The five members of the European Parliament (MEPs) achieved by Podemos* reignite some questions about whether or not joint actions of the Humanist Party (HP) with other forces was or is worthwhile. This short writing aims to give a view on the rise of Podemos and the decision of the HP in Spain to go it alone in the European elections of 2014. Note – this is the view of the three members ascribed and not the view of the HP itself as an organisation.
Following the electoral success of Podemos in the past election to the European Parliament, some friends of the Humanist Party want to offer an opinion.
First, it is necessary to clarify that the decision to go alone to the election was made by a large majority in a ballot of all full members of the Humanist Party. We must remember that in the moments before that ballot there were colleagues asking not to participate in this election and others, also through e-mail lists, asking to join some coalition (although did not fully define which). So the final decision was not taken by a small group of full members, but for all the participants in the HP. Subsequently, on mailing lists, angry messages came with reproaches, many from people who do not participate in the activities of HP.
When asked why we have not gone with Podemos maybe the right question is why would we go with Podemos? The answer to the first is, because we are different. We have different principles, a different path and different direction. Some people may like Podemos and others may like the HP, but we think we have to recognize that we are different.
Ideologically they are very similar to Izquierda Unida (United Left). Judging from their texts alone is very difficult to tell if something comes from IU or from Podemos. Pablo Iglesias, the Podemos spokesperson, comes from the Communist Youth and Social Movements in the orbit of Communism (similar with other candidates on his list) . But we agree on more specific claims that neither our ideas nor our aspirations are the same as Izquierda Unida. We have practical experience with this, as we went along, from many years ago, founding members of the coalition and our departure and subsequent relationships have not been very friendly.
There are different opinions about it but many can not just think it is not IU, but is something orchestrated by them. After the first moments of the appearance of the 15-M, IU structure was slowly placing its elements in the assemblies. In general you could recognized them because they were from another generation. Also for the speech and the sensibility. While young people had a fresh and light discourse, the older grab the mike and keep it a long time. In the assemblies of Puerta del Sol it was very evident as the fight for the microphone was decanted to older ones while young people were leaving. They were leaving 15-M , but they kept being involved in occasional demonstrations (for example, the “Citizen Tide”). They were still there but were not willing to be included in the old structures of IU and repeatedly have shown that they were not willing to vote for them. It was a sensitivity shock, because in 15-M there arose a different UI ideological alternative. So, to collect those votes of young people who would never vote for IU appears someone from IU but with a different “look”. And above all, someone relying heavily on television. No other political party has had so much presence on TV. Friends of the Press Secretary of the HP are well aware that this TV success is not accidental. Access to the media is extremely controlled by powerful groups, no doubt. And it would be very naive of us not to take this into consideration. Possibly also behind this is the hand of PSOE. IU creates a “white label” that collects the votes they would never otherwise reach, and the PSOE (socialists) think on how to eat up both later. All very clever, very pragmatic and very outdated!
Just a couple of days after the election, there have already emerged “openings” – voices of Izquierda Unida in various forums and public discussions organized (again) by media, that express programmatic matching between Podemos and IU (even with Equo, a green party). And, of course, they have anticipated that the next step will be “pre-election agreements” that in some cases, will require the support of PSOE.
Moreover, the candidacy is strongly personalist and anchored in the figure of Pablo Iglesias. So much that the party logo printed on the ballot of the party shows his face, a rather strange decision in a party that claims the “horizontal”. Iglesias has achieved, thanks to his constant appearances in political gatherings, the status of a media figure transcending the party’s own project.
Also deserving mention is that in Podemos there is Izquierda Anticapitalista. A court Trotskyist party whose strategy has been to leverage on the reputation of Iglesias to reach the parliament, while training in his calculations performed to place his people in key positions in the lists. We are not nor have ever been Trotskyists.
Finally, although Pablo Iglesias has been careful with this subject, its stance on violence is unclear. He has been deliberately ambiguous when asked.
And what do we dress on that salad? Although we seem wise to many of his claims, they are not searching for an existential model like ours but a system arrangement; in no way a political, social, cultural, psychological and spiritual revolution.
For now all they have is “success” but we should not sell our aspiration to Humanize the Earth by an apparent successful situation. And those who feel very impressed by that success should remember other apparently revolutionary phenomena that quickly lost gas. Take for example the case of Grillo in Italy and, differently, Marcel Claude in Chile. It has been a little pitiful to see some people that have been a long time with us, make campaigns for Podemos and not move a finger on the HP campaigns, dazzled as they were by the “success”. That glare obscures many indicators, from the beginning, that tell us how much of these phenomena are illusory.
Anyway , it seems that still many people would like more what is offered on TV. And it will probably be on TV where we will see, shortly, agreements between IU and Podemos and maybe a little later a call to the union of all the progressive forces by the PSOE.
Moreover, we are pleased with the campaign of HP in which we have more than doubled the votes, but mostly we have grown in full members (changing the trend of recent years) and have increased participation in streets activities.
In any case, we will meet or not the people of Podemos or other organizations, depending on how the times and actions of each of us will place us in front of what lies ahead. And when the joint action at the base (not agreements between camps) is widespread and not an anecdote.
José Luis Álvarez , Arturo Viloria and Pablo Martín
Note: Podemos (meaning ‘We Can’ in Spanish) is a Spanish political party created on 11 March 2014 by Spanish leftist activists associated with the 15-M movement that emerged from the 2011–12 Spanish protests. The party has been widely described as far-left, Chavist and communist. Its leader is Pablo Iglesias Turrión (born Madrid, Spain, 17 October 1978) a writer, professor of Political Science at the Complutense University in Madrid and occasional Spanish television presenter for a regional political discussion program Fort Apache. The number two of the party is Juan Carlos Monedero, advisor to Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolas Maduro.
Podemos together with some 26 other small emergent parties capitalised on significant discontent with the bipartisanship of the two main political parties PP and PSOE. Using the infrastructure of the so called Indignados and the social media networks Podemos generated significant interest throughout Spain. The party collected 50,000 supporting signatures within their first day, causing their website to crash due to traffic overload once the project was made public.
Pablo Iglesias cites the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) led by Alexis Tsipras as an inspiration.
Podemos is organized through Circles, which can be groups of both territorial and sectoral work.