The international alliances of the Spanish far right
Spain’s far right has lagged behind its counterparts in other European countries in gaining a foothold in Spanish political institutions. After the death of the dictator Francisco Franco, far-right platforms experienced failure after failure, and only starting in 2011 did they begin to gain representation in small town councils. Academics like Xavier Casals described this anomaly as an 'absent presence', meaning that the extreme right existed with a subset of voters just like in the other countries, but these were mostly encompassed within the main conservative party, the Popular Party (PP). It was only in 2018 that Vox burst onto the scene and into several institutions, first in Andalusia and later across Spain.
Up to then, Spanish far-right parties had struggled to develop ties with similar platforms in the rest of Europe. The neo-Nazi party Democracia Nacional (DN) has spent years building up relationships with other groups under the banner of the Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF), which included the German NDP and the Italian Forza Nuova (FN), among others. The now defunct Movimiento Social Republicano (Social Republican Movement, MSR) had its own international links, mainly with Hungary's Jobbik, the British National Party (BNP) and Italy's Fiamma Tricolore.
Today, these Nazi-fascist groups maintain contacts with comparable groups in other countries and continue to travel to a number of their events. In recent years several members of DN and Vox, for example, were present in Warsaw at the ultra-nationalist march on Poland's Independence Day. Meanwhile, visits of neo-Nazis and fascists to Spain from other countries have been documented, as was the case of supporters from the German Nazi group III Weg or Scandinavians from the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM). Representatives of both organisations attended an international meeting organised by the Nazi group Devenir Europeo in Madrid in February 2023.
However, in recent years, as the far right has been on the rise across Europe, the parties competing for this slice of the electorate have been eclipsed by new platforms. These include Vox in Spain, which emerged in 2013, when others had already spent years trying to carve out a niche for themselves in national politics. Some of their former members have joined the Vox movement, but many others are following their own path, with even less success. As a result, international alliances have also changed.
Vox is the main far-right party in Spain today. It has 33 members of parliament (having lost 19 in the 23 July 2023 elections) and holds power alongside the PP in several of Spain’s autonomous regions and city councils. There has been no cordon sanitaire against the far right in Spain; the PP has embraced these alliances from the start, as they have allowed them to get into power. But Vox has its own agenda and its own international alliances that have garnered it more media attention due to the success of some of these partnerships.
Vox has woven a broad network of ties with various counterparts, both in Europe and Latin America, whose leaders supported its campaign in the 2023 national elections. The prime minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki and Hungary's Viktor Orbán showed their support for Santiago Abascal’s party, as did Italy's Giorgia Meloni, and the Argentinean president Milei, among others.
A few months earlier, in October 2022, Vox also put the support of Donald Trump, Republican senator Ted Cruz, Chilean Juan Antonio Kast, former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe and Bolivian Jeanine Álvarez on display at Viva22, a party event in Madrid.
Vox has always had strong ties with right-wing platforms in Latin America, as well as with migrants from that continent. In fact, its anti-migration discourse is focused on Africans and Middle Easterners, to whom it attributes cultural differences that present a threat to the West. However, with Latin American migrants, they have pursued a different discourse: they highlight the historical religious, linguistic and cultural links growing out of the era of Spanish colonisation. What is more, the significant presence of a very right-wing Latin American oligarchy that fled progressive governments in Latin America, and emigrated to Spain, today counts as a source of votes, principally for Vox and PP.
After its poor results in the last general elections in Spain, Vox embarked on a new international tour in a bid to reassure its partners. In a message on the social network X last December, the party announced its president, Santiago Abascal’s round of visits to several countries: he appeared in Argentina with Milei and in Italy with Meloni, who invited him to the Atreyu festival event attended by Elon Musk and other figures from the global far-right.
In early December, Abascal also visited Israel to show his support for Netanyahu's government in its military operation in Gaza. Like the rest of the leaders of the extreme right who today support Israel unwaveringly, his speech was peppered with references to the fight against Islam and the defence of Western civilisation. In addition, Vox proposed the medal of honour of Madrid be awarded to Israel and the end of aid for cooperation with Palestine, which they accuse of being linked to Hamas. Back in 2019, Likud's foreign affairs director, Eli Hazan, posted on his social media expressing hope for a 'great result' for the far-right party, which he described as a "sister party" to Likud.
In November 2023, Vox’s leader appeared at protests against the amnesty for Catalan politicians involved in the 2017 independence referendum outside the PSOE Madrid headquarters, along with a special guest. Former right-wing Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson spent a few days in Spain as a guest of Vox,and posted several videos on the political situation in the country, echoing the far-right party's discourse, in a huge boost of international publicity for the party.
After the loss of 19 MPs in the 2023 general elections, Vox has now been hit by numerous defections from its ranks. Not only has it lost nearly 17,000 (a third) of its members, but notable figures in the party have also left. Suspicions about the diversion of funds to its foundation Disenso, and money transfers that are yet to be clearly explained, have also sown considerable doubt among its followers. Thus, Vox tries to brush over all these reports by generating news coverage about themselves for other issues that they themselves provoke or promote, such as the riots outside the PSOE headquarters in Madrid, or the multiple measures that they are bringing in where they share power with the PP.
The regional governments where Vox is in power, alongside the PP, are serving to capture the attention that the party needs to divert from its internal strife. In our October 2023 article, we looked at some of the measures they have begun to implement, which have caused a great deal of controversy. It remains to be seen whether the power that, thanks to the PP, Vox has accumulated at the regional and municipal levels will be enough to cushion its fall at the national level. To this end, Vox continues to try to sell itself to its international allies as a solid and reliable partner, especially in view of the upcoming European Parliamentary elections. These will be a litmus test for the party, which is already in the midst of a serious crisis.
Nora Rodríguez, @ NoraRodrguez, is a criminal lawyer specializing in hate crimes. She has participated in several campaigns, as well as in research and monitoring of Spanish far-right groups. She is co-author of the publication "De los neocon a los neonazis. La extrema derecha en el Estado español" (Neo-con, neo-Francoists and neo-Nazis. Tracking the Spanish Far Right) published by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation..
Miquel Ramos, @ Miquel_R, is a journalist specializing in the extreme right and hate speech. Coordinator of the publication "De los neocon a los neonazis. La extrema derecha en el Estado español" (Neo-con, neo-Francoists and neo-Nazis. Tracking the Spanish Far Right) published by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and author of the book "Antifascistas. Así se combatió a la extrema derecha española desde los años 90" (Antifascists: Fighting the Spanish Far Right since the 1990s).