Podemos and pragmatic radicalism

Pablo Iglesias

Pablo Iglesias

To get anywhere, the Left needs to shift the political “common sense”. That means changing people’s minds, and as Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias realises, you don’t do that by quoting mouldering dead revolutionaries at them.

One of very few heartening developments on the left-wing front in what’s been a dismal decade or so for fans of liberty, equality and fraternity, Podemos is a barely year-old Spanish political party. It’s stridently anti-austerity, staunchly but pragmatically leftist, and came from nowhere to win nearly 8% of the vote in last year’s European elections just five months into its existence.

The Bemolution recently came across a transcript of a speech given by Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in Jacobin, an eye-pleasingly stylish and generally excellent American socialist magazine. We liked it so much we’re going to repost bits of here.

In it, Iglesias criticises the conventional Left’s obsession with the same old dogmas, and how they keep radical politics small and all too easy to ridicule and ignore. Time and time again on the Left, you find the kind of student revolutionaries he describes meeting as a lecturer in political science – wannabe 68ers who’ve read Marx, read Lenin, and then found that real people don’t compute with laughably inaccessible works of political economy written over a century ago. To these types – liable to come out with godawful phrases like “the working class has failed in its historical mission” – Iglesias has a simple message: the problem is you. Continue reading

Obligatory Scottish Referendum One

scotland-independence-refer

The nice old social democratic Lib Dem who lives opposite Fort Bemalot was flying both a saltire and the union flag in his front garden this morning. In Scotland, the Nos had won. For left-wingers, hardly in a position to pick and choose opportunities to try and escape neoliberalism, that’s probably a bad thing.

We’ve purposely avoided sticking our oar in on the Scottish issue. England, particularly the sector-straddling Westminster elite, predictably managed to make it all about itself – what would an independent Scotland mean for England? What would be the economic repercussions for England? What would the military impact be on England? What would the constitutional implications be for England? Suffice to say, there were more than enough English navel-gazers pontificating all over Scotland’s referendum, which was probably very annoying. Continue reading

Generic Left: And Now For More Of That Scintillating Political Positioning Stuff (Part 2)

Ken

Ken

Spank your mouse here for part one.

Back when it was a short-trousered blog-based non-phenomenon, the Bemolution was also influenced by the anthropologically-tinged historical perspective of Ken Livingstone, Labour left-winger and ex-Mayor of London. From his 1989 manifesto for the ‘90s, Livingstone’s Labour:

“We evolved over 5 million years as a cooperative animal. Throughout that time the norm was for ten to thirty early humans to live together in extended groups, in much the same way as a the great apes such as gorillas and chimpanzees do today … The whole evolution of our species over 5 million years is thus linked to cooperative groups and values. When Mrs Thatcher argues that there is no such thing as society but only the individual, she is denying the very essence of our humanity”.

Ken’s fairly devastating conclusion: “Almost all that has happened to us in these few thousand years has gone against the grain of our evolved, cooperative humanity”. There’s no point trying to pretend human pre-history was all bounteous and lovely – it was undoubtedly grim.

But it’s also very clear that, out of blunt necessity, for the vast majority of their existence human beings have lived far more equal, social, cooperative lives than the ones we lead today. The unnaturally atomised, individualistic way of life we’ve been forced into, particularly over the last few decades, looks a very likely root cause for increasing levels of unhappiness and depression amongst relatively very affluent Westerners. Continue reading

Generic Left: And Now For More Of That Scintillating Political Positioning Stuff (Part 1)

Occupy: quite a good example of Generic Left

Occupy: quite a good example of Generic Left

Last time around, the Bemolution ended up trying to articulate its own slightly garbled political position almost by accident, in amongst saying lots of pessimistic things about the state of the political Left more broadly.

The aim, as almost always, was to make the case for a major revamp of left-wing politics – a modern reincarnation of classic leftist ideals that’s inclusive, non-dogmatic, and not tangled up in the baffling ideological splits and squabbles of the previous century.

This was deemed necessary because of the terrifying likelihood of radical politics otherwise sinking without trace, right at the point in human history where, as we obliviously barrel towards environmental annihilation, it’s needed more urgently than ever.

The Bemolution then had the crazed idea that we might’ve been on to something, and that by talking about our own moderately deranged political position we could counter-intuitively help make that case – proving even a worldview as strange and head-scratchingly obscure as ours fits in the same left-wing box as a lot of more orthodox radical politics. Continue reading

A) for the planet’s sake, and B) just to survive, the Left needs to get ‘generic’

The status quo risks the destruction of our species and the ecosystem all life relies on

The status quo risks the destruction of our species and the ecosystem all life relies on

The blogosphere reverberates with people self-importantly telling each other what ‘the Left’ should be doing. What the world and her springer spaniel are clearly crying out for, then, is another deeply unpopular, laughably unlikely ramshackle leftist strategy, hastily rammed in the virtual left-wing suggestion box and probably never seen again. The Bemolution lives to serve.

The Left should radically and unsentimentally revamp itself, turning what is all too often a fossilised remnant of the early twentieth century into something specifically addressing the social, political and ecological here and now. It should drop the blinkered obsession with past ideological battles. Instead, it needs to hammer itself back into contemporary relevance, going back to first principles and relating them afresh to the way the world is today.

Ecological crisis looms, providing humanity with the biggest threat to its continued existence in thousands of years. Faced with probable environmental disaster, caused for the most part by the growth-obsession and chronic waste of a culture skewed in the interests of the scandalously wealthy, we need to radically reshape civilisation and make our species live within its means. A system that has already used and abused millions of individual homo sapiens as disposable tools for enriching tiny minorities, along with squandering the potential of millions more by dismissing them as stupid and/or leaving them to flounder in poverty, is now well on the way to ravaging the planet beyond the point of no return. Continue reading