Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Podemos Suffers Set Back in Catalan Elections.

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We can’t, not yet….

This morning the Spanish radio was full of the fall-out, and the ‘fractures’, resulting from the results of the Catalan elections.

The Significance of the Catalan Elections Montserrat Domínguez.

  • The pro-independence front loses the referendum. The anti-independence forces account for 52 percent, compared to the secessionist bloc’s 47 percent. It’s inconceivable that with these results, once the the cava wine bubbles evaporate, any serious politician (in Catalonia) will propose a unilateral declaration of independence. That would be undemocratic. But it’s the first time that the option to secede takes such flight: more than 1.9 million votes is a cry that no serious politician (in Madrid) can ignore.
  • In the polls, Ciudadanos breaks the roof: it tripled the results of the previous elections and, with 25 seats, stole the spotlight. The Sorpasso (overtaking) of the People’s Party (PP) in Catalonia is a warning: will this happen again in the general elections in December? We will never know what result Albert Rivera would have achieved if he had been the candidate of the Generalitat, the Catalan government; but being the second force in Catalonia gives wings to his aspirations to get to the Moncloa Palace.
  • The PP is increasingly irrelevant in Catalonia: it lost 10 seats, including Badalona — where Xavier García Albiol was mayor — which went to Junts pel Sí. It’s a real slap in the face for the party and its campaign strategy. Today, there is a cold wind in Moncloa and Genoa street: Rajoy is proving to be incapable of facing the challenges in Catalonia.
  • After a spectacular gain (from 3 to 10 seats), CUP now has the key to governance in Catalonia. If it fulfills its promise of not voting for Artur Mas as president, Junts pel Sí will be forced to come to an agreement on another candidate… and internal battle is guaranteed.
  • Podemos loses momentum: ICV alone got more seats (13) than the new coalition. The 10 deputies Podemos got in the parliament is very far from what it had hoped for. Does it mean that its success in the past municipal elections — Barcelona, Madrid, Cadiz, Zaragoza — was the zenith of its political career? (NOTE: it went up to 11)
  • The socialists are still alive. Maintaining almost the same numbe
  • When 77 percent of Catalan citizens vote, the message is strong and clear. The pro-independence front, which brings together Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) and the CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) party, earned a clear majority in the Catalan parliament, winning 72 seats. It now has the legitimacy and strength, said Artur Mas, to keep pursuing its dream of secession.
  • r of votes as in the last Catalan elections — after the internal bleeding and the appearance of new parties that contest their ideological territory — justifies Miquel Iceta’s sigh of relief, despite having lost four seats. And those half a million Catalan votes are worth their weight in gold in Pedro Sanchez’s race toward the Moncloa Palace.

Together for Yes (JxSí)[b][c] 1,620,973 39.54 Increase3.11 62 Increase4
Citizens-Party of the Citizenry (C’s) 734,910 17.93 Increase10.36 25 Increase16
Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC-PSOE) 522,209 12.74 Decrease1.69 16 Decrease4
Catalonia Yes we Can (CSQEP)[d] 366,494 8.94 Decrease0.96 11 Decrease2
People’s Party of Catalonia (PPC) 348,444 8.50 Decrease4.48 11 Decrease8
Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) 336,375 8.20 Increase4.72 10 Increase7
Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC)[c] 102,870 2.51 Decrease5.47 0 Decrease13
Animalist Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA) 29,785 0.73 Increase0.16 0 ±0
Zero Cuts-The Greens (Recortes Cero-Els Verds) 14,390 0.35 Increase0.28 0 ±0
Let’s Win Catalonia (Ganemos) 1,158 0.03 New 0 ±0
Pirates of Catalonia-To Decide Everything (Pirata.cat/XDT) 326 0.01 Decrease0.49 0 ±0

El País  commented,

Pablo Iglesias ha construido alrededor de Podemos una épica de partido ganador que ayer, tras lograr en las elecciones catalanas un resultado que sus propios dirigentes consideran decepcionante, sufrió el mayor revés desde su nacimiento.

Pablo Iglesias has built around Podemos an epic  in which they are the winning party. But yesterday, after the results of  the Catalan elections, which their own leaders considered disappointing , the party suffered the biggest setback since its birth.

We should observe that Podemos (link to their site here) did not go it alone this time. Inside Catalunya Sí que es Pot (CSQEP) they were allied with  Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (Red Greens), and Esquerra Unida i Alternativa, (the more directly linked to the left bloc, Izquirda Unida).

This in itself is a step forward for a group that appeared to wish to ‘go it alone’ to the extent of organising, its own demonstrations against austerity rather than create united fronts.

What are the consequences of this poor result – not to mention their eclipse by a right-of-centre populist party, Ciudadanos ? *

Iglesias has announced today (Iglesias ofrece un referéndum catalán en el que pediría el ‘no’)  that if Podemos wins the nation-wide general election he will offer a proper referendum to the Catalans, in which his party will campaign against the separatists and for a multinational and pluralist Spain.

Inside Podemos some have criticised the alliances that they made in Catalan with left-wing and Green forces, declaring that people did not understand the “alphabet soup” (CSQEP) that resulted on the ballot paper.

It will be interesting to follow further developments.


“..populism requires the division of society into two camps – one presenting itself as a part which claims to be the whole; that this dichotomy involves the antagonistic division of the social field, and that the popular camp presupposes as a conditions of its constitution the constriction of a globalised entity out of the equivalence of a plurality of social demands.” (Page 83. On Populist Reason. Ernesto Laclau. 2005)

Enthusiasm for Podemos on the European Left, including Britain, was until recently widespread. It was accepted that the party had managed the difficult feat of giving a political voice to the indignados movement. That it has built a ‘populist’ constituency through language and demands that welded together the 99% against the 1%. That it used the (in Laclau’s words) ‘floating signifiers’ of the ‘people’ (crushing majority) against the Spanish ‘casta’ and had created a democratic organisation capable of challenging the rule of finance and the dominance of economic austerity. It is new, it uses the Net, it encourages direct communication not tired old bureaucratic structures, or divisions between the historical left and right.

This could be tied into the argument offered by Paul Mason in  Postcapitalism ( 2015). That, “By creating, millions of networked people, finally exploited but with the whole of human intelligence one thumb-swipe away, info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and connected human beings.”

Mason also asserts that, “In Europe, repressing policing and a untied front of all parties in favour of austerity beat the indignados into a sullen silence. But the results showed that revolution in a highly complex, information-driven society would look very different from the revolutions of the twentieth century. Without a strong, organised working class to push social issues rapidly to the fore, the revolts often stall. But order is never fully restored.” (Page  xviii)

But in general enthusiasm for new groups like Podemos, with no visible links to the workers’ movement,  is widespread. There is a constant search for new political agencies to replace the ‘old’ left and labour movement. In Mason’s case, despite his own above warning,  this went so far as to make this extraordinary claim, “Scotland, “presented with the opportunity to break with a neoliberal state and start afresh, millions of young people said, ‘Yes’ “(Page xix)

There is little doubt that there is a great deal of political fluidity in Europe today. Movements to break up existing states, often from the wealthiest regions of a country (as in Catalonia or in Italy with the Lega Nord) tired of paying for poor and apparently lazy ‘southerners’ , appear part of this process. The strong showing of the Catalan sovereigntists was welcomed by forces from the Scottish National Party, promoting the interests of their ‘ain folk’ against ‘Westminster, the hard-right Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (Belgium), who dislike the former industrial French speaking and Socialist voting Walloon,  and some leftists – the latter apparently convinced that Barcelona tax-payers are right not to want to subsidise their feckless compatriots.

Podemos may, or may not, be capable of offering what Mason (in the most significant part of Postcapitalism) calls “revolutionary reformism”. Mason’s list of ideas, a third managerial revolution, switching  off the neoliberal privatisation machine, suppressing or socialising monopolies is attractive. But everything depends on a political vehicle to implement them in a recognisably effective form.

That is, the need a political forces capable of reaching and transforming existing political institutions. They have to connect ‘giving voice’ to protests, social interests (not least the labour movement)  and being capable of administering solutions. They need parties.

In the case of Podemos this, which Ernesto Laclau called the “moment of articulation” – that is the details of how political parties operate – is becoming unstuck.  No doubt the ripple effect of the defeat of Syriza’s anti-austerity programme counts for much in their present impasse. They may have woven ‘floating signifiers’ together, but what anchors them?

Podemos’ vaunted horizontal democracy (apparently giving shape to Mason’s ‘networks’) is paralleled by an internal structure, built as a pyramid around a leader. This is deeply problematic and pretty much casts its claims to novelty to the dustbin. Iglesias has as El País indicates, a self-defined “epic” in which he will valiantly take on the Spanish ‘casta’. Like a figure in the Game of Thrones (a box set of which he generously donated to the Spanish King Felipe VI)  he is surrounded by intrigue. He finds it hard to work collaboratively. Forced to accept alliances with other forces, like the Green Equo and the long-standing Izquirda Unida, he has the ill-grace to refuse to take any joint responsibility, in the political battles.

Now that it is clear that Podemos has not the remotest chance of forming a future government in the Cortes Generales it will be of interest to see how his authority is maintained.

* Ideologically, C’s describes itself as a progressive, secular, constitutionalist, European federalist and postnationalist party. In addition, Albert Rivera has said that C’s defends autonomismAccording to its declared identity signs, C’s advocates four basic lines of action:  Defence of individual rights. Defence of social rights as well as the welfare state. Uphold the State of Autonomies and Europe’s unity. Regeneration of democracy and of political life. Wikipedia.



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  1. This analysis is important, and too long translate off the cuff – as well as resting on the assumption – wholly false – that there is something progressive about Catalan independence and that the nationalist crooks leading the campaign are somehow extrinsic to this reactionary demand.

    But worth noting for its acid attack on Podemos,

    Etat espagnol – Catalogne. Un tremblement de terre qui n’en restera pas là.

    Relevant extracts,

    “Catalunya sí que es Pot (CSQP) a été le grand sinistré de ces élections. Entre les attentes initiales de rééditer un succès similaire à celui de Barcelona en Comú et les résultats obtenus, 364 823 voix (8,9 %) et 11 députés, le contraste est cruel. Et, symboliquement, sa débâcle face à un PSC, il y a quelques mois effondré, est décisive. La réduction permanente d’horizons qu’a signifié sa campagne a peu de précédents. Si la carte dessinée suite aux élections municipales pouvait rendre imaginable la transformation du 27S en un Pesadilla en Mas Street [jeu de mots avec le film d’horreur Pesadilla en Elm Street, pesadilla signifant cauchemar] nous nous sommes finalement trouvés face à un « oui nous pouvons » Desaparecido en Combate [disparu au combat] (vous souvenez-vous de Chuck Norris dans son rôle de Rambo de série B ?). Les raisons de ce fiasco sont multiples et elles ne se superposent pas toujours de manière cohérente.

    Tout d’abord, CSQP a été la victime de son propre fantasme et la menace de la constitution possible d’une candidature dans le sillage de Barcelona en Comú précipita la formation de Junts pel Sí. Cela modifia complètement le panorama politique, rendant impensable l’idée d’une victoire possible du «oui nous pouvons», qui a perdu automatiquement la possibilité de se convertir en aimant « attrape-tout » où pourraient se concentrer les attentes de changement social face à la Catalogne de Mas. Un effet démobilisateur en chaîne s’ensuivit ainsi qu’une fuite centrifuge de suffrages potentiels en direction de Ciutadans et du PSC, d’un côté, et de la CUP [Candidatures d’unité populaire, parti de gauche radicale indépendantiste] et de Junts pel sí, de l’autre. Le «noyau irradiant» (pour utiliser l’un des termes utilisés par Iñigo Errejón, théoricien de Podemos) d’un projet hégémonique, devint une passoire transpercée en diagonale par des dynamiques opposées. Et elle perdit un bras de fer décisif avec le PSC.”

    “Le décrochage du Procés Constituent et la non-implication de Barcelona en Comú [dont Ada Colau, maire de Barcelone, est la figure principale] portèrent un coup fatal au projet en herbe. Bien entendu, les limitations des deux acteurs (le peu de cohésion interne dans le cas du Procés, et la fatigue suite à la gueule de bois des municipales ainsi que l’ascension au gouvernement municipal dans le cas de Barcelona en Comú) peuvent expliquer partiellement leur absence lors de la tentative de réaliser une candidature du «oui nous pouvons» pour le 27S.

    Mais la responsabilité fondamentale retombe sur le style d’appareil de la candidature à la tête de laquelle se trouvait Podemos et ICV, qui repoussa les deux acteurs qui auraient pu permettre un changement qualitatif du projet. Les deux partis surestimèrent leurs forces et refusèrent de renouveler le processus pour faciliter l’incorporation du Procés et de Barcelona en Comú.

    “La combinaison entre la dépendance vis-à-vis de Pablo Iglesias pour mobiliser l’électorat et l’absence de référents catalans forts de la candidature empêcha que CSQP réalise la synthèse nécessaire pour articuler sa base sociale hétérogène en ce qui concerne le processus indépendantiste. Iglesias, s’il parvient certes à mobiliser un public fidèle large, a semblé dans cette campagne Lost in Translation [allusion à un film de 2003 de Sofia Coppola] avec des bourdes dignes de manuel comme l’appel au vote « des Catalans qui n’ont pas honte d’avoir des parents andalous ou des grands-parents d’Estrémadure ».

    Des critiques non nécessaires adressées à David Fernández [leader de la CUP] en décembre 2014 jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Les faux pas d’Iglesias de ce type ont déjà été trop nombreux – pour ce qui est du processus indépendantiste – avec comme résultat patent l’érosion visible et croissante de son image. Le paradoxe de la politique catalane est qu’il manque des voix claires rejetant Mas à partir du flanc gauche, soit sous l’angle revendiqué par Iglesias. Mais, ce que le leader de Podemos ne semble pas comprendre c’est que la crédibilité de son discours, virulent et correct, à l’opposé de celui Mas est lesté mortellement précisément par son absence de crédibilité dans la défense des droits nationaux de Catalogne.

    Après son irruption en politique, Iglesias s’est transformé en l’une des bêtes noires de l’establishment catalan. Et non parce qu’il n’est pas indépendantiste – Rajoy [PP] et Sanchez [PSOE] ne le sont pas non plus –, ce qui provoque plutôt que de la crainte, du mépris et des moqueries. Iglesias génère de l’inquiétude parce qu’il propose un projet de changement politique et social qui ne passe pas par l’indépendance et que ceci place sur la table des questions désagréables auxquelles le gros du mouvement indépendantiste n’a pas voulu ou su répondre. Pour cette raison, pour une personne telle qu’Iglesias qui se sait examinée à la loupe, les démonstrations réitérées de méconnaissance de la réalité catalane et de ses complexités constituent une erreur monumentale qu’il est difficile de comprendre. Iglesias sort de Catalogne on ne peut plus embourbé dans sa route en direction des élections générales, dans laquelle il est obligé de concevoir un stimulant impératif pour se relancer à l’échelle de l’Etat.”


    Andrew Coates

    September 30, 2015 at 12:16 pm

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