World

Stalin’s Fan Club Rises to Power in Spain

Pablo Iglesias, Spain’s new deputy prime minister for social rights and sustainable development, speaks in Madrid, January 13, 2020. (Susana Vera/Reuters)
A coalition of social democrats and Communists promised to reduce political privilege. Instead, it’s taking steps to create the largest government in the European Union.

Spain is now the only European country of our day to have Communists in the government. The minister of consumption claims that his economic model is Fidel Castro’s. The minister for equality became a militant with the Communist Youth at the age of 16 and has made Communist politics her livelihood. Her husband, the Spanish vice president, communist Pablo Iglesias, is Chavez’s political offspring and Maduro’s protégé.

The last to face this electrifying Communist experience were the Greeks, in 2015, when Alexis Tsipras reached power with a leftist coalition, after promising citizens an easy solution to the ongoing debt crisis. At that time, many Millennial journalists found Tsipras’s solution appealing. His plan was to freeze privatization, impose universal health care, and grant aids to the poor and special benefits to pensioners. It was an inarguable failure: Pensioners found their benefits cut 23 times in eight years, salaries fell 40 percent, youth unemployment grew to 40 percent, and Tsipras fled to the opposition, leaving Greek society in ruins commensurate to those of the Parthenon. P. J. O’Rourke’s famous statement summed it up (and not for the first time in history): “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”

Spain is now facing a scenario worse than what hit Greece then.

In the run-up to last November’s general elections, socialist leader Pedro Sánchez declared that he would not be able to “sleep easy” if he allowed Communist ministers such as Pablo Iglesias into his cabinet. Naturally, a mere 24 hours after the elections, Sánchez and Iglesias jointly announced an agreement to place Communists in power. It’s not hard to imagine sleeping-pill manufacturers beaming as their shares rocketed on the stock market. Welcome to 21st-century socialism in Spain.

As for Podemos, the Communist party led by Iglesias, they had campaigned against, and promised to abolish, “privileges for the political class.” In the usual Communist spirit, the first Sánchez-Iglesias government is the largest of all the governments in Europe. Its members have just been announced: There will be 22 ministers, four vice presidents, and 31 state secretaries, with their corresponding plush salaries and privileges. After seeing the first cabinet meeting, all I can say is that it looked more like a Greek wedding.

The good thing about Sánchez, though, is that he is no more trustworthy with his own lot than he was with the voters: Yes, he promised Pablo Iglesias a vice presidency, but what he didn’t tell him is that he would create three more vice presidencies to dilute Iglesias’s power. Fortunately, Spaniards, even in their lowest moments, keep their sense of humor, so after the devaluation of the vice presidency through multiplication, the trending meme on Twitter was a yogurt-pot label that read on its underside: “Congratulations, you have also won a vice presidency!”

The last time socialists and Communists shared power in Spain was during the Second Republic, from 1931 to 1939, when their anti-Christian hatred and contempt for democracy plunged the country into civil war. Back then, as in Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Spaniards also tackled the situation with a sense of humor. After a show trial that sentenced Pedro Muñoz Seca to death, Muñoz, a monarchic and Catholic satirical writer, declared to the firing squad facing him: “You can take my estate, my country, my fortune, even my life. But there is one thing you’ll never take from me: my fear!” It was just one of the many assassinations in that era, product of a barbaric civil war that, had Franco not won it, would have turned Spain into a Soviet satellite, as per Stalin’s plans. But that’s a story for another day.

Today, the war that monopolizes the headlines, even though it doesn’t actually exist, is the one in Iran. For geopolitical reasons, Spain holds an important place in a hypothetical war between the U.S. and Iran, and the new Spanish government threatens the Trump administration’s strategy on Iran.

United States military bases on Spanish soil have seen an enormous amount of activity since New Year’s Eve, comparable only to that witnessed during the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003. The naval base in Rota, in the south of Spain, is a key element in the American missile shield in the event of an attack from Iran. And even though it’s not in President Sánchez’s interests to be on bad terms with the U.S., his counterpart in the government, the Communist Iglesias, would probably support shutting down these military bases. Iglesias is a friend to the Iranian regime; for many years he hosted a left-wing TV talk show on the Spanish-language Iranian network HispanTV.

The new government is also under scrutiny from Europe. The Greek episode gave Brussels its fair share of headaches, with the EU having to force Tsipras, time and time again, to honor his commitments to the Union. A Spanish government that is a friend of Iran and an enemy to Western values — that is now aligned with Maduro, Evo Morales, and Cuba — is no ideal neighbor for anyone in Europe, unless you’re waiting for its ruin, to buy it up and deal out whatever’s left over. But that would not be an easy feat. Spain always seems to survive. In fact, we survived an absolutely disastrous prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who today is affiliated with most of the totalitarian governments of South America. If you see a Communist tyrant, do not hesitate: Look around and you will always find Zapatero kneeling before him.

While analyzing Spain’s current situation, the international press is overlooking the most important factor: The Spanish people didn’t vote for the Communists. The Podemos party is just the fourth-largest political power, with little over 12 percent of the votes, behind the PSOE and the right-wing PP and VOX parties. The Communists are in power because Pedro Sánchez, after the election, has been willing to ally with anyone to strengthen his presidency. Moreover, Communist support has not been enough, and Sánchez has reached out to each and every one of Spain’s enemies, from Catalan and Basque secessionists, to republicans who would tear down the monarchy (the last bastion of freedom and democracy in Spain), to the heirs of the terrorist group ETA. This is exactly what the historic socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba (who recently died) called “the Frankenstein government.” What could possibly go wrong?

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