‘Realpolitik’ against activism: the abrupt awakening of the left with the Sahara


In November 1976, Philip Gonzalez starred in a famous trip to the Tindouf camps. In his iconic speech, the already leader of the PSOE he committed himself “before history” with the idea that his party would be with the Saharawis until their “final victory”. “You will be able to return to your homes,” González promised to applause. More than 45 years later, on March 14, another socialist, Pedro Sánchez, wrote a letter to the King of Morocco, Mohamed VI. The fundamental paragraph of it, with typo included, said: “Spain considers that the Moroccan proposal for autonomy presented in 2007 as the most serious, credible and realistic basis for the resolution of this dispute.

If you ask the part of society most committed to the Saharawi cause, the adjectives with which it describes the historical turn of the Spanish Government regarding this issue are of a high caliber: “traitors”, “mean”, “hypocrites”. Many of these people protest that the decision was taken precisely by a leftist government. The current socialist leaders hide behind ‘realpolitik’. “Times change, and if we go back to the positions that were held not only by Spain, but by the entire international community at the beginning of the 1980s, it has obviously changed,” said the PSOE’s federal spokesman a few days ago. Philip Sicily.

However, for several generations of left-wing Spaniards, the cause of the Saharawis has been at the top of their political concerns. And the abrupt awakening of these days is an unexpected affliction for many of them. “We are pissed off. It is something that we did not expect, and less in these terms. Spain has an enormous responsibility, and has yielded to the blackmail of Morocco”, says Albert Giraltcoordinator of the Catalan Association of Friends of the Saharawi People (ACAPS).

Effervescence of associations

It is one of the dozens of entities created in defense of the rights of the Saharawis after the Green March of 1975, which served Morocco to expel the Spanish army from the area and claim its sovereignty. That effervescence proves that the cause has been one of the favorites of Spanish activists for decades.

But not everyone finds the twist surprising. In fact, as the PSOE leadership also argues, some recall that Sánchez’s letter only develops signals in the same direction – that of accepting autonomy for Western Sahara to the detriment of the self-determination referendum requested by the Polisario Frontand that the UN defended in 1991 as a way out of the conflict – which has already issued Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in 2008, when he was president.

“Not surprising, but petty”it says Aristides Rosino, an activist from Torrelavega (Cantabria) who for four consecutive summers took in a Saharawi child through the Holidays in Peace association. “Actually he is doubly petty, because the PSOE included his commitment to the referendum in the electoral program to win votes, but then he does this,” he adds.

two lefts

Even though United We Can He has expressed his discomfort with Sánchez’s decision – even displaying Saharawi flags in Congress – he has also ruled out breaking the Government. But, from the Tindouf camps, the refugee Mahfud Bechri distinguishes between the position of the two parties of the Executive. “There are two types of left. The traditional left that has always been on the side of the Saharawi people and their struggle: the PCE, Izquierda Unida, Podemos. And then there is the PSOE, which has many voters sympathetic to the cause but whose leaders have unfortunately always shown rapprochement with Morocco“, he tells EL PERIÓDICO.

The activist Rosino agrees with that diagnosis. “The bases of the left are in solidarity. We know history: we have taken advantage of their resources and we have abandoned them. A people is betrayed because of geopolitics“, he affirms with regret about the Saharawi people. “The governments of Spain are very far from what the Spanish people think about the Saharawi cause”, insists Bechri.

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Faced with these accusations, the socialists defend themselves by appealing to “realism” and the need for Morocco remains a “strategic partner” of Spain. The improvement in relations between the two countries has been instantaneous after Sánchez’s letter: the Moroccan ambassador has returned to Madrid and the forthcoming reopening of the borders of Ceuta and Melilla.

From Cantabria, Rosino consoles himself because, he says, at least the Saharawi cause has returned to the headlines. But he does not expect a wave of solidarity to rise up this time either that will make the government rethink its position: “On Thursday there were quite a few people at the demonstration in Santander, but in a week it will be forgotten again and we will continue in the street the four of always“.


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