Spain: 10 years after 15M, several conclusions and an epitaph

España Pablo Iglesias Podemos

By Rubén Tzanoff

An achievement that was insufficient to achieve fundamental changes. It must be recreated, assimilating the changes it needs to succeed. It can be done by moving away from reformism and building strong revolutionary socialist parties.

The capitalist crisis of 2008 hit the Spanish state hard, deepening social inequality. The governments saved the banks and those in power while taking away historical gains from the workers’ movement. Discontent was soon expressed through strikes and mobilizations against the policies of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. At the political level, broad social sectors came to the conclusion that “PPSOE” bipartisan rule, democratic limitations and the system were the main causes of people’s suffering. It is in this context that the 15M Movement emerged as a genuine expression of the Indignados, the youth, workers, pensioners and all those affected by the capitalist crisis. Since the call for the demonstration of May 15, 2011 in Madrid, the Puerta del Sol began to be the epicenter that illuminated the encampments, assemblies and actions of different social collectives that spread spontaneously through the cities and towns of the Spanish State. The slogans raised expressed the dominant mood, eager to bury the old politics: “We are not puppets in the hands of politicians and bankers;” “Real democracy NOW!” Later, in 2014, that hope acquired a political form, the creation of Podemos, in which Pablo Iglesias and Iñigo Errejón stood out as founders. To a large extent, the global working-class and youth vanguard was inspired by the Indignados and the formation of Podemos to orient its action and pick a course. Ten years after the beginning of such a process, it is necessary to rethink what happened and draw conclusions for the future.

Undoubtedly, it was a great movement, but it was not enough to achieve profound changes. Therefore, it is necessary to recreate it, but assimilating what it needs to succeed and what was not achieved. The next 15M has to be deeper and more widespread, with the leading role played by workers, students, the feminist movement and organized pensioners, with massive mobilizations and general strikes. This is not only because of an assessment of the limitations of the past but also because of the path that the rebellions around the world are beginning to trace. This time it has to possess a transitional program, to answers to the exhaustion of the parliamentary monarchic regime of ˋ78 in its democratic aspects, and provide a way out of the capitalist crisis in the economic aspects. With democratic bodies of debate and decision and militnat and consistent leaders.

Great political processes leave their mark. They remain engraved in the minds of millions of people in the world as a reference for action. They are mobilization processes with their own characteristics, phenomena that are clearly distinguishable in themselves. And it is precisely this characteristic that differentiates 15M from other dates that fade from the calendar. At the same time, social uprisings are always related to political formations and leaders who rise, fall, advance or retreat according to their intervention in the uprisings. This reality makes it practically impossible to refer to 15M without analyzing the emergence, rise, growth and decline of Podemos and the future of center-left reformism worldwide.

The 10 year anniversary of 15M comes with a paradox. While the need to recreate it, distinct and updated, is posed, we are witnessing the political burial of the leader born from its entrails. His epitaph could read: “Here lie the political remains of Pablo Iglesias and his reformist project.” The creator and maximum leader of Podemos has left politics after the May 4 elections in Madrid. He has often said: “When one is not useful, one has to know how to retire,” that is, based on a decision motivated by an electoral result, in the field of bourgeois democracy, which by the way was chosen by Iglesias in place of the terrain of the class struggle. In the face of the great changes that are needed, it was an “unceremonious” withdrawal. Iglesias emerged from the 15M process and interpreted the weariness of the youth with old politics and its “caste” expressing it in a slogan in the positive: “Yes we can.” However, he repeated the same scheme of other renown reformists and their organizations, who rise promising profound changes, grow adapting to the bourgeois democratic regime, end up capitulating to the powerful and defrauding the confidence of the mass movement.

In order to reach the so-called “City Councils for Change” and then join the bourgeois government of Pedro Sanchez (PSOE), Podemos progressively eliminated the most rebellious aspects of its programmatic proposals until it crossed class boundaries, taking a backwards somersault. This is not the particular action of a national leader, but the general trend of center-left and “progressive” leaders around the world. It is similar to what Lula did with the PT, to what Correa did with Alianza PAÍS-Revolución Ciudadana, or to what Tsipras did with SYRIZA, to what the leaders of the Left Bloc in Portugal or Die Linke in Germany are doing. Even the PSOL of Brazil and the CUP of Catalonia are at a crossroads, they are on a winding road, on the edge of the precipice of reformism, barely critical of the capitalist system. The lies, demoralization and demobilization provoked by the reformists are not simply the subject for an academic thesis dedicated to political science. It has concrete consequences: it paves the way for the right wing. Those counterrevolutionary expressions grow stronger with every lie, with every disappointment and inconsistency of the center-left. The decade since 15M must serve to reflect. How many times have we heard reformists like Iglesias say: “we are left-wing and anti-capitalist”, “we have to change the parties from within” “we have to support the good in a government and criticize the bad,” to then see them adapt to the rules of the regime and the system of exploitation, waving the utopia of “humanizing capitalism?”. And when they fail to convince the most militant sectors, they argue miserably: “we are the lesser evil, support us if only so that the right does not win” when in reality they are the ones who pave the way for the right. How many times do they remain silent before the struggle of peoples who rise up against center-left oppressors! How many times do they try to lead the mass movement to a position in favor of Russian or Chinese imperialism against European or North American imperialism, under the theory of campism! These traps have their reactionary correlation in the party organization. Iglesias and Podemos keep talking about “participatory democracy” and “horizontal” organization, but they bureaucratically smash political opponents and political differences, and within the organization the really important decisions are taken in a verticalist way. Reformists like Iglesias do not help to eliminate “the caste,” they legitimize it as its “left wing” or are integrated into it.

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Unfortunately, in many cases the process of the rise of the reformists continues to its phase of decline without revolutionary socialist organizations having policies towards them. Without deploying tactics to interact with the most militant sectors that follow these formations, even if they are confused, to gain influence over them and when the inevitable moment of their leaders´ political betrayal arrives, to lead them towards the strengthening of a socialist and revolutionary alternative. The rejection of tactics toward these phenomena is a sectarian attitude that only favors the reformists, even if it is covered by a radical leftist discourse.

Reformists are not and will not be an alternative for profound changes to turn everything around. It is not a matter of guessing the future, but of drawing conclusions from the past and preparing for what is to come. Two serious crises of the capitalist economy in twelve years have not only opened important inter-imperialist frictions, a fierce dispute for the markets and the “distribution of the pie”; they have provoked a huge increase of financial speculation over production. They have provoked plundering, destruction of nature and the increase of foreign debts. And when this happens, a stage opens in which the bourgeoisie and its reformist partners do not distribute even the crumbs that fall from the table of the rich, in which the workers and the people are forced to fight with all their strength to satisfy their most elementary needs of health, housing, education, employment and food. And this terrain of rebellions, mobilizations and struggles is precisely what the reformists want to avoid or lead into a dead end. We are not at a stage in which the reformist leaders are going to “advance beyond their intentions” pressured by the class struggle or by “particular historical circumstances.” It is the moment to put all forces into the creation of new forces, in the construction of anti-capitalist political alternatives, of socialist and revolutionary parties, to consistently promote mobilization, class self-organization and independence, the government of the workers and the people, together with socialism with democracy. Raising high the banner of internationalism, of solidarity among the peoples in struggle, which, in short, is the strategic path along which the International Socialist League advances.