Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Farewell Santiago Carrillo
Coming back home from the office, I listen in my radio car the news that Santiago Carrillo has passed away this afternoon. Aged 97, a piece of living history of modern Spain dies with him. And many of you probably wonder, who was this man? Well, he was General Secretary of the Spanish Communist Party and one of its key leaders through a long exile following the defeat of the Spanish Republic in the Civil War 1936-1939.
Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not or haven't been communist or voted communist since the Party was legalised again in 1977, not even a supporter. Being pursued for many years by the Spanish dictator and living in a forced exile, he returned to Spain after Franco's death, refounded the Party, broke with the dependance on Moscow well before the Perestroika era and helped to provide the necessary stability for Spain to walk from a 40-years dictatorship regime to a full democracy, a period in Spain we know as the "Transición" (the Transition).
He drove the political left of Spain at that very early moment of the newborn democracy, and with the scars of the Civil War still intact, into the main political consensus agreements reached between 1976 and 1981, including our current national Constitution and a major economic restrucuturing plan (Pactos de la Moncloa) that introduced many marklet oriented measures and facilitated Spain joining the EU (then called the European Common Market) in 1985.
That attitude cost the communists the loss of many left wing supporters, who shifted loyalties mainly to the Socialist Party, and a gradual decay of the Party in the following general elections until it dissappeared in the maelstrom of the Berlin wall and the Iron Curtain fall. Santiago Carrillo retired from the political life, although maintained a lively public activity, writing and participating in radio programs until literally July this year.
I'm sure that tomorrow many indecent voices in some well known media will focus their comments on its participation in the Spanish Civil War and more specifically, on his involvement (never documented or proved) in a very obscure incident early in the war in Paracuellos, a small town near Madrid; there, several hundred people, right wing sympathizers locked in jail in July 1936 were shot and executed by irregular militia forces, a very disgraceful event of the war. But I said indecent because recently those same voices have actively opposed and fought against a movement to unbury the many thousands of Republican sympathizers shot (until the early 50s!) and still lying in unidentified mass graves all across Spain.
Santiago Carrillo died today at home, surrounded by his many years partner Carmen and family. He was of that political breed, from the left and the right (Suárez, Solé Tura, Fraga...so many) brought up in the dramatic post-war times for Spain, but who were sesible enough to put aside differences in ideology, generous enough to sacrifice his own political ambitions to give our citizens a democratic future and honest enough not to ask anything in exchange, not even a public recognition. Anecdotical evidence of the latter? Try googling "Santiago Carrillo" and you'll see how few articles in English you'll find. I'm sure that a person like him in England would have been appointed Knight of the Empire
Farewell Santiago, those of us here wonder even more in days like this where your breed went and only wish that our current political leaders stop for a moment, look back and learn from you and from so many other leaders that steered Spain in the dark years.