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date: 10 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explains the persistence of Spain’s ‘politics of forgetting’, a phenomenon revealed by the wilful intent to disremember the political memory of the violence of the Spanish Civil War and the human rights abuses of General Franco’s authoritarian regime. Looking beyond the traumas of the Civil War, the limits on transitional justice and truth-telling on the Franco regime imposed by a transition to democracy anchored on intra-elite pacts, and the conciliatory and forward-looking political culture that consolidated in the new democracy, this analysis emphasizes a decidedly less obvious explanation: the political uses of forgetting. Special attention is paid to how the absence of a reckoning with the past, protected politicians from both the right and the left from embarrassing and inconvenient political histories; facilitated the reinvention of the major political parties as democratic institutions; and lessened societal fears about repeating past historical mistakes. The conclusion of the chapter explains how the success of the current democratic regime, shifting public opinion about the past occasioned by greater awareness about the dark policies and legacies of the Franco regime, and generational change among Spain’s political class have in recent years diminished the political uses of forgetting. This, in turn, has allowed for a more honest treatment of the past in Spain’s public policies.

Keywords: forgetting, human rights abuses, political memory, transitional justice, truth-telling.

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