The Spanish voice of fascism is just a whisper

Sitting outside a bar in central Madrid, a group of middle-aged women sip beers, loudly exchanging jokes to cheer themselves up on a rainy Saturday night.

An elegantly dressed young woman approaches to ask them for directions. Stepping aside to help, María Adoración Grande Alejandero takes off her black military beret to indicate directions, her boots splashing in a puddle on the ground.

Ms Alejandero and her friends gathered for the annual reunion of the Spanish Phalanx, the archaic Civil War fascist party that is now struggling to attract more than 300 people to its most important ceremony of the year.

While November 20 was, for the majority of Spaniards, the day of the country’s general elections, for other Spanish fascists, it marks the anniversary of the death of the founder of the Phalange movement, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, and that of the General Franco himself.

In one of the last important actions of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as Prime Minister of Spain, the decision to call general elections on the “20N”, as it is called, has been interpreted as a deliberate act aimed at wresting property from the date to the Spanish far right. .

For the remaining Phalanx, curled up in the rain in front of a building in central Madrid, the meeting is an attempt to show its strength in a country where it has long lost all tangible political influence.

In the 2008 elections, the Phalange Española de las JÖNS, the largest of several title contenders, won just 14,000 votes, 6,000 fewer than the Spanish Communist Party of the People, a splinter group of the largest Spanish Communist Party, which itself is part of the Izquierda Unida (United Left) party.

However, many refuse to vote, arguing that the democracy installed after the death of General Franco has destroyed the traditional values ​​of Spain.

“Of course I’m not going to vote,” says Ms. Alejandero, who heads the Phalangist women’s section. “I am a girl of democracy, but I do not believe in it. It is not our problem but that of the politicians. They let us down, and they let Spain down.

How Spain deals with the legacy of the civil war and the years of Franco’s dictatorship remains a controversial issue.

In 2007, the Zapatero government passed a law to remove all Francoist symbols from public buildings, a move that angered some Popular Party politicians, who accused the Socialists of reopening wounds from the past.

General Franco’s last monument on mainland Spain was removed from the northern coastal town of Santander in late 2008. For years it had stood in disrepair, splashed with paint from protesters, covered in excrement of birds.

Across the street from the Calle Génova building in Madrid, where Primo de Rivera was born, near the headquarters of the opposition Popular Party that is set to win Sunday’s elections, are two large buses from a day that transported phalangists from outside. from the city.

Among them, supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former French leader of the far right, and Italians, who came especially to Madrid to mark the occasion. Young men, dressed in improvised black balaclavas covering half of their faces, stand alongside retirees dressed in elegant woolen jackets.

Ms Alejandro says that she personally does not agree with the racist views of some of the foreign groups that participated, but that they came because “Primo de Rivera was a special man”.

A middle-aged Spaniard, clad in a leather coat, steps up to the podium and shouts: “Zapatero fixing the election for this date was his last silly move in power. We should have the right to be proud of our past and our traditions.

But as the small group raise their hands in salute singing the Phalangist hymn Cara al Sol (Facing the sun), they are barely audible in traffic.

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