BY David Karvala, a founder member and one of the spokespeople of Unity Against Fascism and Racism Catalonia
Disaster in Madrid
Yesterdayâs elections in the region of Madrid were a disaster for progressive forces.
The big winner was the main right wing party, the PP, that doubled its vote to nearly 45% and nearly won an overall majority in the Madrid Assembly.
Their leader, Isabel DĂaz Ayuso, won on a basically Donald Trump type platform of âCommunism or Freedomâ. She refused to close bars and restaurants under lockdown, leading to a massive level of infections, but short term popularity, especially with the bar owners, who campaigned for her, even promoting her name on a special brand of beer.
The PP recovered the votes previously lost to then new centre right Ciudadanos party, that collapsed to under 4% and lost all its seats. It looks like the end for them.
But the really bad news is that the far right racist party, VOX, also rose, from 8.9% and 12 seats to 9.1% and 13 seats. This was despite their association with what were effectively death threats sent to leading left politicians; they refused to condemn the letter with two bullets sent to the Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias, among others.
Rather like the AFD in Germany, VOX floats between the extreme wing of the mainstream right and open fascism; they have some genuine (âexâ) neo Nazis in their ranks, and they have no compunction about defending the Francoite dictatorship.
So the PP will continue to govern the region, depending on the support of VOX, which will demand in exchange even more right wing policies.
On the left, the Socialist Party, the PSOE, that currently leads the Spanish government, fell from 27% to under 17%, being overtaken by âMĂĄs Madridâ, the party founded by ĂĂ±igo ErrejĂłn, one of the founders of Podemos, when he broke with Pablo Iglesias. Podemos itself rose from 5.6% to 7.1%; a smaller recovery than was hoped for when Pablo Iglesias resigned from the Spanish government to head their slate. Both PSOE and its minor governing partner, Podemos, are probably paying the price for general discontentment with the current crisis.
In any case, the results show that right wing populist arguments âand the racist, nigh-on fascist, positions of VOXâ can deceive many ordinary people and win votes in working class areas, if they arenât seriously challenged.
What does challenging VOX mean? Itâs not about the other parties arguing with them in electoral debates, nor is it enough for a handful of committed antifa activists to confront them physically in the streets.
The experience of the campaign shows the urgent need to build a united movement against the far right in Madrid.
The left parties raised the alarm about the dangers of the far-right, but only half way through the election campaign, and in the context of asking for peopleâs votes on 4 May, not calling for mobilisations. There were many protests against VOX events in the mainly working class neighbourhoods in the south of the city, but these were organised at the last moment.
What was missing was the gradual work of building a united movement. Thus many left activists in Madrid still maintained that it was best not to organise protests against VOX. Others insisted that any protests had to be based on a specific political program. It is impossible to resolve these issues in a few days, it is essential to have and gradually win the patient debates about the need to mobilise in a broad way against the far right, involving the unions, migrants, womenâs and LGBT+ movementsâŠ â ordinary people in general â in leading this struggle.
In Catalonia we started Unity Against Fascism and Racism (UCFR) in 2010, and it took us until May 2015 to see off the fascist party, âPlataforma per Catalunyaâ (also closing down the neo Nazi centre in Barcelona in the same month). Now with the appearance of VOX we are having to reactivate local groups and reinforce our movement, but we already have strong foundations.
In Madrid, that ground work has yet to be done. The small piece of good news is that a handful of activists in Madrid are making initial contacts to try to establish UCFR in the area. If nothing else, yesterdayâs terrible results should wake people up to the existence of a problem. But there is a lot of work to be done to overcome both resignation (âthereâs nothing to be doneâ) and sectarianism (âthe solution is to support my partyâ), and convince a broad range of people on the left and in the movements that with a united struggle it is possible to defeat the far right.