Communist Party of Australia

We acknowledge the Sovereignty of the First Nations’ Peoples.

The Web CPA Archive Only

Issue #1589      April 17, 2013

Acknowledge and recover the past

The Spanish Republic Movement

Interview by Maria Hilario* with the Associaccion Republicana, Irunesa Nicolas Guerendian. Present at the meeting: Secretary Juncal; President Tino; and Member Jon.

MH: When and why did this organisation come about?

Juncal: In 2005 the conferences and public meetings were organised with the theme of the Spanish Republic and we discovered then that Irun ** was in favour of the Republic. We saw the need and we started to organise and create this organisation. We took the name of “Nicolas Guerendian” because he was a Judge from Irun. He took part in the defence of the city during the Civil War. He was made prisoner and sent to Santona Santander and later the falangists brought him back and they walked him around the city before they killed him; he was buried for a long time in one of those unknown or unidentified places and he is one of them, one of the many thousands who still lay buried somewhere on the side of a road somewhere, unidentified.

MH: Are people in general well informed about what went on during the franquist dictatorship?

Tino: For us it is one of the most important reasons for the association that people don’t forget about the past and that they know what happened. Spain is the second country in the world with more people “disappeared” and not being accounted for and no one seems to care about it. We sent our magistrates to Argentina to look for their disappeared but with the Spanish unidentified they don’t want to know about it, they stopped all the work. It is terrible that Spain is inundated with graves along the sides of many roads and when someone has to unveil or dig up a grave the first thing they do is send the military police – Guardia Civil – and they close the investigation. It is tragic that in 2012 that this continues to happen.

Jon: People, especially young people, have very little knowledge about the Spanish Civil War and the years of dictatorship. They don’t even know who Franco was. At the educational level there is a policy that they want to hide the history of Spain. In schools and Institutes you never reach the end of the themes and the history of contemporary Spain is never touched; young people turning 18 years of age don’t know contemporary Spanish history.

Juncal: If today we look at the ones that became rich during the Franco dictatorship years it was because they stole from the republicans’ inheritance. Now business people, judges, big companies are rich because of what they stole; if there was justice today and we could bring those criminals and thieves to the Courts like in Germany or other countries; half of the country could be charged and this would sanitise or clean up the problem. But no, nothing like this has happened here. The police are the same torturing people but with a face changed, the church is the same, the army too.

MH: How important is the struggle to denounce past injustices and bring the culprits to justice?

Juncal: Argentina have begun now to do a revision of what happened during our Civil War and this is very important as it is one of the main priorities of the movements for the republic to bring justice to the victims of the Franco dictatorship, if justice and reparation would happen; the right-wing movement in Spain would be jailed.

Tino: With our small resources from this city of Irun we are undertaking a study with the help of a historian from the university and she is looking at the archives and she is shocked about what she is discovering in relation to thefts and misappropriation of inheritances from republican citizens after the Civil War. Looking at a lot of rich people in this area, looking at their parents and grandparents, this historian can see that they robbed many states, land holdings, properties and of course we are going to publish all these findings.

MH: Is this to do with truth, justice, and reparation for the 150,000 deaths, people who were killed by the franquistas and whose graves have not been found? What needs to be done to accelerate a more just revision of the past?

Juncal: The republic movement is spread across all the regional areas in Spain and it does what it can in these areas, with the help of forensic experts. Today we have only found about 10 percent. We know there is much more out there and there will be a lot we won’t be able to find as it is under concrete or under roads. What could we do? I would love to put aside from their power and decision making all the judges and magistrates that are supporters of the Franco dictatorship, that are part of the Spanish legal system today.

Jon: I would like to change the laws and the judges’ attitudes and make them more accountable so they should get involved with the victims of the dictatorship. Today this doesn’t happen.

Juncal: It is because the new law to help the recovery and repair of the past does not enforce much because the judges and magistrates don’t want to get involved when there is an investigation today. The judges wash their hands if they find a grave with bones. They ask the magistrate to proceed with an investigation but they don’t do anything! They don’t want to get involved!

MH: Do you think this is because the judges generally have always been in favour of the dictatorship?

Tino: It is a political hereditary; the ones in government now are descendents of the ones that were in power during the dictatorship. They perpetuate it, so it is very difficult. We have seen judges that are acting against what would be the right thing to do and this is because they are still “fascist”, like their parents and their thoughts and actions continue.

Juncal: And the ones that are not fascist, because the law is not strong enough they don’t want complications. When the transition came in the late ‘70s they created the Law of Silence and they told us it was because they did not want the army to take power. But when you change from a dictatorship to a democracy there has to be a clean up period and you have to be able to investigate the crimes they committed but not here. Nothing happened – the same people are still in power, the same families. Of course everyone said there was a transition but it was mainly a change of coats.

MH: So do you think the revision of the past is a long way off seeing how bad things are at this moment?

Jon: Now with the crisis what we need is a second transition where the truth, memory from the past, justice and reparation are implemented. We need to bring to justice and to charge to all those involved in crimes and to repair injustices and to acknowledge the victims. But for all this we need a different political system in Spain.

Juncal: And in Spain there are victims and victims. If a victim is because of ETA *** straight away they get help but the victims from the Franco dictatorship, these ones are ignored because they are from the Civil War. The right-wing victims have more rights than if the victim is on the left side of politics. Where is the justice?

MH: Is the media telling what is happening?

Tino: In this country, the telecommunication services are owned by magnates.

Jon: There are not independent newspapers in Spain. Medium size printing hardly exists to reach a large number of people. All the newspapers belong to big investment groups.

Juncal: A few years back when the rightwing was in power like now every one thought that el Pais was a newspaper from the left side of politics but the director of the newspaper was Martin Villa and he was one of the torturers and had been interior minister during the Franco dictatorship. He was an assassin and he is still involved politically.

Jon: If we could write a biography of all the politicians we have now a lot of them were political appointees during the dictatorship years.

MH: Would there be a day not too far away for a referendum on a republic and what needs to be done to win the referendum?

Jon: We don’t know if is in the distant future or closer to now but we hope that day will come and we will try to unite all the republic movements of the left.

Juncal: I think it is difficult to say that there will be a referendum. They will have one only if they are interested in one but it won’t be a popular republic from the left like the one we want. The ones in power now could say the monarchy is not working but we need to keep the capitalist system in power and that we are going to do a referendum for the republic to win but they would keep their power.

Tino: For our cause the biggest boost that we have at this moment is the Spanish royal family with the son in law’s corruption, their love affairs, people are seeing what they are.

Juncal: We republicans from the left, we have values and we defend the public system against what they are doing, privatising everything. This is what the capitalism wants

Tino: I think they have prepared this crisis and it is at a time when the left forces are disunited.

Juncal: They won’t give us a popular republic like we want, a federation republic. Probably it will be something like the one they have in USA and that one, we don’t want.

Tino: Like France.

Juncal: The French one is not a working class republic one. But the right wing in France is not like here, which is rancid.

MH: Why is that?

Tino: In Spain nothing has changed in situ. If you live well, no one is going to touch you, you are not going to change, you continue to accumulate and steal, no one is going to touch you, you are not going to change.

Jon: I think that in Europe the fascist rightwing lost the war but in Spain it won the war so in Germany and France they lost power. In France there is a right-wing party with Sarkosi and the extreme right-wing Le Pen that is strong but is not like Spain. Here, the right is united there is only one right-wing party the PP and in France there are two.

MH: Is this the right moment, given the economic crisis, for change? Would people be motivated to take a stand and get involved?

Juncal: The problem is that people are not motivated for that change

Jon: The crisis brought people back to the streets and they are demonstrating. It all depends on the capacity of the left.

Who are we?

We are a group of citizens from Irun that are proud to be for a republic and we meet regularly to defend and propagate the ideas and values of a republic.

We are an open association and welcome anyone that would like to promote and work for the republic values. We are a pluralist association welcoming all ways of thinking along the republic view of thinking. You do not have to pledge to any political party.

What is our goal?

We are not guided by resentment but we are against the cover. We think it is time to acknowledge and recover the past.

Today the historical values of a republic are fully integrated: we defend human rights, we defend the public system like education and health, social justice, an independent judicial system, independence of the state from the church, public education without the sperate from the church, the legal rights of the nations to their own destinies, and a strong commitment to resolve issues within nations with out going to war.

Why are we called “Nicolas Guerendiain”

We decided to take on the name of our organisation Nicolas Guerendiain because we want to rescue from the past and bring to light a father and a son that are part of the history of this city, Irun. We want to reclaim their dignity.


* Maria is a CPA member. She travelled through Spain for three months last year.

** Irun (old Basque for “fortified town”) is a town of the Bidasoa-Txingudi region in the province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque Autonomous Community, Spain. Nowadays it is widely accepted by the historic researcher community that Irun is the ancient Basque Roman town of Oiasso on account of the vestiges (port, factory, etc) disclosed in the historic nucleus of Irun, while the name itself may have applied to the whole surrounding area.

*** Basque nationalist and separatist organisation founded in 1959. The main organisation of the Basque National Liberation Movement.   

Next article – Asian Pivot and Obama’s Korean Peninsula strategy

Back to index page