Socialist Alternative

Spain: What Kind of Podemos Do Workers and Youth need?

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Debate within leadership touches on fundamental issues for future of party

Below we publish the January editorial from El Militante, paper of Izquierda Revolucionaria the Marxist organisation in the Spanish state with which the CWI is in a process of collaboration and coming together.

Podemos will hold its “Citizens Assembly” on 10-12 February in the context of a harsh public clash between the sector led by Pablo Iglesias and that of Íñigo Errejón. The sharpest expression of this dispute so far was shown in December in the consultation of Podemos members over how the Assembly would function – 41.57% voted for Iglesias theses, 39.12% for Errejon and 10.5% for the ‘Anticapitalistas’ (the current led by members of the USFI in Spain). What are the causes of the conflict? Is is just a power struggle or are there really different political projects at stake? What role is the ruling class, its media and the social democracy playing in the dispute? Without doubt, this assembly is important not only for the future of Podemos itself, but for the whole of the Left and the class struggle in the Spanish state.

The result of the 26 June general elections was key in the current crisis in Podemos’ leadership. After a process of explosive growth, full of optimism and expectation, the loss of one million votes on 26 June compared with 20 December 2015, and the failure to overtake PSOE (Social Democrats) had a big impact both in the leadership and the rank and file of Podemos. Opposing conclusions have been drawn in the leadership about how and why this happened.

It is no secret that, now that the attempt by the bourgeoisie to totally destroy Podemos has failed, the ruling class is concentrating on trying to give it a social-democratic political line. The editorial of the main capitalist paper, El Pais, on 12 December, under the title “Podemos in struggle” is very significant: “Errejón defends a more modern, democratic and open Podemos, different from the confusion generated by Iglesias around a strategy of ideological radicalisation and street mobilisation, the effect of which is to dilute the power and negotiating ability of the party in Parliament…”.

Íñigo Errejón has repeatedly shown his position that work in the parliamentary institutions should by the fundamental pillar of Podemos political strategy. He says that the party can “not only protest and denounce…” and that “our enemies like to see in Podemos a formally radical force which is materially unable to transform the conditions of the people”. He classifies only sterile phrase mongering as really “radical”, with the aim of dismissing any alternative to the capitalist system based on mobilisation. In reality, he adopts the same language and same position as the traditional social democracy which in practice is only a conveyor belt for capitalist interests.

After 26 June, Pablo Iglesias was initially inclined towards a strategy of demobilisation. But once it was clear that this only strengthened the right, both inside and outside Podemos, he made a series of critical reflections, asking whether it was in fact the image of “moderation” which had led to Podemos’ unexpectedly bad electoral result. He said it had been a mistake to try to occupy the space of social democracy in order not to “frighten” a section of the electorate, and more recently spoke of the need to “reclaim the streets” and for the trade unions to call a general strike against the PP’s policies. He also warned of the danger of “getting used to living in parliament” and that “being transversal does not mean looking like our enemies, but looking like the PAH (anti-evictions movements)”. It is evident that this shift to the Left in his speeches reflects the processes of the class struggle and their impact on such an unstable formation as Podemos.

Reform or rupture with the system

All of these declarations have their own dynamic. Where does the so-called “realism of Errejón lead? At best, to the transformation of Podemos into a “PSOE B”. His strategy is a recipe for Podemos ending in disaster. Of course, Podemos must win a decisive part of the social support which PSOE historically had, but not by copying the pro-capitalist social democratic programme, which is the real reason for PSOE’s decline. Polls show that PSOE would lose more than one and a half million votes in new elections. Does that surprise anyone after seeing how Susana Diaz and the territorial “barons” in PSOE handed the government to Rajoy and collaborate with the PP’s austerity agenda?

In Izquierda Revolucionaria, we sympathise with the above-mentioned statements by Pablo Iglesias. The danger for the future of Podemos is precisely that it becomes accommodated with the system. That is why it is necessary to have a clear political line. In reality, the parliamentary games hide the reality of the dictatorship of capital. The crisis – which is bringing misery to the majority – continues, and this will be the case as long as the limits of capitalism are respected. The conclusion from this is clear: a programme must be adopted which breaks with this straight-jacket and puts forward bold socialist policies such as the nationalisation of strategic sectors of the economy, opposition to all cuts and austerity, defence of public health and education and the right to dignified housing, and the defence of democratic rights such as the right of national self-determination.

If Pablo Iglesias clearly defended an alternative of that type, it would connect with the aspirations of millions of workers and youth, of the most oppressed sectors of society and all those who see no way out under the system. Small nods towards the Left from time to time are not enough. “Reflections” which have no practical consequence are not enough. The only way to solidly link up with the masses, the real strength of Podemos, is defending a genuinely socialist alternative of transformation, and being directly implicated in the day to day struggle of the workers and youth movement.

If at the end of the current debate, all that is achieved is a patchwork agreement at the top of the party, giving the impression that everything is only a struggle for control of the apparatus, it will be a victory for those who wish to see Podemos more and more adapted to the needs of the system.

The wing of Errejón has the moral, political and material support of the ruling class and its spokespeople. However, their greatest asset is the inertia and lack of a consistent alternative put forward by Iglesias and his sector. This is the main task to resolve for those who defend the need for a Podemos which responds to the interests of workers, youth , the unemployed, precarious workers and all the oppressed. There can be no humane capitalism, and there can be no reforms to benefit the population which are not won by struggle and mobilisation. There can be no real change without socialism.

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