Monday, 29 December 2008

A brief history of Spain in stickers (part 1: the right)

Politics geek that I am, whenever I see an interesting bit of graffiti or a sticker knocking about I take a quick snap with my camera phone, so's I can check it a bit later. Having a handful of these I thought I tell youse all a few brief things about the politics and history of Spain through this random collection of snippits.

First up, snapped on Calle de Goya, in the poshest part of the city, a poster for La Falange. It'd be surprising in most countries to see fascists concentrating their propaganda in the rich parts of town. Not, obviously, in Spain, where a lot of the older fortunes round that way were made off Franco's coat-tails. This lot, so I'm told are the 'official' Falange, the direct descendants of Franco's party of government. The picture, suitably enough for the area, is of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the party, executed by the Republican government in November 1936 (during the Civil War). On the very same road, still prominent (and shiny enough to be being maintained), a plaque adorns the front of a chapel anouncing that this fascist Germanophile was "fallecido por dios y espanya" (killed for God and Spain). This is apparently identical to the thousands that were placed on religious buildings across the country under the Generalisimo. In 1981, Madrid's main thoroughfare (Gran Via) had its original named restored, after 42 years as Avenida Jose Antonio.

The modern day Falange now exists as 3 small squabbling parties, arguing over a legacy. As in other countries, the obsessions of the modern far right have shifted from fear of Bolshevism and International Jewry toward more immediate concerns and La Falange participates on some basis in the broader two year old Frente Nacional, that peppers the same areas of Madrid with obscenely racist anti-immigration posters, such as the one illustrated here. The caption at the top reads 'deduce: who is last?' with an elderly Spanish man pushed to the back by various ethnic caricatures. Concluding with 'if you're Spanish, you (should) always (be) first'.

More weird and not so wonderful things than straight up, old-fashioned, Castilian fascism are to be found when venturing out of Madrid, and wandering round Seville, I found something probably unique in European politics: Carlism. Just when the rest of Europe was beginning to stop arguing about such trite nonsense as which particular line of their unelecting, sponging royalty got to be King, Spain was just getting started on a 19th Century full of revolutions and counter-revolutions aimed at founding Republics, or placing different royal lines on the throne. The hardiest challenger to the 'Alfonsine' line of the House of Bourbon, was Carlism. Carlos, the brother of King Ferdinand VII, was briefly heir to the throne, prior to Ferdinand's death, on grounds of being his closest male heir. He was then stripped of this right when it was decided, instead, that a woman would be able to accede to the throne. What he came to represent though, in a time where Spain veered between liberalism and absolute monarchy was the absolutist of the absolutist, the most interventionist notion of the Spanish throne. Now, you might wonder at this point why anyone gives a shit about this sort of thing in this day and age. After all, I saw this sticker on a electrical box in 2008 Seville. Besides which, the Spanish monarchy are absurdly popular, probably the best-loved royal house in the World.

It goes back I suppose to the great big ideological mess that is Spanish conservatism. Back in the '30s, the ostensibly fascist party in Spain (the aforementioned La Falange) were not that big a force. They did a good line is street fighting with anarchists and socialists, but the major force on the Right in pre-civil war politics was a formation called CEDA, an alliance of traditional conservative groups. It was this sector of society that backed the army in their coup d'etat and came to identify the conservative part of their identity with Franquismo and the crusade against godless Reds. So, even though Franco didn't recognise their monarch (and was fairly ambiguous about the role of the actual monarch), it came to pass that Carlism was the only ideology to really turn-out a mass social movement (Los Requetes) that voluntarily fought for Fascism, mostly landowning small/medium farmers from the Northern region of Navarra, who marched for "Dios, patria, rey" (god, country, king). These days the Comunion Tradicionalista Carlista (not to be confused with the Third Way branch of Carlism that supports national socialism and workers' self-management) pulls between 20-50,000 votes nationwide and spends its time promoting Catholic social doctrine, chiefly through intolerance of gays and abortion. They are currently the only political organisation to recognise Carlos Hugo de Borbon Parma as the rightful King of Spain (he's a university professor who lives in Brussels apparently).


John said...

Excellent stuff, Jack. A mate of mine from Barcelona just gave me a copy of the Manual del Cadete for the Frente de Juventudes, which you can see here. It's laughable stuff, but in rather a sad way, obviously.

Jack Ray said...

I didn´t notice anything on 20-N this year (even though I work near Plaza Colon, where they usually gather for that sort of thing).

Barrio de Salamanca is full of rich older ladies shopping in Prada, wandering around in the fur coats and looking for all the world like there´s still a photo of the Generalisimo in their lounge...