These were the first elections in Spain after the state of alarm. In Galicia, the BNG tripled its results, fully inheriting the voter base of En Marea, the Galician confluence of Podemos, which split in two and disappeared from the parliament. In Euskadi, Podemos reduced its representation to half and the seats were taken by Bildu, who obtained the best result in its history. If we add a PNV that has scratched votes to a PP in free fall, the global result is a majority of 4/5ths for Basque nationalism. In Galicia and the Basque Country, the parliamentary left is now nationalist. The time of the so-called confluences is definitely over; we can see that Podemos is unable to centralize the revolt of the peripheral university-derived petty bourgeoisie and that for that sector the arrival of Podemos-IU to the Spanish council of ministers does not bring forward anything interesting. They want something else.
Podemos and the peripheral revolt
Podemos was born as a media phenomenon. The media participated in or financed by Jaume Roures built up the image of an Iglesias inheriting the Occupy-like 15M movement just in time for the 2014 European elections. Podemos was presented at Lavapiés in February, the elections were in May. The logo on the ballot was the face of Iglesias himself. Marvels of democracy: the party, with no organizational base, obtained over 1.25 million votes and five MEPs. From then on, they were the political phenomenon> of Europe and they served above all, to create the image that the brutal responses of the Spanish bourgeoisie to the crisis -from the abandonment of public services to the four million unemployed- had an alternative that could win in parliament.
The podemites, who had become the new media vedettes had a convenient theory inherited from academic Peronism -Laclau and Mouffe- which told them that politics was about “building up the people”, i.e. that any revolt could fit in, however contradictory they might be to each other, as long as these maintained an interclassist discourse aimed at cultural hegemony and electoral triumph. And from that perspective they undertook the creation of an organizational backbone. The basic territorial one, built in a hurry and running before those European ones of 2014, was externalized as the Anti-capitalists, the Spanish branch of what had been the LCR of Mandel, Krivine and company. To that minimal but extensive structure, displaced by Errejón and Iglesias in the first congress of the formation (Vistalegre I), were hung the territorial pairs of the self-proclaimed radiating nucleus of the Complutense University, the regional groups of IU that had distanced themselves more from the old stalinist PCE: Colau’s Barcelona en Comú a long time cooked renovation of Subirat’s Initiative for Catalonia, En Marea in Galicia which united Beiras with the Galician IU, Compromís in Valencia… Only in Andalusia the alliance of Anticapitalists and the old stalinism of the PCA could build and maintain a fiefdom. Podemos remained in practice as a confederal brand of a set of coalitions -rebaptized as confluences– expressing the revolt of the intellectual and university petty bourgeoisie in each territory.
The problem with the model is that, lacking its own organizational base and extended from people to people, it entrusted everything to centrifugal forces which, as they developed, would necessarily disable it as a national force. The podemite leaders thought that by resignifying a few empty signifiers such as fatherland or nation, i.e. by means of an old Peronist sleight of hand, regional nationalisms would also serve to build people, i.e. to build power in the state by electorally projecting the illusion of a common goal however incoherent it might be. But in the end, Peronism had never had to deal with regionalist, separatist movements, and even less with the kind of independentism that developed in Catalonia in 2017 and 2018. The result for Podemos was immediate and harmful: the novelty of the vedettes was over and both the state and the petty bourgeoisie in revolt demanded a clear and forceful position. But it was impossible for an organization that remained, to a large extent, a wire-bound collage with a militancy of its own on the ground with little or no impact at all.
From then on, Iglesias and his immediate environment started a desperate race: they did not care about breaking the little organization they had in order to really control it. The result was disastrous. A national brand in decline attempted to impose itself on regional movements which have their own brand and structure of public offices, mayors, regional councillors… whose most hated word is centralization. In Catalonia its own electoral candidate – and the majority of the organization – moved to the independentist block of its own accord.
In Galicia En Marea exploded losing in the way a good part of local power and a whole string of internal contested elections. In Valencia Compromís runs for the general elections with Errejón who meanwhile is trying to create an own organizational base in Madrid –Más Madrid– and refuses to repeat a national adventure as long as he does not have an own organizational base. Next screen: Andalucía where, after the break with Anticapitalists, Podemos has already lost all its parliamentary group which is left in Adelante Andalucía and the brand Podemos will hardly be able to aspire by itself to anything else than regional testimoniality.
Hanging onto the government, with no place to put its feet
The last mistake made by the Podemite leadership was to risk everything in order to place ministers in the government and control social spending as a way of rebuilding its social base. A mistake because its social base is not moved by four offices to be distributed in the national government and policies that in the end have to be implemented by the regional governments without Podemos leading them in their territorial application. In order to have a minimum option to capitalize on it, it should have reached a merger with the trade union bureaucracy earlier. But it did not have much room either: the program of the PSOE’s social justice was drafted in the Congress that exalted Sánchez by the leaders of the big industrial branches of CCOO and CGT isn’t good enough for what Iglesias would want now.
The role of the Minister of Labor in Galicia is a testimony to this: the social policy of the Sánchez government cannot generate a territorial base or client networks for those who are not in the regional government. That is why the vote of the confluences and Podemos has been recentralized and will do so even more, on local nationalist forces. The strategy and the alleged achievements of Podemos, once again, weigh heavily against them. Podemos is hanging on to the government and has no place to put its feet.
Errejón came out today with the consequence that what lay ahead is a confederal model that tries to square the circle: to unite the centrifugal forces of the regional petty bourgeoisie in… building people. He was right, however, about Podemos: It no longer exists. There is a thing called UP (Unidas Podemos) which has the usual results of IU, as he stated in a tweet.
The future of that part of the petty bourgeois revolt
An important fact about yesterday’s election results is that the group of parties that voted in favor of Sánchez’s investiture did not lose votes, they just rebalanced themselves internally. And they do it by worsening the tendency that already manifested itself in the last general elections: the revolt of the Spanish petty bourgeoisie expresses itself regionally and is revived by the economic crises. In January, the PSOE and Podemos formed a government based more on a truce than on an alliance with these sectors.
The legislature and the government that is now beginning expresses very well the difficulty of fitting the objectives of the revolt of the Spanish petty bourgeoisie in the institutional apparatus. The attempt of “social pact” that the Sánchez government implies in itself offers to independentist forces, regional nationalists, regionalists and provincialists, to overcome the limits of1978 without changing the letter of the Constitution in order to gain some competences and incomes… in exchange for not hindering too much the way of the “deep reforms” in the labor market and the pensions which are the main goal, and each time more urgent, of the Spanish bourgeoisie. And what the territory means for part of that class is actually what the university and the administrative apparatus means for the base of Podemos’ leaders. As a whole, it is a “social pact” between the ruling class and a part of the petty bourgeoisie in draft, unfinished, taken with wires, poor in content and fragile as is the majority raising Sánchez to the presidency today.
“The new social pact under the Sanchez government“, 7/1/2020
Today Sánchez is only beginning to move forward with the plan of frontal attack on the conditions of the workers which was the center of the Spanish bourgeoisie’s needs before the Covid and which now, in open recession and with a panorama of general crisis of capitalism ahead is even more central. The government is pending of European funds that every day seem to be farther away from what Merkel and Macron proposed in order to soften the cutbacks for the petty bourgeoisie. And the latter, at least in its left wing and from what we saw yesterday, is listing. We are likely to see something similar in Catalonia.
The end of the stage of confluences around Podemos is the end of the possibilities of a fit of petty-bourgeois revolt in the political apparatus of the state. The form that remains open points to a regime crisis.