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February 17, 2005

"Spain and Anti-Americanism": A dissenting voice from Spain

"According to the polls, Spain is the most anti-American country in Europe," writes Carlos Alberto Montaner in "España y el antiamericanismo."

Montaner is a Cuban-born author, academic, and journalist who has lived in Madrid (in exile from Fidel Castro's Cuba, one wonders?) since 1970 and contributes to, among other publications, the Miami Herald. He also maintains a webpage of his writings (in Spanish, English, German, Russian, Slovak, Czech, and Polish) at www.firmaspress.com.

In this article from June 2004, Montaner considers the historical and contemporary causes of anti-Americanism in Spain, then concludes:

The Spanish democratic left should recognize that it's absurd to continue attacking an ally vital in all terrains. It's time they understood that we live in a cultural and economic space that is absolutely interrelated, in which we all benefit from the successes of others and suffer from their failures. The need to understand that to be anti-American is also a form of being anti-Spanish...

(More inside.)

He's right that U.S.-Spain relations aren't exactly at their zenith these days. In an October 2004 poll, Spain was the only country surveyed where fewer than half of respondents had "a favourable or unfavourable opinion of Americans," and only 5 percent said events during the past few years had improved their opinion of the United States. And current Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero famously irked the Bush administration by withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq after his Socialist party swept into power in March 2004 in the wake of an al Qaeda attack on trains in Madrid that killed some 200 people.

But in "Spain and Anti-Americanism," Montaner traces Spanish anti-American sentiment much further back than the Iraq war, identifying its roots in 19th-century tensions between the U.S. and the Spanish right, which were then "reinforced" during the Spanish-American war, as well as in the Spanish left's resentment of the U.S. for not taking a harder line on Spain's Fascist dictator Francisco Franco (during the Cold War, the U.S. cozied up to Spain -- which was seen as strategically important in large part since it controlled access to the Mediterranean Sea).

Montaner takes a hard line of his own toward the Spanish left, arguing that U.S.-Spanish relations were vital to the country's transition to democracy following Franco's death in 1975, and suggesting that Spain cannot afford to turn its back on the United States.

Excerpts from the article (translated from the original Spanish):

According to the polls, Spain is the most anti-American country in Europe. As a consequence, the electoral strategy of the Spanish Socialists during the recent elections to the European Parliament was based on trying to demonstrate that their conservative adversaries were pro-American.
The origin of this negative perception is in the intense campaign launched by the Spanish right in the 19th century, when it identified the United States as a country that was Protestant, the wicked inheritor of the "perfidious Albion," materialistic, masonic, ignorant, dominated by the "Chicago sausages" or by the "Jewish bank." To this ridiculous stereotype, reinforced by the War of 1898 [The Spanish-American War] and partially in effect still today, was added the Marxist vision after the Bolshevik Revolution, and began to describe the United States as a soulless, imperialistic group of multinational corporations dedicated to the exploitation of weak countries and the looting of workers.
The truth is that, contrary to the opinion of the left, the close ties between the Americans and Francoism contributed decisively to the subsequent democratization and development of Spain. The Spanish military, victors of the Spanish Civil War, most of whom were adherents of Fascism, were influenced by the American military, formed from the cult of democratic values, which became a general trial for the subsequent entry of Spain into NATO. Also, the economists and functionaries of Francoism, at the time submerged in the Fascist mythology of economic nationalism, autarchy, and state-controlled economy (as dictated by the right's own Socialist ideology), had access to an American perspective based on the free market and openness to the exterior.
It's unfair, then, to attribute to the United States the kind of complicity with Francoism that supposedly retarded the establishment of democracy. On the contrary, it's very likely that the democratic tendency of King Juan Carlos, vital during the transition, was reinforced by his own pro-American attitude. And it's certain that, following the death of Franco, every time Washington had the opportunity to make its weight felt, it did so in the direction of fomenting the incorporation of Spain to the international mechanisms integrated by democratic nations, be it the European Union or NATO, given that American diplomats were convinced that [Spanish philosopher and essayist José] Ortega y Gasset was correct when he stated that "Spain is the problem, and Europe the solution."
It's a demagogic error on the part of the Socialists to insist on anti-Americanism as a formula for attracting voters. Just as conservative politicians – at least the controlling wing – buried their phobias toward Washington, the Spanish democratic left should recognize that it's absurd to continue attacking an ally vital in all terrains. It's time they understood that we live in a cultural and economic space that is absolutely interrelated, in which we all benefit from the successes of others and suffer from their failures. The need to understand that to be anti-American is also a form of being anti-Spanish, just as being anti-European is a foolish way of being anti-American.

Full text of article (Spanish): http://www.firmaspress.com/388.htm

Recent Montaner articles in English:

Election shows desire for peace
American strategists believe that the consolidation of a democratic state by Palestinians will contribute to the stability of the entire region and that, in due course, that climate of peace will lead to a radical reduction of the levels of anti-Americanism.

Zapatero's dangerous diplomacy
The first consequence of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's foreign policy was to chill Spain's relations with Washington.

Posted February 17, 2005 12:22 PM

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