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United Left (Spain)

Spain: Left unity elusive in European poll pre-selections

"Before the crisis: Vote for your rights. United Left, your voice in Europe."

By Dick Nichols

March 26, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- As the May 25 European elections approach, a question that concerns left and progressive people in the Spanish state is just how many left alternatives will end up running against the “parties of government”—the ruling conservative People’s Party (PP) and the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).

Spain: Si, se puede! ‘White tide’ defeats Madrid health privatisation plan

By Dick Nichols

February 1, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Green Left Weekly -- Victories in the never-ending struggle against the sell-off of public services in southern Europe are rare. So when one comes along that is as big as the recent defeat of the Madrid regional government’s scheme to privatise hospital and community health-centre management we should celebrate it to the full.

Basque Country: Huge march advances struggle for peace, national rights

By Dick Nichols

January 19, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- For decades the People’s Party (PP) of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has believed it has a reliable gun in its political holster—unbending opposition to anything that could be portrayed as linked to Basque Homeland and Freedom (ETA), the left-nationalist armed organisation responsible for more than 800 deaths in its 50-year-long fight against the Spanish state.

However, since ETA’s declaration two years ago of a permanent ceasefire, this particular weapon has started to backfire on the Spanish state’s ruling conservative party.

Galicia: Anova's bruising congress a ‘collective apprenticeship’

By Dick Nichols

July 7, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The mainstream media were taken aback: why was the first congress of the Galician left nationalist organisation Anova — the key component along with the United Left (EU in Galicia, IU nationally) in Galicia of the hugely successful Galician Left Alternative (AGE) — so heated and acrimonious, at times reaching the point of “shambles” (the term of the chairperson)?

How come the 16-month-old Anova — vital to AGE winning 14% of the vote in the October 2012 Galician regional elections and now at the point of overtaking the Galician affiliate of the social-democratic Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) in the polls — was having a congress marked by dissent from the rulings of the presiding committee, fierce lobbying of delegates and in-the-corridors distribution of four how-to-vote cards for different tickets for the national coordinating committee?

It was left to Xosé Manuel Beiras, historic leader of Galician left nationalism and Anova’s unanimously re-elected spokesperson, to help the media — and some shell-shocked delegates — grasp what had happened in the Congress Centre of Santiago de Compostela, capital of Galicia, on June 8-9, 2013.

Spain: Rising United Left tackles new challenges

In June 2013, the United Left trailed just 4.7% percentage points behind the PSOE (16.8% to 21.5%). Click on graph for larger size.

By Dick Nichols

June 21, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The latest opinion polls in the Spanish state have been stirring waves of concern in the ruling elites, of hope on the left and storms of comment in the media.

Nationally, they show the radical federation United Left (IU) within reach of closing the gap on the social-democratic Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). In the June Metroscopia poll IU trailed just 4.7% percentage points behind the PSOE (16.8% to 21.5%).

Murray Smith: The real European left stands up

By Murray Smith

May 10, 2013 -- Left Unity, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Murray Smith's permission -- Having followed with sympathy the emergence of Left Unity and the possibility of a new party of the left being launched, I read with interest the two-part article by an anonymous figure, who may or may not be called Michael Ford, which may or may not be a pseudonym. I’m sure we’ll find out. For the purposes of this article, I will refer to him as Ford. In any case, whoever wrote it, the aim of the article is clearly to try and discredit the perspective of building a new party to the left of Labour and validate that of working with/within the Labour Party to drive it to the left.

There will undoubtedly be many replies to Ford from people who are directly involved in politics in Britain, which I am not at present. However, an important part of Ford’s argument is to try and demonstrate that the political forces to the left of social democracy in Europe don’t amount to much, either politically or in terms of their support. In doing so, frankly, he paints a picture which has little relation to reality. This is what I want to take up [1].

Sortu and Basque left nationalism’s strategic relaunch

For more coverage of the Basque struggle, click HERE. For more on Spain, click HERE.

By Dick Nichols

March 5, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Nearly 10 years after the Spanish high court outlawed its previous political organisations, Basque left nationalism has finally given birth to a new legal party—Sortu (“to create” or “to be born” in Basque). The new arrival is a powerful progressive force for Basque independence—socialist, feminist, ecologically aware and staunchly internationalist.

Its goal is an independent socialist Basque-speaking state that unites the three northern Basque regions in the French department of Pyrenees Atlantiques with the four southern Basque regions covering Navarra and Euskadi (the Basque Autonomous Community) in the Spanish state.

Catalonia: Fight over right to decide political future intensifies

[For more coverage of Catalonia, click HERE, and Spain, HERE.]

By Dick Nichols

February 6, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Political tensions within the Spanish state have reached a new pitch following the January 23, 2013, declaration by the Catalan parliament of Catalonia’s sovereign right to decide its own political future. Antagonism is intensifying between the Catalan and national Spanish governments and polarisation continues to increase among and within all main political forces.

The 135-seat Catalan parliament adopted the “Catalan People’s Declaration of Sovereignty and Right to Decide” by 85 votes to 41 with two abstentions. It was supported by the governing conservative nationalist federation, Convergence and Union (CiU), the independentist Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), the left coalition Initiative for Catalonia-Greens and United and Alternative Left (ICV-EUiA), and by one of the three representatives of the left-nationalist Popular Unity Candidacies (CUP).

United Left national convention: ‘This is the Spanish SYRIZA!’

[For more reports and discussion on political developments in Spain, click HERE.]

By Dick Nichols, Madrid

January 4, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On the last day of the 10th federal convention of the Spain’s United Left (Izquierda Unida, IU), Juan Peña, young IU organisation secretary for the Castilian town of Valladolid, summed up his view of the impact of the indignado (15M) movement on the IU, one of the oldest broad left formations in Europe: “15M brought IU good news and bad news. The good news was that our programmatic proposals hit the mark, shared by the people who poured into the streets. The bad news was that the people thought that these proposals were new, their own.”

Behind the rise of the Galician Left Alternative: Interview with Xosé Manuel Beiras

Xosé-Manuel Beiras.

For more on the Galician Left Alternative, click HERE. For more on Spain, click HERE.

Xosé-Manuel Beiras interviewed by Daniel Raventós, translated for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Dick Nichols

Xosé-Manuel Beiras, 76, has been a prominent figure nationalist left politics in Galicia since the 1960s. In 1963 he helped found the Galician Socialist Party (PSG, Partido Socialista Galego), illegal under the Franco dictatorship, and later became its international secretary and then general secretary (1971-77).

In 1982 Beiras participated in the founding of the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG, Bloco Nacionalista Galego), entering its leadership. In 1985 he was elected as a BNG candidate to the 75-seat Galician parliament, and was re-elected in 1989, becoming the BNG’s parliamentary spokesperson. Upon further re-election in 1993 Beiras was also elected as the BNG’s national spokesperson at its seventh national assembly.

Spain: Inspiring rise of the ‘Galician SYRIZA’ (+ AGE program)

For more on the Galician Left Alternative, click HERE. For more on Spain, click HERE.

By Dick Nichols

November 5, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On the morning of October 22, the day after elections to the parliaments of the Basque and Galician autonomous communities of the Spanish state, the TV and radio political pundits were struggling to be wise. Their powers of analysis were not tested so much by the rise of EH Bildu, the Basque left-nationalist coalition—the polls had predicted its vote of 25%. The disorienting new phenomenon was result for the new Galician Left Alternative (Alternativa Galega de Esquerda, AGE).

Just six weeks old and already widely dubbed the “Galician SYRIZA”, AGE won 14% of the vote and nine seats in the 75-seat parliament. The average of poll predictions for AGE before the election was three to four seats and 6 to 7 per cent of the vote.

Spain: As two-party system breaks down, what prospects for a ‘Spanish SYRIZA’?

Demonstrators march to the Spanish parliament against austerity measures announced by the government in Madrid, September 26, 2012.

By Dick Nichols, Barcelona

October 28, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The economic, social and territorial crisis in the Spanish state is morphing into a crisis of the two-party system that has provided Popular Party (PP) or Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) administrations for the last 30 years. Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalist forces (left and right), and the United Left (IU) and Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) parties are gaining support. However, only a brave gambler would put serious money on the future evolution of this crisis. While the two-party set-up has been severely weakened, a replacement party with enough popular support to impose a different solution has yet to emerge.

Europe: Greece, Spain, Portugal – the arc of resistance to austerity hardens

 On September 25-26-27, 2012, up to 50,000 demonstrators tried to encircle the parliament, calling for the resignation of the government and declaring “democracy kidnapped”. There were violent clashes with police.

Read more by Murray Smith. Read more analysis of Greece, Spain, Portugal and France.

By Murray Smith

October 16, 2012 -- Frontline, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- It sometimes seems as if Europe’s sovereign debt crisis has been going on forever. But in fact it really only manifested itself in 2010, a result of the bailing out of private banks with public money and other public spending due to the crisis. And in May of that year Greece became the first country to ask for help and to receive so-called “aid” – really, it cannot be repeated too often, loans that must be paid back – from the now infamous "Troika", the IMF-ECB-European Commission.

Basque Country: Behind the rise of the EH Bildu left coalition

EH Bildu's main election rally.

By Dick Nichols

October 22, 2012 – Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On October 21, in probably the most powerful performance in the history of Basque politics, the left nationalist coalition Euskal Herria Bildu (EH Bildu, Basque Country Assembly) won 25% of the vote and 21 seats in the elections for 75-seat parliament of the Basque Autonomous Community (Euskadi) in the Spanish state. The rise of the EH Bildu came at the expense of all other parties.

(The seven regions of the Basque Country lie between Spain and France. The three provinces of Euskadi — Biskaia, Gipuskoa and Araba — plus the autonomous community of Navarra form its southern zone, Hegoalde, while three regions within the French department of Pyrenées Atlantiques form its northern zone, Iparralde.)

Over the years since the end of the Franco dictatorship the Basque left nationalist vote has varied greatly, depending whether the party representing it was legal or outlawed, or whether the movement was advocating an election boycott. Its highest previous vote for the Euskadi parliament was the 17.9% (14 seats) won by Eusko Herritarrok (EH, Basque Citizens) in 1998. In the October 21 election an extra 50,000 people voted for EH Bildu.

Spain: Huge general strike could mark turning of tide

By Dick Nichols, Barcelona

April 1, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Since the global economic crisis broke out in 2008, the many-sided protest movement against neoliberal austerity has yet to gain enough strength to force any real retreats from governments doing the bidding of capitalism’s ruling elites.

But the March 29 general strike against the new labour law in Spain — hugely supported and backed by often vast demonstrations in 111 cities and towns — could well point to a turning of the tide.

It lifted social resistance in Europe to a new height and gave millions of people a glimpse of how they might finally make the country’s corrupt and arrogant powers-that-be pay for their crisis.

The right-wing media screamed “flop”, but the behaviour of the finance markets told the real story: on strike day the Madrid stock exchange lost nearly 1% (its eighth straight day of losses) and the premium on Spanish public debt rose further over the Italian debt premium that only recently exceeded it.

Crisis, revolt and the left in Europe

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following presentation is a slightly edited and updated version of a talk given on January 20, 2012, to the eighth national conference of the Australian Socialist Alliance, held in Sydney. The slides mentioned refer to the PowerPoint presentation above, which accompanied the talk. Dick Nichols works in the European office of the Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly, based in Barcelona.

* * *

By Dick Nichols

Slide 1

Thank you, comrades, for the invitation to speak—what a pleasure it is to see old faces, and new ones, too! The class struggle may be more advanced in Europe, but I sorely miss what we have created in the Socialist Alliance, as should become clear later in this talk.

My aim is to sketch the present phase of the class struggle in Europe, assess the gains of our side along with the challenges it faces, and hopefully help us all think about what this might mean for Socialist Alliance and the socialist movement in Australia. But the opinions expressed are my own, of course, not the Socialist Alliance’s: so feel free to disagree vigorously!

Spanish election: Right wins, but will face bolder resistance

The 1.68 million-strong vote for United Left was not just the result of the general disaffection with the major parties, but also of a decision to connect its campaign with the protest movement.

By Dick Nichols

November 29, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Green Left Weekly -- On election night, November 20, it all went as the polls had forecast: the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government was massacred, with its lowest vote in 34 years; the right-wing Popular Party got an absolute majority; and left and left-nationalist forces emerged stronger, led by the United Left (IU) and Amaiur, the Basque left-nationalist coalition (results here).

Spain: 'Hot' autumn of protest brews

Protest in Madrid against austerity and constitutional changes, September 6.

By Dick Nichols, Barcelona

September 11, 2011 -- Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In Spain the signs are unmistakable: a “hot autumn” of political and social conflict is brewing in the run-up to the November 20, 2011, general election. Polling night will reveal how much the growing social resistance, brought onto the streets since May largely by the 15-M movement of “indignants”, has shaken up the political scene.

As things stand, the most likely result is a repeat of the wipe-out suffered by the governing social-democratic Spanish  Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) at the May elections for local council and regional governments (known as “autonomous communities”).\

A September 7 the Barometro Cope opinion poll has the right-wing opposition Popular Party (PP) winning  45.1% of the vote and 51.1% of seats.It would trounce the PSOE, which is widely blamed for Spain’s 5 million unemployed. The poll shows the PSOE would win only 31.1% of votes and 36.6% of seats.

Six days that shook Spain

June 19 brought out entire new sections of Spanish society in protest against a massive, cruel and destructive crisis from which those who were responsible are gaining, while ordinary people suffer -- in evictions, in cuts to child and aged care, in health and education.

By Dick Nichols, Barcelona

June 23, 2011 -- Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renwal -- On June 19, huge demonstrations of the M-15 [May 15] movement in 97 Spanish cities and towns brought at least 250,000 people onto the streets. This vast and peaceful turnout marked a new phase in the rising struggle against the austerity policies of the country's "parties of government" -- the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), the People's Party (PP) and the Catalan nationalist Convergence and Union (CiU) -- as well as against the recently adopted Euro stability pact.

Spanish local elections: PSOE rout boosts right and left

Basques celebrate the 25.5% vote for the new Basque nationalist alliance, Bildu, on the evening of May 22, 2011. Photo by www.eitb.com.

By Dick Nichols

May 31, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, an earlier version of this article appeared at Green Left Weekly -- On May 22, in Spain’s local elections, a tsunami of popular rage with the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero spead across this country of 5 million jobless. It swept away PSOE bastions held since the end of Francoism—scores of “faithfully left-wing” cities and regions surrendered to the right.

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