Interview with Cayo Lara, leader of Izquierda Unida (United Left)
Cayo Lara, 61, is general co-ordinator Izquierda Unida (United Left). During the party’s last Congress he was re-elected by a unanimous vote to lead the party, that in parliamentary elections in November 2011 achieved almost 7% of the vote, winning 11 seats. Since then, under his leadership the Izquierda Unida has increased its support to between 15 and 19%, according to opinion polls. Lara talks to Giuseppe Grosso of Italy’s Il Manifesto newspaper.
In Spain, as in Italy and in other European countries, the two-party system is going through a serious crisis. Why is this?
The two-party system today does not have anything to offer. Because of its self-referential politics and ineptitude, it has played a crucial role in incubation of this crisis, but now has no answers.
Is this political crisis – at least in Spain – lethal for the two-party model?
The crisis of bipartisanship is evident. Popular support for this political scheme is dropping steadily, and the model itself has now been called into question. However, time will tell us the magnitude of the consequences of this decline. What is clear, for now, is that people are tired of this sterile alternation and they seek alternative policies that take into account the real problems of this society.
Opinion polls show Izquierda Unida positioned very close to the Socialists. Is overtaking the Socialists a goal?
Our goal is to change the situation in the country. Izquierda Unida is focused only on the working class, in the broadest sense of this definition. We believe we can provide concrete solutions to the problems that concern Izquierda Unida most closely, such as employment, education, the system of taxation and pensions. This is our priority. Izquierda Unida’s objective is the opposition to neo-liberal policies, regardless of what the party applies them. On this basis, we are constantly working to achieve ever wider support that allows us to reverse the policies that have brought us to this situation and to give back to the sovereignty and citizenship – that decision-making power that the current political system has taken from us and given to the markets.
Is the advance of Izquierda Unida a temporary phenomenon, due to the reaction of citizens to the current situation, or does it denote a genuine desire for political change?
I do not think it is temporary. The rise of Izquierda Unida is constant and progressive and has already begun with the parliamentary elections of November 2011. I think that we are experiencing profound changes in society, and Izquierda Unida has been able to engage with, and to which – in contrast to the traditional parties – it has been able to respond. It is clear that popular dissent against the current situation is strong, as well as the frustration and disappointment of the citizens about the way the crisis has been managed by the two main parties. These factors are eroding the old structures of the political system and this will have repercussions in elections. We’ll be ready: Izquierda Unida has a clear vocation for government and we will do everything in our hands so that more people feel identified with the political project that we defend and carry forward.
Does Izquierda Unida consider itself the political representative of the social movements?
Izquierda Unida defines itself as a social and political movement, rather than a party. Many of our activists are activists in the many protest movements that have flourished in recent years in Spain and we feel very at ease working with this part of society. On the other hand we do not want to drive or preside over any movement: we have always walked beside them, with no intention of leadership, striving for common goals. And we will continue in this direction, supporting the movements – and thus the battles of our constituents who are an integral part of them – which have stirred the conscience and repoliticized society.
What is your response to Spain’s six million unemployed?
Our response to unemployment is sustainable growth. The resources to finance it exist and can be found by combating tax evasion and the creation of a tax system that is progressive and levied according to your wealth. These are essential starting points in order to establish an economic model that creates jobs by funding the public sector and small and medium enterprises. In the long term it is necessary to build a new industrial policy, supporting the internal market and fostering demand and investment. In the short term, however, we must give confidence and hope back to people and urgently find solutions for those without resources such as long-term unemployed . We propose a state-funded jobs and training plan, in collaboration with local government.
How do you imagine the political landscape in Spain five years from now?
I imagine a country where politics is at the service of citizens and not the markets, in which the rights of the population are guaranteed by the state. A country with fully public health and education systems, which fights against poverty. It will not be easy, but the enthusiasm and desire are not lacking. Is Izquierda Unida ready to govern? Certainly. We have people with the skills and experience in government at the municipal level and regional level. We have a programme, many ideas and a lot of confidence.
Il Manifesto 30.5.2013
Translation by Revolting Europe