In the era of global threats, nations must unite their efforts to deal with wars, climate change and the CV-19 pandemic. Despite the obvious need for an international response to current threats, some countries are taking the opposite, national approach. Such an approach is fueled by nationalist forces in different countries, and it is not just about supporters of American Trumpism. The voice of nationalist parties is stronger even in the Member States of the European Union, which were created for collegial supranational decision-making. It is in fact the name of such a party in Spain “Voice” (“Vox” is Latin for voice).
Spanish nationalists have achieved a leading role in political life by manipulating people’s feelings on social issues. Drawing on the analogy of the aforementioned Trumpism, Spanish nationalists frame their principle as “Spain first”. The Vox ideology and its program is not something new for Spanish political history. The political and social discourse of the modern party is full of Francoist ideas. Vox supporters are convinced that the Francoist administrative and economic model has been the mainstay of progress for decades. They claim that Franco’s methods are the only solution to today’s Spanish economic and social problems. Year after year, the number of defenders of the Francoist past increases, and many of them find their future in this past.
Nationalist rallies and marches with Franco’s portraits and fascist symbols have long since become regular in Madrid. Groups of young nationalists give the fascist salute and shout anti-Semitic slogans. And all this is happening in the country where 114 thousand people were tortured and killed during the Franco regime, many dissidents have disappeared. The Phalanx, which had defeated republican democracy, is now whitewashed and even glorified. The burial place of Francisco Franco, who ruled the country continuously from 1939 to 1975, is covered in freshly cut flowers.
Far from anyone who brings the flowers knows that Franco won the Civil War thanks to the military aid of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Nationalists today like to talk about the rebirth of Spanish culture and national identity during Franco’s reign. But hardly any of the young neo-fascists are able to describe the subject of the painting Guernica by the distinguished Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. (On Hitler’s orders, the German Luftwaffe assisting Franco’s troops completely destroyed the town of Guernica along with its civilians. Survivors remembered the bombing as a living hell.)
Of course, there are vital political forces that seek to deal with the growing fascist threat. Moreover, the threat currently takes mainly a declarative form and does not go beyond political discourse. Fortunately, the Spanish situation cannot be compared to what is happening in Hungary, where European liberal values have been violated for a long time. In Spain, outbreaks of right-wing violence and anti-Semitism are not as numerous as in Ukraine. All is not lost for the moment. Spanish anti-fascists and their ilk in other countries should not underestimate the threat from the right. They must unite to defend the ideals of social justice and democracy.
*Neil Karpenko, Ukrainian history and politics researcher residing in Toronto, Canada. Contributing author of Haaretz, The Hill Times and Morning Star.