Spanish Socialist Workers' Party
The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Spanish: Partido Socialista Obrero Español [paɾˈtiðo soθjaˈlista oβɾeɾo espaˈɲol] (
|Deputy-Secretary General||Francesc Lara|
|Spokesperson in Congress||Adriana Lastra|
|Spokesperson in Senate||Ander Gil|
|Founder||Pablo Iglesias Posse|
|Founded||2 May 1879|
|Headquarters||C/ Ferraz, 70|
28008 Madrid, Spain
|Student wing||Campus Joven|
|Youth wing||Socialist Youth of Spain|
|Trade union||General Union of Workers|
|European affiliation||Party of European Socialists|
|International affiliation||Progressive Alliance|
|European Parliament group||Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats|
"Anthem of the PSOE"
|Congress of Deputies|
120 / 350
111 / 266
20 / 54
346 / 1,268
9 / 19
391 / 1,040
|Local government (2019)|
22,335 / 67,121
The PSOE was founded in 1879, making it the oldest party currently active in Spain. The PSOE played a key role during the Second Spanish Republic, being part of coalition government from 1931 to 1933 and from 1936 to 1939, when the Republic was defeated by Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Historically a Marxist party, it abandoned Marxism in 1979. The PSOE has historically had strong ties with the General Union of Workers (UGT), a Spanish trade union. For a couple of decades, UGT membership was a requirement for PSOE membership. However, since the 1980s UGT has frequently criticized the economic policies of PSOE, even calling for a general strike against the PSOE government on 14 December 1988.
The PSOE is a member of the Party of European Socialists, Progressive Alliance and the Socialist International. In the European Parliament, PSOE's 20 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sit in the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) European parliamentary group.
PSOE was founded by Pablo Iglesias on 2 May 1879 in the Casa Labra tavern in Tetuán Street near the Puerta del Sol at the centre of Madrid. Iglesias was a typesetter who had become in contact in the past with the Spanish section of the International Working Men's Association and with Paul Lafargue. The first program of the new political party was passed in an assembly of 40 people, on 20 July of that same year. The bulk of the growth of the PSOE and its affiliated trade union, the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) was chiefly restricted to the Madrid-Biscay-Asturias triangle up until the 1910s. The obtaining of a seat at the Congress by Pablo Iglesias at the 1910 legislative election, in which the PSOE candidates presented within the broad Republican–Socialist Conjunction, became a development of great symbolical transcendence, and gave the party more publicity at the national level.
The party and the UGT took a leading role in the general strike of August 1917, in the context of the events of the 1917 Crisis during the conservative government of Eduardo Dato. The strike was crushed by the army with the result of further undermining of the constitutional order; the members of the organizing committee (Julián Besteiro, Francisco Largo Caballero, Daniel Anguiano and Andrés Saborit), were accused of sedition and sentenced to life imprisonment. Sent to the prison of Cartagena, they were released a year later, after being elected to the Cortes in the 1918 general election. During the 1919−1921 "Crisis of the Internationals" the party experienced tensions between the members endorsing the Socialist International and the advocates for joining the Third International. Two consecutive splits of dissidents willing to join the Komintern, namely the Spanish Communist Party in 1920, and the Spanish Communist Workers' Party in 1921, broke away from the PSOE and soon merged to create the Communist Party of Spain (PCE).
The party was a member of the Labour and Socialist International between 1923 and 1940.
After the death of Pablo Iglesias in 1925, Julián Besteiro replaced him as president of both the PSOE and the UGT.
During the 1923–1930 dictatorship of Primo de Rivera corporativist PSOE and UGT elements were willing to engage into limited collaboration with the regime, against the political stance defended by other socialists such as Indalecio Prieto and Fernando de los Ríos, who instead advocated a closer collaboration with republican forces. The last years of the dictatorship saw a divergence emerge among the "corporativists"; it was personified in Francisco Largo Caballero, who began to endorse the rapport with bourgeois republicans, and Julián Besteiro, who continued to show great distrust towards them. Besteiro's refusal to participate in the "Revolutionary Committee" led to his resignation as president both of the party and the trade union in February 1931. He was replaced as president of the party by Remigio Cabello.
Second Republic and Civil War
After the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic on 14 April 1931, three PSOE members were included in the cabinet of the provisional government: Indalecio Prieto (Finance), Fernando de los Ríos (Education) and Francisco Largo Caballero (Labour). The socialist presence remained in the rest of cabinets of the "Social-Azañist Biennium" (1931–1933).
After the November 1933 general election, which marked a win for the right-of-centre forces, in a climate of increasing polarization and growing unemployment, along with a desire to make amends for the mistake of not having sided with the republicans in the election against the united right, Largo Caballero adopted a revolutionary rhetoric. Indalecio Prieto had also participated in the increasingly aggressive rhetoric, having already condemned the heavy-hand repression of the December 1933 largely anarchist uprising by the government, that has been cheered on by the CEDA parliamentary fraction leaders. The Socialist Youth of Spain (JSE) also engaged into a shrilling revolutionary rhetoric, while Besteiro firmly opposed the insurrectionary drift of the militancy.
The formation of a new cabinet that included CEDA ministers in October 1934 was perceived among the Left as a reaction, with the CEDA party being indistinguishable from contemporary Fascism to most workers, while CEDA leader Gil-Robles had advocated the establishment of a corporative state already in the 1933 electoral campaign. The UGT called for a nationwide general strike for 5 October, and this strike developed into a full-blown insurrection (the "Revolution of 1934") in the mining region of Asturias, which was vocally supported by socialists such as Largo Caballero and Prieto. After the end of the revolt, whose repression was entrusted to Generals Franco and Goded, most PSOE and UGT leaders were jailed.
A growing rift between Prieto and Largo Caballero (with disparate views of politics, albeit sharing a general pragmatist approach) formed in 1935 while Besteiro's hold on the party diminished significantly. Followers of Indalecio Prieto would ultimately become "estranged from the party left". The PSOE formed part of the broad left-wing Popular Front electoral coalition that stood for election in 1936 and achieved a victory in seats over the right.
In September 1936, a few months into the 1936–1939 Spanish Civil War, a cabinet presided over by Largo Caballero was formed (he also held the functions of Minister of War). In November, Largo Caballero succeeded in bringing some CNT members into his government. The left socialist caballeristas were revolutionary in rhetoric (although in reality they proposed moderate reformist policies while in government); the May Events of 1937 in Barcelona destabilised the government, which was replaced by a new cabinet led by Juan Negrín, another socialist.
Clandestinity and exile
With the PSOE reduced to clandestinity during the Francoist dictatorship, its members were persecuted, with many leaders, members and supporters being imprisoned or exiled and even executed. The party was legalized again in 1977, during the Spanish Transition.
Disputes between the followers of Indalecio Prieto (who had exiled to Mexico) and Juan Negrín over the political strategy of the Republican government in Exile soon arose. Negrín, whose 1937–1939 spell at the government in wartime was seen negatively by large elements of both caballerista and prietista extraction, had become vilified. The party was re-organized along new lines in 1944 in the 1st Congress in Exile that took place in Toulouse and in which Rodolfo Llopis became the party's new Secretary General.
The PSOE congresses in exile during the post-war period were marked by strong anti-communist positions, as a reflection of how the exiles remembered the last events of the Civil War (which featured bitter strifes with the communists) and in line with the stance of other parties of the Socialist International during the Cold War, neglecting any kind of rapprochement with the PCE. The relative void left in Spain by the PSOE, with a Toulouse-based direction lacking in dynamism and innovation, was filled by the PCE and other new clandestine organizations such as the Agrupación Socialista Universitaria (ASU), the Popular Liberation Front (FELIPE), or, later, the Tierno Galván's Socialist Party of the Interior. The Toulouse executive board became increasingly detached from the party in Spain in the 1960s an insurmountable chasm between the former and the party in the interior was already defined by 1972.
Modern history (1974–present)
Its 25th Congress was held in Toulouse in August 1972. In 1974 at its 26th Congress in Suresnes, Felipe González was elected Secretary General, replacing Llopis. González was from the "reform" wing of the party, and his victory signaled a defeat for the historic and veteran wing of the Party. The direction of the party shifted from the exiles to the young people in Spain who had not fought the war.
Llopis led a schism to form the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (historic). González showed intentions to move the party away from its Marxist and socialist background, turning PSOE into a social-democratic party, similar to those of the rest of western Europe. In 1977 PSOE became the unofficial opposition leading party with 29.2% of the vote and 118 seats in the Parliament (which until then it had been the Spanish Communist Party, leading more aggressively among a larger representation of underground parties since the last free popular vote during the Civil War on Republican territory). Their standing was further boosted in 1978 when the Popular Socialist Party agreed to merge into PSOE.
In their 27th congress in May 1979, González resigned because the party would not abandon its Marxist character. In September of that year, the extraordinary 28th congress was called in which González was re-elected when the party agreed to move away from Marxism. Western European social-democratic parties supported González's stand, and the Social Democratic Party of Germany granted them money. PSOE party symbol was changed from the anvil with the book to the social-democratic rose in the fist, as used by the French Socialist Party. In the referendum of 1978, PSOE supported the Spanish Constitution, which was approved. In the 1979 Spanish general election PSOE gained 30.5% of the vote and 121 seats, remaining the main opposition party. On 28 October 1982 Spanish general election, PSOE was victorious, with 48.1% of the vote (10,127,392 total). Felipe González became Prime Minister of Spain on 2 December, a position he held until May 1996.
Though the party had opposed NATO, after reaching the government most party leaders supported keeping Spain inside the organisation. The González administration organised a referendum on the question in 1986, calling for a favourable vote, and won. The administration was criticised for avoiding the official names of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and NATO, using the unofficial Atlantic Alliance terms. A symbol of this U-turn is Javier Solana who campaigned against NATO but ended up years later as its Secretary General.
PSOE supported the United States in the Gulf War (1991). PSOE won the 1986, 1989 and 1993 general elections. Under the Gonzalez Administration, public expenditure on education, health, and pensions rose in total by 4.1 points of the country's GDP between 1982 and 1992.
Economic crisis and state terrorism (GAL) against the violent separatist group ETA eroded the popularity of Felipe González, and in 1996, PSOE lost the elections to the conservative People's Party (PP). Between 1996 and 2001 PSOE weathered a crisis, with Gonzalez resigning in 1997. PSOE suffered a heavy defeat in 2000 (34.7%). PSOE remained as the ruling party in the autonomous communities of Andalusia, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Asturias.
In 2000, a new general secretary, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (also known as ZP), was elected, renewing the party. Later, PSOE won the municipal elections of 2003.
PSOE strongly opposed the Iraq War, which was supported by the Aznar government.
On 13 November 2003 PSOE (Socialists' Party of Catalonia, PSC) increased its vote total but scored second in the regional election in Catalonia, after Convergence and Union. After a period of negotiations, the party formed a pact with Republican Left of Catalonia, Initiative for Catalonia Greens and the United and Alternative Left, and governed in Catalonia until 2010.
On 14 March 2004, PSOE won the 2004 Spanish general election with almost 43% of the votes, following the 11-M terrorist (11 March) attacks. It was alleged that the PSOE, with the help of the national newspaper El Pais, did not observe the "reflection journey" which forbade political parties from trying to sway public opinion (forbidden by Spanish law), calling the opposing political party "assassins" and blaming the terrorist attack on them. The PSOE maintained their lead in the elections to the European Parliament.
In 2005, PSOE called for a "Yes" vote on the European Constitution. PSOE also favoured the negotiations between the government and ETA during the 2006 cease-fire, which had a de facto end with the Barajas Airport terrorist attack. On 9 March 2008 PSOE won the 2008 general elections again with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero remaining Prime Minister of Spain. The Socialists increased their share of seats in the Congress of Deputies from 164 to 169 after the latest election.
However, after waning popularity throughout their second term, mainly due to their handling of the worsening economic climate in Spain in the aftermath of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, PSOE were defeated in the general elections of November 2011 by the conservative People's Party. Shortly after, an extraordinary congress was held, in which Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, former Deputy to Zapatero and Minister of the Interior, was elected Secretary General defeating Carme Chacón, the other candidate, who stood for the Zapatero platform. This victory caused huge internal divisions and weakened the party's external image.
In 2013, PSOE held a political conference which introduced a completely new platform, widely seen as a move to the left in a desperate attempt to steal votes from parties such as United Left, whose popularity rose steadily due to the general discontent with the two-party system and spending cuts. That platform was the basis for the European Parliament election manifesto, promoted as a solid alternative to the conservative plan for Europe. The expectations inside the party, which chose Elena Valenciano as their election candidate, were really optimistic; however, the social democrats suffered another huge defeat due to the appearance of new parties such as Podemos which managed to gain the support of left-wing voters; PSOE won 14 seats. Shortly thereafter, Rubalcaba resigned as Secretary General and an Extraordinary Congress was convoked. This congress was the first to use a primary election system with three candidates: Pedro Sánchez, Eduardo Madina and José Antonio Pérez-Tapias. Sánchez was elected with 49% of the vote of the affiliates and therefore became Secretary General on 27 July.
In 2015 municipal elections, the PSOE won 25% of the vote, one of its worst results in since the restoration of democracy. Together with the fall of the Popular Party, which won 27% of votes, it meant the end of the two-party system in Spain in favor of new parties. The PSOE alone lost 943 councilors.
On 20 December, the 2015 general election was held, which produced a parliament broken into four major parties. PSOE, due to the large increase for parties like Podemos (left) and Citizens (centre-right), got about 20% of the vote, its worst result since democracy was restored. Parliament was so fragmented, no government could be formed, and six months later new elections were held. The 2016 elections resulted in the PSOE losing a further five seats despite gaining 0.6% of the vote (still the party's second-worst popular vote total since the restoration of democracy, after 2015), leaving the party with 85 seats in Parliament, their lowest total since the restoration of democracy and the fewest since the elections of 1933 in Republican Spain left the party with 59 seats in the 473-member parliament.
With the exception of the 2015 Andalusian elections, elections held during the early leadership of Sánchez were losses for the PSOE. In addition, the policy of pacts conducted by Sánchez after the general elections of 2016, based on Sánchez's outright refusal to facilitate a PP government, caused a faction within the party critical of Sánchez to rise in prominence. This faction was led by President of Andalusia Susana Díaz.
On September 28, 2016, the Secretary of Federal Policy, Antonio Pradas, went to the party's headquarters and presented the en bloc resignation of 17 members of the Federal Executive and the demands of those who resigned for the party to be run by an interim manager and to pressure Pedro Sánchez to resign as Secretary General. The Executive later lost two more members in the en bloc resignation, bringing the total number of resignations to 19. Resigning executives included the president of the party, Micaela Navarro, the former Minister Carme Chacón, the President of Valencia Ximo Puig and the President of Castilla–La Mancha Emiliano García-Page. This launched the 2016 PSOE crisis.
On the afternoon of 1 October 2016, after holding a tense Federal Committee meeting, Pedro Sánchez resigned as party General Secretary, forcing an extraordinary party congress to choose a new General Secretary. That night it was reported that an interim manager would be chosen, later confirmed to be the President of Asturias Javier Fernández Fernández. Sánchez announced his intention to run for General Secretary of the party, as did Susana Díaz (one of the leaders of the anti-Sánchez faction of the party), and Patxi López, former President of the Basque Autonomous Community.
At the 39th federal congress in June 2017, Díaz received 48.3% of endorsements, outpacing both Sánchez (43.0% of endorsements) and López (8.7% of endorsements), but Sánchez won an absolute majority of the party's popular vote, at 50.3% (Díaz received 39.9% and López 9.8%). Both Díaz and López withdrew before the delegate vote, returning Sánchez as the General Secretary of the PSOE and ending the crisis. Sánchez won every region of Spain, except for the home regions of López and Díaz.
In mid-2018, the National Court that found that the PP profited from the illegal kickbacks-for-contracts scheme of the Gürtel case thus confirming the existence of an illegal accounting and financing structure that ran in parallel with the party's official one since 1989 and that sentenced that the PP helped to establish "a genuine and effective system of institutional corruption through the manipulation of central, autonomous and local public procurement." The PSOE Parliamentary Group in the Congress of Deputies filed a motion of no confidence against the PP government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, presenting Sánchez as alternative candidate. The PSOE's motion passed with the support of Unidos Podemos (UP), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT), Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), Coalició Compromís, EH Bildu and New Canaries (NC), bringing down the Rajoy government. The PP voted against the proposal, joined by Citizens (C's), Navarrese People's Union (UPN) and Asturias Forum (FA). Canarian Coalition (CC) abstained.
Following the successful motion of no confidence, Pedro Sánchez became Prime Minister on 2 June 2018, in a minority government. In December 2018, the PSOE's branch in Andalusia was defeated in the Andalusian regional elections for the first time since the restoration of democracy, with a center-right coalition of PP, C's, and the resurgent right-wing nationalists VOX taking power in the region.
For most of his first term as Prime Minister, Sánchez relied on support from UP and NC to get his agenda passed, occasionally being forced into negotiating with the Catalan separatist parties ERC and PDeCAT and the PNV on individual issues. In February 2019, the ERC, PDeCAT and En Marea withdrew their support of Sánchez's government by voting against and helping defeat the 2019 General State Budget, and Sánchez called an early election for 28 April 2019.
The 2019 general election resulted in victory for the PSOE, with the party winning 123 seats on 28.7% of the vote in the Cortes and an absolute majority of 139 in the Senate, gains of 38 and 79 seats respectively. The PSOE also finished eight percentage points ahead of the PP, who finished second in seats, in the popular vote. At election night party supporters demanded Sánchez to reject any coalition with Cs.
On 26 May 2019, the PSOE became the largest Spanish party in the European Parliament, following the European elections. The PSOE gained six seats to bring their total to 20, and won all but eight provinces in the country.
26 May also saw regional elections for every region in the country except Valencia, Catalonia, Andalusia, the Basque Country and Galicia. In every region except for Madrid, the PSOE gained seats and votes from the 2015 elections. The PSOE finished first in terms of votes and seats in every region except for Cantabria, where the Regionalist Party of Cantabria finished first and the PSOE third behind the PP, and Navarra, where the conservative regionalist NA+ finished first and the Socialist Party of Navarre finished second. PSOE governments were re-elected in Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura. The PSOE received an absolute majority of seats in both regions. The party took over the Presidency of the Canary Islands with the support of New Canaries and Podemos, ending 26 years of Canarian Coalition government.
From Marxism to social democracy
PSOE was founded with the purpose of representing and defending the interests of the working class formed during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. In its beginnings, PSOE's main objective was the defense of worker's rights and the achievement of the ideals of socialism, emerging from contemporary philosophy and Marxist politics, by securing political power for the working class and socialising the means of production in order to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat in the transition to socialist society. The ideology of the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party has evolved throughout the 20th century according to relevant historical events and the evolution of Spanish society.
In 1979, the party abandoned its definitive Marxist thesis at the hands of its then secretary general Felipe González, not before overcoming great tensions and two congresses, the first of which preferred to maintain Marxism. Before this situation, notable internal leaders like Pablo Castellano or Luis Gómez Llorente founded the internal faction of Left Socialists, which included the militants who would not renounce Marxism. This allowed for the consolidation of the leftist forces in PSOE. From this moment, the diverse events both outside and within the party led to projects that resembled those of other European social democratic parties and acceptance of the defence of the market economy.
Currently, PSOE defines itself as "social democratic, centre-left and progressive". It is grouped with other self-styled socialists, social democrats and labour parties in the Party of European Socialists.
During the Second Republic the matter of the conception of the State was open within the party: two different views connected in discourse to the interests of the working class competed against each other, a centralist view as well as a federal one. The late years of the Francoist dictatorship was a period in which PSOE defended the right to "self-determination of the peoples of Spain", in that it was a reflection of both an ideologic and a pragmatist approach. Ultimately, the party, while sticking to a preference for a federal system, gradually ceased to mention the notion of self-determination during the Spanish transition to democracy. Postulates coming from peripheral nationalisms that have been assumed by elements of the party, bringing an understanding of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia as nations and thus, deserving of a different treatment than the rest of regions, have been heavily criticised by other party elements, as according to the latter, they would undermine the principle of territorial equality among the autonomous communities.
|Restoration Cortes (1876–1923)|
Republican Cortes (1931–1939)
|Election||Coalition||Congress||+/–||Leader||Status in legislature|
0 / 404
|Pablo Iglesias Posse||No seats|
1 / 404
|Pablo Iglesias Posse||Opposition|
1 / 408
|Pablo Iglesias Posse||Opposition|
1 / 409
|Pablo Iglesias Posse||Opposition|
6 / 409
|Pablo Iglesias Posse||Opposition|
6 / 409
|Pablo Iglesias Posse||Opposition|
4 / 409
|Pablo Iglesias Posse||Opposition|
7 / 409
|Pablo Iglesias Posse||Opposition|
116 / 470
|Francisco Largo Caballero||Government (1931–1933)|
59 / 473
|Francisco Largo Caballero||Opposition|
99 / 473
|Indalecio Prieto||Opposition (1936)|
118 / 350
54 / 207
121 / 350
69 / 208
202 / 350
134 / 208
184 / 350
124 / 208
175 / 350
107 / 208
159 / 350
96 / 208
141 / 350
81 / 208
125 / 350
60 / 208
|2004||José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero||11,026,163||42.6||1st||
164 / 350
89 / 208
169 / 350
96 / 208
|2011||Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba||7,003,511||28.8||2nd||
110 / 350
54 / 208
90 / 350
47 / 208
85 / 350
43 / 208
|PP minority (2016–2018)|
|PSOE minority (2018–2019)|
123 / 350
123 / 208
120 / 350
93 / 208
28 / 60
27 / 60
22 / 64
24 / 64
25 / 54
|2009||Juan Fernando López Aguilar||6,141,784||38.8||2nd||
23 / 54
14 / 54
20 / 54
- Baron: unofficial term for the party's regional leaders. They can be very powerful, especially if they run an autonomous community. There have been conflicts between barons and the central directorate in the past. Some barons were Pasqual Maragall (Catalonia), who didn't run for re-election in 2006; Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra (Extremadura), who did not run for re-election in 2007; Manuel Chaves (Andalucia), who renounced Andalucia's presidency in 2009 to assume Third Vice Presidency of the Spanish Government; José Montilla (Catalonia), now opposition leader. The term barón is more colloquial than official, representing the great power regional leaders have in the party, but it has been falling out of use since 2008.
- Compañero ("companion", "comrade"): a term of address among Socialists, analogous to the English comrade and the Russian tovarisch.
- Currents: there have been several internal groups within PSOE, based on personal or ideological affinities. Some of them have ended with separation from PSOE. The failed trial of primary elections for PSOE candidates was an attempt to conciliate currents. Examples of currents are "Guerristas" (followers of Alfonso Guerra), "Renovadores" (renewers, right-wing of the party) or Izquierda Socialista (Socialist Left).
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- Tuñón de Lara 1990, p. 239.
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- Romero Salvadó 2010, pp. 79-80.
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- Heywood 2002, p. 56.
- Heywood 2002, p. 25.
- Kowalski, Werner. Geschichte der sozialistischen arbeiter-internationale: 1923 – 19. Berlin: Dt. Verl. d. Wissenschaften, 1985. p. 325
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- Heywood 2002, p. 117.
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- Preston 1978, p. 101.
- Preston 1978, pp. 102–105.
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- Graham 1988, p. 177.
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