In January 2020, the Socialist government of Spain, led by Pedro Sánchez, proposed a bill of profound cultural and political significance: a “Law of Historical and Democratic Memory.”
If adopted, this law will bring to completion a twenty-year effort on the part of the Spanish left to limit speech and reshape civic life. It would establish a national “Council of Memory,” an organ of state comprising public officials as well as professional “experts” and representatives of nongovernmental but politically reliable organizations. It would elaborate a comprehensive state policy to promote a left view of Spain’s early and mid-twentieth century.
The bill …prescribes the placement of “memory plaques” throughout the country to identify sites and personalities associated with “democratic memory” — the memory of radical opponents of the Franco regime, comparatively few of whom favored democracy. The “Law of Historical and Democratic Memory” calls on the Spanish government to identify and honor alleged “victims,” without regard to the fact that many were likely involved in mass killings and extra-judicial executions.
The proposed law is highly punitive. Symbols, meetings, or statements judged to approve of the Franco regime and the victors in the civil war are deemed infractions against “historical and democratic memory.” Proposed penalties include an elaborate schedule of fines ranging from two hundred to a hundred thousand euros, the closing for a period of six months to two years of any entity found in violation, and the confiscation of the means or goods involved in any such activities. That this law will dramatically restrict freedom of expression and thus violate the Spanish Constitution is apparently irrelevant to the Sánchez government.
The Law of Historical and Democratic Memory is the most dramatic, arbitrary, and punitive proposal concerning discussions of history anywhere in the Western world.
Yet the attitude it reflects is fairly common on the left, which increasingly uses governmental or nongovernmental means to restrict and punish speech that defends rightwing views, movements, and figures past or present. Politicized interpretations of history are, of course, not new. But Spain’s proposed law is a stark sign of the way the contemporary left seeks to weaponize history to achieve its goals and silence all dissent. …
The twenty-first-century ideology of the Spanish left rejects nearly all aspects of the past. It is hostile to most traditional values … The new ideology emphasizes cultural and sexual revolution. History is a political show trial, little more than a record of heroes and villains. Its major function is to unmask oppressors, separating past generations into victims to be affirmed and sanctified and victimizers to be silenced and demonized. It projects guilt onto scapegoats of the past, especially if they can somehow be identified with political opponents in the present. …
Proponents of ending the “pact of silence” insist that the left fought only for “democracy” in opposition to “fascism,” which in turn is held responsible for all political violence. As in other Western countries, the media and educational system in Spain are dominated by the left, which imposes what the Spanish call el pensamiento único (unipolar or exclusive thought). Moderates and conservatives rarely speak out, fearing the label “Francoist” or “fascist,” and in their timidity they cede the public square.
Sound familiar, yet more advanced? I am reminded of the 1619 project to delegitimize whites in the US, and the aboriginal industry in Australia, which is always rewriting history to get more favorable treatment of modern aboriginals in Australia.
The Spanish left has gone further, and is now using the coercive power of government to ban any opposition to its version — a version that just happens to delegitimize and stigmatize its political opposition. If successful, won’t that achievement be emulated by leftists everywhere?
As always with the modern left, truth is no defense.