Spain: Elections, Podemos and the left

Feb 27, 2019 | Europe

The 2019 electoral schedule and the struggles present a challenge: building a new alternative

Exhausted bipartisanship

For four decades, bipartisanship has protected the monarchic parliamentary regime of 78’ inherited from Franco. For over thirty years, it has applied  the anti-workers measures ordered by the European Union, favouring the banks and big corporations, while lying to the people and transiting the corrupt “State sewers”. PP-PSOE are the culprits of causing recurrent economic, social and political crisis, with consequences that affect the majority of the people. They are old parties that are stumbling, that’s why, in less than a year, Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sanchez have had to leave office.

On March 11, 2015, the Indignados provided a breath of fresh air against old politics. Later there were other massive demonstrations: the workers movement against the labour reform, the pensioners for their income, the feminist movement for their rights, the Catalans for their self-determination and the freedom of political prisoners. However, none of those necessities was satisfied, that’s why anger continues to build up.

The right on the hunt

A great part of the Indignados movement was channelled by Podemos as a tool of change. But for some time now it has been squandering their support. Currently, the reactionary Ciudadanos is the party that is gaining support, cynically presenting themselves as a “change”. Ciudadanos is a recycled copy of the PP, willing to unite with the ultra-reactionary Vox, as in Andalusia or in the mobilization in Madrid. They falsely position the mobilized Catalan people as an enemy of the Spanish people, promote neo-liberal reforms and a reactionary immigration policy, and they close ranks with the traditional parties in defence of an exhausted regime.

Current crisis, unknown future

It is a fact that Podemos is going through a crisis that can cause an electoral stagnation or setback. In Madrid, Iñigo Errejon, co-founder of Podemos, decided his electoral position without Pablo Iglesias, causing a crisis. He will be part of Mas Madrid with Manuela Carmela, Mayor of Madrid, who has decided to extend the slate validation process to negotiate the integration of people from other parties and delay the expulsion of national and autonomous parties from Podemos, that the leadership considers outsiders. In Barcelona they have just come out of a crisis when a few months ago Xavier Domenech quit as leader of the Commons and as a representative. Currently, the leadership of Podemos has accepted that En Comu Podem, their Catalan brand, will participate in the electoral process in Barcelona headed by mayor Ada Colau.

In Galicia the alliance with En Marea is exhausted. In Valencia, Compromis will participate on its own, maintaining their agreement with Esquerra Unida. Izquierda Unida is calling for a referendum for their militants to decide wether to maintain their coalition with Podemos. At the same time, IU has decided to not ally with Podemos in Navarra, Murcia and Asturias and doubts aobut closing a deal in Castilla y Leon, the community of Madrid and Aragon. In Andalusia, the alliance between Podemos and IU announced that it would try to form its own group, but this has not been done yet. It is important to exchange opinions on: what were the reasons for the setback? Are there any options left to overcome it?

From outraged to adapted

Podemos has turned into an “institutional left”, which, far from channeling social discontent by pressuring the regime through mobilization, has adopted winning electoral seats as its strategy and when it hasn´t made it, it has never promoted radical transformations from its place, but a “humane, progressive and transparent” management of capitalism. It positioned itself “equidistant” between the 155 and Catalan self-determination, supported the government of the PSOE and promoted the approval of the General Budgets of the State, the instrument of austerity of the troika (the European Committee, European Central Bank and the IMF). These are signs of the path taken by the Pablo Iglesias-Irene Montero leadership. A impertant controversy was unleashed when the couple bought a mansion in an exclusive place for 600 thousand euros, after years of saying they didn’t need to flaunt with the luxuries of he old politicians.

The contradictions exist

Podemos shades its policy with key progressive positions, such as rejecting the existence of the monarchy, demanding the freedom of political prisoners and saying that the 60 billion euros for the bank bailout should be given back and destined to social inversion. That’s why progressive comrades are still supporting them. Against the absence of a strong left revolutionary alternative, they prefer to support the “purples” instead of giving away their vote. It would be sectarian to ignore this reality when it comes to defining an electoral tactic. Podemos must stop its adaptation to the regime and take a clearly leftist and anti-capitalist path. If it does not, it will consolidate its process of becoming a copycat of the PSOE, or turn into its appendix, with everything this implies.

The path to disillusion

There is a similar path taken by other center-left forces in different countries: “It is worth mentioning more examples. There is no doubt that the shameful performance of the Die Linke-Left Party in Germany, which adapts to neo-liberalism, paves the way for extreme right-wing AfD.  The Italian Rifondazione Comunista, which had a similar performance, left the streets to the right wing populist 5-Star Movement and the far right North Alliance. The Euro-Communist Syriza and its leader Tsipras became the saviors of the bourgeoisie in Greece. The power of the PT in Brazil made Bolsonaro’s victory possible. Kirchnerism is responsible for Macri´s victory in Argentina. In Venezuela, Maduro feeds the pro-imperialist right. In India, the Stalinist reformists of the CPI and CPI (M) have prepared the ground for the authoritarian right-wing populist Modi to rule. In all these examples, the reformist parties have supported  neoliberal policies consisting of social disruption packages and privatizations. The anger and frustration among the working masses is the starting point for the extreme right in the absence of a revolutionary socialist alternative. The experience of left populist, reformist and nationalist rulers in Latin America has also ended in a terrible way”. So says the Manifesto of Anticapitalist Network and the Turkish SEP.

The last word has not been said

There are those who say that “the right is coming”, while soliciting support for their positions and stirring up doubts. Should we vote the PSOE so the right doesn’t grow? We believe that the PSOE isn’t part of the solution but part of the problem, while we also reject these right wing expressions. The polarization that crosses the world shows that, against every reactionary expression, there are thousands and thousands who oppose them and raise their voices. The workers and the people are not defeated, so the last word is yet to be said. Stopping the reactionaries’ hand will depend on the struggles and also on the positions adopted by parties.

Building something new

On April 28, the early elections for president will be held, we have to define who we will vote for, something that is always tactical for revolutionaries. What is not tactical, but strategic, is using our energies to build a new left alternative in the whole Spanish State. It must be anti-capitalist, promoting mobilization, supporting the struggle of workers for their social demands and those of oppressed peoples for their self-determination. It must break with the imperialist block of the EU of austerity and discrimination. It must fight against the monarchical-parliamentary regime of ’78 and for a Constituent Assembly in which a new social and political order can be debated and decided on.


That is, the comming together of different sectors of the revolutionary and anti-capitalist left, of progressive social, cultural and political organizations, of feminist collectives, of young people and workers who struggle for fundamental changes with the simple objective of allowing the majority to enjoy all their democratic rights and satisfy their social needs. The CUP could play a very progressive role, heading a call of this type; not only in Catalonia (where JxCat and ERC have demonstrated their inconsistency), but throughout the Spanish State. The recent experiences with the center-left and social democracy in different countries are a clear sign that it is necessary to build other expressions, such as a front of the left, that opens up the path for the mass movement.