Question 1: The Relationship between Social Movements and Political parties in light of the Recent Experience in the Spanish State

, by  Viento Sur

Since the beginning of the new period, which started with the eruption of the May 15 movement in 2011 and later with the creation of Podemos in Jaunary 2011, the main debate between the growing number of social activists and politicians who have become involved in this cycle of repoliticisation and mobilisation has been the relationship between social movements and political parties. This debate is also linked to the relationship which should be established between institutional and non-institutional activity. Furthermore, this question becomes more urgent if we take into account the fact that the municipal elections in May 2014 signified an important victory for candidates of Unidad Popular in a great number of large, medium and small cities, leading to them governing in a lot of these cities today, and with which poses some new, practical problems in moving forward with their programmes in the unfavourable context of “austerity”.

The evaluation which we can establish now is that, after the cycle of protests which began with the May 15 movement and due to the succession of calls for elections which have taken place since May of 2014 with the European elections, the current state of social movements in Spain is at a very low level (especially the Trade Union movement); instead, expectations have centred on new political formations, particularly on Podemos, who have occupied a central place in political activity. It is not because of this that many activists, both male and female, stop being conscious of the fact that the limits of innovative activity in an institutional environment are already being tested, and that only combining this work with remobilisation and social and popular auto-organisation can guarantee an improvement in relations between social and political forces which are capable of surpassing these limits.

Open discussions also centre around the problem of “party formation”: the need to continue to look for a new type of party, one capable of avoiding subordination of its aims and programmes to the logic of electoral rivalry and, with that, the consequential autonomy of its institutional groups and its internal bureaucracy. An issue which is connected to the assessment of the two and a half years of the existence of Podemos and the option which was chosen at their Initial Assembly in November 2014 in favour of a party model which combines the creation of an “electoral war machine” with the practise of plebiscitary democracy, supported mainly by new technologies; all this centred around a high-profile leader and a communications policy whose discursive axis has undergone a revolution from its beginnings until the present time. This is a model which now finds itself subject to revision by the directorate of the party itself and is beginning to focus on the need for a “party-movement” which is disposed to contribute to a social remobilisation and to the empowerment of the people.

Furthermore, all these questions have a peculiarity in the case of the Spanish State which can’t be omitted: the existence of a multicultural reality and, along with that, the existence of a great diversity of social movements and political formations which don’t exist at a state-wide scale, but which do have territorial anchorages and significant electoral weight in their respective autonomous communities (Comunidades Autónomas). This happens in the Basque, Catalan or Galician Autonomous communities (Comunides Autónomas (CC AA)), but also in other communities such as the Valencian community, the Canaries community or the Andalusia community. This means that social and political activists, both male and female, are obliged to supersede centralist and uniform practises and to look for federal formulae for relationships which respect both national and regional specifications. Additionally, there is a requirement that collectives and political formations in these Autonomous communities (CC AA), who have been reticent allies of the state, to seek confluences which will advance their shared objectives.

Jaime Pastor
Editor of VIENTO SUR magazine



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