Centre-left returns, but far right gains

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Right wing Vox supporters fly Spanish flags

The results of the 28 April general election in Spain were very contradictory. There was good news in that the main right wing party, the PP, lost half of its vote, going from 137 MPs to just 66 today. The Labour-type Socialist party, PSOE, won the election with very big gains (from 85 to 123 MPs) and will almost certainly form the next government.

In Catalonia the centre-left pro-independence party, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) won massively, even beating the Socialists in the city of Barcelona. ERC has shifted left over recent years. Its new MPs include the Catalan Communist Party leader and an anti-capitalist, anti-racist activist who plays a key role in the Brazilian women’s movement against Bolsonaro.

But there is also bad news.

Firstly, while the PSOE won by warning against the very real danger from the right, on some key issues, such as migrants, Catalan demands for independence and austerity, the PSOE is not very different from the mainstream right.

Secondly, the left party Podemos lost heavily. Along with its allies it held 71 seats before the election and now has just 42. There were many factors, but basically its initial project — meaning all things to all people, so as to come to power quickly and bring change from above — couldn’t work. In the abstract Podemos could defend both Spanish patriotism and the democratic rights of Catalonia. In reality it had to choose; it opted for the former.

Thirdly, most of the lost PP votes went to other right wing parties. About a million went to Ciudadanos (Cs). This was launched as a centre party, focussed on opposition to Catalan independence. But it is now clearly right wing, as was shown by its agreement with the PP and the far right VOX to take power in the Andalusian regional parliament.

But above all, 2.7 million votes went to VOX. This new far right party obtained over 10 percent of the vote and 24 MPs. This result should ring alarm bells for all the left and the social movements across the Spanish state.

Worryingly, many reactions have been muted or confused. Some say that nothing has changed because “the PP and Cs were already far right”. This is a dangerous trivialisation. While it’s not clear that VOX is fascist, its leaders are clearly far right, and its ranks include fascists, neo-Nazis and Francoites. They are not just more of the same.

Some of the polls predicted that VOX would get 30, 40, even 50 seats, so there was relief that it “only” got 24. But 24 far right MPs is very bad news indeed.

Some insist that we shouldn’t talk about VOX, “to avoid giving them publicity”. In fact it appears constantly on TV, where its lies go unchallenged. Unity Against Fascism and Racism (UCFR), Stand Up to Racism’s sister movement in Catalonia, has criticised VOX’s media presence, while producing its own materials to explain to people what it really represents. There was also a magnificent demonstration by UCFR in Barcelona on 23 March, with the main slogan of StopVOX.

Some argue the far right can win workers’ support because the left is “too busy talking about the environment and women’s rights”. This is false on many counts.

Firstly, the massive women’s struggles across the Spanish state, and now Extinction Rebellion internationally, show that such issues can convince and involve lots of ordinary working people.

Secondly, VOX didn’t get a very high vote in working class neighbourhoods, whereas in some richer areas they got up to 20 percent or more. Even so, it wants to build in working class areas, and it’s still worrying if it achieves votes of 5 percent or 6 percent.

So we need to stop VOX, and that means extending the model of UCFR. In Catalonia UCFR defeated the now defunct Le Pen type party, PxC, and closed down the neo-Nazi centre in Barcelona.

But despite all the evidence of the need for a broad movement, much of the left still tries to apply a restricted vision of “radical anti-fascism”, or argues for doing nothing, or even worse, accepts the far right as just another part of the political spectrum.

Strengthening and extending the united struggle against the far right, where ordinary people unite together — black and white, gay and straight, people of different religions and none — is essential.

That should be common sense, but in practice it often takes activists with an internationalist vision based on socialism from below to initiate such movements. So the building of a stronger anti-capitalist left with this vision is also a key part of the overall struggle, both in the Spanish state and everywhere.

David Karvala is an activist in the anticapitalist network Marx21.net and a founder member of UCFR