Can Europe Make It?

Spain’s radical right VOX party in their own words

The separatist conflict in Catalonia saw VOX emerge to stardom overnight, just by arguing for Spain’s monolithic National Us.

Carmen Aguilera-Carnerero
16 April 2019
Santiago Abascal presents the VOX election candidates in Madrid, April 6, 2019.
Santiago Abascal presents the VOX election candidates in Madrid, April 6, 2019.
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SOPA Images/PA. All rights reserved.

VOX is the most impactful radical right political party in Spain for decades. It has been energetically rejecting the label of ‘far’, ‘extreme’ or ‘radical right’ since its birth in late 2013. Key representatives of VOX sidestep the topic in an implicit or explicit way (through the use of rhetoric or discursive strategies such as metaphors or periphrasis), defining their party not as an “extreme right party but a party of extreme need” a phrase that has become a recurrent motto in their political discourses.

The essence of Vox is summarized in their political programme, a document called100 medidas para la España viva (100 solutions for the living Spain) in which the party states straightforwardly the main points of its policy and ideological trends.

The text contains different subsections to cover every single aspect of the needed reform: 1. España, unidad y soberanía (Spain, unity and sovereignty) 2. Ley Electoral y Transparencia (electoral law and transparency) 3. Inmigración (immigration) 4. Defensa, seguridad y fronteras (defense, security and frontiers) 5. Economía y recursos (the economy and resources) 5. Salud (health) 6. Educación y cultura (education and culture) 7. Vida y familia (life and family) 8. Libertades y Justicia (freedoms and justice) 9. Europa e Internacional (Europe and the international).

Like other far-right populist parties, VOX is built upon two main ideas: a) the politics of fear and b) the arrogance of ignoranceas we will see below. Using Critical Discourse Analysis as our framework to study the political programme of VOX, we can grasp the ideology underlying their narrative since, asRuth Wodak has stated, when looking at the rhetoric of populist movements, we find that their propaganda always combines and integrates form and content.

This theoretical approach (CDA), though very heterogenous, deals withthe study of language to find “indications of manipulation, legitimation and the manufacture of consent”. Its three core concepts are ‘critique, power and ideology’.

Even more fine-grained analysis of the political programme of VOX using linguistics software reveals some interesting trends. Among the 50 most frequently used words in the whole document are España (Spain) (16 hits) together with nacional (nacional) (16 hits), estado (state) (11 hits) and ley (law) (11 hits). An examination of the semantic associations of the most frequent terms unveils the chief pillars upon which the discourse of VOX is constructed: the concept of nation España (Spain), the idea of ‘family’ and the notion of ‘security’.

The word España (Spain) – and its adjectival variations – is unsurprisingly the first in the list. VOX has put the name of the nation at the heart of its campaign, giving it the leading role in their mottos: España lo primero (Spain first) and La España viva (The living Spain). The far-right political force imagines Spain as a monolithic, unaffected and solid structure impervious to any potential threat, since the stardom of the emergent party arose out of the separatist conflict in Catalonia. The principles of centralization and sovereignty, which imply the removal of powers from other intermediate political and administrative structures, i.e., Autonomous Communities, is one of the main points in their political project. Its goal: to shape a country bound together by common symbols (flag, anthem and monarchy), language (Spanish) and the citizens’ uniformity of thought, beliefs and tastes. A nation that does not aim to embrace any type of cultural, religious or linguistic diversity (point 25 of their programme asks for the suppression of the teaching of the Islamic religion in state schools). Being or ‘becoming’ a Spaniard implies the total acceptance and evidence of these principles first and foremost (points 19 and 20).

The far-right political force imagines Spain as a monolithic, unaffected and solid structure impervious to any potential threat.

Right after the nation, or rather as a micro-representation of it, the other social basic unit for the model of Spain they aspire to is that little platoon – familia (the family). VOX calls for the creation of a Ministry of Family (point 70) and point 72, specifically reinforces their support for large families (in Spain, families with 3 or more children), and promotes the encouragement of the birth rate in general and the creation of a law that protects the ‘natural’ family (point 71). The presence of the adjective ‘natural’ semantically excludes those families with homosexual partners and point 80 explicitly prohibits surrogate motherhood as a practice that merchandises with human beings. The word ‘natural’ is further deployed in the text (point 75) when talking about ‘life’. VOX’s defence of life “from conception to natural death” again semantically rules out abortion as well as euthanasia as options allowed by the state (point 75).

The third foundation stone of the VOX programme is the concept of security. This idea (connected with nation and family) is based on the metaphor of the state as a father figure (parens patriae) or protector of its citizens. The image is conveyed through the frequent use of such words as seguridad (security) (8 occurrences), protección (protection) (7 occurrences) and defensa (defense) (7 occurrences). This way, the country appears as a haven for the common man against menaces and threats. These potential dangers may be external, mainly Islamist terrorists (points 23 and 24) and illegal immigrants – hence the building of a wall in the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla à la Trump (point 26) – or internal ( i.e.separatists).

This idea (connected with nation and family) is based on the metaphor of the state as a father figure.

Following the trend for other far-right parties emergent in the rest of the world, VOX’s ideology is raised on the idea of fear (for what we have/may have) and the complementary (and necessary) notion of defense (what the state offers). In line with this populist discourse, VOX proposes an alternative based on a stability compact presented to the nation, in which any potential fracture is controlled by the solid central government but also in which any difference is considered a potential threat to be eradicated.

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