Over the second weekend of October, before summer temperatures definitively gave way to autumn, VOX held its annual rally at a large open-air venue in Madrid.
Beginning Saturday morning, the public was invited to partake of family-style entertainment: inflatable castles for children and sponsored clothing and bookstores occupied a space buttressed by a large stage at its far end with a banner announcing the rally’s title, ‘The History we Made Together.’
The venue’s lawn was framed by a collection of fifty-two tents, one for each of Spain’s provinces, together with her two African cities. Each featured an actor dressed as a significant historical person from that territory.
On Sunday, after a number of political speeches and before musical acts by artists (willing to burn their bridges with mainstream studios), these actors took the stage to perform a series of illustrative episodes. The great narrative frame that held these various dramatisations together was the narrative voice of a grandfather telling tales from the annals of Spanish history to his grandson, the present heir to bygone centuries.
This portion of the event resembled a Renaissance fair. There was a distinct lack of the sort of crisp, authoritarian aesthetic the press might have associated with a party they like to portray as a fascist menace.
The point here was that genuine historical memory (and not its counterfeit version meant to disaggregate society to make it controllable), is a safeguard against social engineering: Remembering our history is a form of resistance.
After introductory remarks by a few party leaders, we heard from Chega’s Andre Ventura, whose speech included a reversal of the media’s typically Orwellian inversions of meaning:
They call us fascist because we want transparency, racist because we want the law enforced on our borders, xenophobic because we want to keep our identity.”
Ventura also warned the electorate not to fall into the trap of voting for the mainstream Right, the Popular Party (PP), as the safe option to replace a socially entropic and economically catastrophic Leftist government. (Unfortunately, there is good reason to believe that the Spanish public will, in fact, be doing just that during the country’s next general election.)
The Portuguese politician concluded with what has become a general rallying cry, partly on account of Giorgia Meloni’s use of the motto, “God, Fatherland, and Family,” to which he added a fourth, “Freedom.”
After Spain’s closest neighbour finished, an ally from a nation across the ocean, the Argentinian Javier Milei approached the podium. Milei is the founder of the Libertad Avanza Party and a federal deputy in Buenos Aires.
He began with a few impassioned statements of intent, “We’re going against the Leftists!” and the like. Given that VOX should be, and to a degree already is, trying to attract people who consider themselves to be on the (pre-woke) Left, and given that this kind of language is rare in Spanish politics, it felt somehow jarring.
To his credit, however, Milei did not stay at the level of politically galvanising generality. He attempted to advance specific arguments in defence of his libertarian vision, albeit these were typically specious. Premised by a pseudo-moral appeal to the freedom of individuals to allocate resources in a free market, they nonetheless lacked awareness of how our tastes are shaped by pre-market cultural consensuses. Predictably, Milei quoted von Mises to make his points, despite that economist’s worldview being quite incompatible with the conservatism of those in attendance.
The Argentinian politician went on to argue that societies with market freedom are more prosperous than ones toiling under state socialism. Yet, the kind of market he advocates for is not that of prosperous countries, who generally, as in the case of the U.S., have used the state to invest massively in high-value-added industries; engage in thorough protectionism during critical phases of their history; orient their labour force towards robust, export-ready sectors; and so on.
Milei’s conclusion, that there is no middle path between freedom and tyranny (where ‘freedom’ is more or less Austrian School-inspired anarcho-capitalism) is, therefore, an incitement to abandon the model of a mixed economy, as well as arrangements that might order economic activity in ways that cultivate traditional virtues (arrangements like those recommended by Catholic Social Teaching, Chesterton’s distributism, etc.). A conservative project must necessarily confront the idea that collective good aggregates from individuals calculating a utilitarian (monetized) version of self-interest.
This sort of discourse allows persons on the VOX-adjacent Left (I know a few) who actually agree with most of the party’s program, to continue seeing it as a Trojan horse for market deregulation of the kind that would allow established players and foreign actors to suck the marrow from already gnawed-at bones, another player in the long-term dispossession of Spain’s working class. This is a common talking point on the anti-woke Left, one for which Milei provided plenty of fodder.
In truth, he does not at all represent VOX, and his speech contrasted starkly with the final speech of the night given by Abascal, who precisely charted a ‘middle path’ between free-market purism and state socialism.
Given the dire straits faced by Spain, however, I struggle to understand the desire to flirt with ambiguity. Having allies in Argentina makes all the sense in the world, but if their ideas are bad, why invite them to speak for you? (And I would indeed contend that everyone VOX invites to its yearly event is, so far as the electorate is concerned, speaking for them.)
I am lingering on this because it is an example of a mistake in VOX’s messaging, one that could easily impede the party’s growth.
Later in the rally, we heard from Jose Antonio Ortega Lara, a prison officer who spent 532 days kidnapped by ETA terrorists in the 1990s. His speech contained a warning to the young: the state is there to create conditions in which they may strive, but when politicians begin to offer bribes, short-term incentives to appease, rather than long-term solutions, these must be rejected, however seductive (as it happens, they are quite paltry, consisting of a €400 bond the government is giving young people to engage in ‘cultural’ activities).
Video messages came from Chile’s ex-presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, and statements were sent from the presently incarcerated former president of Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, as well as Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, and Giorgia Meloni.
There is a clear sense, here, that VOX is building alliances on two fronts: Ibero-America and Europe. Indeed, days after Viva22, Abascal hosted a conference on the Ibero-Sphere in Madrid. This is exactly the right strategy, one that holds true to the idea of honouring Spain’s history.
Meloni’s video message was the most interesting. She spoke (in Spanish) of the concerns of the fellow Euro-Mediterranean country, including the loss of industry and precarious energy supply. In this regard, the future Italian head of government proposed a policy framework by which supply chains may be made more resilient, referring to “friend-shoring” and “near-shoring,” as opposed to general “off-shoring;” that is, prioritising links to politically allied and geographically neighbouring countries. The message here is that VOX has a friend in Italy, should it manage to enter into a future coalition government with the PP.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who was physically present, then took the stage to champion the idea that Europe is not the EU, and that a rooted, organic European project must preserve its historic nations, describing Spain and Poland as two wings, in the west and east, of such a Europe.
Finally, Abascal’s speech was the highlight of the event, painting an accurate picture of the challenges that must be faced, and articulating a clear plan for how to address them. I will not provide the details here, as this speech and its accompanying initiatives deserve a separate analysis, but it’s worth emphasising the diagnostic: that the enemy consists of an unwholesome alliance between the postmodern, entropic, deconstructivism of the ‘woke’ Left on the one hand, and an international billionaire class on the other. Together, they mean to abase “the people,” (el pueblo) the working and middle classes, and abolish “the nation” (la patria) as an outdated impediment to the perfectly pliable global market they anticipate.
This is where the ‘España Decide’ initiative comes in—a series of referendums to allow members of the public, whether they like VOX or not, to express their views on a host of issues. The gambit is clear: the majority of people agree that Spain should seek greater energy independence; that immigration and its attendant spike in crime have to be curbed; that a minority of separatists should not hold the entire country hostage; etc.
Zooming out from the Viva22 venue, we may note (without surprise) that the media quickly launched a series of hatchet jobs, replete with half-baked, groping accusations. One popular claim was that a certain artist performed a song calling for a return to 1936, presumably a reference to Civil War-era ideological paradigms and armed conflict. The fellow in question is a Youtuber who goes by the moniker of InfoVlogger, together with a musical band, and the song is a parody that, at one point, inhabits the perspective of Spain’s contemporary Left. It is the parodic version of the Left that is portrayed as wanting to return to 1936 (given its romanticising of the Civil War’s Popular Front). InfoVlogger, for his part, is gay, supports gay marriage, and is barely conservative in any coherent sense; albeit this has not deterred the mediatic tirades directed at his performance.
The right-wing press, for its part, was likewise on the attack. A certain rapper by the name of Santaflow was also invited to perform at Viva22, inciting some newspapers such as La Razon to bring up blasphemous lyrics he penned when he was younger, as though this were a sign of VOX’s hypocrisy. Santaflow has disavowed the lyrics in question, citing youthful indiscretion, and has not featured the like in his recent work, which should be quite enough to satisfy a Christian sensibility, supposing repentance is still among its theological commitments. It is interesting, in any case, that some of the publications that seemed to want to produce controversy over a one-time blaspheming artist who has since changed his perspective generally support the PP over VOX, despite the former being quite comfortable with abortion and gay marriage. The Left, at least, is less hypocritical in its attacks.
In closing, Viva22 was a good time, and although its messaging and aesthetic were a little loose, to the degree that we take Abascal’s speech for canon, together with Poland, Hungary, and Italy’s support, there is cause for optimism.