Spanish Greens and the political ecology social movement: a regional perspective
McFall, Ann Patricia Radford
The present study sets out to challenge a common assumption that Green politics is virtually non-existent in Spain. This assumed state of affairs has been attributed to a number of factors including a materialist society which prioritises economic growth, Spain’s political culture and, finally, the country’s electoral system. The result, according to the few scholars who include Spain in their studies, is a country with a weak political ecology social movement (PESM) and a Green party that enjoys only ‘trivial support’ (Mair 2001:103). As will be demonstrated, such assumptions are based on an insufficient knowledge of political ecology in Spain. The lack of knowledge has resulted in Spain’s green movements and parties being routinely misinterpreted and, indeed, overlooked. The first and most glaring misconception is many scholars’ persistence in referring to the ‘Spanish Green party’ as if a single party existed. In fact, the ‘Spanish Greens’ comprise not one national party but a variable and variegated number of different political parties, a few of which have certainly achieved a measure of electoral success (depending, of course, on how success is defined). Furthermore, it will be shown that reasons often given for the failure of the Green parties – such as the country’s alleged lack of interest in environmental matters – overlook other more pertinent factors such as, for example, tensions between the Spanish Greens and the environmental movement organisations (EMO), the nationalist factor and continuing tensions between the ‘green-greens’ and the ‘red-greens’. Despite numerous problems at party level, the present study will show that Spain’s PESM is as vigorous as – though different from - that of other countries which are reputed to be environmental leaders. To pursue this argument, the thesis will provide an overview of Spain’s Green parties, setting these within the cultural and historical context of the broader PESM to which they belong. Drawing on territorial politics literature, the thesis will, in particular, demonstrate that the territorial dimension – that is, Spain’s division into 17 autonomous regions – has been one of the neglected but determining factors contributing to the problems besetting the Spanish Greens. It will also be argued that, in its own way, the efforts of Spanish ecologists have undoubtedly contributed towards the ‘piecemeal’ greening of Spain. The arguments are further developed through two in-depth case studies focusing on political ecology, and more particularly Green parties, in two of Spain’s regions, Catalonia and Andalucia.