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January 20, 2014
January 20, 2014

Spain: Οn Podemos

Author: Carlos Taibo* Translator: Anna Papoutsi
Source: Nuevo Desorden  Category: Letters from home
This article is also available in: elesfr
Spain: Οn Podemos

* Carlos Taibo is a writer, editor and professor of Political Science and Public Administration at the Autonomous University of Madrid. Ideologically, he is an ardent supporter of the movement against globalisation, de-development, direct democracy and anarchism. 

1. I keep receiving many messages and calls from friends these days, who seek my opinion on Podemos. I prefer to express my opinion here, in public, out of respect for its proposal. And this is because in Podemos there are many people who, with their long history of struggles, deserve this courtesy expressed here –or at least intended– far from the flattering praise of graceless reviews.

2. Let me start by saying what many know and what is likely irrelevant for others: I have no interest in elections, parliaments and institutions. And I am obliged to attest that Podemos, no matter how iconoclastic its purposes are and how broad its objectives, is explicitly linked to it all. And, to top it off, sadly it does so through the intuition that it is the leaders who give meaning to the projects. Its moment of formation requires us to finally recall, that to some of us, the initiatives that arise in the proximity of an election seem uninspiring. In that scenario, I affirm my sincere commitment to the organisation from below, to self-management, to democracy and direct action, to mutual support and to de-commercialisation. Many of us–it is worth emphasising– are not in the electoral fight. And many of us do not cease to be amazed at the hopes that respectable people place, whatever they say, therein.

3. I am not sure what Podemos is: whether a proposed method to solve the problems associated with elections or the foundation of a much more ambitious change. I sense, logically, that it is a combination of both, even though the democratic-assembly condition of the latter remains to be proven. In any case, at the present stage, there is no possibility of judging a precise program, since the distributed manifesto does not seem to fulfill this condition. So I have no choice but to adventurously advise on what I guess calls to be explained herein with all the conceivable outcomes. In other words, I would be astonished if Podemos had rid itself of the bad habit of equating the institutional left and the one that wants to break with the regime.

4. Some of the supporters of Podemos have never used the word self-organisation. Their alliances keep drawing from the idea, advocated by social democracy and trade unionism, that the state is an institution that protects us (or at least it should do so). So, the bulk of the proposals that I know of do not part with the Keynesian model and make explicit use of the tools of social democracy –including hierarchy and separation. It continues to cause me anxiety, seeing how all these people who claim to radically reject social-democracy, hastily embrace it when dressed in festive and seemingly subversive colours.

5. To my understanding and in relation to all this, nothing is more absurd than the aspiration to return to 2007 in order to fully rebuild our battered welfare states. And nothing is more urgent than to make a consistent evaluation of what this return would mean. It is not, in other words, about getting out of the crisis or the regime: in the face of the short-sighted processes of the crisis, it is about getting out, and urgently at that, of capitalism. Additionally, I do not see what the defence of the Spanish (Republic, I presume) can offer since it is one of the greatest myths of the traditional left. The same left that prefers to ignore that the relevant proposal is the script of the regime that has already borne fruit, all of them rotten, in Portugal, France and Italy. I fail to appreciate, moreover, what alliances the Republican proposal will achieve.

6. We should be paying attention to the debt and the cuts. But when I speak of the importance of self-organisation, I stress that I am not thinking about old quarrels of the past. Rather, I am referring to the terminal corrosion of capitalism, to the immediacy of the collapse and the subsequent emergencies. These days, from the lips of Podemos spokespersons, I have heard very unfortunate statements of an explicitly production and pro development nature. On the contrary, I have not heard –perhaps I’ve had bad luck– about self-managed social centres and autonomous spaces or integral cooperatives. If, as often happens, this project that is being born ignores the inescapable discussions about technology and the industrial civilisation, about the de-urbanisation of our societies, about de-growth, there is every reason to question its willingness to break with the prevailing misery. Let’s wait and hope that the ties with institutions and pacts with equals will not do to Podemos what they did to so many other seemingly groundbreaking projects.

7. I thought that I understood that Podemos has received significant support from the Web. I interpret this according to two motivations. If one of them is the aim to help reveal the shortcomings of the institutional left, the other aim has an evident character of a generational revolt. I cannot stop repeating that these two aims are materialised in relation to the next EU election, which, I believe, blurs its rigor. The same applies, in my view, with the aberrantly personal condition of the initial position. Some statements I have heard or read have made me blush. Especially when the spokespersons of Podemos claim a movement, 15-M, that proudly rejected leadership. I say the same about the way that Podemos has used the media, raising alarms. And I express my bewilderment that, to the best of my knowledge, this does not lead to major controversies inside Podemos, as if it were a minor disagreement. At times it seems to me that perhaps the most appropriate name for the new platform would rather be Posamos (pose for a photo).

8. I am struck that the most frequent and angry attacks launched against Podemos were born from the assumption that the initiative would sink the so-called “unity of the left”. I will not comment on that because I think that everyone is playing the same cards, such that, when put into question, one should throw oneself into all directions.

That said, I sense that the unity that the opponents of the new platform have in mind, which are also shared by some of its defenders, is limited to searching for a common denominator powerfully reminiscent of today’s misery. I am surprised, even so, by Podemos’ criticism against IU (left-wing coalition), and not because I disagree –perhaps they mention too often the pacts that the bureaucracy of the left-wing coalition has with the PSOE and often forget, sadly, their own relationship with the leadership of the CCOO and UGT, who would live, according to the founding manifesto of Podemos, in “confusion” (delicious euphemism)– but for a more prosaic reason: many of those who set out such critics have worked years in IU. It seems that they have been a bit too slow in calibrating the duplicity of the latter.

9. One hundred years ago Ricardo Mella wrote a sensational article that, in essence, said the following: vote what you deem convenient the day of the election, or abstain, but never forget that the important thing is what you do with your struggle the remaining 364 days of the year.

Yesterday I read a comment by someone who claimed that many of those who criticise Podemos are characterised essentially by doing nothing. It is very likely to be so. But also pay attention to another possibility: that many of those who support Podemos might be among those excellent Facebook users that bravely spread their “likes” and hurriedly go to the polls on Election Day without us knowing nothing about their remaining 364 days of the year. That is not, of course, a problem of Podemos: it is everyone’s problem.

10. We have no choice but to wait and see. Not before we realise, of course, that all that glitters is not gold and it seems easy to predict the surprises that are ahead. While I wait, I write here the slogan adopted in France by an old libertarian magazine: neither shepherds nor flocks.

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