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  • Democracy without Justice in Spain: The Politics of Forgetting by Omar G. Encarnación
  • Joshua E. Marciano (bio)
Omar G. Encarnación: Democracy without Justice in Spain: The Politics of Forgetting. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. 249 pages. ISBN 978-0-8122-4568-4. $65 (hardcover).

Omar G. Encarnación’s Democracy without Justice in Spain: The Politics of Forgetting provides a detailed account of Spain’s successful, albeit unorthodox, transition to democracy after the death of the country’s long-time dictator, Francisco Franco. According to Encarnación, Spain experienced a successful democratic transition because the country’s political Right and Left were able to reconcile their bloody past and negotiate the so-called Pact of Forgetting, an informal agreement that placed more importance on building a democracy than seeking traditional notions of transitional justice. Encarnación uses the example of Spain to argue that the contemporary transitional justice movement should adopt a more flexible, context-driven approach, as it would increase the probability of success of newly founded democracies.

Encarnación provides the reader with just the right amount of background information regarding the Spanish Civil War, Spain under Franco, and the origins of the Pact of Forgetting. The author uses a multitude of primary and secondary sources to provide a vivid picture of Spanish history and offer insights regarding Spanish society and culture throughout the book. After addressing the events leading up to the Pact of Forgetting, the author explains the various factors that preserved the agreement during the Transition Period (1977–81) and the period in which the Left dominated Spanish politics (1982–96). Next the author explains the conditions that caused the Pact of Forgetting to begin to unravel in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before ultimately coming to an end in 2007, following the enactment of the Law of Historical Memory.

Encarnación argues there were two contextual factors that drove Spain’s Left to support the Pact of Forgetting instead of seeking transitional justice during the Transition Period. The first factor was the resiliency enjoyed by the old regime under the leadership of Adolfo Suarez. He became prime minister of Spain after the death of Franco and used his position to pass political reforms that initiated democratic transition without changing Franco-era political institutions. Suarez’s skillful management won him Spain’s first two national elections. More important, his popularity signaled to the Left that a complete overthrow of the old regime was not an option. The Left opted to pursue a swift and nonconfrontational political transition by supporting the Pact of Forgetting. [End Page 120]

The second contextual factor behind the Left’s decision to support the pact was the period’s increasing level of political violence, which was perpetrated by various groups, most notably the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, a terrorist group of Basque nationalists responsible for the majority of the five hundred politically motivated killings in Spain between 1968 and 1980. The period’s violence led to feelings of fear and uncertainty “that threatened to derail the process of democratization, most likely by inviting a military coup.” Consequently, the Left was willing to continue supporting the Pact of Forgetting to avoid exacerbating an already delicate political climate.

Next, Encarnación discusses the period from 1982 to 1996, fourteen years in which the Left, and specifically the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE), dominated Spanish politics. Encarnación provides three main reasons why, despite its political dominance, the PSOE did not end the Pact of Forgetting. First, fearing a military coup, the PSOE wanted to prove to the Spanish armed forces that leftist control of the government did not threaten the country’s political status quo. Second, the PSOE had a number of complicated domestic issues it needed to address and worried that ending the Pact of Forgetting would exhaust the party’s limited political capital. Third, the PSOE believed that the Europeanization of Spain was critical for the country’s political and economic revival. Encarnación claims the PSOE saw the Pact of Forgetting as key to Europeanization, as it repressed the “very things that made Spain look anachronistic, backward, and positively un-European.”

Finally, Encarnación...


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pp. 120-123
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2019
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