Dick Nichols

The containment of Islamophobe Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom (PVV) in the March 15 Dutch general election was greeted with relief by the mainstream European media.

Nonetheless, the election result primarily reflected a conservative and safety-seeking consolidation of the right and centre parties. It will result in a more right-wing cabinet than the previous “red-blue” coalition of the VVD and Labour Party (PdvA), and throw up big challenges for progressive politics in the Netherlands.

March for refugees in Barcelona, February 18.

Hundreds of thousands of people overflowed the streets of central Barcelona on February 20 in the largest ever European demonstration in support of refugee rights. The city police estimated attendance at 160,000 people; the organisers — the “Our House, Your House” campaign — put it at half a million people.

All along the vast march, its thematic sea-blue placards stood out in the light of the bright winter’s day: “Enough excuses! Let’s take them in now!"

In the end, the expected close result never happened. At the second congress (“citizens’ assembly”) of Spain’s radical anti-austerity party Podemos, the proposals and candidate list of outgoing general secretary Pablo Iglesias easily defeated those of his rival, outgoing political secretary Inigo Errejon.

In a December Podemos membership vote over the rules that were to govern the congress, Iglesias’s position had only won marginally (41.57% as against 39.12% for Errejon’s).

Basque political prisoner and Sortu secretary-general Arnaldo Otegi after his release from prison in March last year.

In Bilbao’s hyper-modern Euskalduna Conference Centre on January 21, the Basque left pro-independence party Sortu concluded its refoundation congress by finalising the election of its 29-strong national council.

The congress brought together Sortu members from all parts of the divided Basque Country: its four southern districts in the Spanish state, presently covered by the regional administrations of Navarra and the Basque Autonomous Community (Euskadi), and its three northern districts in the French coastal department of Pyrenees-Atlantiques.

This year will be the year of the showdown between Catalonia and the Spanish state over whether the Catalan people have a right to vote on self-determination in relation to Spain.

The year starts with the final battle lines already drawn in the contest between the right-wing Spanish-patriotic People’s Party (PP) government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the pro-independence Catalan government, headed by Carles Puigdemont.

In the end, on October 29, it all worked out rather well for Mariano Rajoy. After patiently implementing his motto that “all things come to he who waits”, the leader of the conservative People’s Party (PP) was that day confirmed as Spain’s prime minister for a second four-year term.

Normal operations were apparently resumed in the institutions of the Spanish state after 10 months of turmoil arising from the inconclusive general election results of December 20 and June 26.

The tribulations of major European banks, starting with “venerable institutions” like the Monte dei Paschi di Siena (the world’s oldest bank) and Deutsche Bank (Germany’s largest), have raised the spectre of a repeat of the crash of 2008 — a “Lehman Brothers times five” in the words of one market analyst.

Deutsche Bank has been found to be seriously under-capitalised, both according to the standards set under the Basel III international bank regulation standards and according to its own targets. The same goes for British giant Barclays.

In late September and early October, two big political explosions shook the already unstable foundations of the Spanish state. On September 25, Carles Puigdemont, premier of Catalonia and head of the pro-independence Together For The Yes (JPS) regional government, told the Catalan parliament that the country would decide its political status by September next year through “a referendum or a referendum”.

By some estimates, more than 1 million people came out across Catalonia on September 11 for Catalonia’s national day (the Diada) to show their support for Catalan sovereignty and — for most present — for Catalan independence from the Spanish state.


Protest against austerity. Lisbon, 2013.

A month ago, on August 8, it became official — the high school governors agreed that the headmaster had acted correctly in not caning the two miscreant schoolboys.

It is hard to imagine a sharper contrast than that between the 10th National Convention of Portugal's Left Bloc, held in Lisbon from June 24 to 26, and its predecessor, held in the same city 18 months ago. In 2014, the 9th National Convention of the radical left force — formed in 1999 to unite several left currents — had brought the organisation to the brink of a 50–50 split.
The Spanish and European establishments have just days to stop the advance of the progressive electoral alliance United We Can in the June 26 general elections in the Spanish state. How are they doing? As matters stand, not well. United We Can, formed in early May, brings together new anti-austerity party Podemos and the longer-standing United Left (IU), as well as broader coalitions in Catalonia (Together We Can), Galicia (In Tide) and Valencia (A La Valenciana).
United We Can. United We Can — the united ticket made up of Podemos, the United Left, the green party Equo and three broader alliances in Catalonia, Galicia and the Valencian Country — is campaigning in the June 26 Spanish general elections on a plan to reverse economic austerity.
United Left's Alberto Garzon and Podemos' Pablo Iglesias. Five months after the December 20 election in Spain failed to produce a government, the country is returning to the polls in the most polarised contest since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1977.
It has taken only nine months for the third memorandum between the near-bankrupt Greek state and its creditors — the “Quartet” of the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Stability Mechanism (ESM) — to lurch to the brink of crisis. That deal, which the Syriza-led government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras felt forced to swallow despite the Greek people rejecting an earlier version by over 60% in a referendum last July, will provide the country with €86 billion. About 90% of this will go to paying off debt.

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