a basically justified means to "install a just order of things" in a context of anarchy, the Republic19. As this is then combined with the legitimacy derived from the peace and prosperity after the war, we also here see the same two principal legitimacies of the Franco regime as everywhere else. Interestingly, however, the myth of the ungovernable Spaniards is already used here to make people refrain from revolution and other violent ruptures. According to the editorialist the Spaniards have learned that "everything that might cause disorder is bad" from the contrast between the experience of the chaos of the Republic and that of the order of the Franco regime. In 1975 this argument is used in relation to the succession issue20. Interpreting the increasing fears of tension in relation to the 'after Franco' situation, the editorialist believes that the majority of the Spaniards want a "normal" succession, i.e. a non-violent and orderly transition. This is a perfect example of how the Francoist socialisation of the memory of the Civil War as its basic legitimising discourse, in turn, develops into the foundational myth of the transition determining the emphasis on broad consensus, non-violence, and transition by reform.

After the death of Franco both the uprising and the victory disappear from the editorials only to reappear on the respective 40, 50thth and 60th anniversaries21. When the Civil War reappears it is no longer seen as a triumphant liberation but instead as a terrible tragedy, and the victory, hence, is no longer worthy of commemoration as such. It is to be remembered only in order to avoid repetition. The lesson is drawn explicitly:

"And we should promise ourselves (…) that for no reason, in no way must we repeat our old sin, our traditional sin; that there can no excuses for those who resuscitate the shadow of Cain"22

The references to the "old sin" can only allude to the innate tendency of the Spaniards towards intolerance and conflict, i.e. the myth of the ungovernable Spaniards. The war, however, is still seen as not only inevitable but also necessary as the only solution to the untenable situation of the Second Republic. The Republic, thus, is to blame for the war and Franco is still to thank for having brought Spain peace and prosperity. The war, even if it was a tragedy, finds its meaning and justification in the regime it led to. Even in the last editorial in 1996, the Republic is still seen as principal responsible for the coming of the war, but from being a justified installation of the Franco regime it becomes a "the last of a series of collective failures" beginning around the year 180023. The war is thus put into a larger historical perspective that basically interprets the 19 century as a series of failures. The redemption from this fate has come from the Monarchy. It is seen as the salvation, which has saved Spain from its destiny and which will guarantee a peaceful development in the future: "the most important instrument of stabilisation, integration and arbitration"th.

All the editorials related to the anniversaries of the war in 1986, 1989 and 1996 are entitled "Never again civil war"24, and the emphasis on avoiding repetition increasingly becomes the only acceptable social learning to extract from the Civil War experience.

ABC seems to have a special problem with justifying its own position during the Civil War. This is especially acute during the 1980s (1986 and 1989), which might be related to the fact that the socialists were in power, and exercised a certain dominance over the historical interpretation of events like the Civil War. In 1986 on the occasion of the 50 anniversary of the uprising the socialist government emitted a declaration in which the Civil War is characterised as a non-commemorable event. Significantly, this declaration is not mentioned at all in ABC. Although the editorials are in favour of reconciliation and explicitly pay homage to both the republican and the Francoist combatants, they get quite defensive with regards to the position of ABC during the war and defend the value and integrity of those who fought with Franco. This is implicitly a counterattack against a discourse of revalidation of the combatants on the republican side, which presumably was predominant at the time, and ABC is openly pleading for a new and disinterested interpretation of the war.

The scars of the conflict are perceived to not still have been healed completely, and with respect to earlier there is more emphasis on not reopening the wound. Forgetting is impossible, but remembering must be done with caution and best only after a lot of time when a new and balanced interpretation of the war has come into being. "The Civil War already belongs to History, and there it shall remain. To reopen that tremendous wound will benefit nobody"th. In 1996 this unease about the legacy of the Civil War and the most common historical representations of it seems to have calmed down somewhat. However, even though the editorial advances its own interpretation of the war and the reasons behind it, it still urges to "leave the Civil War in the hands of the historians"25. It never becomes completely clear what the attitude is with regards to forgetting, remembering, and silencing, and as such the editorials of ABC constitute a perfect example of the dialectic relationship between them so typical for the transition.


With some nuances the discourse of ABC is to be found also in the editorial line of Ya, another daily if not with the Franco regime then at least not directly against it. In contrast to ABC, Ya does not appear to have any problem with its own past and therefore also gets much less involved in the dilemma between forgetting and remembering.

The Civil War is very quickly, even during the Franco regime, viewed as something negative instead of justified or necessary. The war finds its meaning and justification only in the regime it led to. As early as 1965, it is termed the "great national tragedy" in both editorials27. The editorials do not question whether the war was inevitable or not, but it is presumed to have had a cathartic effect. Both the victory and the uprising, however, are seen as the origin of a new epoch of peace and prosperity taking Spain beyond the former phase of polarisation and intolerance. The legitimacy derived from the victory is thus very limited, leaving the Franco regime with only that derived from the achievements. After the death of Franco, in the editorials of 1976, 1978 and 1979, the interpretation of the victory is radicalised:

"the only meaning of the commemoration which today is admissible is that of the end of a war that shall be the last of our fraternal conflicts"28

The only sense that there can be to commemorate the victory is to avoid a repetition of the Civil War. From 1979 the victory disappears from the editorials of Ya following the general trend of not commemorating - not even negatively - an event which has definitively become politically incorrect.

Already in 1965 the issue of reconciliation is very important to Ya, and the editorialist goes to extreme lengths in the attempt at finding a positive significance of the word "victory"29. The value of a victory of a civil war is to be measured by its ability to create "convivencia" between those who yesterday fought each other in the battlefield. The real [moral] significance of the victory is that both parts defeat their negative tendencies, so that it can be "a victory of everybody and forever over civil war". I.e. that the victory's ultimate sense is to forever avoid civil war. There is, however, no explicit criticism contained in this, merely an invitation to take the issue of reconciliation seriously. During the Franco regime the attempts at giving the commemorations of the Civil War a positive content lead to contradictory statements. In 1965, e.g., the uprising is presented as a fusion of the "two sides", when it was just the opposite, the division of Spain in two30. And in 1975 it is maintained that any civil war is a pretension to establish "convivencia" with the other part, when it is just the opposite: an attempt at the elimination of the internal other in order to live in peace with oneself31.

From 1975 onwards the criticism of the lack of reconciliation becomes more and more explicit. Francoism can be excused for not having taken care of the issue of integration of the former opponents during the 1940s and 1950s due to the international and national context. But the Franco regime is criticised for not having done enough in this sense since the 1960s, and this criticism is extended to the early transition regimes in 1976 and 197832. In 1979 the editorialist returns to the same problem. However, in contrast to the former years, instead of urging especially the politicians to act, this year the editorialist finds reason to be proud of what has been achieved during the transition to democracy under difficult circumstances33. Once reconciliation is achieved it becomes a valid source of legitimacy of the new regime.

At the time, the Civil War is slowly loosing its meaning becoming less and less inevitable. In 1978 and 1979 it is underlined that the war confronted two sets of ideals "when they should have been complementary", and in 1981 on the occasion of the much debated commemoration of the 18 of July in Aranjuez, the criticism of the war is repeated: "History should serve prevention not conflict"th. In 1986, on the 50 anniversary, however, the Civil War has, finally one might add, become history:

"But it is already a lot that we have learned to repudiate unanimously the most cruel confrontation between Spaniards which took place fifty years ago. The Spanish people have placed the 18thth of July 1936 in history. That is the place where it should be"34

This is a reason to be proud; Spain has changed and the old myths about character and ungovernability are no longer true. This conclusion is only underlined the day after in the editorial that comments the declaration of the government on the 50 anniversary of the Civil War, which the editorialist applauds warmlyth.

El País35

In El País, which more than any other newspaper came to represent the voice of the new democratic Spain, the anniversary of the victory is never mentioned at editorial level at all. The anniversary of the victory only appears in the news following the commemorations held in the far rightwing environments, and in 1989 and 1999, on the 50 and 60thth anniversary, respectively, it is treated in two opinion articles both times written by the same two respected historians, Santos Juliá and Javier Tusell36.

To El País the Civil War was never justified, nor inevitable, and the coming of the war is blamed uniquely on Franco and his troops. Therefore, the editorialist is highly satisfied with the abolishment of 18 of July as holiday in 1977:

"[The 18thth of July] is in the antipodes of that which a historical commemoration should offer in order to serve as symbol of union and consensus between the Spaniards"37.

The Civil War did not serve to solve the problems of Spain, merely to postpone them. Fortunately, Spain has changed since then and the major problems of 1931 have disappeared or changed parameters, and there is thus no longer a threat of repetition. In 1981, the 18 of July has become a "date of horrible significance" and the Civil War is interpreted as a military uprising against the democratic institutionsth. The Second Republic is seen as a positive inheritance worthy of remembering and the transition to democracy as a construction of continuity with that lost past38.

El País is also very critical towards the Franco regime, denying the large majority of the legitimising rhetoric. The economic and social development of the 1960s is neither discussed as a merit of the regime, or as extraneous to it. According to the editorialist of 1986, the adoption of only one way of thinking had almost more disastrous consequences than the war itself and the cruelty of the regime gave its project a longer life than it merited39. The Franco regime instituted an unchangeable concept of Spain based on catholic traditionalism, fascist militarism, and autarchy, and sought to eternalise it. But according to the director of El País, Juan Luis Cebrián, the bias of the Francoist versions of the war produced the rejection of this same version by the majority of the Spanish people and led to the elaboration of a collective consciousness different from the official discourse. Therefore, the institution of the parliamentary monarchy had character of a true popular liberation40.

Probably due to not having any problems with regards to its own past - being created only in May 1976 -, El País does not get involved in the dilemma between remembering and forgetting. Generally, the editorial line is in favour of remembering, and the only time that this attitude gets somewhat defensive is in 1978, when the editorialist is accusing the rightwing for kidnapping the 18 of July. As countermove, it is necessary to make the history of the Civil War, i.e. to produce a version of the events with the legitimacy of professional historiography, different from that of the ultra-rightwing and presumably closer to the version of El País itselfth. El País does subscribe to the "never again" credo, but this is not connected with the same kind of tristesse as in other media. It was a collective failure, yes; it was a tragedy, yes, but an "educational tragedy". To be educational it has to be remembered. The never again discourse is here explicitly broadened to include practically all the negative characteristics of the Franco regime:

"Never again death, the predominance of force over reason, the manipulation of the youth, of the consciences, and of the ideals. Never again rescuing caudillos, sent from heaven or hell, who define a solution for the problem of Spain. There is no one solution, nor one sole problem to solve. There are only dubious, polemic, contradictory, dialectic answers to this plural and difficult world of human beings living together. (…) Never again the dogmatism, intolerance, and arrogance that we have suffered. Never again."41

After 1986 the anniversaries of the Civil War no longer appear in the editorials of El País.


The Francoist socialisation of the memory of the Civil War was a very typical legitimising discourse of a dictatorship, according to which the people in return for renouncing part of their personal freedom get to live in a society of order, stability, and progress. Secondly, this kind of discourse focuses on the achievements of the regime as the fruits of this renunciation. The historical memory of the Republic and the Civil War was instrumentalised by the Franco regime to serve this aim, creating a counter-narrative, the myth of the ungovernable character of the Spaniards, on the potential negative consequences of ousting the regime. Almost inevitably, however, this use of the memory of the Civil War led to the development of the "never again" discourse which had an undermining effect on the legitimacy of the dictatorship.

With regards to the Spanish newspapers on which this study is based they do of course represent different positions vis-à-vis the development and use of the above mentioned myths. El Alcázar and ABC primarily demonstrate a defensive attitude, both with respect to own position in the past, and with regards to its interpretation. Ya is more offensive but uniquely with regards to the issue of reconciliation, whereas El País is generally very offensive. The never again discourse is here explicitly broadened to include practically all the characteristics of the Franco regime. Precisely from an investigation of these attitudes, however, emerges a rather clear picture of which discourses were becoming dominant during the transition.

The "never again" discourse guided the main actors of the transition towards moderation and consensus. The myth of the ungovernable character of the Spaniards, however, kept working as counter-narrative below the surface in the warning against the dangers threatening the success of the transition. The fact that these perceived or constructed threats were seen to be overcome by reason, peacefulness, and measure is a first indication that a new common narrative of the peaceful transition is beginning to function. With this new myth the achievements of the transition towards democracy were celebrated, and their significance was increased by rendering it probable that their genesis was threatened, hence the functionality of the myth of the ungovernable character of the Spaniards. The two myths thus constituted a set of complementary counter-narratives not very different from the Francoist legitimising discourse; the legitimising discourse of the achievements of the Franco regime was replaced by one on the achievements of the peaceful transition.

In the dominant social discourse of the transition, the Civil War rather quickly was only commemorated in order to avoid its repetition, and the Franco regime was to a large extent transformed into an "interregnum". Converting the Franco period into a parenthesis implies creating links of continuity with earlier historical periods although the explicit references remain rather opaque. Most explicitly, the restoration of the Monarchy is seen as creating continuity with Spanish history from before the Republic, the Civil War, and the Franco regime. More predominant, however, than an interpretation based on creating explicit continuities with earlier history is a version that interprets the transition as a kind of break with history, an escape from the historical "destiny" of Spain. The differences are very subtle, the transition is for example also called a "restart" of history without specifying which course of history it is that is being taken up again. But, generally, the emphasis in the constructions of continuity is more directed towards the future than towards the past. Significant in this respect is the often-mentioned role of the Monarchy as "guarantee of future", which signals a preoccupation with avoiding ruptures in the future, with having a continuous and unbroken history. By inference, the Franco regime, independently of the efforts to secure its survival after Franco, is not seen as having been able to guarantee a continuous and unbroken history.

The change of myths in the legitimising discourses and the changing interpretations of history is, however, not a sign that neither the Franco regime nor the Civil War are being forgotten, but simply that the historical interpretation of a period has changed. The fact that the Franco regime increasingly is being seen as an interregnum and therefore difficult to count as historical time. In the course of history the Franco period is skipped and its exact place in history becomes difficult to determine. This might be one of the reasons behind the obsession of certain sectors of Spanish society with its own lacking historical knowledge (desmemoria) and consequently with recuperating its recent historical memory.

1 See e.g. Francisco Ayala: "El sentido de una pregunta" (El País, 18-7-1996, pp. 12-13) or Nicolás Sartorius and Javier Alfaya: La memoria insumisa (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1999, pp. 21-25).

2 Emilio Lamo de Espinosa: "La normalización de España", in Claves de razón práctica, no. 111, pp. 4-16 (April 2001).

3 The newspapers, on which this study is based, are El Alcázar, ABC, Ya, and El País. For more exhaustive notes on each newspaper, see below. All the anniversaries are covered in the years 1976, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, and 2000. Furthermore the anniversary of the victory are covered in 1979, 1989, and 1999 (40th, 50th, and 60th anniversary, respectively).

4 Paloma Aguilar Fernández: Memoria y olvido de la Guerra Civil española, pp. 61-208 (Madrid: Alianza 1996).

5 The 18th of July was declared national holiday in commemoration of the "beginning of the glorious uprising" in the Fuero del Trabajo of the 9th of March 1938 and the 1st of April by an Orden del Ministerio de Gobernación of the 15th of July 1939.

st Aguilar Fernández: ibid p. 114.

6 In 1955 the Victory parade was still celebrated on the 1st of April, but as early as in 1962 it was instead held on the 3rd of June. "Victoria total" (ABC, 1-4-1955, p. 3) and "Hoy, desfile del XXIII aniversario de la victoria" (ABC, 3-6-1962, p. 47).

st Real Decreto 1135/1977, de 27 de mayo, sobre indulto a personal de las Fuerzas Armadas.

7 Real Decreto 996/1978, de 12 de mayo, por el que se establece el "Día de las Fuerzas Armadas".

8 Aguilar Fernández: ibid, p. 115.

th The 18 of July was abolished implicitly as national holiday in a Royal Decree of 11th of July 1977 as it was not mentioned in the list of national holidays. It continued, however, as holiday in 1977 (Real Decreto 1728/1977, de 11 de julio, sobre fiestas civiles). The decision to abolish it as holiday was ratified by the Council of Ministers on 21st of December 1977.

9 Including the three days around the anniversary (e.g. the 17th, 18th, and 19th of July) the 1st of April appears reflected in the editorials in 15% of the years after the death of Franco (in one or more editorials). In comparison the 18th July is reflected on in 27% of the cases.

10 El Alcázar, was founded during the siege of the Castle (Alcázar) of Toledo by the Republican Army in July-September 1936, one of the mythical events of Francoist memory of the Civil War. After its reappearance in Madrid in 1939, the newspaper experienced many changes of both ownership and editorial line, especially during the 1960s. In September 1968 it was ceased by the authorities of the Ministry of Information and Tourism and given to another editorial group, la Hermandad, close to el Movimiento. El Alcázar thus became a newspaper close to the regime but of scarce public interest with the sales dwindling steadily from 115.000 in 1968 to 13.000 in 1975. In 1975 the editorial group of the newspaper was changed to Confederación Nacional de Ex-Combatientes. El Alcázar thereby became one of the principal channels of communication of hard-liners of “el búnker” and the trend of dwindling sales was reversed to limited success (J.J. Sánchez Aranda and Carlos Barrera del Barrio: Historia del periodismo español desde sus orígenes hasta 1975, Pamplona: Ediciones Universidad de Navarra 1992, pp. 475-478). The diffusion rose from 51.000 in 1977 to 77.000 in 1981 giving El Alcázar between 7th and 9th place, excluding the newspapers dedicated exclusively to sports, in the ranking of OJD that measures the diffusion of newspapers (Anuario de El País, 1982, p. 150). During the second half of the 1980s, however, El Alcázar suffered increasing difficulties, finally closing in September 1988.

st "Aniversario de la paz" (El Alcázar, 1-4-1975, p. 2).

11 "La declaración de Gobierno" (El Alcázar, 19-7-1986, p. 1).

12 The number of articles related to the victory and its commemoration were in 1976: 8; 1977: 4; 1978: 12; 1979: 3; 1981: 2; 1982: 1; 1985: 1; 1986: 2. In comparison the 18th of July is reflected in the editorials in 1977, 1978, 1981, 1986; and the number of articles related to the uprising and its commemoration were in 1976: 8; 1977: 8; 1978: 14; 1981: 26; 1982: 11; 1985: 1; 1986; 10.

13 "Aniversario de paz" (El Alcázar, 1-4-1975, p. 2).

14 "Con alas y con espada" (El Alcázar, 18-7-1978, p. 1).

15 "Aniversario de paz" (El Alcázar, 1-4-1975, p. 2).

16 "Una fecha en la historia" (El Alcázar, 18-7-1977, p. 2) and "18 de julio" (El Alcázar, 18-7-1986, p. 1).

17 "Una fecha en la historia" (El Alcázar, 18-7-1977, p. 2).

th "La declaración del Gobierno" (El Alcázar, 19-7-1986, p. 1).

18 "El 18 de julio se conmemoró en paz" (El Alcázar, 19-7-1981, p. 1).

th ABC is the oldest existing newspaper in Spain and since its foundation in 1903 by Torcuato Luca de Tena it has maintained a monarchical liberal-conservative ideological stance. It was never a close friend of the Franco regime due to its monarchical attitude invariably in favour of Juan de Borbón, which was considered dangerous by the Franco regime. ABC was therefore subject to many retaliatory measures by the Franco regime and its censorship apparatus like the imposition of a director between 1940-1946, retention of editions, numerous legal cases etc. Despite the problems, ABC succeeded in maintaining a relatively independent position as the largest Spanish newspaper and one of the best in terms of quality, preserving also the original liberal-monarchical attitude (Sánchez Aranda and Barrera, ibid., pp. 450-452).

However, when Franco in 1969 officially nominated Juan Carlos as his successor and future King of Spain, ABC accepted the legality of the initiative and broke with its historical loyalty to Juan de Borbón. This was the beginning of a period of ideological instability, and during the first half of the 1970s ABC shifted between its original liberal spirit and an attitude in favour of the continuity of Francoism. In 1975 the death of the then director, son of the founder, triggered a crisis in the family business. The new director elected was Jose Luis Cebrián, ex-director of El Alcázar, who directed ABC for two years from January 1975 to summer 1977. The 1970s, and especially the years surrounding the death of Franco and the beginning of the transition, therefore, also mark a period of relative difficulty for ABC, which is, nevertheless overcome in the 1980s (Sánchez Aranda and Barrera, ibid, pp. 472-474). During the years 1977-1981 ABC held either the 1st or the 2nd place in the ranking of OJD that measures the diffusion of newspapers (Anuario de El País, 1982, p. 150). Since 1982 ABC has kept the 2nd place, after El País, being relegated to a 3rd place only in the early 1990s after the appearance of El Mundo in 1989.

19 "Avante" (ABC, 18-7-1965, p. III).

20 "18 de julio de 1975" (ABC, 18-7-1975, p. 3).

21 The victory is commemorated in editorials on its 40th and 50th anniversary in 1979 and 1989, whereas the uprising is commemorated in editorials on its 50th and 60th anniversary in 1986 and 1996. In 1996 a supplement of 22 pages on the Civil War is included in the newspaper. Principally, the articles are written by prestigious historians.

22 "A los cuarenta años" (ABC, 1-4-1979, p. 2).

23 "Nunca más la guerra civil" (ABC, 18-7-1996, p. 17).

th "Nunca más" (ABC, 18-7-1986, p. III).

24 "Nunca más la guerra civil" (ABC, 18-7-1986, p. 1); "Nunca más" (ABC, 18-7-1986, p. 3) ; "Nunca más la guerra civil" (ABC, 1-4-1989, p. 1); "Nunca más la guerra civil" (ABC, 1-4-1989, p. 15); "Nunca más la guerra civil" (ABC, 18-7-1996, p. 17).

th "Nunca más la guerra civil" (ABC, 1-4-1989, p. 15).

25 "Nunca más la guerra civil" (ABC, 18-7-1996, p. 17).

26 Ya was created in 1935 and was owned by the editorial of the Spanish Catholic Church, Edica. As one of the newspapers, which were normalised quickly after the Civil War, it soon became one of the most important in Madrid. It suffered comparatively less repression from the press authorities due to its proximity to the Church and catholic political sectors of the regime. It was, however, imposed a director by the press authorities until 1952. The period comprised between 1952 and 1975 was one long success with sales rising from 56.000 in 1945 to 168.000 in 1975. The editorial line was moderate and decidedly in favour democratic opening and institution-building in order to avoid uncertainties at the death of Franco (Sánchez Aranda and Barrera, ibid., pp. 447-450, 453 and 486). Even though 1975 marked the peak of Ya it continued to do relatively well during the years 1977 to 1981 keeping a place as the 4th largest Spanish newspaper in the ranking of OJD (Anuario de El País, 1982, p. 150). From the beginning of the 1980s the newspaper suffered increasing difficulties, mainly due to the arrival of competition from El País and an unfortunate management. Between 1980 and 1986 Ya changed director six times and after having sold half of the shares in 1982, the Church sold the rest in 1986. The history of the formerly respectable newspaper, especially, after 1988 is one of constant changes of ownership and editorial line, which led to the final closing in 1998 (Carlos Barrera: Sin mordaza: veinte años de prensa en democracia, Madrid : Temas de Hoy 1995).

27 "La victoria como empresa de hoy" (Ya, 1-4-1965, p. 7), "El hoy y el mañana del 18 del julio" (Ya, 18-7-1965, p. 3).

28 "Primero de abril" (Ya, 1-4-1978, p. 3).

29 "La victoria como empresa de hoy" (Ya, 1-4-1965, p. 7).

30 "El hoy y el mañana del 18 del julio" (Ya, 18-7-1965, p. 3).

31 "Treinta y seis años" (Ya, 1-4-1975, p. 7).

32 "Primero de abril" (Ya, 1-4-1976, p. 7) and "Primero de abril" (Ya, 1-4-1978, p. 3).

33 "Cuarenta años" (Ya, 1-4-1979, p. 6).

th "Pedimos concierto en Aranjuez" (Ya, 18-7-1981, p. 1).

34 "Una fecha para la historia" (Ya, 18-7-1986, p. 4).

th "El no del Gobierno a la guerra civil" (Ya, 19-7-1986, p. 4).

35 El País is very directly linked to the appearance of the democratic system and the leftwing, the first issue appearing on the 4th of May 1976. It represents the institutionalisation of a left-liberal discourse, which very consciously sought to influence the public in favour of democracy. During the years 1977 to 1981 El País advanced from a 4th to a 1st place in the ranking of OJD (Anuario de El País, 1982, p. 150). Since then El País has kept the position as the most widely diffused newspaper in Spain.

36 Santos Juliá: "El ángel exterminador" (El País, 1-4-1989, p. 11); Javier Tusell: "El final de la guerra civil" (El País, 3-4-1989, p. 13); Santos Juliá: "El día de la victoria" (El País, 1-4-1999, p. 12), Javier Tusell: "Evitable y siempre presente" (El País, 1-4-1999, p. 12).

37 "El 18 de julio" (El País, 17-7-1977, p. 6).

th "El desconcierto de Aranjuez" (El País, 17-7-1981, p. 8).

38 "Nunca más" (El País, 18-7-1986, p. 10).

39 "Nunca más" (El País, 18-7-1986, p. 10).

40 Juan Luis Cebrián: "La memoria histórica" (El País, 18-7-1986, pp. 1 & 11).

th "Reunión de eurofascistas" (El País, 18-7-1978, p. 8).

41 "Nunca más" (El País, 18-7-1986, p. 10).

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