Spanish state: Anticapitalistas leaves Podemos

Posted May 28, 2020

Since the 1980s many traditional socialist, communist and nationalist parties have made their peace with neoliberal capitalism and moved to the right. In many countries the political vacuum they left has been filled by new, broad left parties promising to defend democracy and resist austerity. In some countries these have become governing parties.

Europe has seen more of these broad left parties than other parts of the world, because of its relatively high level of economic development and its social-democratic history. But politically analogous parties exist in many countries, including the Workers Party (PT) of Brazil, the African National Congress (ANC), and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

In many countries, for example, Brazil, Italy and Greece, a broad left party has formed or joined a government that ends up implementing the neoliberal austerity the party pledged to resist. The capitulation of the Syriza government of Greece in 2015 was a recent, spectacular example. See An Alternative for SYRIZA and Syriza: the denouement.

Following Syriza’s political collapse, Podemos of the Spanish state, led by Pablo Iglesias, became the most prominent broad left party in Europe. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and Podemos formed a coalition government after the November 2019 general election, with the neoliberal PSOE as the senior partner. Iglesias became Second Deputy Prime Minister.

Anticapitalistas, the Fourth International section in the Spanish state and a co-founder of Podemos, regarded the coalition government as an abandonment of the Podemos project and left the party. The statements below explain their reasons for leaving.

Podemos was born out of the 15-M movement, the equivalent of Occupy in the Spanish state

Anticapitalistas statement on leaving Podemos

On 28 March, an internal voting process ended in which Anticapitalistas decided to leave Podemos. Seventy-nine per cent of the membership participated; of these 89 per cent voted in favour, 3 per cent against and 7.5 per cent abstained. We decided to wait until today to make this decision public; our priority has been paying attention to the COVID-19 pandemic that is hitting the country hard and fundamentally affects the most vulnerable sectors of the popular classes.

We consider that the collective experience of Podemos, of which we were co-founders, has been full of interest and will always be part of our history, as well as the history of Podemos. The reasons that led us to participate in the founding of this organization are well-known. It was necessary to form a broad and radically democratic political force, strongly linked to the struggles and social movements, capable of challenging the economic, cultural, and political power of the elites, and reversing the effects of an aggressive and uncontrolled neoliberalism. With a vocation, of course, to think and build an overall political alternative to ecocidical and patriarchal capitalism.

We believe that these goals are still valid, but that, at this point, Podemos has ceased to be the space from which Anticapitalistas can contribute to this. We have often stated our positions and contrasted them in a comradely spirit with the other currents of the left. Unfortunately, Podemos is not today the organization that we aspired to build at first: the organizational model and the internal regime based on centralizing power and decisions in a small group of people linked to public offices and the general secretary leaves little space for collective pluralist work. Obviously, this model has not proved at all effective for advancing in the social field: the militant organization and the force from below that Podemos used to enjoy has been diluted, disorganized and evaporated with this model, without this having translated, as they claimed in order to justify it, into an improvement in the electoral results.

Podemos was born as a political movement contesting the economic and political norms of the system. It is obvious that the strategy has changed. For Podemos, the “possible” has been progressively reduced over the years: in our view, the task remains to make what is necessary possible. The culmination of this drift is the strategy of co-governing with the PSOE. Once again, a left-wing project is subordinated in the short term to the logic of the lesser evil, agreeing to give up its policies in exchange for little or no decisive influence on the council of ministers. Despite the government’s propaganda, the coalition’s policies do not break with the orthodox economic framework, do not wager on a redistribution of wealth, on radically strengthening the public sphere and on disobeying the neoliberal institutions. Of course, we will support all the gains made within this framework and we will fight together against the extreme right. But in a context of deep systemic crisis, we believe that an effort to advance in democracy and social justice necessarily goes through building social strength, ambitious policies and preparing a confrontation against the elites.

The coming months and years will be the scene of great battles between the classes. The current crisis is not a temporary one: it is a systemic, economic, ecological and care crisis. It will involve major political, cultural and social realignments. Nothing that we believe today is certain will remain the same. Our commitment to building an anti-capitalist movement open to all kinds of struggles and experiences allows us to look to the future in an open way and there is no doubt that we will find ourselves in many common struggles with the people of Podemos.

As soon as the social and health situation allows us to do so, we will hold a political conference of Anticapitalistas, to discuss in depth our proposals for the new phase.

14 May 2020

This statement appeared on the Anticapitalistas website on May 14, 2020, here and on the International Viewpoint website here.

Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias hug at their November 12, 2019 announcement of their agreement to form a coalition government. The formation of the coalition government prompted Anticapitalistas to leave Podemos.

Anticapitalistas statement in advance of the Podemos Citizen Assembly

1) The decisions made by Podemos during the last months point in a direction that we do not share. The entry of five Unidas Podemos ministers to a progressive-neoliberal government dominated by the center-left Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), in which that party controls the main levers of power. In our view, far from weakening the current political regime of the Spanish state, participating in this government means integrating Podemos into it and attempting to manage it as the only possible horizon. Anticapitalistas proposal to vote in parliament in favor of establishing a PSOE-led government and move immediately into opposition in order to continue the fight to build a project aimed at developing a constituent majority (a social majority that can challenge the status quo) has been ruled out by the currently existing Podemos leadership. Furthermore, we do not share the policy of forming a political pact, nor that of achieving a social consensus, both of which renounce confronting the great economic powers. In that sense, we find a huge difference between the objectives of the Podemos that we contributed to initiating six years ago and the current organization’s drift, a policy which originally determined to challenge the political class and economic elites but has now allied with the former without laying a hand on the privileges of the latter.

2) At the same time, we understand that a large percentage of left-wing people are relieved by the formation of government. The fear of the extreme right and fatigue after years of mobilization make this position understandable and we understand and respect this thinking. However, we believe that the objectives of this government are less than ambitious, even if we accept that they are limited within the margins of the system. Therefore, our immediate task is to attempt to promote a new cycle of struggle that prevents the movements from abandoning the street: on March 8, we will organize for feminist advances, we will demand the repeal of labor reforms, the regulation of rents, closing the Foreigner Detention Centers (CIEs), prohibit layoffs in companies that receive state subsidies, stop evictions, and break with article 135 of the Constitution that mandates a balanced budget. Without organized popular pressure, there will be no progress. If there are no gains that deserve to be defended, ones that distribute wealth and power in favor ordinary people, a dangerous breeding ground can be generated in which the extreme right can promote its macho, racist, and authoritarian demagogy all at the service of rich.

3) Given this framework, without analyzing the slow bleed that Podemos has suffered as an organization in recent years, and without a sufficient process of prior political deliberation, the Citizen Assembly appears merely as a ratification of the Podemos leadership and of the strategy adopted of subordinating itself to the PSOE.

4) Therefore, Anticapitalistas has decided not to participate in the next State Assembly of Podemos and to, instead, focus our discussions on deciding our definite relationship with Podemos, a project that we contributed to founding and to which we have dedicated so much effort. Our internal debate process will culminate on March 28 with a conference in which we will announce our final decision. We wish, without a hesitation, the best of luck to people who decide to participate in the Podemos assembly. We are certain that we will continue to cooperate and work together with them in many areas.

This statement appeared on the Anticapitalistas website on February 16, 2020 here, on the No Borders News website on February 20, 2020 here, and on the International Viewpoint website on February 21, 2020 here.