“The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie”.
(Karl Marx and F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto)
Almost three months after the elections, the Inauguration session has represented a defeat for the PSOE leader, Pedro Sanchez: 124 votes for, 155 against and 67 abstentions which stopped him from becoming President have increased the political instability and toppled what was supposed to be a triumphant parade towards La Moncloa*. The disagreement with Unidas Podemos, which has abstained, cannot be interpreted has a simple struggle for more or less ministerial seats. The difficulty in forming a PSOE-Unidas Podemos coalition is another example of the deep convulsions suffered by the ‘78 regime** and the intense political and social polarization in society.
The blow to bipartisan politics, with an increasing fragmentation of Parliamentary seats since 2016, has been converted into a crisis that runs across the whole political spectrum, from left to right. It is only possible to untangle this web of events, some which seem contradictory, if we base ourselves in the profound changes in the class struggle and the difficulties faced by the bourgeoisie to rule its interests the same way it did until a number of years ago.
The 28th of April elections, as we have already said, were a rough blow for the right block, which has lost by a difference of almost 2 million votes against PSOE, Unidas Podemos and the independentist left. We- a majority of workers, pensioners and youth which have been leading hard struggles against cuts and austerity policies, against sexist (machist) violence and patriarchal justice, in defense of the democratic rights and for the catalan republic, have turned in mass to the ballot to stop the nationalist spanish reaction and its political agenda. Now, however, is inevitable that a big layer of the left’s electorate is following this spectacle aghast, worried that a new election can benefit the right.
The capitalists are doubtful...
The results of the 28A have not meant at all, a blank cheque to Pedro Sanchez. The mandate from the social and electoral basis of the left was very clear: to reverse the counterreforms approved by the PP government, to put an end to years of merciless cuts to essential social services, to criminal evictions, to the widespread precarious work and miserable wages, an end to the chronic unemployment that pushes the youth to poverty and economic exile. It was also a vote to put an end to authoritarian laws, starting with the Gag law and to thoroughly purge a state apparatus full of francoists, and with this to start give moral, political and economic reparations to the victims of the dictatorship. Also, this left vote also manifested the wish of democratically solving the national question in Catalonia.
Nevertheless, experience teaches us that any step to achieve these demands can only be realised through a confrontation with the juridical, economical and political powers both of the Spanish State and the EU, and through the widest and most determined social mobilisation possible. Sanchez eight months’ tenure at La Moncloa- after the no confidence motion- have shown that is not possible to rule serving opposite interests: you either enact a policy to defend the interests of the working-class and youth, breaking with the system’s logic or you rule according to the dictates of the capitalists, the big banks, the speculators and their state apparatus.
PSOE’s acting government does not spare good words and speeches, constantly talking about progress and social rights, feminism and environmental transition. However, in politics, what counts are the actions and not the words and, the truth is, that after all this time, Sanchez has refused to repeal the (anti)Labour Law, the (anti)Pension Law, the LOMCE and the Gag Law. He also had no hesitation in keeping the same politics endorsed by IBEX 35** and CEOE (Spanish Confederation of Business Organisations), the business institute. And he has not only paid his respects to the patriarchal and sexist justice, he has tireless made excuses for the neofrancoist state apparatus who puts on the dock the independentist politicians, accusing them of military rebellion, keeps behind bars due to a police set-up the Altsasu youngsters and passes sentences lauding Franco in order to avoid his exhumation from “Valle dos Caidos” (Valley of the Fallen).
What we have mentioned before is not alien to the difficult negotiations for a possible “Left Coalition Government.How will a PSOE-Podemos government face these issues?
The big capitalist powers have no doubt: they can rely on PSOE and it’s guarantee as a “respectable” Party- which has been proven in the last few decades- for their strategic decisions to be followed through at once. The EU has already voiced the need for new cuts-15 0000 million euros in the next two years -and underlined that a “reform” of the state pension system is needed- one of the biggest attacks dangling over the workers.
Furthermore, they need to have a party in government which can guarantee social peace at a moment when a new recession is rearing its head just above the horizon and when there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the political instability, but the opposite: both the Brexit date on the 31st of October and the sentence of the “Procés”*** are mark s of an unparalleled political landscape, full of upheavals. With this in mind, the doubts about a PSOE-Podemos government have peaked amongst the decisive circles of the ruling class, who do not want to be shaken by new turmoils.
It’s these calculations that are behind the intense campaign by sectors of the bourgeoisie, CEOE and big banks, which aims to constitute a stable PSOE-Ciudadanos government. A campaign that has been manifested by the resignations of various leaders of Albert Rivera Party in protest against his “far right” turn and his loss of “Statesmanship”. It was a way of converting the “with Rivera, no”, the chants sung by PSOE militants in election night at Sanchez “victory” rally, to a “with Rivera, yes, for a stable Spain”.
Nevertheless, the dynamics of the class struggle have prevented this solution, with Rivera suffering in the polls more and more angling towards his right, in its permanent competition against PP and Vox. In spite of all this, Sanchez has not spared any efforts, asking for PP and Ciudadanos abstention so he could avoid relying on Unidas Podemos, allowing him to rule alone using bespoken parliamentary agreements.
It’s revealing that Sanchez, who was forced to resign because he would not compromise on abstaining at Rajoy’s inauguration, now asks the right to facilitate his inauguration. A more than evident signal of his real intentions at the head of a new government, and that shows that the compliments given to him by figures like Felipe Gonzalez**** are no coincidence. Pedro Sanchez has made clear that, in these critical times, he will undertake any counter reforms and attacks asked from him for the good of “the country and democracy”.
Unidas Podemos wrong strategy deepens its crisis
The difficult negotiations between PSOE and Unidas Podemos and the constant twists and turns during them have reflected the enormous mistrust towards Podemos and its participation in a coalition government by wide layers of the bourgeoisie. And all this in spite of the constant concessions by Iglesias and his strenuous efforts to appear as a “man of state” leading a party that can abandon its principles when needed. It’s also no coincidence that Iglesias paid homage to Tsipras after his defeat in the Greek election, and was outrageous enough to declare that Tsipras “has ruled defying enormous pressures”. If the capitulation to IMF, ECB and EU, by applying the most vicious austerity programme is an understandable action for Iglesias, we need to realise where he is willing to go when is government responsibilities so “demand”.
In order to turn into a reliable partner for the government and the capitalist powers, Pablo Iglesias and the leadership of Podemos have renounced to defend the democratic rights of the Catalonian people and the independentist politicians, commiting to the policy of PSOE, rooted in denying the right to decide, the use of the “155 article”**** and repression.
They also assumed that commitment in relation to foreign policy, guaranteeing the defense of the interests of European and North-American imperialism in Latin America, or the collaboration with brutal dictatorial regimes, such as with Morocco and Saudi Arabia to guarantee the business of the big spanish multinationals. And they insist that their only aim is to defend the Constitution, giving legitimacy to the ‘78 regime which they were hitherto fighting against. These concessions have not stopped the mistrust by the big capitalist powers, but they have eroded Unidas Podemos image, making them accomplices in the cynical bourgeois politics of musical chairs and backstage negotiations.
The strategy of Podemos, who has bet all its political chips in entering the Cabinet has turned into a dead end. On one hand, they seem ever more dependent on the decisions of PSOE, willing to take part in a “responsible” management of capitalism, the same management that has discredited and undermined social-democracy all over the world, especially since the outbreak of the big economic recession. On the other hand, they try to make us believe that by controlling 4 or 5 ministries they can face up to Ibex 35 and reverse austerity. Is it by having a Podemos minister leading the Labour portfolio and promoting “active employment politics” that you can face the juridical powers and big business? Obviously NOT!
Effecting change from the Cabinet?
It is paradoxical that at the same time that Iglesias and his collaborators declare that their political abilities can make the difference in a Coalition government with PSOE, they also declare Syriza, after its election defeat, as an example of a government that faced up against the powerful. What occured in Greece is more than revealing. Tsipras and Syriza practically had an absolute majority in the Government, and achieved an astounding victory in the 2015 Referendum concerning the third bailout and, nevertheless, they were incapable of resisting the pressures, kneeling before the Troika, implementing even more severe austerity policies.
Why then, does Iglesias believe that he can face up to those pressures, face up to Ibex 35 and EU, as a minority part of a coalition government? Does he think he can convince them, as Tsipras and Varoufakis thought? Does he think he can twist the bosses and state apparatus’ arm through speeches and mellifluous words?
The answer to these questions is already clear, if we analyse the path of the Podemos leadership and allied forces when they were at the helm of the so called “Councils of Change”, In Madrid, Manuel Carmena has left a legacy of religiously paying the debt inherited from PP to the banks l, which has cost hundreds of millions of euros from the public purse, at the same time that she turned her back to her own programme concerning the freezing of evictions, the remunicipalisation of privatised public services and also approving shady real estate and speculative operations like the “Chamartín Operation”.
There is further proof of this line of action in the lack of criticism and differentiation with the union bureaucracies of CCOO and UGT, and to the refusal of promoting a working-class and combative union work against the attacks of the bosses and the laws that promote precarious work and low pay in all of the productive process. Podemos has kept a silence which makes them accomplices of the social peace and demobilisation strategy undertaken by the union bureaucracies, which is cheerleaded by CEOE and PSOE.
It’s obvious that Pablo Iglesias, whose academic career is recognised, does not ignore how the bourgeois state apparatus and its government works, meticulously built to defend the interests of the ruling class, connected by thousands of visible and invisible ties to the banks’ board of directors and the big capitalist companies. Even if a revolutionary organisation would reach the Cabinet of a capitalist country through elections, the only alternative to achieve measures which would benefit the working class would be to defend a socialist policy which would collide head first with the brutal resistance of the ruling class, and that could only be overcome through the mass mobilisation of the working-class and youth. This would unleash a decisive struggle for power between the workers and capitalists.
The governments and bourgeois institutions (Parliament, judicial system, etc…) are the wrap used to sell politics that, all in all, always benefit the capitalists. The transcendental decisions which determine the lives of millions are not taken in Parliament or the Cabinet, but in the Board of Directors of the big banks and big companies, in the “Defense Councils” and the judicial apparatus which look out for the capitalists interests. To assume, as Podemos as done, that parliamentary games and negotiating ability are enough to change things is not only a huge mistake but also means an abandonment of the class struggle and the abandonment of a serious attitude towards social change.
Unidas Podemos is in a blind alley, trapped in the game of parliamentarianism, having refused to organise millions of workers and youth in order to have a lever that could face the powerful. Entering Government won’t do anything else but deepen its rightward shift and its adaptation to the system’s logic.
Millions have voted to stop the right and the far-right and a coalition government would be regarded with hope and excitement. But a coalition government would, or will, inevitably collide with their aspirations when it implements new cuts and attacks. To ignore the problems and contradictions in no solution. What will happen when the sentence of the Procés comes out, if Unidas Podemos is in the Cabinet? Will they ignore it? Will they respect Sanchez “autonomy” regarding this? And when the new cuts demanded by Brussels take place? What will happen, if Unidas Podemos keeps this strategy, is that they will accept everything, using the excuse that they want to avoid a government crisis.
There is an alternative to parliamentary cretinism: To organise and mobilise the working class and youth using a program of struggle that breaks with capitalism’s logic and rises the flag of socialism.
Stop the reaction with social mobilisation and a socialist programme
If the reactionary block rules over Spain after the election results, it would be a setback without any justification. That is the only reason why Unidas Podemos cannot stop PSOE from forming a government, but that does not mean it should participate in a PSOE Government. Given Pedro Sanchez intentions, including his decision to stop negotiating with Podemos and insisting in the abstention of PP and Cs, to defend that Unidas Podemos leaders behave as loyal servants of social democracy will only be useful to politically soil them.
Pablo Iglesias has suffered the arrogance of social democracy, an experience he is not used to. But, over any secondary aspects, the fundamental is to humbly correct this strategy so Podemos can be transformed into a pillar of consequential left opposition, which understands that reforms can only be won by social mobilisation in the street.
Many will judge this political position as being “utopian” or a sectarian renunciation to change things “that can actually be changed”. But this kind of pragmatism is the one that has destroyed erstwhile power left organisations, which have renounced revolutionary marxism, its program and its action, in the end submitting to the demands of the system until they were transformed into innocuous formations
The next few weeks will be a new test to Unidas Podemos leaders. Entrance in a PSOE government carries a hefty bill: they will have to support PSOE’s policies and to be accomplices to their decisions. If they do not join a PSOE government but, instead of voting in favour of their inauguration so they can lead a left opposition, they contribute to new elections, they will be held responsible for opening the way for a victory of the right in the November ballot.
The only way to outmanouever socialdemocracy, PSOE, and unmask the hidden interests that Pablo Iglesias likes to allude to, is to effectively struggle for the programme that we have been fighting for in the last few years and the programme for which we millions of us voted for in the past 28A:
- Immediate repeal of all reactionary laws approved by PP (labour reform, pension reform, Gag Law, LOMCE) and reversion of all social cuts.
- For the big banks to immediately give back the more than 60 0000 milions euros given to them by the State.
- Drastic increase in Public Health and Education spending in the next budgets.
- Outlaw evictions and a shock plan to create two million council and affordable houses in four years.
- Immediately nationalise the big energy companies, end fuel poverty and defend the environment.
- Increase the minimum wage and pension to 1200 euros per month.
- Take the fascists out the State apparatus, Police, Army and judicial system. For the political, social and economic reparation of the victims of francoism.
- To fight, with enough human and material resources, against the machist (sexist) violence and patriarchal justice.
- Recognise the right to self-determination and annul the lawsuit against the catalan political prisoners.
To fulfill this programme, to achieve this conquests, will not depend on having a presence in the Cabinet, but of organising the movement on the streets, firstly by breaking with the social peace strategy imposed by the big unions. To cut off the reaction by allowing a Sanchez government, without participating in it, would not stop Unidas Podemos from developing a coherent and combative policy. In the end, the “Councils of Change” have served to prove the enormous limitations of a policy based in managing the bourgeois institutions, which leads to having to attackthe workers who voted for that change.
The lessons of this period are clear. You cannot take the skies by storm from the government offices, or renouncing to fight against the “caste” and accepting the principles of the ‘78 regime and its Constitution. To transform society we need to go back to the spirit of the 15M, of the “tides”****, of the “marchs for dignity”,of the general strikes and build a combative and revolutionary left. There is no other way.
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*Official residence of the Prime Minister, equivalent to the White House or 10 Downing Street.
** The regime which came from the Transition agreement after the death of Franco,
*** The Spanish stock Exchange, representing Spain’s 35 biggest companies.
****The procés is the process relating with the arrest, detention and prosecution of the political prisoners of the 1-O referendum in Catalonia.
***** Felipe Gonzaléz is a former prime-minister and former leader of PSOE, from the right-wing of PSOE and when in government, coplied with all required attacks on workers and privatisations.
****** The article on the ‘78 constitution that allows for the use of state repression against the democratic right to decide for self-determination.
******** The tides were mass mobilisations by workers and youth in 2011 and 2012, mainly the “white tide” in defense of public healthcare and the “Green Tide” in defence of public education.