Podemos has gained control of Barcelona and other major regional strongholds from local elections. This is a seismic shift away from the two parties (Socialist party and the People’s party), that have been in power for the last 20 years. Bereft of any social responsibility towards the Spanish people, the People’s party has been following the neoliberal ideology of “structural adjustment”: liquidating public assets and social services to pay off the debt accrued by the bank’s market gambling.
Neoliberalism as an ideology, that can be defined as an insidious class assault to dispossess and recuperate class power and wealth, has for years tacitly disguised its face behind ideas such as “individual liberty and freedom”, “free market”, and “personal responsibility”. However, over four decades of neoliberal hegemony around the world, especially in developed economies, with ruinous effects on the lives of working people, is now both discredited and distinguishable for its class character.
After years of discursive protests and demonstrations, both local and general, the people of Spain, invidiously deprived of a humane standard of living through high unemployment and austerity measures, are voicing their discontent by uniting to vote for Podemos. The wave of change that is sweeping through Spain is simply inexorable and it represents the people’s unbridled hope for deep structural change in Spain. Small ephemeral reforms by the bourgeois is no longer enough to stop this seismic shift to the left. Podemos, only formed one year ago, is now gaining the highest number of votes and is in a strong position to gain further political ground in November’s general elections.
Where does the politics of Podemos lay in the political spectrum of the left? Is there a way to discern between the communists of Cuba, the Chavistas in Venezuela and the socialists in Greece? All the above political parties have assiduously fought to separate their movement from the neoliberal pillage of the world. However, it is worth considering where their political movement is headed. If Capitalism can be defined briefly as an economic system that is built on the exploitation of labour during production (wage slavery) and domination of the working-class socially, in a perpetual compound growth; then any group or movement that raises the red flag today must have an antithesis to this definition in its proposed long-term structural changes. Gaining state power and nationalizing major industries is only a start, all socialist movements must be able to answer how they are planning to:
1. Eliminate wage slavery in their society through the creation of associated producers fulfilling the needs of society
2. Eliminate all social inequalities (each according to his/her/their capacity and to each according to his/her/their needs)
3. Provide adequate use-values (education, housing, and food etc..) to all in the current exchange-value market system
4. Create an exchange system that precludes and eliminates Money (universal form of value) as a form of accumulation of social wealth and power for an individual or group
5. Eliminate all elements of the bourgeois in the state, and spread political and economic power to the commons
6. Introduce new technologies and organizational forms and eliminate technical division of labour from social labour (to create rotating roles) and reduce the load of social labour to expand on collective leisure activities
7. Eliminate the alienation of labour through social labour becoming embedded in daily communal work and non-monetised social labour.
While considering Podemos’ nascent strides towards state power, it is worth considering some of the potential barriers they may face in the near future. Currently Podemos is teeming with grassroots support and is using this support to procure state power. In short, Podemos is choosing not to circumvent the bourgeois elections and instead to use it to its own advantage to gain power. However, this has in the short term meant that Podemos along with millions of workers in Spain, needs to wait patiently until the next election, which according to Podemos leaders, will delay the promised structural reforms. Other potential barriers in the path of Podemos is capital flight in a highly porous Spain economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission (EC) all hold the economic strings in Spain, in relation to existing capital, and this gives these neoliberal institutions significant power over the Spanish economy. This fact alone has sent Greece oscillating back and forth to the negotiating table with the European lender, despite the myriad promises to the Greek people about rejecting austerity. If the Spanish state politics, under the administration of Podemos, takes a terse left turn, the European lenders can use the interest rates to pressure the government.
In a world awash with surplus liquidity, the people of Spain are bereft of a basic standard of living and condemned to abject poverty. Their inexorable struggle to procure basic use-values such as food and shelter has culminated in the Podemos movement. This movement now has the historic opportunity to build on the trust of the Spanish and strike back at the Neoliberal juggernaut institutions through revolutionary economic praxis or to become debased in history as another ruinous movement.