The Spanish general election will be held on Sunday, 23 July 2023 and according to surveys, more than 60% of Spaniards are worried about the prospect of a coalition government that includes the far-right Vox party. The discourse, the narrative and the atmosphere is of regret and reaction. The cascade of regional pacts between conservative party PP and far-right VOX has made it clear that the PP is willing to happily pact with those who deny the existence of gender violence, those who censor culture and who aim to eliminate the conquests in social rights that activists and citizens have achieved with much sacrifice in recent years. Much has been achieved in Spain and now there is fear of returning to values that seemed to belong to the past.
“I am deeply saddened. I have been talking for years about the suicidal nature of this system, about the importance of wealth distribution, about the importance of feminism as a way to improve society. After these last elections, it is clear that this message has not taken hold” Says Lucía Ortiz de Zarate, researcher and academic. “We are experiencing a threat to political consensus that was out of discussion, or at least that’s what we thought.” Says the journalist Nerea Pérez de las Heras as part of the manifesto by Spanish intellectuals that has just been published in defence of the civil rights threatened by the far right.
In the face of this environment of confrontation and a polarised discourse that is gaining terrain in the electoral campaign, as progressives we might tend to entrench in anger, speak from disappointment, from disaffection, or collapse in cynicism. But none of this is going to make us win the elections, none of this is going to protect the Law on Climate Change, the public health system or minority rights.
This campaign has focused mostly on the fear to fascism and the fear of the far right entering the institutions, progressivists are putting the attention on the danger of having VOX entering the central government. In this context, where the debate is dominated by this fear, it is necessary to rethink our position and from where we decide to take action in order to better organise and strategize our power.
Identifying our objectives, understanding our battles
The far right has managed to set the tone and topics to debate during the campaign while the left seems to be constantly reacting to their provocations and entering into cultural fights with little space to contribute with facts and arguments. But this tension and dichotomy only benefits the far-right, as it’s been proved in the regional elections that forced Pedro Sanchez to anticipate the general elections.
Dividing us is fully functional to the far-right strategy, because their fundamental strength is basically separating and manipulating the discourse with fake facts. Therefore, reacting to this narrative and letting them set the agenda puts us exactly where they want. This division and manipulation implies an immobilisation of our creative action; it is fundamental that we carefully define the battles that are worth fighting at this historic moment and organise ourselves consistently. We always knew it will be a constant struggle, but we will have to continue making progress across borders on key issues, such as guaranteeing access to the right to abortion, LGBTQI+ rights, women rights, migrant rights and freedom of speech.
We have reasons to be confident about a country that has managed to mobilise and organise to achieve and conquer so much in so little time. Over recent years, Spain has managed to respond to serious challenges with policies based on social justice. As it reads the international manifesto signed by political leaders across the world, the Spanish government has shown that it is possible to boost economic growth and job creation without weakening the welfare state or weakening the rights of the working class or environmental protection.
“With these policies, Spain has not only set itself up as an example of progressive management in the face of serious crises. It has also committed to a fairer global order of peace and progress to fight against global inequality.”
The challenge we have in front of us is to create grassroots dynamics and power that push the situation and open possibilities for action and think outside the limited frameworks of what is possible to achieve as organised civil society. In this sense, it is interesting to look at the dynamics of care and organisation that civil society and grassroot groups are putting into practice to shift the discourse and open new debates against the mainstream narrative. We have to redirect public concerns to our own agenda. In this sense, we have already seen that anything that has to do with gender issues manages to mobilize more on both sides of the political spectrum, but it would not hurt to pay attention to issues such as tax cuts, health privatization, housing policies, cuts in equality or social rights. Against fear, organisation in order to win the elections.