Reassessing Podemos

Brown, Andy
Date Written:  2016-04-04
Publisher:  International Socialism
Year Published:  2016
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX19344

Podemos has come an immense distance in a very short time. It represents a clear choice by millions of people in the Spanish state to vote against corruption, institutionalised greed and contempt for voters, but also against austerity. As such, it weakens the ruling class in the Spanish state and strengthens the anti-austerity side in Europe. The success of Podemos in December is a cause for celebration and a source for lessons and parallels.



The means of bringing about political change as conceived by those who set up Podemos was always an explicitly electoral one.

Podemos is extremely critical of the left parties in the Spanish state. To some degree this is because it sees them as part of the structure of the post-transition regime and tainted by the institutionalised corruption that is an integral part of it. More importantly, it is because it perceives the left as incapable of correctly analysing and therefore appropriately responding to the current political situation in the country.

Both Iglesias and Errejón have returned to this theme repeatedly. At the very beginning of his book Politics in a Time of Crisis, Iglesias lays into the left, using Lenin’s “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder as the classic example of tactical flexibility, he contrasts this with what he sees as the current conduct of the parties and groups to the left of the PSOE. He describes: “White knights of the purity of principle, defenders to the hilt of the symbols and phraseologies most liable to turn theory into catechism, and almost always dreadfully outnumbered, isolated and misunderstood, incapable of confronting their principles with praxis”.17

The paragraph goes on for a further 24 lines. The central point is that, “faced with the unprecedented situation created by the Eurozone crisis, our starting point was a recognition of the 20th century left’s defeat”.18 The left “has defeat written into its DNA”, as he puts it elsewhere. He describes the left in the Spanish state as “badly weakened by both infantile and senile disorders”.19 As a general rule of thumb, he suggests “if you want to get it right, don’t do what the left would do”.20 His denunciation is articulate, witty and challenging, not least because much of his caricature is uncomfortably recognisable. It confronts an objective reality that the left in most of Europe has made little progress during the worst economic crisis since the 1930s and has failed to lead an effective resistance to a vicious ruling class assault. This critique has always been an open and explicit part of the Podemos project, widely and freely articulated by its leadership.

Iglesias believes that the crisis of the regime opened opportunities that the left simply failed to grasp. It was trapped within a framework that was outdated and thus unable to move effectively to build on the emerging mood after the 15-M mobilisations:

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