Still No Government in Catalonia, Shades of Fascism in the United States

Catalan separatists struggle to form a government and the “Is Donald Trump a fascist?” debate is back.

Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017
Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Catalonia’s independence parties are still struggling to form a government after narrowly defending their majority in the regional legislature in December.

Together for Yes, the largest party, has requested a rules change to allow Carles Puigdemont to be sworn in as president from abroad.

Puigdemont is wanted by Spanish authorities for organizing an independence referendum that had been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court. He has lived in Belgium for the last three months.

The Republican Left, whose leader, Oriol Junqueras, sits in prison awaiting trial, does not support the effort, fearing it is doomed to fail.

Spain maintains that Puigdemont cannot resume his post so long as he is wanted for crimes against the state.

“Political manipulation,” really?

Spanish leaders meanwhile continue attacking Catalan media with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ruing that the suspension of self-government in the region did not extend to public television and Defense Minister María Dolores de Cospedal accusing the publicly-funded Catalan-language TV3 of “political propaganda and manipulation”.

This is embarrassing. Spanish conservatives talk a good game about democracy and rule of law and then attack the only broadcaster that airs sympathetic views of the separatist movement. Leave the Catalan media alone.

Bitter defeat for Schulz

German Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz has decided against accepting the foreign ministry in a new left-right government.

Schulz had earlier vowed never to serve under Angela Merkel, the conservative chancellor. Tilman Pradt argued this week that his about-face hurt the credibility of the party.

It’s a bitter defeat for Schulz. When he gave up the presidency of the European Parliament to become party leader in 2017, the SPD rose in the polls. But in the election in September, its support fell to a postwar low.

The trouble — and this goes for center-left parties across Europe — is that the SPD refused to pick sides, between a shrinking working-class electorate on the one hand and middle-income college graduates on the other. It ended up satisfying neither.

Shades of fascism

The “Is Donald Trump a fascist?” debate is back thanks to a new book by a compatriot of mine, Rob Riemen: To Fight Against This Age.

I haven’t read the book, so I will refrain from commenting other than to reiterate two points I made in September 2016:

  1. There are shades of fascism. Trump has more in common in Italy’s Benito Mussolini and Spain’s Miguel Primo de Rivera than he does with Adolf Hitler.
  2. It’s possible to share fascist tendencies without being a total fascist. At the time, I zeroed in on Trump’s valorization of victims, his obsession with fitness and his legitimization of violence as a form of political action. Fascists did the same — but they did far worse things too.

For more, I recommend Damon Linker’s review of Riemen’s book in The New York Times and Max Boot’s latest column in The Washington Post.