This is a translation of a piece by Vicenç Navarro, originally published on the 11th of May. One wonders whether Navarro has still too benign an opinion of Draghi’s artistic tastes.
The President of the European Central Bank, Mr Mario Draghi, during his visit to Barcelona for the meeting of the Bank’s governing council, made certain declarations to ingratiate himself with Catalonia, referring to Dalí as an inspiration for the Europe that was being established in our continent. And Catalonia’s mass media (the majority of which is conservative in persuasion), apparently flattered by such a declaration, published these declarations with implicit applause.
I have to assume that Mr Draghi’s observation about Dalí was the result of ignorance, since were this not the case his declarations would be enormously alarming. Dalí was a fanatical defender of Spanish fascism. Although Dalí’s fascist sympathies are known in artistic circles where rigour ensures credibility (see the excellent biography of this painter written by Ian Gibson, The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí, Faber and Faber 1997), they are practically unknown to the majority of the general public. The conservative forces that dominate the majority of mass media in Spain have kept this dimension to Dalí quiet. His known relationship with the dictatorship in power in Spain is trivialised by attributing his closeness to the dictator to his desire to avoid paying taxes and to hide his great wealth, a widespread practice, even today, among the Catalan bourgeoisie. According to this version, Dalí tried to be on good terms with power in order to avoid the exchequer of the Spanish state. And given that all rich people did it, there was nothing to reproach Dalí for.
But his identification with the dictatorship was much more intense and profound than what is broadcast in the media. Dalí never helped the Republican government during or after the fascist military coup. As Ian Gibson points out, Dalí wrote positively about José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Falange, the Spanish fascist party. And in his speeches he used the fascist narrative, attributing to Spain an imperialist mission as the inspirer of a new civilisation. He supported the alliance of Franco with Hitler and Mussolini against the allies, and shared an admiration towards these figures as a brake on international Bolshevism. Profoundly antisemitic, he praised the historic function of Christianity, claiming that all art ought to be based on this religion. Close to a Spanish Catholic Church that had clear fascist sympathies, and to the Vatican of Pio XII, Dalí defended the dictator from criticism and contempt expressed by the majority of the international artistic community towards this figure, becoming his highest defender, a defence that reached sickening levels when, months before his death, the dictator signed the death sentence for five political prisoners who were members of the antifascist resistance. Dalí defended and applauded the execution of the five antifascists, claiming that in reality, Franco (whom at that moment he had defined as one of the greatest Spanish people ever to have existed) ought to have shot many more. Professor Malefakis of Columbia University in New York, and an expert on Fascism in Europe, has documented the level of cruelty of that regime, emphasising that for every murder committed by Mussolini, Franco carried out ten thousand. That dictator was the Spaniard who killed more Spanish people (and more democrats) in the history of Spain. One should not be surprised, then, that Dalí, at the end of the dictatorship, should have fleed Spain. A bomb was even discovered under his seat in the restaurant he used to visit.
One imagines Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank, was not aware of these facts, and shared the idealisation of Dalí that also exists in our country. (Only a few months ago, the biggest theatre in Barcelona –the Liceo- dedicated an entire opera to him, and Cadaqués, where the Catalan bourgeoisie goes on summer holidays, has a statue of Dalí in its main square). To correct his ignorance, I have sent Mr Draghi Ian Gibson’s book on Dalí. It would be desirable for him to read it since the policies the European Central Bank is imposing (and I say imposing because none of the austerity policies that the governments, including the Spanish government, are implementing in response to the pressure of the ECB, appeared in any electoral programme) are stimulating the appearance of fascism in the European Union. The harshness of its austerity policies and its hostility towards the working class, with its insistence on lowering wages and eliminating social protection (in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mr Draghi said that the European social model was finished), is helping to create the type of Europe that Dalí desired and admired. The enormous desperation and pain that these policies are creating has generated a hostility towards European establishments, including the financial system headed by the European Central Bank, which, if it is not channelled through progressive and democratic forces, can end up in fascism for which the ECB, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (the biggest instigators of these policies) will be responsible. The case of France is but one example.