Saturday 7 February 2015

Podemos : We want no condescending saviours by Robert Neal Baxter


Robert Neal Baxter is a member of the Galizan People’s Union (UPG), a patriotic communist party and a founding member of the Galizan Nationalist Bloc (BNG), a left-wing nationalist front fighting for a Galizan Republic and a driving force within Galizan society. He also writes a monthly article for the on-line version of Terra e Tempo, a historical organ of Galizan nationalism now run by the Bautista Álvarez Foundation for Nationalist Studies, named after the founder and President of the UPG until 2008.

Podemos: We want no condescending saviours

Robert Neal Baxter

Any self-respecting left-wing or progressive activist should feel a deep mistrust towards the Podemos phenomenon, a ‘movement’ which sprang up out of nowhere. With no known grassroots involvement or solid work with the masses (in Galiza, at least), it owes its rapid rise in popularity instead to its very deft handling of the the media, especially the television, becoming the political equivalent of the stars created by the hollow and contrived popularity of TV talent shows. It doesn’t matter what one does: all that counts is to win over the viewers any which way. Appearances are all that matter and in this case the message is just another part of the image: ‘Out with the old and in with the new!’ might well be their rallying cry.

Not one single day goes by without the small screen churning out the leaders of Podemos, especially their messianic guru, into the livings rooms of the voting public. And not just in the political news sections, but also on the chat shows, slanging matches-cum-debates and other carefully-staged junk programs. And they’re not alone, with the spanking new General-Secretary of the Spanish ‘Socialist’ Party also trying his hand at it, but just ending up making a fool of himself.

It’s worth asking what the TV channels stand to gain by holding the doors of their studios wide open to this party and creating a movement almost from scratch in a matter of months and then feeding it continuously, especially bearing in mind that several of these channels belong to some of the most reactionary, ultraconservative media conglomerates. 

In Galiza we already witnessed the record upsurge of the Galician Alternative of the Left (AGE), which didn’t even have a name until a week before the elections. And all thanks to the mainstream press bent on getting rid of nationalism as the only real threat the status quo before bursting the bubble to make more space for the ultraliberal Spanish party. 

The economic interests that lurk behind these groups weren’t born yesterday and they know full well that the revolution won’t be televised and that in the medium and long term they will be able to reap the benefits of their little scheme crafted to appear, for the moment at least, to be on the side of protest.

What better way to beat one’s enemies than to make it look as if you’re on their side? And once the discontent has been duly channelled, all that remains to be done is to take it all apart in the same way that they pieced it together in the first place. 

We have all seen how the Greek radical ‘left’ reached an agreement with the most conservative right-wing. The promises of populism are short-lived and, in the meantime, the foundations of power remain intact.

The name of Podemos (literally ‘We can’) say a lot or, more precisely, says very little at all. By taking up Obama’s vague Yes we can slogan (Yes we can occupy Afghanistan and bomb Iraq and Libya, Yes we can back the terrorist Zionist State, etc.), this movement avoids any clear definition of what exactly it can do. It is even tempting to think that all they can do is win the elections. And then what? This lack of definition, in name and deed, gives them greater leeway to manoeuvre in a permanent wash of ambiguity, fishing around left, right and centre in their quest for a win at the polls. In a word, surfing on the crest of the wave of the legitimate discontent felt by a wide section of the population regarding the corruption scandals which repeatedly smear the political arena upheld by the traditional two-party system.

Podemos likes nothing more than to denounce corruption in all of the ‘traditional’ parties without exception by repeating the mantra that the political ‘class’ (a post-modernist concept bearing little relation to the division of labour) is run by a clique (or ‘caste’ in their Newspeak). 

Podemos takes pains to distance itself from all of this by setting itself up as the self-proclaimed mouth-piece of ordinary citizens, seemingly forgetting that a sizeable number its own leadership is made up of university lecturers… Apparently the aim is to smash the two-party system which alternates between the Spanish ‘Socialist’ Party (PSOE) and the right-wing People’s Party (PP), whilst at the same time ensuring that if everything seems to change, deep-down everything remains the same, by refusing to call into question the continuation of the Spanish State. 

This is where Podemos converges in practice with the other emerging ‘new’ political forces such as Citizens - Party of the Citizenry (C’s) and Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD). This aspect comes out clearly in Galiza where they are openly hostile to the Galizan language, debating whether or not to use it as their language of public expression (the answer is ‘not’). This debate is unheard of in Galiza across the political board, even going so far as to use the warped Spanish names of the Galizan towns and cities which harp back to darker times of the not-so-distant past.

Under all the window-dressing of a revolutionary movement bent on uprooting a rotten system, Podemos is really just waving the old rag of ‘national’ unity: “I am a patriot”, declared Pablo Iglesias, “and I don’t like having military from other countries on the national territory (sic.). I don’t want NATO in our country.” 

A sovereign Galizan Republic would also break with NATO, but not for that kind of jingoistic reasons but because Galizan nationalism has always been deeply committed to the principle of anti-imperialism.

But it would seem that good old imperialism has gone out of fashion. So, while Galizan nationalism stands steadfastly by the Palestinian people, unerringly denouncing the genocide, the official Podemos science section refuses to join the international academic boycott against the Zionist State, claiming that “it makes no sense to blacklist countries at the scientific level because science is neutral and no frontiers, no language, no politics and no wars.” And yet everything would seem to indicate that the academic institutions of the Zionist State are abetting the on-going occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Today, the national question and the emancipation of the oppressed peoples play a key role in the political life of the Spanish State. 

And whether one likes it or not, and whether one is a nationalist or not, the possibility of Catalonia gaining independence holds out the hope of a genuine and profound transformation of the single State as it stands today, a hang-over from Franco’s dictatorship. 

So where does Podemos stand on this question? It’s hard to tell because, as usual, they bend with the wind. 

On the one hand, in their publications they “recognise the right of the different peoples of the EU to constitute themselves as such and to decide democratically over their future.” But the devil is in the detail: Which peoples are they referring to exactly? Again it’s hard to tell. 

At a rally in Catalonia, their supreme leader acknowledged that “the Spanish caste has insulted Catalonia and ignored the fact that Spain is a country made up of different nations”. But at the same time he refused to take a clear stance in favour of a referendum, calling instead upon the pro-independence movement to “lay down their flags” and expressing his hope that Catalonia wouldn’t ‘leave’. 

In contrast, however, the party’s third in command, Íñigo Errejón, didn’t mince his words when he jumped on the bandwagon of the PP by declaring that the independence of Catalonia can only be decided by the whole of Spain. And the independence of the Sahara by the whole of Morocco too, no doubt.

One is either with the people or not at all and when millions of people take to the streets as they did in Catalonia and elsewhere demanding not independence but the simple right to have a say in their own future, the will of the people is clear, calling for the recognition of the basic democratic right of the peoples to exercise self-determination. 

Indeed, what could be more democratic than a referendum? But Podemos realises what is really at stake: “Catalonia is a priority for us because we won’t win in Spain without winning in Catalonia,” stated Marc Bartomeu, the General-Secretary of the Barcelona section of Podemos.

Galizan nationalism has always defended its people, its workers, peasants and fishermen and women, and all those hardest hit by the effects of the capitalist crisis (public employees, OAPs cheated out of their life savings by banking scams, etc.). 

And we will continue to do so, convinced of the need to uphold independent structures untethered by the yoke of decisions taken outside our country which go against the interests of the Galizan people.   

We will win our liberation, with our very own hands!


The title and the closing line of this article are taken from the American version of the Internationale. The equivalent lines of the original French translate as “There are no supreme saviours” and “Producers, let us save ourselves”.

The Galician Alternative of the Left (AGE) is the name of a political coalition primarily made up of the Spanish United Left (IU) and Anova, a break-away from the Galizan Nationalist Bloc (BNG), plus a range of other much smaller groups and parties.

Originally published 06/02/2015 on the site
Translated and adapted by the author

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