The PODEMOS ‘Phenomenon’ and its Manifesto

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As we reported in June, Podemos (‘We Can Do it’), the new Spanish left-wing party whose origins lie in the ‘Indignados’ street protests of three years ago, won 8% of the national vote in the elections for the European Parliament, and sent 5 members to the EU parliament. For a party that was only founded in March this was an amazing result that has only been amplified since the election. Already it has doubled its support in the opinion polls to around 16%, with 45,000 members joining the party online.
This level of support and membership if maintained would make Podemos the third largest part in Spain, an unprecedented achievement for a party
less than six months old!

Shifts Within the Left
The rise of Podemos has taken support away from PSOE, the Socialist Party, which has lost 7.5% in the polls. It has also won a significant slice of voters from Izquierda Unida, the United Left, whose support has fallen three points to around 8%. Fortunately, Podemos has indicated that they are willing to discuss with the United Left in order to create a united front. Such a non-sectarian response can only help to strengthen the Left alternative. This radical alternative is also mirrored in Catalonia where the left wing Catalan nationalist group Ezquerra Republicana (Republican Left) appear to be improving its position in comparison to its more right-wing Catalan party rival in the run up to the independence vote proposed for this November.

Spanish opinion pollsPotential Political Instability
No-one is yet sure of the impact of the election of the new telegenic leader of the Socialists, Pedro Sanchez, but if these current levels of support remain steady it is likely that the next general election in Spain in 16 month will not have an overall winner. With the new Socialist Party leader declaring his rejection of the idea of a German-style grand coalition between the Conservative and Socialist parties, it looks possible that Spain will be in for a period of considerable political instability.

Below is a translation of the Manifesto of Podemos that formed the basis of its launch. It is a confused but  interesting document, including some traditional left-wing ideas but with much more emphasis on extending democracy, along the lines that were voiced by the Indignados protests and their call for “real democracy”.

Turning outrage into political change
Just as with other moments in history, we see today a European continent submerged in perplexity. Whilst the majorities look back with nostalgia on the past that is lost, certain powerful minorities, with no criterion other than their own survival, show that enrichment is their flag and impunity their horizon. Never in Europe have there been so many people discontented with their loss of rights, and, at the same time, so few perspectives for challenging this outrage through a voting option that excites while at the same time, shows the capacity to represent the majorities under attack and a capacity for committed and efficient administration that makes the best possible options become real. Many find it intolerable that in the greatest crisis in the system since the crash of 1929, those forces that claim to be progressive are at their weakest point, thereby condemning the majorities in our countries to a kind of melancholy that leads to resignation and political depression. But we have gone through worse times and have been able to overcome the difficulties. Why should now be any different?

The elections to the European Parliament will be held at a time of a profound crisis of legitimacy for the European Union. In our case, we are faced with the greatest loss of credibility for the regime born out of the 1978 Constitution. Movements of political outrage such as the 15M connected with a clear popular will: against the sacrifice of rights on the altar of markets driven by speculation and plunder. The impotence or abdication of responsibility by governments, the voluntary ineptitude of government political parties, the conversion of parliaments into bureaucratic organs deprived of political power and the stupor of the unions have left citizens abandoned to their own fate. As in so many other countries, the confusion is being used to turn private debts into public ones, for the transfer of common goods developed over decades to private interests, and to dedicate what remains of public resources to the funding of narrow and private business interests. We are faced with a financial coup d?état against the peoples of the south of the Eurozone. Those who are in charge are selling off the country and our future in pieces. The rise in repression (with more authoritarian laws, the rise in fines in a situation of economic impoverishment, and even, obstacles to the exercise of civil and political rights) is the final element of a landscape dominated by the deepening of social and gender inequalities and increased plunder of natural resources. It is not strange to see the apparent pessimism and defeatism among sectors who, however, would need only a spark of excitement to exit the trap of despair.

The citizen safety laws (which turn the forms of protest inaugurated by the 15M into offences), the return of the repression of women?s freedom, the curtailment of democracy at the local political level, the greater control over communications media and the control of the judiciary seek to create a scenario where fear suspends democracy. Forms on the pathway to authoritarian regimes wrapped up in electoral processes ever emptier of content. Does it make sense that the 90% of the population suffering the brunt of these policies should have no access to tools to create a brighter future?

But it is not true that we are consigned to defeat. Despite their efforts, we can see that this wall is not unbreachable, and that, from below, it is possible to put a stop to these processes that are dismantling our democracies. Today our demand for a politics that goes back onto to the streets, that talks like the majority of people who have had enough, is a reality. Our demand for a greater generosity from representatives, for a greater horizontality and transparency, for a return of the republican values of public virtue and social justice, for the recognition of our plurinational and pluricultural reality is more real than ever. It is decades since our desire for making our own decisions and answering our own questions was so real. The caste is driving us into the abyss for their own selfish benefit. It is only from the citizens that the solution can come, as happened with the protection of jobs, the defence of families through the blocking of evictions, or the guarantee of public services: small but meaningful victories. Popular mobilisation, civil disobedience and confidence in our own abilities are essential, but so too is the forging of keys in order to open the doors that they want to close on us: to bring to the institutions the voice and the demands of this social majority that no longer recognises itself either in this EU or in a corrupt regime that has no possible regeneration.

In the next European Parliament elections there needs to be a candidacy that offers itself to the wave of popular indignation that astounded the world. We are glad to see the advance of the forces of the left, but we are conscious of the need to do something more in order to set in gear the changes we need. It is a time for courage and for not allowing the closure of the window of opportunity that the commitment of so many good people has opened. We need a candidacy of unity and of rupture, led by people who express new ways of relating to politics and which will entail a real threat to the two-party regime of the PP and PSOE and those who have taken our democracy hostage. A candidacy that in addition to stewardship of what is public, proves able to involve the majorities in the configuration of their own future. A candidacy that responds to the young people who are invited to get out of the country, to workers who day by day see their rights diluted, to women forced to go back to demanding what should obviously be theirs, to older people who are finding it was not enough to have struggled and worked for a lifetime. A candidacy that advances from spaces already conquered and manages to go beyond the present paralysis. A candidacy that makes the move that turns pessimism into optimism and discontent into popular will for change and democratic openness.

1. A candidacy for the recovery of popular sovereignty: it is the citizens who have to decide, not the selfish minority who have brought us here. People?s needs come first. Austerity and cutbacks are choking the economy and our lives. There must be a derogation of article 135 of the Spanish constitution and a moratorium for a citizen debt audit that determines what parts of the debt are not legitimate; the illegitimate debts will not be paid.  Alternative policies are needed in order to establish a tax on financial transactions and controls on the movement of capital, along with the nationalisation of the private banking sector. Those administrations in our country that have adopted the prescriptions of austerity are proof of how useless they are for resolving people?s problems. We want a candidacy that therefore opposes the cuts that are being applied in the name of austerity by the Government of the Partido Popular in the State but also by the PSOE and other parties in different Autonomous Communities. We want another Europe, one that is just, the Europe of rights and democracy, not that of plunder and contempt for the peoples.

2. A candidacy that, faced with governments in the service of the 1% minority, calls for a ?real democracy? based on the sovereignty of peoples and their right to decide their future freely and in solidarity. Democracy holds no fear for us democrats; we are delighted that Scottish and Catalan people can talk and say what future they desire. As such, one that supports the consultation called in Catalonia for the 9th of November.

3. A candidacy that defends decent wages and pensions, a progressive tax regime so that those who have the most pay the most, one that goes after tax fraud, that rejects redundancies in profitable firms, and that stands for the sharing of all jobs, including domestic work and unpaid care work. It is essential to defend decent labour conditions for young people condemned to eternal precarity or exile.

4. A candidacy for the right to decent housing. There must be a programme to build public housing, as well as a model of decent and affordable rents. The human drama of evictions can and must be ended, by suspending every single one and by approving retrospective surrender of houses by way of payment, as demanded by the Mortgage Victims? Platform.

5. A candidacy that rejects every form of privatisation of public services and common goods: education, health, justice, transport, information, housing and culture, that stands for its reversal in all of these and opts for their democratic management. They are rights and must be under public control. A candidacy that stands for a radical democracy where binding referendums and popular legislative initiatives form an important part of a new legal order following a constituent process.

6. A candidacy that combats against gender based violence and defends the rights of women over their own bodies, and as such, the right to decide if they want to end their pregnancy or not. And that also defends freedom of sexual orientation and identity against every form of discrimination and homophobia. A candidacy for the unbreakable right to be and to love as one wishes.

7. A candidacy that seeks a change in the productive model so that it is at the service of people, through an ecological reconversion of the economy, through the nationalisation and socialisation of energy firms, and through food sovereignty.

8. A candidacy that defends citizen rights for everyone and demands derogation from immigration laws. A candidacy for a country in which everyone is a citizen and no-one is invisible, prisoner of over-exploitation, persecution or marginalisation due to institutional xenophobia.

9. A candidacy that rejects military interventions, that stands for an exit from NATO and is a firm defender of relations of solidarity between peoples.

10. A candidacy that is the result of an open participative process for citizens, in the elaboration of its programme and in the composition of its list, based upon the criteria of the presence of social, political and cultural activists, with role rotation and income equivalent to the average wage. A candidacy with commitment to transparency and accountability, with financial resources independent from the private banking sector and from lobby groups.

Those of us signing this manifesto are convinced that now is the time to make a step forward and that by making it many more will join us. Those at the top tell us that nothing can be done except resign ourselves, and, at best, choose between the same colours as always. We think it is no longer time for giving up but for making a move and pulling together, by offering tools to outrage and the desire for change. In the streets ?SÍ se puede? (?Yes, it can be done?) is repeatedly heard. We say: ?Podemos? (?We can do it?).


A big thanks to Cunning Hired Knaves for the translation…

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