HAVANA TIMES — Following the recent elections in Europe, I am left with more questions than answers. Among the latter is the impression that a good many citizens of the Old World – discontent over the effects of the crisis, the rise in poverty and the dirty tricks of their political class – have decided to vote for extreme-right parties, and that these, whose verbal incontinence outweighs their actual capacity to overcome the complex problems these societies have accumulated, today constitute the chief threat to an inclusive democracy, secured over these past decades through many struggles and reform processes in Europe.
Prompted by these developments, I have carefully read over the platform of Spain’s radical left-wing party Podemos (“We Can”) and the speeches of its young leader, Pablo Iglesias. It is impossible not to share many of his progressive proposals, which capture a good part of the malaise and criticisms of citizens under the (bad) leadership of the PSOE and PP, the politico-entrepreneurial corruption and the interventionism and insensitivity of the Brussels bureaucracy. I identify with his proposal to strengthen the public sector and public regulations as a means of countering the privatization agenda and of reducing the social spending of neo-liberals. I have no problems up to this point.
The problems begin when, in their speeches, they promise to satisfy the demands of the unemployed and the Spanish working class without explaining how they intend to manage the State budget and the social consensus needed to impel such an ambitious agenda. There, things begin to look different. Going out to badmouth Zapatero or Rajoy, setting up camp at the Puerta del Sol plaza and courageously standing up to the onslaught of the police, is one thing. Leading the country or seeing to the fruitful development of deliberation at the house of government is quite another.
To make matters worse, the official discourse of Podemos (of its leaders, that is) is colored by a kind of nihilistic perception of Spain’s transition process, sometimes summarized with simplistic phrases such as the “regime of 1978”, and by somewhat naïve and exaggerated appeals to participative democracy, understood as the wellspring of all solutions to the crisis.
All of this smells of an anti-political and radical discourse whose regrettable consequences we are all well aware of, at least in Latin America. The plural and spontaneous radicalism of a social movement a la 15M, demanding better services and condemning the late Franco government, is one thing, and the crystallization of a project aimed at taking power at organizations and institutions (where any distance from the living legacy of the authoritarian “left” is conspicuously absent ) is another. I support the former unreservedly. The latter’s failure to learn from past mistakes and its many lost opportunities horrify me.
Though this is an ongoing process, I cannot help but arrive at a preliminary conclusion. If the growth of political forces such as Podemos entails a jolt to Spain’s political class and serves as a kind of counterweight to the extreme right, then, I am all for it. But if it ends up consolidating the power of radicals who are insensitive to the complex logic of the democratic process, who believe that they represent the whole spectrum of citizen virtues (a throwback to the historical Left), then I predict new problems for Spain’s already troubled society.
To sum up, Spain (like the rest of Europe) could well be at the threshold of new and complex situations, caught between the growth of a shameful right (today’s chief problem) and the dangerous proposals of the new Jacobins.