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Armando Chaguaceda: At 33, I feel sometimes old and tired; other days I wake up with the desire to strive, to be surprised and to persevere—with decency, affection, ideas and values. I was born in the town of Regla, with its provincial charm and custom of ignoring the sidewalks. I grew up atheist, surrounded by believing friends, in a family of Martí followers and enemies of dogma. I have assimilated my growing marginality, in relation to so many friends who have emigrated, fellow “fighters” of daily Havana life who, regrettably, have been added to the growing bandwagon of the “apolitical.” For 12 years I have combined my dying passion for politics and social sciences with teaching. I’m currently in Xalapa, Mexico, but I feel within me the imperative to return and do something in a Cuba too present, too uncertain, too beautiful, frank, harrowing and different. I hope I will.

Thoughts on Spain’s Radical Left-Wing Party Podemos

May 29, 2014 | Print Print |

Armando Chaguaceda

HAVANA TIMES — Following the recent elections in Europe, I am left with more questions than answers. Among the latter is the impression that a good many citizens of the Old World – discontent over the effects of the crisis, the rise in poverty and the dirty tricks of their political class – have decided to vote for extreme-right parties, and that these, whose verbal incontinence outweighs their actual capacity to overcome the complex problems these societies have accumulated, today constitute the chief threat to an inclusive democracy, secured over these past decades through many struggles and reform processes in Europe.

Prompted by these developments, I have carefully read over the platform of Spain’s radical left-wing party Podemos (“We Can”) and the speeches of its young leader, Pablo Iglesias. It is impossible not to share many of his progressive proposals, which capture a good part of the malaise and criticisms of citizens under the (bad) leadership of the PSOE and PP, the politico-entrepreneurial corruption and the interventionism and insensitivity of the Brussels bureaucracy. I identify with his proposal to strengthen the public sector and public regulations as a means of countering the privatization agenda and of reducing the social spending of neo-liberals. I have no problems up to this point.

The problems begin when, in their speeches, they promise to satisfy the demands of the unemployed and the Spanish working class without explaining how they intend to manage the State budget and the social consensus needed to impel such an ambitious agenda. There, things begin to look different. Going out to badmouth Zapatero or Rajoy, setting up camp at the Puerta del Sol plaza and courageously standing up to the onslaught of the police, is one thing. Leading the country or seeing to the fruitful development of deliberation at the house of government is quite another.

To make matters worse, the official discourse of Podemos (of its leaders, that is) is colored by a kind of nihilistic perception of Spain’s transition process, sometimes summarized with simplistic phrases such as the “regime of 1978”, and by somewhat naïve and exaggerated appeals to participative democracy, understood as the wellspring of all solutions to the crisis.

All of this smells of an anti-political and radical discourse whose regrettable consequences we are all well aware of, at least in Latin America. The plural and spontaneous radicalism of a social movement a la 15M, demanding better services and condemning the late Franco government, is one thing, and the crystallization of a project aimed at taking power at organizations and institutions (where any distance from the living legacy of the authoritarian “left” is conspicuously absent ) is another. I support the former unreservedly. The latter’s failure to learn from past mistakes and its many lost opportunities horrify me.

Though this is an ongoing process, I cannot help but arrive at a preliminary conclusion. If the growth of political forces such as Podemos entails a jolt to Spain’s political class and serves as a kind of counterweight to the extreme right, then, I am all for it. But if it ends up consolidating the power of radicals who are insensitive to the complex logic of the democratic process, who believe that they represent the whole spectrum of citizen virtues (a throwback to the historical Left), then I predict new problems for Spain’s already troubled society.

To sum up, Spain (like the rest of Europe) could well be at the threshold of new and complex situations, caught between the growth of a shameful right (today’s chief problem) and the dangerous proposals of the new Jacobins.


What's your opinion?

  • Ravenna

    Spaniard here. Always better to read international press when matters are so delicate. I think you captured the gist of the problem quite well. I am also concerned.

  • John Goodrich

    Given the immense propaganda power of the corporate media and capitalist organizations and the weakness of traditional democratic socialist movements and parties in capitalist Europe, it should come as no surprise that the European electorates would choose to make choices that will soon bite them on their asses.
    It is axiomatic that a well-informed populace is essential to a functioning democracy and conversely that an uninformed, misinformed and more importantly DISINFORMED ( deliberately lied to ) electorate is essential to a bourgeois ( capitalist supporting ) “democracy” .
    Of course ANY society in which capitalism is the economic model is, by its intrinsic nature , totalitarian and this is maintained through the lie that capitalism is good for everyone and not just the top 10% or so.
    Even in the most social minded of the Scandinavian countries, poverty and the effects of poverty will always exist because the nature of capitalism is to have few rich and a great many more poor.
    The answer to all problems is democracy: in the economy, in the government and in our home lives where the addition of also totalitarian religions and the often totalitarian nuclear family structure dictate ( no pun) a preference
    for totalitarian systems .
    This will tend to increase these swings to the right up until these societies become unmanageable and revolutionary because of right-wing domestic and foreign policies that work to the detriment of the poor and working classes.
    As crazy as the fundamentalist Christians are in working towards Armageddon and the rapture, so too the far right is just as crazy in rushing towards their own demise that will come about as capitalism collapses of its own need for ever-increasing profits through globalization of the workforce and the ongoing and the greatly accelerating automation of the workforce which will result in huge worldwide unemployment percentages in the very near future.
    Spain and Greece NOW have unemployment rates in the 50% range among their youth and this is just the beginning of societal change that will render capitalism a thing of the past.

  • Griffin

    From the Wiki page on Podemos:

    “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 a writer, professor of Political Science at the Complutense University in Madrid. The number two of the party is Juan Carlos Monedero, advisor to Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podemos_(Spanish_political_party)

    So these clowns have been advising Chavez and Maduro, who have driven the Venezuelan economy into the ground? Spain needs this kind of “socialismo” like it needs a hole in the head!