Will the new law stopping the glorification of fascism help the left wingers stay in power or will the right win over the Spanish public’s heart and convince them to put the past behind them?
With recent movements on both the left and right side of the spectrum in Spain, it’s hard to see what is really going on in a country that has been divided since the right-wing Nationalists won the Civil War, and Spain remained under a fascist dictatorship until 1975.
This decades old rift in society has widened since the 2017 Catalan referendum that was declared illegal by the right-wing Popular Party (PP) government. Nationalism has become a common sign in the capital of Madrid, and in many regions all over Spain. Many people will wear a small yellow and red band around their wrist to show that they are Spanish, and that they support the unity of Spain. I used to work in the very white, posh Salamanca district of Madrid, which was well known for its high-end fashion shops and towering neo-classical buildings, is now dressed in multiple red and yellow Spanish flags of all ages and sizes.
All Change Sides
Trying to hold on with a minority government the PP were able to hold off the left-wingers in parliament until May 2018. Following a disastrous corruption case in which the PP was directly involved; PSOE party along with other left-wing and Catalan independence parties voted to overturn the government in a no conference motion.
This was the first of its kind in Spain since the establishment of democracy, following the death of the dictator Franco in the 1970s. Pedro Sanchez would become the first Prime Minister to be appointed without winning an election. He would govern with a very small minority, but he is supported by Podemos, a left wing party, and other left-wing groups. M. Rajoy, who was the first prime minister to be removed by vote of no confidence, went back to working as a civil servant back in a town in Alicante.
With PSOE in government many Spanish people were angry and against the government. It did them no favours to the people I spoke with here in Madrid. Cries for an election were everywhere. On the other hand, many were happy to see the PP go. The Prime Minister did promise early elections but that was before he became Prime Minister. However, they did accepted refugees refused by Italy and reinstated universal health care for all citizens in Spain.
Things can only get… more controversial
Another of PSOE’s first actions as a government was to declare that they intended to remove Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen, a controversial site in the hills of Madrid that was built by Republican prisoners of war and the enemies of Franco. Since the years following Franco’s death, it has become a place of rally for the far right wing wing radicals and supporters of the fascist regime.
Debate went on throughout Spain and it was argued for and against; that it was the right or wrong thing to do. Many would like to see the past left alone and many want to deal with Spain’s ghosts that continue to haunt country, as many feel it was not dealt with correctly in the first place. Many refer to the controversial Pact of Silence that was made by several parties in government at the time of the regimes fall. This is how the rift from 1970s still alive today in 21st-century modern Spain.
We are Espanish!
PP and Ciudadanos, another right wing party that doesn’t have the bad image of being corrupt, have both been riding the nationalist wave that is popular at the moment. This summer I went to some of the smaller towns annual fiestas, at these fiestas they have political bars (can you imagine that in the UK?) and the PP and Ciudadanos bars were painted with Spanish flags and slogans. United Spain they gleamed whist the posh people stuck out like ballet dancers in a mosh pit.
Despite this there has been a more terrifying movement: VOX. I wrote a few months ago about the rise of the far right in Spain and people denounced Vox as a lot of fascist idiots, but in the last month they had their conference in Madrid. Over 9,000 attendees. Their rhetoric is the same as all far right parties. Blame the foreigners and look after the Spanish.
Progressive Spain, a English-speaking Spanish politics website, said that it may split the right wing vote. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing but some think it could get a seat in Congress.
The left are trying to fight back. PSOE and Podemos have been working together on the next budget and plan to increase minimum wage, the biggest jump in 40 years, and as El País reports that’s not all they have planned “Both leaders are also pledging to raise pensions (at a cost of over €1 billion), to invest more in education and science (over €1.3 billion), and to spend more on unemployment and disability benefits (€850 million), on housing (over €600 million) and on increased paternity leaves (€300 million).” But is anyone taking notice? It will be interesting to see in next years local, regional and European elections if their fight back is working.
Despite these progressive measures Pedro Sanchez had abuse hurled at him at the National Spanish day (12th October). Typically the Prime Minister and the Royal Family attend a military parade held in up town Madrid. The roads we packed with people and their flags as capes. Nationalism wasn’t welcoming to the centre left leader.
Clamping down on Fascism
This week, 24th October, they announced further controversial proposed laws. When I say controversial, I mean controversial here in Spain. They have announced a law that will be an amendment to the current 2007 Historical Memory law. This was established when PSOE was last in power, it gave the government the power to rid Spain of all Francoist and facist memories like street names and statues.
Now, they want to go further. They want to ban all groups and associations that glorify and promote Franco and his legacy. There are many and the main one, Foundation of Francisco Franco, is being investigated for tax avoidance. They have also changed the text on the website so that it sounds like they do not glorify Franco just teach about him. Slimey gits. No ones sure how far the law will go. There are similar laws in Germany regarding the Nazis and Hitler.
This will make the far right froth at the mouth but what about the public? From the people I’ve spoken to about it, reactions seem to be mixed. Although, I’ve noticed that people on the right of the spectrum don’t want to talk about history.
Will Spain embrace the left and their progressive agenda or will we have another deadlock election. It looks like the left aren’t going anywhere, but then neither are the right.