We must build a combative left that breaks with the logic of capitalism!
One of the highlights of these elections, which is causing intense debate in the ranks of the left and amongst thousands of activists, are the reasons for the terrible results of Podemos, Izquierda Unida (IU ) and its various alliances. Here we present a broad analysis of these events, in order to trace the perspectives and tasks for the combative left.
It is evident that the PSOE has obtained a clear victory in both local and regional elections, amassing the tactical vote all over the State, whilst PP continued to suffer a significant drain of votes. Ciudadanos and Vox picked up an important part of the retreat of Pablo Casado's party, but failed to expand the electoral base of the right.
Rivera fared far below his expectations and failed in his attempt to surpass the PP, whilst Vox, although it gets in a bit more than a hundred councils and most of the regional parliaments, did much more modestly than predicted by the polls and a large percentage of votes was lost when compared the general elections in April.
The data and what it reveals
PSOE obtained 6,657,119 ballots and 22,329 councillors in the local elections, a percentage of 29.26%, which is a considerable increase over 2015 when it achieved 5,603,823 votes, 20,823 councillors and 25.02%. Pedro Sanchez’s party is the most voted in 10 of the 12 autonomous communities that held elections, and goes from 2,645,818 to 3,286,842 votes, from 203 regional deputies to 260, and from 24.52% to 29.68%, achieving the absolute majority in Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha.
Podemos, IU and their alliances face a very strong decline: from 3,300,000 votes in the local elections and the 15% of 2015, moving to 2,288,201 and the 10% in 2019. In the regional elections it has lost 900,000 votes and 63 deputies of the 105 that they achieved in 2015. They remain outside the parliament of Cantabria and Castilla La Mancha. In Castilla y León they lost 8 of the 10 they had, in Navarre from 7 they move to 2 - after losing two out of every three voters, from 46,207 to 16,124 -. In Aragón they move from 14 to 5, in Asturias from 9 to 4, and in Madrid they are in the last position, with seven parliamentarians compared to the 20 that More Madrid gets with Errejón.
On the other hand, the PP loses one million votes in the local elections, it goes from 6.057.767 ballots in 2015 to 5.058.542 in 2019, and reduces its number of councillors from 22.750 to 20.325, and in voting weight it goes from 27.05 % to 22.23%. The setback is partially recouped by the maintenance of councils such as Malaga, or the recovery of Madrid, Zaragoza and Oviedo - thanks to the support of Cs and Vox - as well as the option of forming a government in the Community of Madrid and Aragon, despite the fact that in Madrid it reduces its seats from 48 to 30. In the case of Galicia, the PP suffers an unprecedented defeat at the hands of the PSOE, and will not govern any of the Galician capitals.
The media has barely mentioned a very significant fact about these elections: Ciudadanos does not achieve its objectives by far and achieves a mediocre result. The party of the Ibex 35* fails in predicted victory over other right parties and, although they will be key to give power to the PP in Madrid, Castilla y León, Aragón, Murcia and in some emblematic town halls, in just one month Albert Rivera’s party has lost 2,2 million votes compared to the general elections.
PP suffered a disastrous failure in Barcelona, where its star candidate, Manuel Valls, only obtained 6 councillors and 99,494 votes, a loss of more than 50% compared to the regional elections in 2017 when Ciudadanos obtained 219,542 ballots and 23.9%. In absolute figures, Ciudadanos reaches 1.876.906 votes in the local elections, 2,788 councillors and the 8.25% (in 2015 they obtained 1,467,663 ballots, 1,527 councillors and 6.55%). In the regional elections they obtained 1,435,876 ballots, 87 deputies and the 12.39% (compared to 953,128 votes, 43 deputies and 8.52% in 2015).
When it comes to the far-right, Vox obtained 659.736 votes and 530 councillors in the local elections, and in the regional elections they obtained 798.426 ballots and 27 seats. It is clear that the upward trend of vote to Vox slows downs, and the main part of what they achieved in the general elections a month ago, when they uprooted 2,600,000 votes to the PP, returns to the party of Pablo Casado.
In total, in the local elections the Spanish nationalist right (PP, Ciudadanos, Vox ...) obtains 7,795,233 votes, 109,406 less than in 2015, and move from 35.62% to 34.26%. In the 12 autonomous communities that have held elections, this reactionary bloc achieved 4,824,778 votes, 338,399 more than in 2015, and went from the 41.57% to the 43.57%.
On the other hand, the parties of the nationalist right (Junts per Catalunya, PNV, Canary Coalition, Aragonese Regionalist Party, Cantabria Regionalist Party) obtained 1,177,940 votes in the local elections. In the regional elections they obtained 350.822 votes, since elections were not held in Catalonia, the Basque Autonomous Community, Galicia and País Valencia.
The left candidates (PSOE, Podemos, IU, More Madrid, BEC, ERC, Bildu, BNG and the CUP) achieved 10.433.804 votes and 45.88% in the local elections. That means 2.5 million ballots and 11 points above the Spanish right, repeating the trend that we already saw last April in the general elections. This fundamental aspect has also been obscured in the analyses of the journalist and talk show guests.
Podemos’s setback and the loss of the “councils of change”. Blaming the people or recognizing mistakes?
Podemos has lost more than a million votes in both the local and regional elections. The indention is very considerable, since it loses almost all the so-called councils of change that it had conquered in 2015.
In Madrid and Zaragoza, the right wing bloc recovers both councils after the ruptures of Manuela Carmena and Errejón with Podemos and the collapse of Zaragoza en Común. In Barcelona, Ada Colau is behind ERC, losing 20,000 votes compared to 2015. Her refusal to support the struggle for the Catalan republic and to define herself unambiguously for the right to decide and against the repression of the State also takes its toll.
In the case of Galicia, the candidatures for change (Podemos and En Marea) that in 2015 won the councils of Coruña, Santiago de Compostela and Ferrol, suffered a debacle and handed the baton to PSOE.
They only maintain themselves in the City Council of Valencia, thanks to the tight victory of Compromís, although Podemos is left without representation. Also in Zamora, where the candidate of Izquierda Unida obtains the absolute majority without Podemos; and in Cádiz, where Mayor/ Council Leader Kichi, who publicly criticized Pablo Iglesias for buying his famous villa, has been critical of the idea of joining coalition governments with the PSOE and has had a much more belligerent position in favour of the social struggles of the city and the province, they got 13 councillors, very close to the absolute majority.
Obviously, these results represent a real earthquake and mark a decisive turning point in the Podemos crisis. Therefore, the fact that Pablo Iglesias remained silent on election night and refused to give an explanation for what happened, marks how far he has come in his Cesarist attitudes. A leader, who was taken to his current position by a historical mobilization, cannot act with a pride of the caste.
But beyond gestures, it is really shameful that Pablo Iglesias, like other leaders such as Alberto Garzón, Ada Colau or some Anticapitalists leaders , attribute these results to the "low conscience" of the people, to the lack of space for a "transformative left" or the splits and ruptures that they themselves have fed with their constant concessions to the most right-wing sectors of those who, in practice, they have not differ themselves from. The case of Carmena and Errejón is emblematic: deified as the best candidates by Pablo Iglesias himself, they have responded to the praise with contempt and the rupture of Podemos.
All these explanations, empty of any kind of honest and serious self-criticism, seek to hide the underlying reason for this defeat. This debacle is the direct consequence ,not of a narrowing of the political space of the "transformative" left, but of the tremendous turn to the right that has crystallized in the leadership of the purple party. This had the effect of cutting themselves of from the mass movement that allowed them to obtain over 5 million in the 2015 elections.
The councils of change were the result of the mobilization in the streets against the policies of cuts, repression and, ultimately, against the caste and the ‘78 regime. In the last four years, these local governments have been unable to transform the living conditions of millions of families who live in the working-class neighbourhoods and who turned their vote to Podemos. Also, by accepting the logic of the system, they have continued prostrating to the great economic powers that, in theory, they came to defeat.
They have not given any solution to the very serious problem of housing, which in cities such as Madrid or Barcelona has even worsened. During the leaderships of Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau the evictions have continued with impunity, whilst they renounced to promote any massive plan of construction of public housing, with affordable social rents in order to make it available to the hundreds of thousands of workers and young people who need it. Both mayors, who have asked people to "vote beautiful", have not had the slightest qualms about tilting their heads before the big speculators, allowing the astronomical increase in rents or approving real estate hits like the one in Madrid North for the greater benefit of Florentino Pérez and his friends.
A public and free network of children's schools that could have been used as a model has not been established, nor do they have scholarships for books and canteens, nor has the welfare equipment of working-class neighbourhoods improved, which are still lacking in free sports facilities, decent parks, and day centres for the elderly.
Public libraries, play centres with material means for an alternative leisure to the brutalization offered by capitalism, continue to be conspicuous in its absence. Under the local ordinances of the councils of change our neighbourhoods have been populated by thousands of bookmakers and betting shops turned into the new "heroine" that engages the youth. In short, the lack of investment has been maintained, worsening the cleanliness and transportation of the worker zones.
The promises of remunicipalisation of privatized public services and the creation of thousands of decent jobs have been broken and abandoned, whilst the big monopolies have struck gold with our taxes at the expense of degrading the quality of service and overexploiting the workforce. Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau have highlighted, as the star point of their good management, the reduction of the debt with the banks, abandoning another of their 2015 promises: the non-payment of the illegitimate debt left by the councils of the right.
In the case of the Madrid City Council, even adding the votes of Madrid in Pie (42,000)- the candidacy of Anticapitalists and IU , the city would have been lost. Carmena suffers the consequences of her abandonment of popular and humble neighbourhoods with a decline in electoral mobilization. Of the 15 districts where Más Madrid has won the participation has decreased in 12 of them, precisely in the working-class zones that continue to suffer the absence of social and transformative policies: Puente de Vallecas, -4.32%; Villaverde, -3.94%; Usera, -3.69%, Villa de Vallecas, -2.87%, Carabanchel, -2.67%, among others. On the other hand, the participation has increased in high income districts, where the social base of the right is majority: Chamartín, + 2.02%; Salamanca, + 1.76% or Retirement, + 1.75%.
In other cities the situation is similar or worse. The debacle of Zaragoza en Común, which lost 40% of their votes, is not compensated by the increase of the PSOE. In Oviedo, where a council of change won in 2015, Podemos and IU lost about 50% in their votes, which meant that the right wing took them back. Córdoba or Alicante also passed into the hands of reaction, without the PSOE's growth counteracting the collapse of Podemos.
In this legislature Podemos and the different confluences have missed a golden opportunity to strengthen and expand their social base. At the head of the country's largest city councils -governing for more than 10 million people- they had an extraordinary lever to take effective measures in order to "change the lives of the people", demonstrating in practice that a different politics are possible. We are not naive. We already knew that the obstacles would not be small, that it would be necessary to challenge the laws that prevent a government that wants to satisfy social needs, that there would be fierce resistance on the part of the great economic powers, their political representatives and all their propaganda machinery.
But precisely Podemos arose not to be a bad copy of the traditional social democracy, but to break with that resistance of the capitalists. That is the reason why it connected with millions of people. Do not forget that the 15M and all the social movements which developed later were organized from below, as a way to overcome the bureaucratic and artificial plug imposed by the trade union and political leaders of the reformist left.
The councils of change had the obligation to have relied on this wave of mobilization promoting participation and organization in the neighbourhoods, in the work and study centres and calling out on the street to counter each pressure of the capitalists or the central Government. This is the only way, as the historical experience shows, to achieve progress and rights. Even in the case of not achieving any of the objectives and suffering defeats, it is not the same to have fought it than to have yielded for the sake of "realism".
Going into beautiful offices and rubbing shoulders with influential people, to govern "for the people but without the people" leads at the end to the powerless politics of the "lesser evil" that makes concession after concession, disappointing and weakening your forces and feeding those of the opposite. Leaving the "Yes you can" for a regrettable "you can’t govern without the companies," as Carmena said, is a summary of the true failure that we have witness.
The PSOE strategy to support the 78 regime
The insistence with which Pablo Iglesias begs for a ministerial portfolio is accompanied by the extension of a blank check to Pedro Sánchez when he states that "they are not going to ask for impossible" and that they are willing to "compromise" and "not to veto." Could we look the other way when "his" government of coalition with the PSOE continues with the abuses to the democratic rights of the Catalan people? What will it do when pensions stop being revalued according to the CPI in 2022, just as Pedro Sánchez has committed to Brussels? Or when they maintain Rajoy's labour reform, as the Acting Minister of Economy has said?
Does Pablo Iglesias believe that there is any bit of truth and coherence in the affirmation that the participation of Podemos in a PSOE government would be a guarantee for the realization of a policy of "social justice"? With a Podemos that does not demand anything and does not mobilize, far from "forcing the PSOE" to something, will only give a "left" cover to a social democracy that does not have the slightest intention of crossing the red lines marked by the state apparatus and the economic and financial powers.
In this context, the role that Inigo Errejón is playing -not coincidentally promoted as a great strategist by the bourgeois media-, offering "to PSOE and Ciudadanos an agreement so that the City Council and the Community of Madrid do not depend on Vox", fits very well with the orientation of the bourgeoisie to favour a government as stable and reliable as possible for its interests.
Errejón is not ashamed to do the dirty work to the elites he said he was going to confront, stating that "politics is not choosing what one likes best, but choosing between what is possible. Choosing what helps to palliate the damage more, (...) to make it less bad". But there is nothing new in these doses of Errejonist "realism". From "lesser evil" to "lesser evil", the danger of the extreme right has been increasing in recent years. Precisely, the disappointment with the leaders of formations that are said to be on the left, but have no alternative to the system and are completely submissive to power, has been one of the main political nutrients of the far right.
The PSOE wants a government on its own to sustain the battered 78 regime. In the election night, Pedro Sánchez called on Albert Rivera to end the "health cordon" to the PSOE and open the option of pacts in local councils, regional parliaments and in the state parliament to guarantee stability, an idea that he repeated several days later in Paris with Macron, Rivera's partner in the European Parliament.
The bourgeoisie is trying to convince Rivera to adopt a less belligerent attitude towards the PSOE, and to prioritize the stability - so necessary to continue with structural reforms – instead of the confrontation, even at the cost of leaving aside his claim to lead to the right, something that is still far from occurring. Some sectors of Ciudadanos (Citizens) have already manifested themselves in favour of possible local agreements with the PSOE. Still, it remains to be seen if the orange party will agree to abandon its hostility to Sanchez and adapt to such a sudden turn.
The ideal for social democracy would be to reach specific agreements with Unidas Podemos, to project an image of more social sensitivity; to have the permissiveness of ERC, with the expectation of a negotiation on the crisis in Catalonia; and at the same time have guaranteed the support of Ciudadanos to continue taking important measures in defence of the capitalist system. However, the volatile and enormously polarized situation we live in, the crisis in Catalonia, and the slowdown in the economy, without ruling out a possible relapse into the recession, will make these plans difficult.
Break with the logic of capitalism and push for mobilization. For a combative left!
All the leaders of Podemos, from Pablo Iglesias to Iñigo Errejón, staked everything on institutional politics sot they would become a respectable option, being infected by all the vices of parliamentary cretinism. Their obsession in entering into a coalition government with PSOE has completely blurred their political contours, even making them indistinguishable from traditional social democracy. Instead of recognizing this, they satisfied themselves with blaming the people and talk about their "level of consciousness".
If you renounce defending a policy that confronts the economic oligarchy, if you refuse to build a workers' and youth's party armed with the Marxist program, if you sympathize with the union bureaucracy and support their social peace policy, if the class struggle is abandoned as the engine of real change, it is impossible to make a policy for the benefit of the working-class majority. As we have always explained, and it is now clear, what cannot be achieved in the streets will not be achieved by raising your hand in the Plenary Session of the City Council or Parliament.
Podemos faces a dilemma: either to continue on this path to the parliamentary irrelevance, or to turn its policy 180 degrees and stop being the esquire of a PSOE that remains faithful to the rules dictated by the big banks, the EU and the IMF, and will not question the austerity policies.
Pablo Iglesias must stop looking at the carpet, abandon the flattery to his social democratic lordships and visit less the comfortable conference rooms. If he wants to reconstruct the influence of his organization there is only one possible way: by going into the opposition (attack) with a program of struggle and mobilization against the cuts, in favour of public health, education and pensions, for the repeal of all the social counter-reforms imposed by the PP and that PSOE has left intact, and for the right to decide.
The lessons of this period are clear. We cannot “take the heaven by storm” by changing the streets for the offices, or renouncing to fight the caste by accepting the strategic approaches of the 78 regime and its Constitution. We need a combative and revolutionary left in order to transform society. There is no other way.
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