The challenge of Podemos

Barriere, Manel: Durgan, Andy; Robson, Sam
Date Written:  2015-01-05
Publisher:  International Socialism
Year Published:  2015
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21557

The emergence of so-called populist parties as a response to increasingly discredited political elites is a European-wide phenomenon. In most cases these parties have emerged on the right, if not the far-right. Not so in the Spanish state where Podemos, after barely ten months in existence, appears to be undermining the whole political set up in place since the end of the Franco dictatorship in the late 1970s.



At the time of writing most of the party’s programme had yet to be formalised, but based on declarations by its leading figures and the EU election campaign it would be expected to include the end of political privileges (for example, the near automatic move from ministry to boardroom); strict controls on MPs’ income; mechanisms to allow popular control over elected representatives; the introduction of self-determination for the national minorities; and the direct election of the head of state (as opposed to the hereditary monarchy now in place). Podemos aims to carry out such measures through a constituent process which would dismantle the “regime of 1978”.

Since the EU elections, however, all the signs are that much of the early radicalism will be ditched. Iglesias, speaking in late October, turned to Lenin to justify this turn to pragmatism:

The true Lenin of the revolution is that of the NEP, a Lenin that gets up in the morning with an enormous headache and says: everything that I knew up till now has turned out not to be true and what we have to do is apply forms of capitalist development in the countryside because if not it will be impossible to make the economy work.25

This shift is clear in the party’s preliminary economic programme presented in late November. Written by two leading social democratic economists, Juan Torres López and Vicenç Navarro, it sets out a series of “short-term pragmatic proposals” aimed at “acting with realism (but) without renouncing our dreams”. Scandinavian social democracy is now cited as a model rather than the Bolivarian Revolution. Justification for this shift is defended with the familiar argument that there was now a need for the party to be “responsible” faced with the tasks of government.

Aiming to introduce a series of reforms that would bring under control the worst excesses of neoliberalism and lead to considerable benefits for the population, the economic programme includes progressive taxation, the establishment of a public bank, the repeal of the PP’s punitive labour reform, a 35-hour week and a tax on selling and buying operations on the stock exchange. Central to funding its proposals is the end of rampant tax evasion and the establishment of a level of taxation similar to the average rate in the EU

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