The following is a compilation of the comments made by members of Bremain (in Spain), most of whom are Brits living in Spain or who know the country well. These comments are their reactions to the West Country Bylines article Democracy breaks up from the inside, which went online on 25 February.
Lisa Ryan Burton
“Another excellent article – Spain does indeed have an issue with the far right. After all, Vox* are the third-largest party. Truly worrying.”
[* Vox is a Spanish ultra-right party founded in 2013.]
“Right-wing nationalism, quasi-fascism, is alive and well in Spain, where Vox are the proponents, but, more than that, the government of the UK is another exponent of the same trait. It’s how Brexit was won. Democracy in Britain is slowly and steadily being dismantled, as accountability is removed and cronyism takes over. It is both sinister AND dangerous.”
“In my village in otherwise generally socialist republican Andalucía there is a very significant minority of all ages who still worship Franco, call everybody else ‘reds’ and ‘communists’ and are proud to be fascist. It’s a perfectly serious political movement all across Spain and you don’t have to scratch very deep to find it. Look out for Spanish flags (especially the version with the ‘pollo’ in the middle*) as clothing motifs, on hunting gear, face masks, bracelets, bumper stickers … In my early days here I jokingly described the expressed views of a Vox-voting restaurant owner, to his face, as ‘… a bit fascist, don’t you think? It’s 2021, not 1938 …’ and his little chest swelled with pride and he showed me his Legionary tattoos and for a moment I thought he was going to stand to attention and sing the national anthem! And, of course, it will not have escaped your attention that the Guardia Civil logo incorporates an actual ‘fasces’**? Bit of a give-away …”
[* The ‘pollo’ is in fact St John’s eagle, portrayed in the middle of the Franquist version of the Spanish flag.
** “A bundle of rods bound about an axe with projecting blade, carried before ancient Roman magistrates as a symbol of authority; later the symbol of Italian fascism” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition, 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).]
Julie Ley Gibbs
“Interesting. I was only having a conversation about this very subject this morning. Fascism has never gone away in the Marina Alta region. In fact it’s rife.”
Michael Frederick Phillips
“Excellent article. Only yesterday a Spanish friend (and now my cleaner once a week since she lost her job after 20 years) told me that if she is out with right-wing friends and politics comes up, she buttons her lip. Isn’t this symptomatic of a world-wide trend that could lead to a clash between autocratic countries led by China and the western democracies? And the best way to attack democracy is from within.”
“The roots of the far right in Spain run deeper than even those of the UK.
“Living in Spain in the late 80s and early 90s I was often shocked at the overt Falangist* support (and memorabilia) that was being pushed. It always seemed a lot more ‘niche’ in the UK right through to the BNP [British National Party] at the start of this decade. UKIP [UK Independence Party] and all that followed became the ‘more permissible’ racism-lite that was fuelled by pernicious press (which has had a far greater influence on the UK than the Spanish press in Spain simply down to readership numbers). Vox seems to take the UKIP approach – but with a subtle wink to the old Francoists and all that they gleefully perpetuated in the name of ‘One Nation’.
“The right-wing fault lines criss-cross across Europe and beyond … and feel empowered by Trump’s reign and Bannon’s toxic ways.”
[* The Falangist Party is a sort of fascist party formed in 1933, ‘adopted’ by Franco to give himself ‘political’ respectability.]
“I am currently in Lanzarote. A neighbour feels this is an appropriate banner to have on their balcony. The problem – of fascism, of racism – never went away. I used to live in a very ‘Spanish’ part of Barcelona where people felt they could do the Roman (fascist) salute and wear the fascist wheat sheaves and sing ‘Cara al Sol’, the fascist anthem. They would march and spit at the apartments of Catalan people ([who were] waving their Catalan flags). The problem never went away. When Spain emerged from under Franco they simply swept everything under the carpet to fester. Better to suppress all the trauma and horror than to deal with it or to encourage truth and reconciliation … Because ignoring problems and hoping they go away – that always works … So, because the problems were ignored, they didn’t go away – just got passed down to the kids. And the problems are still here, but more deeply ingrained than ever …”