Since 2016, right-wing populist parties have been on the rise in Europe: National Rally (formerly the National Front) in France, the League in Italy, the Party for Freedom in Netherlands, Vlaams Belang in Flanders, and the Alternative for Germany are but a few examples. Yet the Iberian Peninsula – Spain and Portugal – has been an exception. It was said that countries such as my native Spain resisted the so-called “Alt-Right trend.” However, 2018 ended with a revolution in national and regional politics as a collectivist, populist party began its rise.
The right-wing party Vox shocked the nation by exceeding expectations in Andalusia’s regional elections held last December 2. It won 12 seats and nearly 400,000 votes. Previously that group – which was founded in 2014, after a split from the People’s Party – had never won a seat in any of the rest of autonomous communities, the majority of town councils, the European Parliament, the Congress of Deputies, and the Senate.
The party’s electoral success is accompanied by allegations that it is xenophobic, racist, authoritarian, and far-right. The group’s program is contained in a document titled “100 Medidas para la España Viva” (“100 Urgent Measures for Spain”).
Vox promotes a fiscal populism that exhibits little interest in reducing spending or diminishing the size and scope of government.
The document contains full chapters on such topics as “Spain, National Unity, and Sovereignty”; “Election Law and Transparency”; “Immigration”; “Defense, Security and Borders”; “Economy and Resources”; “Health”; “Education and Culture”; “Life and Family”; “Liberties and Justice”; and “European and International Affairs.” However, we will address only a few of its major proposals.
The party’s calls for the transformation “of the autonomous State into a unitary one that may promote equality and solidarity instead of privileges and division.” It also calls for a commitment to “[suppress] the Basque Economic Concert and Navarre Agreement [in order to make those regions join] the Common [Fiscal] Regime.”
That may be understood as a bid for political centralization instead of improving the current, failed decentralization model. Most regions do not have fiscal independence, so in reality we have 17 small, centralized states. But that is not a reason to give up on limiting the expansion of centralized political power.
When it comes to immigration, they want illegal and/or criminal immigrants to be expelled. As with Hungary’s populist leadership, Vox supports the prosecution of NGOs that promote illegal immigration, along with human traffickers. Since they believe it better not to open the door to people reluctant to assimilate to Spanish culture, they prioritize the immigration of Hispanics from North and South America - as Poland does with Ukrainians.
Its program states that foreign aid “should be bound to the interest in repatriating illegal immigrants and criminals.” However, government-centered Marshall Plans to develop nations via aid are an absolute waste of money. What really boosts nations and societies is free trade and globalization.
In the name of safeguarding national security, Vox vows to “exclude Islamic teaching from public education”; close mosques; and forbid the building of any house of worship related to Wahhabism, Salafism, or other “fundamentalist interpretations of Islam.” Imams who promote jihad and insult female dignity would be expelled.
On economic policy, Vox promises sizable tax cuts for corporations, estates, electricity, and personal incomes – particularly indirect taxes like the Value-Added Tax (VAT) – to simplifications of bureaucratic red tape and regulation. This can only be helpful, as Spain ranks eighth from the bottom in fiscal competitiveness, according to the Tax Foundation and Foro Regulatión Inteligente.
To tackle the pension system crisis Vox supports the Swedish model, which combines redistribution with partial privatization. According to the part, that is a model based in solidarity (by guaranteeing a minimum pension) and property (by assuring that each citizen has his or her “own savings” at the moment of retirement).
Its key message has been a nationalist message that amounts to the deification of a “hollow” concept of nationhood.
However, Vox promotes a fiscal populism that exhibits little interest in reducing spending or diminishing the size and scope of government. The spending cuts that they propose affect regional governments – they are against that model of political organization - and subsidies that are given to parties, trade unions, and NGOs.
Vox shows no skepticism about the welfare state. VOX supports public healthcare and education. School vouchers are the only step they would make into increasing citizens’ freedom of choice.
Unlike many other European populist parties, Vox opposes a “Spexit” – a Spanish exit from the European Union - nor even pulling out of the eurozone. The party proposes only a new European agreement on borders, national sovereignty, and cultural values – a position the party shares with Visegrád Group leaders in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
On free trade, the party’s only proposal is a revision of the EU’s Common Agrarian Policy, “as subsidies may help mostly those who directly engage in exploitation.” There is no such criticism of the protectionist character of the CAP policy, which impoverishes the Third World and puts obstacles in front of European agricultural prosperity. Instead, Vox proposes a protectionist “reindustrialization plan” for the government to promote only Spanish companies.
Vox promises to repeal the Historical Memory Law, a violation of the so-called “Pact of Forgetting” that helped transition Spain to a democracy. The law obscures the reality that during the 1930s, Spanish leftists waged a war of religious intolerance against Catholics, which contributed to the instability that led to General Emilio Mola and Francisco Franco’s uprising of July 18, 1936.
When it comes to family, Vox proposes combining tax cuts with government subsidies for preferred behaviors - for example, offering a minimum of €100 for every baby every month, something similar to Viktor Orbán’s Hungarian natalist policies.
The party supports the natural family and vows to guarantee the right to life from conception to natural death. However, in a recent interview, party leader Santiago Abascal suggested that he may not prioritize protecting life in Spanish law, saying there is an “extraordinary social consensus” on abortion laws.
Although Vox supports Spanish traditions and some Catholic values, its key message has been a nationalist message that amounts to the deification of a “hollow” concept of nationhood.
Interestingly, like other populist parties, Vox attracts significant support from former socialist and communist voters. These leftists have not relinquished their support for economic interventionism; they just oppose secessionist Basque and Catalan nationalist movements, as well as multiculturalism and globalism. Vox risks becoming as interventionist as Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini’s parties. Other groups, such as Alternative for Germany, have increased their statist proposals to satisfy leftist voters, to the point that there are now two factions inside them: nationalists and libertarian-conservatives.
It is important to remember that no form of collectivism is functionally better than others. Upholding human dignity, preserving Western civilization, and promoting the flourishing of natural families does not require nationalism to vanquish globalism. Governments are the worst enemies of family and tradition. The best path forward promotes subsidiarity that combines free markets and spontaneous order.
(Photo credit: Contando Estrelas. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 2.0.)