Vox: Reviving Francoism In Spain

As Spain’s legislative elections approach on Sunday, all eyes are on the nationalist Vox party, which has had good electoral scores for several years. How to understand the meteoric rise of this newcomer in a country which, traumatized by the Franco dictatorship, formed one of the last ramparts in Europe against the far right?

It was one of the few countries spared by the extreme right, where the anti-fascist slogan “no pasarán” seemed to have some consistency. But it’s a fact: Vox definitely seems to have emerged from marginality in Spain. Far from the 0.2% of the general elections of 2015, the nationalist party, credited with 13.5% in the latest polls for the next legislative elections, is now systematically close to 10-15% after only a few years of existence. In coalition with the conservative liberals of the Popular Party (the PP), it already governs the regions of Valencia, Extremadura or Castile and León, where its representatives have distinguished themselves by measures such as the abolition of subsidies for women victims of violence or the removal of LGBT flags from administrative buildings. Favorite in the polls, the PP may need their support to govern, as the Socialist Party has had to do with Podemos in recent years. Why did the dike jump in this country where the Franco dictatorship seemed to have vaccinated its inhabitants from the extreme right?

Conservatives or nationalists?

It must first be clearly understood that Vox did not appear as a nationalist formation in its infancy. Founded in 2013, it was born out of a split in the People’s Party then in power, its creators blaming their original movement for its abandonment of “traditional values” (in particular its supposed laxity when adopting same-sex marriage in 2005) as well as its lack of firmness vis-à-vis the Catalan separatists, who had just organized an illegal referendum on the autonomy of their region. Vox’s affiliation with the far right is still not obvious to some representatives of the right and center, which partly explains the possibility of current alliances. The radical turn of the party has nevertheless clearly taken place, notably under the impetus of its current president, Santiago Abascal, who became its head in 2014. For this Basque politician, grandson of a Francoist elected official and whose family was constantly threatened by the terrorist organization ETA, the fights are multiple: first there is the rejection of recent laws allowing gender change or abortion without parental authorization from the age of 16, brought, in the flowery terms of Abascal, by a conquering “feminazism”. Vox also campaigns for strict control of immigration and, faithful to its neoliberal foundations, for a drastic reduction in taxation and public spending. More specifically, the party promotes the end of the fight against climate change, “the biggest scam in history” according to the climatosceptic Abascal, and vigorously opposes the law of historical memory condemning Francoism and rehabilitating the victims of the dictatorship…


But it is above all the unity of Spain and the fight against the separatists and the decentralized system set up in 1978, with autonomous and strong regions, which is Vox’s great battle horse. A fight that is articulated with an ideology and ancient references, in the forefront of which the philosopher Gustavo Bueno Martínez (1924-2016) and the writer Ramiro de Maeztu (1874-1936), author of a Defense of Hispanity (1934) that Abascal has already exhibited in the Spanish Parliament. It is under their patronage that Vox makes constant references to an “Iberosphere” extending to Latin America, estimated to be 700 million strong and having “Hispanism” as its base, a Spanish ethos based on Christianity, the traditional family and the reconquest (reconquista) in the face of their enemies. An ideology regularly updated with the support of the Disenso foundation, a laboratory of ideas designed to “counter the dominant ideas in Spain and Iberoamerica” and which gave birth at the end of 2020 to a Madrid Charter summarizing the main axes of the Spanish far right from an internationalist perspective, signed in this respect by American conservatives as well as by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni or the French Marion Maréchal. Referring to the reactionary “Latin union” called for by the royalist Charles Maurras, a great admirer of Franco and who had seen the birth of a variation of French Action under the impetus of Maeztu, Marion Maréchal has moreover opened a subsidiary of his school, the Institute of Social, Economic and Political Sciences (ISSEP), in Madrid.

Neofascist international

It is therefore in a more general context of the rise of the far right in Europe and the internationalization of nationalist movements – the sociologist Ugo Palheta calls this “new fascist international” – that Vox continues to rise. Drawing its ideas including from more contemporary or consensual thinkers such as the English philosopher of conservatism Roger Scruton (1944-2020), whose translation of the essay Green Philosophy was prefaced by Abascal, this party is faithful to the undermining work carried out by the various extreme right in the cultural and theoretical field for several years. For the moment confined to lower scores than in France or Italy, Vox seems to benefit from a reaction effect in the face of the very progressive laws of the current socialist government and from a more general concern among Spaniards in the face of the vigor of the Basque and Catalan independence movements, with which the left seeks to compromise. A left that has been rising in recent days in the polls, neck and neck with a right which, like it, must take into account and possibly agree to govern with a radical party that has quickly succeeded in imposing itself and putting an end to years of bipartisanship. Will Spain manage to stop this irresistible rise?

This article is originally published on philomag.com


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