Thursday, 5 February 2009

A history of Spain in stickers (part 2 The Left)

One of the funny things about Spanish Stalinism (and there are very few funny things about Spanish Stalinism) is how dramatically its experiences affected the rest of its European sister parties. The legacy of its time in government during the Civil War was that the party ended up full of middle-class lefties, who wanted a Republic of order, stability and well, whisper it, capitalism. These people were also the core of the party´s elite in exile, and when they came back they behaved in the same way. Despite brief flirtations with guerrilla expeditions after World War 2 (Tito´s exploits evidently got them over-excited), they generally stuck to pretty moderate stuff when opposing the Generalisimo, even to the extent that their present trade union the CC.OO derives loosely from their infiltration of the old Franquista state-sponsored trade unions. It´s not surprising they invented Stalinism-lite aka Euro-Communism (a sort of social democratic cheerleading squad for third world revolutionaries), which then spread around Western Europe. These days they´re light on street presence, but are the largest component of third biggest party in national elections (Izqueirda Unida). You can still find their wee ones (the Unión de Juventudes Comunistas de España) running around putting up stickers like this one about the Battle of Berlin. Of course when you´re a minority of the government, nothing attracts the otherwise disillusioned kiddies like your "glorious" antifascist past and some nice red flags.

Also unsurprising, that they spawned some "return to real coke" communists (err... anti-revisionists maybe?), who go around being all early 30s sectarian. Welcome to the Partido Comunista de los Pueblos de España (PCPE) and their especially charming youth section the CJC (Colectivos de Jóvenes Comunistas). They´re loving their hammer and sickles too, but not in the Reichstag planting way, but in declaring whole neighbourhoods their territory. This was in Lavapies, the city centre´s most mixed and most proley barrio. It reads Antifascist Workers Neighbourhood. Bolshier and much less mainstream than the PCE/IU, the PCPE was founded back in the 1980s, when everyone registered that the PCE weren´t going to take over, and some people got nostalgic for the idea that Marxist-Leninism might actually mean challenging capitalism. They´ve a few thousand members apparently, but never poll anywhere near six figures nationally. The kiddies website is full of affection for all sorts of noxious third-world dictatorships and other such third worldist crap that gets Rage Against the Machine fans excited.

As a interesting sideline they also seem to fish quite effectively in the pool marked ´antisocial punky squatters who are confused about what they want´, through various ´independentist youth groups´. The fact that Spain is more or less four or five different countries shoe-horned together by historical coincidence, means that some kids get terribly excited by the idea of liberating their socialist homeland. Like these funny Jaleo!!! kids (and yes, the exclamation marks are in the name). Who were busily plastering Cordoba with these smart looking posters for a free and socialist Andalucía. You see the same thing in other cities, youngsters who live in squats and want to break off pieces of Spain (almost every CSO - Occupied Social Centre in Bilbao has a flag of the Basque homeland on it...), and aren´t really sure whether they´re Anarchists, National Liberationists, Guevarists or some unworldly mix of all of the above.

Finally, there´s my lot, who probably on balance who got more material stuck to walls than anyone else in the city. I don´t know if there´s more of us, or just that we love stickers (anarchists looove stickers), but they´re everywhere. It´s a reassuring feeling to know that one of yours has already been past here recently. This one says (I think ... wasn´t sure about the expression, any Spanish speakers want to explain that one?), "Working week of 65 hours? We will see the faces!!", part of the campaign against a proposed sixty five hour working week. The CNT in Madrid these days is a couple of thousand ish I think, they´ve a nice office in Plaza Tirso de Molina (you can´t miss it there´s a big banner on the 2nd floor), which I presume was paid for or given in recompense for, all the stuff that the Francoists took off them. The CNT is apparently in a period of moderate growth after dropping first from the Civil War high of 2-3 million, to the post-Franco opening of maybe as much as 500,000, to a modern union of 10,000 members with a lot more people influenced by it. The split from the 1980s is a bit more moderate and has about six times that ...

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