This past Sunday thousands of pandemic denialists demonstrated in Madrid horrifying the regional government, in the hands of the PP, the majority party of the Spanish right wing. On the other side of the continent, in Korea, the religious right wing led a similar march. Both replicated the great success of the Berlin rally in which a good chunk of the alternative and anarchist underground literally came out by the hand of the far right. In Spain, in Korea and in Germany the state’s knee-jerk reaction was to promise a heavy handed response. But obviously it doesn’t work. Tell the Serbian government, the target of what has been so far the most spectacular rally of the movement: the massive assault on the parliament by a coalition of Red Star Belgrade hooligans and anti-vaccine activists. What lies underneath this strange alliance of ultras, conspiracy-mongers, anarchists, libertarians of various stripes and underground geeks? What do they want?
The topic of this article was chosen by the readers of our news channel in Telegram (@communia).
The origin of “The movement”
The year was 2017. In Spain, Catalan independentism was on the rise and the social status of the European petty bourgeoisie was on the decline. so much so that an Ikea store was celebrated as the resurgence of Madrid’s Barrio de Salamanca formerly a boutique territory. In the United States, Steve Bannon had just left his post as Trump’s advisor and was already preparing a new adventure by organizing self-honoring dinners in Washington. In these events, in which ultra leaders such as Orban and Netanyahu would end up coinciding, figures from the right wings of conservatism were already appearing. Among Spaniards, Rafael Bardají, an early Aznarite, exclusive importer of neoconservatism in the 2000’s and intellectual author of the Spanish deployment plan in Iraq, was building the first bridges for the financing of a new born extra-parliamentary party: Vox. In Bannon they were looking for a link with the new American foreign policy and its financing, but also part of the magic of the millionaire advisor from Goldman Sachs who had recovered the art of the reactionary propaganda of the 30 and turned the alt-right into an electoral force.
Less than a year later, Bannon w was portrayed as Soros’ specular nemesis, the Che Guevara of Trumpism and spoke – a lot – of the foundation he intended to create to promote the identitarian right in Europe and to break up the EU from within. The German conservatives, old Europeanists and Atlantists saw something coming that could have serious consequences.
Salvini, who at the time was trying to organize some of the most atrabiliary petty bourgeois right-wingers of the continent in view of the European elections, also saw something that could go beyond a mere handhold… but in a different way. At the end of the day, his goal is to rule. His polling and analysis machine, the Beast, tailored for electoral promotion, is more sophisticated than that of the Republicans or the Democrats in the United States. Salvini only triggers controversies which he has already won, either because the social consensus favors him, or because even in the minority they serve to remove his rivals from the control of the right wing. In other words, the use of Bannon’s arguments gave him just over a week of trial balloons on vaccines.
Because Bannon saw the potential for growth of the far-right precisely in that youthful and internet underground of the conspiracy-mongers, the anti-vaccines and in general of all that whismsical thinking that whenever reality contradicts its desires it simply denies reality. It used to be called idealism, then post-modernity, and now there are those who call it the primacy of the narrative. But it’s the same thing. There was his social base: increasingly angry, distrustful and open to raving delusion. And this is where Bannon was to guide them as he had done in America through Breitbart News.
First respondent: Boris Johnson, another master of denial. And with the help of his Tory friends, the dream of every Californian tourist: a monastery town in Italy to teach the new techniques in old Europe. Of course, neither Salvini nor the cinque stelle were very comfortable with an extra Vatican 30km away from Rome… so they couldn’t do anything to stop the Italian ministry of culture from blocking the American’s momentum until this very May.
The slights didn’t stop Bannon. The support of the US intelligence networks paved the way for him to get to know all of Europe and open the door to funding. In Spain it was first another Aznar’s man, Aleix Vidal Quadras, and with him and through the MEK -the terrorist group carrying out the attacks in Iran for the US and Israel- Vox’s first millions dollars. And so it was until shortly before the pandemic, when the Republican donors’ conference, the CPAC, dressed its sponsored members in long robes, from Bolsonaro to Abascal.
The pandemic opportunity
But if Bannon knows anything, it’s that grassroots support is not something that is mobilized only for campaigns or is exclusively dependent on party leaderships. By the end of 2019 he was already beginning to build a network organized by the language of informal groups. Anti-vaccines, 5G and radiation conspiracy-mongers, anti-Semites obsessed with Soros… everything fit into an underground that was growing out of the media’s eyes. With the pandemic it multiplied. There was his chance. In Whatsapp, in Telegram, Spanish and Argentinean groups, Serbian, French, Italian, German ones and so on…
And the detritus was fertile. In May the first protests broke out in the Salamanca district. Shortly after, in the United States, the anti-masks merged with the anti-vaccines. Then came the denialist demonstrations of the angry petty bourgeoisie in Buenos Aires which opened the first cracks in the Argentine right wing, also pointing to Larreta, Macri’s dolphin, as a collaborator of the Peronist government for… supporting the lockout. Then Serbia and Germany, where it had been in gestation for months… The informally organized bases, as a network, set the pace and bring out of lethargy the parties that are supposed to be their referents. Vox takes the Bannon script, moves away from the neoliberal-brutal norm inherited from Aznarism, openly charges against migrants and raises a motion of censure to push a hesitant PP. And here Bannon’s troop appears again. They are no longer posh neighborhoods. The lunatic fringe reigns in its denial of everything. They’re young parents, they’re angry… and they’re the first battering ram of the Vox offensive for this fall.
Where is this going?
Bannon’s strategy cannot be simply overestimated or despised. It contains many more edges than it appears at first glance. Its merit lies precisely in managing to orchestrate a multitude of particular rebellions so that they end up creating a climate in which his allies in each place have a real chance of conditioning the bourgeoisie and reforming the state to their measure. Yes, there is a correspondence between this conception and the making people of the Peronist Laclau quoted by Errejón, who guided the rise of Podemos. But there is also a correspondence with the American goal of accelerating the end of multilateral organizations and especially the EU in order to gain negotiating advantages in one-on-one negotiations.
Contradictory? Definitely. But using the nationalism of the petty bourgeoisie in revolt with one hand and defending a world of borders and barriers that will affect their own products with the other, is not proving so difficult for them. We have seen this with the farmers’ response to the renewal of US olive oil tariffs. That’s what demonstrations like the one on Sunday are for: against masks, against vaccines, against 5G, the most primitive hatred of so-called social-communism… anything goes, there’s no delusion antisocial enough or too crude. There is no particular interest that doesn’t fit even if it contradicts the one next to it. It’s a matter of showing discontent, of mobilizing it. The smaller and more absurd a group is, the more audience it will gain and the more active it will become. The revolt will be supported by the revolt and will grow on its own basis without the need for a program or a destination, in fact thanks to the absence of a real joint program and the use of empty signifiers – slogans repeated by everyone but meaning different things to everyone – as banners. Like fascism, the lack of a program forced by the heterogeneity of its bases ends up becoming mystic, into a cohesive feeling.
And at the end of the journey, when the foam has risen, helped by the media chorus, will come the intrumentalization, the search for an accommodation in the state compatible with the needs of the bourgeoisie and Spanish national capital. Vox can make do with a few regional councils and a couple of ministries, as Podemos did before. The question is whether Bannon will be satisfied with just a little more Euroscepticism in the foreign identity of the Spanish ruling class, which depends, among other things, on the result of the elections in the United States. What is certain is that he will not fail to keep his bases mobilized… or his own program.