Can Europe Make It?: Opinion

How Spanish democracy is under fascist threat

Dialogue will be key to solving the serious political problems that have been generated, to the sole benefit of the Spanish Right

Isa Ferrero
3 March 2021, 2.45pm
'Rapping is not a crime.' Protest at Pablo Hasél’s arrest, 22 February 2021
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SOPA Images/ PA. All rights reserved.

As the polls predicted, the Catalan elections resulted in Vox becoming the main political force on the Spanish Right, winning 11 seats – more than the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos's combined nine seats.

At a national level, Vox is weaker than the PP, but the danger of the party becoming the main force on the Right is more likely than ever. Vox has already managed to turn the Right towards more extreme positions and has had a notable influence on autonomous communities, where its vote is necessary for the Right to govern. In the Community of Madrid, perhaps the most prominent example, the president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, governs thanks to the support of Vox, pursuing a political style that has been compared to that of Trump.

Despite the victory of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSC) candidate, Salvador Illa, there is little doubt that the new president of the generalitat will be Pere Aragonès, from the Catalan Republican Left (ERC). If so, this will be thanks to the votes of the JxCat and CUP (both independence parties with very different ideologies).

The good news of these elections, despite the confrontation between Spain and Catalonia, is that the Left parties have achieved a great victory. In 2017, ERC, PSC, Unidas Podemos and the CUP won 61 seats, compared to the 80 they won in these elections, where 68 is the absolute majority.

Nevertheless, the poor relationship between ERC and PSC could make it difficult to reach the necessary understanding. It’s a unique occasion to bring positions closer, since the PSC currently governs in Madrid thanks, in part, to ERC votes. Therefore, dialogue will be key to solving the serious political problems that have been generated to the sole benefit of the Spanish Right.

Taboo subjects

It should not be forgotten that in Spain there are still ‘Catalan political prisoners’, as well as politicians who have fled the country to avoid being arrested. This is a taboo subject and just mentioning it in a general climate of political hysteria provokes strong condemnation from the mainstream media.

The vice-president of the Spanish government, Pablo Iglesias, stated that “there is no situation of full political and democratic normality in Spain when of the leaders of the two parties that govern Catalonia, one is in prison and the other, in Brussels [Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont].” His words inspired a strong backlash from the Spanish public. The Spanish daily newspaper, El País, in its editorial on February 9, pointed out that “it is surprising for a vice-president of a European country to be so obstinately dedicated to discrediting his own country.”

What happens in Catalonia is going to be very important for the future of the Left and democracy in Spain. The desire for change and the hopes that arise are well summed up by Joan Josep Nuet, deputy of ‘Sobiranistes’ (an ERC splinter group), who gave us the following comment on the electoral result:

A change is necessary that turns the Catalan government to the Left (the post-COVID crisis will be hard) and that maintains the republican challenge that the sovereignty movement supposes, with independentists and self-determinists [He refers to the right to self-determination] of the Left collaborating within or inside/outside the government. The entry into Parliament of Vox and the rise of the far Right adds additional urgency to this shift to the left. Anti-fascism necessarily becomes a uniting and democratic attitude”.

Indeed, the union of the democrats and a left-wing project will be key to curbing the extreme right both in Catalonia and in the rest of Spain. The habitual complacency from the mainstream media (especially right-wing media) to the rise of Vox, despite the party's application and imitation of Donald Trump-like tactics certainly poses a serious danger.

It must also be remembered that the so-called ‘most progressive government in Spanish history’ is still a timid social-democratic government, with one wing of the PSOE nodding towards neoliberalism, while “Unidas Podemos” pursues social democracy. In any case, the government's measures are insufficient to combat the destruction that neoliberalism has wrought.

A significant example is the case of Cañada del Real in Madrid, where extreme poverty reigns that neither the Spanish government nor the Madrid city council seems able to solve. This humanitarian crisis has aroused strong feelings of outrage, with the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Olivier De Schutter, who has accused the Spanish government of being “irresponsible” for “leaving children without electricity during the winter”.

However, this does nothing to pacify the right-wing media who talk incessantly of a government formed by 'socialists' and 'communists'

It would be fair enough to conclude that the Spanish government continues to look more towards the elites than to social policies. However, this does nothing to pacify the right-wing media, who talk incessantly of a government formed by 'socialists' and 'communists'. Santiago Abascal, president of Vox, for example, accuses the government of collaborating with the former terrorist group ETA: “The social-communist and ETA government is an enemy of Liberty and the Nation.”

The right to information is in question, as are the liberal ideals of the Spanish constitution habitually violated in the interests of the deep state. Big democratic deficits undermine freedom of expression in Spain. The rapper Pablo Hasél was imprisoned after writing tweets and songs that "glorified terrorism” and included “insults against the Spanish monarchy and State institutions”. Amnesty International, after describing Hasél's imprisonment as “unfair and disproportionate”, recalled that “the European Court of Human Rights has already condemned Spain on three occasions for applying the crime of insults against the Spanish Crown”.

Images of the police arresting Hasél have generated a wave of protests that are again denounced by mainstream media, which often omits police violence and the public’s strong democratic support for the protesters from their account. As always, the media focuses on any violent episodes to discredit the protests.

As we already know, fear and crises in democracy are the perfect combinations to help fascism to grow. Before it’s too late, we must protect the precious asset that is democracy.

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