When it comes to extreme ultra-nationalism, the genie is out of the bottle in Spain - just as Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former strategist had planned it.
As of a week ago, Spain has a new, openly fascist and xenophobic party called Vox, that has won 12 seats in the Andalusian regional elections. Andalusia is Spain’s second largest region, and has been a socialist stronghold for the past 36 years, largely as a bulwark against the rise of right wing politics after the dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975.
Vox’s win may not seem significant when compared to the Socialist’s 33 seats, the Conservative People’s Party with 26 seats, the Union of left parties with 17 seats, and the ultra right wing party Ciudadanos with 21 seats. But the significance of Vox’s emergence lies in the fact that the extreme right has now gained a firm foothold in a region that has been traditionally devoted to left wing politics, to the extent that progressive forces now have 50 seats to the right wing’s 59 seats.
The general trend of these elections has been that the progressive parties have lost a significant number of seats, while the existing ultra right wing party doubled its number of seats. Vox’s emergence as a political force has ended up taking away seats from the Conservative Peoples’ Party.
The irony is that Spain waged the first battle against fascism, and many did not expect that it would be in Spain that fascism would yet again rear its ugly head. But the same economic conditions that led the rise of the alt-right in the US exist today in Spain. There are high levels of unemployment, a poor middle class, and pensioners are struggling to make ends meet.
Don’t be too surprised to learn that the leadership of Vox has been in contact with Bannon, or that France’s far right leader Marine le Pen toasted Vox’s success on Twitter. This is all part of the alt-right strategy to ensure a sharp right turn in European politics. Just like the Trump administration, Vox is placing all the blame on immigrants and Muslims in Spain. Vox has put forward proposals to deport undocumented immigrants and ban them for life, suggested putting limits on the construction of mosques, and banning the teaching of Islam in Spanish state schools.
Just as Trump had done in his election campaign under the tutelage of Bannon, Vox campaigned on cutting corporate taxes, and championing socially conservative positions such as banning abortion and sex changes, and harking back to the conservative Catholic values espoused by Franco.
A uniquely Spanish twist was Vox’s call for a change in the constitution to reduce the power of regional governments. This is a direct challenge to Catalan and Basque separatists, and proponents of greater regional autonomy.
The rise of authoritarian nationalism has particularly negative repercussions for the agenda of those in Catalonia and the Basque country that would like to see a federal republic, or those separatists who have been fighting for a referendum on independence. The alt-right in Spain would like to see these movements crushed.
On the other hand, if the progressive forces in Spain united together with the Basques and Catalans, they would form a much stronger united front to counter the rise of the extreme right-wing.
* Shannon Ebrahim is Independent Media's foreign editor.