Left Populism or a Socialist Strategy: The debate between Alberto Garzón and Podemos

When in February an opinion poll named Alberto Garzón the highest rated political leader in Spain, the 31 year old, who headed Izquierda Unida’s electoral campaign, responded by quoting ex-premier Adolfo Suerez: “Queredme menos pero votadme mas (Love me less but vote for me more)”.

2015 was IU’s worst general election result in its 30 year history, however given Podemos’ surge over the past two years, arguably winning close to a million votes was a respectable result for the Communist-led alliance. It was always going to be a difficult election for IU, particularly after the failure of the Unidad Popular initiative which had sought to recreate at a national level the type of broad left-wing alliances that had had such success in the municipal elections last April. Despite the Podemos leadership repeatedly ruling out the possibility of this kind of joint electoral list with IU, informal talks continued until two months before the election when it became clear to Garzón that Podemos weren’t willing to go further than their offer of incorporating him and other IU figures into their list as independent candidates.

Rejecting this offer, which would have in effect amounted to becoming a Podemos candidate in the election, Garzón explained: “Yo soy comunista” and so unwilling to renounce the republican and anti-capitalist principles of Izquierda Unida. These were principles which Garzón had repeatedly defended in an ongoing debate with Pablo Iglesias and other prominent members of Podemos over the previous two years. Before the 2014 European elections he had participated in a much publicized debate with Iglesias on the theme of democracia real, which was followed by an appearance on Iglesias’ panel show Fort Apache where along with Íñigo Errejón and Carolina Bescansa he debated the merits of left populism and the works of Ernesto Laclau and Antonio Gramsci.

Taken together with his critiques of Podemos in a series of articles, it was never very likely that Garzón would accept being merely integrated into Iglesias’ formation. An electoral pact that was mutually beneficial for the two formations was one thing but ultimately he saw his ideological position as fundamentally at odds with the so-called “Podemos hypothesis”.

However with the inconclusive results of December’s vote, such a pact between the two parties now  seems like a real possibility in the rerun of the general election in June. While running separately would ensure being penalized for a second time by Spain’s non-proportional electoral system,  a joint list would provide both parties with the historic opportunity to overtake the Socialists and become the governing PP’s main rival for power. Yet with this possibility of a government led by the radical left, the polemic between Garzón and the Podemos leadership takes on a new relevance. This is because what it provides are two competing strategic visions of how the left should approach politics, and thus two contrasting understandings of how it can capitalize on the ongoing economic and political crises so as to once again become an effective counter-hegemonic force in society.

A Renewed Socialism

For Garzón any genuine renewal of the left has to involve a new phase of class struggle, which in turn would require the organization and consolidation of a new popular social base with the capacity to challenge the power of our ruling elites. Unlike what he views as Iglesias and Errejon’s more postmodern perspective on left politics which tends to eschew concrete class analysis, here Garzón is insisting on the social ground of politics claiming that the left will only build up a coherent and solid political movement if it finds its basis within the salient social divisions of contemporary society. In this regard he begins by emphasizing not only how “las condiciones materiales de vida de la mayoría de la gente se están mermando (the material conditions of life for the majority of people are declining)” but also how even within this huge social majority there exists two diverging blocs who face distinct fates under neoliberal capitalism.

This second point is key because while Garzón accepts the relevancy of the division between the 1% and 99%, or that between the owners and managers of capital and the large majority of the population, in that it captures how growing inequality of income and wealth is one of the defining trends of recent decades, at the same time, it remains a rather abstract basis for thinking about political mobilization and social solidarity. Above all the idea of the 99% fails to take into account how this wide spectrum of the population is going to be divided by their more immediate material interests on a whole range of key social issues. In this respect any coherent anti-capitalist project will have to take into account a further important class divide which he explains in the following terms:

De un lado una sociedad fordista, propia de las comunidades políticas occidentales de posguerra, y en la que los trabajadores disponen de estabilidad laboral, contratos indefinidos, ciertos derechos sociales reconocidos y garantizados, un mínimo espacio de propiedad material que abarca al menos una vivienda o un vehículo, y sobre todo una seguridad de cara al futuro como es el disfrute de una pensión. De otro lado convive una sociedad posfordista, caracterizada por la inseguridad laboral, los contratos basura, la precariedad, menos derechos sociales, la ausencia total de expectativas de futuro y, en definitiva, un horizonte muy negro. A este fenómeno de convivencia simultánea de dos sociedades tan distintas el filósofo alemán Ernst Bloch lo llamaba atemporalidad o espacio temporal de no sincronía. Y le sirvió para describir tiempos tan tormentosos como el de la Alemania de los años treinta del siglo pasado y el ascenso del nazismo.

Pienso que estamos viviendo un cambio de época similar. La cacareada ruptura generacional se explica precisamente por estas razones, en tanto que la mayoría de los jóvenes vivimos en la sociedad posfordista. La distinta concepción del mundo que existe, por término medio, entre una persona joven y una no tan joven se deriva de las distintas condiciones materiales de existencia.

[On the one hand, there continues to exist a typical post-war Fordist society where workers have job stability, permanent contracts, certain guaranteed social rights, a minimum level of material possessions comprising of at least one residential property and a vehicle, and above all the future security that comes with a pension. Yet, now living side by side with this, on the other hand, is a postfordist society, characterized by job insecurity, zero-hour contracts, precariousness, fewer social rights, the total absence of future career prospects and a bleak horizon in the long term. This phenomenon of the simultaneous coexistence of two very different societies was what the German philosopher Ernst Bloch called the synchronicity of the nonsynchronous. And this term served to describe such turbulent times as Germany in the thirties and the rise of Nazism.

I think we are experiencing a similar epochal change. The vaunted generational gap can be explained precisely for these reasons, with most young people living in the post-Fordist society. The different conceptions of the world that the young and not so young have stems from their distinct material conditions of existence.]

While these older, more secure workers are preoccupied with defending their existing rights and (privileged) protections, Garzón views this expanding second group, those living firmly within the post-fordist regime, as a potential constituency within which a new democratic socialist project could take hold and expand out from. This would involve building on the process of politicization already underway amongst these precarious classes, which beginning with the 15M occupations in 2011 and continuing with the various anti-austerity movements (or mareas) has produced waves of mass protests and large scale campaigns of direct action. Here the role of IU is conceived in classically Gramscian terms of providing ‘intellectual and moral leadership’ to this already quite politicized constituency, that is engaging with their concrete grievances and supporting their forms of struggle but while also explaining to them the deeper causes of the crisis, drawing systemic connections and trying to convince them of their common interest in a set of more profound measures.

The aim is to build up popular awareness of the class basis of the crisis, as well as that of any possible recovery, through, firstly, explaining to those badly hit by the crisis (unemployed youths, precarious workers and impoverished families fighting evictions) how contemporary capitalism is fundamentally rigged against them and how in reality they have no stake in its continuation or restabilization. This is crucial because while the crisis has generated numerous popular grievances and frustrated political demands “that have a direct relation with how the capitalist system functions”, this frustration has been hitherto primarily focused at the political system with people unable to identify the underlying economic contradictions driving these institutional difficulties with any clarity. By focusing on concrete examples of how the system works against their interests and using relatively simple economic terms, Garzón believes IU can succeed in making these popular classes conscious of how their deprivation is not merely the result of bad governance or corrupt elites, but rather is due to their shared position within a global market system which secures its own expansion by subjecting them to economic insecurity and declining living standards. Hence for example the defining tendencies of recent decades towards increased precariousness in the labour market and ever greater inequality have to be framed in terms of the fact that over the past thirty years the capitalist classes have mobilized technology, unemployment, off-shoring and deregulation to undermine the political power of labour and shape a labour market based around increased worker flexibility and competition in which companies can more freely exploit their employees. This has not been a random strategy but rather represents capital aggressively pursuing its own interests at the expense of the social majority.

Secondly generating class consciousness amongst this social constituency also requires persuading them of their objective material interest in a radical socialist alternative based around public ownership in strategic industries (including the financial and energy sectors), decommodification of various social spheres (housing, health, etc.) and a new regime of social regulation and labour rights. In this respect IU’s electoral strategy focused on an emergency rescue plan for the social majority, which while putting forward measures to alleviate the effects of the crisis on those from below (los de abajo), also represent the initial steps of an alternative direction for the Spanish economy. Measures such as (1.) el prgrama de trabajo garantizado, which would create a million public sector jobs in social services, culture and the environment through raising a wealth tax; 2.) the nationalization of utility companies to the break their current oligarchic position ; 3.) the establishment of a public bank with a social mandate; and 4.) the implementation of a basic minimum income – each were framed in terms of a discourse that continually linked ordinary people’s concrete grievances in these areas to their wider general interest in the democratization of the economy. As such, what IU’s discourse aimed to make evident to this mass constituency, was how their future collective welfare was bound-up with the epochal challenge of confronting the power of capital head-on and progressively altering the balance of forces in society so as to reassert in stages the primacy of an egalitarian public sphere where together the citizens are able to decide “sobre que producer, como distribuir y como consumer (on what to produce, how to distribute and how to consume)”.

This type of discourse which attempts to link and integrate present-orientated policies with the long-term strategic objectives of a new socialist project is exactly what Podemos lacks according to Garzón. He sees what he calls their “calculated ideological ambiguity” (“calculada ambigüedad ideológica”) as both their major strength, which has made possible their meteoric rise, and also their core weakness. As primarily an “electoral machine” hoping to maximize votes, Podemos’ discursive strategy has successfully managed to articulate the rage and frustration felt across Spanish society and to attract voters from a wide range of “different social sectors” by employing what Ernesto Laclau calls empty signifers, such as the idea of la casta. For Garzón the rhetorical force of a such a signifier is that it appeals to whoever you meet on the street, from an “well qualified doctor” to those hit hardest by the economic crisis. Everyone can identify with it and see in the idea of a corrupt ruling ‘caste’ those who are responsible for their particular grievances. Yet such an anti-establishment discourse must be distinguished from a genuine Gramscian project which aims not only to maximize support for the left but also to create among this support a new understanding of the world. As Garzón writes:

Nos roba la burguesía no quiere decir lo mismo que nos roba la oligarquía o nos roba la casta. Significan cosas diferentes para el receptor, que tiene su propia caja de herramientas ideológica para interpretar tales afirmaciones. Cuanto más vacío es el significante –y casta parece mucho más vacío que oligarquía o burguesía-, más gente simpatizará con el concepto. Pero esa gente no simpatizará con casta porque haya detrás una reflexión política que concluya la necesidad de una transformación de un tipo determinado…He ahí la diferencia estratégica fundamental con la izquierda clásica. La izquierda siempre se ha basado en la pedagogía y en la necesidad de convencer a las gentes trabajadoras de que hay que apoyar proyectos políticos de transformación real. Es absurdo decir que la estrategia de Podemos es gramsciana. Gramsci creía en los partidos políticos como promotores de una reforma moral e intelectual de la sociedad, y daba una importancia crucial a la creación de una nueva concepción del mundo.

(The bourgeoisie robs us does not mean the same as the oligarchy or the caste robs us. They mean different things to the listeners, who will each have their own ideological tools to interpret them. The emptier is the signifier- and ‘caste’ seems much emptier than oligarchy or bourgeoisie, the greater the number of people that will identify with it. But those people do not identify with the idea of the caste because behind it rests a political argument for the necessity of a specific model of social transformation… That is the fundamental strategic difference with the traditional left. The left has always been based on pedagogy and the need to convince working people to support political projects of real transformation. It is absurd to say that Podemos have a Gramscian strategy. Gramsci believed in political parties as promoters of intellectual and moral reform, and gave priority to the creation in society of new conceptions of the world.)

Returning to the idea of a ‘social base’, while Podemos’ discourse aims to have a transversal appeal that would be able to win elections right now, Garzón wants IU to concentrate on engaging the popular classes living under post-fordist conditions, building up organic links with social movements and organizations on the ground, so to create a firm base of support for a radical socialist project. What we have, then, are two competing conceptions of how to organize and mobilize a left-wing political movement, one rooted in a particular mass constituency whose members are living their lives under shared social conditions and the other which wants to unite diverse social sectors around broad progressive themes such as opposition to austerity, castigating systemic corruption and championing greater citizen participation. Though successful in winning votes, for Garzón this second approach risks creating little more than “castles in the air” as institutional power is only an effective tool for the left if it is both (1.) based on the active support of the social majority for a coherent and transformative political project and (2.) is backed up by an organized social base able to effectively engage in different strategic struggles across society.

In terms of the first point, having articulated a discourse that was designed to avoid being socially divisive, the party has been left unable to either offer an adequate explanation of the crisis or to engage in the Gramscian task of building up consent for an agenda that could actually transform the living conditions of the social majority. Here their “strategically ambiguous” party line, which aims to smooth over the differences between the various social sectors they want to appeal to (ranging from the precariat to the progressive elements within the salariat), risks translating into a Podemos-led government with a mandate for little more than alleviating the worst aspects of austerity and reversing the PP’s regressive labour reforms.  According to Garzón what one can see here is a substantial gap between Podemos’ rhetoric that promises radical generational change and the moderate proposals and lack of anti-capitalist vision of their actual programme.Instead support for a more substantive alternative to neo-liberalism, which would better integrate immediate policies to end austerity with ambitious future-directed goals for dismantling structures of capitalist exploitation, will require a more compact social majority that takes into account the class contradictions within the 99%. More substantive measures such IU’s program of guaranteed work, their proposals to create a public bank and nationalize utility companies, a wealth tax or Podemos’ disregarded idea for a universal basic income are necessarily going to be divisive and controversial but they are vital in that they also represent the initial steps of a wider strategy to impose greater public control over the economy and to decommodify labour. Hence rather than winning elections by pandering to the stable middle classes who still have a strong stake in the current status quo, for Garzón IU has to concentrate on engaging the popular classes and developing their awareness of their pressing interest in a socialist alternative that would include these type of radical measures.

Left Populism and Radical Democracy

In his response to Garzón’s critique during their debate in Lavapiés, Iglesias began by referencing the French revolutionary Danton who theorized the importance of audacity in moments of crisis. If normally politics is the art of the possible and of prudent strategy, in exceptional moments as the old balance of forces begins to destabilize, it becomes a question of political daring. Though much more open to Marxist class analysis than his deputy Íñigo Errejón, Iglesias shares with the latter the belief that a Marxist perspective tends neither to be able to grasp the logic of such exceptional moments nor to theorize a strategy for capitalizing on such crises and countering the neo-liberal shock doctrine. Hence while Iglesias acknowledges certain “ambiguities and contradictions” in Podemos’ party line, particularly in terms of their reluctance to link their anti-austerity discourse to a wider anti-capitalist critique, for him such ambiguity was necessary if they were to avoid what Errejón has called the “impotent marginality” of the radical left. If co-option within the system is a possible outcome for any new political movement, from this perspective the greater threat for the contemporary left is never gaining momentum in the first place, that is, never being able to take advantage of the crisis through engaging and mobilizing ordinary people in significant numbers. It is all well and good claiming that only a wide-ranging socialist alternative can significantly improve the living conditions of the social majority but if you cannot connect with the sentiments and understandings of the electorate, it remains a mere abstraction. Instead for Iglesias and Errejón Podemos’ left populism must be seen as an attempt to navigate the narrow path between conformism and marginality – trying to put forward policies that represent a significant alternative to the current order but which a majority of the population can also come to accept as both realistic and desirable right now, before the establishment manages to recover and stabilize its position.

In coming to understand their response to Garzon’s critique in greater detail, it is necessary to look at how according to Errejón the belief among the core party leadership in the viability of such a left populist strategy, as Podemos was launched a little over two years ago, rested on three key elements. The first of these was their “particular reading of the 15M movement”, under which its wider political significance was to be found not so much in its engagement in democratic experimentation but rather in its ability to give voice to a new anti-establishment common sense that was increasingly taking hold across Spanish society, with people feeling betrayed by their representatives and frustrated at the inability of the political system to respond to their needs and demands. Here what the mass support for the Indignados demonstrated was how as legitimacy drained away from the existing parties under the pressure of corruption scandals and the injustice of austerity policies a discourse centred around the opposition ordinary people/ elites could resonate much more than one centred more straightforwardly around left/right. Seeing a generational opening here for a new party to challenge Spain’s bipartidismo, Podemos have attempted to build on 15M’s legacy with a narrative that redefines the lines of Spanish politics around the struggle against the political and economic elites who, having come to operate as a closed self-referential caste, have to be seen as together responsible for the hollowing out and corruption of Spanish democracy. While Garzón views this idea of la casta as too vague and guilty of obscuring the real enemy due to its focus on the political crisis, for Iglesias, in a contemporary context without an ideologically committed mass base, a discourse based directly around class struggle and anti-capitalism is never going to be able to mobilize a popular movement. As he writes:

It is very hard, in a movement of politicization of a crisis, to visualize an enemy that is not concrete. Only a few people with a high level of political and theoretical imagination would be able to say that the problem is capitalism. If we imagine a social movement of hundreds of thousands, it’s difficult to imagine that a word like ‘capitalism’ would be able to embody what that movement is against—it is only logical to point towards the elites as the concrete personification of the crisis. It’s normal for it to happen like that. Podemos has been saying that the power of finance is at the origin of a system of governance that we call corruption.

In this respect, the idea of la casta was employed by the Podemos during their initial surge as a way of linking the more immediate sources of people’s anger at the political system, i.e. widespread corruption and the unfairness of austerity policies, to a more complex analysis of how political institutions have come to operate in a global political economy dominated by financial and corporate interests. Rather than talking directly in anti-capitalist terms, such a discourse interprets the link between the economic and political crises in a more concrete form by focusing on how the intertwining of mainstream politics and the corporate sector through Spain’s revolving door culture has led to a wider systemic corruption of the democratic order. The aim here was to forcefully articulate the growing divide between the neoliberal agenda of these elites and the prosperity and economic welfare of the rest of society.

This use of the opposition la casta/ la gente is closely linked to Errejón’s second element underpinning Podemos’ strategy, which was the form of “theoretical-communicative practice” (“practica teorico-comunicativa”) developed by the circle around Iglesias at La Tuerka that combined Laclauian discourse theory with the production of political TV programs for online platforms and community channels. Though, unlike Errejon, Iglesias doesn’t straightforwardly identify himself as Laclauian, what he sees in the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe is a “very useful theoretical mechanism, for a practical interpretation of the autonomy of politics”. Observing the plurality of grievances and social struggles across contemporary society, Laclau and Mouffe take the general category of ‘group demand’, rather than the specific sociological category of class, as their starting point for analysing political identity. From this perspective, then, political subjects are discursive constructions which, rather than possessing given identities already constituted in the economic (or social) sphere, have to be created through the synthesis of a plurality of demands and struggles so as to form unified political blocs. Here the articulation of popular political identities involves an active and formative relationship between the representative and represented. Representatives have to provide forms of collective identification and convincing narratives which can link together the concerns and aspirations of various social groups around certain key themes so as to create a new wider political constituency. For Laclau and Mouffe this articulatory process cannot be explained in terms of the category of ‘class’ as this is not a term that will necessarily  operate performatively at a political level, i.e. work as a name that can unite together various social groups by coming to signify their common interests and sense of solidarity. In fact they claim that the discourse of class struggle has never managed by itself to mobilize a successful revolution but has always had to be combined with the demands and narratives of other struggles (anti-imperial, pro-democracy, minority rights, etc.) so as to create a more complex revolutionary subject.

When paired with their research on the Latin American pink tide, what this theoretical perspective offered Podemos’ leadership was much greater strategic freedom in coming to formulate how to take advantage of Spain’s regime crisis than would have been possible under the more traditional Gramscianism of Alberto Garzon. For Garzon the renewal of the left requires organizing, and gaining the firm support of, a mass social base for a new socialist project, yet looking at the fractured and fragmented social field in which after decades of neoliberalism broad sectors of society have been left atomised and without a clear sense of their political identity or interests, the question is how are you going to connect the reality you have diagnosed (the mass’s objective interest in socialism) with their common sense beliefs and aspirations. As Emir Sader has noted, to pursue a radical anti-capitalist agenda (whatever its objective validity) is to ignore the extent of the ideological defeat of the left since the end of the cold war and the retreat of political consciousness. This is where Laclau’s theory of populism becomes particularly important as for Iglesias and Errejón the heterogeneous social groups involved or sympathetic to 15M seemed a textbook case of an unorganized “subaltern” mass calling out for a new political identity to believe in. As such, with their pre-existing social identity, “based on high consumption levels” and individual prosperity, thrown into crisis by austerity and housing-market crash, these popular masses have been left disorientated. In this context, Podemos’ strategy has been to offer forms of collective identification that can resonate across the various social sectors hit by austerity policies and growing precariousness so as to build up a new sense among these disaffected masses as to what constitutes their own common good not directly as members of the same social class but rather as ordinary citizens. Key in this respect has been the naming of an enemy, however, in employing the opposition elites/ ordinary citizens, Podemos have also worked to convince the masses of their shared interest in an alternative, defined around the core themes of social justice, democratic renewal and the retrieval of sovereignty from the markets.  Here rather than linking their anti-austerity and pro-labour policies to ambitious anti-capitalist objectives, they have framed them in terms of a more transversal and emotive discourse of the recovery of social rights and democratic sovereignty. Such themes have been able to appeal across the social spectrum, particularly with younger voters under the age of 45 , drawing together people from various sectors (from the unemployed and the most precarious layers of the workforce to the  struggling middles classes) around a set of progressive values and demands. Hence against Garzon’s insistence on the pedagogical role of the left, Iglesias claims that politics cannot  primarily be a question of diagnosis and correct class analysis but rather has to be about passion and identification. Class no longer mobilizes people nor creates “popular emotion” but “el sequestro de la democracia” and ideas such as patriotism and citizenship can. They can operate as a powerful discursive vehicle for the dissemination of a progressive and egalitarian alternative to neoliberalism.

This is closely related to one of the  important insights of the ‘Podemos hypothesis’, that as the key ideological terrain in contemporary society is the mass media, you need a discourse and terminology which can operate effectively  across this hostile terrain. Using already accepted terms (what Laclau and Mouffe call floating signifiers) for their own ends has allowed Podemos to frame their agenda in a way which makes it much harder for their opponents in the media to dismiss them as irresponsible radicals, above all because they are claiming to be defending the core values of Spanish society against a corrupt establishment. For example they argue that being patriotic is not about having offshore accounts in Andorra or about companies pursuing forms of aggressive tax avoidance but rather is about defending universal public services, being active in your local community and fighting political corruption. Thus  while people respect Garzon’s unguarded defence of his Communist ideals, from Podemos’ perspective with such a stance you  risk relegating yourself to the political margins, unable to fully confront the difficulty of how to introduce new narratives and arguments that can forcefully challenge those of the political mainstream. In this respect any realistic left strategy has to contend with the power of the mass media and the fact that “what teaches people the name of the things, what teaches people political arguments, that’s television.”

Yet while Podemos’ communicative strategy has been its great strength as an insurgent party, the third element Errejon saw two years ago as underpinning their strategic outlook now seems somewhat more problematic: the example of Latin American left governments who they saw as demonstrating the possibility of implementing post-neoliberal policies through a protracted “war of position over the State”. This brings us back to the core of Garzon’s critique of Podemos that without a coherent anti-capitalist agenda backed up by organized social movements,  their ability to actually improve the living conditions of the social majority in a sustainable fashion will be minimal. In essence the response of Podemos’ leadership is to say they are aware of such limitations and realize the challenges they would face in power. Yet they would add that given the existing correlation of forces,  their anti-austerity, post-neoliberal agenda is more attuned to the actual task of operating in the current conjucture where both within the institutions of the state and across the wider social field they would face fierce opposition from existing political, economic and media powers. While somewhat more moderate than the IU’s program, their policies on tax increases for high earners and corporations, on levels of government spending and their opposition to the fiscal compact, on democratic reform of the state,  on the regulation and partial nationalization of the banking and energy sectors would inevitably trigger a series of confrontations with the establishment. Negotiating a way through such stand-offs would be difficult for any left-led government given the need to secure the support of PSOE inside the institutions and having to deal both with the pressure brought against them by powerful EU players and the inevitable campaign of fear and threats whipped up by the media and corporate sector. Iglesias has compared such political stand-offs for left-popular governments to a game of chess in which one side begins with a number of their pieces already missing, i.e. they start from a position of weakness with a much more limited range of moves open to them than their opponents.[i] However given the weakness of progressive social forces across Europe and the lack of organization amongst the popular classes, he sees no alternative to this type of patient attempt to use state power to push back and slowly reverse the existing drive towards the liquidation of the welfare state and the shredding of social rights.

Interestingly Iglesias seems in part to be accepting here Garzon’s assertion that the ability of a Podemos led government to go much further  than reversing recent austerity measures, will depend on its ability to mobilize civil society. At a minimum they will have to be able to maintain public opinion behind them, being able to frame the issues in a way which contrasts the reasonableness and common sense nature of their proposals with the elites’ intransience. Yet beyond that, there also seems to be an underlying hope that any major confrontations while in power could in fact be a catalyst for significant social mobilization and greater politicization. Any left government who wants to push further in a post- neoliberal direction will require not merely the passive support of citizens but the ability to call on their active participation through durable mass movements and effective forms of social campaigning. However rather than viewing such social organization as a prerequisite needed before taking power, the hope is that the struggles while in power will in fact come to clarify social divisions for ordinary people and involve them in the defence of their interests against the neoliberal elites.  This logic has been spelled out most clearly by Manolo Monereo, one of Iglesias most important intellectual influences, when he writes

Si algo pone de manifiesto la Grecia de Syiza es que el poder de los gobiernos ha disminuido mucho y que cualquier Proyecto democrático y social requerirá conquistar mas autonomía, mas soberanía, mas poder…Sin un contrapoder social y cultural que apoye a un gobierno democrático en nuestro país no parece que los cambio que las poblaciones exigen se puedan realizar…La clave: una gestión institucional que genere conflicto y no social paz, que fomente la autoorganizacion de sujetos sociales Fuertes; poderes sociales que ayuden a democratizar las instituciones.[ii]

If anything is revealed by the Greece of Syriza it is that the power of governments has been greatly diminished and that any social and democratic project will have to conquer more autonomy, more sovereignty and more power … Without a social and cultural counterpower to support a democratic government in our country, it doesn’t seem that the changes demanded by the people can be realized…The key: governing the institutions in way that will generates social conflict, not peace, that promotes the self-organization of strong social subjects and social powers to help democratize the institutions.

[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmcp_HYX88Q

[ii] Monereo Por Un Nuevo Proyecto de País p. 83-90