Podemos, a Closer Look at the Spanish Miracle


Written by Rekai Togashi
Tuesday, 06 January 2015 21:06

In January 2014, a group of people released what in time would become the initial manifesto of Podemos (“We Can”). It seemed to express the anger of Spaniards towards the government, but was written with deliberate ambiguities that made it flexible, so revolutionaries saw a revolutionary text, and reformists saw a reformist text.
This text was widely supported, and a lot of people started participating in the initiative. As time passed, the unknowns were resolved by Podemos taking steps towards the right. The more progressive demands were dropped from the programme, such as “Break with the EU”, “Leave the Euro”. Four months of discussion gave birth to a controversial election list and a program in which there are no references to the working class.
In the European election, much to people’s surprise, Podemos won 1.2 million votes, which earned them 5 Euro MPs. The initiative had skyrocketed. After this result, the path to the town council election May 2015 was set. The aim is to build challenge electorally the two main parties, by attracting those tired of the two party system of PP and PSOE (equivalent to Tory and Labour) and their scandals and policies. Also those disillusioned with the role of the institutionised Left Unity (IU, Spanish initials). Those who voted PP in the last national election hoping for a change have seen the situation get worse every day.
But as Marxists we need a deeper study. We need to know what caused this phenomenon. Who is their leadership? Which school of thought do they follow?  Who forms the rank and file of Podemos? And most importantly: is it progressive or reactionary?
Podemos is led by a group of political scientists with a big impact on the media. The leading committee of the core 25 people is a group of university teachers who established a foundation 10 years ago that has supported many governments in Latin America, as well as IU in Spain. In addition, they are supported by three important (bourgeois) communication holdings. So their claim of being new with few resources is quite false.
Their school of thought follows the trend of post-modernism and post-Marxism, and has as a guiding principle the ideas of P. K. Feyerabend: “The only principle that does not inhibit progress is: anything goes”. As most of the post-modernist schools, Podemos is a reaction against Marxism. They defend populism as a guarantee of democracy. Their economic policy is for “wealth redistribution policies” to create a new social contract.
All the references to class in their programme and theory are of the middle class. That is reflected in their rank and file. The working class has not yet stirred in Spain, because of the weight the middle class has on it. The impoverished middle class, owners of SMEs, civil servants, and the labour aristocracy is where Podemos is growing, as well as among students. This is reflected in the central clause of their program: The problem is the lack of democracy and the lack of democratic control of the institutions, not the institutions themselves.
Youth Movement
The 15M Movement and the indignados started from the 2011–12 protests and became an important part of Podemos. It has a very broad composition, but within which the most progressive sector were students and precarious youth, called juventud sin futuro (youth without a future). As other movements of the youth, it faces many contradictions, they are skeptical of the parties, because part of the bureaucracy is confused with socialism, and because of the opportunist role that left parties played from the 1990s. In spite of these contradictions, 15M/indignados challenged the status quo and confronted the establishment, it was progressive.
Since it was created, IU has tried to join forces with them, but 15M never considered alliances with political parties.Podemos is “a movement”, not a party, and their policy of “the problem is lack of democracy and widespread corruption” succeeded where IU failed. It has swallowed 15M and institutionalised that struggle. It has led to a parliamentary road. This turns Podemos into a reactionary movement that is using a “democratic” cover.
The way out of this crisis cannot have a middle class leadership: without a working class leadership, We Can’t.

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