The International Writers Magazine: New Left - New beginning
THE MAINE, TO HELL WITH SPAIN!
(Popular US slogan in 1898)
either with us or against us, said George Bush to the rest
of the world, soon after the tragic terrorist attack on the twin
towers in New York. This statement ricocheted around the world like
lightning. Most of the US enemies shuddered in their boots;
others came running to the fore eager to join the with you
club. Spains PP (Peoples Party) President at the time,
Jose María Aznar was one of them.
the United States lead coalition, strongly backed by Britain and Spain,
successfully crushed the Talibans in Afghanistan and the Hussein
regime in Iraq the road was paved for a super Anglo-Spanish relationship
never before achieved in the history of both countries. At least at
face value, that is what it seemed like.
But not all was sugar dandy with the modern day population
of al Andalus as Spain was known during the Arab occupation
of the earlier centuries. Ever since the Cuban War in the late XIX century
when the USA liberated Cuba and the Philippines and Spain lost the remainder
of its empire, animosity towards Uncle Sam has run deep, very deep.
There isnt an intellectual, philosopher, journalist, trade unionist
or (mainly left wing) politician that over the past century has not
held a grudge against Big Brother across the pond. Every
time the US government imposed its world strategy in international affairs,
Spanish society was bombarded, mainly through the press with anti-American
rhetoric. It came as no surprise, therefore that when the Bush Administration
decided almost unilaterally to invade Iraq that all these lefties
hit the trail with a renewed hate campaign. The PSOE (Spanish Workers
Socialist Party) opposition party, and its leader Jose Luis Rodriguez
Zapatero was no exception.
Over the past year Sr. Zapatero has objected, criticised and even insulted
his opposite number regarding world policy. He cleverly prepared his
future political program, should he ever win the upcoming Spanish national
elections to completely revise Spains international relationships,
specially those with the European Union. Internally though, his proposed
changes were nimble and therefore not taken seriously. Spains
economic statistics, including low unemployment, steady growth rate
and other factors were too sound. Hence the opposition had no leg to
stand on if they should try any radical change in this area. Sr. Aznar
made mincemeat of any argument of change in Spains economic forum.
Meanwhile straddling the side wings of the country, the nationalists
in the Basque country were giving the government a hard time with their
constant request for a reform of the Spanish constitution which in turn
could spell independence for the region. Sr. Aznar kept telling them
to go to hell. The Catalans followed suit after their own regional elections
earlier this year and Galicia, another nationalist stronghold continued
to stand on the sideline awaiting the results of these regional debacles.
Most nationalist parties were also strongly anti-American.
Although Sr. Aznar was due to step down by his own choice in the forthcoming
March general elections, leaving way to his successor, Mariano Rajoy,
he was riding on the crest of a wave. All indicators therefore, pointed
towards a renewed PP victory.
Then came the horrendous terrorist attack in Madrid on the 14th of March.
Three days after the attack, Spain held its national elections and,
lo and behold the PSOE won, albeit with a minority number of seats in
the Spanish parliament.
Aside from political ideologies, Sr. Zapatero portrayed an image of
complete contrast to his predecessor Sr. Aznar. To many he appealed
as a breath of fresh air. During his period in the opposition, he vowed,
were he elected Prime Minister to lead a government of consensus, dialogue
and reconciliation. He constantly battled his opponent on the nationalist
issues mentioned earlier accusing him of using tactics reminiscent of
the old Franco regime. Unable to challenge Sr. Aznar on economics, Sr.
Zapatero focused on such topics as womens rights, sounder employment
regulations, education and research. He vowed to crush the exploitation
of the work force, subjected for years into forceful temporary
job contracts. He promised equality for women in his government and
the reduction of fees for students in higher education. However, his
views on the fight against terrorism were no different to that of his
predecessor. On the international front he insisted in further integration
within the European Union (this meant stronger alliances with France
and Germany rather than Britain), a friendlier approach to the Arab
Nations and of course, the return of the Spanish troops from Iraq.
To many others, these views had the seal of weakness, immaturity and
political naivety. Some had even nicknamed him Bambi with
too soft a touch to be in charge of one of the major world powers. Most
conservatives felt that if voted into office, Sr. Zapatero would succumb
to outside pressure and most of his promises would dissolve into thin
air. So what has taken place in the last few days since the elections?
In the order of least impact, Sr. Zapatero has formed a government comprising
an equal number of males to females as his leading Ministers. He has
annulled the implementation of the recently approved education law and
reverted to the old socialist system. He has had
to form an alliance with the leading Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalists
in order to govern, but in turn has agreed to review the present constitution
to favour an increase in autonomy for these regions. And last but not
least he has instructed his new Defence Minister, Sr. Bono to proceed
with the immediate return of the Spanish troops stationed in Iraq. In
a nutshell, Sr. Zapatero has shown that he meant what he said and, despite
his critics has proved that he has the guts to go through with his plans.
He has also opened up a whole new can of worms both internally and internationally.
For the time being the troop removal order has placed the new and incumbent
Prime Minister in the limelight of the rest of world and is probably
his most immediate and serious challenge. This whole issue is so complex
that it is impossible at this stage to diagnose, let alone assess it.
Will other nations follow? Will fundamentalist Islamic terrorism increase?
Will NATO suffer? Will the relationship between the European Union and
the USA with regards to the war on terrorism alter? And probably the
most important question will be, will it reduce or increase Spains
vulnerability in the event of further attacks? None of these questions
nor many other similar ones can be answered at the moment but one effect
is sure to be felt in the near future.
Spain has changed its suit and tie and replaced it with jeans and a
T-shirt. Whether the next change of clothes is into a djellabah and
a burka is yet to be seen.
© James Skinner. 2004.
Left Won in Spain
all rights reserved