Fighting the far right

3 min
Construction workers on strike in Paris, 1936.

1. Danger. Whereas recently in Spain three manifestos signed by retired military officers "concerned about the progressive deterioration suffered by the homeland in the last legislatures" were published, now in France twenty generals in the reserve and a thousand officers published a manifesto on "the grave hour" that the nation is living, and warn that if "laxity continues" there will be an "intervention by our active comrades in a dangerous mission to protect our values of civilisation and to safeguard our compatriots in the national territory". Marine Le Pen has immediately backed the manifesto. The reaction of the French government has been as flat and discreet as that of the Spanish government. And, meanwhile, in both countries, a rising far right is setting the right's agenda. We can look the other way and minimise these events as anecdotal. But history is full of situations in which people have been unwilling to see a danger until it was upon them.

How should you respond to the far right? What are they looking for right now? To create a climate of growing tension, to be the centre of the ideological battle by setting the tempo of the confrontation, knowing that it gives them both notoriety and the status of victims: everyone is against them. Their themes are the same as always: the sacred unity of the homeland, patriarchy, the ghost of communism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, national Catholicism, the restriction of individual rights, the permanent construction of a scapegoat. In France it is more sophisticated and they rely on the clichés of some media ideologues. Le Monde cites three: Éric Zemmour's theory of decline, the fear of the "grand remplacement" (the replacement of the French population) by Renaud Camus and the "race war" by Guillaume Faye. Here the new slogan is against anti-racism because they consider that it leaves the Spanish racial identity defenceless.

2. Politics. Where does the Spanish far right come from? From tradition, the legacy of fascism, which is still very much installed in some sectors of the state apparatus, which is why a large part of the Vox vote comes from the PP, which under the leadership of Aznar managed to bring the entire right wing together in one party. But we cannot ignore the accumulated crises since 2008, both economic and social, and also the Catalan question, which has rekindled Spanish patriotic revanchism. The far right capitalises on the ravages of austerity and the pandemic in the face of the hardship affecting a significant part of the working classes, who find refuge in reactionary thinking even if it is false.

And this is where we come to the key issue: the Socialist party's loss of the working class, meaning it has long since become a party of cadres and middle classes. Neither have the working class backed parties to the left of the Socialists, whose discourse is often too ideological and who find it difficult to connect with the sectors most affected by the current fractures. The transition from industrial capitalism to digital and post-financial capitalism has changed the parameters and the left finds it difficult to adapt, accustomed to the organic bloc of the working class. Therefore, the best way to combat post-fascist authoritarianism is not to be carried away by inertia and to see what the social agents of change are today.

The far right can give us clues. What is their strategy to lead certain sectors towards authoritarianism? To mobilise against the engines of transformation: feminism, environmentalism, anti-racism, individual freedoms. And here there is a central ideological struggle, which the left has to recover, creating complicities, differentiating themselves from the right in economic policies and avoiding the distance caused by ideological arrogance. This is the way to fight authoritarianism, knowing also that the right and an important part of the media have already whitewashed Vox. The right has used the empty concept of populism, which applies to everything and therefore explains nothing, to erase the differences between the two extremes of the political spectrum, legitimising Vox.

What makes no sense is to get into the melee. That's not how you fight fascism; you do it by winning the people's complicity. Vox owes its success to the right, but also to a certain accommodation of social democracy and a certain elitism of Podemos.

Josep Ramoneda is a philosopher