Memory and Amnesia: The Role of the Spanish Civil War in the Transition to Democracy

By Paloma Aguilar; Mark Oakley | Go to book overview

Economic and Social Characteristics of the Transition

Given that the socioeconomic context of the 1930s and 1970s has already been studied by experts within this feld, our intention is not to highlight the real differences and similarities between the Second Republic and the Transition, but to unravel the perceptions of the main actors during these periods. Most of this chapter will be devoted to studying these perceptions through an analysis of the institutional and procedural construction of the new democratic régime. Nevertheless, structural variables are highly important and cannot be isolated completely from political decision-making, given that the social and economic context underpinned such decisions, or from the process of designing the new institutions of the period, as these institutions needed to be flexible enough to adapt to the various determining factors of the time.5

The intrinsic importance of the perceptions of the main actors is based on the fact that, although they may not always correspond to reality at any given moment, they can nevertheless lead to the adoption of certain measures which have certain repercussions for that real situation.6 Below we offer a brief review of the structural conditions in which the new democratic institutions emerged, with a view to highlighting the differences and also some of the similarities between the Republican years and the Transition that began in 1975.

5. Some authors, as explained by Felipe Agüero and Mariano Torcal in their review of
recent literature on transitions, have attempted to integrate the two types of expla-
nation, stating that 'the structural context marks the boundaries and, at the same
time, the decision-making possibilities of the élite during changes of political régime'
(Agüero and Torcal, 1993: 334).

6. We shall never know how the Transition would have turned out if it had not been
brought about in accordance with a peaceful and consensus-based process. However,
we can state that both this strategy of political change and the excessive caution with
which the protagonists guided this change, arose from a perception of the context that
was more negative than the context really was, and that this distortion was largely
due to the recollection of the failed experience of the Second Republic and its mental
association with the present. Furthermore, problems are more visible than advan-
tages in processes of uncertain change. It is no coincidence that during these early
years of transition various books were published on the Republican period, some of
which explicitly aimed to serve as a lesson for the present through their description
and recollection of the past. This was the intention of Santiago Varela, who stated in
the fnal paragraph of the conclusion to his book that, although history does not
repeat itself:

it can be instructive. Today, forty years later, Spain once again stands on the threshold of
democracy. And the new democracy will bring with it new institutions and a new system of
political forces. It would be worth recalling at such a moment the importance that these
aspects had when, in 1931, it was necessary to seek solutions to the old problems of Spanish
history, newly brought to light, and reflect upon the scope and opportunities that the political
will has in order to shape the party system and parliamentary régime that must provide the
backbone for democracy and freedom in Spain. At times quite consciously and at others less
so, all the pages of this book have been inspired by a concern for the Spain of today and the
future. (Varela, 1978: 285)

-152-

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Memory and Amnesia: The Role of the Spanish Civil War in the Transition to Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acronyms ix
  • Glossary xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Acknowledgements for the English Edition xv
  • Foreword for the English Edition xvi
  • Preface xviii
  • Chapter 1 - Regarding Memory, Learning and Amnesia 1
  • Chapter 2 - From the Justifiication of War to the Exaltation of Peace 29
  • Chapter 3 - The Memory of War and the Lessons of Peace in the Democratic Transition 149
  • Economic and Social Characteristics of the Transition 152
  • Conclusion 265
  • Bibliography 271
  • Tables 291
  • Graphs 313
  • Appendices 319
  • Index 324
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