Santiago Abascal, the leader of VOX, delivered a speech last month at the party’s yearly two-day event in Madrid which we may take as spelling out the vision currently at the party’s helm, and its orientation with a view to Spain’s next general election.
Patriotism against Personalism
Towards the beginning of his intervention, somebody from the crowd shouted “Viva VOX, Viva Abascal!” a cry several speakers had already intoned. At this, however, the party leader momentarily interrupted himself, “No, solo Viva España,” he warned.
Later, he would make the point explicit, “I know full well that you are not here for me or for the party, but for your own principles,” and “personalism is the opposite of patriotism.”
This kind of language is not only directed at the party’s base. It is a way to strike out against the media’s recent attempts of miring the party in personal drama. In this vein, Abascal took time to dispel the media’s narrative that there is a rift between himself and the party’s ex-Secretary General (and potential future mayor of Madrid), Ortega Smith, who he thanked profusely for his service so far, along with other key party members.
But the disavowal of “personalism” is also meant to encourage those who may dislike VOX to consider whether they might support certain of its initiatives all the same. This de-personalizing of the party, reaching out to those who dislike its ‘brand’ is, in fact, a central pillar of its current strategy, as we will see.
Describing the Enemy
Abascal then turned to diagnose the problem faced by Spanish society as he sees it. He described the political enemy as an unwholesome alliance between the contemporary (postmodern, ‘woke’) pseudo-Left, on the one hand, and global billionaires, on the other.
Together, these advocate for a borderless world, free of meddlesome family loyalty, religion, and identity—anything that might stand in the way of a perfectly pliable global marketplace in which even gender is a purchasable commodity.
They are the sworn opponents of both la patria and lo popular (or el pueblo), both ‘the fatherland’ and ‘the people,’ which we may understand as the shape and color, the form and substance, of a single identity (I am adding my own take on some of these concepts, but, I think, without deficit to the VOX leader’s argument).
By invoking these ideas—the one stereotypically right-wing, the other traditionally belonging to the Left—Abascal seems to be opting for a politically transversal appeal: he is attempting to reach out to a traditionally left-wing electorate, rather than principally growing through disaffected center-right voters.
In terms of how the enemy alliance hopes to bring about its borderless world, Abascal echoed Giorgia Meloni in referring to their need to falsify history. Indeed, without roots, a tree is easily upended and moved around as needed.
The Choices that Made Us
To counter this, history must be remembered, especially those moments of truth at which a people chooses one path over another.
In this context, Abascal cited a few of the great battles that have shaped Spain and the world, from the beginning of the Reconquista at Covadonga to its defining victory at Las Navas de Tolosa, from the fall of the Aztecs before a Spanish-indigenous coalition, to the victory against the Ottomans at Lepanto.
When thanking the prime minister of Poland for his presence, he confessed that, had he not been born a Spaniard, he would have wanted to be born Polish (Morawiecki had made similar comments), remembering “the other Lepanto,” the Battle of Vienna, and the role played by Poland in that victory.
Abascal concluded this part of his speech by citing Pérez Galdós, “among our dead, there speaks a living tongue. Its words: Spain does not surrender.”
Those who want to rewrite history, he said, are bent on “exhuming hate and profaning statues.” Currently, for example, the Spanish government has begun trying to move the body of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Spanish Phalanx (‘la Falange’), which is presently buried at the Valley of the Fallen, outside Madrid.
Of course, it is not a body that is the object of exhumation. Through pro-government media, the spectral form of the civil war is substituted for the historical man and his corpse. Old ideological rancor is thereby recreated—the prominence of the war in the imagination of modern leftist ideologues being largely an artifact of media projection.
Primo de Rivera, for his part, wrote in his last will and testament, which Abascal quoted to the crowd, “Would that mine were the last Spanish blood spilt in our civil conflicts.” We may also consider his last words, directed at his executioners just before he was put to death at the age of thirty-three:
Whoever told you I am your enemy was wrong. My dream is for a fatherland, bread, and justice for all Spaniards, but firstly for those who cannot love their fatherland because they lack bread and justice.
When one is about to die, one has no reason to lie. So before you break my chest with bullets, I tell you truly: I was never your enemy.
Preempting likely reactions to Abascal’s citation of Primo de Rivera, I should add that VOX is not a falangist party (and falangism, for its part, was not exactly fascist corporatism). We may further dispel an often-repeated trope by clarifying that the crowd at Viva22 was not longing for a fascist state. On the contrary, more heady conferences where the speakers may be sympathetic to VOX, Fratelli, Fidesz, etc., are quite lacking in ideas like those of Giovanni Gentile, say.
What is rising on the so-called ‘populist Right,’ and which mainstream journalists identify as fascistic romanticism, is more a kind of pre-Marxist socialist aesthetic of rurality, small businesses, and baseline religious truth (often expressed in terms like those of C. S. Lewis’ Tao), uneasily married to powerful free-market determinist holdouts (these latter being stronger in Spain than in Italy, for example, given the present, disastrous, leftist coalition).
National History as Collective Property
Abascal argued that the abolition of nations, borders, and historically stable identities in general hurts the poor most of all. Without economic justice, one may find it difficult to love one’s nation; but without a nation, one will find it difficult to attain economic justice.
I would make the point metaphorically: A branch receives sap from its trunk, and there is little chance of servicing every branch if one insists on abolishing tree trunks altogether. Just as surely, human life is configured into differentiated communities.
Abascal insisted on the idea that the nation is a source of protection for the poor by declaring that all we have is inherited, that we are but its temporary stewards. The cities and towns we live in were made by others, like the churches we pray in, the languages we speak, and the proverbs that guide us. “Even our facial features,” he said, “are inherited from others.”
All we have was given to us by those who are “in our cemeteries and in our memories.”
Such, then, was the link between the rally’s title, La Historia que hicimos Juntos, ‘The History we made Together,’ and VOX’s current policy initiative, España Decide, ‘Spain Decides.’
Electors as Heirs
National identity and historical legacy are a form of collective property. They belong to the people. Foreign technocrats and modern politicians have no right to abolish them. Therefore, the reins have to be taken away from “globalists, separatists, financial oligarchs, mafias, and politicians who forget the popular mandate as soon as they come to power.”
This is where the ‘Spain Decides’ initiative comes into the picture, consisting as it does of a series of proposed referenda through which VOX hopes to show that, despite years of indoctrination, the populace does not support most of what is being pushed by the global political class, now under the banner of the U.N.’s Agenda 2030.
The event’s focus on history relates to la patria, fatherland, and the proposed referenda to el pueblo, the people, who are being asked to decide whether they want to lose their history, their patrimony, their patria, or not.
One gets the sense that the party does not have enough people, and enough experts in different fields, to govern with. To circumvent this, it is quite wisely proposing referenda that might push certain positions forward and change the conversation, half-accepting that, for the foreseeable future at least, they will not succeed in winning national elections.
At its conclusion, one of the most interesting elements of Abascal’s speech was that its leader sought to distance his party from its own proposed referenda, arguing that these will allow people who disagree with VOX on certain points, or who simply cannot identify with it for whatever reason, to vote directly on specific issues. This, in turn, may force other parties, including on the Left, to conform their program to the electorate (rather than the dictates of international institutions).
Indeed, we may ask whether gay marriage, taxpayer-funded abortion for sixteen-year-olds without parental knowledge, mass migration, and near-complete energy dependence on foreign entities would have been approved if the citizenry had been allowed to vote on any of it, and if established political parties had not operated with their own, undemocratic, consensus on these issues, where the mainstream Right simply acquiesces to the mainstream Left, and the latter simply abandons the working class.
Transversality between Left and Right, then, was at the heart of Abascal’s speech, as was the sense of a living, generational, national community. Alas, this sits uneasily with the harder, economic determinism of free-market purists—some of whom were included among the rally’s speakers—just as pro-natalism seems to be contradicted by occasional comments from the party’s leadership that imply it favors the arrival of large numbers of immigrants from Latin America to combat low birth-rates.
Whether “riding contradictions,” as the ex-leader of Podemos once recommended, will help garner wider support is an open question.
We may hope that the orientation of Abascal’s speech represents the standard by which certain ambivalences will be resolved.