Nearly 2,500 British men and women went to Spain in the 1930s to fight for democracy against the forces of fascism. Many of them lost their lives there, but their memory remains. The gratitude and the tribute of the Spanish democrats to those heroes lingers on. We admire you for that.
What a heavy price we paid for that defeat. Not only in terms of the precious lives that were lost. My country ensued 40 years of brutal dictatorship, a really difficult transition to democracy and a late and incomplete integration in the European project. For those who fought against the dictatorship, Europe was then an ideal of freedom, of the political and civil liberties that we lacked. It was a symbol of modernization, of progress, of social rights, of the welfare state.
It was a model of society where the dignity of our existence depended on the dignity of all, especially of those who had the least. A model of society where there were fair tax systems that allow for social redistribution. A society with strong unions, public health, education and pension systems. A society where the dignity and the rights of an individual did not depend on the neighbourhood you were born in, or on how much money your family had in a bank account.
Europe was a symbol of the noble values of peace, fraternity among nations, democracy, and social rights. It was a space for rights that would help overcome the worst nightmares of our shared past.
It is obvious that the European Union does not stand for those values any longer. Since the crisis of 2008 (a crisis, it is worth remembering it, which was not caused by the workers, the unemployed, immigrants or the refugees), the EU has been at the vanguard of a systematic attempt to dismantle that model of society. It has imposed cuts and privatisations, and demolished that system of rights that generations had struggled for.
In this year alone, we have seen how unelected, unaccountable bodies of power crush the democratic will of entire peoples. We have seen an irrational and unjust insistence upon the economic paradigm of austerity politics. This is generating inequality, poverty, and social exclusion in our societies.
And we have seen the shameful contempt with which the EU, after 15 years of disastrous military interventions, now looks the other way when the victims of those conflicts get to our borders in search of safety for their kids, and entire families drown in the Mediterranean.
It is true this EU is failing the ambitions, hope and expectations that lie at the origin of the integration project. But it is equally true that these value – of peace, fraternity, democracy and human rights – are too precious to be left in the hands of oligarchs and xenophobes. Allowing this to happen can only mean a race to the bottom. Such a race would remind us of the worst nightmares of our history, precisely the ones that the British heroes of the International Brigades came to my country to fight against.
We ask our British friends to vote Remain in the referendum, not to let things stay as they are now, but to help us change this state of affairs. To fight for a democratic Europe worthy of the name.
We want Jeremy Corbyn to win the next election, so that your country can join the millions of others who do not accept this spiral of injustice, who want to live in a continent where poverty and hatred have no place.
We ask you to vote to defend your sovereignty. Not the sovereignty of the banks, not the sovereignty of the City of London, of the oligarchs and their tax heavens, but the sovereignty of the people.
You can count on us in that fight. We, on our part, count on you to walk that path with us together.
Pablo Bustinduy is head of foreign affairs at Podemos, a left-wing Spanish political party founded in 2014 and now the second biggest party in the country.