Santiago Carrillo, who evolved from a bomb-throwing opponent of Gen. Francisco Franco and his fascist forces into a Spanish Communist leader who promoted a more moderate, democratic European Communist Party independent of the Soviet Union, died on Tuesday at his home in Madrid. He was 97.
The cause was heart failure, his son Santiago said.
Born into a socialist family in dynastic Spain, Mr. Carrillo converted to Communism and fought Franco’s fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War, leaving him haunted by a massacre on his watch. When Franco came to power, Mr. Carrillo was forced to retreat to Paris, but he continued to manage the Spanish Communist Party from there, becoming its secretary general in 1960.
Over the next two decades in exile, he distanced the party from the Soviets, having grown disenchanted with their repressive system of government. He sneaked back into Spain after Franco’s death in 1975 and later lobbied successfully for the Communist Party to be allowed to compete in elections.
During this period he became the face of a new, moderate Communism through his book “Eurocommunism and the State” (1977) and his convening of a summit meeting of Western Europe’s Communist leaders.
Democracy, however, was not so kind. After his party performed poorly at the polls in 1982, he was forced to resign as party leader. His critics said that while promoting the cause through democracy, he ruthlessly stifled dissent within his own ranks.
Mr. Carrillo was expelled from the party leadership altogether in 1985. He sensed the end of the era.
“Now the only debate is what to do with the body,” he said of the Communist Party in an interview with The New York Times, “whether to bury it forever or to have it embalmed.”
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