Posted tagged ‘Spanish Civil War’

Effective passive resistance to dictatorship: Spain and Iran

26 June 2009

In Spain, after 1939, when their Basque ethnic identity was viciously repressed by dictator Francisco Franco, following the disastrous Spanish Civil War, Basque patriots had the presence of mind to offer passive resistance by cultivating geraniums on the balconies of their houses and flats. The red and green of the plants (plus an imaginary white) were an easily identifiable silent symbol of the Basque ‘national’ colours. Decades later, after the death of the dictator in 1975, their ethnic ambitions were rewarded with a comforting semi-autonomy. (The lengthy and murderous rebellion of the ETA terrorist organisation was the result of activism by a tiny unsupported minority.) Spanish Catalans (in the broad Barcelona region) were similarly rewarded for their passive resistance to similar ethnic humiliations and repression – by keeping their proscribed Catalan language alive in the home. For more than three decades, Catalans have thrived in a semi-autonomous and very productive region of Spain.

Many decades later, the free world now welcomes an equivalent, though more risky, expression of defiance to dictatorship and tyranny: the spontaneous response of the people of Iran to the recent disputed elections. The following report from TheTimes of London describes the current precarious – and volatile – situation:

June 25, 2009
‘Wailing of wolves’ in Iran as cries of Allahu akbar ring from roofs
Martin Fletcher
At about 9pm each day Nushin, a young housewife, performs the same curious ritual. She climbs up the stairs to the roof of her Tehran home and begins shouting into the night. Allahu akbar,” she cries, and sometimes “Death to the dictator”.
She is not alone. Across the darkened city, from rooftops and through open windows, thousands of others do the same to form one great chorus of protest — a collective wail of anger against a reviled regime that no amount of riot police and Basiji militia can stop. “It sounds like the wailing of wolves,” said one Tehrani.
And each night, as the street demonstrations are crushed with overwhelming force and the regime cracks down on all other forms of dissent, it grows steadily louder and more insistent, not just in Tehran but in other densely populated cities of the Islamic Republic.
“It’s the way we reassure ourselves that we are still here and we are still together,” says Nushin, a woman who has never dared to rebel before.
“This is what people did before the revolution and I hope it warns the regime about what could happen if it doesn’t change its way.
“And because I’m a religious person the sound resonating in the neighbourhood makes me feel better. Even my little daughter joins me, and I can see how she feels that she is part of something bigger. It is our unique way of civil disobedience and what’s interesting is that it increases every time they do something that makes people angrier.”
Ever resourceful, the opposition has developed other ways of showing dissent short of wearing green or taking to the streets. They honk their horns, and they drive their cars and motorbikes with their headlights on. But the hour of chanting is anonymous, safe and almost impossible for the security forces to stop. Who could arrest someone for shouting their praise of God? Hossein, a young engineer, is another nightly participant. “The first time I did it, it was in protest to the theft of my vote, the insult that the President had made towards us,” he told The Times. But after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, ruled out any compromise in his sermon last Friday, “it has become much more than that. It is the people’s way of saying that they are still together and will stay that way until they reach their goal. It has become a way of getting out our anger when we can’t protest and to keep it going . . . It makes me happy to hear others, it reminds me that I’m not alone.”
In many ways this has been a high-tech rebellion, with the opposition using video clips shot with mobile phones, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and the internet to generate outrage around the world. But the rooftop protests are the precise opposite and a deliberate and resonant throwback to an earlier age.
It is what Iranians did before the revolution of 1979. From their roofs, they would shout Allahu akbar” to support Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei in his battle against the tyranny of the former Shah. That a later generation should now be using the very same weapon against the regime that Khomeini helped to establish is an irony lost on no one.

The European Union’s verdict on the Franco Régime in Spain (1939-1975)

12 May 2009

An enlightening insight into the workings of the complex European Union government is on display in the following record of recent debates stemming from simmering European controversies over the distant but not forgotten Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the ensuing Franco Dictatorship (1939-1975).

1. On 11 February 2004, in the Parliamentary Assembly of the EU, a Motion for a Resolution on the Need for International Condemnation of the Franco Regime was signed by 39 (mainly Socialist) Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). As a result, a European Union Political Affairs Committee was set up, with the prominent Maltese Socialist politician Leo Brincat as Rapporteur, to consider this question.

2. Of the 83 EU members appointed to the Committee, 36 were present at the final meeting on 4 October 2005 to adopt (unanimously) the Draft Recommendations (in English and French, but not Spanish) to the Parliamentary Assembly. (

The Brincat Report consists of eight strongly worded recommendations and 100 paragraphs of background information.

3. In its turn, on 17 March 2006, the Standing Committee of the EU Parliamentary Assembly / Assemblée Parlementaire approved the Draft Recommendations for submission to the Council of Ministers. (

Recommendation 1736 (2006)
Need for international condemnation of the Franco regime

1. The Parliamentary Assembly strongly condemns the extensive and wide-ranging human rights abuses committed by the Franco regime in Spain from 1939 to 1975.

2. Public debate in Spain on the question of drawing up a full account of the Franco dictatorship’s crimes was launched in the 1980s and continues to this very day. The debate has further intensified under the present administration.

3. Initiatives started in the early 1980s, aimed at removing symbols of the dictatorship, such as statues, from public places and at renaming streets and schools named after Franco and his generals, have been quite successful.

4. The Assembly hopes that the present debate in Spain will result in a thorough and in-depth examination and assessment of the Franco regime’s actions and crimes. In particular, the Assembly looks forward to the results of the work of the Interministerial Commission for the Examination of the Situation of Victims of Civil War and the Franco Regime, established in October 2004.

5. At the same time, the Assembly underlines that the violation of human rights is not an internal matter of a single country and therefore the international community is as much concerned as the Spaniards themselves.

6. The awareness of history is one of the preconditions for avoiding similar mistakes in the future. Furthermore, moral assessment and condemnation of committed crimes plays an important role in the education of young generations.

7. The Assembly stresses that the Council of Europe is well placed for a serious discussion on the subject. In accordance with its fundamental principles it should condemn the crimes and violation of human rights under the Franco regime at international level.

8. The Assembly therefore calls on the Committee of Ministers to:

8.1. adopt an official declaration for the international condemnation of the Franco regime and to mark 18 July 2006 as the official day of condemnation of the Franco regime as it marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish civil war and Franco’s overthrow of the government;

8.2. urge the Spanish Government to:

8.2.1. set up a national committee to investigate violations of human rights committed under the Franco regime which will submit its report to the Council of Europe;

8.2.2. continue to make available to all historians and researchers all civilian and military archives which may contain documents that can contribute to establishing the truth regarding repression;

8.2.3. set up a permanent exhibition in the underground basilica at the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) outside Madrid – where Franco is buried – explaining how it was built by the republican prisoners;

8.2.4. encourage local authorities to erect memorials as a tribute to the victims of the Franco regime in the capital of Spain and in other major Spanish cities.

4. Two months later, the European Union Committee of Ministers met to consider the issue. The result of their deliberations was the following brief official condemnation of the human rights violations committed by the Franco régime, accompanied by diplomatic glosses on Spain’s subsequent achievement of democracy and on the need to condemn all totalitarian régimes.

Ministers’ Deputies
CM Documents
CM/AS(2006)Rec1736 final 5 May 2006

Need for international condemnation of the Franco regime
Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1736 (2006)

(Reply adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 3 May 2006 at the 963rd meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)

1. Like the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers condemns the repeated serious human rights violations by the Franco regime and agrees that it is important to remember the crimes by all totalitarian regimes so as to avoid repeating the errors of the past. In this connection, the Committee of Ministers acknowledges the courageous steps taken in this respect in Spain itself.

2. At the same time, the Committee of Ministers notes that Spain’s transition to democracy shortly after the end of the Franco regime is an example to all other countries undergoing the same process. It welcomes the fact that the year 2007 will be the 30th anniversary of Spain’s accession to the Council of Europe, which was made possible by that successful transition.

3. As regards the specific recommendations addressed by the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers believes that all totalitarian regimes without distinction, including the Franco regime, should be made the object of a declaration or official day of the kind which the Assembly suggests. Singling out one regime rather than another might create the mistaken impression that some totalitarian regimes are worthier of condemnation than others, whereas all of them collectively merit our reprobation. (

Although the lengthier and stronger Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations (Section 3 above) were reported in the Spanish Press and are referred to in Wikipedia (English), in the articles Francisco Franco and Spain under Franco), this final official European Union condemnation of Franco’s régime (however brief) has not been publicised (possibly because of its brevity and diplomatic patina) and is (so far) missing from Wikipedia (in English and French, but is present in one of the relevant Spanish Wikipedia articles: Dictadura de Franco).

The Fragmentation of Information in Wikipedia

30 April 2009

(A preliminary analysis, with reference to Spanish Wikipedia’s multiple offerings on the Spanish Civil War / la Guerra Civil Española)

In the Spanish version of Wikipedia (which currently covers a wide range of 467,000 entries; the ‘senior’ English Wikipedia claims 2,859,000 items), there are multiple separate entries on the core subject, Spanish Civil War (Guerra Civil Española), an international encyclopedia topic which has been widely discussed for over 70 years and which, according to some estimates, has inspired 12,000 books and pamphlets in many languages.

The widely dispersed multiplicity of Wikipedia entries on many subjects is at least partly due to Wikipedia’s own intricate rules, prohibitions and recommendations and its faithful Users’ successful or unsuccessful adherence to them. For example, in specific advice to new wikipedian contributors, Wikipedia’s strong preference for short articles is stressed and an optimal length of 32 KB (i.e. about 1,000 words, or 2 and a half pages) is recommended. Another cause of data fragmentation is a process which Wikipedia itself terms ‘ forks’ or ‘forking’. This splitting of a topic into various entries (with different titles) is the subject of a set of basic labyrinthine Wikipedia rules and analyses (in its English version) which are intended to demarcate the difference between a “Content fork” (two articles on one topic, particularly in cases of disagreements or similar difficulties among contributors and ‘referees’), which Wikipedia strictly forbids, and a POV (Point of View) Fork, which it recommends, notably cases separating Critical aspects from the Topic itself, as is often the case in topics where a set of political, religious or spiritual beliefs and activities is offered in one entry and any criticism of these beliefs and activities, or a description of the relevant Organisation, is relegated to a separate (and often alphabetically distant) entry. However, in addition to this sort of approved dilution of major (or controversial) topics, many unrecommended content forks also occur on Wikipedia, and remain there, without being deleted or fused with other major aspects, as Wikipedia expressly stipulates. (See WP:CFORK and WP:POVFORK.) A collateral consequence of these anomalies is that, to be more realistic, Wikipedia’s statistics for its total entries should be adjusted to take this bloating factor into account.

A further problem is that, unless in this medium which offers instant direct hyperlinks, very comprehensive linkage is provided between fragmented segments of information on a core topic, the encyclopedia reader will not have easy access to enough of these ‘forks’. This is precisely what seems to have occurred in the case of the multiple Spanish entries for the Civil War. Here the informational value of the sum of knowledge contributed is compromised by the inadequate number of links between an accumulation of well over one hundred related entries, especially between the major ones, often of the ‘Point of View’ type (for example, Terror Rojo en España, Represión franquista, Bando nacional (Nationalist), Bando republicano).

The rest of this brief article will present evidence gleaned from a survey of the information offered by the Spanish Wikipedia in relation to a very prominent and complex topic: ‘la Guerra Civil Española’

List of Articles

Guerra Civil Española

This general article should be the longest and principal one, with adequate references and Hyperlinks to relevant related Wikipedia entries. Unfortunately, official action has been taken to freeze or mummify it in a ‘protected’ form, presumably to guard against the risk of vandalism, perhaps in the wake of the recent strong debates in Spain relating to ‘revisionism’ on the subject of the War, the participants, the antecedents and aftermath. Therefore, in protected entries, Wikipedia’s celebrated openness to all contributors is suspended, until the protection is lifted by the ‘burócratas’(trusted supervisors). In this case, it means that no changes can be made to improve the inadequate links to other articles and that the inexplicably inadequate ‘Bibliography’ of 5 items (only one of which is a major one) lowers the value of the entry and its use to readers. (The existence of this pathetic Bibliography in an otherwise lengthy and informative article is an interesting example of the weaker aspects of the otherwise fabulous Wikipedia project, which insists so strongly on the backing of reputable sources and one or two other problematical criteria.)

The diversity of many other segments and the presence and absence of direct links within the ‘Guerra Civil Española’ topic form the body of this article.

Francisco Franco

From the list of links offered above and below, the only ones given are: ‘Franquismo’ and ‘Simbología del Franquismo’.

Dictadura de Francisco Franco


Terror Rojo en España (Red Terror in Spain)
This includes a section on ‘Terror Blanco y Rojo’ and a few paragraphs in English, from Antony Beevor and Stanley Payne, probably from the English Wikipedia entry: ‘White Terror in Spain’.

Valle de los Caídos
(An unbalanced entry, with no links.)

Personajes relevantes de la Guerra Civil Española

Simbología del franquismo

Cronología de la Guerra Civil Española

Bando nacional (The Nationalist Side, i.e. The Franco Uprising)
Brief. Links to: ‘Guerra Civil Española’ and ‘Nacionalismo español’.

Bando republicano (The Republican Side, i.e. The variegated Supporters of the Left-wing Republican Government)
Equally brief. Links to: ‘G.C.E.’ and ‘Revolución española de 1936’.

Ofensiva de Cataluña

Guerra Civil Española en el País Vasco (… in the Basque Country)

There is also a considerable number of articles (short and long) on the war, battles in other different regions of Spain, atrocities, victims, etc.

Wikipedia entries published during the current vigorous debate in Spain, since 2004

Since 2000, many revisionist books and some replies have been published in Spain (some of them are bestsellers) on different aspects of the Spanish Civil War, whose 70th anniversary was greatly celebrated by both ‘sides’ – and others – in 2006. Moreover, in the 2004 elections, the Socialist Party and its allies dramatically defeated the ruling nationalist conservative Partido Popular, a slightly ironic replay of 1934, two years before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Ley de memoria histórica de España
Old controversial claims have finally been promoted in this new law. Links: ‘Franquismo’, ‘Guerra Civil Española’ and ‘Víctimas de la Guerra Civil Española’.

Represión política en España
Published in August 2006 (apparently by Professor Ángel Luis Alfaro, one of the few wikipedians who do not hide behind a pseudonym). Links to: ‘Guerra Civil Española’ and ‘Franquismo’.

A part of this historical entry covers the Civil War. The Bibliography is brief, but interesting. A few items should be added. Unlike many other entries, this one offers many useful links to entries dealing with important topics of the Civil War.

Víctimas de la Guerra Civil Española
First published on 23 October 2005 by User ‘Nemo’. Links to all of the following:
Guerra Civil Española
Revolución social española de 1936
Depuración del Magisterio español tras la Guerra Civil Española
Causa General
Anexo:Mortalidad en la Guerra Civil Española, por inscripción en juzgados
Víctimas de la Guerra Civil en Navarra
Víctimas de la persecución religiosa durante la Guerra Civil Española
Masacre de Badajoz
Matanzas de Paracuellos
Crímenes del túnel de la muerte de Usera
Las checas
Víctimas de la Guerra Civil en Cantabria
Masacre de la carretera Málaga-Almería
Las Trece Rosas
Niños de Rusia
Represión política en España
Represión franquista
Exilio republicano

Víctimas de la persecución religiosa durante la Guerra Civil Española
Links to: ‘G.C.E.’ and ‘Revolución española de 1936’.

Depuración del Magisterio español tras la Guerra Civil Española
A long essay on an alleged Francoist postwar injustice, published on 29 January 2007 by an anonymous non-User. No links are given.

Causa General

An investigation into crimes committed during the “Red” occupation of Spain, ordered by Franco in 1940. A short stub, posted on 5 February 2008.

Represión franquista
First published on 13 September 2008. Its counterpart in the English Wikipedia is ‘White Terror (Spain)’ but this version is briefer. It offers a link with ‘Represión política en Espana’ but, because of the contents of ‘Terror Rojo…’ (see above), this entry appears to be superfluous and therefore in need of deletion.

Categoriás y Anexos

These general ‘Categories’ and ‘Appendices’ offer links to further lists of entries, or to specific details relevant to the main topic: the Civil War in Spain. Among the latter is the following very recent item:

Anexo:Imputados en el auto de 16 de octubre de 2008 del Juzgado Central de Instrucción nº 005 de la Audiencia Nacional

This presents a list of 35 deceased top Francoist officials (including the ‘Caudillo’ himself) who were declared to be no longer legally responsible for illegal detention and crimes against humanity during the Civil War and Postwar periods.

The following Appendix is a painstaking gathering of data on Civil War deaths as recorded in Municipal Registries.
Anexo:Mortalidad en la Guerra Civil Española, por inscripción en juzgados

It was first published by User ‘Jorab’ on 20 November 2007. This Basque ‘wikipedista’ is an example of those dedicated individual contributors of data who supply the major part of Wikipedia information (in all languages), with a total of 9939 contributions to his credit – most of them on similar detailed aspects of the Spanish Civil War in his region. (All statistical details like Users’  numbers of contributions, dates, etc., as well as the contributions themselves, are carefully recorded, updated and are instantly available from the Wikipedia system.)

Categoría:Guerra Civil Española
Another reference list of articles on the War.

Another list of articles about Francoism.

Categoría:Batallas de la Guerra Civil Española
34 separate articles.

Categoría:Víctimas de la represión en la zona republicana
Articles on individual victims or groups of victims in the Republican Government zones.

Categoría:Víctimas de la represión en la zona franquista
Articles on individual victims or groups of victims of the Franco-held zones.

The above list may be of some use as a reading guide for the subject under examination, but it would have been more appropriate if Wikipedia had devised a better way of presenting its major or multi-faceted topics. As can easily be appreciated, the content of the above articles is encyclopedic in quantity but the Wikipedia way of arranging it and presenting it to Internet readers needs further refining.