Tuesday, April 19, 2005

José Antonio Primo de Rivera

Political Hooliganism?

Last Sunday, the very same day Basque citizens were walking to the polling stations, I decided to indulge in my addiction to voyeurism of mass politics. Near home,in Colon. ( A square in Madrid where the National flag has such enormous proportions that a laidback patriot from a neighbouring country at ease with his own national identity immediately becomes suspicious. A bit like the National flags I saw in Christmas cakes in a Scandinavian country, which acquired its independence very recently (not even a century) from its neighbour. To be fair the profusion of football related National flags in my own country destroys my argument on satisfyingly performing old identities not needing to proclaim their national virility.) Well, talking about Colon and red and yellow flags there were lots of them when I arrived at the head of the demonstration the ‘Falange’ was organizing. One feels terribly self-conscious when not sharing the political views of a reasonably-sized mass of activists, a bit like being in the wrong stand in a football stadium with a blue shirt amongst a sea of red supporters. But I was eager, as usual, to share the indigenous reality instead of reading about it.

One is always armed with an associations-producing brain and this time, confronting the mediocre attendance and the sense of witnessing the rituals of a bunch of political has-beens, I saw an inner snapshot of a October Revolution Day demonstration by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, sorry, Russian Federation, in the Red Square, two years ago. The sense of good old times long passed by, the bright-eyed faith witnessed in the remaining believers.. But then I started to realize that something was quite different.. The average age of the demonstrators, that’s it. KPRF die-harders who demonstrated in Red Square were mainly old timers, pensioners not believing their historical bad luck, while here there was a lot of young blood. Many straightforward fascistic upper-class trendyboys but some, heavily built and muscular, working class types too. Skinheads, a couple of them, but mostly the average football hooligan type before the two dozen beer cans.

The flags of the ‘Falange’ or the ones with a Celtic cross have the obvious marketing appeal of striking colours and sharp graphic design. Just like the red flags in Krasnaya Ploshad. And the ‘Falange’ salute, with stretched arm and overstretched fingers, gives to the saluter the same adrenalin-inducing muscular tension one suspects on a Bolchevik, with his over-clawed fist in a 90º flexed, biceps contracted, right arm. The physiology of mass politics, indeed. Something physical, primitive even, that full-blows out of proportions whenever the numbers reach the big heights (which was not the case here). Sound is another brain stimulant so the intoxication by slogans and chants are part of the ritual, of course, and, at the risk of repeating myself, takes one again to football hooliganism stuff. At some point a large section of the demonstration even started to jump in the air in unison like one can see in a soccer stadium, signifying, quite plainly, that those who don’t jump belong to the “enemy” (the rival F.C.).

The slogans this time? “Fran-co, Fran-co” (“Sta-line, Sta-line, I never heard in Moscow…) . “Arriba España!” (Long Live the Soviet Union! Yes, I heard that). “Zapatero Hijo de Puta” (No daring to insult the political leader in Russia, not even today. Putin was above KPRF sloganising). “Rojo que veo, rojo que ‘papeo’” . (Who are the ogres of the Communist imagery? The Oligarchs?).

All this sincere roaring about the unity of Spain, I can intellectually understand. I don’t believe the demonstration would have more than a residual fifty or one hundred sad losers if it was not for that acute physical shared sense that actual risk of fragmentation of Spain is real. A big banner displayed a bilingual slogan “ ESPANA EUSKAL HERRIRIK GABE EZ DA ESPAINA” “ESPANA SIN VASCONIA NO ES ESPAÑA”. The priority enemy were the centrifugal forces of autonomic Basque country (“Ibarretxe en escabeche!” proposed a culinary solution to end with the leader of the Basque nationalists) and autonomic Cataluña (“El Eje del Mal, Zapatero y Maragall” gave a new twist to the ‘Axis of Evil’ concept.).

Quite an instructive morning it was. At the very same time, in a different corner of this City, four thousand people were demonstrating against the Monarchy and for the instauration of the III Republic, chanting “Los Borbones, a los tiburones”!

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