Can Europe Make It?

What kind of hope is a promise?

“If progressives focus too much on the institutional sphere, the right wing can take the streets – they’ve done it before. If we don’t, someone else will.” Interview with the author of Hope is a Promise. (5,800 words)

Carlos Delclós Alex Sakalis Rosemary Bechler
27 February 2016

 anti-eviction protest in Barcelona, 2013.

The PAH in action: anti-eviction protest in Barcelona, 2013.Demotix/Paco Serinelli. All rights reserved

Rosemary Bechler (RB): I have been enjoying reading your book – Hope is a Promise: From the indignados to the rise of Podemos in Spain.  Of course you were deeply involved throughout, but what was your particular interest in the rise of Podemos…?

Carlos Delclos (CD): I understood from the beginning that, in the Spanish press, it was going to be treated as ‘the Indignados Party’. I also knew that internationally it would be looked at as ‘the Spanish Syriza’, a populist party that pops up out of nowhere – the most you could hope for was that people would recognise some relationship between the indignados and Podemos.

But I wanted to show that they were not at all the same thing: to tell the story of how I saw Podemos emerge first hand, as a person who was very involved in the indignados movement, but not so much in the setting up of Podemos, for no particular reason except that I don’t really enjoy party politics much and am not very good at it. It’s like corporatist culture and I’m not very good at defending ‘our team’ versus the ‘other team’, which is how parties tend to play out. It is probably a necessary politics at this juncture, and I admire the folks who are willing to take the risk and put it on the line to do this. But I was never going to be very helpful in doing that.

RB: What kind of debate would you like to see emerge from your chronicle of the rise of Podemos?

CD: A lot of people look to Podemos as a possible source of hope for the left, and I think they’ve sparked a discussion about the politics of hope. Podemos, after all, use the same terminology Obama did: change, hope, change, hope. And on the other hand, you get Sarah Palin, that most folksy nihilist on the planet, taunting the president, “How’s that hopey changey thing working out?”

But I think the key to Podemos’ success and that of the indignados before them is not the degree to which they inspire new hopes. The key to understanding their impact is to appreciate how they organised in a situation of hopelessness. Juan Carlos Monedero, one of Podemos’ key intellectuals, has often said that the indignados were like a vaccine against a reactionary, fascist, populist uprising in Spain. Why? Because the indignados deactivated any form of xenophobia, racism or sexism from the start. At the assemblies, we had symbols for those things. Everyone knows the twinkling hands, some know the X to block, this gesture if you are talking too long… but no one talks about what bringing the fists together meant, which was “That’s sexist or xenophobic language – so it goes out, stricken from the record.”

Carlos gives us a demonstration of how to respond to sexist or xenophobic language.

Carlos gives us a demonstration of how to respond to sexist or xenophobic language. Authors' photo. Some rights reseved.

I do think that the key to the indignados was how they organised in the midst of the hopelessness dominant in Spain prior to their emergence, and pushed developments in a virtuous, subversive, emancipatory direction, as opposed to this game of, “How can we play with xenophobia without being xenophobic? ” which was going on in Europe. They said, “We have to be the protagonists of our own change. We have to break down borders in our own practise.”

The PAH, for example, are in many ways the best migrant rights organisation in Spain, because they organise around a common need – housing – and say, “ I don’t care if you have got documents. If they try and evict you, I’m going to show up at your house to block it, if you will show up at mine when they try to evict us!” That’s really the key to the success of the indignados and the situation in Spain right now, this ability to take hopelessness and make it about that vision! It’s not the vision of society that they propose ‘out there’, but the one that they put into practise which made the difference.

I also thought that it would be useful to tell the story from a position coming out of Catalonia rather than Madrid, since Podemos is often very much portrayed as centred in Madrid.

Carlos Delclos.

Carlos Delclos. Own photo/ Aida Avalos Prada. Some rights reserved.

RB: Can you say a bit more about the difference between Barcelona and Madrid – and what it means to you.

CD: I moved to Barcelona ten years ago this February. I was an activist back home in Texas. In 2005, after George Bush got re-elected I was convinced that nothing was ever going to happen. Houston is a nice place, but I felt like there was no transformative change that was going to happen there. And I’d always been fascinated by Barcelona. My grandparents had lived through the Spanish civil war and I grew up in a politicised household. I read Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, and thanks to the anti-globalisation movement I knew that it was a place where things were still happening. I really wanted to be politically engaged in a scene that mattered and not just in  ‘Food Not Bombs’ and anarchist groups and really fringe anti-racist actions in Texas.

In February ’06, I arrived and got into the squatters movements’ scene, and I liked it.  A few years later, the indignados suddenly took off, and it was better than I could have ever hoped for!  It happened so fast that I just wanted to get it straight in my head and make the story real for myself, because I had lucked out and seen what I wanted to see. So that’s why I wrote Hope is a Promise, I guess.

As for the difference between the two cities, you can compare the slogans. In Madrid they say, “They don’t represent us.” It’s an ambiguous thing: it could mean, “They don’t represent us because we can’t be represented”, or just, “These specific people don’t represent us”.  In Catalonia, we are more specific and we say, “No-one represents us!”

RB: This gets us rather neatly to the discussion between supporters of horizontality as a political process and those who are committed to political hegemony. Do you see that as a useful battle still raging in and around Podemos?

CD: Questioning political hierarchy tends to open you up to organisational debates, and the sociology of organisations – how do people want to organise to get things done?

Hegemony is a deeper cultural question. The question it poses is how do you reconfigure a social situation so that a new set of organisational forms can emerge from the shift. I see the hegemonic project as one that works on the broader contextual framework, while political hierarchies emerge at certain points as tactically necessary to reach certain operational ends. These matters are linked, inevitably.

I once shared a panel with Simona Levi, who made the really good point that to some extent horizontality is always a myth, because there is always leadership. In the indignados movement there were people who did more of the heavy lifting, and that’s where a lot of the people who eventually made the shift to party politics emerged from, as leaders or collective reference points. We had the figure of the spokesperson – not a leader, but the person who has the baton or the microphone right now to speak for us: but, we can take it away at any point.

We would always either say, “I can only speak for myself”, or that something was the collective view from the General Assembly. That doesn’t mean that people didn’t use the microphones to win arguments, and whether or not a message resonated beyond those who already agreed often depended on the speaker’s singularity quite a lot.

Having said that, it was the horizontality, the decentralisation and really the autonomy offered by the movement that attracted me to it. Maybe there can be a small amount of hierarchy, but the most important thing is that a movement is autonomous, maintaining its antagonistic position towards the social and political order. I just like that type of activism better – there is more civil disobedience, more direct action – forms of organisation I feel more comfortable with.

But when Podemos or Ada Colau for example, make the jump to Barcelona En Comu – this was also very interesting. The stereotype has it that Podemos is just Pablo and his cadre of friends, whereas Barcelona En Comu is much more horizontal. But that’s not entirely true. In some cases. Podemos had more open primaries than Barcelona En Comu… and so forth. It is true that Podemos was more organisationally inventive at the beginning, until they saw clearly that they had a shot at being more than just a fringe political party. There is the famous quote from Iglesias in the build-up to the Citizens’ Assembly at Vistalegre, when they were debating whether to go with the Anticapitalista plan, which had three spokespeople, and Pablo said, “You are not going to beat Rajoy if you have three leaders…”.

But Podemos is a political party that is in the process of adapting its form, with strange pacts that make it a weird fit in the Congress. For a while there was a possibility of being divided into four groups because of the regional candidacies. So all this has given rise to a quite interesting debate.

When they made the jump to being a party, a lot of people questioned that, saying they preferred a completely horizontal, p2p decentralised movement that would prefigure the type of society they wanted to see.

Personally, I don’t agree with this view, and I kind of suspect that people who say this expect Podemos to represent them. But I really do mean it when I say that nobody could represent me. Let the party be a party. Let’s have the movements be the movements. I wouldn’t vote for Podemos to represent me. I would vote for Podemos because it makes sense strategically to fracture the existing Spanish Political Regime of 1978. I wouldn’t vote for Podemos to represent me. I would vote for Podemos because it makes sense strategically to fracture the existing Spanish Political Regime of 1978. If you fracture it enough, you open up a situation in which the movements can have more sway in Parliament, and we can use them as a lever because their legitimacy depends on what movements think of them. I think that is a better vantage point politically for the movements than to have all these conflicting internal tensions that slip out into the media, where no-one really knows how to interpret them. And ultimately that ends up weakening their ability to have the impact that they have had on the political arena.

At the same time, I do think the idea that you could ever have anything other than this permanent tension between movements and parties is misleading. You could never have a perfect prefiguration or modelling of a new type of society that is somehow just going to take power in that way and be totally beautiful. It is what Raimundo Viejo calls la ficción resolutiva, the fiction of a resolution. It’s antithetical to democracy, this belief in an absolute state of democracy.

As movements in the broadest sense of the term, and in contrast to the static of the state, we need to view democracy as more of a process, and say, “No, no. Let’s work towards more democratisation.” With this tension, we can do that. You can believe in reaching some Valhalla if you like, but it’s not on this earth!

RB: Marianne Maeckelbergh (Global uprisings) who I believe is a friend of yours has this definition of ‘horizontality’ which we have used as a working definition in our debates on openDemocracy since 2011:

“Horizontality is a term that is used to refer to a fiercely egalitarian, decentralized, networked form of democratic decision-making and it is offered by this movement not as a demand, but as an alternative political system to replace representative democracy…

First, horizontality is premised on the rejection of fixed representation as a political structure. Second, it functions through the political structure of networks and not the geographically delineated space of the nation-state. Third, it embraces a rejection of uniformity as the guiding ideal of democratic deliberation in favour of a system that fosters diversity.

Finally, the movement takes equality to be always desirable but never fully achievable and equality is therefore treated as something for which each member of the polity has to take active responsibility. This creates a decision-making process in which the participants are continuously challenging (with varying degrees of success) inequalities and discriminations as they arise within their own structures of governing.”

What I find particularly useful about this is that it seems to me to be stressing the need for processes that actually construct individuals as activists who can work together for change. I get worried when I hear people in political parties talking about people in movements as if they are somehow inferior and not a production system that is absolutely germane to their own chances of future success. So can I push you a little more on this?

CD: I talk about this a little in the book when I discuss the analysis of Pepe Fernandez Albertos, who claims Podemos went from being an ‘activist party’ to more of a ‘class-based party’. The subtext of what he is saying appears to be that Podemos has made this almost quantitative calculation that the activists are, at best, 8% of the Spanish population and then thought, “If we can access this much broader swathe of people, then we won’t depend on them so much, and maybe we won’t need them!”

But not so fast. They may be a minor part of the demographic that you are appealing to, but at the same time they constitute the entirety of the extent to which you are considered a legitimate new democratic actor – they define that advantage, and all of your social innovations are linked to them. So if they don’t like you, you’re in trouble.

I am sometimes asked about the territorially-based ‘circulos’. People say, “Well those are not so prominent any more are they? So how can people hold the leaders of Podemos to account?” Again, not so fast. Do you really think Podemos doesn’t have to be accountable if the PHA doesn’t like their housing policy? If the PAH doesn’t like Podemos’ housing policy, then Podemos is dead.

There was a moment recently when the PAH criticised Ada Colau for not doing enough to alleviate the housing problem in Barcelona, which is difficult to say the least. And Ada Colau responded quite astutely to those who objected to the criticism, “No. We are doing everything we can and la PAH is doing exactly what they should be doing.” And she was absolutely right: that is the way it has to work. “No. We are doing everything we can and la PAH is doing exactly what they should be doing.” She was absolutely right.

RB: Jorge Moruno seems to agree with you on this in your interview: he says, citizen movements should have their own autonomy. Relationships with them should not be organic, but ones of support and tension, so that they act as a counter-power.”  It’s a new notion of representation – perhaps we could call it a 'staggered representation' – or as Paolo Gerbaudo suggests, a ‘participatory representation’… But in that same interview, Moruno gives us a different formulation again of what it is that Podemos wishes to represent.

He says, “to become a political instrument in the hands of a social majority that was severely hurt by the economic crisis… in order to make the institutions serve the people again. That has been the driving force all along.”

That’s different from a class-based party. This is where the concept of political hegemony returns, isn’t it – when you start talking about a ‘social majority’?

CD:  This is aspirational and I have to say that, personally, I disagree with that discourse aimed at the social majority. I understand that it is politically expedient, but that’s exactly why I favour maintaining my distance from a political party. I believe the quality of a democracy depends on how you treat vulnerable minorities, not on consolidating the tyranny of the majority, which is to some extent present in that discourse about the ‘social majority’.

RB: As Maeckelbergh puts it in her definition, the second property of horizontality is that it ,” functions through the political structure of networks and not the geographically delineated space of the nation-state’, and thirdly, it “embraces a rejection of uniformity as the guiding ideal of democratic deliberation in favour of a system that fosters diversity”. Isn’t this the key point – that it is not clear how any political party claiming to represent people, can actually afford to concede that there is no such thing as a monocultural ‘National Us’, and – whisper it softly – even go so far as to invite people to participate in finding a way of co-existing to their mutual benefit.

Yet if you are thinking about creating a ‘new class’ for the society we want to live in, you do have to do that through the smartness that arises from such diversity – isn’t that a really important feature of these movements?

CD:  I would fully agree with that. Podemos too do more than hint at it when they talk about Spain as a ‘plurinational state’ – to put the plural in there is important to them, and the strong position they have taken in favour of immigrants discursively, and including them in their lists also shows this. Podemos has the first black representative in Spain’s Congress now: I believe Rita Bosaho, Alicante’s new MP, comes from the former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea. So I do think putting this thinking into practise is really important for them.

Moreover, when Podemos made the decision, as they were declining in the polls, to go with these different candidacies in the regions of Catalonia and Galicia and the very successful candidates of May 2015 agreed to support Podemos in return, it suddenly produced a very interesting situation. You have En Comu in Catalonia, Podemos in most of Spain, you have En Marea in Galicia. This weird fit that Podemos is willing to embody makes it a ‘pluralistic thing’, but is at the same time a wise move, as is maybe the decision of Íñigo Errejón, Podemos’ director of several electoral campaigns and member of the Congress of Deputies, to replace the phrase ‘the social majority’ with “the social majorities”!

Ultimately, a lot of what characterises Podemos is its rejection, having been born out it, of the marginality of the left. That is what makes them so exciting to a lot of people. Pablo’s emphasis on winning, his often-cited discussions with Moruno about making post-Fordist theory accessible to a truck driver who has not been reading Negri’s work…all of this makes them rather exciting for a lot of people, and effective politically.

But I’m more interested in phenomena like the mobilisations of the street-workers in Barcelona, mobilisations by people who are often lumped into an underclass in our societies and forgotten, if not outright attacked, in the mainstream conversation. When you have a social majority that either rejects or does not recognise their contribution to society, and they couch their references to them in some new rhetoric about social hygiene and civic virtue, I think it’s up to truly democratic actors to take an unpopular stance, like recognising the street union that organised these groups of informal workers despite their lack of a legal framework.

An emancipatory project needs to look into the margins of our society and ask how we are treating people there. An emancipatory project needs to look into the margins of our society and ask how we are treating people there, and not to fall into the temptation of saying, “The social majority wants clean streets – by which they pretty much mean streets with no non-white bodies – and we’ve got to deliver.” Because the ideas of the majority are articulated in an alienated society that determines what life is worth through a capitalist value system. The fact is that if you want social transformation and a shift in values, you are going to have to look to the margins to help enact this change. So I do worry when I hear an emphasis on a majority-based discourse.

RB: To what extent do you think this emphasis on capturing the social majority also arises from Podemos’ great interest in the science and art of political communication. Because our world does seem to be poised half in the era of mass communication, and half in an age of something much more diversifying. But of course Podemos was born out of a tv station wasn’t it? So you might expect them to have a very distinct sense of how to win games at that level, which is very much what I think of as ‘National Us’-forging territory…?

CD: Podemos was born out of a communications project, out of a local access TV debate show. It was a very small channel that created a substantial internet community around it, where there was constant discussion and debate. And a lot of the people who would become very important in Podemos would read it all; they treated those threads as a laboratory for research into what it would take to articulate this 15M multitude into a viable political project for institutional change.

It was sort of an obsession. Pablo frequently talks about these discussions with Moruno, where they would spend hours trying to turn complex analytical insights into something you can easily explain to people, in short little sound bites. Their phrase ‘La Casta’ arose in this way: they couldn’t quite deploy ‘the 99%’ here because they felt it didn’t quite adapt to the particularities of Spanish society, but la casta certainly did. Spain has always been a landowning, latifundios-run country and when you talk about ‘the caste’, it is clearly the people who have passed their wealth on from generation to generation.

That expanded into the political sphere through the housing and construction bubbles and so, even if you’ve never seen them, when you talk about ‘the caste’, people know exactly who you are talking about! You see their names plastered all over buildings. The guy who was the president of Barcelona’s football club is also the president of Nuñez y Navarro, the main property speculator in Catalonia, and he was also found guilty of corruption. In Spain, you can see immediately that these people don’t have to pay the same penalties as others do. So the term “caste” makes sense.

The new term they have come up with is ‘the bunker’, which refers to the pact that is likely to form between PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos. The new term they have come up with is ‘the bunker’, which refers to the pact that is likely to form between PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos. They call it “the bunker of 1978”, 1978 being the year of the constitution. It implies that they’re the ones who don’t want to change the constitution in any meaningful way, that they are the ones who are bunkering down while change is on the outside trying to knock on their doors. You can tell when the term resonates, because the other parties try to use the same term and say – “well – Podemos are the real bunker” and so on.

Alex Sakalis (AS): When we met in Barcelona, you seemed pretty convinced that there would be new regional elections this year, and now suddenly we see that a new Catalonian government has formed – so what has happened?

CD: What happened was that the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), which are the independentist radical left ultimately decided to support a government which is a coalition between the right wing nationalists and the progressive nationalists, a candidacy they called Junts Pel Si ‘Together for YES’. CUP granted them their support conditional upon a series of their own impositions, but in the process they accepted what I consider a lot of very humiliating conditions imposed on them.

They have basically formed an independentist government that supposedly will make Catalonia an independent nation within 18 months. That’s what they are supporting. So now we have a new president that comes from the same right-wing party as the last president, Artur Mas, who is even described by some as Mas’s right hand man, but they have removed Mas from the equation.

However, Mas has said that 18 months from now he will run once again in new elections, to be the president of this new independent republic. They also got rid of a few more key figures from the last government, notably the former Interior Minister, Felip Puig, a political hoodlum who had a long history of repressing social movements, and a few others. But they still put the right wing nationalists in government with this coalition. And so now you have this situation of an ongoing stand off between Catalonia and the central state. They still put the right wing nationalists in government with this coalition. Now you have this ongoing stand off between Catalonia and the central state.

RB: Where is Ada Colau in all that?

CD:  That’s the very interesting question, because what was likely to happen if new regional elections had taken place was that a new candidacy would have emerged from En Comú Podem, the Catalan coalition that went with Podemos in the state elections and cleaned up in Catalonia. They wiped out everybody else, from the smallest town to the biggest city. A few conservative strongholds remained, but everywhere else they cleaned up. So it seems that they could have done quite well if they had run with this new project with Ada Colau’s approval.

But what would that have meant for CUP? When Artur Mas pushed them up against a wall on the issue of whether or not to support a Junts Pel Si government, CUP’s assembly ended with 1015 votes in favor and 1015 against. Statistically improbable enough, but it happened. Being so split, if regional elections had happened again, En Comú Podem would likely have taken a lot of their votes, Junts Pel Si would have taken the rest, and CUP might well have been all but dissolved at the level of Catalonia. That was a problem.

When the latest phase of the independence movement for Catalonia started in September 2012, CUP, who were strictly a Murray Bookchin-style municipalist platform before this, decided to make the jump to the Catalan elections. As I say in the book, this was the first time that any of those involved in the indignados movement in Catalonia had an up-close experience of a party they liked running in elections. When we saw the faces of the CUP candidates, a lot of us would say, “Oh I know that guy, he was helping us kick the police out of Plaça Catalunya. I would totally vote for that guy!” They came in saying that they wanted to be a Trojan horse for the social movements in this new context. Eventually, they became a major part of the debate, and in a lot of ways, the social movements’ votes were split between them and whatever Podemos had forged with the Greens in the last regional elections.

I would claim that right now, the independence process is the most stabilising debate in Spain. For the most part it brings neoliberals together: the right-wing Catalan nationalists and the progressive Catalan nationalists on the one hand, and PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos on the other side. So you have a territorial debate faced with total polarisation with no-one ceding anything, and for the radical democrats in the social movements, it divides them along lines that don’t necessarily have to be an identitarian debate, but can go that way very quickly.

So the indignados who have been working on a certain type of unity through praxis now have to ask themselves: “oh, do I feel more Catalan, or more Spanish; do I want to separate from Spain – or take the middle road Podemos advocates where you put pressure on the central state to give more autonomy to Catalonia?” Suddenly it becomes this very nuanced debate where the more categorical you are, the easier it is to gather support because you are talking about something that is really quite visceral.

In a sense, the social movements are split on the issue and the right to decide is what unites them most: well let’s just vote! That has been Podemos’ position, and Ada Colau and En Comu Podem say,” I may have my own position, yes or no (for Ada Colau it is ‘yes’) – but the main commitment has to be to a referendum – the only thing that will get us over this impasse is to vote.” Podemos is saying the same thing, and I personally agree that it is the only way to move the debate forward.

RB: How does this hybrid party that you now describe Podemos as being impact on the Spanish parliamentary landscape overall?

CD: I don’t know how many people saw the results of the December 20 elections as great. I saw them as great, because it made long-lasting two-way pacts just completely impossible.

Now PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos are likely to go together in some way or another. I don’t think that is very convincing, because PSOE has survived as long as they have because they’ve been capable of polarising with the PP on issues like abortion, social spending, research and development and so on. And Ciudadanos depended on looking like something bright, shiny and new to create the support that it got. So if the regime crisis Podemos are always talking about is embodied by the two establishment parties, supported mostly by people who are over 65, plus their wealthy nephew, Ciudadanos, then that’s great for Podemos, since this leaves the bulk of the opposition to them and the nationalist parties for the next four years. If the regime crisis Podemos are always talking about is embodied by the two establishment parties, plus their wealthy nephew, Ciudadanos – then that’s great for Podemos.

PSOE will lose the opportunity to stop the haemorraghing that Podemos gave them; Ciudadanos will lose even more of its lustre by pacting with the two establishment parties that they were born supposedly to question. And their pact together just proves Podemos’ ‘bunker’ point. All of this can make antagonist politics very interesting indeed, for Podemos, their affiliates, and for the social movements, too.

One sign worries me, though. In the years since the independence process took place, when voting became believable as a more radical gesture – whether through a vote for independence or for a more radical party – the streets stopped moving. Now there is not much happening on the streets because we are in this strange, contingent moment when we are trying to figure out what the scenario is. I imagine that the establishment powers kind of like the confusion, since they can just keep doing what they do.

So now the question for Podemos, their affiliates and the municipal candidacies, who have a very uphill battle ahead of them, is to what extent there is a motor for emancipatory change that lies beyond party logic and is not entirely contained within the sphere of electoral politics, but rather spills over into the streets and every day life. There has to be a real push from the outside to create the pressure necessary to enact change.

That’s a challenge for the movements right now. How do we take the initiative and start to set the agenda again? When there was no Podemos and PSOE couldn’t be relied upon and Izquierda Unida was talking to itself, we, the indignados, were the de facto opposition. What we are seeing now, the new scenario that has arisen, is the effect of 15M’s ‘first invisible legislature’, as Raimundo Viejo puts it. We were the ones setting the agenda and saying, “We need to talk about housing! We need to talk about the Troika! We need to talk about austerity, social rights, precariousness and emigration, now that Spain is a sending country!” We need to recapture that agenda, and a stronger presence in the media, on the streets, in workplaces and in all of those “old school” battlegrounds.

RB: and what about the municipal level, that has seen such successes? What’s the hope there?

CD:  A great deal of their support for Podemos came from their clear realisation that they are strongly limited at the municipal level by a state that acts against them all the time: first, you have to deal with the regional government that is in opposition, then with the state which is in opposition, then with the European Union which is in opposition. At the city level, you can do a lot, but you are constantly going to find yourself up against higher legislation, like the newly reformed penal code, for instance.

RB: Can they encourage the street?

CD:  Absolutely. I think they must too, because the municipal governments are aware of the direct contact between neighbourhood organisations and the bodies in the streets. How they react to those bodies in the streets, which discourses they choose to be the microphones for, which marginalised populations they choose to champion. That’s what is going to do a lot to really demonstrate the viability of an emancipatory or transformative political practise. Needs are far more important than hopes.

If they can’t demonstrate their commitment to such a transformation, then it won’t be perceived as a need. And needs are far more important than hopes. The municipal governments have to articulate that tension we were talking about, the one Colau identified when addressing the PAH’s dissatisfaction.

And once again it comes back to the social movements. They have to make it a necessity for the city government and the new political actors to respond to them. Let’s not forget that the streets can go in two directions: they can be reactionary or transformative. If progressives focus too much on the institutional sphere, the right wing can take the streets – they’ve done it before. If we don’t, someone else will, and they will set the agenda. With the shift to the institutions, there has been a brain drain towards the institutions. So we need new energy and new voices. And we need to be audacious again, and daring.

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