By Edward Howard.
As you may be aware, there was a general election that took place in Spain a few weeks ago. In that election, the leading Spanish party of the Socialists won with 29% of the electorate voting for them, albeit short of a majority. While that was the main story, the other major development was that a small nationalist party called Vox became a major political force, gaining 10.3% of the vote.
Now, as someone who has supported right-wing nationalism in the past, whether that took the form of Brexit, President Donald Trump or the Italian constitution referendum, one would assume for people like myself, this is a wonderful result, right?
Well… no. Quite the opposite in fact. Not only does the rise of Vox worry me heavily, but I also think it would do the so-called populist right (of who have made vast gains over the last few years across the Western world) to perhaps be more honest about this party and what it actually stands for, so that we can avoid legitimising extremely dodgy groups.
The main problem with Vox is not what you may think, however. They aren’t the far-right monster that much of the reliably ignorant and heavily biased press has openly stated that they are. I tend to find this level of hysterical coverage really troubling, as not only do these lazy ad hominem attacks undermine legitimate political figures like Brazil’s incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban to name just a few (often of who don’t support such a position), but it can make such heavy terms meaningless, leading to a dangerous situation whereby actual far-right political parties cannot be warned against, as such threats aren’t taken as seriously as they should be. In particular, the very worrying comparisons that much of the media has made between Vox and Spain’s former dictator Francisco Franco I find legitimately offensive; it downplays the appalling regime of one of history’s worst dictators when he is being compared to a stupid and frankly incoherent political party like Vox. The fact that some have tried to validate such claims by calling Vox ‘ultraconservative’ in this sense makes it all the more laughable.
Rather, the problem is that Vox isn’t that they’re far-right or the successor of El Caudillo himself, Franco. Instead, they subscribe to a political ideology arguably more dangerous than the fascism of Franco, of which despite its numerous atrocities, never left its own borders. The seeming ideology of Vox, however, has done anything but; it’s led to several discredited parties across the Western world (most notably the United States’ Republican Party under the tenure of President George W. Bush), several unhappy people across the world, and most notably, left the Middle East through foreign intervention a quagmire of death and destruction, of which no-one (least of all those who foolishly started said conflicts and who hold office even today) can solve.
That’s right; Vox is a neoconservative.
Why would I level such a charge against them? That’s because Vox is openly, and unironically, war hungry and seem to want to find any excuse to go it, even if it isn’t in Spain’s national interest for it to do so. Only true neoconservatives would advocate for this. Moderate conservatives (such as yours truly) see war as justified only if it’s in the national interest, or if international law is violated. Neoconservatives meanwhile are perfectly happy to call for war if they feel that any specific regime is objectionable under the guise that they would be doing the world of good by overthrowing the regime for the alleged benefits its people would subsequently receive, even if it could mean repercussions for both said regime and the nation-state that the regime claims to represent. And that’s not even going into the various other unpleasant regimes they would happily appease for mainly political and economic reasons.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at their policies.
Most openly, they advocate that Spain should become involved in ‘military combat missions against the Jihadist threat’. One could wonder what they are meaning by that beyond that they want to start wars in the Middle East against a supposed perceived jihadist threat of which doesn’t at this point threaten Spain, and probably never shall. It seems that all they are intending is using the non-existent threat of Islamic extremism both abroad and at home (more on that shortly) to justify any new war in the Middle East or beyond; provided that they can gain enough public outrage over Islam, they can justify wars of which aid their financial backers, and no-one else, community cohesion and any sort of stability in the Middle East be damned. So it should come as no surprise then that this group have been financially backed by the likes of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (the latter of these two was originally on the US list of terrorist organisations until 2012), both of who are committed to opposing the current Iranian regime, and are backing anyone who can potentially remove them, and have received funding from other neocons, most notably the US National Security Advisor John Bolton. This would also explain their rapid hatred of Islam, which leads them to want to expel extreme imams and closing down fundamentalist mosques, and rather controversial campaign ads whereby Islam has taken over Spain. This seems rather odd given that Spain is only 4% Muslim, and whose problems with Islamisation aren’t as bad as other parts of the West. This is especially true since unlike countries like Great Britain for example, Islamist attacks have been few and far between over the years, the latest one being in Barcelona in 2017. It’s simple; this party is using Islam as a scapegoat to get enough anger among a disenfranchised voting bloc to justify further wars in the Islamic world, of which is only beneficial to their donors and nothing more.
Meanwhile, they want to reclaim the British owned enclave Gibraltar, something of which seems to most of us unfeasible, given that it has been set in stone since the Peace of Utrechttreaties of 1713 gave us that territory, of which has been tolerated (if not necessarily liked) by Spanish authorities since that time period. Even Franco in his near 4-decade reign never took it (even if sometimes he made threats to, as The Times articles from the late 1960s pointed to). Given that I highly doubt we shall give them away lightly or diplomatically for that matter, the potential for Vox to go to war or invade the enclave similar to how Argentina did with the Falklands back in 1982 to appease their angry voting bloc is highly likely. After all, if they’re happy to have wars to quash the non-existent jihadist threat to Spain to appease their donors, why wouldn’t they go to war in this sense? Hypocritically, however, they demand that they build big walls around their territories in Morocco; Ceuta and Melilla. This seems rather hypocritical; on the one hand, they want their supposed territory back, all the while clinging to their legally disputed territories in Morocco. Why would any nationalist want to invade territory that isn’t theirs? As a British nationalist, I happily respect the rights of Denmark to keep the Faroe Islands off the coast of Scotland, even we are closer to it than Denmark, and I would defend our right to keep our overseas territories in the same way. Vox clearly don’t. It’s more pandering to both fake nationalism and real warmongering than anything of substance.
On top of this, I’m alarmed at the way they vehemently hate the secessionist movements; particularly those in Catalonia that they object to. I, for one, among many others, was utterly shocked at the way the Spanish government treated the Catalan protestors during the Catalan independence referendum. I appreciate it wasn’t necessarily legal, but the levels of police brutality deployed were utterly shocking, and ironically gave the Catalans’cause more sympathy internationally than would otherwise have done so. If such scenes repeat themselves, one could wonder what sort of a society Spain has resorted to so it can maintain order. How fitting it would be a party of which for all the noise it makes pandering to populism and nationalism, has nothing legitimately of substance to say.
So, given all of this, why are so many people backing them? Partially for the Spaniards, I can assume disillusionment with current politics, of which there is nothing wrong with on its own. I would rather they find more healthy parties to do it with, but hey ho. For others who should know better, however, I think it’s more of a case of the stupid belief that all nationalist movements should be celebrated because they advocate ideas that they like, but this isn’t the case. Most tellingly, a video by the alt-right and racist (as he called the black British Afua Hirsch ‘non-native’) YouTuber The Iconoclast showed that he like for the party came from its hatred of Islam, feminism and love of nationalism.
It’s become a contest of buzzwords and propaganda for these parties, whereby no longer are parties now elected on the grounds that their policies are good and their representatives are sound; rather they entice people with slogans and pandering to the lowest common denominator without much substance. It’s a situation that the American commentator Neil Postman warned us about 33 years ago in classic book Amusing Ourselves To Death whereby he stated that ‘when a serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk when people become an audience… a nation finds itself at risk. Culture-death is a clear possibility’. That makes them no different to the useless establishment career politicians they rail against and are equally lacking in substance. It’s a shame no-one bothered to listen.
It’s clear that is where some of this nationalist revolution across the Western world is leading us to. As I’ve said, I love how the nationalist revival across the Western world has, on the one hand, reinvigorated politics and given the electorate something to vote for again and to restore their faith in politics so that the extremists don’t get their votes. However, the same populist anger that led to good things like the rise of Nigel Farage and Brexit in Great Britain, President Donald Trump in the United States, the Italian Constitution referendum, the populist rise in many Eastern European countries, Viktor Orban in Hungary and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan has also led to the rise of the alt-right and the likes of Richard Spencer in the United States, Golden Dawn in Greece, the yellow vests in France, President Erdogan in Turkey, the rise of various rabble-rouser parties and Gerard Batten in Great Britain and the likes of Vox in Spain.
It’s important not only for this nationalist movement but the sake of maintaining democracy and sensibility in our politics that such bad nationalist forces are called out. If not, they shall continue to dominate our politics ‘til it’s too late to do something about it.