Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Podemos

Vox: The Return of the Spanish Far Right.

with 11 comments

Mitin de Vox en el Palacio de Vistalegre.rn rn rn

Spanish Immunity to the Populist Far-Right has Ended.

A couple of days ago The Times stated,

Far right set to win first Spanish seat for decades

A far-right party is on course to win a seat in the Spanish parliament for the first time since the fascist dictatorship of General Franco more than 40 years ago.

Vox, which was founded in 2014, says that its support has risen tenfold since it took a hard line against illegal immigration and the independence drive in Catalonia. Ten thousand people took part in its most recent rally in Madrid and a poll by Metroscopia puts the party on 5.1 per cent, enough to gain a seat.

The European Council on Foreign Relations announced this week that,

Bannon sets his eyes on Spain

Spain’s far-right party Vox draws the country into the continent’s growing anti-European league

Steve Bannon, the controversial former adviser to US President Donald Trump, has set his eyes on the site of his next battle against what he deems the “globalist ideology” and its principal embodiment, the European Union. Making use of his contacts with Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom, Marine Le Pen in France, and Matteo Salvini in Italy, Bannon is setting up The Movement, a Brussels-based group that aims to unify far-right anti-European forces.

Spain, a rare exception on the continent in its relative lack of far-right or anti-EU movements, has largely been spared Bannon’s and the alt-right’s attention so far. Not for much longer, it seems. On 10 April 2018, Bannon declared: “it is very important that in Spain there is a party based on the sovereignty and identity of the Spanish people, and that is ready to defend its borders”. His statement came after a meeting with Rafael Bardají, an erstwhile adviser to former Spanish president José María Aznar who now works as a strategist for far-right party Vox. After Bannon publicly announced his support for the party, Vox asked him for advice on what he is best at: political communication through alternative media and social networks – that is, electoral engineering based both on big data and micro-targeting.

Santiago Abascal, a former member of a conservative party based in the Basque Country, created Vox in 2013. Despite receiving only 46,638 votes (0.2 percent) in the 2016 general election, Vox is now polling at 5 percent (around 1 million votes, which would mean a significant increase in support). Following a very active social media campaign and a series of rallies across Spain, the party achieved a great success a few weeks ago when it gathered 9,000 people for a meeting at Madrid’s Vistalegre arena. If it remains as popular as the polls indicate, Vox will eventually enter the Spanish parliament and, most importantly, may make it to the European Parliament next May.

Vox’s main message is that there is a need to defend the Spanish nation, which it sees as threatened by Catalan and Basque nationalists, immigrants, and the EU. On 7 October 2018, the party released its “100 measures to keep Spain alive”. Its proposals and message fall within the orbit of Le Pen and Salvini, especially on migration and the EU.

Earlier this month there was a spate of articles in the Spanish and European Press on Voz and the above rally.

La nueva extrema derecha irrumpe en escena El País  4th of October.

The New Far Right has burst onto the scene.

Far-right political party Vox attracts 9,000 people to Madrid rally

El País  (English).

Created in 2014, the group drew its largest crowd ever at the weekend as polls suggest it could win a seat in Congress.

Vox speakers take turns listing the party’s 100 proposals for Spain: creating a Family Ministry, revoking the gender violence law and “any other legislation that discriminates against one of the sexes,” lowering income and corporate tax, developing a new water-management plan… But what really rouses the crowd is the proposal to deport “those illegal immigrants who come to Spain not to make it greater, but to receive handouts.”

To support this larger goal, Vox also wants tougher criminal punishment for illegal-immigration mafias “and those who cooperate with them, be they non-profits, businesses or individuals.”

Another major objective, says another speaker on stage, is “taking back our national sovereignty on the application of our courts’ decisions. Terrorists, rapists and serial killers would no longer benefit from the protection of European organizations, as they have to date.”

The secretary general of Vox, Ortega Smith, takes the microphone to insist that “Spaniards come first” and paraphrases Donald Trump: “Together we will make Spain great again.”

“Welcome to the resistance!” he cries. “We have come here to send out a message: we are not ready to let our dignity be trampled!”

The closing speaker is party president Santiago Abascal, who makes a rousing speech about Spaniards rising up against injustice.

“The living Spain has awoken, thank God. Spain does not rise up randomly. A nation reacts when it has historical inertia, when there is blood coursing through its veins, and when it is aggravated, as Spain is being aggravated now.”

L’émergence d’un parti d’extrême droite surprend l’Espagne.

Sandrine Morel. Le Monde.

La formation Vox, créée en 2013 par d’anciens militants du Parti populaire et jusqu’ici très confidentielle, a réuni 10 000 personnes à Madrid.

Background: Wikipedia (English, very incomplete) on Vox.

Vox (often stylized as VOX) is a political party in Spain founded on 17 December 2013, by former members of the People’s Party (PP). It is often considered to be far-rightalthough some media considered it as right-wing or right-wing populist

Explained: Who is VOX? Spain’s latest far-right party gaining popularity.

Fears of a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment and hardline nationalism have awakened in Spain after thousands participated in a Sunday rally at Madrid’s Vistalegre Palace by the far-right VOX party. But who is VOX and should Europe prepare for the rise of populism in Spain?

“Spaniards’ first”

Set up at the end of 2013, VOX aimed to capitalise on what it saw as a void in the Spanish political system, Dr Andrew Dowling of Cardiff University told Euronews.

VOX gained momentum last year as part of a broader rise of far-right populist parties in Europe, said Dowling. At the Sunday rally, Javier Ortega, the party’s general secretary, outlined the party’s first objective: “Spaniard’s first”. He listed a hundred proposals, which included revoking the gender violence law, deporting illegal immigrants and outlawing independence movements that could break up Spain.

However, the fact there was already two conservative parties Partido Popular (PP) and Ciudadanos meant that VOX will find it difficult to create a place for itself in the Spanish political spectrum, added Dowling.

The leader of Vox has declared that they will go it alone in elections, able to take advantage of the social discontent which Podemos, now in Coalition with the Spanish Socialists (PSOE), is unable to reflect.

“Abascal afirma que la vocación de VOX es ir en solitario a elecciones: Podemos aportar muchísimo más que en coalición”  Europa Press. 24 October.

One thing is certain, the issue of “El fascismo” has returned to the Spanish political scene.

 

Advertisements

Written by Andrew Coates

October 27, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Catalan Elections: Far-Left (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular), CUP, loses half of its support in Latest Poll.

leave a comment »

Image result for la vanguardia sondeo electoral 2017 catalunya diciembre 2017

Far-Left CUP Slumps.

Nothing is settled about the result of the Catalan regional vote on the 21st of December.

In the last poll intentions to participate in the vote ( 82%) the Catalan nationalists (ERC, Jx Cat and CUP) have largely retained support and would have I seat over the absolute majority needed to control the Parliament (69 just over 68). La Vanguardia.

Rising support for the Catalan Socialists (up from 16 seats to 22), and above all the centre party Ciutadans/Ciudadanos(25 to 30 t0 31) remain important trends.

Podemos allies,Catalunya en Comú–Podem, are down from 11 to 8.

But the most dramatic shift is the halving of  support for the ‘left nationalists’ of CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular), from 10 to 5.

CUP likes to claim that it was a key player in the declaration of independence by Spain’s most prosperous reasons, tired of paying for poorer areas and anxious to assert its cultural identity.

It also claims to represent radical leftist economic views, ecological policies, feminism, and part of social movements. As such is regarded by some in the rest of Europe as  part of the “rise of new left and progressive forces” .

Those unsympathetic  have described it as follows, “La CUP es una amalgama de siglas de pequeños grupos que están en continua ebullición y permanentemente en tensión” – an amalgam of acronyms for small groups which are at a non-stop boiling point, and permanently in friction with each other.” (The liberal digital newspaper, El Confidential).

The alliance indeed includes many different factions,  some of whom it describes as Trotskyist. The International Marxist Tendency (Grantists) promote “Endavant, calls himself a Marxist and fights for a Catalan Socialist Republic” others which have been listed include Poble Lliure and, in an earlier Blog post here, En Lucha (tied to the British SWP), Corriente Roja (section of the IWL,  Morenoist), Lucha internacionalista (La Unidad Internacional de los Trabajadores (UIT-CIand Revolta Global-Esquerra anticapitalist which has links with the Izquierda anticapitalista and the Mandelite Fourth International,various activist campaigning groups, the original and important Occupy Movement in Spain, the Indignados, (not the US counterpart), the peasant  Pagesos per la Dignitat Rural Catalana. Okupas (Occupy, on housing and land issues),  self-managed social centres, (CSOA).

The impression one gets, apart from the fact that their policies are nationalist, is that this is a fine collection of odd balls.

The CUP participated at last week’s demonstration in Brussels in favour of Catalan nationalist demands (La CUP serà demà a Brussel·les per denunciar la repressió de l’Estat espanyol contra els catalans i les catalanes)

Le Monde noted, that in the 45,000 strong march, that aprt from Cataln flags Belgian supporters also brought along their own nationalist ones, of the Flemish Lion,

Le défilé est porteur de beaucoup de slogans et de pas mal de contradictions. Des militants flamands d’extrême droite saluent leurs « frères » catalans, tandis qu’un peu plus loin un militant trotskiste belge explique que « c’est la question sociale qui a réveillé la question nationale et, en tant que marxiste, on ne peut donc que soutenir la volonté populaire ». La Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, le parti indépendantiste flamand qui a remisé son programme institutionnel et privilégie désormais la participation au pouvoir fédéral belge, assure également une présence, somme toute assez discrète.

The march saw many slogans and not a few contradictions. Flemish activists of the extreme right saluted their Catalan ‘brothers;, which not far away a Belgian Trotskyist explained, hat “it’s the social issue which has awakened about the national issue, and, as a Marxist one can only support the popular will”. The (hard right) Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, the party for Flemish independence, though at present putting its place in Belgian federal politics first, had a presence, if discreet.

The CUP is strongly anti-European Union….

COP publishes a few articles in what is claims is English.

This is the most recent.

“And wanting to be a republic, we have learned to be a people”, by David Fernández

10/10/2017“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” Blade Runner.

That our ‘hackers of the impossible’ – my thanks, once again – won the difficult technological battle, always unequal, in order to keep alive the single census during the whole day, under free software schemes and encryption, gives food for thought. Plenty of it. Neither in analog (sic) or in digital: the Big Brother State did not get away with i, (sic)

Some on the pro-nationalist  left, which includes the equally odd Platypus,  believe various versions of the following, from Jorge Martin (International Marxist Tendency)

Struggle for self-determination as a revolutionary task

In a nut-shell, this summarises the position in Catalonia. Against the Spanish 1978 regime, the exercise of the right of self-determination is a task which can only be accomplished by revolutionary means. The Catalan bourgeois and petty-bourgeois politicians are not prepared to use revolutionary means. Some of them are not even committed to a Catalan Republic, other than as a threat with which to extract concessions from Madrid. The only way forward in the struggle for a Catalan Republic is a battle to remove the current leadership of the movement and replace it with one firmly based on the workers at the head of the petty-bourgeois masses: a leadership prepared to use revolutionary means to face and bring down the 1978 regime.

We await the “revolutionaries'” actions.

What “means” they propose to carry out their revolt,  based as they would be on not a single workers’ council – to start with – remain open to speculation.

Still the Vlaams Belang, Counterfire, the SNP, The International Marxist Tendency, Platypus and the  Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie will fight to the last Catalan to secure their national freedom.

By contrast Podemos, while not gaining support has not suffered the dramatic decline – if polls are confirmed – of the CUP and continues to speak sense,

In Podemos we have always said that the only solution is through the ballot box, offering Catalans the choice in a negotiated referendum to either remain as part of a new plurinational Spanish state or to pursue an independent Catalan republic.

..

Podemos sees Spain as a project to be constructed, we aim for a new country where nobody wants to leave because nobody is forced to stay. This federalised Spain would require the reordering of the states’s institutional and constitutional architecture so that there is no conflict between being Spanish and belonging to another national community existing in the state. It would be a polycentric Spain where not everything passes through Madrid, and where Madrid is converted into a federal district along the path to a less unitary state. Ultimately a plurinational Spain has to do with reinventing Spain’s own identity so that it ceases to be a weapon used to attack other Spaniards.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 12, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Podemos Internal Dispute Ends with Iglesias’ Victory.

leave a comment »

Iglesias saluda ante la mirada de Errejón.

Pablo Iglesias ha ganado el duelo a Íñigo Errejón (El País)

Iglesias lo ha ganado todo: la secretaría general, la dirección y los cuatro documentos que se votaban: político, organizativo, ético y de igualdad. Como secretario general, ha sido refrendado por el 89% de los votos (128.700 sufragios) frente a los 15.700 del diputado autonómico andaluz Juan Moreno Yagüe (10,9%)

Iglesias has won everything…General secretary, the party leadership, and the vote on 4 party documents: on policies  organisation, ethics and equality. As General Secreary he has been elected with 89% of the vote (128,700) faced with the 15,700 of his opponents, the Andalusian regional deputy, Jaun Moreno  Yagüe who got 10,9%.

Background:

Leaders battle for soul of Spain’s Podemos at crucial congress France 24.

Pleading for “unity”, thousands of Podemos supporters gathered Saturday at a decisive two-day meeting in Madrid that could unseat the charismatic leader of one of Europe’s leading far-left parties.

Born in 2014 out of the Indignados anti-austerity protest movement that swept Spain during a severe economic crisis, the party has found itself riven by in-fighting after a meteoric rise to national-level politics.

But on Saturday, party leaders attempted to put these bitter divisions behind them as they took to the stage in a congress centre bathed in purple flags and banners, the colour of Podemos, in an electric atmosphere.

“We have committed many mistakes,” Pablo Iglesias, the party’s charismatic leader and co-founder, said while standing on stage behind huge block letters spelling out “Podemos”.

To wild applause, the 38-year-old added the weekend’s congress should be “an example of fraternity, unity and intelligence”.

Deutsche Welle reported,

The core internal party dispute is whether to stick to a hard-line leftist position, as advocated by Iglesias, or take a more moderate stance and move the party in the direction of the leftist political mainstream, a policy pushed by Errejon.

Iglesias wants to maintain Podemos’ anti-establishment roots and take to the streets again to challenge traditional parties.

Errejon seeks to find a middle ground with the Socialists (PSOE), the second-largest party, in order to influence policy from within the system and broaden Podemos’ appeal to moderate leftist voters.

A three-way coalition of Podemos, PSOE and the liberal Ciudadanos that could have challenged Mariano Rajoy’s ruling conservative People’s Party failed to materialize last year after two inconclusive elections.

A different perspective, which comes directly from a Tendency within Podemos, the Anticapitalistas (connected to the Fourth International),  sees three currents within Podemos.

Iglesias, Errejón, and the Road Not Taken. Josep María Antentas. (International Viewpoint 2017).

“The three factions within Podemos are represented by Pablo Iglesias, Íñigo Errejón, and the Anticapitalistas.”

These three currents all have radically different political projects. We can define Iglesias’s as pragmatic-instrumental populism mixed with impatient Eurocommunism, which differs in form from the original iteration by embracing the prospect of electoral victory. His combination of rebellious rhetoric with a moderate governmental horizon takes the Italian Communist Party’s Berlinguer era “historic compromise” with the Christian Democrats as its primary model — the policy of the historical compromise. Indeed, Iglesias uncritically embraces this legacy, failing to critically assess Syriza’s experience in this context.

We might summarize Iglesias’s proposal as belligerence in opposition, raison d’etat in government. In this sense, he maintains his orientation toward moderation but has realized that Podemos’s strength lies in its appearance as an anti-establishment force. As such, if the party were tamed, it would lose its social base, which Iglesias mainly anchors in the working and popular classes.

Iglesias’s proposal prioritizes electoral and institutional activity. In contrast to his position at Vistalegre, however, social struggle now at least plays a role in the strategy. His fiery discourse and praise for social struggle have created a better environment for radical and movement-oriented ideas within the party. Suddenly, those who had called for something other than the triad of “communication–campaigns–institutions” recognize that the general secretary had been partially converted. No doubt, this is a valuable change of atmosphere.

On the other hand, Íñigo Errejón’s political project is built on constructivist populism and aims to normalize Podemos. It calls for a peaceful transition in which the exhausted traditional parties are replaced with something new, exchanging elites, and very little else. Errejón wants to connect with the generational aspirations of young and middle-aged people, who are frustrated and broken by the crisis.

Errejón and his supporters’ call for “transversality” has swung between a serious discussion about building a new political majority and an excuse to smooth over all traces of radicalism. Behind this core idea lies a project mainly aimed at the middle classes, using post-class rhetoric to emphasize meritocracy and to call for a smooth transition toward a better future. It is focused at an amorphous political center that has become the imagined center of gravity for the people.

The rationale is to attract “the missing ones,” meaning to win over the voters who are not yet convinced that Podemos is trustworthy enough to run the Spanish state. As a result, it takes for granted that current Podemos voters will always remain loyal. However, they are likely to demobilize if the party forgets about them in its quest for respectability.

The Anticapitalistas.

Podemos has at least one other important current: the Anticapitalistas, which has sponsored the Podemos en Movimiento list at the upcoming congress. A key player since the beginning, Anticapitalistas’s strategy has always been to create a party built on the political potential that emerged up after 15-M, not only in terms of the electoral opportunity that had opened but also in terms of the new possibility for radical political and social change. The Anticapitalistas project attempts to synthesize radicalism’s ambition with building a majority.

Anticapitalistas has served as a movement party within Podemos. As such, it opposed the Vistalegre model that tried to transform 15-M’s legacy into electoral victory. It is organized around internal democracy and rank-and-file empowerment, focusing on external campaigns rather than internal quarrels. Its strategic perspective sees victory as a dialectical combination of self-organization, mobilization, elections, and institutional work — something deeper than just winning elections. To build this, Anticapitalistas has emphasized program discussions, which would allow the party to present serious alternative policies. Questions like debt and the banking system have centered these debates, trying to learn from Syriza’s fiasco — something Podemos’s leadership has always refused to do.

Working against the party’s main current since the beginning, this political wing has been central to Podemos’s trajectory, despite its small institutional power which has only weakened after Podemos’s expansion after the 2014 European election when Iglesias and Errejón were on the rise.

The Iglesias’ Triumph leaves a number of problems unresolved.

As Jamie Pastor notes (Etat espagnol. Podemos et le Congrès de Vistalegre II : se refonder sans se dénaturer from the Ensemble site, translated from Viento Sur, linked to the Anticapitalistas) the underlying ‘populist’ strategy of Podemos rests on “constructing a people” facing the ‘elites’ (the famous ‘casta’). Yet in reality they have moved in the direction of giving priority to  opposing the Right (the ruling  PP and Ciudadanos).

Their alliance with the left bloc,  Izquierda Unida, Unidos Podemos  known as Podemos–IU, for the 2016 General Election,  underpins a strategy that aims to assemble the Spanish left, that is focused on electoral majorities,  rather than, some critics allege,  the famous “transversality”.

This concept may be explained in this way,

Transversality can be understood as the act of building majorities. Not electoral majorities per se, but social majorities made up of identities based on common goals; building inclusive identities adapted to today’s society. An example is that of the identity of “working class”, which was a necessary identity when they were organizing to overcome their class conditions 50 years ago, but which is not appropriate to the modern world.

Juan Antonio Gil de los Santos Understanding Transversality: Spain’s Podemos

Podemos’ approach (strongly influenced by the political theorist, the academic  Ernesto Laclau) to ‘constructing the people’ has been over and above this stand, a constant As Pastor states it has become an interchangeable concept with the people (lower case), the nation, and the ‘citizens’ and has tended to give priority to the middle class as a point of reference. (“une idée du « peuple » a été maintenue de manière interchangeable avec « les gens », « la patrie » ou « les citoyens ». Une conception qui a eu comme tendance de privilégier la classe moyenne comme référence).

By treating the ‘working class’ as an identity, this approach draws on a simplified version of Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985).  For those who follow this stand, left politics, in a ‘post-Marxist’ age, is about bringing together a variety of democratic struggles (arising from social contradictions), articulated in a hegemonic project. In more recent times this has come to mean that ‘constructing the People’ takes in a variety of groups antagonistic to the dominant power bloc (la casta…), in a common figure. This is a – hegemony building process of assembling them around a new content in the ’empty signifier’ of democracy, and taking ‘floating signifiers’, such as the People itself) into a movement. One can see that this way of doing politics easily avoids structural issues of class (not necessarily registered as ‘identities’), and lends itself to the worst aspects of Populism, that is, identifying one group (us) as the People, and the ‘others’ as the non or anti-People with no democratic legitimacy.

Or as Pastor argues, drawing on a contradictory set of constituencies and  list of demands to win support for a catch-all party. Some allege that the power of the grassroots, in the celebrated “Círculos” (local assemblies) has been weakened by a leadership which holds controls in a vertical structure presided over by leading ‘strategists’. 

In dealing with Spain’s diverse national groups, they have come up with a concept of “plurinationalité ” but, despite affirmations of the equality between national identities and groups, this “patriotisme plurinational” runs into obvious contradictions.

Above all, we are left, after the aspiration to govern has failed (agreement with the Spanish Socialists, the PSOE has proved impossible, and  undesirable) with the problem of unity around  Iglesias’ “charismatic leadership

Will a ‘populist’  party leader with this overwhelming  mandate be in a mood to tolerate pluralism within Podemos?

Written by Andrew Coates

February 12, 2017 at 1:24 pm

As Labour Goes Populist, Handy On-Line Tips for Momentum from Podemos.

with one comment

El perro de Pablo Iglesias está harto de su dueño y de Podemos

How to Get On-Line Democracy Growling!

Jeremy Corbyn says,

We must not let internal debate distract from our work that has to be done to help Labour win elections… …Momentum needs to be an organisation fit for purpose – not copying the FAILED MODELS OF THE PAST but bringing fresh ideas to campaigning and organising in communities, helping members be active in the Labour Party and helping secure a Labour government to rebuild and transform Britain. That’s why the Momentum team has drawn up a survey to give EVERY MEMBER a DIRECT SAY in its future.”

All is not well in Podemos, as  their Number 2, Íñigo Errejón, ponders the future of the Populist Party.

El miedo a discrepar es un método de selección de la mediocridad El País 20.12.16.

The fear of disagreeing is a method of selecting mediocrity.

Amongst many amiable things Errejón, now the Leader Iglesias’ critic, announced his intention of defending Podemos’ original ideas, against the party becoming stuck in a posture of protest. He also ominously notes, ” Nosotros no somos militantes de un partido político, sino del cambio político. Y por tanto militaremos en el partido mientras siga siendo un instrumento útil.” We are not activists for a political party, but for political change. For that we will be active in the party while it remains a useful tool.”

But all is not lost.

To encourage participation in their internal on-line voting for a Congress in which disputes with the above are predicted to reach boiling point, Pablo Iglesias has just released this charming video.

El perro de Pablo Iglesias está harto de su dueño y de Podemos. (Pablo Iglesias’s doggy is tired of its Master and Podemos) El Pais .

Can you cheer him up?

If this good enough?

Now look below…..and be prepared to be moved……

Momentum take note!

Get your cats and pooches out and make for YouTube to get people completing the membership  survey!

Written by Andrew Coates

December 21, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Save Momentum from Saboteurs – Owen Jones. Statement by Momentum (External Faction, Majority ‘A’ Tendency).

with 8 comments

Image result for Judean popular front

People’s Front (British Left Training Manuel). 

Momentum is a beacon of hope. It must be saved from the saboteurs. 

Before I begin this I note the following:

  • When Momentum was set up there were discussions by long-standing left-wing activists, members of the Labour Party and/or Trade Unions, engaged in anti-austerity campaigning and a variety of social movements. The potential for small organised left groups to join Momentum, bathing in the reflected glory of Jeremy Corbyn,  and use it for their own ends it was noted. One sectarian group, the Socialist Party even went so far as to try to set up its own front, called Trade Union Momentum, in order to recruit for their organisation (Steps towards setting up Trade Union Momentum. The Socialist. 9th of January 2016).
  • The principal problem appeared to be the presence of groups trying to recruit for their ‘party building’. That is, to split off (as they call it) the ‘centrists’ and ‘populist’ left from the dyed-in-the-wool ‘reformists’  and get them to join their own ranks, either overtly or in classic ‘entryist’ style, through various ‘fronts’ (one might envisage something like the ‘socialist platform’ in Momentum.
  • Leading figures in Momentum, notably Jon Lansman, were informed – repeatedly informed of these concerns. This is because the core of the original Momentum leadership are people we know and hardly unaware of this kind of thing. They were said to agree with us.
  • Having expressed these views, and stated my own belief, that the Labour party should be encouraged to develop as a modern inclusive  democratic socialist party, and not badgered from a half-in half-out group, I was encouraged by Momentum’s initial development. Notably its support for the Other Europe is Possible campaign, supporting a Remain Vote in the Referendum.
  • I and many others from the European democratic left side have not been encouraged by the launch of an “our Brexit” campaign linked with Momentum without the members being consulted.
  • I finally note that it the divisions in Momentum cannot be described as simply between “young idealistic” social movement types and older ‘Trotskyists’. The Trotskyists are battling ‘older’ people, and not all ‘Trotskyists’ are ‘old’, far from it.  The way the decision on ‘Our Brexit’ ( just cited) was reached raises concerns wider than any of these splits.

It is, these points in mind,  hardly out of the blue that the present crisis has happened.

Comrade Owen begins,

These are the things I want to write about, not the internal woes of the left. The left has had something of a reputation for turning infighting into an art form, immortalised by that People’s Front of Judea sketch in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. But an emergent crisis in Britain’s left is so serious that, sadly, it cannot be ignored.

Momentum – the grassroots movement set up in the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory – is currently facing a takeover bid by Trotskyist sectarians. If they succeed, Momentum will be destroyed. The most prominent sectarian figures are embittered veterans of struggles from the 1970s and 80s, people who have only experienced defeat, and who won’t let an unexpected opportunity afforded by the seismic political developments of the last two years slip through their fingers. This is their last chance.

They jump from organisation to organisation, and are adept at manipulating internal structures for their own advantage: sitting out long boring meetings, coordinating interventions, playing victim when it suits. They’re not interested in say, door-to-door campaigning, but rather in debating their obscure pet issues with long-winded interventions at meetings on a Thursday evening.

The only point that really strikes home is the lack of ‘door-to-door campaigning’.

But this is not a  fault unique to the ‘sectarians’.

One could argue that setting up a parallel organisation to normal Labour bodies is bound to divert energy away from this kind of grass-roots work.

Owen strays into perhaps excessive prose in the following,

Their opponents are younger, idealistic, campaign-oriented and pluralistic, lacking Machiavellian strategic ability – all of which the sectarians exploit. The sectarians smear their opponents as rightwingers, Stalinists, bureaucrats, as having ulterior and sinister motives (this article will be dismissed as the work of a rightwing establishment careerist in the service of a Guardian conspiracy to destroy the left). Everything goes wrong, they believe, not because of their own almost farcical strategic ineptitude, but because of the betrayal of others. Momentum offers hope to young people who have long been demoralised by politics. Those wrecking Momentum – if they succeed – could destroy that hope, and that is unforgivable.

It is wrong to call these forces “Trotskyist sectarians” as if there is a common unity amongst them.

This is not classic ‘entryism’: there are very diverse groups. Some of them work well with other people on particular objectives – such as promoting a social Europe, or, say defending secular democratic demands in Iran.  It is true, in a very general sense, that many of them refer to the Russian Revolution and Lenin (something I personally cannot empathise with). Others – I am thinking of former members of Left Unity –  have more in common with 1970s New Left radical groups than with the kind of moribund organisations at present hanging on as the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party. Some of the opponents of the Momentum leadership have their own personal agenda, which appears to derive more from identity politics than the left, sectarian or not.

These are small groups, groupuscles if you will, or just alliances of affinity. There is no common unity – just cite the words Israel and Zionism, and, hey, see! –  except on organisational issues within Momentum.

It is therefore not just false but highly speculative  to claim that,

the sectarians are highly disciplined, highly organised, and highly experienced. The interests of their own sects are far more important than any movement. Only their sect, they believe, has the correct politics: everybody else’s are fatally flawed. They have no faith in the Labour party. Momentum, for them, is an embryonic political party. The prize is Momentum’s contact data, containing the details of tens of thousands of people. At an opportune time, they will walk away from Labour and found a new party, which will get 300 votes in a byelection. They will triumphantly hail these as 300 votes for socialism.

The ‘new party’ line, which is the decrepit Socialist Party’s objective, is too marginal even to bother with.

But…

Having said this I  must say that the following struck home:

Take the barrister Nick Wrack, one of the sectarian leaders. Last year he stood for the catchily named Trade Union and Socialist Coalition in Camberwell and Peckham, and secured 0.6% of the vote. There’s no life for the left in the Labour party, he told me in 2014.“Time for [a] new party that stands for socialism,” he lectured me before the general election. I was right to call for more working-class representation, he tells me, “but it won’t come from Labour,” he tells me, after Labour’s defeat.

Owen forgets: membership of the SWP, Respect, the Socialist Alliance, the Independent Socialist Network,  and a host of other groups……

And, “Nick worked as a journalist for the socialist newspaper Militant. He became its editor in 1994.”

But surely these are sectarian points?

And is this a fair summary of the other side?

The younger Momentum protagonists aligned to Lansman – who himself has gone on a political journey away from top-down structures – are known as “movementists”: those who dislike hierarchies and who are attracted by social movements.

There are problems, which Owen chose to ignore in his introduction to this book, about ‘movementist’ democracy. In  Podemos: In the Name of the People’ by Chantal Mouffe and Íñigo Errejón (foreword by Owen Jones) Jones celebrated this party’s success. But its own “democracy on-line” has worked to consolidate the party leadership. Critics, whom we have covered at length on this Blog, have asserted that Podemos is now organised on a “Pyramidal” “vertical” basis. It is said to have led to the withering away of the “circles” at the base of Podemos. It has, to put it simply, not been able to create structures  – to many critics –  that are markedly better than the old system. Podemos is now undergoing its own internal ‘factional battles, though one has to recognise that it’s on a healthy basis, that is, with real policy alternatives at stake.

I am not a member of Momentum, to the reasons I outlined at the start. Some elderly local people may be.

But it would seem that some kind of synthesis between these systems could be devised.

This would surely be preferable to this call for Armageddon:

 ….Jeremy Corbyn. An intervention by him would stop Momentum being taken over, allowing its rebirth as an open, campaign-focused movement. Without that, the sectarians will win. They must be stopped in their tracks. So much hope, so much optimism. We can’t let it end in rancour and betrayal.

Reports on Saturday 3d December  Momentum Meeting Round-UpClarion.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 8, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Spain: Mass Demonstrations Today against Rajoy’s ‘Golpe’ (Coup d’état).

with one comment

This weekend Spain will finally have a government, after inconclusive elections have led to months of failure to vote one in.

Spain’s 10 months without a government should end on Saturday when parliament is set to grudgingly grant conservative Mariano Rajoy a second term as prime minister.

But political instability may persist as Rajoy’s weak minority government struggles to build support to pass legislation in a hostile parliament.

After two inconclusive elections and months of fruitless attempts at coalition-building, a controversial decision by the opposition Socialists to abstain should allow Rajoy to be confirmed as prime minister in a parliamentary confidence vote set for 7.45 p.m. (1745 GMT) on Saturday.

Reuters.

El país says today, “Rajoy será elegido hoy presidente con la abstención y el desgarro del PSOE.” Rajoy will be elected with the – painful – abstention of the POSE (Spain’s Socialist Party). (1)

Called to protest at the ‘coup d’état’ this demonstration is backed by groups of the far left and left nationalists, “Alternativa Republicana,  Anticapitalistas, Asamblea Popular de la Elipa, Desborda Madrid, Distrito 14, Izquierda Castellana, Izquierda Unida, PAH Ciempozuelos, Partido Multicultural por la Justicia Social, PCE, Sindicato de Estudiantes, No Somos Delito, y Frente Cívico Somos Mayoría.” The plan to “surround” the Parliament (Rodea el Congreso).

El País says it is backed by Unidos Podemos. The daily states that it questions the legitimacy of the democratic system, and the validity of the process which will led to Rajoy’s investiture on Saturday in the lower chamber, of the country’s Parliament  (“y a la que apoya Unidos Podemos—, cuestiona el régimen democrático y la legitimidad del presidente que saldrá investido en la cámara baja.) The centre-left paper describes material for the march. It talks of  the “system” uniting the leader of the Partito Popolare , the King, and the socialist PSOE , talks of them as a “mafia”. It notes that it just at the limits of legal expression. It underlines that Spain underwent a real attempt at a coup in 1982.

cartel-c25s-pequeno

Íñigo Errejón, official spokesperson for Podemos, has warned of the possibility of violent incidents.

This video, by the Izquierda Anticapitalista (a Tendency within Podemos, more Wikipedia, English), calling for the demonstration and for ‘popular power’ (Poder populaire) certainly has strong revolutionary echoes. This is not without precedent, the Anticapitalistas,  it is alleged, have compared the Podemos “circulos” (base groupings) to…..Soviets (Hay quienes ya asemejan los ‘círculos’ de Podemos a los ‘soviets’: Quién es quién en Izquierda Anticapitalista, el partido que mueve los hilos dentro de Podemos. Vozpopuli)

(1) PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez was ousted in an acrimonious uprising that has torn the party apart. Sánchez had dismissed pleas from parts of the PSOE to allow the PP back into government, insisting that the latter was too deeply mired in a series of corruption scandals to be allowed to retake office. He stood down as leader this month after losing a vote that would have allowed grassroots party members to back or sack him in a leadership contest. The PSOE’s caretaker leadership has abandoned Sánchez’s position and decided to abstain in Saturday’s investiture vote, thereby allowing Rajoy to form a minority government. (Guardian)

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 29, 2016 at 10:51 am

Posted in European Left, Spain

Tagged with , ,

Podemos in Crisis: Some Background.

leave a comment »

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