Democracy Without Justice in Spain

Democracy Without Justice in Spain: The Politics of Forgetting

Omar G. Encarnación
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Democracy Without Justice in Spain
    Book Description:

    Spain is a notable exception to the implicit rules of late twentieth-century democratization: after the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975, the recovering nation began to consolidate democracy without enacting any of the mechanisms promoted by the international transitional justice movement. There were no political trials, no truth and reconciliation commissions, no formal attributions of blame, and no apologies. Instead, Spain's national parties negotiated the Pact of Forgetting, an agreement intended to place the bloody Spanish Civil War and the authoritarian excesses of the Franco dictatorship firmly in the past, not to be revisited even in conversation. Formalized by an amnesty law in 1977, this agreement defies the conventional wisdom that considers retribution and reconciliation vital to rebuilding a stable nation. Although not without its dark side, such as the silence imposed upon the victims of the Civil War and the dictatorship, the Pact of Forgetting allowed for the peaceful emergence of a democratic state, one with remarkable political stability and even a reputation as a trailblazer for the national rights and protections of minority groups.Omar G. Encarnación examines the factors in Spanish political history that made the Pact of Forgetting possible, tracing the challenges and consequences of sustaining the agreement until its dramatic reversal with the 2007 Law of Historical Memory. The combined forces of a collective will to avoid revisiting the traumas of a difficult and painful past and the reliance on the reformed political institutions of the old regime to anchor the democratic transition created a climate conducive to forgetting. At the same time, the political movement to forget encouraged the embrace of a new national identity as a modern and democratic European state. Demonstrating the surprising compatibility of forgetting and democracy,Democratization Without Justice in Spainoffers a crucial counterexample to the transitional justice movement. The refusal to confront and redress the past did not inhibit the rise of a successful democracy in Spain; on the contrary, by leaving the past behind, Spain chose not to repeat it.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0905-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    William Faulkner’s famous dictum that “the past is never dead; in fact, it is not even past” aptly captures how the past looms over contemporary Spanish politics. In 2007, the Congress of Deputies approved the Law of Historical Memory with the intention of reconciling the dark legacy of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), that epic interwar showdown between democracy and fascism generally regarded as a dress rehearsal for World War II, and the dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, whose 1936 coup against the popularly elected Second Republic set the Civil War in motion. Scores of mass killings committed by...

  4. CHAPTER 1 History, Politics, and Forgetting in Spain
    (pp. 27-49)

    Spain’s Pact of Forgetting conforms to the definition of a “political pact” offered by the democratization literature as “an explicit, but not always explicated or justified, agreement among a select set of actors which seeks to define (or better redefine) rules governing the exercise of power on the basis of mutual guarantees for the vital interest of those entering into it” (O’Donnell and Schmitter 1986: 37). As such, political pacts bring together a small number of elite actors for the purpose of settling issues that bring them into conflict with one another. Traditionally, the making of political pacts in the...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Regime Transition and the Rise of Forgetting, 1977–1981
    (pp. 50-77)

    “The transition to democracy demanded that we overlook thousands of memories and claims that weren’t convenient to bring up because they could endanger the pact of the transition.”¹ This statement, made during the parliamentary debate over the 2007 Law of Historical Memory by Ramón Jáuregui, an influential socialist official, is pregnant with insights about why Spain willed itself into political amnesia on embracing democracy. At first glance, Jáuregui’s statement reveals the striking pragmatism of left-wing leaders, who bore the moral responsibility of raising the issue of justice against the Franco regime and mobilizing civil society around the issue during the...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Socialist Rule and the Years of “Disremembering,” 1982–1996
    (pp. 78-101)

    It is ironic that the heyday of the Pact of Forgetting arrived during the 1980s and 1990s, a period when politics was dominated by the PSOE, one of the governing parties of the Republican period, a primary target of Franco’s repression, and an organization with a long history of political progressivism. Yet at no point during the four legislative sessions controlled by the PSOE (1982–1996), often with huge parliamentary majorities, did the party undertake any meaningful steps to confront the past that was so conveniently swept under the rug during the transition, including exposing the repression of the left...

  7. CHAPTER 4 A Silent Accomplice: Civil Society and the Persistence of Forgetting
    (pp. 102-131)

    As they settled on a strategy of forgetting and moving on to deal with the dark legacy of the Civil War and the Franco regime, Spanish politicians appear to have enjoyed the complicity of “civil society.”¹ Throughout the transition and its aftermath, none of the major players in Spanish civil society—organized labor, the Catholic Church, and professional organizations of lawyers and academics, to name but the most prominent, made transitional justice even a secondary priority in their endeavors. The only known effort by an organized group to dispense justice to the Franco regime took place in 1978, when a...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Pinochet’s Revenge: Awakening the Memory of Civil War and Dictatorship
    (pp. 132-157)

    Having remained frozen for decades, memories of the violence of the Civil War and the repression of the Franco dictatorship began to thaw in the late 1990s with the emergence of a vigorous movement devoted to the recovery of the forgotten historical memory. This movement powerfully signaled the end of civil society’s complicity with the Pact of Forgetting. It is tempting to see the surge in civil society activism on the issue of the past as a reflection of the passing of fears among the public of another civil war or dictatorship, or of the international tentacles of the transitional...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Post-Transitional Justice in Zapatero’s Second Transition
    (pp. 158-186)

    On October 31, 2007, the thirtieth anniversary of the transition to democracy, the socialist administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero enacted the Law of Historical Memory. Heading into the March 14, 2004, elections, which brought the PSOE back to power after two resounding defeats by the right-wing PP (1996 and 2000), few could have anticipated that this law was in store for Spain. For one thing, Zapatero is often referred to as an accidental leader, because his rise to power is intimately linked to the political fallout over the March 11, 2004, bombing of Madrid’s Atocha train station. This was...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Coping with the Past: Spanish Lessons
    (pp. 187-208)

    Spain’s experience with “democratization without justice” affords much food for thought about how nations in real life contend with the burden of a difficult and painful past and the consequences for democracy of what ever decisions are made about that past. Three broad lessons are offered and examined in this concluding chapter. The first is that the roots of forgetting in Spain in the traumas of the Civil War and the Franco dictatorship and the nature and legacy of the democratic transition suggest the extent to which domestic circumstances can take precedence over international human rights norms in shaping how...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 209-226)
    (pp. 227-244)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 245-249)
    (pp. 250-250)