Spanish Socialists fail to resolve differences

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The Independent Online
MADRID - At the opening session of the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers' Party's (PSOE) four-yearly convention yesterday, an observer delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organisation won a more rousing ovation than the Prime Minister and party leader, Felipe Gonzalez, writes Phil Davison. And of more than 3,000 delegates and visitors present, he was noticeably the only one who did not applaud the PLO team.

Mr Gonzalez undoubtedly intended no snub. He was clearly preoccupied with other things, notably his opening speech to the three-day convention in which he admitted 'considerable internal tension (within the party) which is projecting a negative image to the outside world'.

He was referring to his rift with his 30-year friend and fellow-militant, the PSOE deputy leader, Alfonso Guerra, who believes Mr Gonzalez has hauled the once- Marxist party away from orthodox Socialism. The split between 'renovators' who support Mr Gonzalez, and 'Guerristas' who support his deputy, seemed likely to dominate the convention.

When Mr Guerra leaned across to speak to the Prime Minister after his speech, setting cameras flashing, Mr Gonzalez appeared intent on ignoring him. The two had not been on speaking terms for weeks but were said to have spoken on the phone on Thursday night and reportedly sought to avoid public confrontation.

In front of a banner proclaiming the convention's motto, 'A new impulse for socialism', Mr Gonzalez told delegates Spain was 'coming out of the (economic) crisis . . . the second half of the Nineties will be a period of strong growth'. He said the party was committed to the welfare state but it had to be paid for through increased competitiveness.

(Photograph omitted)