Protests in Barcelona. SUR
The wrong impression

The wrong impression

These pointlessly violent demonstrations gave the rest of the world a wrong impression: that objection to Sánchez's amnesty deal with Catalan separatists is the exclusive preserve of right-wing nutters and frothing neo-fascists

Friday, 10 November 2023, 17:04


There were plenty of abhorrent extremists at the demonstrations in Madrid this week: the group of morons enthusiastically chanting 'Franco! Franco!", for example, or the deranged, topless man yelling 'I'm a Nazi, I'm a Nazi!' - almost certainly a member of the neo-Nazi group Bastion Frontal, whose leader jumped on top of a tobacco kiosk to Hitler-salute the crowd. Vox's president Santiago Abascal has called for "permanent mobilisiation" against Pedro Sánchez's acting government and his party was represented at Tuesday's demonstration by its parliamentary spokesperson Pepa Millan, who for once found herself closer to the political centre than the other right-wingers present.

These pointlessly violent demonstrations therefore gave the rest of the world a wrong impression: that objection to Sánchez's amnesty deal with Catalan separatists - the condition of their support in the upcoming investiture votes - is the exclusive preserve of right-wing nutters and frothing neo-fascists.

Despite what the news footage might have indicated, you don't need to be either of those things to be angry at the deal that Sánchez is apparently planning to close, even though he heads a government that only exists in an acting capacity. Curiously, the opposition haven't yet made this point - that caretaking governments aren't supposed to be able to enact any new legislation, let alone one so contentious and far-reaching.

One wonders how many of the 7,000 people who gathered outside the PSOE's offices on Tuesday evening consider themselves centrist or right-of-centre as opposed to far right? I suspect at least some of them; but because they would have been the quietest elements of the demonstrations, they didn't hog headlines like the violent extremists did. Or maybe they left early, as surely any moderate would have done when it became clear that their fellow protestors included neo-Nazis, neo-Francoists and the usual cohort of protest-hijackers - i.e. people who will seize on any opportunity to chuck bins around, hurl eggs at riot police and light fires in the streets.

Far-right groups do not have the monopoly on being angry at Sánchez over the proposed amnesties for Catalan separatists. A former Socialist prime minister of Spain, the Conservative opposition, senior Spanish judges and the EU Commission have all expressed concerns over the amnesty deal, which they say overrides the rule of law and threatens democratic stability. They suspect, not without good reason, that the only thing Sánchez cares about is clinging onto power.

This week's protests were, in principle at least, no more the sole preserve of Vox supporters or far-right lunatics than those held against lockdowns during the pandemic. Their regrettable elements aside, both were ultimately based on frustration with a government that seems to think it possesses far more power than it actually does. Now as then, that frustration exists across the political spectrum.

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