October 24, 2019

Moving Franco’s Grave Doesn’t Make Him Less of Monster
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The Spanish government on Thursday exhumed the remains of the dictator Francisco Franco, who died in 1975, from a mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen near Madrid and took them to a city cemetery where Franco’s wife is buried. It may give Spain’s caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who is fighting for re-election, a boost in the polls, but it won’t really put anything right.Franco’s old resting place was probably the most ostentatious of any 20th century tyrant’s in Europe. The mausoleum is one of the world’s biggest Catholic basilicas, located at the foot of a hill crowned with a 500-foot granite cross. Franco himself planned the memorial to honor the fallen, on his side, in the 1930s Spanish civil war, which he won with the help of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. While the American, French and British governments refused to intervene, the Soviet Union backed the leftist Republicans who fought Franco. Pope Pius XI designated Franco’s war a crusade and his successor, Pius XII, congratulated Franco on his victory, which explains the Church's embrace of the Valley of the Fallen.The construction, carried out in part by prisoners, took so long — from 1940 through 1958 — that at the end, Franco could no longer consider it merely a monument to his victory. He had to claim the Valley of the Fallen was dedicated to reconciliation, and the remains of soldiers from both sides were brought there, often without relatives’ consent. It remained Franco's grand design, though. No wonder King Juan Carlos I, whom Franco had groomed to take over Spain after him, ordered the dictator buried there.Socialist governments in Spain have a long history of being uncomfortable with Franco’s grave site. The Historical Memory Law the Socialists pushed through in 2007 contains a special article on the Valley of the Fallen, which forbids any Francoist celebrations or political events there. But it was Sanchez, prime minister since June 2018, who has moved the most decisively to get Franco’s coffin out of the memorial. Over the objections of the dictator’s descendants, his government, with the help of Spanish courts, has pushed through the reburial. “It’s a big victory to our democracy,” Sanchez said last month, after the Supreme Court authorized his plan.He’s probably wrong about that, though. The removal of Franco’s coffin from the basilica is a replay of the 1961 removal of Joseph Stalin’s remains from the mausoleum on Red Square that Stalin’s embalmed body shared with Lenin’s. The grave of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the fascist Falange Party in Spain who was executed by the Republican government in 1936 and was interred in the valley on Franco’s orders, remains in the basilica. Even if the government or the Primo de Rivera family move to rebury him elsewhere, the Russian example shows their graves will still be visited by admirers.Josef Stalin’s grave at the Kremlin wall is blanketed with flowers every anniversary of his death. Communists who visit Vladimir Lenin’s tomb will still gather at his graveside if his body is ever removed from the Kremlin and buried, as officials such as Russia’s culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, would like him to be. In Italy, people flock to Benito Mussolini’s grave in his birth town of Predappio. Local businesses depend on the traffic, and the town’s recently elected right-wing mayor wants to keep the crypt open all year round rather than for specific occasions like the anniversary of his death.In Spain, tourist traffic to the Valley of the Fallen increased almost 34% since 2017, to 378,875 visitors last year, in part because some rushed to see Franco’s grave before it was moved. Even if Spain were to dynamite the Valley of the Fallen memorial (which isn’t being proposed) and put both Franco and Primo de Rivera in unmarked graves (which would likely be impossible because their descendants wouldn’t allow it), Francoists would find new “holy sites” to visit. Germany has taken care not to create any such sites — but neo-Nazis still come, for example, to the place not far from Berlin where Hermann Goering’s imposing Carinhall estate was before it was bombed to the ground in 1945 — even though only random stones remain in the forest.Not giving Franco pride of place at a memorial that’s also Spain’s biggest mass grave has a lot to do with justice, but little with memory. The bloody 20th century dictators operated their populist projects on such a gigantic scale and ran such powerful propaganda machines that myths of their good deeds survive by word of mouth, even if current governments do all they can to kill them off. In Franco’s case, perhaps the most powerful of these myths is the one of the “Transition” — Spain’s peaceful conversion to democracy after his death. Many Spaniards believe Franco himself set it in motion. In the words of Adolfo Suarez Illana, son of the first post-Franco prime minister of Spain, if Franco “had not wanted the Transition to be done as it was, it would not have been done that way.” In part because of this sentiment, more than a third of Spaniards were against Franco’s reburial, while 43% approved of it. Among the voters of the center-right Popular Party, 77% opposed the exhumation; in the liberal Citizens Party, 48% did. A full 81% of the backers of the far-right Vox party wanted Franco’s remains to stay put. That sentiment won’t disappear just because Sanchez got his way.That makes me wonder if it’s really governments’ business to mess with the graves of dictators to make symbolic points. I don’t care where the remains of Stalin and Lenin are stored; they won’t rise from the dead. I’d rather see my country of birth, Russia, turn to democracy, renouncing political repression and the justification of Stalin’s conquests in Eastern Europe. It doesn’t matter where the bones of Mussolini have come to rest, and who comes to visit them.  It would be better if Italians didn’t vote for the anti-immigrant far right that would like to emulate the Duce in government.Spain made an important step forward more than a decade ago with the Historical Memory Law, condemning the Franco regime, overturning the convictions of its enemies and restoring Spanish citizenship to those who fled the country. Some say it didn’t go far enough; the 1977 amnesty, which prevents the prosecution of Francoist crimes, remains in place. But even without repealing the amnesty and reopening many old wounds, Spain can still do more meaningful things to enhance its democracy than moving Franco’s grave. For example, it could soften or repeal its harsh sedition law, recently used to convict Catalan secessionist leaders to long prison sentences, causing large disturbances in Barcelona.Franco, Stalin, Mussolini and other 20th century monsters are much more dangerous when they’re in people’s heads than when their bones lie in the grandest of crypts. And it’s their lasting legacies, not their remains, that politicians should be fighting.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Davina Potratz wishes her softer side was shown on ‘Selling Sunset’ | Page Six Celebrity News
July 31, 2020
5E6w1CgPiEI
Will Ellen Degeneres be replaced? | Page Six Celebrity News
July 30, 2020
qL3cje-HhPM
Selling Sunset's Christine Quinn reveals why she feuds with Heather Rae Young, Davina Potratz
July 30, 2020
s7kL7qBqzg4
Chris Meloni talks 'Maxxx' and His Return to 'Law and Order'
July 30, 2020
ZFTDB-dwyUA
'The Fugitive' Star Boyd Holbrook Shares Why He Left 'Narcos' After 2 Seasons
July 30, 2020
2kTuD8LTGCE
'Umbrella Academy' Season 2 Finds The Hargreeves Navigating the 1960s
July 24, 2020
JdPgaIxmUKg
Tekashi 6ix9ine Shoots Music Video After Release from House Arrest
August 02, 2020
VyVVV5Tg1EA
Montana Couple Married at Age 91, Signed a Prenup | TMZ
August 02, 2020
1sImDqNXfko
Donald Trump Suggests Presidential Election Should Be Delayed | TMZ
July 31, 2020
dueLNw16vkY
Ben's Red Carpet Ban, Charlize's House Rules & Defensive Brian
August 04, 2020
b08TGtPZAuw
"Coyote Ugly" Turns 20: E! News Rewind
August 04, 2020
-WtjNuiiY_M
Demi Lovato Accidentally Leaks Fiance Max Ehrich's Email Address | E! News
August 03, 2020
v6ljWH1ezZs
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
02
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Verona
02
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Bologna - Torino
02
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Lecce - Parma
02
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Sassuolo - Udinese
02
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Spal - Fiorentina
01
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Roma
01
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Cagliari
01
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Lazio
01
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Inter Milan
29
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Torino - Roma
29
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Cagliari - Juventus
29
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Sampdoria - AC Milan
28
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Inter Milan - Napoli
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Norwich City
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Watford
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Manchester United
26
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Sampdoria
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Wolves
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Newcastle United - Liverpool
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Crystal Palace - Tottenham Hotspur
26
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Fiorentina
25
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Sassuolo
25
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Inter Milan
24
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Atalanta
23
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Udinese - Juventus
22
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Chelsea
22
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - West Ham United
22
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Inter Milan - Fiorentina
22
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Spal - Roma
22
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Parma - Napoli
21
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Sassuolo - AC Milan
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
-g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k tudKp5Vhs3k iwWHibhssSo kQr0XHPbICM
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.