Fall of Spanish government is a self-inflicted defeat

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in the Spanish parliament

By Mark Buckley

Spain’s minority PSOE (socialist) government has fallen and new elections are scheduled for 28 April.  Domestic politics has been dominated by two issues. These were the pressing need to win support for a non-austerity budget from the smaller parties that had supported the government, and the need to resolve the political crisis associated with the Catalan independence movement.

The PSOE leadership was in effect faced with a stark choice. Either agree a progressive budget which began to lift the burden of austerity, a programme which was supported by Unidos Podemos to its left as well as some of the regional nationalist parties, including the Catalans, or continue with the severe repressive measures against the Catalans it inherited from the right-wing Partido Popular (PP).

Disastrously, the PSOE leadership opted for the latter. In effect, it sacrificed an historic opportunity to demonstrate to the broad mass of the population that austerity was unnecessary and that the left could govern effectively while defending living standards.  The PSOE leadership position prioritised anti-democratic repression, including jailing the leaders of Catalan independence referendum. 

This failure will rebound badly on the working class as whole, on the movements for greater autonomy or independence and on the left. There is little prospect of the same forces supporting PSOE after the elections. Both the agendas of PP and the new far right Vox party are for austerity and for repression, and it is hard to see how they will not benefit from PSOE pursuing this reactionary line.

The Spanish socialist leadership has failed a decisive test. But it is a test that is likely to arise in a number of European countries who themselves face unresolved national questions or large national movements.   PSOE disastrously chose repression over the fight against austerity and is staring at defeat.  Other socialist and left forces cannot choose more repression and expect a different outcome.  Ending austerity and promoting greater national democracy are key planks for a left programme to advance.