Tag Archives: the Guardian

On the smudging of the political spectrum

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed when reading opinions from normal American voters (not bloggers – I mean people on forums, Yahoo! Answers and the like) is how confused many of them are when it comes to understanding the political ideas espoused by many of the candidates in the race to become president. For example, the view is often expressed that Hillary Clinton ought not be president because she is a ‘socialist’. Other Democratic candidates are equally dismissed as representing the ‘far-left’ or espousing ‘socialist healthcare’. Several times, I’ve been called a ‘Leninist’, ‘Communist’ or ‘Stalinist’ after questioning the official version of events from Downing Street or the White House. The New York Times, The Guardian and MSNBC News are all regularly referred to as being ‘of the left’, ‘far-left’, ‘socialist’ and even ‘communist’, despite the fact that they are broadly establishment-friendly liberal media outlets. In Spain, Aznar and the FAES-Libertad Digital-El Mundo alliance have regularly referred to the PSOE as ‘the socialists, communists and anarchists’ – language borrowed almost word for word from Franco’s fascist dictatorship.

This phenomenon casts light on two particular points worth looking at. Firstly, that the propaganda of the cold war era still courses through many people’s veins. People still fear socialism in a more primal way than they fear even Islamism or other far-right ideologies. The United States is not at risk of getting a socialist president any time soon, so why is this irrational fear perpetuated? The reason is that the USA represents a spectacularly unequal capitalist society and has all the accompanying problems that might be expected. Rather than noting that socialism might offer a solution to some of these problems (as it clearly does), people are instead encouraged to have a Red Dawn* style view of socialism. The true ‘threat’ of socialism is, of course, an empowered and united labour force.

The second point is that it has become standard practice to label any political opponent who is even slightly to the left of yourself as ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’. Hillary Clinton, on any normal political spectrum, would be regarded as having a centre-right political ideology. But it is not uncommon to hear commentators and citizens alike using the term ‘socialist’ to describe her point of view. And I’m not just talking about Mark Levin or equally perverse ‘shock-jocks’ and fetishists. Mainstream media outlets like Fox News Channel (a channel which, incidentally, spends a lot of time criticising the ‘mainstream media’!) have regularly used terms like ‘socialist healthcare’, ‘socialised education’ and so on as a scare tactic. Actually, public health and education, free at the point of use, are generally accepted now as being good for society, good for business, good for the country. It’s the word ‘social’ which seems to scare people so much. all the while, the right is referred to as merely ‘conservative’.

Spain has had a left of centre government in power for the last four years and despite the PP-FAES-Libertad Digital-El Mundo alliance’s shrill warnings about ‘the end of Spain’, dark terrorist conspiracies and economic collapse, Spain seems to be doing OK. This is the reason why the PP rarely challenges the PSOE on any policy issue except when it touches on concepts of ‘national unity’ and alleged threats to tradition. Rather, they spend their time posturing and holding press conferences, much as they did when they were in power. Despite being from the ‘far left’, the country is doing fine. But I know that this is a story which won’t be told in the United States, where fear of a single word still dominates political discourse.

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*Red Dawn – if you haven’t seen this film, try to download it or something. It’s a fiercely jingoistic anti-Soviet propaganda movie from about 1984 starring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, and it recounts the events following a Soviet-Cuban invasion of the United States. I imagine it gave a lot of impressionable teenagers nightmares and a firm hatred of socialism, which was exactly its intention. It’s a pretty terrible film but also quite amusing in parts.

Spanish national anthem gets some lyrics

For a long time, Spain’s national anthem has been without words. The original set of lyrics, deemed excessively militaristic and overshadowed by General Franco’s fascist dictatorship, were laid to rest more than 30 years ago. Since then, the anthem has been hummed or laahed, which is what drove the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE – no relation to Seb, so far as I know) to launch the contest for new lyrics.

Apparently, the new words have caused some consternation… partly because the first line is ‘Viva España!’, not a phrase which goes down well with a significant proportion of the population.

I’m planning to obtain Spanish nationality sometime soon and I’m now worried that I’ll have to learn the new words. I can’t help but remember the schoolyard version I’ve heard sung by many Spanish and Catalan twenty-somethings:

“Franco, / Franco, / que tiene el culo blanco, / porque su mujer / lo lava con Ariel” – I hope I don’t lose points for singing that version. I’d rather they left it without lyrics – I always thought there was rather more nobility and style to standing still and quiet than to reciting some dull hymn. That said, Els Segadors (Catalonia’s national anthem) is replete with incitement to violent uprising and is actually rather stirring.

Anyway, there’s a video on El País which gauges Madrileño opinion to the new words.

Update: Here are the lyrics in English (nicked from the Guardian, so they may not be 100% kosher)

Long live Spain!
We sing together
With different voices
And only one heart

Long live Spain!
From the green valleys
To the immense sea
A hymn of brotherhood

Love the Fatherland
Which knows how to embrace
Below the blue sky
People in freedom

Glory to the sons
Who have given to history
Justice and greatness
Democracy and peace

By the way, a lot of people seem to come to this page looking for the lyrics to the Barça anthem… so here they are:

Tot el camp, és un clam
som la gent blaugrana, Tant se val d’on venim
si del sud o del nord
ara estem d’acord, ara estem d’acord,
una bandera ens agermana.
Blaugrana al vent, un crit valent
tenim un nom, el sap tothom:
Barça , Barça, Barça!
Jugadors, seguidors, tots units fem força.
Son molt anys plens d’afanys,
son molts gols que hem cridat
i s’ha demostrat, i s’ha demostrat,
que mai ningu no ens podrà torcer
Blau-grana al vent, un crit valent
tenim un nom, el sap tothom
Barça, Barça, Barça!