Extreme right and xenophobic parties in Spain, Part I

By Daria Terradez Salom, CIDH Pro Igual

This article continues the Pro Igual series of blogs exploring the connection between the extreme right movement and hate crimes in Spain. Part I reviews the three biggest ultra-right parties legally existing in Spain. Part II analyzes the Spanish legislative framework on political parties and movements and exposes its weaknesses.

Introduction

Freedom of opinion and expression are among the most treasured values in a rule-of-law state. They ensure diversity that must be guaranteed and protected in any democracy. However, there are groups that wrap themselves in constitutional protection while attacking and undermining the very freedoms upon which the democratic states are based. Such groups use their fundamental freedoms to spread the message of hate that has no place in a rule-of-law social democracy.

Among the multitude of extreme right, racist and xenophobic parties currently populating the Spanish political landscape, we have chosen in this analysis to focus on Plataforma x Catalunya, España 2000 and Democracia Nacional. The choice of these particular three is based on the following objective criteria: their active involvement in government structures on different levels; their considerable media presence; and their ever hardening xenophobic rhetoric and stance during the election campaigns. The parties are reviewed in order of increase of their radical extremism, the latter party being the most candid proponent of fascism and the Nazi ideas of racial superiority.

Plataforma per Catalunya

Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC) was formed in April 2002, after the entry into force of the Organic Law 6/2002 on Political Parties that was much more lax in its legality requirements than the previous legislation. Led by Josep Anglada, PxC advocates the priority of setting up the national, especially Catalan, front to stop the “hordes of immigrant invaders” that undermine the national Catalan identity and way of life. PxC estimated that “Catalonia was Number 1 in Europe and Number 2 in the world (after the US) in reception of immigrants” (without providing figures or sources). This did not square with the data of the National Institute of Statistics which showed that in 2011 there was negative net migration in Spain, with the biggest drop in immigration registered in the province of Barcelona.”

To stop the advance of the hordes, PxC proposed the following program during the 2011 election campaign: absolute priority for Catalans in access to jobs, as well as to benefits and subsidies provided by the Catalonian administration; making illegal immigration a criminal offense; and total elimination of the budget for social integration policies for immigrants. The proposed measures would require reforming the Spanish regulatory framework on immigration, the Penal Code, and even the Constitution (article 14) in order to be implemented. Notwithstanding this program, as well as some questionable public statements from its leaders, PxC does not define itself as a xenophobic party.

For example, in an interview to the program “Between the Lines” in 2008, a high-ranking member of the PxC, Sergio Serralvo declared his admiration for Adolf Hitler. Among other things, he insisted that “it cannot be denied that our race is superior, because while the rest of the world did not exist we already had culture and civilization,” and “cultural mixing does not bring us anything. The only consequence of it is unemployment, crime and price inflation. Since the world started, it has been proven time and again that the only thing mixing does is destroy civilizations. I am a racist, but I am not a xenophobe.”

During the latest elections held in May 2011, PxC launched a polemic video: the first image subtitled “Catalonia 2011” shows three girls jumping rope, with a typical Catalan song playing in the background; the next image subtitled “Catalonia 2025” shows three girls clad in burqa with an Arabic melody in the background. In the third image Mr. Anglada appears to promise salvation.

As a result of the elections, PxC support increased fivefold, especially in the areas with high concentration of immigrants from outside the EU. Although in absolute terms this was not significant, the media registered this increase in xenophobic vote as popular support for stopping immigration.

España 2000

This political formation was established in July 2002. It defines itself as “part of anti-immigration movement concurrent with the opinion of large sectors of the Spanish and European population opposed to massive and illegal immigration altering the European landscape.” Among its main program points is cancelling residence permits for family reunification. Other proposals are very similar to those advanced by PxC and both groups reportedly maintain close relations and coordinate their positions.

Like PxC, España 2000 does not openly proclaim itself racist or xenophobic, since it could hurt its election chances as well as run afoul of the Spanish laws. However, its position formulated during the II Congress does not leave doubts: in addition to outspoken preference for immigration from the European Union, it rejects “massive influx from other cultures and religions,” proposes “barriers for immigration from countries whose nationals, as statistically demonstrated, have over-proportionately contributed to worsening of security situation,” and demands that “the State cracks down on bands of delinquents that arrived with immigration.” España 2000 intolerance goes beyond immigrants, extending to other “marginal” and “overprotected” groups, such as gays, feminists, and transsexuals.

Setting aside their attitudes towards immigration, another preoccupying aspect of such formations is their stress on security as “the primary human right without which no other right could be realized” and the demand of “the law on legitimate defense.” There is no fundamental right to security, outside of personal security, while legitimate self-defense in face of unlawful aggression, as defined in the Penal Code (article 20), entails very strict criteria to be considered as such. In other words, the political program of España 2000 not only justifies but encourages violence, and taken in conjunction with its notorious anti-immigration stance, is precisely something that Organic Law 6/2002 on Political Parties sought to prevent.

During the last elections, the campaign of the España 2000 candidate in Alcalá de Henares (the province of Madrid), Jesus Dominguez, launched an unconcealed attack on immigrant businesses in the area: “Alcala has totally changed. Due to uncontrolled immigration the foreigners already exceed 25% of the local population. Our streets are filled with their bazaars, call centers, fruit stalls, butcher shops… On top of making our streets look ugly, lots of those establishments host shady business. I am not saying all immigrants are criminals, but without a doubt more immigration means more crime.”España 2000 managed to get representation in Alcala.

As other extreme right organizations, España 2000 is not merely an abstract idea. It actively utilizes social networks and other media to mobilize sympathizers and spread their xenophobic message. For example, on its Facebook profile, followers rooted for Marine LePen to win the election in France so she would throw away foreigners (Muslims) and lead the rest of Europe to do the same, as well as insulting various groups of immigrants.

From the legislative point of view such conduct may seem harmless and falling into the scope of freedom of expression. However, in the words of the late Constitutional Judge Roberto García-Calvo y Montiel, this conduct is also degrading to the freedom of expression as well as to human dignity.

Democracia Nacional

Democracia Nacional (DN) was founded in 1995 merging together several extreme right groups, including the openly neo-Nazi CEDADE. DN is also part of EuroNat, formed in 2005, a bloc of ultra-nationalist parties in the European Parliament and led by the extreme right National Front from the neighboring France. DN explicitly propagates ideas of racial superiority of the white race, idealizes the past Nazi or fascist regimes, and demonizes foreigners.

DN leader, Manuel Canduela, is a former frontman of the RAC band Division 250, and in 1993 was sentenced to prison for participating in the activities of the outlawed neo-Nazi group Radical Action and his role in assassination of anti-fascist activist Guillem Agulló, as well as violent attacks against gays, foreigners and left-wing activists. Following his criminal conviction, Canduela changed his tactics but not his ideology: “We had to decide what was more important, our ideas or shaven heads. …When we abandoned our skinhead style (and I repeat, this was the only thing we abandoned), our lives stayed exactly the same. Fighting the system.”

DN insists on strict discipline among its members during the public manifestations: “Above all – absolute DISCIPLINE. Give good image, surely TV will be there. It´s an opportunity to show we are normal Spaniards. ABSOLUTELY CORRECT CLOTHING. They hope to snap a photo of a skinhead – don´t give them a chance. NO MISTAKES. ”

DN so far has minimal political representation in Spain, obtaining less than half a percent of votes in the general elections in 2000, 2004 and 2008. During the general election 2011, DN slogan “Our people first!” was nearly identical to that of España 2000 (“Spaniards first!”), while their electoral program was nearly entirely focused on restricting immigration. Like other extreme right movements, DN members talk of “invasion” by illegal immigrants (especially Muslims) yet deny their racist or xenophobic persuasion: “we are neither racists nor xenophobes… we defend our national sovereignty and the rights of the Spaniards and to do that we consider necessary to effectively restrict illegal immigration…”

However, DN managed to attract considerable following among disenfranchised youth and, owing to their style, also among military. It is not by chance that some of the highest profile violent attacks in the recent years had been committed by DN sympathizers, for example the murder of Carlos Palomino. Considering the unfolding economic crisis affecting ever great numbers of Spanish people and the DN aggressively populist message, they are likely to attract even more supporters.

In the next article, we will discuss the Spanish legislative framework on political parties highlighting its weaknesses that allow parties, such as PxC, España 2000, Democracia Nacional, among others, to exist and poison the political discourse on immigration.