Meeting ourselves again

Pedro Bofill

In the troubled and confusing times we live in, in which the verbal violence of post-truth - a story based on the distortion of reality, if not on ignorance, or on the combination of both - reigns supreme, I consider it an obligation to succinctly explain the process of building the system of freedoms we enjoy in Spain.

Above all, how and why such a formidable and vigorous transformation was possible.

I try to disseminate the political and social behaviour, as well as the values shared by all, or at least by a large majority of Spaniards, that allowed us to initiate the process that would turn Spain over the last decades into one of the most democratic and supportive nations in the international context.

Spain, and the Spanish people with their behaviour, dazzled the world, which watched as an exemplary political change took place in a disturbing and uncertain environment governed by the "Cold War".

"Those were times of uncertainty and anxiety, difficult times, but also of hope and illusion".

The Spanish democratic transition was a peaceful process of rupturist reform that laid the foundations for a successful democratic system in Spain after a long dictatorship, a process in which such arduous issues as the form of state, the system of government and the model of society were successfully addressed.

As I have stated on other occasions, it was truly "an authentic democratic revolution" because there is nothing more revolutionary than subverting a totalitarian state in a peacefully consensual manner.

The key to the culmination of this process was forged in two strong ideas: consensus and national reconciliation, ideas shared by the majority of Spanish society, political, trade union and social forces, whose leaders and leaders knew how to subtly play a strategic game in pursuit of the same goal: an advanced democratic Spain inserted in the Europe of freedoms and welfare.

Certainly, the change was favoured by the political desires and the transformations in the habits of Spaniards that took place in the second half of the 1960s.

During that period, a middle class was formed as a result of economic growth and family welfare; and there was also a profound transformation of labour relations and behaviour in the intellectual, student and even business sectors, for whom the regulatory system and political structure of Francoism were a corset that constrained freedoms and the potential for economic and cultural growth.

The trigger for the process within the democratic opposition to Franco's regime was the creation of the Democratic Junta in July 1974 around the Communist Party and the Popular Socialist Party, and subsequently the Democratic Convergence Platform in June 1975, whose binders were the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and the Christian Democrat organisation Izquierda Democrática, among other forces of the same persuasion.

The merger of the two opposition organisations to Franco's dictatorship in March 1976 into the so-called Coordinación Democrática - popularly known as the "Platajunta" - would make it possible months later to set up a negotiating commission with President Suárez.

This commission was made up of nine representatives, including Nationalist leaders. The main objectives were, in short, amnesty, political freedom and the calling of elections to a Constituent Cortes.

"Official Spain had already begun, even before Franco's death, a complex and thorny path to radically transform the institutions of the dictatorship in accordance with the demands of the democratic modernisation of Spanish society".

The most lucid and majority sector of Franco's political class was aware of the obsolescence of the institutional framework and the need to implement an internationally comparable democratic system, but not everyone shared the procedure for change, much less its depth.

After the approval in the Cortes Generales of the Law for Political Reform, the so-called Harakiri Law (in this case political suicide for honourable reasons), endorsed by the Spanish people in the referendum of 15 December 1976 with 94% of the votes cast, and the holding of the elections of 15 June 1977, which allowed the formation of a Constituent Cortes, these approved the current Spanish Constitution, ratified in the referendum of 6 December 1978 by 91% of the voters.

Pedro Bofill

The Law for Political Reform was the starting point for a political process based on dialogue, known as the "transition to democracy".

This was the main beam, the great collective work of a society that allowed Spaniards to enjoy the longest period of peace and well-being in our history; a transition accurately defined by Professor Tomás y Valiente as a "choral symphony without a score, which was performed in a single concert without spectators, because nobody was left off the stage", whose originality and success lay in the fact that it was the result of the negotiations promoted by the first Suárez government between the reformist sectors of the Franco regime and the representatives of the democratic opposition.

"We were beginning the arduous search for ourselves reflected in others in order to put an end to the many years of rancour and hatred".

Spaniards have been enjoying democracy for forty-three years. As with any other democracy, the road has been full of difficulties, of great and serious obstacles that we have managed to face and almost always overcome more or less successfully; this is precisely the strength of the system that we were able to build.

Living in a democracy is not easy; freedom is conquered every day; so is the exercise of rights and the use of well-being.

Living together peacefully and freely requires dialogue, collaboration, agreements and mutual understanding. These requirements were permanently present in the spirit of the transition.

They presided over the actions and activities that allowed Spaniards to overcome, through dialogue and agreement, the difficulties that had to be endured, especially terrorism, economic crises, political tension and social disagreements, among others."Our transition was not an easy process. Rather, it was a time of shocks, uncertainties, anxieties and tragedies".

It was a period in which there were groups interested in squandering the ambition of a society determined to live together in peace and freedom, as well as in frustrating the efforts of political organisations to establish an open political system, where all Spaniards could fit in after decades of fruitless confrontation.

To face these challenges we had at our disposal the most powerful weapons available to civilised societies: words, dialogue, respect and the will to overcome adversity together.

But we were aware that the real difficulties in consolidating democracy began at that time.

Terrorism and political violence had to be confronted, the murderous rampage of ETA, the Grapo and the extreme right, whose destabilising attempts led to a truly explosive situation, which almost derailed the democratic process in the tragic January of 1977.

"The kidnappings of the President of the Council of State, Oriol Urquijo, and General Villaescusa by the Grapo, the terrible Atocha massacre by extreme right-wing gunmen - in which three lawyers and two workers from the PCE and CCOO were murdered - and the murders of Arturo Ruiz and Mari Luz Nájera raised the spectre of Civil War over Spain at that time".

Fortunately, these actions had the opposite effect to that intended by the murderers who committed them.

The calm response of the political organisations to the criminal provocations, staged at the funeral of those murdered in Atocha, which was presided over by an eerie silence that still resonates in those of us who were there, and the surprising effectiveness of the Government in freeing the two kidnapped people, reaffirmed the aim of reaching a consensus on a model of advanced and inclusive democratic coexistence.

Certainly, the fight against terror was the hardest of battles, due to the delay in eradicating it and the large number of innocent victims it claimed, including a significant number of children and adolescents, and although Spanish society and the state security forces finally defeated and subdued it, we can still see today the disaffection of these sectors towards freedom.

"It was a battle in which we democrats were united without fissures, although we did not receive the support and cooperation we were due from some members of the European Union until well into the eighties".

I still remember how, when I was a MEP, Barbara Dührkop - widow of Senator Enrique Casas, murdered by ETA in his own home - also a MEP, was forced to explain in meetings with Swedish citizens the true nature of this gang of murderers.
Today, the political heirs of that barbarity continue to poison coexistence with their challenging diatribes from the seats of Congress and to discredit democratic institutions.

With their behaviour and tributes to terrorists, they continue to humiliate the families and victims of terror. Therefore, for many socialists and for many PSOE voters, the current government's agreements with the heirs of ETA are a cause for concern. It is not acceptable that Moncloa is worth forgetting so much suffering.

Pedro Bofill, part 1: meeting ourselves again - factors of power Head of the Department of the Presidency of the Economic and Social Council of Spain and director of the magazine of the Association of Former Members of Parliament and Former Senators.