[In Andalucian Spain, as elsewhere in Europe, right-wing electoral
success comes primarily at the expense of the neo-liberal center. But,
the Left must do more to prevent ultra-rightist parties from filling
the void created by the center’s collapse. ] []



 Conn Hallinan 
 December 20, 2018
Foreign Policy in Focus

	* []

 _ In Andalucian Spain, as elsewhere in Europe, right-wing electoral
success comes primarily at the expense of the neo-liberal center. But,
the Left must do more to prevent ultra-rightist parties from filling
the void created by the center’s collapse. _ 

 A rally by supporters of Spain’s far-right Vox party. This month
Vox won almost 11 percent of the vote in Spain’s most populous
province. , Shutterstock 


In what seems a replay of recent German and Italian elections, an
openly authoritarian and racist party made major electoral gains in
Spain’s most populous province, Andalucia, helping to dethrone the
Socialist Party that had dominated the southern region for 36 years.

Vox, or “Voice” — a party that stands for
[] “Spain
First,” restrictions on women’s rights, ending abortion, stopping
immigration, and dismantling the country’s regional governments —
won almost 11 percent of the vote. The party is in negotiations
[] to
be part of a ruling right-wing coalition, while left parties are
calling for an “anti-fascist front

It’s as if the old Spanish dictator Francisco Franco had arisen from
his tomb in the “Valley of the Fallen” and was again marching on

Actually, the results weren’t so much “stunning” — the
British _Independent’s_ headline on the election — as a case of
chickens coming home to roost, and a sobering lesson for center-left
and left forces in Europe.

The Dec. 2 vote saw the center-left Spanish Socialist Workers Party
(PSOE) lose 14 seats in the regional parliament and the leftist
alliance, Adelante Andalucía (AA), drop 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 showing in PSOE’s history, and, while it is still
the largest party in Andalucía, it will have to go into opposition.


On one level the Andalucian elections look like Germany, where the
neo-fascist Alternative for Germany (AfG) took 94 seats in the
Bundestag. And they resemble Italy, where the right-wing, xenophobic
Northern League is sharing power with the center-right Five Star

There are certainly parallels to both countries, but there are also
major differences that are uniquely Spanish.

What’s similar is the anger at the conventional center-right and
center-left parties that have enforced a decade of misery on their
populations. Center-left parties like the Democratic Party in Italy
and the Social Democratic Party in Germany bought into
[] the
failed strategy of neo-liberalism that called for austerity,
regressive taxes, privatization of public resources, and painful
cutbacks in social services as a strategy for getting out of debt.

Not only was it hard for most people to see a difference between the
center-left and the center-right, many times the parties governed
jointly, as they did in Germany. Andalucía’s Socialists were in an
alliance with Ciudadanos.

However, the rise of parties like Vox and the AfG has less to do with
a surge from the right than as a collapse of the center. The Spanish
Socialists did badly, but so did the right-wing Popular Party. In
Germany, both the center-right and the center-left took a beating.

In the aftermath of the Andalucian debacle, Susana Diaz, leader of the
PSOE in Andalucía, called for a “firewall” against the right. But
Diaz helped blow a hole in that “firewall”
[] in
the first place with politics that alienated much of the Socialists’
long-time constituency. In 2016 Diaz led a rightist coup
[] in
the PSOE that dethroned General Secretary Pedro Sanchez because he was
trying to cobble together a coalition with the Leftist Podemos Party,
the Basques, and Catalan separatists.

After ousting Sanchez, Diaz allowed the conservative 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’s rank and file, and they returned Sanchez to his old post
seven months later. The Socialist rank and file also seems to have sat
on their hands in the Andalucian election. Only 58.6 percent
[] of
the electorate turned out, and there were a considerable number of
abstentions and blank ballots in traditionally Socialist strongholds.


The leftist AA took a hit as well, but that was in part due to some
infighting in Podemos, and because the party didn’t mobilize
significant forces on the ground. And because Podemos kept its
distance from the crisis in Catalonia, it ceded the issue of
separatism to the right, particularly Ciudadanos, which wrapped itself
in the Spanish flag.

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

Ciudadanos, on the other hand, enthusiastically supported the violent
response, even provoking it. According to Thomas Harrington
[] — a professor of
Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, and an expert on
Catalonia — Ciudadano members systematically removed yellow ribbons
that Catalans had put up to protest the imprisonment of Catalan

Harrington quotes Eduardo Llorens, a prominent member of the
Ciudadano-supported unionist movement: “Violent reactions by the
independentists must be forced. We’ve done a good job of
constructing the narrative of social division, but violent acts on
their part are still needed to consolidate it. In the end they will
react. It’s just a matter of our being persistent.”

Ambiguity on the progressive side left a clear field for Ciudadanos,
which hammered away at the Catalan separatists. Ciudadanos ended up
getting 18.3 percent of the vote, more than double what it got in the
last election (though the PSOE and PP are still the two largest
parties in the province).


As for Vox, it is surely disturbing that such an antediluvian party
could get 10.5 percent of the vote, but it would be a mistake to think
that Franco is back. In fact, he never went away. When the dictator
died in 1975, the Spaniards buried the horrors
[] of
the 1936-39 civil war and the ensuing repression, rather than trying
to come to terms with them: some 200,000 political dissidents
executed, 500,000 exiled, and 400,000 sent to concentration camps.

Vox tapped into that section of the population that opposes
the “Historical Memory Law”
[] condemning
the Franco regime, and still gathers at Valley of the Fallen or in
town squares to chant fascist slogans and give the stiff-arm salute.
But the party is small, around 7,000, and part of the reason it did
well was because of extensive media
[] coverage.
Most the party’s votes came from PP strongholds in wealthy

Following the election, thousands of people
[] poured
into the streets of Seville, Granada and Malaga to chant “fascists

Certainly the European right is scary — particularly in Spain,
Italy, Germany, Greece, Austria, and France. It’s absconded with
some of the left’s programs, like ending austerity, a guaranteed
wage, and resisting the coercive power of the European Union.

Once elected, of course, it will jettison those issues, just as the
Nazis and fascists did in pre-war Germany and Italy. And removing them
won’t be easy, since their only commitment to democracy is as a tool
to chisel their way into power.

The center-left and the left are still formidable forces in Europe,
and their programs do address the crises of unemployment, growing
economic disparity, and weakening social safety nets.

But the path to success will requiring re-thinking the strategy of the
past 30 years and fighting for programs like those the British Labour
Party adopted under Jeremy Corbyn: rolling back the privatization of
public resources, a graduated tax scale based on wealth, investments
in education, health, housing, and infrastructure, raising the minimum
wage, encouraging unions, and seriously tackling the existential issue
of climate change.

_[Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Conn Hallinan can be read


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