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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 February 2017

Spain: clear win for left at Podemos conference! Now build class struggle

Spanish student strike, 26 October photo SE, photo SE

Spanish student strike, 26 October photo SE, photo SE   (Click to enlarge)

Izquierda Revolucionaria

The attempt to remove Pablo Iglesias from the leadership of Podemos (the left party formed out of the 2011 Indignados movement) has been a terrible failure. This was despite all of the resources poured into it, and the open support of the media for Errejon - leader of the "moderate" opposition to Iglesias.

There was a historic turnout of 155,000 members. Iglesias received almost 90% of the votes for the position of general secretary, more than 60% for his list of candidates for the 'citizens' council' (main leading body of Podemos) and more than 50% for the documents which his team put forward.

Defeat for ruling class

To understand what this victory means, it is enough to read the capitalist press or listen to the establishment TV media following the congress. Their anger at this victory comes across in every sentence. The ruling class made an attempt to control Podemos, to assimilate it as a 'classic' social democratic formation to strengthen social peace.

However, they came up against the will of tens of thousands of fighters. The defeat of Errejon is good news for all those who have been part of the huge social revolt of the last few years - in the Indignados movement, the general strikes, the education and health movements, student strikes, etc.

These mobilisations of workers and youth have been the motor of political change in Spain. This is the key factor which the likes of Errejon have been so quick to dismiss and denigrate in their attempt to derail Podemos towards parliamentarism and class collaboration.

The struggle within Podemos is of great importance. The traditional capitalist party PP, the new illegitimate leadership of the ex-social democratic party PSOE, the right-wing, populist party Ciudadanos, as well as big business, all know this very well.

Errejon and his followers want a Podemos which is closer to PSOE and to the programme of social democracy in crisis. They defend a process which in reality would make Podemos a mere clone of the establishment parties, happy with comfortable positions in parliamentary offices and well-paid committees, and the 'respectability' of the institutions and the system.

We cannot forget how El Pais, the main capitalist paper, repeated ad nauseum how Errejon defended "a more modern, democratic and open Podemos, different from the confusion generated by Iglesias around a strategy of ideological radicalisation and street mobilisation, the effect of which is to dilute the power and negotiating ability of the party in parliament..."

Izquierda Revolucionaria has supported Pablo Iglesias in this struggle against Errejon and his social democratic model. We distributed 6,000 leaflets explaining our position and sold hundreds of papers at the Podemos congress, where we got a lot of support.

However, we also believe that Pablo Iglesias' mistakes and vacillations have contributed to Errejon getting as far as he has. The vision of political "change" as a mere electoral exercise in which mass movements had already fulfilled their role was also defended by Iglesias, especially after the success of the local elections in May 2015 and the general elections in December 2015.

His public declarations justifying the betrayal of Tsipras in Greece; and distancing himself from the Venezuelan revolution, echoing the position of reactionary forces; his emphasis on 'responsibility' and governability; and his express desire to occupy the "social democratic space," were mistaken.

They also contradicted the real reasons for the powerful eruption of Podemos, and reinforced the right wing of the party. Even after losing one million votes in June 2016, Iglesias continued to insist that parliamentary and institutional work was the priority.

But in the last months, Iglesias has reacted to defend his leadership, on the basis that his survival, and that of Podemos, depended on returning to his original position and basing himself on the sections of society which, through their struggle, had brought Podemos into being.

In the last few months, Iglesias has questioned publicly whether it had in fact been the image of 'moderation' which was behind the unexpected electoral defeat in June.

He said that trying to occupy the space of social democracy so as to not "frighten" a sector of voters was a mistake, and more recently insisted on the need to reclaim the streets and for the unions to call a general strike against the anti-working class policies of the PP.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, photo Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, photo Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)   (Click to enlarge)

Return to the streets

At the Podemos congress, in all the debates and discussions in the corridors the same idea was stressed again and again: it is time to return to the streets, to go back to what made Podemos strong!

The internal clash in Podemos, openly encouraged by the bourgeoisie, was set to have an immediate impact, depending on the result.

A victory for the Errejon followers would have strengthened social peace, which is necessary to impose an agenda of cuts which has already been designed by the Rajoy government and agreed with PSOE.

Social democracy

Errejon was very careful to reject the idea that there is in effect a grand coalition (PP, PSOE, Ciudadanos) and instead of explaining that the leadership of PSOE is part of the problem, insisted repeatedly that Podemos should join up with PSOE's 'initiatives'.

Right-wing policies cannot be fought by embracing social democracy, which is firmly under the control of the capitalists. To defeat the cuts there is only one option: fill the streets with massive and sustained mobilisation.

The example of the strikes led by the Sindicato de Estudiantes at the end of last year, which brought down the Francoist "revalidation" exams, is useful.

Pablo Iglesias and his collaborators must listen to the rank and file of Podemos. Unity cannot be built at the cost of abandoning principles and turning one's back on millions who are suffering the dramatic effects of a devastating crisis.

Unity must be built with those who struggle, those who suffer, those who can make real change possible.

That means calling immediately for mobilisation, to prepare now for a general strike against the increase in energy prices, the cuts to pensions, cuts to health and education and the anti-democratic laws against protesting, for decent housing, and for democratic rights including the right to national self-determination.

The only way to be solidly linked with the masses, the real power of Podemos as a left force for social transformation, is to defend a socialist alternative to the capitalist crisis, and be directly implicated in the day-to-day struggles of the workers' and youth movement.

Now Pablo Iglesias must live up to his word.

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