According to the poll published today by the conservative newspaper ABC Vox would jump from a voting intention equivalent to 33 seats in July to 46 today, while the PP would go from 121 to 103 in the same period. However, Vox would still remain below the election result of last November and the PP would be above it. But the tendency is clear, and the message is clear: the strategy inaugurated in August by Casado to re-frame the radicalizing Spanish petty bourgeoisie has failed.
The outcome of the false spectacle staged in Madrid by the regional government (PP) and the Minister of Health (PSOE), is a sign of the moment of real breakdown experienced by the institutional right wing. Once the government intervened and closed the city as a whole -opening up mobility within it-, the president and her government portrayed to the media what had happened as a battle for claiming full credit. What credit? With over 500 ICU admissions a day, it is simply macabre to talk about credit and grotesque to denounce that someone wants to falsely claim it. But they have reached that level of myopia and immorality.
What happened to the PP?
The PP, like the PSOE, the other big institutional party, has a double function: the first is to articulate the relationship between the political apparatus and certain layers of the state itself and the corporate bourgeoisie -there are good statistical studies on that-; the second is to represent and modulate the interests of national capital in the face of broad social sectors. If this second function brings the PSOE into line with discourses of social justice to which the workers would be more sensitive in principle, it orients the PP towards perspectives closer to the corporate and business petty bourgeoisie and Spanish nationalism.
Almost ten years ago, starting on with the 15M movement, this capacity for the institutional parties to frame the petty bourgeoisie began to break down. The situation worsened gradually from 2012 on, culminating three years ago with the declaration of independence of the Catalan parliament. Catalan independentism not only electrified and mobilized the great majority of the Catalan petty bourgeoisie, it radicalized the Spanish nationalism of a part of the petty bourgeoisie framed under the PP throughout the country, at the same time as it promoted localist and regionalist tendencies and parties. The result in the November parliament photo was clear:
A real explosion of pro-independence, nationalist, regionalist and even provincialist parties which resulted in a parliament with 18 parties, 13 of which were not present in the whole territory. If we add up all the regionalist parties with the representatives of Vox -their mirror image for being the “anti-regionalist party”- inflated like them by the Catalan crisis, 102 deputies emerge. The “party of the petty bourgeoisie in revolt” would be the second in number of representatives.
The PSOE, although in need of independentist votes and forced to bring Podemos into government, could describe its own balancing act as a bear hug. In fact, at a certain point this seems to be the case in view of the Galician and Basque election results and their continued erosion in the polls.
From the perspective of the PP, the situation was much more pressing: with its electoral base divided into three parties and with the electoral law making a tripartite almost impossible on the Andalusian or Murcian model, Casado bet on leading the petty-bourgeois revolt within the party. Moreover, he chose to put it in the first row by giving the most visible positions to Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo and Isabel Díaz Ayuso. The former had to be recalled after Feijóo’s fifth absolute majority. The second, is already a burden against which the core of the party apparatus cries out.
In this context, yesterday’s polls confirm the predictable: the PSOE can play leftier than you with Podemos without fear of generating too much distrust in the Spanish bourgeoisie as a whole. It is significant that the frictions with the state bureaucracy are fundamentally centered on procedural questions and on Podemos’ ministries.
On the other hand, from the opposition, the PP has no chance if it wants to occupy the space of Vox’s wrath and fist-bumping. When the moment of truth arrives, the PP is there to defend the state and cannot follow those of Abascal in things like trying to outlaw the independentist parties.
Why is Vox on the rise?
Vox is the brute son of the PP. Its ideological framework is that of Aznarism, not that of the European populist right. Its foundational nucleus and its referents are linked, as minor actors, to the world of finance capital, its voting base is an amalgam made up of low corporate cadres, shopkeepers, agricultural owners, gas station owners, hunters with poor divorces, and victimized fans of bullfighting. Stale and conservative petty bourgeoisie.
They realize, of course, that they occupy part of the space that Salvini or Le Pen would occupy if they existed in Spain. But Salvini and Le Pen are very far from the ersatz liberalism of the Voxites, to whom the universal income of the grillini or Salvini’s programs of indebtedness and public spending seem like a social-communist aberration.
So they try to occupy the space in a symbolic way, to provide a substitute for their own sympathizers and try to grow from there as an anti-system party. But it doesn’t work. They are too limited by the Aznarite catechism. When they create their own union, they make their own voting niches in the civil service unions uncomfortable because they don’t even know how to imitate their corporate demands. When they go to the neighborhoods of large cities looking to capture some of the discontent, the only message they have for the barely-surviving shopkeeper is to blame the migrants, but the shopkeeper does not see the migrant as the cause of his economic situation, he sees the bank and the department store as the cause. So, fortunately, the populism they are only capable of does not work. The Vox-voting workers are still as elusive as the Yeti, and probably for the same reason: they are so few that there is no way to find them.
Vox can only flourish among the angry rank and file of the PP. Vox’s growth is, above all, an internal revolt carried out from the outside by a party hardly permeable to its own supporters, not an alternative to its policies. If one were to ask Vox voters what the PP failed to do, immediately a single issue will appear: Rajoy’s inability to face independentism.
Is Vox a direct and real danger?
The consolidation of Vox on the Spanish right wing is a problem for the bourgeoisie and the state. It immediately neutralizes the PP as an alternative to real government. In addition, with some companies increasingly in need of external capital and therefore dependent on the image of the country, Vox is a hindrance, an element of instability that contributes to bad headlines and worse evaluations. But Vox is actually a symptom. It is the materialization of the inability to swallow the petty-bourgeois revolt by the institutional right wing party. A sign that the political apparatus is waterlogged and that the conservative radio and newspaper media system has become dysfunctional to its raison d’être.
That is, the real problem for the state and the Spanish bourgeoisie is to reinvent the PP, its discourse and its environment, not Vox. Its weakness is that the PP is a juggernaut of relations between local chieftains, the state, big business and client networks even more difficult to remake and reinvent than the PSOE. That’s why the crisis of the right wing points to the long term.
But, in the midst of a crisis like this, won’t the Spanish bourgeoisie be tempted to mobilize that angry petty bourgeoisie against the workers? That would be, in essence, the fascist way out. An option that the European bourgeoisie supported in the 30’s in a window of stagnation of the workers’ struggles after a period of very acute class struggle. It was not then conservative parties or programs like those of Vox that were useful for such a move. There is no shortage of good literature of the time on this subject. And in any case, it does not seem to be an immediate horizon either… among other things because we are only in a germinal phase of ascension of working class struggles. The bourgeoisie wants to renew and strengthen its political apparatuses, which have been damaged in practically the whole world, but it does not feel a pressure compelling it to resort to the always troublesome petty bourgeois revolutionism to justify a renewal of the political apparatus. That is why a new Republic is not on the horizon either.
The Spanish bourgeoisie does not want to try to relegitimize the state by relying on the anger and desperation of the petty bourgeoisie, it only wants to tame it and dilute its expressions in the institutional parties in the way that Merkel seems to be achieving in Germany. And that’s what the bourgeoisie is going to play at. It is not going to throw right wing stormtroopers into the streets against the workers. Another thing is that the right-wing media will keep blowing out Vox’s candles… until they manage to run Casado aground. But for the workers that, like their counterparts on the left, is someone else’s battle.