Podemos: Left Unity, Participation, and The Right

This is an extract of a conversation from the edition of La Tuerka, Monday 26th May, in which Pablo Iglesias, the foremost figure in Podemos until now, spoke about the possibilities and challenges facing the political platform. This was following its explosion onto the political scene in the European elections on Sunday, when it won 5 seats and over a million votes. Iglesias is one of the regular presenters of the La Tuerka programme since it started back in 2010. This edition is presented by Juan Carlos Monedero, academic and former adviser to the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez. He is another prominent figures in the platform. The translated extract begins at 14:50, in the video (in Spanish) linked here.

Pablo Iglesias

Pablo Iglesias

Juan Carlos Monedero: Dani Mateo asks via #preguntaapodemos, which is a Twitter trending topic, regarding a broad left and green front in Europe including social democrats.

Pablo Iglesias: With those terms, regarding the left, I’m not that good with them. On this, I’m with what Julio Anguita (former secretary general of Izquierda Unida) says: programme, programme, programme. I’m a political science teacher, and when it comes to a little bit of ideology, I understand it. But this thing about what is the left and what is not… it is rather: whoever is for a public debt audit with a tax reform so that the rich pay, for compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for the end to the revolving doors [between big business and politics], is with us. And we are not going to ask there whether they have a green flag or a photo of some German social democrat leader from the start of the 20th Century.

On those foundations, I think that confluence is desirable and necessary, but without losing from sight that this has to come from popular citizen participation. And that is what Podemos has shown. There are those who think that left unity is a series of leaders who go off and have a meal together and then they go to an office and in that office they reach an agreement on lists [for candidates]. And that suddenly turns into an alphabet soup that becomes left unity, and that is what makes the powers that be tremble. Well, those in power do not fear the left. Those in power fear ordinary people.

So, these processes of confluence, in which no-one is surplus to requirements, and for which I would like Podemos to serve as a lever, in order to join together other social movements, other citizen movements, political forces, have to take into account the leading role and participation of ordinary people, that they get excited about it. Having people saying “this is ours” is something essential, and we welcome that with open arms, but everyone will have to recognise that one of the keys to this result is that we have mobilised ilusión [hope and excitement]. And we have mobilised people’s hope and excitement by allowing people to participate and decide.

Juan Carlos Monedero

Juan Carlos Monedero

Juan Carlos Monedero: We have seen how, with the right wing, when it has sought to frighten a government that wanted to legislate in a progressive direction, brought thousands of people onto the streets, holding an enormous Mass..I mean, there is no politics without people behind it.

Pablo Iglesias: Of course. Manuel Fraga [Francoist political leader] said so: the street is mine. The right has always taken care to look after the organisations of its civil society. That is why the right funds organisations that depend on the Catholic Church. That is why the right is so concerned with education and funding its private colleges. The right permanently keeps sectors of civil society active so that they act, so that they operate. That is why the right is always concerned with having television channels, debate shows, debating panelists, people who write: that is the practice of politics. It is as if some on the left think that practising politics means conspiring in order to win at a congress. And it has nothing to do with that.

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