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The Conversation Spain

A peaceful or bloody Spanish Transition?

Between 1976 and 1982 Spain suffered a high level of political violence. It had several causes, the main one being the activity of terrorist organizations. As indicated in a recent work that I have coordinated with María Jiménez, from 1976 to 1982 (both included) the attacks killed 498 people and left 450 injured. If we break down the figures, it is clear which band was the most responsible. The different branches of ETA committed 340 murders (68% of the total) and caused injuries to 305 citizens. Far-left terrorism, such as GRAPO, followed at a long distance, with 73 fatalities (15%); the ultra-right and / or parapolice, such as Triple A or the Spanish Basque Battalion, with 62 (12%); that of Palestinian and Armenian organizations, with 8 (2%); and the Catalan and Canarian pro-independence court, with 4 (0.8%). The other source of violence was errors, excesses and crimes committed by certain law enforcement officers. In her excellent doctoral thesis, Sophie Baby attributes 178 deaths to “state violence.” There were 32 fatalities in demonstrations, 7 as a result of torture and 139 in police incidents, although among the latter there are many cases whose political nature is more than debatable: from negligence to acts in self-defense of the State Security Forces and Bodies ( FCSE) against the attack of common criminals. Years of Lead Either way, the data casts doubt on the image of a placid and bloodless Transition. And it is that until not long ago, in certain non-academic spheres the lights of the democratization process had tended to be highlighted, which had them, while its shadows were minimized, including political violence. But, as the newspaper library and specialized bibliography show, those were “years of lead”. Unfortunately, without a middle ground, from idealization to demonization. Instead of taking advantage of the work of historians to elaborate a more precise and balanced account, now it is tried to replace the myth of the peaceful Transition by a new one: the myth of the bloody Transition. Thus, ignoring the role of ETA, the focus is only on the violence carried out by a sector of the FCSE, which is sometimes mixed with far-right and para-police terrorism, as if everything were the same. The expression “victims of the Transition” has even been coined, putting this historical stage at the level of Francoism and terrorism. And it is that, for some, the violent actions perpetrated during the governments of Adolfo Suárez would prove that the change was only cosmetic: the dictatorial background remained. Once again, our history is perceived as an anomaly. The purpose is obvious: by delegitimizing the Transition, it is intended to challenge its result, the current parliamentary system. Is political violence an indicator of the poor quality of a democracy? According to Eduardo González Calleja, between April 1931 and July 1936, violence of different ideological signs took the lives of 2,629 human beings in Spain. It is a much higher number than that registered during the Transition, which, however, was a longer period and in which the country had a larger population. Do such facts make the Second Republic less democratic? Should we speak of a “bloody Republic”? Of course not. As George L. Mosse taught us, the brutalization of politics was not a Spanish phenomenon, but affected much of interwar Europe. Let’s place the Transition in the international context Similarly, to understand it, we must place the Transition in its international context. The process is part of what Samuel P. Huntington called the third wave of democratization, which began in the 1970s in southern Europe, continued during the following decade in Latin America and culminated in Central and Eastern Europe. in the nineties. Although in most countries the fall of dictatorships ended with little violence, there were too many exceptions to consider them anecdotal: Peru, Romania, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Ossetia, Georgia or Tajikistan, not to mention talk about the disintegration of Yugoslavia, which resulted in a death toll of 140,000. There were also dictatorships that managed to perpetuate themselves by drowning in blood the incipient civil movement in favor of reforms. Suffice it to recall the massacre in Tiananmen Square (Beijing) in June 1989. Third international wave of terrorism As Juan Avilés underlines, in Spain the third cycle of democratization coincided with the high point of what David C. Rapoport has called the third wave international terrorism. According to the Global Terrorism Database, between 1970 and 1989 this type of violence took the lives of 75,310 people and injured 56,932 others worldwide. In Europe there were 4,945 fatalities. The most affected countries on the continent were Great Britain, with 2,841 murders, Spain, with 851, and Italy, with 394. Most occurred in the central years of the period, the same in which our country was configured as a parliamentary democracy . The political violence suffered during the Spanish Transition is attributable, among other reasons, to the perfect storm that caused the crossing between the international wave of democratization and that of terrorism: the moment of greatest weakness of the State coincided with the moment of greatest vigor in the enemies of democracy. The violence was not the product of the Transition, but of those who opposed it: some nostalgic “trigger-happy” police officers and terrorist gangs seeking an involution, a revolution or the secession of a territory, among which ETA excelled. Despite their combined onslaught, to which the coup plotters that culminated on 23-F were added, the young Spanish democracy managed to survive and consolidate. Quite a milestone. And that should not be forgotten. Without idealizing or demonizing it, without putting unnecessary adjectives, we must tell the story of the Transition with the rigor it deserves.This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original.Gaizka Fernández Soldevilla works at the Foundation Center for the Memory of the Victims of Terrorism.

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