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Encyclopedia > PSOE

The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español or PSOE) is one of the main parties of Spain. It is a social democratic party, a member of the Socialist International.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in a meeting in San Sebastián

It has had strong ties with the Unión General de Trabajadores trade union. For decades, UGT membership was a requisite for PSOE membership. During the ruling of PSOE in the 1980s, though, UGT protested the PSOE economic policy, even calling to a general strike (14-D) on 14 December of 1988.


It was founded in 1879 in Madrid by the historical Spanish workers' leader Pablo Iglesias. Although the PSOE was rather weak during the last years of the 19th century, its active participation in strike waves of 1899-1902 and, especially its electoral coalition with the main Republican parties led in 1910 to the election of Pablo Iglesias as the first socialist representative in the Spanish Cortes (Parliament).

The PSOE formed part of the Spanish Government during the second Spanish Republic (1931-1933) and as part of the Spanish Popular Front ("Frente Popular"), elected to government in 1936. During the Spanish Civil War, it divided into two wings: a leftist revolutionary, and Marxist wing, led by Francisco Largo Caballero, and a reformist wing, led by Indalecio Prieto and Julian Besteiro.

During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1939-1975) the PSOE was illegal and it was persecuted. Many of their leaders and militants were imprisoned, assassinated, or they exiled to France, the United States, or Mexico.

In a congress at Suresnes (France, 1974), Felipe González was elected as general secretary. He showed intentions to move the party away from its Marxist and socialist background, turning the PSOE into a social-democratic party, similar to those of the rest of western Europe. In 1979, he threatened to run for the leader position if the party did not abandon Marxism. These movements were encouraged by the European social democracy; German SPD granted money to PSOE. The party symbol was changed from the anvil with the book to the Social Democratic fist with a rose.

In the first democratic elections (1977), it arose as the second party of Spain, with 30% of the votes.

In the referendum of 1978, PSOE favoured the Spanish Constitution, which was aproved. In the 1979 elections it obtained similar results as in 1977.

In 1982, the PSOE won an historic electoral victory, with more than 10,000,000 votes (48% of popular vote). Felipe González became Prime minister, a position that he occupied from 1982 to 1996. In spite of its appearance as a party with a progressive economic program, the PSOE combined social reforms with a liberal and capitalist economic policy.

Though the party had previously opposed the NATO, after reaching the government most party leaders defended to maintain 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 years later as its Secretary General.

PSOE Supported the United States in the First Gulf War (1991). The PSOE won 1986, 1989 and 1993 elections.

Economic crisis, scandals of corruption and alleged state terrorism against the Basque terrorist group ETA eroded the popularity of Felipe González, and in 1996, the PSOE lost the elections to the conservative Partido Popular (PP). Between 1996 and 2001 the PSOE weathered a crisis, suffering a hard defeat in 2000 (34.7%).

It still has remained as the ruling party in the autonomous communities of Andalusia, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Asturias.

In 2001, a new general secretary, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, was elected, replacing Felipe González, and renewing the party. Later, the PSOE won the municipal elections of 2003.

On 13th November 2003 the PSOE won the regional election in Catalonia, through a pact with Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia, ERC, left-wing independentist) and Iniciativa per Catalunya (Initiative for Catalonia, ICV, left-wing).

In 2004, the PSOE won the Spanish legislative elections with almost 43% of the votes, following the 11-M terrorist attacks, and the elections to the European Parliament.

PSOE calls for Yes to the European Constitution proposal in the referenda to be held in 2005.

Glossary of PSOE terms

  • 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. Some barons are Pasqual Maragall (Catalonia), José Luis Ibarra (Extremadura), Manuel Chaves (Andalusia). (Enrique Barón was a PSOE minister for Industry, the surname is a coincidence). The term baron is more colloquial than official, representing the great power than these persons have in the party.
  • Compañero ("companion"). A term of address among Socialists, similar to the communist comrade. After the social-democratization, it is out of vogue and only used during campaigns or by the most leftist socialists.
  • Currents. There have been several internal groups within PSOE, based on personal or ideological affinities. Some of them have ended with separation from the 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).

See also: Politics of Spain

  Results from FactBites:
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1221 words)
The PSOE was founded with the purpose of representing the interests of the working class born from the Industrial Revolution with the declared objective of achieving socialism, and inspired by the revolutionary principles of Marxism.
Although the PSOE was rather weak during the late 1800s, its active participation in strikes from 1899 to 1902 and especially its electoral coalition with the main Republican parties led in 1910 to the election of Pablo Iglesias as the first Socialist representative in the Spanish Cortes.
In 1977 PSOE became the official opposition party with 29.2% of the vote and 118 seats in the Parliament.
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero - Encyclopedia, History, Geography and Biography (5699 words)
Rodríguez Zapatero organized a coalition to obtain the mayoralty in León in 1987, justifying the coalition by arguing that it was necessary to change the "negative dynamics" of the city, to "normalize" its democratic life, and to end its "bad relations" with other institutions, such as the Regional Government of Castilla y León.
In 1988, Rodríguez Zapatero was appointed Secretary General of the PSOE in León after a complex internal fight that ended a long period of divisions and internal confrontation.
Although the PSOE got worse results than in the previous election, it finally took hold of the regional government after almost 20 years of control of the Institutions by CIU thanks to an alliance with ERC and the other left-wing party.
  More results at FactBites »



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