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Rise of fascism: Spain’s democracy on the brink

The victory of the Popular Front in the general elections of 1936 was defeated by a coup d’état. Nowadays, the Spanish left faces the threat of the far-right to maintain democracy. Both eras were defined by an evident clash of progressive forces against a fascist opposition. On the 23rd of July Spanish democracy will be decided in a contested scenario.


Juanjo Andrés Cuervo


On the evening of the 10th of June, Podemos and Movimiento Sumar reached an agreement to join forces for the next general election. This was great news for the Left.

Since PM Pedro Sánchez called for a snap general election to be held on the 23rd of July, there have been long and arduous days of negotiations between different political parties.

Finally, over dozen political parties have joined together under Movimiento Sumar. Led by Yolanda Díaz, this organisation will be essential to attempt to stop a far-right government in Spain.

As the Spanish voting system punishes fragmentation, the union of the two parties increases the chances to repeat a coalition Government as in 1936 and 2020.

The statistics show that an eventual alliance between the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and Movimiento Sumar, with the support of the left-wing parties of Catalonia and the Basque Country, might be enough to win the majority in Parliament.


There is hope for the Left to repeat the coalition Government. In the general elections of 2015, 2016, and the two in 2019, the left-wing parties gained more deputies than the right.

Hence, 2023 will define whether the progressive trend continues in Spain or the reactionary hurricane which is ravishing Europe and the United States crosses the Pyrenees.

The Popular Front and the rise of fascism

In February 1936, the Popular Front won the Spanish general elections. This was a left-wing coalition formed by Republicans, which included the PSOE, the Communist Party of Spain (Partido Comunista Español, or PCE), the Republican Left (Izquierda Republicana, or IR) and the Republican Union (Unión Republicana, or UR).

Some months later, Franco and his army carried out a coup d’état. From the 18th of July of 1936 until the 1st of April 1939, a bloody Civil War was fought in Spain.

Consequently, the most progressive Spanish government in history was destroyed by sheer violence.

The Spanish Civil war and the subsequent four decades of dictatorship became the bloodiest and most brutal era in the country’s history.

Movimiento Sumar: the contemporary Popular Front

To reinforce the welfare state, Movimiento Sumar must follow the route marked out by Unidas Podemos, that is, aiming to improve the material conditions for the vast majority of the population.

Since 2020, the coalition government has passed important measures, including the housing law, the labour reform, the LGBTQ+ equality law, the creation of a living income, and the significant increase of the minimum wage up to €1,080.

Movimiento Sumar must attain enough parliamentary power to push the PSOE to implement the most radical measures.

By contrast, a triumph of PP and Vox would threaten the advances accomplished in recent years. Their ideology aims at privatising the welfare system, giving more benefit to the elites, while their socially exclusive concept of the state and their incendiary rhetoric bring back memories of the darkest past in Spain. In its modern form, it recalls Francoism but combined with the most savage neoliberal nightmare.

Without any doubt, the next elections will be extremely contested. The famous phrase written by Engels and published by Marx in “The eighteen brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” may serve to summarise the Spanish historical and political juncture.

If history does indeed occur “first as tragedy, and then as farce”, the echoes of the 1930s resound noisily in present-day Spain.

The Popular Front won the elections in 1936 against a reactionary right that which then decided to slaughter Spain.

In 2023, the Movimiento Sumar assumes the role of an intersectional party. If the left triumphs again, surely PP and Vox will not be satisfied with the outcome. As happened in the USA and Brazil, a threat of reaction by force is floating in the air.

The lawfare that had a substantial role in crushing progressive governments in Latin America represents a phantom menacing our democratic societies. Moreover, a victory of the far-right in Spain would surely serve to establish a firm alliance with the Brothers of Italy led by Giorgia Meloni.

Two neo-fascist governments in Southern Europe would mean a nightmare for migrants, women, the LGTBQ+ community and people ideologically Left-aligned. In a global context defined by wars and economic crisis, NATO’s legitimacy undermines the pursuit of human rights.

Since 2022, it has become clear that as long as countries follow NATO designs, the xenophobic and fascist character of those regimes does not matter. Poland and Italy are the perfect examples of this. Spain may become the next one. And yet, for international supporters of the Left, Spain remains as a beacon of hope. The memories of 15 May 2011 and its democratic strength remain in our times.

To continue with the legacy, a massive mobilisation of the Left electorate is needed. From 1936 to 2023, the echoes of “No pasarán” will be heard during a hot summer night.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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