FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

From Franco to Aznar

Huge political changes obviously point to two recent occurrences under former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar; Supporting the Bush Administration’s war in Iraq while 90 percent of the Spanish population disagreed and the recent bombings of the RENFE commuter trains in downtown Madrid.

The interconnection of these two and the timing of the bombings left the Aznar government trying to blame the bombings on ETA, the Basque separatists who usually call in to warn of bombings, similar to the Irish Republican Army’s tactics against the British.

Aznar knew that a bombing of that magnitude by al Qaeda, of which so many Spaniards said supporting the Bush Administration would invite terrorism to Spain, could threaten the election of his chosen successor.

So, he tried to lie, even as evidence to possible al Qaeda links with the arrest of three Moroccans and two Indian Muslims and a tape from a Moroccan who claims to be with al Qaeda’s military wing in Europe surfaced.

Therefore, in one day the Spanish government majority changed from a rightwing Bush-supporter to a leftwing socialist workers’ party. Absolutely incredible, or is it? Looking at the history of Spanish politics and the socialist party, one may not be so surprised at the extreme changes. Though, it is the consequence of these changes that must be attended to.

In 1879, 11 years after “La Gloriosa,” the fall of Queen Isabella’s regime when General Juan Prim proclaimed “Long Live the Sovereign Nation!” and during what has been called the time when anarchist thought developed in Spain, the Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol (PSOE) or Socialist Workers Party of Spain was formed in the capital Madrid. It is the oldest political party in Spain. For more than ten years PSOE lived in general obscurity and insignificance, as compared to the influence the anarcho-communists and the collectivist anarchists had on the Spanish left who were primarily agrarian workers in the south and factory/mine workers in the north.

It wasn’t until 1886 when the PSOE fathered a regular paper called El Socialista and again in 1888 when a trade union branch called the UGT, General Workers’ Union (of which the famous writer George Orwell fought with during the Spanish Civil War) formed in Barcelona that the socialist movement began to have an influence on the Spanish left.

The socialists supported partial strikes for reasons only to improve working conditions, which were so abhorrent during the time. It avoided the anarchist’s general strike, which often put the entire Spanish economy at a standstill.

Still, the socialists came out in favor of the eight-hour workday, which was inspired by the anarchists’ Internal Commission of Eight Hours in 1886.

On May Day 1890, the anarchists had called a general strike which lasted four days in the Barcelona region. The PSOE decided it would have a meeting, where an incredible 20,000 workers showed up. Peacefully, the procession marched to the governor general’s office and left a note with workers’ demands and calmly dispersed. Although membership in the PSOE and UGT were nowhere near anarchist numbers, the meeting showed there were a great number of socialist sympathizers. In Madrid, Prime Minister Praxedes Sagasta was quietly handed a petition of workers’ demands from PSOE officials and a few thousand members. Sagasta, a liberal leader, would look favorably on the peaceful demonstrators.

By 1910, Pablo Iglesias, the founder and leader of the party, was named deputy to the Spanish court. But also in 1910, the anarchists formed the wildly popular CNT, or National Confederation of Workers, which by 1919 had a membership of 700,000 while serving as an umbrella group for socialists, anarchists, liberal republicans and anarcho-syndicalists.

By the time Miguel Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship (1923-1930) took hold of Spain, the Spanish left’s membership had mushroomed to over 1.5 million under the CNT, which included the socialists.

In the election of 1931, Primo de Rivera was ousted for the Popular Front left coalition republican government. Therefore, in one election, very similar to this most recent election, Spain changed from a dictatorship to a coalition of leftist organizations, including the anarchists and socialists.

Of course, the rest is history and even more extreme. General Francisco Franco, a military officer, led a fascist revolt against the republic in 1936 and by 1939 had succeeded, with the help of Hitler and Mussolini, in plunging Spain into a fascist dictatorship that lasted until his death in 1975. As reprisal, many socialist were put up in horrendous concentration camps in Albacete, many were executed on the spot after Franco took power.

In the first democratic election of 1977, after nearly forty years of socialist obscurity, the PSOE had 103 deputies and 35 senators elected. In the general election of 1982 it obtained and absolute majority, with 202 deputies and 134 senators and. its secretary general, Felipe Gonzalez, was elected prime minister. It held a majority until the elections of 1993 and was generally blamed for the downfall of the economy.

Jose Maria Aznar, a former taxman in the north-central provinces, became prime minister mostly due to the discredit of the socialists, who were said to have been corrupt. Aznar, whose father was a bureaucrat under Franco, was appointed by the conservative former Franco minister Manuel Fraga Iribarne, to head the party.

Aznar had often been linked to the chilling effect of Franco’s isolationist dictatorship in the minds of the Spanish people. Though he tried to explain many of his conservative policies and anti-worker stances as being the best path for Spain’s future, the Spanish people had enough when he sided, against the will of the people, with the Bush Administration’s war in Iraq.

Spain will now be going through some very critical times. Its foreign and domestic policies will essentially be making a U-turn while conservative leaders are rushed out of key appointed positions, socialist appointees will be pushed into service. New PSOE Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero has already threatened to withdraw the country’s 1,300 troops deployed to Iraq by Aznar unless the United Nations takes over. Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder called an emergency meeting to clank champagne glasses at the election results as Zapatero has proclaimed he’ll be joining the ranks of ‘Old Europe,’ spurning the U.S. Secretary of Defense’s comic criticism of those who did not support the war in Iraq. Social programs, such as helping the poor instead of inspiring the rich with tax incentives will undoubtedly anger the out-going power base.

As PSOE members and all those who voted out the conservative leader wave their red flags in the streets of Spain, all must remember the occurrences after the Popular Front took power in 1931. As the leaders of France and Germany celebrate, Spanish conservatives are booted out of office, big Spanish business disenfranchised, the Spanish worker suddenly emphasized, the American neo-conservatives dangerously scowl across the pond as one of its own was suddenly wrenched from power.

ALEXANDER LYNCH is a journalist who lived in Spain. His forthcoming novel, “The Soft War: Notes from Madrid” is due out next year. Lynch can be reached at shanachie51@hotmail.com

 

More articles by:

February 21, 2019
Nick Pemberton
Israel, Venezuela and Nationalism In The Neoliberal Era
Chris Orlet
The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Fair Taxation Scaremongering Tour
Bruce E. Levine
“Heavy Drinking” and the NYT’s Offensive Obit on Herbert Fingarette
Lisi Krall
This Historical Moment Demands Transformation of Our Institutions. The Green New Deal Won’t Do That
Stephanie Savell
Mapping the American War on Terror: Now in 80 Countries
Daniel Warner
New York, New York: a Resounding Victory for New York Over Amazon
Russell Mokhiber
With Monsanto and Glyphosate on the Run AAAS Revokes Award to Scientists Whose Studies Led to Ban on Weedkiller in Sri Lanka and Other Countries
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Fake National Emergency Moves America Closer to an Autocracy
Alex Campbell
Tracing the Threads in Venezuela: Humanitarian Aid
Jonah Raskin
Mitchel Cohen Takes on Global and Local Goliaths: Profile of a Lifelong Multi-Movement Organizer
Binoy Kampmark
Size Matters: the Demise of the Airbus A380
February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail