While much of the New Zealand left is becalmed in a quagmire of 'critical support' for the right wing Labour Party, left parties in Europe are making gains. In Spain a party that was only formed in February is set to become the next government. Rejecting pacts and coalitions, Podemos is campaigning on a platform of progressive economic policies including a state funded basic income for all citizens and the nationalisation of strategic areas of the economy. Leader Pablo Iglesias says that "Heaven is not taken by consensus, it is taken by assault.'
SOMETHING REMARKABLE is happening in Spain.
All the opinion polls indicate that a party that is less than year old is set to tear down the cosy arrangements that have seen two parties dominate Spanish politics. The centre-right governing People's Party and the main opposition, the social democratic Spanish Socialists’ Workers Party are being beaten in all the polls by Podemos, a new left party advocating state intervention in the economy including nationalisation.
Spain’s two main parties won nearly 75% of the vote at the last general election in 2011. Today those two parties combined are attracting no more than 50 percent of the vote. In contrast all the polls say that if an election was held today Podemos (which translates as 'We Can") would become the new government with some 30 percent of the vote. It would be a dramatic political shift to the left of historical significance not only for Spain but for Europe, with other left parties like Syriza in Greece and Die Linke in Germany also making gains.
The meteoric rise of Podemos has, on one level, been driven by the widespread public anger for the two main parties and their support for austerity policies that have delivered a devastating level of unemployment and massive cuts. It has also capitalised on a series of corruption scandals that have exposed a rotten and self-serving political system.
But Podemos is offering a coherent set of polices that reject neoliberalism and are clearly attracting support. It intends to implement far-reaching reforms to the political system, introduce a state-funded basic income for all citizens, a 35-hour working week and implement public control over strategic sectors of the economy such as the electricity industry and telecommunications.
It will also take control of all empty housing currently in private hands (such as the banks) and initiate a plan of affordable social housing. Forced evictions will end immediately.
The Podemos programme also includes a proposal to ban profitable companies from firing workers, and to give parliament control over the policies of the European Central Bank.
Podemos is led by Pablo Iglesias, a 36-year-old lecturer in political science. The party was formed after discussions with the Anticapitalist Left, which is aligned to the Fourth International.
What is also inspiring, after seeing what recently occurred in New Zealand, is that Podemos rejects making pacts or coalitions with political forces unfriendly to the interests of the Spanish working class. It has already told union bosses that Podemos will not do deals behind closed doors.
Pablo Iglesias told a public meeting last month that "Heaven is not taken by consensus, it is taken by assault".