Issue 35, March 2013

Select your location

Support Reel News!

If you like what we’re doing, become a Reel News Supporter to help keep things going! Starting at £3 monthly.

Let us know if you want the DVDs

 

  1. Into the Fire – The Forgotten Victims of Austerity in Greece (Reel News, 38:50) Refugees and Migrants in Greece.
  2. Somonte – Land and Freedom (Reel News, 13:50) Trade Unionists occupy a 400 hectar farm in Andalucia to grow food and create jobs.
  3. Palace of Varieties: Vincent Figgins and Vicky (Reel News, 2:42)
  4. Save Lewisham Hospital (Reel News, 14:42) Huge Protest in South London as privatisation of NHS accelerates.
  5. Palace of Varieties: Riverdance (Reel News, 2:16)
  6. 3 Cosas – Sickpay, Holiday, Pensions Now! (Reel News, 23:50) Outsourced workers at the University of London increase the pressure for basic rights.
  7. Palace of Varieties: Don Tempi (Reel News, 2:21)

 

The Crimes of Franco’s Fascist Regime 5: The Apparatus of Repression

During the 60s and 70s, General Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain responded to an increasing movement for basic human rights with horrific violence. Thousands were jailed, tortured, or assassinated, mostly for doing nothing more than being a member of an “illegal” organisation, such as the clandestine trade unions and political parties, handing out political leaflets, or going on a demonstration,all types of which were illegal.

 In other parts of the world, such as Argentina or Chile, the perpetrators of similar crimes have been brought to justice – but not in Spain. Reel News is in Spain for two weeks to work with La Comuna, an organisation of ex-political prisoners fighting for justice and reparations.

On Tuesday we met Ramon Saéz, who is a class of person who you might have some difficulty coming across in Britain – a radical judge. He met with us to explain the legal framework for the oppressive apparatus of fascism in Spain.

Judge Ramón Sáez
Judge Ramón Sáez

Basically the core instrument used for oppression against people fighting for basic rights was the military tribunal – not just during and immediately after the Civil War from 1936 – 1939, but right up to the end of the dictatorship, as can be seen by the use of military tribunals to pass the last five death penalties in Spain in September 1975. (See http://reelnews.co.uk/the-crimes-of-francos-fascist-regime-4-sentenced-to-death/). Military tribunals were a way of pushing decisions through quickly with few, if any, rights for defendants.

In the 40s there were the tribunals of masonry and communism, used against anyone with different ideas to the state (masonry in Spain at the time, although a secret society, was associated with liberal and republican ideas). These were used to jail, exile and execute – and as a result to scare people into submission and accept the regime.

They were also used to expropriate money and property retrospectively. For example, Blas Infante, the celebrated Andalucian leader, was executed in 1936. In 1941 he was found guilty retrospectively of political crimes, and the house of his widow and children was taken by the state.

“Political crimes” became a catch-all term for anything the state didn’t like, or went against the twisted morality of the catholic church in Spain. So “political crimes” covered all forms of association in public places such as demonstrations and meetings; any form of organisation outside the state or church such as trade unions or political parties; freedom of expression such as criticism of the state or even statements of peace; sex outside marriage including adultery and homosexuality; the list went on and on. Ramón described it as “an absolute and ferocious control of the people to keep them in a permanent state of fear.”

The position of women under fascism was horrendous; quite simply they had no rights at all. They had trouble finding work, and if you got married you had to give up your job immediately. Only men were allowed to sign commercial contracts of any type (mortgages for example) so as a woman you had no right to own any property – your father or husband signed any contracts that needed signing.

As with other fascist states, Franco’s regime could only work by having a significant popular base. There was a whole network of formal and informal informants, collaborators and secret agencies of information to control the population. The taxi driver who just gave you a lift could be part of it, as could the caretaker who looked after your block of flats. The popular support came from a number of factors –  a lot of it was down to currying favour with the regime out of fear that the widespread oppression of the civil war might return (around 75,000 people were executed between 1936 and 1939), but there was also the fact that you were more likely to get a job or increase your income – plus the fact that a significant part of the population had been won over to the ideas of fascism. However, Ramón pointed out that a lot of the time people were controlled because they’d internalised their fear of the regime – because they assumed they were being watched anyway, there was no need to waste resources on constant surveillance.

If communites got too uppity. “states of exception” were declared, where the few rights that did exist would be suspended completely. People could be arrested and detained indefinitely, and police could enter people’s houses at will and impose curfews. The first instance of this was during the Asturian miners’ strike of the mid- fifties.

There was a circular logic to the repressive apparatus, which continued even after Franco died, and the law was changed in 1976 and 1977. The culture was still the same – so the police could get away with atrocities such as the massacre in Vitoria in 1976, when police opened fire on a workers’ assembly in a church during a huge strike. 5 workers were killed and over a hundred seriously wounded – but as the police had done the shooting, obviously the workers must have plotting crimes against the state. Simiilarly, if you were arrested and then complained when you were tortured, you were likely to receive an increase sentence for telling outrageous lies about the police.

La Comuna demo yesterday: "Against Impunity: Solidarity with the victims of Francoism"
La Comuna demo yesterday:
“Against Impunity: Solidarity with the victims of Francoism”

Ramón supports La Comuna’s fight for justice and reparations for the crimes of the Franco regime, and the lifting of the law of impunity for such crimes passed in 1977. He rejects the idea of “reconciliation” that is put forward as justificaition for the law – as he says, you can’t have reconciliation without first officially recognising the suffering caused. He also pointed out another key point which shows why La Comuna’s struggle is so important as a prerequisite for a better world today. As he said, “The colour of the uniform may have changed, but the culture lives on, because the dictatorship has never been discredited.” You only have to consider how little the culture of the Met police in London has changed to see how true that is – and the Met police’s culture has been discredited not once, but at least twice, after Stephen Lawrence’s murder and after the 1981 riots.

La Comuna have now found a judge in Argentina who is prepared to put the fascist regime on trial under international law for crimes against humanity, in an ironic reversal of the trial in Spain against the generals of the military dictatorship in Argentina. Although this is largely symbolic, the trial of the generals did increase the pressure for justice and reparations that the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo had been bravely calling for, a struggle they ultimately won. This could be the first step in a similar process, but they’ll need international support and solidarity. This could take the form of messages, demonstrations, donations to the campaign – they need money in particular in the short term so that ex-political prisoners can travel to Buenos Aires to give their testimony.

In the meantime, La Comuna will hold a demonstration every Thursday, just as the Madres did, until they get the justice that the Spanish people so richly deserve.

http://www.lacomunapresxsdelfranquismo.org/

We will need to make trips to other parts of Spain in order to help in this crucial struggle for justice – but we need money to do it. Obviously there is no funding for a project of this sort in Spain, and with the brutal austerity measures, our fellow film makers in Madrid have no money either. If you can help, please click the donate button below.

 

The crimes of Franco’s fascist regime 3: Enrique Ruano and Atocha

During the 60s and 70s, General Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain responded to an increasing movement for basic human rights with horrific violence. Thousands were jailed, tortured, or assassinated, mostly for doing nothing more than being a member of an “illegal” organisation, such as the clandestine trade unions and political parties, handing out political leaflets, or going on a demonstration, all forms of which were illegal.

 In other parts of the world, such as Argentina or Chile, the perpetrators of similar crimes have been brought to justice – but not in Spain.

Lola Gonzalez Ruiz
Lola Gonzalez Ruiz

 

Last week in Madrid we met Lola Gonzalez Ruiz and Margot Ruano, activists in Spain’s student movement in the 60s. They explained that while the workers movement in Spain at the time was organising clandestinely for better wages and conditions, the student movement – also having to organise clandestinely under a fascist dictatorship – was growing too and becoming increasingly political. During 1967 and 1968 many demonstrations and actions were organised,for example over the United States involvement in the Vietnam war, and against the state-imposed student union. This resulted in the formation of  clandestine student unions  – in  Madrid it was named the SDEUM (Democratic Students Union of the University of Madrid).

Margot Ruano
Margot Ruano

 

As Margot pointed out, this was a non-violent movement, using only words as weapons. But Franco’s dictatorship viewed these developments with increasing alarm.

Enrique Ruano, Margot’s brother and Lola’s partner at the time, was also a student activist. On January 16 1969, he and Lola were arrested in a cafe by La Brigada Politico-Social, Franco’s notorious secret police. They were held for 3 days in the interrogation centre, the DGS (Dirección General de Seguridad ).

On January 20 at 1pm, 3 police officers took Enrique in handcuffs to a flat where they thought there might be incriminating evidence of some sort. In this flat they tortured him. One of the police officers shot him, then all three carried him into the corridor and threw him seven floors onto the patio below. To this day no-one knows whether he was killed by the shot or the fall. Enrique was 21 years old.

The police announced that Enrique had committed suicide, producing a false psychiatrist’s report and even more disgustingly, tampering with Enrique’s body to hide the gunshot wound. The media just reported what the police announced, and Enrique’s neighbours were far too scared to say anything. Lola and Margot knew the police were lying, but would not find out the facts for 20 years, when the case was reopened in 1989.

Enrique Ruano (picture taken 5 days before he was assassinated)
Enrique Ruano (picture taken 5 days before he was assassinated)

Huge demonstrations in protest by both students and workers followed – and were met with further repression as the dictatorship raised the level of tension and fear. There were mass arrests and deportations, and for the first time police entered university campuses to violently break up demonstrations. But despite people’s fear, the movements continued to grow. When Franco died in 1975, the dictatorship was in ruins – and as the saying goes, “The dictator died in his bed, but the dictatorship died on the streets.”

However, the transitional period that followed was to be accompanied by more horrific violence, as armed fascist gangs appeared – protected by the police, and doing the dirty work of a government where the apparatus of the dictatorship still continued intact.

"Fascists out" - graffiti on University of Madrid wall
“Fascists out” – graffiti on University of Madrid wall

In 1977, Lola was now a lawyer working with the still-clandestine union CCOO.  (The right to strike and the right to organise in unions would not become law until a couple of months later). On January 24, she was attending a meeting with 8 other lawyers specialising in labour and community law near Atocha railway station. One of the other lawyers was her husband, Javier Sauquillo.

Suddenly fascists armed with machine guns burst into the room and opened fire. Lola said the shooting went on for 2 or 3 minutes. 5 lawyers were killed – including Lola’s husband, Javier. Lola and the other three somehow survived, despite being seriously wounded.

Lola would face two years of operations. She had been shot through the neck and face and had to be fed through a drip. And although she found the strength to continue her career as a lawyer afterwards and later work as a civil servant in Madrid, losing a second loved one in such horrific circumstances (plus a number of good friends) is something that, as she says, “You never recover from.”

Monument to the Lawyers of Atocha
Monument to the Lawyers of Atocha

The assassins did receive prison sentences, but none of them served anywhere near the whole terms. One of them was even granted bail, at which point he disappeared before being able to be sentenced. As for Enrique’s assassins, all three ended up being decorated for outstanding service. When the truth came out in 1996 it was too late – the Amnesty Law passed in 1977 guaranteed blanket immunity from prosecution for those suspected of crimes against humanity during the Franco era.

Not surprisingly, Lola and Margot completely disagreed with this, and still do. Add to this the shocking revelation last week (http://reelnews.co.uk/the-crimes-of-francos-fascist-regime-1-yolanda-gonzales-and-aluche/) that a convicted fascist murderer has a senior position in the police, and it becomes clear why the battle for justice during the Franco era is still so important.

I came away from the interview feeling quite shaken at what Lola and Margot have had to face in their lives, and a bit ashamed that I knew so little of these events before – but it was a real honour to meet them. If the current generation of activists can find even a tenth of the strength and bravery shown by these women, then another world really is possible.student posters

We will need to make trips to other parts of Spain in order to help in this crucial struggle for justice – but we need money to do it. Obviously there is no funding for a project of this sort in Spain, and with the brutal austerity measures, our fellow film makers in Madrid have no money either. If you can help, please click the donate button below.

 

The crimes of Franco’s fascist regime 2: Women in Prison

Update: This article is now available in Danish.

During the 60s and 70s, General Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain responded to an increasing movement for basic human rights with horrific violence. Thousands were jailed, tortured, or assassinated, mostly for doing nothing more than being a member of an “illegal” organisation, such as the clandestine trade unions, and political parties, handing out political leaflets, or going on a demonstration,all types of which were illegal.

 In other parts of the world, such as Argentina or Chile, the perpetrators of similar crimes have been brought to justice – but not in Spain. Reel News is in Spain for two weeks to work with La Comuna, an organisation of ex-political prisoners fighting for justice and reparations.

On Sunday we met Pilar Arias, Maria del Valle and Isabel Pérez Alegre, three activists who spent time in Delicias women’s prison in the 70s. All three were active in left wing political parties and in clandestine trade unions as the movements against the dictatorship grew.

Isabel Pérez Alegre
Isabel Pérez Alegre

They told us how organising clandestinely affected their lives. Many of their fellow activists were being arrested, and Maria spoke of a constant state of fear and tension, always looking over your shoulder to see who was watching you; of meeting in secret and having to be careful what you said to family or friends; of having to survive on hardly any money, and of living with instability when you did have a job, because of the constant threat of the sack due to being a member of a clandestine trade union.

Dirección General de Seguridad, Plaza del Sol
Dirección General de Seguridad, Plaza del Sol

When activists were arrested, they would be taken first to the interrogation centre in Plaza del Sol, the DGS (Dirección General de Seguridad).  Isabel’s memories of this place are so bad that even after 40 years she didn’t want to talk about it. Maria explained that the interrogation seemed to go on forever. She spoke of being beaten and being deprived of sleep. The room had no natural light so you had no idea whether it was day or night, or how many hours or days had passed. When you were finally taken to prison, Isabel said it felt like a palace in comparison; although political prisoners were put in smaller cells than other prisoners, at least she finally had a bed and could take a shower.

Maria del Valle

 

 

Pilar agreed that the conditions weren’t too bad in Delicias – there was even a small cinema where they could watch films – but the first time she was arrested, at the age of just 18, she was sent to the notorious Alcara de Henares prison, an old converted convent. She said it was terrifying; the rooms were freezing, very little natural light, the beds were dirty and uncomfortable, and wardens would pull back the shutters on the metal doors to the cells all the time to intimidate you and to see what you were doing.

Delicias Prison
Delicias Prison

In prison, they organised in communes or “comunas” – hence the name of the group that is fighting for justice and reparations for the crimes of the Franco regime, La Comuna. Pilar explained that it was a mirror of how they organised outside, so the main organising tool was the assembly, where all decisions would be taken collectively. Everything they had was shared amongst everyone; money, food, tobacco etc.

They set up political discussion groups, using the time inside to educate themselves, and they would act collectively to improve prison conditions, not just for themselves but for the other prisoners – many of whom were inside simply for being people that the regime didn’t like. There were many prostitutes inside who hadn’t had the money to pay an on-the-spot fine; women who had been caught smoking a spliff; many women whose only “crime” was to be gay.

Pilar Arias
Pilar Arias

The ultimate weapon of the “comunas” was the mass hunger strike, accompanied by solidarity actions outside prison. It could be quite difficult to get the message out because you were only allowed visitors from your family. Pilar explained how she would shout loudly into the microphone to her mum “We’re on hunger strike! Tell everyone outside why!” so that all the visitors could hear. Of course they would cut off the microphone and punish her, but the message would already be out.

The biggest  hunger strike, involving all the political prisoners in the country, took place in September 1975, when the dictatorship condemned 11 activists to death. 6 had their sentences commuted but 5 were shot by firing squad, triggering huge protests inside and outside Spain. Yesterday we interviewed two of the activists who had their sentences commuted, so more on this later this week.

All three women spoke of the violence that accompanied the transition to democracy after Franco’s death in November 1975, when armed fascist gangs were allowed to operate with complete impunity and hundreds were murdered. The still intact apparatus of the dictatorship was trying to keep the fascist state going, but the people continued to fight back. The failed military coup in 1981 would signal the end for the fascist state in Spain.

15M demo in Madrid, 25.09.12
15M demo in Madrid, 25.09.12

Obviously the democracy that followed didn’t go anywhere near as far as people had hoped – but as we spoke about the situation now, the women pointed out that the drive for austerity meant that the rights that they did win are gradually being taken away one by one, and that the peaceful popular resistance represented by the 15M movement  (the “indignados”) is being met by increasingly violent oppression yet again.

The lessons of the past show how our rulers turn to fascism in times of recession when they are unable to control a growing movement against them – and that’s why the struggle to bring those responsible for the crimes of Franco’s regime to justice, particularly those still in the state apparatus, is so important in the struggle against austerity today.

http://www.lacomunapresxsdelfranquismo.org/

We will need to make trips to other parts of Spain in order to help in this crucial struggle for justice – but we need money to do it. Obviously there is no funding for a project of this sort in Spain, and with the brutal austerity measures, our fellow film makers in Madrid have no money either. If you can help, please click the donate button below.

 

3 Cosas Campaign – Equal Rights for Outsourced workers!

 

The Unversity of London – one of the most prestigious unversities in the country, with a liberal reputation. Yet it doesn’t even give its outsourced workers basic human rights. Having won the London Living wage in a long struggle, the UNISON outsourced workers are now demanding a pension, sick pay and more holidays, just like any other worker at the university. Watch this film  to hear from the outsourced workers themselves and see what you can do to support them – and come to the protest at Senate House, 6pm, November 28.
Additional footage: Andrea Castillo, UCL Anthropology student

 

3 Cosas Campaign: University of London cleaners fight for basic rights

The start of a very important campaign. Having a fought and won the London living wage in a campaign involving protests, demonstrations and strike action, the mainly Latin-American cleaners at London University are now launching the “3 Cosas” campaign to get proper sick pay, holidays and pensions.

Here a cleaner describes the conditions they have to work in at one of most prestigious educational establishments in the world, and a student union rep explains what you can do to support their struggle.