Felipe González, the man who changed Spain in a way that politics could not

The 1977 elections confirmed the predictions of Felipe González and Alfonso Guerra, but not all. The PSOE would be the great force of the left above the PCE, even though the Communists had monopolized decades of anti-Franco struggle. However, the Socialists were left with 118 seats, a far cry from Adolfo Suarez’s UCD’s 165 seats. González took some time to think, because even then he was thinking about retiring from politics. He traveled to Panama, where he met with one of the legendary figures of Latin American politics at the time, Omar Torrijos, who had seized power in a coup in 1968.

Torrijos was a somewhat ambivalent dictator. His progressive ideas did not stop him from realizing that the country would prosper at the pace he set and not a step further. Someone was giving lessons. He gave one to Gonzalez: “I’ll tell you something you mustn’t forget: never get upset. If you get upset, they’ll fire you. Don’t let them see you as weak, don’t hesitate, Don. Don’t tremble. Remember, Felipe: if you get angry, they’ll fire you.”

This is the dialogue reconstructed by the journalist Sergio del Molino in his book Un tal González, an attempt to present the former prime minister as a providential man who made it possible to modernize Spain after decades of dictatorship and a transition period pregnant with dramatic moments. . Torrios’ advice fits the subsequent trajectory of a man who was only 35 years old at the time.

He did his best to make sure no one was seen as weak or backed into a corner. The exercise of power demanded and granted this armor. Inside was a different story. There were several times when he was tempted to leave everything and then change his mind or convince others that it was necessary. They were quite successful as he was prime minister for fourteen years and leader of the PSOE for twenty-three years. It was an admission of his insecurity, that he wanted a different life, or just an ego driven fiction only he knew.

‘Un tal González’ is what can be called an intellectual hagiography, in which the dark points of the character are not ignored, although they are contextualized in such a way that they cause the least damage. However, compliments are not an invention born of irresistible attraction. To deny the relevance of a labor lawyer born in Seville in 1942 in Spanish politics is both absurd and useless.

It is legitimate to think that Spain’s return to democracy would be different with a different person in charge, but it would be a different PSOE and a different Felipe González and maybe a different Spain. The first step in analyzing reality is knowing it.

The author claimed that the book is not an essay or a biography. He argues that since this is a novel that is saturated with real events, we might have more leeway by putting dialogue on the page that may not have been literal, but was true. It’s not something that hurts the book, but it’s weird. This is a journalistic chronicle deeply rooted in reality, in which Del Molino uses the first person sparingly. Calling it a novel is a bit extravagant.

Del Molino’s vindictive spirit to protect Gonzalez’s years of rule is evident. And he believes that the resistance to the value of this political task is a symptom of futility, a failed path in eternal adolescence, trying to achieve what was impossible in the Spain of those years.

Let Spain work, González said when everyone called him Felipe and a journalist wanted to know what the 1982 socialist slogan for “change” was all about. It didn’t sound spectacular. Neither slogan nor answer. The truth is that it was not inappropriate, because at that time there was no state that was useful for building democracy, or those that existed were used only for survival and not for the protection of the social rights of the people. Only in a revolution does one start from scratch, and there was no revolution or what was called a rupture.

For this reason, a significant part of the left came to the conclusion years later that the result was not satisfactory for their ideas. It’s a criticism that annoys the author of the book and many others, but is inevitable after decades of politicians and media framing and imposing an idealized version of transition that over time – and here we must include behavior. King Juan Carlos – Interrogated.

González preferred to build a state in which there would be public health and education, in which social rights and daily life would be closer to those of Western Europe. A country whose citizens were not ashamed.

“The candidate delivered the message that some Spaniards wanted to hear, tired of nothing working, of endemic backwardness in a self-conscious and disillusioned democracy that did not end up noticing in daily life,” writes del Molino. Disappointment was already being talked about. Economic recovery during the 1980s served to offset some of this sentiment. A democratic system is irreparably damaged when its economic legitimacy is contested or non-existent.

Pragmatism is one of the characteristics that stand out the most in Gonzalez. The involvement of NATO is a recurring example. The influence of the idea that Dan Siapoin told him – “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is white or black; what matters is that it catches mice” – as well. His 1982 ministers recalled that the first government had to “manage the contradictions” that arose from the contrast between the promises of coming to power and the reality. In this dilemma, reality often wins.

Some who have worked with him limit the scope of this pragmatism. “He was always inflexible in strategy, in medium and long-term goals. I never saw the slightest concession made either inside or outside the government,” said Ignacio Varela, author of the 1972 book For Change. – 1982: How Felipe González founded the PSOE and brought it to power’ and Deputy Director of the President’s Cabinet in Moncloa for eleven years.

Del Molino highlights the phrases with which the PSOE leader announced the end of his political career in 1997. “The key was not to justify the past, to concentrate our efforts on justifying the future. It was not to get trapped once again in the labyrinth of history that did not work well for us in the 19th century and a large part of the 20th,” Gonzalez recalled to a stunned public when he heard The story of his resignation.

Not being held hostage to the past is an idea that has many advantages. Ignore it, not so much. The latter made it possible for the equestrian statue of Franco not to be removed from the grounds of the Nuevo Ministerio in Madrid until 2005. The concept of historical memory was foreign to González’s idea of ​​Spain, at least as far as government responsibility was concerned. . Because it could endanger other things, it was not a problem for time to heal this wound, which almost never happens.

Economic progress had its dark opposite, which was corruption. Scandals followed each other, as if fat rats appeared inside the ship due to the lack of control of its captains. Some of the thieves (Luis Roldan or Mariano Rubio) were people that Gonzalez trusted the most. He put it there and protected it until the facts were revealed to me.

“In the face of such a bombardment,” writes del Molino, “the president remained silent or said that he knew nothing and that he was the first to be surprised. He did not know about the robbery. He was very worried that it was. So many loose hats. Made too big and for distributed control.

He did not even resort to fatalism to answer the sentences handed down in the Gal case. with aggravation. When José Barrionuevo and Rafael Vera had to go to prison in the kidnapping of Segundo Mar, one of the actions of a terrorist group created in the state, González went to see them off at the gate of Guadalajara prison, as if they. were heroes. together with the entire PSOE leadership.

They were sentenced to ten years by the Supreme Court for embezzlement and embezzlement of public funds. They spent just three months behind bars thanks to a partial pardon by the government of José María Aznár.

Sergio del Molino writes that the gesture “irreparably damaged his legacy”. This is bad in politicians who change the history of their country. The story also ends with them changing. This is something that even the author of such a laudatory book on the figure of Gonzalez cannot deny.

Source: El Diario

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