Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Podemos in Crisis: Some Background.

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Having failed to turn grassroots support into seats at June’s general election, the anti-austerity party faces a struggle over its response to the country’s power vacuum.

Sam Jones (Observer. Today.)

The party’s poor performance led to weeks of introspection that have further revealed the ideological tensions at its core. Most visible has been the rivalry between Iglesias and Podemos’s policy chief and number two, Iñigo Errejón. If Errejón has pushed for a more pragmatic approach to the PSOE, with a view to sharing power after December’s election, then Iglesias has gone out of his way to antagonise the Socialists, once memorably reminding parliament of the anti-Eta death squads that operated under the government of former PSOE leader Felipe González.

Now the growing tensions are coming to a head in Madrid, where competing factions are vying for control of Podemos’s birthplace and its future. On one side is Tania Sánchez, a former IU MP (Note: that is not from Podemos, but from the Communist-Green left bloc, Izquierda Unida) , who, along with Madrid councillor Rita Maestre, hopes to make the local party a more “friendly, female and decentralised” outfit.

Opposite them are the Iglesias loyalists, such as the party’s general secretary in the capital, Luis Alegre, who has long had a troubled relationship with the Errejónista faction.

To complicate things further, Sánchez, who is standing to be the party’s new leader in Madrid, is a former girlfriend of Iglesias, while Maestre used to go out with Errejón. In an attempt to head off the inevitable innuendo, both women put out a statement: “We are not girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, we are human beings who make our own decisions. We don’t need a man to help us or lead us … We’re protagonists who defend a Podemos for everyone.”

The Madrid story broke on the 15th of September in El País.

Anticapitalistas y activistas se suman a la disputa para liderar Podemos Madrid

El eurodiputado Miguel Urbán y 300 firmantes impulsan una alternativa a las de Mestre y Espinar.

En la disputa por el liderazgo de Podemos en la Comunidad de Madrid se perfilan al menos tres grandes opciones. El eurodiputado de la formación Miguel Urbán, que fue uno de los dirigentes determinantes en los inicios de Podemos, y 300 firmantes de la organización Anticapitalistas, activistas y militantes del partido quieren lanzar una candidatura para competir con las iniciativas promovidas por la portavoz del Ayuntamiento, Rita Maestre, y el del Senado, Ramón Espinar. Entre los impulsores de este proyecto, que llama a repensar Podemos, reconstruirlo desde las bases y reconectar con las calles se encuentran la abogada y diputada autonómica Lorena Ruiz-Huerta, el actor Alberto San Juan, los concejales de Ahora Madrid Pablo Carmona y Rommy Arce, Isabel Serra, que también es diputada regional y formó parte de la dirección autonómica ahora disuelta.

The essential is to know that the 300 signatories in the Madrid region, are led by the ‘anticapitalistas’, that is the group (linked with the Fourth International, and groups such as the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA)  and Ensemble in France and which has long criticised Podemos for its “vertical” hierarchy. They are challenging the Madrid leadership on the basis that the party structure needs reforming in order to connect with the ‘street’ (las calles) in place of  “marketing, de los políticos profesionales y de las estructuras orgánicas del partido.”

More details on the anticapitalista supporting site Viento Sur: Un Podemos para las y los que faltan. (The Podemos we need). Isabel Serra – Miguel Urbán

Long-standing criticisms such as this: Podemos: A Monolithic, Vertical, and Hierarchical Party? Tendance Coatesy. (December 2014)

Reply from a supporter:

What do you think of the criticisms from the Left saying that even though Podemos has repositioned itself on the Left by hitching itself to Izquierda Unida, it remains too vertical and centralised?

I think these criticisms are unfair, particularly because they are often based on local experiences in Barcelona and Madrid, and you can’t just map the local terrain onto a national scale. Podemos has had to face four elections, and electoral campaigns don’t lend themselves to internal discussions. But they are very conscious that the “circles” must preserve their important role in the party’s functioning, and they are trying to reinvigorate them. That was notable during the recent campaign. And I am still struck by their extraordinary creativity. In presenting their programme in the form of an Ikea catalogue they not only achieved a media coup but managed to get the electorate who didn’t read party manifestos any more to pick them up again.

A salutary shock?: Chantal Mouffe on Brexit and the Spanish elections. By Chantal Mouffe / 27 June 2016.

These are issues specific to Podemos though this is probably a very particular interpretation of their prospects, as is this (from left critics).

The latest is not the first internal dispute in the party.

Earlier this year Podemos’ leaders summarily removed their Number 3, Sergio Pascual.

Madrid had been the focus of disputes for some time – La crisis interna de Podemos en Madrid obliga a convocar un congreso regional.  (El País. 14th of June)

Following the always readable El País we find a more widespread judgement on Spain’s political crisis: that the country’s politicians are unable to share power with other parties or to make compromises beyond their immediate short-term interests.

Or, to put it more simply, like the UK, the country has no tradition of coalitions (the issue in dispute: agreement with the PSOE by Podemos).

The merits of this are, naturally, for the Spanish left to judge.

Meanwhile there is also this:  prosperous  Catalonia wishes to break with Spain’s poorer regions. (11th of September)

Catalan separatists rally to push for break from Spain

Tens of thousands of Catalans gathered to demand their region speed up its drive to break away from Spain

 See also: Podemos site (latest stories).

On the anticapitalista tendency:  Les anticapitalistes au sein de Podemos (August 2016).

This is a review of Coll, Andreu; Brais Fernández & Joseba Fernández (ed.) (2016), Anticapitalistasen Podemos, Construyendo poder popular. Barcelona, Sylone, 153 pag.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 18, 2016 at 12:22 pm

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