Just five years ago the BNG was facing its own implosion. It was still dragging the aftermath of the splits of 2012 and the expectations of En Marea, with which some of its prominent members advocated allying, were very high and at the expense of the electoral space itself. Its then new leader, Ana Pontón, had not finished taking off. But, against all odds, the bleeding stopped. Or, rather, its severity was not exacerbated. The comeback that began then has little precedent in Galician politics: in the last elections the Bloc went from six to 19 seats and leads the opposition to Feijóo. This Sunday, November 7, celebrates a National Assembly, the 17, in which above all it seeks to convey the idea that a nationalist president in Galicia is possible.
“Keeping what works, taking advantage of the people and teams that have shown ability and worth in their positions and maintaining the bulk of a leadership team that has been able to lead the BNG from a difficult and complex situation to the best electoral result of its history “, proclaimed the Pontón itself in the last National Council – the highest body between assemblies of the formation. That day, in which he presented his candidacy for the leadership of the Bloc, he also clarified the message on which he has been insisting in recent months: “Today we are the second political force in the country in a position to successfully face the challenge of leading the Government of Galicia “.
Only once did the BNG enter the Xunta. It was between 2005 and 2009, as a member of the Socialist Party of Emilio Pérez Touriño. The vice-presidency of Anxo Quintana, four ministries –Culture, Rural Environment, Industry and Housing–, internal tensions and an abrupt end due to the unexpected absolute majority of Alberto Núñez Feijóo turned that experience into a duel. Margarita Ledo Andión remembers him, a historical militant of the nationalist left and professor of Audiovisual Communication. “There was a kind of self-incrimination by the bipartisan,” he explains, “but it has been learned. Among other things, to have trustworthy dialogues with different political forces, even though sometimes there are strong differences.” Although the relations between BNG and PSdeG in the Galician Parliament are not going through their moment of greatest complicity, both share an executive in three of the four county councils of the community or in cities such as Lugo and Pontevedra.
After the bipartite, and in the context of the Great Recession, the BNG broke down. Numerous contingents of militants left the ship. Xosé Manuel Beiras led the division of the sectors that would end up forming Anova, the nationalist leg of the confluences of the left during the past decade. The Unión do Pobo Galego (UPG), its parent party, defined as communist and founded in 1964, to which Pontón belongs, took over the helm, the command bridge and almost the entire crew. The Bloc then adopted a more defensive discourse, besieged at the polls by the tides. That has changed, says Afonso Eiré, journalist and director of the weekly To Nosa Terra between 1983 and 2007. “The Bloc has left pessimism behind. If you want to excite young people, you cannot continue with the negative discourse. And that Ana Pontón and her management know how to do, they have known how to do it,” he says, before place the main novelty of the nationalists in the same place as their national spokesperson: “In the BNG there is a determination to govern and the militancy assumes that it is necessary to go out to win the party.”
“New forms of communication”
“Winning” is precisely the verb, reminiscent of the not so new policy, that the organization has chosen for its assembly. Other expressions typical of that label, such as “contesting hegemony”, have entered the vocabulary of the nationalist leadership. Xosé Manuel Sarille, writer and author of the critic A nova presenza do BNG (Medulia Editorial, 2021), observes “new forms of communication” and a “renewal of the image”. “It is true that testosterone has decreased and that BNG emits in a different way,” he says, but is skeptical about the depth of the news. “There is a question of DNA in the BNG”, he assures, “and that has to do with a tragic feeling in Galicia that does not correspond to reality. That nervous and bombastic speech does not work. And it has nothing to do with being more or less nationalist, not more or less left-wing, but with how the population receives it. ”
During its hard journey through the ten years of this century, the discursive nucleus of the Block was modulating. Some analysts even refer to lurching. With Guillerme Vázquez as spokesman, he accentuated his leftism. The 2012 crisis was getting worse. Economics professor Xavier Vence took over and tilted the tactic towards sovereignty, with the brilliant success of the confluences –now disappeared from the regional map– always in the rear-view mirror. But Ana Pontón chose another route, away from stridency and had no qualms about claiming the legacy of Quintana, who in his day avoided placing the BNG on the right-left axis. Ledo Andión considers that the formation has gained in clarity. “He has simplified his messages, which implies that desire to cover broader audiences,” he says, “while there are no abstract messages. He is involved with social movements. He proclaims statements that mobilize and engage the interlocutor.” Feminism and environmentalism are more present, he adds. In line this time with other European political left. One of the few significant announcements ahead of Sunday’s assembly has been the approval of a protocol against “internal sexist violence” in the formation.
At the institutional level, issues such as the reduction of tolls on the AP-9 highway and ownership of the infrastructure – agreed with the central government coalition -, the defense of an economic agreement for Galicia or electricity prices – for the that demands a “Galician tariff” – they occupy the nationalist positions. According to Pontón before the National Council, it is “a clear and up-to-date speech, focused on the concerns of citizens and offering alternatives and solutions to problems that have a full impact on families, the working class, and autonomous people, in small and medium-sized enterprises “. Sarille does not see it so clear. On A nova presenza do BNG It ugly for the organization, of which he was a part in the 1980s, which “barely elaborates propositional theory that feeds its political practice.” Regarding the concert, for example, he understands “essential a broad scientific endorsement” that, in his opinion, the Block has not yet provided.
The renewal of the faces
In any case, the analysts consulted agree that the new leadership has brought news. Sarille doubts that Pontón and his team will be able to “impose their interests” in the internship, and opposes their strategy to that represented by Néstor Rego, a nationalist deputy in Congress, “an essentialist line, distant from that followed by Ana Pontón in Parliament. Galician”. There were those who interpreted their August break in this key, that of reinforcing their internal power in the face of some disagreements. Pontoon then announced by surprise that he was taking a few months to reflect on whether he would continue to lead the Block. She herself undid the ordeal two weeks ago, announcing that yes, she would once again opt for the national spokesperson in front of a continuist candidacy. It includes the people that Afonso Eiré places at the forefront of the “important decisions” of the BNG’s day-to-day life: Luís Bará, Xavier Campos, Goretti Sanmartín or Rubén Cela.
“A new generation has entered, the usual ones are no longer in command. The 40-year-olds are in command, who do not have those tics, nor do they carry a backpack of grievances on their back,” he says. This promotion of leaders faces, he indicates, the enormous transformations that Galician society has undergone in recent decades, especially its rural environment, “something unparalleled in Europe.” In his view, this “structural change” opens new avenues in Galician politics, among them an entry of the BNG into the Popular Party electorate that, until now, no demographic study has registered in a significant way. “Before the rural people had experienced an improvement in their lives, if there was no electricity to the pensions, which made them politically conservative. That is no longer the case,” he reflects. That three of the four Galician councils are now in the hands of governments presided over by the PSOE in alliance with the nationalists reinforces, he says, his thesis: “The PP has been deprived of a caciquismo spring.”
But it is at the local level where the Block has not yet confirmed that second position that it does hold in the Galician Parliament. Thirty mayors and 456 nationalist councilors compared to 111 and 1,181 socialists –including five of the seven cities– and 161 and 1,631 of the PP confirm this. And that, according to Margarita Ledo Andión, is the municipal practice that nationalists must rely on. “They are examples of good government, from Barreiros (A Mariña, Lugo) to Tomiño (Baixo Miño, Pontevedra) or the emblematic Allariz (Ourense). All three, by the way, with women in the mayor’s office,” he maintains, to endorse his opinion that the Bloc must “lose its fear” of the institutions.
40 years of history in 2022
In 2022, the BNG will turn 40 years old. Constituted as a front of nationalist parties with the nexus of the defense of the right of self-determination, inspired by the wake of the national liberation movements of the Third World and with an important root in what was the European Maoism, its history passed in parallel to the of Galician autonomy. For 30 years it was grouping the different currents of the nationalist left, and even some small centrist formation – Galego Nationalist Party, extinct. Almost at the same time, the bulk of nationalist trade unionism began a trajectory that led to the fact that, today, the Galician Inter-Union Confederation (CIG) is the first central in the community in number of delegates.
Its municipal presence was continued, although the crisis unleashed by the 2012 rupture and the emergence of the tides reduced it to a minimum in cities such as A Coruña or Vigo – in the latter it has a councilor in the opposition, after a mandate without representation. But in the autonomous instance, the ups and downs were more pronounced. It had already been second force with Beiras as a candidate in 1997 and 2001. The tides relegated it to fourth place. And he recovered. Now he arrives with 19 seats, his all-time high, and the leadership of the parliamentary opposition to his most optimistic National Assembly in decades.