Spain: Forward Andalusia relaunched as home of Andalucist left

Issue 
Forward Andalusia spokesperson Teresa Rodriguez addresses the group's refounding congress. Photo: El Pais

Left platform, Forward Andalusia, held its refounding congress on June 26 in a theatre with panoramic views of Granada’s Alhambra.

Its goal, according to spokesperson Teresa Rodríguez, is to be “a tool for the emancipation of the Andalusian people”.

The congress adopted three documents — on political perspective, feminism and organisation — completing a six-month-long reconstruction of Forward Andalusia as the home of the Andalusian left.

Launched last December by its four affiliate organisations — Andalusian Spring, Andalucist Left, Defending Andalusia and Anticapitalists Andalusia — the process took the form of an open discussion called “Andalusia Doesn’t Surrender!”

More than 2000 participants from the eight provinces of Spain’s southernmost mainland region got involved.

Ten draft “commandments” guided the discussion, with the first laying the foundation: “Andalusia is a nation and as such enjoys the right to govern itself in a free and sovereign way. Andalucism is the response of the Andalusian working class to its condition of subordination and economic, political, and cultural dependence. It is the political form taken in our land by the struggle for emancipation from capitalism.”

Andalucism

According to the draft, Andalucism is a cultural and political liberation movement of Spain’s poor south, with roots in a historical confluence of its many different peoples — including those of Arabic, African, Spanish, Jewish and Romany descent.

Generations of struggles — against aristocratic landlords, predatory mining and agribusiness capitalists, and all forms of Spanish-state centralism — have forged Andalucism as popular, progressive, humanist and inclusive.

Forward Andalusia would combine this tradition’s still unfulfilled demands, such as land reform, with commitments to feminism and LGBTI+ rights, anti-racism, anti-fascism and internationalism, and ecologism and food sovereignty.

A powerful public sector would act as guarantor of social rights and motor of an advanced economy, replacing Andalusia’s chronic dependence on tourism, agribusiness and real estate — root causes of its endemic poverty and inequality.

The overarching political goal would be to bring an Andalusian constituent assembly into life to determine the country’s future. Meanwhile, Forward Andalusia “would not participate in governments led by neo-liberal forces, including the PSOE [Spanish Socialist Workers Party], yet never allow the right wing [People’s Party, Citizens and Vox] to govern”.

Given that Forward Andalusia is not independentist, this orientation would entail federal or confederal restructuring of the Spanish state, built on collaboration with like-minded movements in Spain’s other regions.

Forward Andalusia — old and new

Why did Forward Andalusia need refounding? Primarily, because Podemos Andalusia and the United Left in Andalusia (IU) — affiliates of the original coalition created for the December 2018 Andalusian elections — had re-embraced participation in PSOE-led governments.

Forward Andalusia went into that election campaign pledging not to repeat IU’s painful experience as a subordinate to the PSOE in Andalusia’s 2012–15 administration.

However, by 2020, Podemos and IU had dropped this position, explicitly for the Spanish state and implicitly for Andalusia. They had also resisted Forward Andalusia operating as an organisation responsible only to its members in Andalusia.

At the end of 2019, the central Podemos leadership of former general secretary Pablo Iglesias reached an agreement for governing Spain with the PSOE. This accord was opposed by the Podemos Andalusia leadership, at the time headed by Teresa Rodríguez and Anticapitalists, then an internal Podemos current.

Yet, the membership of Podemos Andalusia overwhelmingly backed the accord in a plebiscite organised from central Podemos, without time for discussion or presentation of alternatives.

Rodríguez then reached a public “amicable divorce settlement” with Iglesias: while resigning from the Podemos Andalusia leadership, she and the other Podemos members elected to the Andalusian parliament on the Forward Andalusia ticket (11 out of 17) would retain their seats.

IU then began demanding that Forward Andalusia be removed from the Spanish interior ministry’s list of registered political parties (Anticapitalists and IU had previously registered the name to prevent its theft by rivals).

In the absence of any discussion of the coalition’s orientation in the new political context, Anticapitalists and the coalition’s two Andalucist affiliates refused this request. They also pressed ahead with building Forward Andalusia as a party-movement reaching beyond its founding organisations.

The tension between these positions , when the six-member IU minority in the Forward Andalusia caucus in the Andalusian parliament connived with other parties to have the parliament’s speakership panel expel Rodríguez and seven other MPs from their own caucus, on the grounds of their supposed “defection” from Podemos.

To justify their actions and overcome real concerns about violating constitutional rights, IU persuaded a majority of the Anti-Defection Pact of registered Spanish political parties to redefine “defection” to fit the Andalusian case.

Elected representatives were now classified as “defectors” — and could be sent into the parliamentary limbo of being “unassigned” — on the say-so of their party (for Andalusia, that of the new Podemos leadership). The central Podemos leadership acquiesced in this operation.

The expelled MPs appealed their expulsion to Spain’s Constitutional Court, which agreed in May to admit their case for hearing but denied them interim reinstatement to the caucus.

Regionalism rising

The refounding of Forward Andalusia thus met a deeply felt but frustrated need — for an autonomous Andalusian left force not subordinated to any Spain-wide organisation. Rodríguez described this frustration:

“When we were Podemos Andalusia it would happen that we took certain decisions in assembly, which later could not be implemented because of prohibitions from higher up.”

Now, however, there would be “no more betrayals, no more splits, no more shit”.

The refounding has taken place in a context dominated by the struggle between Catalonia’s movement for self-determination and the Spanish establishment’s unyielding defence of state unity.

It comes after support for pro-independence and regionalist forces — known as the “Third Spain” — increased to record levels at the December 2019 general election and after several hundred thousand left-independentist voters deserted Podemos in last year’s regional elections in the Basque Country and Galicia, shifting respectively to EH Bildu and the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG).

It also follows More Madrid, the green party set up by former Podemos leader Iñigo Errejón, becoming lead left force in the May 4 Madrid regional election. Its all-Spanish spin-off More Country, which seeks collaboration arrangements with regional forces, has been rising in the polls.

However, Andalucism, which enjoyed up to 10% of the Andalusian vote in the 1980–90s — with seats in the local, Spanish and even Catalan parliaments — has so far been the exception to this trend, holding only one seat in Spain’s parliament.

It belongs to Forward Andalusia senator Pilar González, the former leader of the Andalucist Party (PA). A junior partner to the PSOE in Andalusia’s government between 1996 and 2004, PA dissolved in 2015 after years of paltry results due to the PSOE assuming some of its “Andalucism lite” décor (basically, more flamenco).

Warfare

The greetings to the congress showed that many of Spain’s other regional forces must be wondering whether this anomaly might be ending with Forward Andalusia’s rebirth.

They came from leaders and MPs of independentist and regionalist forces in Catalonia, the Valencian Country, Navarra, Galicia, Aragon and the Canary Islands, as well as from Mónica Garcia, More Madrid’s lead candidate on May 4.

For its part, Unidas Podemos (UP) is intent on stifling any chance of an Andalucist revival. A legal challenge against any electoral use of the brand Forward Andalusia is underway, even as UP has asked the Andalusian parliament to allow it to drop the name of its caucus in favour of “UP for Andalusia”.

As for the political battlefront, IU Andalusia coordinator Toni Valero gave an indication of what to expect in the July 5 edition of El Independendiente:

“We call them the Andalusia-style CUP [the Catalan anti-capitalist People’s Unity List] because Teresa’s project is one with a clearly nationalist profile very restricted to minority milieus. What she’s putting forward draws a lot from a nationalism whose key is confrontation with Madrid. This David-versus-Goliath dynamic is a classic, with a touch of idealism and fantasy.”

The next Andalusian elections will provide an acid test of whether the hundreds of thousands of Andalusians who vote to the left of the PSOE see Forward Andalusia the way Valero wants them to, or whether they see it as a banner of resistance and hope.

[Dick Nichols is Green Left’s European correspondent, based in Barcelona. A more detailed analysis of the Forward Andalusia congress will soon appear on the web site of — International Journal of Socialist Renewal.]