The 40th anniversary of the 23-F coup comes when the idea of ​​a successful uprising against democracy it is unimaginable for many Spaniards. It is even probable that only a small percentage of citizens are aware today, in view of the history of our country, of how abnormal this full democratic normality is.

Proof, precisely, of the historical rarity that the Transition was is that the military coup of February 23, 1981 did not triumph or provoke a civil war, as had happened in Spain on several previous occasions. Unlike. The failure of 23-F consolidated the idea of ​​democracy as a path of no return for 37 million Spaniards.

Proof of the unstable ground on which Spanish democracy was built is that only during the Second Republic were five coups d’état executed in Spain: the Sanjurjada, the Asturias revolution, that of Lluis Companys in 1934, that of July 18, 1936 and that of Catalan nationalism against the Republic in the midst of the Civil War.

To those five are added several minor revolts that, despite not fitting the canonical definition of a coup d’état, changed the course of our country. Like the rejection by the socialist Long Knight of a Government of Indalecio Prieto supported by the CEDA in 1936. Something that perhaps could have prevented the Civil War.

In Spain, the Carlists, the nationalists, the socialists, the right wing, the anarchists, the military, the workers and, in 2017, even the competent authorities have risen up against the established order, whether it is democratic or of any other sign.

The great success of the Transition was to establish a system in which neither the military coups nor those executed by regional leaders they have the slightest hint of success.

That we continue to live for another 40 years in a Spain vaccinated against coup and totalitarian temptations depends on not taking that success for granted, as if it were an ineffable history from which there is no possible reversal.

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As EL ESPAÑOL tells us today, approximately one in three Spaniards still believes a coup against democracy is possible. That it is precisely the voters of the most extremist parties who see the greatest danger of rioting is proof that Spaniards tend to see the straw in another’s eye and ignore the beam in their own.

Four key characters

The 23-F coup did not even last 24 hours, but their support, both among a sector of the Army and among a part of civil society, was not as small as it seems in view of the small number of convicted for the events: 30 coup plotters, including twelve members of the Army (including Alfonso Armada Y Jaime Milans del Bosch), 17 of the Civil Guard (among them Antonio Tejero) and a civilian, former leader of the Francoist Spanish Trade Union Organization.

But the manipulative ambition of Armada, Tejero’s sense of the homeland, and the fundamentalism of Milans del Bosch ran into the firmness of four key characters.

The first, his own Juan Carlos I, of which the obvious must be remembered: his role was key to stopping the coup. As it would have been for him to succeed, had he wished, both in its hard version and in its soft version.

The second, Sabino Fernandez Campo, Secretary General of the King and military by profession, who calmed the troubled waters of the Army with several key calls to high military commanders.

The third, Guillermo Quintana, captain general of Madrid, who prevented the Brunete Armored Division from occupying the city.

The fourth, the lieutenant general Manuel Gutierrez Mellado, Minister of Defense and Vice President of Alfonso Suárez, who during the coup, and with almost 70 years in tow, faced the coup leaders who entered Congress and ordered them to lay down their arms.

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Free from powers that be

It is easy to conclude now that 23-F was as badly designed as it was badly executed and that only Tejero’s fierce fanaticism storming the Congress of Deputies caused the coup go from a botched attempt to something much more dangerous. But that night the Spanish went to sleep wondering if they would wake up in a democratic Spain or in a military dictatorship.

Today, Spain lives free from the pressures of a de facto power like the Army in 1981. The institutional and political problems of Spain in 2021 are of a very different nature.

The second coup suffered by Spanish democracy, that of 2017, was in fact carried out with the 1981 lessons well learned and hence it has been qualified at once postmodern for having been carried out from power and with all its resources in the hands of its executors.

But it is necessary to remind the Spaniards of today, so oblivious to the idea of ​​a coup that many of them they were not even aware of being in front of one in September and October 2017that the history of Spain, viewed with a wide angle, is that of an unusual succession of periodic and triumphant coups d’état.

That your chances of success are less than a century ago does not mean that the danger is gone. Populisms and nationalisms continue to be bent on destroying the ’78 system. It should be taken into account before considering 23-F as something from the past.

Because the forms will have changed, but constitutional democracy continues to be threatened by those who want to end it.

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