Hastily called elections in the Spanish state this weekend could make the far right Vox party part of the government. Prime minister Pedro Sanchez, of the Labour-type PSOE socialist party, called the poll after a massive defeat in local elections in May.
Voting will be a referendum on the current coalition government of the PSOE and Unidas Podemos, made up of the once radical Podemos and the Communist Party-led United Left grouping. The left reformist alliance has now refounded as Sumar—around employment minister and long-standing Communist member Yolanda Diaz.
The right will cheer on the main conservative party, the PP, and Vox. The left coalition formed at the end of 2019 faced many challenges. It has approved many important reforms, such as an increased minimum wage, housing laws, and on trans rights.
This was because of pressure from Unidas Podemos and left wing Catalan and Basque parties, the Republican Left of Catalonia and Basque Country Together.
But they have also tried to please big business and the banks. That means allowing inflation to eat into wages—real pay has fallen 5 percent—while company profits have doubled. Landlords continue to take advantage of people because the new law did not limit rents.
And, racism too is an issue that shames the coalition. Last year the government justified the murder of dozens of migrants, mostly of African origin, on the border between Melilla and Morocco. Moroccan police repression to defend the Spanish frontier in north Africa was payback for the government’s acceptance of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.
There is also the unwavering government support for Nato in the war over Ukraine, and a huge increase in military spending.
The failures of the left paved the way to the present situation. When Podemos launched in 2014, it presented itself as the political embodiment of social movements. Its support grew out of the Indignados and STOP Evictions movements, the Marches for Dignity and the general strikes against austerity.
It was born with a radical reformist program—banning sackings in profitable companies, nationalisation of strategic sectors, recognition of Catalonia’s right to self-determination. It talked of “la casta”—a caste or elite at the top—and said that both the PP and PSOE were part of it.
But it soon turned towards proving it was “respectable” to govern and went into alliance with the PSOE. Many activists were co-opted by the institutions. Ada Colau, a former leader of a direct action anti-evictions movement, became mayor of Barcelona from 2015 to 2023. And many others became inactive, demoralised or simply put their faith in the elected politicians of Podemos.
There has been a general decrease in large mobilisations. But some, such as the women’s and LGBT+ movements, the environmental movement and the tenants’ unions have continued to be active.
Many now see the left as just one more part of the system. And the revolutionary left is too weak to promote large scale actions or to pressurise the government to adopt more radical measures.
The polls say the PP will win next Sunday’s general elections. PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo imposed anti-welfare measures during his 13 year stint as president of Galicia. A photo of him on a yacht with a famous drug dealer is symbolic of that period. It was a time when thousands of mothers had to bury sons and daughters who died because of narcotics.
The only thing that the PP promises is to repeal the social measures of a government. But the regional governments of the PP—now often in coalition with Vox—reveal their real policies. They try to dismantle public services—for example, threatening the public health system in Andalusia. They defend the big landlords, whipping up a generalised panic about the squatting of empty houses—most of them owned by banks. They maintain anti-ecological policies, for example, destroying natural ecosystems such as Donana in Huelva, Andalusia.
This is all compounded by the rise of Vox. With a presence at the local, regional and state level, Vox is a far right party that includes numerous fascists who defend the Franco dictatorship, and even some historic Nazis.
It is a racist party that labels children who had to flee their country and now live without family support as criminals. It is a sexist party that denies the reality of violence against women. As soon as they win a town hall, they remove LGBT+ flags, attack languages such as Basque and Catalan, censor publications in libraries, or remove items against gender violence. All the while, they defend the property and rights of big businessmen and bankers.
The polls are not positive, but they predict a small difference in seats between PP-Vox and the members of the coalition government and the rest of the left.
For the revolutionary left, voting is a tactical issue. In the absence of a credible alternative from the radical left, we have to call for a vote for the Sumar coalition. In some place, other options to the left of PSOE exist—such as ERC and the CUP in Catalonia, EH Bildu in the Basque Country, or Adelante Andalucia in Cadiz.
If Sumar obtains third place across the Spanish state, that would probably prevent a right wing coalition with VOX from forming a government. It’s vital to support the #StopVOX campaign, led in Catalonia by United Against Fascism and Racism and similar smaller movements in places such as Andalusia and Asturias.
For the radical left hope lies in social mobilisations, however modest they may be.
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