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New Catalan political space: one hurdle cleared on the road to left unity

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

May 7, 2017 –– Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal –– The struggle to build a Catalan political force inspiring the level of support and activism needed to implement radical social change took a step forward in Barcelona on April 8, when the new “political subject” provisionally called Un País en Comú (“A Country Together”) held its founding congress.

 

Un País en Comú, whose final name will be decided by membership referendum, is the third Catalan progressive unity project with en comú (“together” or “in common”) in its title. The first, in June 2014, was the broad activist coalition that under the name of Barcelona En Comú won the May 2015 Barcelona city council election. In defeating the ruling conservative nationalist Convergence and Union (CiU) the new formation made former housing rights activist Ada Colau the city’s mayoress and a reference point for radical politics across the Spanish state.

 

Next came the success in the December 2015 and June 2016 Spanish elections of En Comú Podem (“Together We Can”): this alliance of left forces headed by university lecturer and author Xavier Domènech established itself as the lead Catalan force in the Spanish parliament, with around 25% of the vote.

 

In between these striking successes for the new political space that was soon being called “the commons” came the disappointing result of the left alliance Catalonia Yes We Can (CSQEP) in the September 2015 Catalan election, which came in fourth after briefly leading the polls.

 

Barcelona En Comú did not participate in the formation of CSQEP, which was an electoral coalition between the old parties of the Catalan left and Podem, the Catalan sister organisation of the new Spanish radical anti-austerity party Podemos. These parties were Initiative For Catalonia-Greens (ICV); the United and Alternative Left (EUiA), the Catalan sister party of the all-Spanish United Left; and the green party Equo. The absence of Barcelona En Comú in CSQEP showed in its 9.9% vote and in the alarming success of the right-wing, anti-Catalanist but supposedly “fresh” force Citizens.

 

In the light of these mixed experiences Ada Colau and Xavier Domènech announced in January 2016 that they would be launching a new Catalan political project. Its goal would not just be to create a confluence of existing left forces but most of all to draw together the thousands of non-aligned people who are active in Catalonia’s social movements but often wary of its existing left parties. The creation of Barcelona en Comú had shown how this might be done.

 

The potential activist base of Un País en Comú includes the radical municipalism that not only took Barcelona en Comú to victory but also saw similar platforms succeed in other cities and towns; people from the indignado (15M) movement and the various “tides” against health and education cuts; left supporters of a Catalan right to self-determination but not necessarily of Catalan independence; environmental activists in campaigns such as for river and wetland preservation; and campaigners for women’s rights, refugees and the recovery of the historical truth concerning the oppression suffered in Catalonia under the Franco dictatorship. Colau and Domènech, both of whom enjoy respect across nearly all parts of the Catalan left, were essential to the project’s getting off the ground: they were a guarantee both that the interests and contributions of the existing parties would be properly incorporated, but also that the new project would be qualitatively different from any conceivable all-party coalition and that no-one can reasonably claim that Un País en Comú is just a rehash of the old left.

 

This remains the case despite the disappointment caused by the last minute absence of Podem from the new formation, as explained later in this article.

 

What process?

 

The 1500 of Un País en Comu’s 9300 members who attended the April 8 congress had the job of successfully concluding the specific process needed to create the new political and social space. This process was partly shaped by the project’s ambition: to create an instrument that can win government in Catalonia by becoming the voice of the majority that has been suffering falling living standards since the 2008 financial and economic crisis – workers and the unemployed, pensioners and young people, migrants and refugees, the self-employed and small business.

 

It was also shaped by the need to bring into one organisation forces that have different political roots and cultures and have also experienced bitter conflicts in the past. For example, ICV is distrusted by many social movement activists for having taken part in the 2003-2010 “tripartite” Catalan government, headed by the Socialist Party of Catalonia and also including the centre-left nationalist Republic Left of Catalonia (ERC).

 

For Podem general secretary Albano Dante Fachin, speaking in November last year: “We haven’t come here to do a remake of any tripartite government. We want to have the people participate in and lead the creation of the new political space.”

 

The process of founding Un País en Comú was driven by a 120-member animation group representative of nearly all trends in the Catalan left. It drafted a set of guiding ideas focused not on the traditional ideologies of the left – hardly any “isms” except “feminism” and “Catalanism” appear in the founding text – but on the sort of society the majority aspires to. That is, the text was not the result of discussions and compromises among the parties but of discussion in the animation group as to what aspirations, principles and general orientation was needed to meet the needs of the social majority (the “99%”) in Catalonia.

 

University of Barcelona geographer Marc Parés, the group’s convenor, described the approach – in which 375 activists and academics participated in creating the original draft – in an interview in the April 5 online journal L’Hora:

 

The instrument we are giving ourselves is a Catalonia-wide social and political space, a citizen-centred space that incorporates elements that have nothing to do with classic parties but with a new way of doing politics. We’ve seen that we need an instrument of a certain stability at a moment that is an historic opportunity.

 

Writing previously in the February 2 Catalan edition of the on-line daily El Diario, Parés had outlined three ways in which Un País en Comú would be different: in its recognition that the present territorial structure of the Spanish state is exhausted and that “a new road to a new country [Catalonia] must be taken”; in its ambition to replace the dominant pro-independence versus anti-independence axis in Catalan politics with one where overcoming elite rule by putting “ordinary people at the centre of political action” is the priority; and in its commitment to building the new political space on the basis of citizen participation.

 

On April 8, Domènech summed up the meaning of the congress that concluded the first phase in building Catalonia’s new political force: “Today we launch a new political cycle in the country. It is a moving day, which I am sure will appear in the history books of Catalonia.”

 

First draft position

 

Ecological consciousness pervaded the first draft of the document that would be the basis of Un País en Comú. It stated at the outset that, “on a finite planet victim of a global environmental crisis the capitalist economic model puts at risk the life and well-being of many people at present and of all future generations”. It underlined that:

 

[T]he starting point for building a more inclusive and sustainable economy guided by the common good lies in asking ourselves how people’s needs are really to be satisfied and how we can organise an economy and society that respects the laws, cycles and rhythms of nature without excluding anyone.

 

The link between an ecological and a feminist vision of the alternative to neo-liberal capitalism also featured:

 

The economy of the common good that ... must guarantee that the web of life continues to be reproduced—maintaining ecosystems in a good state – and that work is distributed on an equal basis between men and women: both paid work and the unpaid work that is presently kept invisible and predominantly carried out by women in the domestic sphere.

 

Without a democratic revolution that puts decision-making power into the hands of the majority, a solution for sustainability is impossible:

 

Our proposal is one of social and community liberation. In the face of the neoliberal hegemony of the free market and the hierarchical and bureaucratic state, we stand for a new model, radically democratic and based on the empowering of citizens. A model that places people in the street at the centre of political action and which strengthens community life in the neighbourhood, the suburb, the workplace and everywhere citizens come together. The immediate community is the first place where the feeling of impotence of the isolated individual can be overcome, helping us understand that when we unite we acquire an unsuspected ability to transform our world.

 

This emphasis on ecology, feminism and the local (in contrast, say, with the struggle of the union movement and in the workplace) partly reflects the conditions shaping social resistance to the economic crisis as it has hit the Spanish state. The predominance of the indignado movement and those against evictions and cuts to public health and education – in which women such as Ada Colau have been playing a leading role – was accompanied by the near-collapse of protagonism by organised labour and the union confederations (with the partial exception of the Basque Country). The weakened unions will need to return to leading some struggles that defeat or at least seriously challenge the agenda of the Spanish establishment if they are to begin to recover their former leading positions in social conflict.

 

The other overarching themes of the text are those of popular sovereignty – over “everything” and not just Catalonia’s status as a nation – and the primacy of the democratically decided common interest over private gain. Another consistent theme is the affirmation of “female” virtues of solidarity and cooperation over and above competitiveness.

 

The banner at the front of the conference hall on April 8 summed up what the document had articulated in detail: “A Country Together – sustainable, solidarity-based, feminist, diverse, egalitarian, progressive, courageous, municipalist, sovereign, fraternal, cooperative and democratic.”

 

The Appendix to this article summarises the content of the initial draft, which was organised along six axes. These were: for a new economic and environmental model based on the common good; for a new model of social provision; for a country that is fraternal and sovereign in all spheres; for a democratic and feminist revolution; for an inclusive country where everyone fits in; and for a project for the country that is decided from its regions.

 

Initial amendments

 

This initial text was discussed at 74 face-to-face meetings organised by 700 volunteers as well as on an online platform. In total, over 3500 participated in this process of feedback, producing over 2000 contributions. A majority of the amendments were incorporated into a revised text: those rejected were judged as either too concrete for a document that outlines general orientations and priorities or as proposing an orientation different to that of the draft.

 

How did the amended text change as a result of discussions at times quite critical of the original text (the summaries of the face-to-face discussions are available here while the online discussion took place here)?

 

Some important amendments related to the analysis of context and overall goals, with the global capitalist nature of the economic and ecological crisis made explicit, along with an anti-capitalist perspective to overcome it. The role of the Franco dictatorship as it repressed Catalan society, culture and language was also given sharper emphasis.

 

Many concerns coming from the feedback from Un País en Comú’s activist base were reflected in clearer projections in education, health, culture, technology, communications, public administration and the legal system. Two years of work by the “councils for change” such as Barcelona and Badalona yielded practical examples of producing elements of the alternative “from below” (such as the generalised use of council property for photovoltaic panels and the setting up of a network of rebel councils committed to disobeying the debt reduction requirements of the Spanish government).

 

The revised text was still more explicit and concrete in its support for collective and cooperative production (without saying “nationalisation”), as well as for policies favouring small, medium and neighbourhood business as against the big corporates. New themes included commitment to sustainable cities (with greater density being based on the revival of often decaying historical centres); ecological taxation replacing taxes on labour; restructuring of the electricity market to tame the power of the private energy oligopoly and favour alternative sustainable sources; application of the principle of solving problems at the level of government closest to the problem (“subsidiarity”); and support for animal rights.

 

Easily the most debated issue was the relation Catalonia should have to the Spanish state, with pro-independence, confederal and federal positions all expressed. This debate dominated the online discussion web site – both its “open forum” section of general discussion and the sections given over to specific debate of the draft text. This discussion, to which there were 592 contributions, would inevitably be the most important at the April 8 congress.

 

Probably the two other issues that raised most comment were the original text’s commitment to reforming the European Union and the absence of a specific section on the rights, struggles and needs of young people, especially when the younger generation was the active core of the indignado revolt.

 

On Europe, the amended text reflected greater scepticism about the reformability of the EU:

 

The battle to transform and deepen democracy in Europe must be engaged in. The EU must be refounded by overturning government-to-government decision-making with no basis in solidarity, by pushing for democratisation and by putting an end to austerity. In this way we can build a truly democratic EU with greater political mutual support. However, this has to be combined with the recognition that the EU is presently designed as a project unconstrained by democratic control and that, as such, it is necessary to prepare the ground for going beyond the limits set by its treaties and institutions in order to build, win and recover sovereignties.

 

On young people, the amended text maintained the inclusion of youth concerns and demands in its section called “life cycles”, but added extensive points on the needs of young people in other sections dealing with work, social equality, housing, health and culture.

 

Congress: amendments and interim leadership elections

 

On April 8, sixteen amendments were put before congress on the grounds that they embodied a different approach to that proposed in the draft. The most important of these concerned the attitude of Un País En Comú towards the Catalan national struggle. The text from the animation group proposed the goal of a “democratic and environmentally just Catalan social republic” as maximum expression of Catalan national sovereignty. Such a republic would look to share sovereign powers with a Spanish state of a “fully plurinational” character.

 

Gerardo Pisarello, deputy-mayor of Barcelona, had defended this orientation in his opening address to the congress: “We are here to build a sovereign Catalanist space that defends the referendum [on Catalan independence, denied by the Spanish government] and which wants to exercise the right to decide without asking for permission.”

 

Against the vision of a sovereign Catalonia in a confederal Spain made up of nations likewise exercising their right to self-determination, one amendment proposed an essentially federal relation with the Spanish state while another indicated a preference for an independent Catalonia while not ruling out some relation with Spain. Both amendments lost after a debate in which leaders from the main organisations involved in the confluence spoke in support of the animation group’s text.

 

Other amendments adopted committed Un País En Comú to: a strategy of degrowth; adopting a Guaranteed Citizen’s Income as the first step on the road to a Universal Basic Income; free pre-primary education (0 to 6 years); a European foreign policy based on peace, human rights and the emancipation of peoples; a Catalonia free of transgenics; the incompatibility of real democracy with membership of NATO; the right to euthanasia; and a specific reform of the structure of Catalan administration.

 

The interim leadership elections produced no surprises: Xavier Domènech and his team won 25 seats on the 33-member interim executive, with a “dissident” team of Podem leaders who had been defeated in the July 2016 elections for that party’s leadership winning seven and one going to a team from the Ebro River delta region. Ada Colau’s supporting team won a 96-seat majority on the 120-member interim coordinating committee.

 

Podem goes, then stays...

 

With its founding congress, an important hurdle for the popular unity project that is Un País En Comú was cleared. This was despite the last minute withdrawal of Podem, whose leadership in Catalonia claimed that the conditions for its ongoing participation had not been met. Podem members had signed the initial call for the new project, participated actively in the development of its draft founding text, the organisation of debates and in the amendment process. However, they had voted in a March 18-20 referendum that three “indispensable” conditions for Podem’s participation in the new formation had not been met.

 

The first condition was that Un País en Comú have a code of ethics from its founding (and that it not be formulated in the one-year transition phase after foundation). Podem organisational secretary Ruth Moreta said on calling the referendum: “As far as transparency and ethics are concerned, there can be no period of transition.”

 

The second was that the election system for the interim leadership bodies be proportional on the basis of individual candidates or open lists (not slates). The third was that the entire Podem membership in Catalonia (up to 52,000) be able to vote as in a Podem election (that is, without going through separate enrolment in the membership list of Un País en Comú).

 

Podem’s preconditions had emerged out of a membership consultation process launched by its leading bodies in November, called the “Purple Tide” (purple is the party’s colour) and involving over 1500 members from 90-plus local and district circles (branches). The document launching the Purple Tide – whose purpose was to establish what sort of organisation Podem members thought Un País en Comú should be – had said: “We believe that formulas of coalitions between parties and deals done by tops are to be avoided in favour of participation by citizens and the social movements, going beyond the frameworks set out by the different political actors.”

 

The approach of Podem thus differed from that of the other party participants in the new political space. ICV had committed to the project at its Eleventh National Assembly (April 2016) and EUiA at its Seventh National Assembly (October 2016), leaving negotiations over the shaping of the new project in the hands of their respective incoming leaderships. The Purple Tide approach was a de facto criticism of this traditional method, with Podem general-secretary Albano Dante Fachin stating at the time: “We want to ensure that people participate in and lead the process of building the political space. Guarantee the control of the people. If we don’t do that well, it could happen again that the people come out into the streets to say ‘they don’t represent us!’ [a popular slogan of the indignado movement].”

 

On March 10, the Podem leadership announced that it would be holding a membership referendum to decide if the conditions existed for its continuing participation in Un País en Comú. It gave the membership its account of the state of negotiations with ICV, EUiA and Barcelona en Comú in a document called “For a transparent, democratic and participatory New Political Subject”. It said that “at this point the necessary conditions have not been met for guaranteeing that the building of the new space embodies the values of participation, transparency and radical democracy and that it is a citizen-based project committed to winning overwhelming support – as set out for us by activist members participating in the Purple Tide.”

 

Specific sticking points were;

 

* The insistence of the three other parties participating that voting be at a physical congress (and not on line, as in Podemos). The documents says: “Various members of the other parties informed us of the ‘danger’ that participation opened to Podem members would see representatives of the smaller formations[1] ‘wiped’ from the leadership bodies of the New Political Subject and that all political sensibilities had to be taken into account. We are resolute defenders of plurality and participation, and we understand that this is a very big change in political culture and that it could generate insecurity in other formations. However Podem cannot give up its way of understanding political participation.”

 

* The proposal that the interim executive be composed of four members per party (16 in all) and 14 independents. After rejecting any idea of a “party list”, Podem suggested that the parties put forward individual candidates and that Xavier Domènech put forward a list to round out the interim executive team.

 

* The refusal of the other parties to adopt a code of ethics right from the founding congress. Podem presented a draft code of ethics covering issues such as party financing by banks and private enterprise; a 60% participation by women in elected bodies; limitations on holding elected positions and on terms in elected positions. The document said: “The proposal that the rest of the parties made us was that this code of ethics be set back until after the founding of the new space. This puts Podem in a difficult situation, given that we are being asked to take part in a political space where we still don’t know the ethical and democratic rules.”

 

Despite a number of concessions from the other parties (acceptance of on-line voting for the interim leadership bodies, presentation of a draft code of ethics) the referendum went ahead. When the result was announced on March 20, 3900 members had taken part with 60.5% supporting the position of the leadership. The participation rate was only 7.46% of the total membership and only 11.45% of the active membership (Podem members are “active” if they have taken part in one on-line activity in the past year). By contrast, 15,000 Podem members took part in the vote on documents and leadership in the second Podemos citizens’ assembly (congress) for the Spanish state (in February).

 

The day after this result was announced, intensive negotiations between Domènech and the Podem leadership took place, leading to an agreement for the radical anti-austerity party to continue in the process of Un País en Comú. The agreement met two of Podem’s demands – that the code of ethics be put to the vote at the founding congress of Un País En Comú and applied immediately and that candidate lists be open and restricted to 25 positions for the interim executive and 96 for the interim coordinating committee.[2]

 

A compromise was reached on the third demand that Podem members automatically be able to vote without having to personally join the new formation. It was agreed that they would have to enrol in Un País En Comú, but that a link be put on the Podem web site to facilitate this. Membership identity checks—necessary to ensure one vote per member when many belong to both to Podem and Barcelona en Comú—could be done over the internet. At the same time, an earlier suggestion by Fachin – that Podem maintain its own structure and participate in an electoral alliance with Un País En Comú – was personally rejected by Ada Colau, for whom the whole point of the exercise was to create something going beyond the existing left formations.

 

This compromise was endorsed by Pablo Iglesias, the general secretary of Podemos in the Spanish state, as “magnificent news for Spain and for Catalonia”. Fachin commented that, “the rest of the protagonists have understood that those three points enrich the whole space” and thanked Domènech as “author of the fact that we different formations understand each other”.

 

...then goes again

 

On March 27, Podem announced its own tickets for the two interim leadership bodies: Fachin declined to take part in the list headed by Domènech, which he dubbed as “the list of the parties” (although independents made up one third of the positions). The Podem leadership put forward a list called Democratic Radicality Now!, composed mainly of members close to the internal current Global Revolt (the Catalan sister organisation of the Anticapitalist current in the Spanish state). Former Podem leaders Jessica Albiach and Marc Bartolomeu – with political sympathies closer to those of Iñigo Errejón, former “number two” in the Spanish state whose motions were defeated in Podemos’s February congress – presented a “dissident” Podem list at the same time.

 

Podem then stated on March 30 that it would be withdrawing its candidate lists and not taking part in the founding congress at all. Its stated reasons were that:

 

* The right of Podem members to vote on an equal footing with others was not guaranteed for various technical and legal reasons;

 

* The founding congress of Un País en Comú would be open only to those registered on the Un País en Comú membership list;

 

* There was no guarantee of the neutrality of the voting system;

 

* The agreed code of ethics had not been ratified.

 

The Podem leadership added that “the premature insistence on the goal of unity without taking into account the guarantees, rhythms and needs of the political organisations that are taking part puts us on the road to errors committed by other confluences.”

 

For their part, “sources close to the Domènech list” quoted in the March 30 El Diario said that “the only reason for Fachin’s change of opinion is the existence of another Podem list [led by Albiach] that is competing against him.” The atmosphere that had by then developed between the Podem leadership and the other organisations was revealed in a leaked tweet to concerned members by EUiA leader Joan Josep Nuet: “Don’t worry. It will end OK, with Podem shredded.”

 

Podem’s last minute withdrawal from the Un País en Comú process left Global Revolt supporters on both sides of the divide, with CQSEP MP Joan Giner and other Podem executive members from Global Revolt backing the walkout while a March 30 Global Revolt communiqué stated that its activists would “actively participate in the April 8 congress in the desire to make constructive proposals that are anti-capitalist, mould-breaking and in favour of internal democracy and participation from below.”

 

Whatever the rights and wrongs of its decision, the withdrawal of the Podem leadership from building Un País En Comú to date looks to be hurting it more than the process of confluence. The ticket of dissident Podem members got seven of its candidates elected to the new force’s interim executive and the Spainsh state Podemos leadership through Pablo Iglesias made it clear that it would continue to regard Un País En Comú as its partner in Catalonia.

 

At the same time, the Podemos leadership is also remaining true to its commitment not to interfere in the affairs of Podem Catalonia and to maintain neutrality between its various currents. Speaking on April 3, Podemos organisational secretary Pablo Echenique, said: “At this moment, Podem does not form an organic part of the new political subject beyond the participation of people in an individual capacity in the primaries.”

 

Nonetheless, Iglesias’s video greeting to the April 8 congress said “I have no doubt that we shall continue to walk together”, while Echenique told the congress crowd—which kept chanting “unity, unity, unity”— that “there are some people who have been struggling for 30 years and some who have been struggling for just a while. We have to understand that we in different traditions that share the same goals just have to live together in the same space.”

 

Roots of a failure

 

With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to dig out the dynamic that drove Podem’s refusal to participate in the founding of Un País en Comú. Since the formation of assembly-based, radical anti-austerity formations such as Podemos, the issue of how they should relate to the “old” left forces (e.g. United Left, Initiative for Catalonia) has been fraught, generating tensions and debates within all organisations.

 

Before the arrival of Un País en Comú, the solution to overcoming separate, competing election campaigns was the formation of electoral alliances embracing old and new forces (e.g. Galician Left Alternative, Unidos Podemos, En Comú Podem, CSQEP): in them the participating parties maintained their separate existence. However, Un País en Comú was the first attempt to fuse “old” and “new” together in the same—still to be concretely defined—political space. That undertaking meant that the political cultures old and new would finally be put to a serious test of compatibility, as would each side’s sometimes simplistic and self-serving view of the political character of the other.

 

Podem was a latecomer to the proposal for the creation of the new political space in Catalonia – which had been “in the air” since late 2015 – because of a series of leadership crises which were only resolved with the victory of the team led by Albano Dante Fachin in leadership primaries last July. Its Purple Tide campaign was then launched with the goal of making sure as much of the “bottom-up” spirit and practices of the new politics was injected into the process and that nothing was decided via “deals” between party leaderships.

 

However, this approach, which had somewhat of the character of a raid into the hostile territory of the “old parties” and was understandable given people’s experience of most existing political forces, made more likely conflict between the two main goals of Un País en Comú: that of assuring the participation in it of organised left currents and that of having the rank-and-file membership determine its political course and leadership. It came to a head in Podem’s rejection of any organisational formula that would assign positions in candidacies for the process’s interim leadership bodies to participating parties.

 

Yet how could Un País en Comú — still in formation and far from thrashing out the final form of its functioning — possibly advance without a guarantee that all organisations committing to it would be included in leadership discussions during the transition phase? How could the mountain of political and organisational issues still to be resolved be adequately addressed without such representation? Such a confidence-strengthening move was particularly necessary given the different conceptions of the new political space that were floating in general discussion (such as the ICV view that what is being built is the “PSUC of the 21st century”).[3]

 

It was also key because of the hope being expressed by Colau and Domènech that the existing parties would phase out of existence before the 2019-20 electoral cycle in the Spanish state. For that to happen their memberships would have to feel certain that they would be leaving for a better political home.

 

Agreeing to such a transitional leadership formula would certainly not have been “in Podem’s DNA” (as the Purple Tide documents put it), but it could have been motivated to Podem members as necessary for the process to advance in the transitional period and for Podem to be able to continue to have input in shaping a new force from whose final form any sort of “party quotas” should be excluded. It would also have allowed the process to focus on thorny issues such as, for example, the nature of membership in a force made up of activists coming from parties where membership requires payment of dues (ICV, EUiA) and those where it requires no financial commitment at all (Podem).

 

In its March 30 statement following Podem’s withdrawal from the project Global Revolt outlined what it saw as three shortcomings in the process of preparing Un País en Comú:

 

[T] he low turnout in the project of new unorganised people, the lack of systematic preparation at a local or sectoral level of joint work by the members from the different organisations and the hasty discussion about model of organisation and norms of functioning. In particular, with regard to this last aspect, we consider that real reflection on how to build a participatory and democratic organisation was lacking, and that everything indicates that the new political subject will reproduce the usual problems of the functioning of parties, old and new.

 

The statement described the crisis between Podem and Barcelona en Comú, ICV and EUiA as “very bad news” and hoped that Podem’s withdrawal would be temporary, but abstained from any specific diagnosis of the actions of the participants or from suggestions as to how the crisis with Podem might be overcome or the process improved.

 

By April 12, Fachin was implying that April 8 congress of Un País en Comú had represented less than the sum of the parts involved. He told El Periodico that in the primaries of Podem nearly 7000 had participated, while 1500 less had taken part in the vote on the Un País en Comú transitional leadership. The reason was that:

 

many people don’t feel themselves to be addressed [by the process], and not only in Podem. In this process we are leaving people by the roadside, doing things that make people think we are the same old thing. It doesn’t make me happy, but the low participation in the congress shows we are right.

 

The alternative obvious explanation — that the way in which Podem itself had engaged with the Un País en Comú process and its final withdrawal might have dissuaded its members and other people from participating — was not entertained by Fachín.

 

For his part EUiA leader Nuet wrote in the April 13 Nació Digital that:

 

All of Podem must be included in the new subject, because we defend with determination our desire to build a new joint identity that goes beyond its component parts. That has to be done by listening to and reaching agreement on Podem’s contributions about improving a functioning and a practice that all sensibilities can work with.

 

Conclusion

 

There is no doubt that the absence of Podem from Un País en Comú leaves the new confluence without a valuable body of activists and that the sooner Podem can find the way to “come in from the cold” the better for the future of the process.

 

On the other hand, Un País en Comú can’t spend all or most of its time and energy trying to seduce Podem back into its ranks. This is because it must now actually start tackling the vast job of building an organisation capable of attracting activists old and new where only an adopted document and an elected leadership exist. It also has to do this in a political context where it will soon have to make the absolutely critical decision as to whether its supports the unilateral referendum process being prepared by the pro-independence Catalan government, which is under permanent legal and political shellfire from the Spanish state.

 

Progress in actually constructing Un País en Comú and making it a relevant force in Catalan politics will also be the only way to create the context for also making progress in many still unresolved discussions and for convincing Podem members that they belong in the ranks of an organisation that has a potentially critical role to play in forging a left majority in Catalonia and the Spanish state.

 

Dick Nichols is Green Left Weekly’s European correspondent, based in Barcelona. An initial version of this article has appeared on its website. He is a member of Un País En Comú and Podem.

 

Notes

 

[1] Membership figures for the participating organisations are as follows. Podem: 52,000 total, 30,000 “active” (have participated in at least one on-line activity in the last year). Barcelona en Comú: 1760 activists, 14,200 registered supporters of whom 9500 have a right to vote. ICV: 4358 dues-paying members, 1520 sympathisers. EUiA: 3452 dies-paying members, 2509 sympathisers. (Source: “Podem agrees to unite with the ‘commons’: a guide to understanding the confluence”, Nacio Digital, March 23).

 

[2] The adoption of the code of ethics means that the new formation takes no responsibility for the debts of its affiliates. ICV, which has €12 million in bank debt is elaborating a plan involving the selling-off of properties to meet its financial obligations.

 

[3] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Socialist_Party_of_Catalonia. The balance sheet of the PSUC, Catalan sister organisation of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and the largest force fighting underground against the Franco dictatorship, is still the subject of intense discussion on the Catalan left.

 

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