On April 14, for the 90th anniversary of the founding of the 1931–39 Spanish Second Republic, far-right Vox Party leader Santiago Abascal delivered a fascistic rant in Congress, blaming socialists for the 1936–39 Spanish Civil War, which was triggered by a fascist coup.
Abascal denounced the Second Republic, a capitalist state, as a “criminal regime controlled by socialists and communists that led Spain to civil war.” He was tacitly justifying General Francisco Franco’s coup against the Second Republic, which plunged Spain into civil war and installed a 40-year dictatorship. This whitewashes the coup and the mass murder carried out by the Francoites, by implying it was a legitimate response to a threat from socialism and the working class.
These unprecedented remarks underscore the fascistic character of “herd immunity” policies pursued by the ruling class across Europe. Abascal’s speech came amid a debate on lifting all social distancing measures, amid a resurgence of the virus and after over 1 million people have died of COVID-19 in Europe.
As he continued his speech in the Congress, Abascal held up a cobblestone, allegedly thrown at him during a rally Vox held in Madrid’s working class neighbourhood of Vallecas. These provocative rallies are guarded by hundreds of anti-riot police sent by Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE)-Podemos government. Abascal told PSOE Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez that if Vox had thrown these cobblestones back at workers during the rally, “We would go to civil confrontation.”
This is a threat to the working class based on historical lies. Franco’s coup, and not his left-wing opponents, triggered the Spanish Civil War. The war shattered cities across Spain, leading to the murder of 200,000 oppositionists and left-wing workers, and the detention of up to 1 million people in concentration camps. For 40 years thereafter, the Francoite regime and its secret police arrested, tortured and killed thousands, banned strikes, political parties and trade unions, and censored the press.
Abascal’s threat is aimed primarily at mounting working class anger at “herd immunity” and austerity policies. The virus is surging across Europe, fuelled by more contagious variants and the lifting of social distancing measures, and overwhelming already strained hospital systems. In Spain, projections show that the fourth wave will lead to another 500,000 infections and tens of thousands of more unnecessary deaths.
In the Congress, Podemos deputies said nothing in reply to Abascal’s fascistic rant, while Prime Minister Sánchez meekly complained to Abascal: “Your party calls on its members to take over the streets, on the army to carry out a coup. The difference is that we condemn all kinds of violence, and you don’t condemn the violence suffered by women, immigrants or LGTBI groups.”
The remarkable statement made by Sánchez has far-reaching political implications. Having stated that a far-right party is working with the army to prepare a coup—a charge amply substantiated by leaked WhatsApp chats of discussions between far-right officers and Abascal—the prime minister of Spain proceeded to take no public action whatsoever.
Struggling to find a clear difference between his party and Vox, Sánchez only criticized Vox for not verbally condemning violence against “women, immigrants or LGTBI groups.” This is politically absurd. By endorsing fascist coups and mass murder, Abascal is declaring his hostility to the entire working class, regardless of gender, national origin or sexual orientation.
Sánchez’s comment is, however, a public declaration that the PSOE-Podemos government is aware that Vox is preparing a far-right military coup, and is taking no action against it. Quite the opposite, they are in fact providing Vox police escorts to march through working class districts of Madrid. At the same time, they issue impotent criticisms of the Spanish right for being politically aggressive.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias posted a video on Twitter, lamely criticizing the Spanish right: “Why are they so obsessed? Why did the [Popular Party] PP, [Citizens] Cs and Vox destroy that memorial, why carry out actions of street violence against [PSOE Prime Minister under the Second Republic] Largo Caballero’s statue, why publicly humiliate two members of the Government of the Second Republic? Because they know that the Spanish democratic identity is republican and anti-fascist.”
In truth, both the PSOE and Podemos are terrified of the working class, and welcome the opportunity to rely on pressure from Vox to impose their policies on the workers. They know a political mobilization of the working class would lead to an explosion of opposition to their own militarist, herd immunity and austerity policies, which are to a significant extent dictated by Vox.
They recently co-signed statements imploring Madrid workers not to confront Vox rallies in the streets, but instead to vote for the PSOE or Podemos in upcoming regional elections.
On the day Abascal made his fascist tirade, Vox had been redoubling efforts to end the “state of alarm,” which authorizes social-distancing policies on the pandemic. Abascal’s motto had been to “demand the end of curfews.” The PSOE and Podemos responded by saying curfews will end in May, and Sánchez was explicit in that their “intention is not to extend the State of Alarm.” Coming amid a fourth wave of the pandemic driven by the variants, this all but guarantees that hundreds of thousands more people will be infected and many thousands die in Spain.
The PSOE-Podemos government has also bowed to Vox’s anti-migrant agitation, adopting Vox’s programme of letting them drown at sea, deporting them and covering up physical and sexual assaults of migrants by the security forces. Over 1,700 migrants have drowned off the Canary Islands, a horrific new record, and migrants have protested their appalling living conditions and poor food in detention camps. Sánchez is doubling down on deportations, even demanding that Senegal re-initiate deportation flights.
On the campaign to jail Catalan nationalist politicians over the 2017 Catalan independence referendum, the PSOE-Podemos government has implemented Vox’s policy. Last month, the PSOE lobbied for a resolution sponsored by Vox in the European Conservatives and Reformists group to lift the immunity of Catalan nationalists who are members of the European Parliament. After they succeeded, Spain announced it was seeking their extradition to incarcerate them for over a decade.
As for the far-right coup threat in Spain, until Sánchez’s recent about-face in response to Abascal, they had dishonestly ignored it. They reacted to last December’s WhatsApp chat leaks where senior military officers said they were “good fascists” and called to “start shooting 26 million” left-wing voters and their families by sending Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias on television to downplay this danger. On prime-time, Iglesias said: “What these gentlemen say, at their age and already retired, in a chat with a few too many drinks, does not pose any threat.”
Sánchez’s reply to Abascal in Congress exposes Iglesias’ comments as a political lie, designed to hide from the working class the danger of a far-right coup by pro-Francoite officers.
The critical task is mobilizing the working class independently, against herd immunity policies, the far-right danger and its pseudo-left accomplices. Independent workplace and school safety committees have the task not only of monitoring and fighting contagion and herd immunity policies, but of opposing the growing danger of war and military rule. This means constructing sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) in Spain and across Europe against the petty-bourgeois treachery of parties like Podemos.