Courageous legislative measures against the far-right cannot be adopted unless two of the great taboos of Spanish political culture are first broken.
Albert Noguera is Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Valencia. He is a member of the Ruptura group.
Originally posted in Spanish in El Diario
Translated and edited by BRAVE NEW EUROPE
Election after election, the far-fight Spanish party Vox is not only consolidating but growing. Nothing seems to indicate that neo-fascism is going to deflate without further action from the state and the law. However, it will be difficult for the so-called progressive government to adopt measures in this direction if it is not capable, beforehand, of breaking two taboos embedded in Spanish political culture. This is due to the manner in which the transition from fascism and the legal-cultural heritage of the liberal tradition were carried out: 1. Recognising that Francoism still survives in part of the State apparatus and society. And 2. The recognition that the Law is institutionalised violence.
But let’s take this one step at a time.
Neo-fascism is not going to weaken on its own.
Vox cannot be analysed in isolation from the historical context in which it operates. The normalisation of Vox and the dissemination of its message in the media owned by big capital would not take place if it were not beneficial to their interests. But why is neo-fascism useful to big capital?
We are immersed in a transformation of capitalism that is channelled, among other things, through the financing-digitisation nexus. This nexus is putting into practice, in the societies of the North, a new model of accumulation with ways of organising production, and consumption in which wage labour is increasingly dispensable and, consequently, also the right to freedom, social rights, and instances of interclass mediation.
The disappearance of the contract as the central organisational figure of the productive process means that capitalism no longer requires for its functioning the recognition of free and legally equal individuals, which is indispensable for the signing of contracts. Likewise, unlike productive capital, which was interested in promoting consumption through wages (effective consumption), financial capitalism is interested in promoting it not through wages but through credit (indebted consumption), which is where capital multiplies through interest. This makes the usefulness of social rights as a mechanism for organising consumption disappear, insofar as these are nothing more than deferred wages organised by the state with the aim of freeing up direct wages for effective intensive consumption. And finally, precariousness, loyalty through indebtedness, and individualisation through teleworking have deactivated any organisational and conflictual capacity of labour, which means that interclass mediation is no longer required.
In this scenario, the presence of neo-fascism in the political arena becomes a functional instrument for the system with a triple objective: to carry out an accelerated dismantling of the three legs of the democratic Constitution (rights of freedom, social rights, and institutions for mediation); to build, within the framework of infra-institutionalised societies and without collective solidarity structures, new forms of cohesion and social unity based on the discourse of hate against common external (immigration) and internal (independence movements) enemies; and to form a criminal police state that represses resistance arising from the social unrest caused by the dismantling of rights and generates fear to prevent them from being reproduced.
Nothing seems to indicate, then, that the mainstream media at the service of the powerful are going to stop legitimising Vox, nor that it will cease to have sufficient support to grow, which means that it is unlikely to be a phenomenon that deflates on its own. The only way to achieve this is by adopting, from the State and the Law, courageous legislative measures that persecute today’s Francoists, expelling them from our daily lives. However, this will not happen if we are unable to break two taboos deeply embedded in Spanish political culture:
The taboo of recognising the persistence of Francoism
On the one hand, there is a tendency to analyse Vox as if it were an intruder that has slipped into a fully democratic Spanish reality. In this sense, the proposed solution is that of the “cordon sanitaire”, ignoring them so that they do not contaminate democracy. It seems as if Vox is being identified with neo-fascism and the rest of society and the state with democracy. This is the first mistake. The phenomena that occurs in every society must be understood as part of it, and therefore Vox is nothing other than an expression of something that also exists in society and the state. Neo-fascism is part of society and the state itself. Spanish society and the Spanish state contain in their recent history both progressive and reactionary acts. Our social and political present contains aspects from a democratic tradition but also from a Francoist reactionary tradition that is embodied in what we call the ’78 Regime (the government that was established in a compromise transition from Franco to a more democratic system) and which today encompasses parts of the administrative, judicial, military, ecclesiastical and police structure, as well as forms of citizen organisations (groups, foundations and extreme right-wing parties, associations, football team ultras, etc.) with a conservative and/or ultra-nationalist ideology. One cannot speak of Vox as an anomalous intruder and separate from reality, but as bearers of this reactionary aspect of Spanish history still present both in the state apparatus and in society.
Understanding this is fundamental to understand that putting an end to Vox without recognising the existence of this social and State bloc that we call the ’78 Regime or doing anything to purge it is an illusion. Acknowledging that Francoism is still present in our State apparatus and society is taboo in Spanish politics, whose government looks the other way when groups of soldiers who want to shoot millions of people sign Francoist manifestos. When pre-democracy flags are displayed at demonstrations and police officers are photographed demonstrating their solidarity with the far-right demonstrators. When the ECHR condemns judges for violating rights and some of these judges sing at their Christmas dinners songs deriding the currently imprisoned catalan leaders. Etc. Politics cannot be de-fascisticised without first de-fascisticising society and the powers of the state. And this requires overcoming the taboo of recognising the persistence of Francoism. Acknowledging its existence is the first step towards being able to act against it.
The taboo of recognising that Law is institutionalised violence
On the other hand, liberal theory developed an account of the origin of the state and law as the opposite of violence. These would arise from a social contract that allows the transition from a supposedly violent moment to a non-violent one: the society of nature and the civil state. The starting point is the state of nature, a state of war in which people’s rights are not protected and from which they have to leave. The point of arrival is the civil state with a sovereign power at the head that puts an end to violence and guarantees peace. Law is presented as the creation of a non-violent coexistence in which everyone must respect fundamental rights which, as the preamble to the French Declaration of 1789 stated, are “sacred”. This makes it taboo to say that Vox and other pro-Franco groups should be outlawed, and to prevent them from holding any kind of public demonstration. “Everyone has the right to think, give their opinion and express themselves as they wish. You’re a despot,” they immediately reply.
This is a taboo built on a false narrative. Law is neither the absence of violence nor are fundamental rights absolute. Law is nothing more than a way of meeting violence with violence. To believe that a society can exist without power, domination, and violence is an illusion. Law is inevitably institutionalised violence that becomes democratic when it is used to guarantee human rights and the well-being of the majority. At the same time, fundamental rights are also not unlimited but can be restricted in order to guarantee the dignity and rights of all people. Normalising this, together with the recognition that Francoism is still partially present, are necessary conditions to be able to adopt courageous legislative reforms capable of pursuing and dislodging the ultra-right from the country’s political and social scene.