Una reseña corta del #LibroPodemos por John Muller et al.

Claro, compañer@s… Acabo de terminar lo que se puede describir como el libro seminario del verano español, que se llama “Podemos: Desconstruyendo a Pablo Iglesias”. Está escrito por un colectivo de analistas y periodistas españoles, como el director adjunto de El Mundo, John Müller.

Los primeros seis capítulos fueron una lectura apasionante; en cada capítulo, los autores disecaron las razones detrás del fenómeno de Podemos. Se analizaron:

  1. La historia del movimiento desde sus inicios como un grupo de catedráticos de la izquierda en la facultad de las ciencias políticas de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid hasta las elecciones europeas del 25-M.
  2. El impacto del profesor Verstrynge en la mayoría del colectivo que lidera la formación, que incluye el líder carismático, Pablo Iglesias.
  3. El impacto de las manifestaciones del 15-M del 2011 en el éxito del movimiento de izquierdas.
  4. Las estrategias de comunicación que se utilizó para difundir su mensaje, sobre todo un análisis de las redes de comunicación (Twitter, Facebook) y la popularidad i el éxito de esa estrategia de las tertulias de televisión donde Iglesias protagonizó.
  5. Por qué el estilo de campaña que se empleó para las elecciones del 25-M atrajo a una población ‘desinteresada’.
  6. ¿Quién y por qué los españoles votó para Podemos? Este capítulo se implicó un análisis matizado desde un punto de vista sociológico del base del apoyo.

Por el otro lado, se terminó la obra con cuatro capítulos que rompió el tono neutral del libro y que eran escritos con una inclinación fuerte hacia la derecha, lo que uno esperaría desde un periodista que ha trabajado durante mucho tiempo para El Mundo. Se analizaron:

  1. ¿Por qué el programa económico de Podemos no funciona? (un capítulo que podría haber sido titulado ¿Por qué la casta política te quiere tener miedo de la redistribución?).
  2. Una discusión desproporcionada sobre el papel del estado, que básicamente postuló que la indignación de los ciudadanos hacia la casta política era porque querían un estado más pequeño, no más grande. No nos digas fantochadas (el hijo de puta que escribió este capítulo es un defensor a ultranza de la economía neoliberal).
  3. ¿Por qué nadie (casi nadie) supo ver el efecto Podemos y la subida del Podemos? (Básicamente, tuvieron suerte y todo el mundo volverá a apoyar la casta política después de la crisis).
  4. Un debate que intenta definir el populismo y lo que significa para el futuro de la política española (que estaba bien, si ignoramos el hecho de que piense que la casta hegemónica será capaz de co-optar la indignación de la ciudadanía).

Al fin y al cabo, esto es un libro de dos mitades: la primera mitad se puede clasificar como una lectura “absorbente” y una explicación de la manera matizada de la subida de Podemos para el contingente informado y liberal de nuestra sociedad, mientras que la segunda mitad abastece a un público de la derecha que quieren que dejen de pulsar el bufón de pánico y volver a un sistema donde fenómenos “populistas” apoyan el punto de vista de la casta política.

A short review of the #LibroPodemos by John Muller et al…

Podemos

Okay, guys! I’ve just finished reading what could probably be described as the seminal political book of the Spanish summer, a gripping read, entitled ‘Podemos: Desconstruyendo a Pablo Iglesias‘ co-authored by a number of Spanish political journalists and thinkers, including the El Mundo journalist, John Müller.

The book gripped me for the first 6 chapters as it sought to explain the phenomenon of Podemos, including chapters on:

  1. The movement’s rise from its inception in early 2014.
  2. The impact of the academic, Verstrynge, on a number of the movement’s leading lights, including its leader, the iconic Pablo Iglesias
  3. The impact of the anti-austerity 15-M movement on the success of the left-wing formation
  4. The strategies of communication used to disseminate Podemos’ message ahead of May 2014’s European Parliament elections.
  5. Why its campaign style succeeded in attracted a ‘disinterested’ electorate
  6. Who voted for the party and why, which involved a nuanced sociological analysis of the movement’s support base

The last four chapters of the book, however, were very much what one would expect from an El Mundo journalist and right-leaning editor, with the last couple of chapters looking at:

  1. The ‘inviable’ economic programme of Podemos (which could also have been entitled ‘Why the Establishment wants you to be scared of redistribution’)
  2. A highly biased debate on the size of the state, which basically posited that actually the indignation of citizens was because they wanted a smaller state, not a bigger one… Bullcrap, but then again the guy who wrote this chapter is a STAUNCH defender of neo-liberal economics.
  3. How and why the establishment ‘failed’ to see the rise in left-wing populism.
  4. A debate on defining populism and what it meant for the future of Spanish politics (which was actually okay, if we ignore the fact that it seems to think that the establishment will be able to somehow co-opt the indignation of the citizenry).

On balance, this is very much a book of two halves: the first half can be depicted as an ‘enthralling read’ and an explanation of the complex ‘who, what, where, when, and how’ of Podemos for the metropolitan, liberal contingent of our society, whilst the second half caters to a more right-wing audience who want to stop pressing the panic button and get back to a predictable system where ‘populist’ phenomena supports the establishment’s viewpoint.

An Englishman in Catalonia: On Reforming Spanish Democracy in Cities and the ‘Aforados’

I’m currently sitting in the street next to the offices of the newspaper La Vanguardia, reading its analysis of the current debate on democratic regeneration here in Spain, whilst nursing a cup of bitter coffee and eating a crêpe (classy, I know). Some of the situation is fairly familiar as it mirrors debates from recent years in the UK (elected mayors and democratic regeneration), whilst there are other parts that are quite frankly bewildering, such as the debate surrounding the ‘aforados/aforats’. This post will analyse both the familiar and the bewildering in turn, giving an English perspective on the attempt at democratic regeneration in Spain.

Firstly, the familiar: it is important to note that the debate surrounding democratic regeneration is not something new for any British political analyst; it exists in the UK too. Enric Juliana, a influential political analyst for the Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia, has written in today’s edition that the ideas of the current PP government, although it is seen as something ‘new’ by many as it aims to regenerate municipal democracy, are surprising similar to what the now-defunct UCD proposed, way back in the early 1980s.

Juliana writes in today’s La Vanguardia that the failure to have elected mayors in contemporary Spain was an oversight of the democratic transition, as the King decided to hold general elections before holding regional and municipal elections, meaning that the issue was effectively side-lined ().

In the UK, we have also been promised a regeneration of democracy at a national and municipal level, with the Labour government of Tony Blair devolving power to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but failing to hand power of any great significance to the English regions and municipal government:

Demand for directly elected regional government so varies across England that it would be wrong to impose a uniform system. In time we will introduce legislation to allow the people, region by region, to decide in a referendum whether they want directly elected regional government. 

The current centre-right Conservative-led government has devolved some decision-making powers to municipal governments via the city deals, but it has also cut regional development agencies and its reforms to strengthen democracy and accountability at a regional level have had little success (see below).

Moreover, the debate regarding elected metropolitan mayors is also something we’ve had in England. The first directly elected city-wide mayor in the UK was the left-leaning Labour Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, in 2000 , where the idea has proved a popular part of democratic regeneration – the election has drawn interest from a national and international level and the Mayors of London (both Ken and Boris) have become household names nationwide.

The federal government in Westminster left it down to the big cities to decide. Some, including Bristol, voted in favour in city-wide referendums; one or two, such as Liverpool, didn’t hold referenda (rather they went straight to the electoral stage); nine other English cities held referendums, where the idea was rejected.

Returning to Spain, the peculiar part of the current debate for a foreigner surrounds the situation of the ‘aforados’ or those within the political class and the judiciary whose status affords them immunity from ordinary prosecution, as ‘aforados’ have to be tried by special courts, rather than ordinary civilian courtss. This is very, very difficult for me to understand, as in the UK, nobody is above the law (as shown by prosecutions of MPs and other senior political figures in recent years), yet in contemporary Spain, thousands of people are above the ordinary law, simply by virtue of their status in the political class (Democracia en reformas, La Vanguardia, 06/07/14). Utterly incomprehensible and urgently in need of reform.