Podemos and the Game of Thrones.
Podemos: New Counter-Hegemonic Political Logic in Practice.
Pablo Iglesias SPAIN ON EDGE New Left Review. No 93 2015 (complete text here).
The Interview begins with a lengthy question from New Left Review.
You’ve written about the intellectual influences shaping Podemos’s approach, singling out the work of Laclau and Mouffe. ”
– see link for rest of question/lecture.
Now what is Podemos’ counter-hegemonic articulative democratic strategy (Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy)? Or Laclua’s (even worse) On Populist Reason?
Our key objective was always to occupy the centrality of the political field, taking advantage of the incipient organic crisis.
Give examples (I’m already bored, hurry up)?
A concrete example of this is the complex scenario we’ve had today [15 April] with the visit of the King of Spain to the European Parliament. This confronts us with a difficult issue: the monarchy.
Why difficult? Because it immediately takes us out of the centrality of the field. Basically there are two options. The first, traditionally taken by the left—Izquierda Unida, for example—is to say: ‘We are republicans. We do not accept the monarchy, so we will not go to the reception for the King of Spain; we do not recognize this space of legitimacy for the head of state.’
That—even if it’s an ethically and morally virtuous position, which we can recognize and acknowledge—immediately puts one in the space of the radical left, in a very traditional framework, and straightaway alienates large sectors of the population who, no matter what they think about other issues, and despite their identifying the previous King with the corruption of the old regime, feel sympathetic towards this new one
. The monarchy is one of the most highly valued institutions in Spain, so that immediately antagonizes social sectors that are fundamental for political change. So, two options: one, we don’t go to the reception and stay trapped within the traditional framework of the far left, in which there is very little possibility for political action. Or, two, we go, and then Podemos appears surrounded by the parties of ‘the Caste’, respecting the institutional framework—as traitors, or monarchists, or whatever.
So what was their “new political logic”? What articulation of the discursive counter-radical democratic strategy did Podemos offer?
So what did we do, in this uncomfortable, contradictory scenario? We went, with our usual aesthetic—casual dress and so forth, disregarding their protocol; it’s a small thing, but it’s symbolically representative of the kind of things Podemos does. And I gave the King a present of the dvds of Game of Thrones, proposing it as an interpretive tool for understanding what is going on in Spain.
Our aim is to dance within this contradiction, within these positionings, with an ironic message that is at the same time a plebeian gesture—and which is so far working very well in the media, by the way—that allows us to shift the axis of the discussion: not monarchy versus republic, a discourse immediately interpreted in terms of the heritage of the Spanish Civil War, which unfortunately is a losing frame in the battle for social interpretation.
New Left Review could only feebly comment “there’s another reading of Game of Thrones: as a formulaic combination of mildly sadistic soft porn and blood-soaked pseudo-mediaeval warfare, interspersed with occasional moments of ersatz grand strategy.”
We, nosotros, simply burst out laughing.
I would say, that jargon aside, that there is something in Iglesias’ arguments.
For example, this, on their support, (from its origin inthe Indignados movement).
But as a political scientist, I would say that’s the general tendency—young workers in sectors with no strong union presence, identified in a very Laclauian manner with a plebeian or subaltern position, deriving from the fact that they were brought up believing in a social identity based on high consumption levels during the long real-estate bubble, and after the crisis were thrown into a position of social vulnerability and weakness. Despite the social complexity of 15-M’s composition, these impoverished middle classes are the most representative social layers.
It might have been useful not only to explore how the candidates for Podemos are chosen, but how the above base is organised in the party. The interviewers fail to cite critics of this ‘vertical’ structure, and its social foundations.
One thing is clear: the message of being against the Casta (political caste), being centrally concerned with political corruption, plays as important a part in Podemos as opposition to austerity.
There is no British parallel at all.
Another issue, not really rigorously covered in the interview, is Podemos’ potential strategy of a ‘broad front’ (frente amplio) to get above their projected general election vote of 13/14%.
This will still leave them out of power, but will add 5-6% “el Podemos Plus-Plus obtendría, en la versión más optimista, alrededor del 20% de los votos.” (the most optimistic version would see Podemos Plus-Plus get around 20% of the vote).
For more on that and other problems about Podemos (selection of candidates amongst them) see: Cómo se ganarán las próximas elecciones EMMANUEL RODRÍGUEZ (Viento Sur – the Fourth International aligned left of Podemos).
As for their counter-austerity programme, and wider political strategy, we shall leave debate on this until we have seen Game of Thrones….