The elections in Spain are a key battle in the European fight against neo-fascism

To get a glimpse of the future of Europe, one only has to look at the latest events in Spain on the eve of a general election on July 23. Under the pretext of defending the traditional nation state and in an attempt to turn the elections into a culture war, the far-right party Vox’s latest impact strategy was to place a billboard on one of Madrid’s main streets demonizing feminism, immigration and the LGBTQ+ community with a trash can into which their symbols were violently thrown.

A rhetoric that the leader of Vox, Santiago Abascal, delved into during an incendiary electoral debate on television in which he uttered the lie that almost 70% of group rapes are committed by foreigners.

The techniques are not new: during the 2016 Brexit referendum, Nigel Farage commissioned a controversial poster showing a crowd of immigrants heading towards the UK along with the message “breaking point”. It is no coincidence that the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, displayed the exact same photo on his election posters, this time with the slogan “Stop”. Hungary is the European country with the fewest citizens born elsewhere, but, in his “copy and paste” campaign, Orbán managed to make the winning theme of the elections the need to build walls to stop non-existent “invaders”. .

Vox’s nationalism is not content with opposing immigration from other countries. It includes explicitly targeted attacks against the feminist movement and LGBTQ+, defined by the far-right party as threats to the very existence of the nation-state.

In the local government coalitions in which it participates, Vox has prevented gender equality initiatives, creating “departments for families” instead. In Valencia, Vox has forced a change in the definition of gender violence, reducing it to a mere “intra-family” issue. In the Balearic Islands, the party is removing all formal recognition of the LGBTQ+ movement.

In addition, his ultranationalist program includes ending movements in favor of regional autonomy and banning political parties in Catalonia and the Basque Country that seek independence.

Of course, the right is focused on the culture wars to divert attention from its neoliberal economic policies, which call for privatizing public services, favoring private healthcare, and cutting taxes on those who have the most, including abolishing the current tax on large corporations. fortunes, in force until 2024.

Spain and its bold prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, are now in the front line of defense of progressive values, fighting right-wing attempts to stifle an economic program to reduce poverty and improve jobs.

Vox will not win outright but it is very possible that it will end up dominating the next government of Spain. The conservative Popular Party, which is already siding with the far-right formation in coalitions of municipal and regional governments, will need their support to build a government majority.

María Guardiola, leader of the PP in Extremadura, swore a few weeks ago that she would not agree with a party that “denies violence against women, dehumanizes immigrants, and throws the LGTBQ+ flag in the trash”, in her own words. She then turned 180 degrees and announced that her party had no choice but to agree with Vox to govern.

If the block of right-wing parties ends up ahead of Sánchez, a history of almost 50 years without neo-fascist parties in power will be broken. Those of Vox will have gone from being a bunch of street demagogues to being part of the cabinet of ministers. A political earthquake that, in the year of the Spanish presidency of the European Union, will be felt throughout the continent.

His power will embolden the far-right formations that proliferate in Europe. Germany’s far-right party AfD has registered more than 20% national support across the country and has also won a first clear victory in local elections, moving dangerously close to the conservative CDU/CSU, which with only 25%. of the vote are being cornered to move even further to the right.

In Finland, the far-right Finns Party has just taken over seven ministries in the newly formed right-wing government. In Austria, it appears that the far-right Freedom Party will rule the country after the 2024 elections, joining the government of Fratelli d’Italia, the far-right party that already rules Italy with Giorgia Meloni as president.

Who is to be sure that the Brexit slogan “Take Back Control” is not going to be Marine Le Pen’s way to power, with promises to end street violence and restore order to a fragmented France?

European far-right formations have collaborated with each other since July 2021, when 16 of them signed a declaration against integration into the European Union. A paradoxical international coalition of anti-internationalist parties that claim to campaign exclusively nationally, inciting fear to outsiders. This coalition has agreed that nationalism, tradition and the nuclear family are the pillars of Europe against the cosmopolitan attempt to destroy nation states and their cultures.

As long as centrists and progressive parties continue to believe that the current malaise with globalization is a passing thing, these champions of the culture war will be the ones to benefit from people’s desire for change, reversing the latest advances in human rights and in international cooperation. Not to mention the European green agenda, which is already being torpedoed by the right in Germany, the Netherlands and within the European Parliament.

As Orbán has recognized, what allows the right to wage these culture wars is the failure of the neoliberal version of globalization, which in a volatile world leaves workers unprotected. There are many crises, from falling purchasing power to worsening pollution, that must convince us: we cannot return to a status quo that has failed

There is a positive, progressive and European-wide social and economic policy agenda, which revolves around improving living standards. It is the one that Sánchez maintains and the one that we have to defend with conviction. As George Orwell wrote in another era, we cannot forget that only “a moral effort” can defeat xenophobic nationalism. “Looking at homosexuals, blaming women for gender violence, suggesting the banning of political parties,” said Pedro Sánchez from the heat of the battle. “All that has a name that does not need to be spelled.”

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