Spain returns to the shadows of its Civil War past

One reason the United Kingdom must act from within the European Union.

Over the past few years, far-right parties have found increased support across Europe. They have performed well in local elections, often securing second or third place and in some cases joining governing coalitions.

The term “far-right” covers a broad range of groups that differ significantly in their agendas and policies as well as the extent to which they sanction violence. To appeal to broader electorates, some have softened their agendas and sought to distance themselves from 20th century fascism. To justify their positions on socioeconomic issues, many promote policies based on nationalism. And then there is the sinister Identitarian movement, which has its roots in Europe and has spread overt racism to several other countries.

Denmark has some of the toughest immigration rules in Europe, reflecting the power of the right-wing Danish People’s Party.

Hungary’s Prime Minister is in office for a third term following a landslide victory in an election dominated by immigration in which Hungarians were given “the opportunity to defend themselves and to defend Hungary”.

Italy’s two populist parties – the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and right-wing League – have formed a coalition government, with plans for mass deportations for undocumented migrants..

Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has entered the federal parliament to push for strict anti-immigrant policies, tapping into manufactured anxieties over the influence of Islam.

Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ) is the junior partner in a coalition with its Conservative government on a platform targeting what they label the “migrant crisis”.

Sweden Democrats (SD) made significant gains in the 2018 general election. With its roots in neo-Nazism, the party won about 18% of the vote, having rebranded itself in recent years.

And now Spain. At the end of April 2019, Spaniards will vote in a general election that may see Vox become the first avowedly far-right party to win seats in the national parliament since Spain’s return to democracy.

In “Franco’s shadow: reburial battle sees Spain confront its darkest days” (The Observer, 23 March 2019), Sam Jones writes:

“Vox, which broke through into the mainstream in last December’s Andalucían regional election, is big on slogans, short on details and shares much of its ideological DNA with Franco and his followers.

Over recent months and weeks, the anti-immigration, anti-feminist party has called for a ‘reconquest’ of Spain, railed against ‘feminazis’, and called for the expulsion of 52,000 ‘illegal immigrants’.

Last week alone, it has raised the prospect of banning far-left political parties and those that push for Catalan independence – a particular bestia negra – and suggested that ‘good Spaniards’ should be allowed to possess weapons and use them in self-defence without having to face ‘hellish’ legal consequences.”

Disgusting as the racism and xenophobia of right-wing European parties is, with its reminder of 20th century concentration camps and worse, in Spain the attacks have again become personal: on families, friends and neighbours.

The Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship saw hatred and division based on politics, class, education, and wealth. An estimated 140,000 people disappeared during and after the civil war, not including those killed in combat. Despite repeated demands from the UN, Spain is the only democracy that has not investigated the dictatorship’s state terrorism, the collusion of Spain’s elite families and businesses, its Roman Catholic hierarchy, and the decades-long impunity that enabled Franco to remain in power until his death in 1976.

Europe cannot be allowed to fall prey once again to the wolves of fascism. They must be starved, yet voices of reason are not enough. At the level of the European Union, formulating and implementing fair-minded, democratic policies and actions is the only way of guaranteeing a peaceful future for everyone.

Supporters of Spain's late dictator Francisco Franco raise their arms in a fascist salute during a gathering in Madrid

Published by

Philip Lee

Writer and musician who tries to join up the dots.

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