Sunday 24th May will go down as a landmark in Spanish history. Municipal and regional elections were held across Spain. The right-wing PP (People’s Party) was unseated from most of their historical strongholds. More important, however, was the sharp turn to the left in Spanish society, best exemplified by the rise of Podemos and the electoral fronts that it led.
Sunday 24th May will go down as a landmark in Spanish history. Municipal and regional elections were held across Spain (except in Galicia, Andalusia, the Basque Country and Catalonia, where the vote was for municipal but not for regional governments). The right-wing PP (People’s Party) was unseated from most of their historical strongholds. However, the sharp turn to the left in Spanish society is best exemplified by the rise of Podemos and the electoral fronts that it led, which won in Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Coruña, Oviedo, Cádiz…In most big cities the Socialist Party (PSOE), only socialist in name, has been overtaken by Podemos and has now become a secondary player in Spanish politics, where Podemos is now setting the agenda.
The results of these elections have opened a new phase in Spain’s turbulent political situation, after the emergence of Podemos as a key political actor in the EU elections of last year, and its subsequent breakneck rise to prominence as the most important left-wing force in the country. The first phase had culminated in the lead up to these elections, with the consolidation of Podemos as the major threat to the Spanish ruling class and to the political regime on which its power rests. The vicious attacks and slander which the bourgeois political parties and media directed against Podemos, accusing the party of being funded by Cuba and Venezuela, of having connections to the Basque terrorist group ETA and even of being related to no other than Osama Bin Laden, only fuelled the rise of the party and accelerated the class polarisation of Spanish society.
Now, the Popular Unity lists spearheaded by Podemos, but which also gather together other smaller parties and social movements, are expected to take over the biggest cities in the country: Madrid and Barcelona. Other regional and provincial capitals, such as Zaragoza, Coruña, Oviedo, Cádiz and Santiago de Compostela, will also be governed by Popular Unity lists. The developments of the last year in Spain, marked by the rise of Podemos, and which have culminated in these momentous elections, have no precedents in contemporary Spanish history. Perhaps, the only event that can compare to what the country has gone through are the municipal elections of April 1931, where a landslide victory of left-wing and republican parties led to a popular uprising and to the flight of the Spanish king, to the proclamation of the Spanish Republic, and to the beginning of the process that would culminate in the Spanish Revolution and Civil War. To refer to the recent events as revolutionary is no exaggeration.
The fact that in 4 out of the 5 biggest cities in the country, as well as in other provincial capitals, the PSOE has been overtaken by forces that are to its left represents a qualitative change in the balance of forces in the big cities and reflects the decline of the PSOE as the major force among the Spanish working class. It is important to note that the bulk of Podemos’ votes came from working-class neighbourhoods that voted for this party en bloc. In the capital, the votes received by Ahora Madrid, the front led by Podemos, and its charismatic leader, Manuela Carmena, a labour lawyer and a former Communist Party member, came from the industrial belt that surrounds Madrid: Vallecas, Carabanchel, Hortaleza etc.
In Barcelona, the Podemos-sponsored list, Barcelona en Comú, headed by the anti-evictions activist Ada Colau, got most of its support in working-class districts such as Nou Barri, Poble Sec or Sant Andreu.
In Valencia the third biggest city in the country and historically a bastion of the conservatives, a party that is to the left of the PSOE, the left-wing Valencian regionalists of Compromís, will be able to form a government with the support of Podemos. Another traditional stomping ground of the right, Zamora, will be ruled by the United Left. But there is more. On the Canary Islands, Podemos won in Las Palmas and came second in Tenerife. In Aragon, it came second in Zaragoza, Huesca, and Teruel, ahead of the PSOE. On the Balearic Islands, it came second in Palma de Mallorca, again ahead of the PSOE. In Asturias, it came second in Oviedo, Gijón, Avilés and Langreo. In the Basque Country, it came ahead of the PSOE and the PP, only surpassed by the nationalist parties, and also got more votes than the PSOE in Navarre.
The momentum generated before the elections was tremendous and foreshadowed the ground-breaking results and the radical turn to the left in society. Thousands of people were involved in the campaigns of the Popular Unity lists, which saw mass rallies and assemblies and a vibrant and enthusiastic campaign despite very limited economic resources. Ahora Madrid for example, ran its campaign on €200,000, three quarters of which came from sympathisers’ donations. Conversely, the demoralisation of the ruling class was reflected in the gloomy and pessimistic campaign of the PSOE and, especially, of the PP, whose candidates were heckled by ordinary people whenever they came out on the streets.
The right-wing candidates booed:
The reasons behind these explosive events lie not in the strategic genius of crafty political leaders, nor in the intrigues of conspiratorial forces, but in the revolutionary character of our epoch, expressed in the radical change in the political consciousness of millions of people that have been shaken and awoken from the humdrum of everyday life by the pitiless pressure exerted by the deepest economic and social crisis in the history of capitalism, both in Spain and across the world.
The defeat of the right and the decline of the PSOE
The PP got 27% of the vote, the worst result in its history, losing 2.4 million votes in comparison with the last municipal and regional elections, losing key constituencies like Madrid, Valencia, Valladolid, Alicante and Palma de Mallorca. It will also be unseated from most Andalusian cities: Huelva, Seville, Cordoba and Cádiz; in Vitoria in the Basque Country, and in Badalona in Catalonia. In another stronghold, Galicia, it has been expelled from all the provincial capitals. Moreover, in the regional elections it has lost 6 of the 11 regions which it had held up until now: Extremadura, Valencia, the Balearic Island, Castilla La Mancha, Cantabria and Aragon, where the PSOE will take over with the support of Podemos (except in Cantabria, where a regionalist party won). The blow to the PP is most dramatic in Valencia, where after 20 years of conservative government, marked by shameless corruption, it has lost half of its votes, around 600,000.
The PP will only hold, with slim margins and relying on the backing of the new right-wing party Ciudadanos, La Rioja, Murcia, Castilla y León and the regional government in Madrid. The latter is particularly shocking. The left won a majority of the votes. However, the leadership of the United Left had a sectarian line and refused to enter an electoral alliance with Podemos, to the effect that they were unable to win any seats, artificially propping up the PP and Ciudadanos, which won a majority of one seat. Had the United Left and Podemos stood together, the regional government of Madrid would also be in the hands of the left.
The blow to the morale of the ruling class that these elections represent has driven leading right-wing politicians and different employers’ associations to call for a pact between the PP, the PSOE and the new right-wing party Ciudadanos against Podemos. The leadership of the PSOE, a party that has been in decline for years, has so far declined to join an alliance with the right, although their willingness to support Podemos is yet to be put to test. That the Spanish ruling class may try to draw the PSOE into an alliance with the PP shows their historical short-sightedness and their incapacity to draw any lessons from Greece. In truth, the ruling class is behaving like a starving animal that has burnt up its reserves of fat. If in the epoch of the rise of capitalism the bourgeoisie was able to look ahead and plan in terms of decades and centuries, in the current period the crisis of capitalism impels them to constantly improvise to survive for the next weeks and months. If they are able, either in the aftermath of these elections or in the near future, to bring the PSOE into short-term alliances against Podemos, the collapse of the socialists will accelerate and the progressive veneer they had heretofore given the system will evaporate, leading to an even more resounding victory of the radical left in the near future.
The PSOE has been in decline for several years, since the Zapatero government of 2008-11 began to carry out austerity measures. The demise of the PSOE could not be stopped by the desperate attempts by the bourgeois media to inflate the candidacy of its youthful leader, Pedro Sánchez, who was hoped to act as a charismatic counterbalance to Pablo Iglesias. The untrammelled decline of the PSOE reflects the inevitable collapse of reformism across Europe and the world. Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, has rightly spoken of the pasokization of the PSOE, that is, it is following the path of its Greek counterpart, the PASOK, which did away with its left-wing credentials and turned its traditional base of support against it, becoming politically irrelevant, by faithfully following the dictates of the capitalists and the Troika and siding with the right against Syriza. In these elections the PSOE will be able to take power in most regions and provincial capitals, but will do so on the basis of minority governments that will require the support of Podemos and other forces to its left. Indeed, paradoxically, the rise of Podemos has also turned these into the worst results in the history of the PSOE, receiving only 25% of the vote and losing 600,000 votes in comparison to the municipal and regional elections of 2011.
Pablo Iglesias has correctly stated that the priority for Podemos is to kick out the PP, and that this will require voting in minority governments of the PSOE in many places. However, he has also rightly affirmed that Podemos will not join any electoral coalitions with the PSOE but will rather critically support it from outside, drawing the experiences of the coalition government between the PSOE and United Left in Andalusia, where the latter, hungry for bureaucratic positions, was badly discredited by carrying out PSOE-driven cuts.
Ciudadanos: What is it, and where is it heading?
Although this party existed in Catalonia as a Spanish nationalist organisation, it only became prominent nationally in the recent period. Despite its cheap and superficial progressive glitter, of a party that peddles a “renovation” of politics, Ciudadanos is in reality an instrument to prop up, or if necessary replace, the battered PP as the key Spanish bourgeois party. There was the hope among the ruling class that, by inflating a new party with a youthful leader, Albert Rivera (who has a shady past in the far right), the rise of Podemos could be undercut. Consequently, for the past year, Ciudadanos has been barefacedly buoyed up in the bourgeois media. This calls to mind the Greek party Potami, rapidly inflated in the lead up to the January general elections, and whose thin veneer of standing for a “new type of politics” only shrouded a squarely bourgeois party that represented the last card of the Greek ruling class to stop SYRIZA and to try to scrape off enough votes to stitch together a capitalist coalition.
Much expectation was generated around Ciudadanos in these elections, although the hopes of the ruling class that this party might become a right-wing version of Podemos have been foiled. The polls were giving them 18% of the vote, but in the municipal elections they obtained on average a meagre 6.5% and at a regional level only 9.5%.
The reasons behind the stagnation of Ciudadanos are political. In the course of the campaign, the perception spread that this party is simply a new whitewashed version of the PP, with which it was bound to converge in local and regional coalitions after the elections. This is what dented much of its potential support from layers that have recently become pollicised and who sought in Ciudadanos a “progressive” alternative untarnished by corruption and that stood for social rights. The change in the perception of this new party and the unmasking of its reactionary character was largely a product of the agitation conducted by Podemos and Pablo Iglesias, who sharply attacked Ciudadanos as the party of the rich.
Ciudadanos now finds itself in a difficult situation. If, in the areas where this is possible, it votes the PP into local and regional minority governments, it will overtly associate itself with the right and with the hated PP, and will undercut its prospects for growth in the lead up to the general elections of December. It will not be able to conceal its support for PP administrations by abstaining in the voting process, because the new peculiar makeup of most municipal councils and regional governments and the complex laws behind investitures implies that an abstention of Ciudadanos will automatically allow the creation of left-wing governments. This party will unavoidably have to vote openly for the PP candidates for the right to stay in power in most places. If Ciudadanos were not to do this, the PP would suffer a catastrophic defeat, because it would only be able to hold onto power in a couple of big cities and would lose all regional governments except Galicia. On the other hand, if Ciudadanos backed the PSOE in big municipalities and regions, in addition to strengthening their opponents, they would lose much of their following among former PP voters, who represent the rump of their supporters and, probably, it would end up splitting, because the PP would not find it difficult to buy off local party candidates and officials in key constituencies to ensure the necessary support to hold onto power.
The bourgeoisie is interested in preserving the unblemished image of Ciudadanos until the general elections in November, so as to take away from Podemos at least some of its potential voters from among the electorate that is dissatisfied with the PP and the PSOE, and therefore to ensure the necessary number of seats in parliament for a stable capitalist government. But now Ciudadanos is tangled in the web of interests of the big parties, and its overtly pro-capitalist outlook limits their influence among the working class and the impoverished layers of the middle class that have turned left. The movements of the party in the coming weeks will determine its fate for the near future.
The United Left
Izquierda Unida, the United Left, for a long time stood as the main alternative to the left of the PSOE. In the last few years, they made important gains, capitalising on the radicalisation created by the crisis. However, their appeal was limited by a grey, bureaucratic leadership, keener to strike deals with the PSOE than to provide a revolutionary leadership. This scuttled their gains and paved the way for the rise of Podemos, a party that in opinion polls is consistently considered to be to the left of the United Left – a perception that prevails even among United Left voters. The results of the United Left in these elections reflect the collapse of the party, which has only been able to maintain its influence in small towns and villages where it has deep roots and where Podemos has no cadres.
Nevertheless, within the United Left it has become commonplace to say that this is not the first time the organisation has stood at 4-5% in the polls, and there is a belief that the party will once again be able to recover. And it is true that the United Left was able to pull through in the past. The difference is that then it had no rivals to the left of the PSOE. With the arrival on the scene of Podemos, however, this is no longer the case.
In reality, the 4.73% achieved on May 24 is the worst result in the history of the United Left in municipal elections, where the party has traditionally obtained better results than in general elections. And while it maintained its local presence in rural areas, it collapsed in big cities, in the midst of a tectonic shift in society towards the left.
The United Left had the opportunity to rebuild part of their base of support in big cities in these elections, but the petty material interests of their regional bureaucratic apparatuses led them to boycott the vast majority of the Popular Unity lists, with the excuse of not wanting to dilute their banner. The United Left could have come out strengthened in Madrid, had it backed the Podemos-sponsored candidate Manuela Carmena and her vibrant campaign against the corrupt and hated right-wing government of Esperanza Aguirre. Instead, the regional leadership of the party refused to endorse Carmena and pushed through its own candidates, quelling at the same time a crippling internal rebellion from the rank-and-file. Today, split and broken, nobody remembers the United Left in Madrid, whose local and regional apparatus is deservedly looked down on with contempt by social activists.
Now for the first time in its history, the United Left has no representation in the cities of Madrid and Valencia. The likely municipal victory of the party in Zamora is an exception attributable to very specific conditions. By contrast, in those areas like Alicante, Barcelona or Galicia where the local leadership put the interests of the movement before that of their apparatchiks, supporting the Popular Unity lists and standing side-by-side with Podemos, the United Left benefited from the general enthusiasm and radicalisation and contributed to the extraordinary results of the left-wing candidates.
In Andalusia, the regional apparatus of the United Left has played a shameful role in the boycott of Podemos and the Popular Unity lists. Where its membership was involved in supporting the Popular Unity candidates such as in Jaén, Dos Hermanas and elsewhere, the bureaucrats expelled or liquidated the local groups. This foolish policy led to the fragmentation and division of the candidates to the left of the PSOE, undermining their potential performance, which helped the PP to maintain a lead with the help of Ciudadanos that will allow them to hold onto power in Jaén, Málaga and Granada.
At a regional level, the United Left did not do any better. It has lost all its seats in the regional parliaments of Madrid and Valencia. In Extremadura, they paid dearly for their unprincipled opportunism in supporting the PP government in the past, and were kept out of the regional parliament.
The United Left faces the greatest challenge in its history. Its decline seems organic. Inside the organisation a magnificent tradition of struggle and a wealth of valuable local cadres coexist with a conservative, petty Social Democratic apparatus that only aspires to living on the crumbs of bourgeois governments, acting as the junior partner of the PSOE. This was demonstrated by the infamous coalition with the socialists in Andalusia after the 2012 elections. Jumping into an unprincipled coalition with the PSOE, with little to gain politically but with lots of full-time positions opening up for their leaders, they carried out austerity policies and tolerated the corruption of the socialists. The Madrid apparatus of the party and the right-wing faction of Gaspar Llamazares represent the classic example of these reformist bureaucrats. Any potential breakthrough for the United Left is permanently held back and jeopardised by this layer of careerists.
Only a head-on struggle to the end against the bureaucracy by Alberto Garzón and Julio Anguita, who represent the best traditions of the party and are the voice of the left in the organisation, will be able to save the United Left. They need to appeal to the honest rank-and-file militants and to the cadres of the party, agitating and convening extraordinary federal and local assemblies. In the past, Garzón has perhaps been too soft with the apparatus, refusing, for example, to openly condemn the divisive line of the Madrid leadership in the electoral campaign. Now the apparatus in Madrid and the faction led by the reformist Llamazares has launched an open challenge to Garzón and Anguita, blaming them for the electoral disaster of May 24. Not to pick up the gauntlet can only deepen the decline of the organisation in the run up to the November elections, isolating and destroying all that remains alive and vibrant within the party.
The key to the advance of Podemos was the move to the left
Undoubtedly, the force that comes out most strengthened from these elections, from every point of view, has been Podemos. There are many lessons to be drawn from this.
It appeared that Podemos had stagnated and was facing these elections at a low point. They had been declining in the polls for several months. While the vicious campaign of harassment and slander against them grew increasingly insolent and malicious, this did not explain the stagnation of the party. The fundamental problem was the erratic, hesitant and evasive attitude of the leadership in the face of relentless media pressure to force it to dilute and water down its programme. It was this wavering, its growing moderation, and an unclear and muddled programme, that led to the loss of the confidence of sections of Podemos supporters who sought an alternative that would provide a radical way out of the worsening social problems and corruption of the political system. The emergence of Ciudadanos, sponsored by big business and with substantial resources and overwhelming support in the media, was precisely intended to provide a “soft” and “reliable” alternative that could both appeal to those who felt let down by PODEMOS and who are disenchanted with the old capitalist parties, the PP and PSOE. The Andalusian elections, where PODEMOS achieved a satisfactory, but somewhat disappointing result of 15%, were the first serious warning that it was necessary to change the political line.
In a brief internal struggle inside the leadership, between a moderate wing which sought to further water down the original radicalism of Podemos, and the wing represented by Juan Carlos Monedero and Pablo Iglesias, which proposed a turn to the left, the latter position carried the day. As we stated in the previous article, this veering to the left in the orientation and language of Podemos was central to creating the conditions for a recovery of the organization and its expected vote, taking as its starting point the last election campaign.
The personal role played by comrade Pablo Iglesias in energizing the political agitation of Podemos during the election campaign is undeniable. The great results of Podemos and the lists that it endorsed could not have been obtained without the extraordinary mobilization seen in the lead up to the elections, that drew hundreds of thousands into the most intense, militant, passionate and emotional campaign seen in modern Spanish history. But it was not just Podemos. The Popular Unity lists it supported involved a whole range of movements and organisations that turned these electoral fronts into formidable weapons. This was best reflected in Barcelona, where the Barcelona en Comú list saw mass rallies and assemblies and generated unprecedented enthusiasm. What must be highlighted here is the role of different social movements and, especially, of the charismatic anti-evictions activist Ada Colau, who, from fighting the police during house repossessions, will become the new mayor of Barcelona.
The key to this popular mobilization has been the radical and passionate speeches with a strong class content that were seen during the campaign. There were constant references to the fight against the dictatorship, to defend workers against the “posh” and the rich, etc. More importantly, Pablo Iglesias, who veered to the left, made this his main asset in his speeches. From talking about being “neither left nor right” during the months of stagnation for Podemos and trying to appeal to the “middle class” through an increasingly moderate language, he now began attacking the “right”, recognizing in that term a powerful and deeply rooted political and social portrayal of the class enemy, capable of attracting and mobilizing the social base of Podemos, contradicting his previous theory that the idea of “Left-Right” was “outdated”. Not only that, Pablo Iglesias began to talk of socialism, of being the party of the working class and of the revolutionary traditions of Spain. Indeed, while in the past he had been cautious to associate himself with the fight for the republic, on the eve of the elections he was seen donning a republican t-shirt.
This turn to the left played a key role in the exposure of Ciudadanos before hundreds of thousands of people. The consistent linking of this party with the right and the rich has been essential to undermine the rise in electoral support for this reactionary organization, and uncover the veneer of being a “progressive” party standing “above class politics” to highlight its reactionary bourgeois character.
On the other hand, the repeated assertion from Pablo Iglesias that Podemos is the party of the “real socialists”, the party “of the working class and the impoverished middle classes”, not only undercut the rise of Ciudadanos but also strengthened its own appeal and was able to connect with the radicalism and discontent that exists in society.
Pablo Iglesias seems to have understood that the working class represents the majority of the population in advanced capitalist societies like Spain, and without their mass support it is impossible to build a powerful movement to come to power, and that a clear emphasis on social problems is the best way for Podemos to win those layers of the middle class hit hardest by the crisis of the system. This represents a great step forward in his political ideas, for which he should be congratulated.
The experiences of the SYRIZA government in Greece should reinforce this tendency. What has become clear from the Greek experience is that it is impossible to negotiate with the bourgeoisie and the EU, but that a programme for social transformation requires a frontal confrontation, expropriating their wealth of the capitalists and using it to plan the economy in the interest of the people.
In short, the key to the revitalization of Podemos and the reasons behind its electoral results has been its turn to the left and towards the working class. And if anything should be held against the direction of Podemos is that they didn’t prepare this turn months before, ending any ambiguities in their rhetoric and in the orientation of the organization, which would have allowed the party and its allies to come out even stronger after the elections of May 24.
What should be the line now for Podemos?
Podemos, both at the level of regional parliaments and at a local level faces important challenges. The political fragmentation that these elections have seen implies that the party will now have to navigate through a period of pacts and alliances with other forces to stop the PP from retaining power in key constituencies.
Pending the establishment of municipal and regional governments, we should demand that the PSOE, the United Left and other progressive forces, vote for the candidates of Podemos wherever they have become the biggest force on the left. We also agree with the statement by comrade Pablo Iglesias that the party’s priority should be to stop the PP. This involves promoting the creation of PSOE governments wherever it has come ahead of Podemos. However, while it will be necessary to vote in the PSOE in certain places, this should not involve entering into coalition governments with them, which will necessarily imply carrying out austerity policies as the junior partner of these reformists. Podemos has the opportunity to win over the majority of PSOE voters, who mostly belong to the working class, but we must remain in the opposition to fight in the streets against the policy of cuts they will try to push through. The lessons of the failure of the PSOE-United Left coalition in Andalusia should not be forgotten. That the base of support of the PSOE can be won over has already been revealed in many big cities, where the socialists are now a secondary player that has been overshadowed by Podemos.
The complexity of the election results has given rise to peculiar situations where Podemos will have to act with the utmost seriousness and honesty. Such is the case of Navarre and the Basque Country, where Podemos has emerged as the largest non-nationalist left-wing force. In the case of Navarre, Podemos has a pivotal position to get rid of the right-wing Spanish chauvinist party that has controlled this region for many years. The nationalist left here represents the biggest left-wing force, through Geroa Bai and Bildu, the former being the most important organisation. Its social base is the same as ours: workers, the youth and impoverished sectors of the middle class. We emphatically reject any political blackmail to try to intimidate us by saying that we should not facilitate the formation of a government in Navarre with the participation of Bildu. The bourgeoisie will try to stop the left by conjuring the ghost of the Basque terrorist group ETA, thus trying to scare Podemos away from collaborating with the nationalist left. This is a classic ruse in the hands of the Spanish ruling class, that has used the scarecrow of ETA, which has been inactive for many years, to intimidate the left into submission. This is rather ironic, coming from people who refuse to condemn the crimes of the Franco dictatorship, infinitely worse than those of ETA! An acceptance on the part of Podemos under pressure from the bourgeoisie of the continuation of a right-wing government in Navarre would mean a betrayal of the expectations that have been generated in Navarre among the youth and the workers for political change. As in the case of the PSOE in other areas, however, voting in left-wing parties to prevent the right from continuing in power does not mean that Podemos should get involved in coalitions where there is no possibility of implementing its program. This should be the line towards the regional government of Navarre, in the city of Pamplona, and in the Basque municipalities where similar circumstances prevail.
What should be Podemos’s plan in government?
Based on the results of May 24, Podemos should access power through the Popular Unity lists wherever they are the majority force within the left, either in minority governments or in coalitions with allied forces. But in any case Podemos must not surrender its program. It is preferable to call for new elections to demand a sufficient majority for its candidates, rather than engage in petty manoeuvres where the taking of power implies frustrating or betraying the expectations aroused.
The first step should be to audit the debts of municipal governments, exposing the corruption of the previous governments and repudiating the part of the debt that is considered illegal and illegitimate and that in any case represents a drag on the implementation of Podemos’s program, appealing for them to be taken over by the State or transferring them to those really responsible; the banks and other predatory capitalists and corrupt politicians. To access economic resources, Podemos should raise taxes on bank subsidiaries and large companies. The privatisation of public services should be reversed, and no cuts should be applied to public services, improving their quality and expanding social services (scholarships, cheap or free sports centres, municipal leisure and culture, etc.). Podemos must end evictions, offering alternative housing for evicted families and the homeless. This has become a key issue in Spain, which has seen hundreds of thousands of evictions in the past years, triggering a mass movement where working-class leaders like Ada Colau were steeled.
To cut the risk of corruption, senior officials should be removed. Public officials should be paid as a maximum the equivalent of the average wage of a skilled worker, around 2,000 euros.
Apart from other measures contained in the various election programmes of the Podemos and the Popular Unity lists, decisive steps should be taken towards the democratization of municipal governments, encouraging neighbourhood assemblies and giving full authority to discuss and decide on matters affecting local areas.
The first statements made by the elected left-wing candidates are very encouraging. Manuela Carmena in Madrid and Ada Colau in Barcelona have promised to put an end to evictions. In Barcelona, Ada Colau has promised to rescind all contracts with the Telefónica phone company, whose workers have been on strike for several weeks protesting against exploitative conditions. This is the way forward.
Preparing a future victory
Podemos will face the cutthroat opposition of the central government of Mariano Rajoy, which, if Podemos tries to push through with its programme, will try to drown financially the municipalities and will threaten to intervene against local councils if they disobey the existing restrictions on municipal spending.
Podemos must prepare, then, to organize and coordinate a joint struggle of the cities run by governments of Popular Unity in defence of the public sector and against the cuts, and be prepared to face the repression of the PP against the new regional and local opposition. An organized struggle of this kind, with solidarity demonstrations across the country, will play a huge role in advancing the political consciousness of millions of people who are still hesitant about supporting Podemos and will help them to arrive at the revolutionary conclusions that millions have already drawn.
The floodgates of social discontent have been opened, and the anger and frustration after years of crisis has crystallised into a political organisation. Podemos is increasingly seen as the main instrument for social, political and economic change that is drawing together millions of oppressed and marginalised people. Its leadership must be up to its historical tasks.
Although it is lacking a worked-out socialist program, through the current shift to the left that has been initiated, PODEMOS has strengthened its links to the working class. The task of Marxists, as always, is to accompany the mass movement and patiently explain the need for a genuine socialist program to transform society. The need, therefore, is to strengthen the positions of Marxism within the movement, an essential task.