The Socialist Party weakens, the far right advances – people’s world

In this photo from Sunday, December 2, 2018, the Spanish president of the far-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal, in the center, with the general secretary, Javier Ortega, on the left, and the regional candidate Francisco Serrano participate in a rally during the elections regions in Andalusia, Seville, Spain. The Socialist Party won just 33 seats in the Legislative Assembly, up from 47 in 2015. The anti-immigrant far-right Vox party won 12 seats – its first in a Spanish legislative body. | Gogo Lobato / AP

In what appears to be a repeat of recent German and Italian elections, an openly authoritarian and racist party made major electoral gains in Spain’s most populous province, Andalusia, helping to dethrone the Socialist Party that had dominated the southern region for 36 years. Vox (Voice) —a party that means “Spain First”, restrictions on women’s rights, ending abortion, stopping immigration and dismantling the country’s regional governments – won almost 11% of the vote.

The party is in negotiations be part of a right-wing coalition in power, while left-wing parties are calling for a “anti-fascist front. “It is as if the old Spanish dictator Francisco Franco had risen from his grave in the ‘Valley of the Dead’ and marched on Madrid again.

In fact, the results weren’t so ‘breathtaking’ – the British Independent headline on the election – as a case of chickens coming home to roost, and a sobering lesson for center-left and left-wing forces in Europe.

The December 2 vote saw the center-left Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) lose 14 seats in the regional parliament and the left-wing alliance, Adelante Andalucía, lose three. The conservative Popular Party (PP) also lost seven seats, but, allied with Vox and the right-wing Ciudadanos (Citizens) Party, the right now has enough seats to take power. It was the worst performance in the history of the PSOE and, even if it remains the largest party in Andalusia, it will have to enter the opposition.

On the one hand, the Andalusian elections resemble Germany, where the neofascist Alternative for Germany (AfG) won 94 seats in the Bundestag, and Italy, where the right-wing and xenophobic Northern League shares the power with the center-right. Five star movement.

There are certainly parallels between the two countries, but there are also some major differences which are uniquely Spanish.

What is similar is the anger against the conventional center-right and center-left parties which have imposed a decade of misery on their populations. Center-left parties like the Democratic Party in Italy and the Social Democratic Party in Germany bought in the failed strategy of neoliberalism which called for austerity, regressive taxes, the privatization of public resources and painful cuts in social services as a strategy for debt reduction.

Not only was it difficult for most people to see a difference between center-left and center-right, but several times the parties governed jointly, as they did in Germany. The Socialists of Andalusia were in an alliance with Ciudadanos.

However, the rise of parties like Vox and the AfG has less to do with a push from the right than a collapse of the center-right and center-left. The Spanish Socialists did badly, but so did the Right People’s Party. In Germany, both the center-right and the center-left were beaten.

In the aftermath of the Andalusian debacle, Susana Diaz, leader of the PSOE in Andalusia, called for a “firewall” against the right. But Diaz helped dig a hole in it “firewall”In the first place with a policy that has alienated a large part of the constituency for a long time from the Socialists. In 2016, Diaz led a right-wing coup to the PSOE which dethroned General Secretary Pedro Sanchez because he was trying to concoct a coalition with the left-wing Podemos party, the Basques and the Catalan separatists.

After ousting Sanchez, Diaz authorized Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to form a government and pass an austerity budget. Making common cause with the PP was apparently too much for the SPOE base, and they fired Sanchez to his old post seven months later. The socialist base also seems to have indulged in the Andalusian elections. Alone 58.6 percent of the electorate surrendered and there were a considerable number of abstentions and blank ballots in the traditionally socialist fiefdoms.

The left-wing AA party was also affected, but this was in part due to infighting in Podemos, and the party did not mobilize significant forces on the ground. And because Podemos has kept a distance from the Catalan crisis, he has ceded the issue of separatism to the right, especially Ciudadanos, which has enveloped itself in the Spanish flag.

Podemos actually has a principled position on Catalan independence: he opposes it but thinks the issue should be up to the Catalans. It also supports greater cultural and economic autonomy for Spain’s richest province. But when Rajoy unleashed police in the October 2017 independence referendum, beating voters and arresting Catalan leaders, Podemos simply condemned the violence. The Socialists supported Rajoy, although they too expressed their unease at the actions of the police.

Ciudadanos, on the other hand, enthusiastically supported the violent response, even provoking it. According to Thomas harrington, professor of Iberian studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and expert on Catalonia, the members of Ciudadano have systematically withdrawn the yellow ribbons that the Catalans had put in place to protest against the imprisonment of the Catalan leaders. Harrington quotes Eduardo Llorens, a prominent member of the union movement supported by Ciudadano: “The violent reactions of the separatists must be forced. We have done a good job of building the narrative of social division, but violent acts on their part are still needed to solidify it. In the end, they will react. It’s just a matter of persistence.

The PSOE had a generally progressive economic program, but it seems that many Spaniards do not believe them. The leftist AA had a much better agenda, but was hampered by internal issues and played down the Catalan question. This left a free field in Ciudadanos, which hammered the Catalan separatists. Ciudadanos ended up getting 18.3% of the vote, more than double what it got in the last election. The PSOE and the PP are still the two biggest parties in the province.

As for Vox, it is surely worrying that such an antediluvian party could get 10.5% of the vote, but it would be a mistake to think that Franco is back. In fact, he never left. When the dictator died in 1975, the Spaniards buried The horrors of the civil war of 1936-39 and the repression that followed, rather than trying to accept them: some 200,000 political dissidents executed, 500,000 exiles and 400,000 sent to concentration camps.

The far-right Vox party draws on the legacy and memory of the Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco, seen here with Adolf Hitler in occupied France in 1940. Franco ruled the country after the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 until his death in 1975. | Public domain

Vox has drawn from that part of the population which opposes the “Historical memory law”Condemning the Franco regime and always gathers in Valley of the Fallen or in city squares to chant fascist slogans and salute with a stiff arm. But the party is small, around 7,000, and part of the reason it worked well was because of a large media blanket. Most of the party’s votes came from PP strongholds in wealthy neighborhoods.

Following the elections, thousands of people flocked to the streets of Seville, Granada and Malaga to chant “fascists out”.

Of course, the European right is scary, especially in Spain, Italy, Germany, Greece, Austria and France. He fled with some of the left’s agendas, like an end to austerity, a guaranteed salary and resistance to the coercive power of the European Union. Once elected, of course, he will drop these issues, just as the Nazis and Fascists did in pre-war Germany and Italy. And removing them will not be easy since their only commitment to democracy is like a tool to find their way to power.

The center-left and the left are still formidable forces in Europe, and their agendas tackle the unemployment crisis, growing economic disparities and weakening social safety nets. But the road to success will require rethinking the strategy of the past 30 years and fighting for programs like those adopted by the British Labor Party under Jeremy Corbyn: roll back the privatization of public resources; a progressive tax scale according to wealth; investments in education, health, housing and infrastructure; increase the minimum wage; encourage unions; and seriously tackle the existential issue of climate change.

Conn Hallinan can be read on


Conn Hallinan

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