Spain: against the Francoist right, vote Unidos Podemos – fight for the republic and socialism!

The elections of 28 April 2019 are of great significance. There is much concern about the possibility of the return of the right-wing to government, reinforced by the extreme right wing of Vox. It is the obligation of left-wing activists and voters to do everything we can to prevent it.

[Editorial No. 56 for Lucha de Clases, originally published on 28 March 2019, available in Spanish here]

Workers, youth, working women and immigrant workers can only expect more attacks on their living conditions by a government backed by the bosses, the Church and a neo-Francoist state apparatus that is becoming increasingly separated from society. The right in the government would aggravate the Catalan conflict, blinding working-class families with their Francoist Spanish nationalism, and would intensify repression of the rights of free expression, assembly and demonstration.

However, a section of the bourgeoisie is aware that a "trifachito" (triple right-wing party alliance of PP, Ciudadanos and Vox) – only possible with a high level of voter abstention – would increase social instability with its ultra-reactionary and repressive policies. This would radicalise millions of workers and young people, who would move to the left. The bourgeoisie would prefer a ‘kinder’ government like PSOE-Ciudadanos, but the latter has already shown its willingness to line up with PP-Vox. Thus, the most intelligent layers of the ruling class, like millions of workers, look with concern at the 28 April elections, but from their own class point of view.

How to defeat the "trifachito"

We must vote to block the right. But to cut across the scepticism of millions of workers and young people, who are hesitant to vote, moral objections to right-wing policies are not enough. These must be galvanised with a clear, radical programme that provides solutions to the problems of workers and youth and shows them the importance of voting.

There may be a closing of ranks around PSOE, seen by many as the easiest way to defeat the right. But millions of people will vote for no one, because even though they do not support the right-wing parties, the current PSOE government has done nothing in the first nine months of its existence. It is impossible to change working conditions without repealing, at the very least, the PP’s reactionary labour ‘reforms’, of which not even a comma has been touched.

Pedro Sanchez congreso PSOE EDIIMA20170618 0312 21The PSOE government has done nothing in the first nine months of its existence / Image: PSOE

Additionally, nothing has changed in terms of state repression. The Gag Law, under which 20,000 people sanctioned to date, remains intact. Rent and the price of electricity remain as high as nine months ago, if not higher. After much agonising, an agreement was reached to maintain the value of pensions in line with inflation, but only for 2019. Moreover, voices from within the PSOE propose raising the retirement age even further, echoing the right wing. Sánchez says he will accept the public deficit figure set by Brussels and keep public spending at 40 percent of GDP, below even the 41 percent under Rajoy, and far from the 47 percent average in the EU.

This means that the adjustments in social spending will be maintained, and all the cuts made by the Zapatero and Rajoy governments will not be reversed. The 110 measures of Sánchez's electoral programme were nothing but good intentions, with a vague commitment to ‘gradual’ compliance, without committing to repeal any of the reactionary laws approved by Rajoy, only to rework them.

Sánchez is consistent in his commitment to serving the interests of Spanish capitalism. In the midst of economic stagnation and high public debt. There is no room for large concessions in favour of working families, except by strongly challenging the interests of the rich and big entrepreneurs, but Sánchez is not going to do this. For that reason, it was quite serious that the leaders of Unidos Podemos (UP) put so much hope in the PSOE government for many months, in which they insisted on being included.

No to parliamentary cretinism

During these months, the leaders of UP succumbed to parliamentary cretinism. They thought that they could make substantial changes to the living conditions of working families without relying on the organised strength of the working class. They did not understand that social mobilisation was essential, not only to pressure Sánchez and corner the right bloc in parliament but to win the sympathy of the lower layers of the petty bourgeoisie and backward workers. These constitute the fundamental electoral base of the right, and can only be attracted by whomever shows the greatest strength in the streets.

Unfortunately, UP has not taken any initiative in the labour movement to mobilise against job insecurity, nor to demand the nationalisation of the electricity sector. They have not come out in favour of expropriating the hundreds of thousands of empty flats in the hands of vulture funds, to be allocated for social rent, nor have they sought to mobilise students and youth for free public university education.

There were no responses to the provocations of the Francoist right against the exhumation of Franco's mummy from the infamous Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen). A massive state march to Madrid could have been organised to reinforce the government's decision and demand the recovery of all our dead who remain in the ditches. Nor has a state platform against repression been promoted to coordinate and unify the struggle of all those affected by the Gag Law. Furthermore, the UP hasn’t defended a group of Basque youths from Alsasua, who could face decades in jail following a bar brawl with members of the Civil Guard. Nor have they stood up against the repression of Catalan republicanism. All of these issues could have been mobilised around.

The magnificent movements of retirees and women offered a huge opportunity. They took place on such a grand scale, even under the Rajoy administration, that they transformed the situation, which eventually led to the fall of the PP government.

Where would we be today if all these movements during the last year-and-a-half had been pushed forward?

The lack of programmatic alternatives and street protests explains the lack of enthusiasm we have seen in these past few months. UP should not be a mere electoral apparatus, afraid of mass action on the street that can acquire a massive and radical character, it should act as the lever that organises and develops such movements.

UP must change course

UP is passing through a vulnerable stage. Podemos is paying the price for its shift to the right and towards the institutionalism that has drastically reduced its militancy. With vague progressiveness as an ideology, it has ceased to enthuse large sectors of the working class. The right wing of Podemos, headed by Íñigo Errejón, responsible more than anyone for this situation, has begun his departure from Podemos in order to launch his own movement after 28 April. In Madrid, the capital city and the region, the UP will be fractured at the elections into its left and right wings.

Among the activists of IU (Izquierda Unida, one of the major left-wing parties that form the UP electoral alliance), where the leadership has accepted unquestioningly all the zigzags of the Podemos leadership, there is a growing disaffection towards the electoral coalition. This is evidenced by the drop of support in internal members consultations, from 84.5 percent in 2016 to 61.5 percent now.

Unidos Podemos 2 Image Flickr Adolfo LujanLucha de Clases calls on as big a vote as possible for UP. But if UP wants to regain its lost support and re-enthuse millions of people, it must radically change its course and programme / Image: Flickr, Adolfo Lujan

The electoral front has similarly splintered in Galicia, Catalonia, Navarre, Asturias and Valencia. We also find the choice of the name Unidas Podemos (the feminine of Unidos) unfortunate: it is a linguistic concession that is alien to the common speech of ordinary women and men, which gives ammunition to the reactionaries, and contributes nothing to the struggle against women’s oppression.

Correspondingly, Pablo Iglesias is radicalising his speech and proposals in this election campaign, to differentiate himself from Sánchez, accusing him of being a coward. But why was this not done 10 months ago? UP would have gained coherence and been strengthened.

In spite of the shortcomings, Lucha de Clases calls on as big a vote as possible for UP, from the millions who do not see PSOE as an alternative to the right wing. If UP wants to regain its lost support and re-enthuse millions of people, it must radically change its course and programme, and this election campaign offers an opportunity to do so.

Voting is not enough

UP should not present itself as a companion of the PSOE in a government limited to granting some crumbs to workers and youth, but offer an alternative government that favours working families. It should be equipped with a programme that spans from the most immediate demands to the most general, that puts the main levers of the economy (large companies, banks and large landed estates) at the service of the people, as collective property to plan the economy in the interest of the majority. We must demolish the regime and the old neo-Francoist State apparatus, at the service of the 200 families of the oligarchy, to build a democratic, socialist republic that offers all the peoples of the Spanish State a voluntary union on an equal footing, and that would be the prelude to a revolutionary and socialist movement in the rest of Europe and the whole world.

These ideas and demands would galvanise millions of people, who would finally have something to fight for. They would show, in a concrete way, how to genuinely transform this society to end the obsolete and barbarous capitalist system.