Spain 80 years after the start of the Civil War: Change of a Nation

Eighty years ago this July right-wing officers under General Franco rose against the democratically-elected Popular Front government that was elected after King Alfonso XIII went into exile in 1931 and the Second Republic was declared. The coup failed and the government was unable to stamp it out. The prolongation of these two failures was a three-year Civil War, simplistically seen as a prelude to the ideological battles of the Second World War between fascism, communism, and democracy but much more a particularly Spanish conflict.

Around 200,000 died at the battle fronts and a further 150,000 were murdered extra-judicially or executed after flimsy legal processes by the Nationalists (the rebels), 20,000 of them after the Civil War ended, and 50,000 in the Republican-held areas during the conflict. More than 250,000 went into permanent exile. Some of these people then went on to fight in the French resistance during World War II and ended up in concentration camps, most notably Mauthausen-Gusen, where around 5,000 of them died.

The civil war, which escalated into an international conflict, because of the aid provided to Franco by Hitler and Mussolini and to the Republican government by the Soviet Union, reverberated around the world, including in Oxfordshire from where some 31 individuals went to Spain to fight for the cause of the Republic in the 60,000-strong International Brigades, six of whom were killed, or served in medical units. As the excellent book “No Other Way”, published last year by the Oxford International Brigade Memorial Committee, also points out homes established in the area cared for hundreds of Basque refugee children, and Oxford itself was a centre for activism in support of the Spanish Republic, both among the university’s radicalised students and the working class community associated with the Morris car factory. My father-in-law was a student at the University at that time and wrote two articles in the Isis magazine in 1938, which were rather sympathetic to Franco to the chagrin of my wife.

Arturo Barea, one of the great chroniclers of the first 40 years of 20th century Spain, died in exile not far from here in Faringdon in 1957. Barea, author of the autobiographical trilogy The Forging of a Rebel, lived on the edge of Buscot Park for the last 10 years of his life in a house provided for him by the second Lord Faringdon. Some Basque children, part of a contingent of 6,000 shipped to the UK after the aerial bombing of Guernica in 1937, also lived at Buscot Park. The lord was an effete Old Etonian Marxist, who would preface his remarks in the House of Lords with ‘My Dears’ rather than ‘My Lords.’ He had converted his Rolls Royce into an ambulance and joined a British field hospital on the Aragón front in the Spanish Civil War.

I organised along with a group of friends the restoration of Barea’s commemorative stone in Faringdon in 2010 and in 2013 the placing of a plaque on his favourite pub, The Volunteer, in the middle of the town. Barea’s archive is to be donated to the Bodleian Library. Moves are afoot in Madrid to place a plaque at the school where he studied and name a square after him.

You might think the Civil War had by now been forgotten. Afterall, very few combatants on either side are alive today. Anyone who let’s say was 18 when the war broke out in 1936 would today be 98. The war is deeply ingrained into Spain’s collective memory and in the minds of many families, and arouses strong emotions on either side of the conflict when publicly recalled such as, for example, when left wing politicians in cities decide to change the name of streets associated with the Franco regime or the Pope beatifies Civil War clerics murdered by those on the Republican side.

It is also recalled when families publish memorials in newspapers commemorating the anniversary of the civil war murder of loved ones: if committed on the Republican side, the text, in conservative newspapers like ABC, often proclaims “assassinated by Marxist hordes.”

I see that the planned Civil War memorial slated for St. Giles has also aroused strong emotions, to judge by letters in the local press, on aesthetic, ideological and location grounds.

In order to better understand where Spain stands today in respect of the Civil War, it is worth recalling the Franco regime’s stance toward the conflict. History is written by the victors, a quote commonly misattributed to Winston Churchill, and this was certainly the case after Franco won the war in 1939 when a dictatorship that lasted 36 years was established.

The Francoist dead had war memorials and their names carved on churches: caídos por Díos y España (‘those who fell for God and Spain’), but the Republican dead were forgotten and could not even be publicly mourned. In 1940, the Franco regime decreed the compiling of a list of killings committed by Republican loyalists, known as the Cause General (General Cause).

Far from seeking reconciliation, Franco, supported by the Roman Catholic Church which had called his uprising a ‘crusade’, carried on the repression in order to purify the country of those deemed to be its enemies.

Franco’s Law of Political Responsibilities in 1939, retroactive to October 1934, when the miners’ strike in Asturias developed into a revolutionary uprising that was brutally crushed by troops he controlled, punished ‘the guilt of those who contributed by acts or omissions to foment red subversion, to keep it alive for more than two years and thereby undermine the providential and historically inevitable triumph of the National Movement’. The law was in force until 1966.

The socialist Juan Negrín, the last prime minister of the Republic, who left Spain for France shortly before the war ended, offered his life to Franco if he agreed not to reek revenge on Republican supporters. Franco ignored the mercy plea and demanded an unconditional surrender.

Franco created a victory culture, which divided Spain into winners and losers throughout the dictatorship, and a regime based on adherents to it being favoured over non-adherents. Participation in it was reserved for adherents. The date of the coup d’etat that sparked the Civil War (July 18) and that of Franco’s victory (April 1) were turned into official commemorations and national holidays.

The poet and publisher Carlos Barral described the general acceptance of the predominant way of remembering the war in the following way in his memoir published in 1975, the year of Franco’s death:

Not only were virtue and shame imposed, and orthodox thinking and fear of God, but all record of a different life was wiped from consciousness. Nobody felt obliged to understand those who had been mistaken. All the older people I knew in those days had either lived under the wing of the Nationalist army or had suffered the unrepeatable privations and humiliations of the war. In my family any allusion to Republican relatives was scrupulously avoided: influential people who had shared our table and were now on the other side of the frontier or had committed suicide in some political prison. And everyone including the maidservants, who the day before yesterday had shouted ‘no pasaran’ (the Republican slogan), took part in the enthusiasm for the new era and wrapped themselves in the folds of delirious religiosity.

Prisoners became slave labourers: 20,000 of them worked to hew out of rock the basilica known as the Valle de los Caídos (of the Fallen), Franco’s monument to his victory, which is crowned by the world’s largest memorial cross (a whopping 152 metres).

He is buried on one side of the altar and the tomb of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Falange party, is on the other. The monument was inaugurated by Franco on April 1 1959, the 20th anniversary of his victory. In his speech he asked rhetorically, ‘What are the enemies of Spain?’ He answered, ‘The enemies of Spain are seven; liberalism, democracy, Judaism, the Masons, capitalism, Marxism, and separatism.’ These ‘enemies’ comprised the anti-Spain which Franco said had been conquered and defeated in the Civil War but were not dead.

Babies and young children were removed from their imprisoned mothers and had their names changed so they could be adopted by regime families. Thousands of working class children were sent to state institutions because their Republican families were considered unfit to raise them.

Spaniards could not even ask for an ensaladilla rusa (potato salad), as it referenced Russia. The name of the dish was officially changed to ensaladilla imperial, recalling the glorious days of the Spanish Empire.

The freedoms enjoyed by women during the Second Republic, including divorce and the right to vote, were reversed. The regime declared civil marriages that had taken place during the Second Republic void, thereby making thousands of children retrospectively illegitimate.

The gulf between victors and losers and the schism between public and private memory was exacerbated by the longevity of Franco’s regime.

Spanish society changed profoundly as of the 1960s as a result of very strong economic growth, the influx of tourists, industrialisation and urbanisation, but the regime’s Civil War discourse remained unchanged, even in the face of dissent in the ranks of its ally, the Catholic Church.

Nevertheless, there was more freedom to publish and make films, such as Carlos Saura’s La Prima Ángelica (Cousin Angelica) in 1974 which deals with the Civil War as remembered by a child of Republican parents, although the first two versions of the script were rejected by censors. Basilio Martin Patino’s documentary Canciones para despúes de una Guerra (Songs for after a War), which depicted scenes from the Nationalist side in blue and from the Republican in Red, had to be shown in secret in 1971 and was not released until 1976, a year after Franco’s death. George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, about his experiences on the Republican side, was published in Spanish in 1970 with only one passage deleted.

Opinion polls in the 1970s showed Spaniards were increasingly overcoming the divisions caused by the Civil War, paving the way for reconciliation. According to a survey in 1975, 74% of respondents wanted press freedom, 71% religious freedom (Catholicism was the state religion), and 58% trade union freedom. There was still, however, only one legal political party, the National Movement. Society was more advanced than the ossified political class.

The international context was also very different. Spain was by then firmly anchored in the Western bloc, as a result of the 1953 agreement with the United States establishing military bases in the country, and a preferential trade agreement as of 1970 with the then European Economic Community.

King Juan Carlos, Franco’s heir and the grandson of Alfonso XIII who went into exile in 1931 after municipal elections that were effectively a plebiscite on the monarchy, made it clear as soon as the dictator died that he wanted to be the ‘king of all Spaniards, without exception’.

With the exception of those at either end of the political extremes, there was no desire to open up the divisions caused by the Civil War and deliberately exacerbated during the Franco regime. Consensus, after so polarized a past, was very much the watchword between the reformist right and the non-violent left. This was epitomized by the Pacto de Olvido (literally, Pact of Forgetting), an unspoken agreement among the political elites to look ahead and not rake over the past for political gain. Looking backward could have destabilized the transition. The pact was institutionalized by the 1977 Amnesty Law, which covered all crimes of a political nature committed prior to December 1976. Amnesty and amnesia facilitated the transition.

The big difference between Spain and other dictatorships that moved to democracy in the 20th century was that the Spanish one was born out of a devastating civil war: the intimacy of civil war violence, a fratricidal conflict, the cruellest of wars, cannot be compared to that of a war between countries. None of the political parties – Socialists, Communists, liberal, conservative, regional – involved in the transition process had any interest in having the role they played during the Second Republic before the Civil War and during the War put under the microscope, as this would have opened a Pandora’s box of potentially violent consequences. All had skeletons in their cupboards.

The transition to democracy, which was engineered top down as well as bottom up, is widely regarded as successful, and became something of a role model, but the democratization was not welcomed by everyone. There were several attempts among Francoist military officers to turn back the clock in the late 1970s, but none of them got off the ground, until February 23 1981 when Colonel Antonio Tejero burst into the Spanish parliament with a group of civil guards. This coup quickly fizzled out thanks to the decisive action of King Juan Carlos who made it clear it did not enjoy his support. Had he given the coup his blessing, it would have sounded the death knell of the monarchy.

There was nothing resembling a Truth and Reconciliation Commission along the lines of the one set up in Chile shortly after the end of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990. Spain was the only case of a country that had moved to democracy in the 20th century not to have undertaken any kind of self-examination at state level of the crimes committed by the dictatorship that preceded democracy.

Viewed from today, with a consolidated democracy in Spain, albeit it with defects, that might seem the wrong decision. At the time, it was in my view the correct one.

At the grassroots and local levels, however, the amnesty law did not prevent the early opening of mass graves of Republican supporters executed during and after the Civil War, nor the payment of pensions to former Republican military and police officers. Likewise, it could not stem the publication of many memoirs and novels and serious historical research on the war and its aftermath.

There was an explosion of works of history that minutely reconstructed the repression on a province by province basis. By the end of the 1990s about 60% had been researched to some degree.

Felipe González, the Socialist prime minister between late 1982 and 1996, recounts how General Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado, the chief of staff of the army and deputy prime minister under Adolfo Suárez, the prime minister between 1976 and 1981, told him before he won the 1982 election that if the Socialists came to power (remember they were the losers in the Civil War) ‘they would be wise not to dig up the Civil War’ because ‘beneath the ashes, burning embers remained.’ One thing was private individuals looking discreetly for their loves ones; another thing was the government getting involved.

The Pact of Forgetting began to be chipped away in the 1990s. The Socialists lost to the conservative Popular Party in the 1996 election, and the PP – a party that includes the political descendants of Franco – was returned to power in 2000 with an absolute majority for the first time. Parliament received a range of initiatives from the left and the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties to condemn the Civil War and the Franco regime. The past became a political issue.

Although the PP felt there was no need to recover the memory of the past, it signed up to a vague common declaration condemning the Civil War and the dictatorship in the hope that this would put a stop to further parliamentary initiatives for specific measures to be adopted. It did not. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Socialist leader as of 2000, made the ‘recovery of historical memory’ part of his electoral programme in the 2004 election and won. By then there was also considerable pressure from grassroots organisations, particularly the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, which was established in 2000.

Both Zapatero and Emilio Silva, the president of the Association, had personal reasons for pushing the memory agenda. It is the grandchildren that are behind this movement. Zapatero’s paternal grandfather, a Republican captain, was executed by Nationalists a month after the Civil War started, while Silva’s grandfather was killed in October 1936 by Francoist vigilantes. Silva’s grandmother, although fully aware of her husband’s fate, never told any of her six children what had happened. The roadside grave containing the remains of Silva’s grandfather and another 13 victims became the Association’s flagship case and was taken to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. As a result, the grave was exhumed in October 2000, and in May 2004 Silva’s grandfather became the first Civil War victim to have his identity confirmed by a DNA test.

The largest mass grave is at the San Rafael cemetery, Malaga, where more than 4,000 people were executed without trial between 1936 and 1955. A mausoleum in the shape of a pyramid has been built as a memorial, with the names of 2,840 documented people.

In 2007, in what might be described as a belated attempt at ‘post-transitional justice’, the Spanish parliament passed the controversial Law of Historical Memory, which was bitterly opposed by the Popular Party and Spain’s Roman Catholic Church. Where there had been in the first post-Franco years consensus not to instrumentalise the past politically, engage in identity politics, open up old wounds or create new ones, there was now division.

The Socialist leadership, with no direct memories or experience of the Civil War or the Franco regime, unlike the leadership when the party was in power between 1982 and 1996, felt the time had come to honour all the victims of the conflict and the dictatorship. It believed the country’s democracy was sufficiently mature to handle the unfinished business of the transition.

The Law of Historical Memory formally condemned the Franco regime as ‘illegitimate’ but it did not nullify the verdicts of those sentenced by Francoist tribunals, including the kangaroo courts created after the end of the civil war in 1939, nor did it repeal the 1977 Amnesty Law. The Historical memory Law banned public symbols commemorating Franco and his allies; urged the Roman Catholic Church to remove plaques on churches bearing the Falangist equivalent of the swastika – its emblem of the yoke and arrows – that remembered those who had ‘fallen for God and Spain’; and prohibited commemorative events such as those at the Valley of the Fallen monument. There is still a plaque on the church in the village in the province of Cuenca where I have a home. The law also called for the Valley of the Fallen – which contains the dead of both sides but can in no way be called a site of reconciliation – to become a place of commemoration. The state also created funds to finance the exhumation of mass graves.

The shift in attitudes was partly prompted by the attempt in 1998 by Baltazar Garzón, a maverick investigative magistrate much given to self-promotion, to extradite Chile’s former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, a self-confessed admirer of Franco, for the deaths and alleged torture of several Spanish citizens. Garzón’s move laid Spain open to the charge of hypocrisy, since no official from the dictatorship had been held to account.

In 2008 Garzón declared the acts of repression committed by the Franco dictatorship to be crimes against humanity and began an investigation into cases of illegal detention and forced disappearances, involving the deaths of more than 114,000 people, committed between 1936 and 1951. This prompted a far-right group Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) to bring legal action against Garzón on the grounds that he had knowingly overstepped his authority, in particular by contravening the 1977 amnesty law that covers crimes perpetuated during the Civil War and the dictatorship.

In 2008, the UN Human Rights Committee called on Spain to repeal the amnesty law and to ensure that its courts did not apply limitation periods to crimes against humanity. Garzón was cleared of overstepping the mark in 2012, by which time the conservative Popular Party was back in power, but he was found to have over reached himself in another case.

Also controversial was the entry on Franco in the printed dictionary of national biography published in 2011 by the Royal Academy of History, which described his regime as ‘authoritarian, but not totalitarian’ and did not call him a dictator. The text, which provoked a row on a sectarian basis, was written by the octogenarian professor Luis Suárez, a senior figure in the Brotherhood of the Valley of the Fallen. Changes were made to the online version.

Little was done to facilitate the work of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory during the second Popular Party government between 2000 and 2004. The central government devolved the question of funds to Spain’s regional governments, many of which were run by the PP and opposed the unearthing of mass graves. While denying funds to the Association, this government offered economic support to Spaniards seeking information about relatives who belonged to the fascist Blue Division that fought with the Germans on the Russian Front in the Second World War, and repatriated in 2003 the bodies of some of those who were killed. Some 45,000 Spaniards either volunteered or were conscripted by Franco into the Blue Division, about 5,000 of whom were killed in fighting.

Emotions have also been aroused by the Catholic Church’s continuous beatification of clerics murdered during the Civil War. The Church has still not atoned for its role in the war, which it blessed as a ‘crusade.’ In the latest mass in 2013, attended by the Popular Party’s interior and justice ministers, Pope Francis beatified over 500 clerics. Anticlerical violence on the Republican side resulted in the killing of 13 bishops and 6,832 priests, nuns, monks, and other religious personnel compared to around 900 clerics murdered during the French Revolution. Historians call this the largest clerical bloodletting in the history of the Christian Church.

While the Church has honoured the clergy who died at the hands of Republicans, the few who were killed by Franco’s Nationalists were officially ignored until 2009 when the bishop of Vitoria, the capital of the Basque Country, held a service to remember 14 pro-Republic priests who were killed by Franco’s forces.

An ongoing movement among the left has been to change the names of the remaining streets and squares that commemorate the Franco regime. In the latest decision, the leftist city government of Madrid, which replaced the long-ruling Popular Party municipal government last May, is to change the name of 30 streets and squares that commemorate the Franco regime, many of them named after generals who took part in the 1936 uprising. The plan, approved by the local parliament, will also rename Plaza Arriba España (Onwards Spain Square), a Franco-era salute, as well as Calle de los Caídos de la División Azul (The fallen of the Blue Division street).

This decision on the 30 streets was followed by the leaking of a much larger list of 256 so-called Francoist streets, bearing the names of civilians and military men, which had been drawn up by a group of historians at Madrid’s Complutense University apparently at the request of the leftist Madrid Town Hall. Among the 256 were the surrealist painter Salvador Dali and several well-known poets and writers including, amazingly, Pedro Muñoz Seca, who was one of those executed in the Paracuellos massacre in 1936 by Republican NOT FRANCO supporters. Also on the list are the famous bullfighter Manolete and the footballer Santiago Bernabéu, after whom the Real Madrid stadium is named. The proposal to remove these names from streets, shelved as a result of a political row, shows the absurd and extreme lengths to which such initiatives can go.

These people were not military people and had no more blood on their hands than the majority of those who fought for the Republic; they either fought on the Nationalist side, often because the war found them in a Nationalist zone and they had no other option (the same happened for many Republicans), rose to prominence during the dictatorship and were thus seen as upholders of the regime or simply accommodated themselves to it. In Manolete’s case, his ‘crime’ seems to have been to have been killed in the bullring in 1947 and to have received three days of national mourning on the orders of Franco.

In January, volunteers began the first exhumation of a civil war victim under a court order since Franco’s death in 1975. Timoteo Mendiete was placed in a mass grave on the edge of the Guadalajara cemetery. His daughter, now 90, fought for years to have the grave examined. She travelled to Argentina in search of justice – it was a Buenos Aires judge, investigating crimes against humanity committed by the Franco regime, who requested the exhumation, and a court in Spain agreed to the dig.

The Popular Party government between December 2011 and December 2015 left the 2007 historical memory law dead in the water by eliminating the budget for it in 2013. It stood at €6.2 million in 2011, the last year of the Socialist government, and was reduced to €2.5 million in 2012, the first year of the Popular Party government, As well as ideological factors, the government, wrestling with recession and high unemployment, felt there were more pressing priorities for the limited funds at its disposal.

The UN Committee on Human Rights and Torture admonished Spain in 2009 when it noted that the 1977 Amnesty Law was inapplicable as a statute of limitations against the investigation and trial of these crimes. In 2013, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances called on Spain to do more to establish the fate and whereabouts of persons disappeared during the Civil War and the Franco regime, as it is a signatory to the Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
There has been an outpouring of Republican memory, but Spain is still finding it difficult, compared to other countries, most notably Germany, to confront its past.

There is nothing in Spain remotely resembling the German Historical Museum in Berlin which sets out 2,000 years of history through 8,000 objects that tell stories of political events, confrontations and social, economic and philosophical events in German and English, let alone museum coverage in Madrid of the Civil War. Such representations are found at the periphery, most notably in Guernica in the Basque Country or on a small scale in places like Cartagena which has a civil war shelters museum. Guernica has the nearest thing to a modern civil war exhibition. The ancient town, immortalised by Picasso’s mural-size painting, was mercilessly bombed by German and Italian aircraft in 1937.

While there is still a deep cleavage between the right and the left over how to treat the civil war, and new divisions have appeared, particularly between Catalan nationalists pushing for independence and the central government, Spain has changed beyond recognition in the last 80 years. Here are some random statistics comparing 1960 with today; figures from the end of the Civil War in 1939 hardly exist. Sixty-eight million tourists came to Spain last year compared to six in 1960, agriculture accounts for 3% of the economy as against 27%, there are close to 500 cars per 1,000 population (10 in 1960). Per capita income has risen from $250 to $24,000: it was $33,000 in 2007 before the country’s deep recession from which the country is finally beginning to recover.

Spain has the third largest high-speed rail network after China, the seventh longest life expectancy (higher than Britain) and a dozen of its companies are leading players in the global economy including Santander, the third largest bank in the UK for mortgages, the second largest in the euro zone and with the largest franchise in Latin America. How many of you know that Heathrow is owned by a consortium led by a Spanish company?

Franco famously said that he had left his regime and its institutions ‘tied up, and well tied up.’ The knots were unravelled successfully and peacefully to enable the transition to democracy, using, moreover, the Franco regime’s institutions and constitutional procedures. One, however, has proven to be very difficult and sensitive, and that is what to do with the contentious Valley of the Fallen, which in no way can be called a site of reconciliation. It is true that the mass tombs hold the dead of both sides, around 40,000. But the Republican dead were brought there without consulting their families, and in some cases against the express wishes of relatives. Why would a Republican want to be buried in a tomb so laden with Francoist and fascist imagery?

The previous Socialist government appointed a commission of experts in 2011 to draw up proposals for the site including removing Franco’s grave from the basilica and burying him elsewhere. The PP won the election at the end of that year and shelved the document, on the grounds that any change needed a consensus, something which has been elusive, but which now, in Spain’s new political circumstances, might be possible.

The inconclusive election last December 20 produced a very fragmented parliament, as a result of the anti-austerity Podemos and the centrist Ciudadanos winning seats for the first time and ending the domination of the Popular Party and the Socialists, the two parties that have alternated in power since 1982.

The greater plurality in parliament, with the emergence of Podemos, born out of the 2011 grass roots movement of los indignados (the indignant ones), and of Ciudadanos could make it easier to finally reach a consensus on how to deal with the conflict and the Franco dictatorship. These two parties captured between them the largest chunk of voters under the age of 35 and hence are the grandchildren of those who fought in the Civil War.

None of the parties gained anywhere near an absolute majority. Spain is still without a proper government almost four months after the election, but it still has a long way to go to match Belgium which a couple of years ago needed 541 days to form a new government.

If the parties cannot form a government by May 2 King Felipe will dissolve parliament and call a new election, probably to be held on June 26, which could very well produce almost the same results.

Pedro Sánchez, the Socialist leader, twice failed last month to secure sufficient backing in parliament to become prime minister of a minority government together with Ciudadanos. The 131 votes cast in his favour – 90 Socialists, 40 from Ciudadanos and one from a regional party in the Canary Islands – was far from a governing majority of 176 of the 350 seats in parliament.
Sánchez needed the Popular Party or Podemos to abstain, but they both voted against him.

The Popular Party, with 123 seats, far fewer than its absolute majority of 186 in 2011, is adamant that as the most voted party it must lead any coalition, while Podemos, with 69 seats, 27 of which are held by its regional allies, has several ‘red lines’ for forming or backing a Socialist-led government including a referendum on independence for Catalonia, which the Socialists, PP and Ciudadanos reject.

In my view the best option for the good of the country would be a German style grand coalition of the Popular Party, the Socialists and Ciudadanos, but no one wants to get into bed with the Popular Party as it is very tainted by numerous cases of corruption and has zero credibility to get to grips with this cancer in the Spanish body politic. Even the royal family is embroiled in a corruption case.

Such a coalition could be in office for some two years, during which it would reform the 1978 constitution, defuse the burning issue of independence for Catalonia, depoliticise the judiciary and some institutions and then hold a new election.
It could also dust off the plan on what to do with the Valley of the Fallen and finally turn it into a centre on the Civil War and the Franco regime that hopefully even schoolchildren would be capable of understanding.