Podemos: A Monolithic, Vertical, and Hierarchical Party?
Monolithic, Vertical (Top-Down), and Hierarchical Party?
The Podemos ‘convention process’ (consolidating the new party’s structures) which began on September the 15th, ended on Saturday, November the 15th with the election of Pablo Iglesias as General Secretary. He won 88.7% of the votes cast (96.9% valid). His list won the 62 posts for the ‘Citizens’ Council’ and 10 for the Safeguards Commission.
The level of abstention, was however, also significant: 57% of those registered, larger than the percentage – 45% who abstained during the vote on the overall party documents (policy, programme and organisation). The proportion of blank (or null) ballots was also important: 8.5% of votes cast for the General Secretariat; 5.1% for the Citizen Council and 13% for the ‘guarantees’ Commission
Reports Ensemble. (Podemos : un parti monolithique, vertical et hiérarchique ? 22 November).
The numbers of people abstaining and can be attributed in part to the ease of “affiliation” to Podemos – by free on-line registration, something which does not require a great deal of motivation or commitment. But it is also due, in large measure, (as indicated by the blank ballot papers) to a growing malaise and disillusionment with the way the Pablo Iglesias team have operated and taken decisions. The ‘technical team’ or administration (elected in April on the basis of closed lists), is equally dominated by this group …..
The team Sumando Podemos, who had formed a partial list of 22 candidates, announced its withdrawal after examining the closed list voting system – by which one can only select – through a single click – a single slate Added to this is the decision of the team Claro Podemos to present a complete list for all the internal party bodies.
As explained by MEP Pablo Echenique, a member of Sumando Podemos, (1) ” the voting system and the fact that the list of comrades from the team Claro Podemos was complete, made it extremely difficult – if not impossible – that a person who was not on the list to enter the Citizens’ Council. I think – we think – that it’s a mistake to set up a voting system in which mathematics decide as much as the people. ” According to the predictions of Echenique, the effects of system and blocked list were obvious. They are clearly reflected in the sharp difference between the votes received by candidates at 62 (75’131) and 63 (5’337) for the Citizens’ Council and for candidates in 10th (73’955) and 11th ( 4’697) position to the Oversight Commission.
Because of Pablo Iglesias’s media fame and this voting system, the possibility of access to the internal party bodies was strongly conditioned by the prior inclusion on his list. This method largely distorts the open primary system and has reproduced in practice the “dedazo” system [from “finger”, dedo, a term which defines the practice of the holder of an office or a term designating successors without going through any democratic procedure].
Criticism of the traditional parties ruled by a “caste” (the political ‘class’), bound by loyalty to the leader who rules as an individual, has been offered in the past. But in fact the closed list pushes to an extreme limit the effects of the (traditional) majority system. The list that receives the most votes wins control of everything – in contrast to claims (made by Podemos in the past – TC) for greater proportionality in the electoral system.
The ban, previously issued by the party’s internal controlling bodies, excluding people with a double political affiliation – included in the documents on the party’s ‘ethical’ internal principles – also contributed to the lack of options for alternatives offered inside Podemos. Thus this rule prevented MEP Teresa Rodríguez (Izquierda Anticapitalista) to run for the leadership of Podemos. The measure prohibits “members or affiliated organisations active throughout the Spanish state” to take any positions of local responsibility. This rule is justified as a mean to exclude the possible arrival of “pushy” parties and individuals from the “caste” (traditional political parties). This has not worked
It is certainly not effective against careerists who have torn up their old party card and joined Podemos in order to pursue their own interests.
This has, however, meant the immediate exclusion of militants from Izquierda Anticapitalista (IA) from the party’s internal bodies, despite the fact that IA not only does not compete electorally with Podemos, but played a key role in the initial design and foundation of the organisation.
The result of this process of formalising the structures of Podemos is that the party has changed its organisational character. It has adopted the format of a monolithic party one whose structures are top down and hierarchical. Power is concentrated to an extreme degree in the hands of the General Secretary who has the ability to appoint the executive, while its internal organising committees have been co-opted by a single list. This even includes the Control Commission (that exists to guarantee the rights of members) which should self-evidently be a plural and independent body if it is to carry out its functions properly. These rules make it difficult for a pluralist and democratic internal life to develop..
Indeed, they consolidate a plebiscitary presidential model for Podemos – something which means that it has moved away from its previous course not to say its entire original basis. The truly open ‘primary’ elections with independent candidates that operated for the European elections are now consigned to the past. More distant is the foundation of Podemos as a plural and unitary organisation of candidates. That is was born with the intention not to empty or dissolve existing organisations, but to aggregate in a common front groups and sectors not previously organised or mobilised, using mass and civic engagement so that people who are politically active act on their own initiative. Equally distant is the political culture that emerged after the eruption of 15M, characterized by mistrust of celebrity politics and the leadership of individuals. Claims to an open and collective organisation, common decision-making and consensus, direct grass-roots participation are also now history.
From David Lloriente. Published November 22, 2014 on the site of Viento Sur. From the translation by Encontre.
Original: Proceso congresual y mutación organizativa (which the above is checked with).
We should point out this is the point of view of the Izquierda Anticapitalista who are aligned with the Fourth International and the French Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA).
But (1) Sumando Podemos (going beyond Podemos, surmonter in French is a more appropriate translation I feel, even literally ‘addition’ is the direct meaning in both English and French) is not Trotskyist as such. It is grouped around the famous scientist Pablo Echenique, though is close I learn to IA it is not identical. See: Los críticos de Podemos valoran no participar en las primarias.
More information on the background from International Viewpoint:
Note the following: 28th November.
Spain’s poll-topping Podemos tones down radical plans in manifesto
(Reuters) – Spain’s newest political party Podemos, riding high in opinion polls just 10 months after its launch, released an economic manifesto on Friday that rowed back on earlier pledges to cut the retirement age and default on the national debt.
Podemos (“We Can”) has ridden a wave of anti-establishment sentiment, and polls for two leading newspapers have said it is on track to win the next election, which conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy must call by late next year. Another, larger, survey said it was likely to come a close third.
The party unexpectedly captured five seats in May’s European elections, and its rise is worrying international investors at a time when Spain is emerging from the worst economic crisis in decades.
“We don’t believe it is the right time to open up a wide spectrum of desires, but rather to propose what could effectively be done immediately,” Podemos said in the 68-page document, which reflects a change of tack as it builds up its party structure and gears up for the election.
“We believe that such a serious and difficult situation requires a great dose of pragmatism.”
The new manifesto outlines 79 measures, which will now be discussed with party members and experts before becoming a program for government. Among them are a tax reform that would shift the burden from labor to capital and increase tax rates for the wealthiest.
The working week would be cut to 35 hours from 40, the minimum salary and pensions would be raised, but the retirement age would be left at 65 instead of being cut to 60.
Podemos has also moved away from nationalizing Spain’s main utilities and now only plans to regulate them more tightly and control competition and price-setting in sectors where former monopolies still hold a strong grip.
The most controversial step of defaulting on Spain’s debt has also been watered down. While the party still calls for its restructuring, it says it would only do so after holding talks with European peers and creditors.
In a sign of the party’s ambitions to capture votes on the center-left, its 36-year old leader Pablo Iglesias told reporters its ideas were “proposals that any social democratic party could take on board.”
Update (signaled by PD): This is an important article on Podemos putting forward a very different judgement about their ‘anti-politics’.