Can Europe Make It?

Spain’s December 20 General Elections: start of a new historical cycle

Being able to foster ‘real’ change in favour of the oppressed while, at the same time, responding to their need for security would be a great achievement for any political entity. Español

José Luis Villacañas
19 December 2015
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Demotix/J-Montero. All rights reserved.In the forthcoming election on December 20, 2015 we may be heading for a fundamental test for Spain, unique in our history. The truth is that our country has never managed to engage in a democratic practice capable of interpreting the historicity inherent in our constitutions. In this sense, no one has ever managed to revive a constitutional consensus, much less re-edit a constituent power reflexive over its own work.

The Spanish right, since Cánovas, has understood constitutions operating as a katechon for the reification of institutions and to limit democracy’s capacity for self-correction. This attitude has produced a naturalisation of constitutions, as if they were definitive and final expressions of the state of Spanish society, generating a continued experience of fatigue, degeneration, mutation, paralysis, blocks, and, finally, institutional detachment, in turn answered by destabilizing and explosive outbreaks and incursions in times of widespread civic desperation.

Nevertheless, the Spanish right has always preferred to wait for these confrontations rather than confront the complexities of real life, be flexible, or evolve. The Spanish right has always preferred to wait for these confrontations rather than confront the complexities of real life, be flexible, or evolve. This in turn has generally been interpreted as weakness, and associated with a loss of opportunity relating to their historical mission and national identity. On December 20, a majoritarian political force may emerge, that may leave the Spanish institutions unable to survive without changing and updating. The ‘20 December’ will not be conventional elections; if the citizenry reaches the right level of consciousness for kairos, they may indeed be historic.

The question rests upon figuring out the nature of these forces and changes. With the exception of the Partido Popular (PP), all political figures have accepted that reforms are urgent. The party of Aznar and Rajoy (PP) fulfils, in the present situation, the same delaying function that Arias Navarro played in the demonstrations between 1975 and 1977 and Alianza Popular in the Constituent Assembly. This unwillingness to change, which is immune to both the generational processes and economic and social transformations, cannot go unchallenged; it has to be punished at the ballot box.

But it is worth noting that this position of the Spanish right is neither capricious nor arbitrary; it has profound historical root causes. This position is in reaction to the PP’s awareness that any change to the Spanish institutional architecture, even if perceived as convenient by the majority of citizens, would have a fundamental effect on its material, economic, and social interests. The reality is that that there are nuclei of interests that cannot give up their privileged position with respect to the State because, in reality, they form the basis for a State capitalism that benefits these large private businesses. This unwillingness to change… has to be punished at the ballot box.

This state of affairs is a symptom of how illegitimate interests can prevail, even if they are opposed to the aspirations of citizens. The reforms that Spanish democracy needs are not only matters of constitutional technicality, nor are they only about institutional design, but they are about putting the institutions in the service of the material interests of the citizenry. I mean all the citizenry: the productive entrepreneurs, tired of the dirty game of so many opportunists operating close to power, independent workers, professionals, civil servants, families, pensioners, the unemployed, dependent people, foreign guests, especially the Latin American brothers and the people of the Greater Maghreb. This state of affairs is a symptom of how illegitimate interests can prevail, even if they are opposed to the aspirations of citizens.

Institutional reform, therefore, should affect the economic organization of Spain and this means affecting the economic centralism that confers on the Government an enormous capacity for discretionary spending in investment, measures that favour the groups closest to power.

In this historical conjuncture, Podemos has achieved something very important: it has identified thousands of people who form the basis for a new political activism, share a more accurate analysis of the State and its modernisation deficits and have the resources to unleash a sufficient amount of subjective passion.

This unique political capital will continue to be activated only if Podemos offers sufficient guarantees that it represents genuine political innovation. However, without challenging the economic centralism of the State, and its political capitalism specifically designed to serve the interests of large corporations, there will be no evidence that Podemos has indeed the ability to bring about an alternative politics.

In the absence of such a challenge, it is inevitable that we will see an imitation of what we already have. If Podemos is viewed as a mere surrogate for the old parties this will prove fatal for what it set out to achieve. If Podemos is viewed as a mere surrogate for the old parties this will prove fatal for what it set out to achieve. For all the important things that need to change in Spain, none are so urgent as a new distribution of the general social capital by means of a radical reform of the budget that needs to be thoroughly revised in the greatest detail. Such a task will not be completed without strengthening the democratic basis of political power and its ability to shape government.

It is the structure of the budget itself that prevents us from meeting the demands and material interests of the Spanish population in an adequate manner. And it is that same structural limitation that determines the insurmountable solution to the Catalonian problem. Such a policy shift will only be possible if we have a force able to embody the interests of the popular classes and successfully move in a new direction.

No one has ever been as close to achieving this as Podemos. To its ability to mobilise concerned citizens, Podemos has united its firm determination not to distract itself with ideological objectives that will never be victorious or majoritarian. A policy shift will only be possible if we have a force able to embody the interests of the popular classes and successfully move in a new direction. We cannot forget the great lesson of the Spanish Transition: it is the disadvantaged and the oppressed, the truly popular classes, who are the ones who long for security the most and are most imbued with fear. Being able to foster ‘real’ change in favour of their interests while, at the same time, responding to their need for security would be a great achievement for any political entity capable of both leading the people and overcoming the contradictions that exist between their needs and their feelings. 

Podemos should not only be the defender of this discourse, as a pedagogical agent of the Spanish citizenry, but also the political force capable of guaranteeing the maximum compliance for millions of Spanish people who know that other parties will assume this discursive role only in a minimal manner, driven by their own inertia.

In this sense, it is encouraging that Podemos recognizes the pluri-national structure of the Spanish state, because only this can serve as a true foundation for a decentralized economy —an economic structure that does not only concern itself with large state companies, which disregarding any sense of fair competition, lives entirely off the concessions they receive from the BOE (Official State Gazette). 

Podemos is the only party capable of clearly explaining before the Spanish people that the Spanish agents of international neoliberalism cannot allow democracy in Spain to flourish because they cannot live without that close partnership that exists between central political power and spurious economic interests. No one has ever been as close to achieving this as Podemos.

Podemos seems to me to be the only plural political force that is able to articulate what we have not achieved since the nineteenth century: a flexible and fair articulation of the centre and periphery. In this sense, by promoting the best political measures (changes in electoral law, federal reform, judicial reform, and education), Podemos has been the formation most willing to place the institutions at the service of the material, professional, and cultural interests of our people. 

Podemos ought to be the party capable of understanding and allowing others to understand the complexities of the necessary changes: reforming the political constitution of Spain in order to reform its economic structure. Without an improvement in both, we will become a country doubly dominated by economic and political powers that are legal and, yet, archaic and illegitimate. Podemos ought, therefore, to be the party that makes these elections exceptional and, at the same time, normal —highlighting this double character that characterises democracy whenever it is authentic—, able to connect with the wishes of the citizenry, while evolving with history.

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