Spain

The slogan “We Want to Welcome Them” rang in the streets as up to half a million people demonstrated in Barcelona on February 18 to demand their government accept more refugees. It came after Spain accepted just 1000 of the 17,000 it had promised.

"It is very important that in a Europe of uncertainty where xenophobia is on the rise for Barcelona to be a capital of hope," said Barcelona's  mayor Ada Colau, who took part. 

February 6 marked the 80th anniversary of the start of the “Battle of Jarama” during the Spanish Civil War, as left-wing and democratic forces fought to stop the fascist forces of General Franco taking power.

Alongside the Battle of Madrid, the Battle of Jarama is commonly associated with the participation of the International Brigades — volunteers, often organised by communist parties, who travelled from around the world to Spain to join the anti-fascist fight.

The left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos is planning to hold its second country-wide citizens’ assembly (Vistalegre II) on February 11th-12th to decide the political direction, organisational structure and its electoral strategy for the next regional and general elections.

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.

The end of October brought an end to the deadlock within Spanish congress with the re-election of Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP) as prime minister with the support of the neoliberal Citizens and the abstention of the traditional social democratic Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE).

But while the political and economic elites breathed a temporary sigh of relief in Madrid and Brussels, almost 100,000 opponents of the new right-wing government gathered to protest in Puerta del Sol, in the heart of the capital.

Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos held a series of internal elections over November 7–9 throughout seven regions across Spain  — Madrid, Andalusia, Extremadura, La Rioja, Castilla y Leon, Navarra y Aragón — and 12 different cities.

The elections were centred around the positions of the general secretaries in each region and territory, as well as the Autonomous Citizens’ Councils that form an integral part of the relatively new party’s political direction and organisation.

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.

Although fit and healthy until near the end of his life, Stan Hilton, the 98-year old veteran of the Spanish Civil War as one of the almost 60,000 International Brigade members who travelled from around the world to join the fight against fascism who passed away on October 21, could no longer recall his four-month adventure in Spain in 1937 and 1938. Thankfully, his son, Gordon, and grandson, Adam, still keep alive the stories and recollections he told them over many years.

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”.

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