He’s MEP of the European Left in the Gue-NGL grouping, “that defends the dignity of the people and democracy ». He’s also leader of Spain’s Podemos movement, which to general surprise won 8% in the Continent-wide elections in May and is accredited in opinion polls today as the leading political force in the country with a 27% share of the vote. In short, the thirty-something Pablo Iglesias is becoming for the Spanish what Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras is for the Greeks: a public danger for austerity Europe, from of Barroso and now Juncker, as some in the media have characterised him. Interview with Italy’s Il Manifesto newspaper.
In a year you went from being an ‘outraged’ college professor to becoming the political leader of a party that, according to the opinion polls, is more popular than the government and the opposite Socialists. How do you explain the success of Podemos?
This is due to the exceptional situation Spain has gone through in recent years, where the economic crisis has become a political crisis, and then a crisis of the system. In this context, we have become a tool of political change. When the infant ’15M’ movement began to denounce the distortions in the country, for example, the costs of politics, the mobilization in the plazas did not have an immediate electoral impact. So they said to us, “Indignados, stand in the elections, and see what happens.” Now they don’t say this anymore.
Is there a risk that such a rapid success can just as quickly vanish?
In politics there are always risks. But we think we represent, not only the vote of the ‘outraged’, but also a ‘vote of hope’. Because there can be a better life, more dignified than that which we – and not only Spaniards – have suffered in these years of crisis. Just like Tsipras, we want to “mobilize hope.”
In analysing your success and that of SYRIZA, which is also in the Gue-NGL grouping in the European parliament, the Italian journalist Curzio Maltese notes that your programs are characterized by a radical critique of the EU even more than against national governments that are now considered as ‘peripheral’ puppets implementing policies decided elsewhere. ‘Tsipras and Iglesias – states Maltese – say they want to win, and govern, to change policies continent-wide. The voters will reward them ‘. What do you think?
It’s a convincing analysis. By now it should be clear to everyone that you cannot achieve change in one country. You have to make alliances in various countries to change things. To challenge a power as strong as what we have before us, the EU of the banks, there must be many of us. To get to where decisions are really made.
Would you agree that this is the aim of the initiative in Italy, Altra Europa (Another Europe) that supported the candidacy for EU President of Tsipras in the May European elections?
It’s true, Italians have read the situation quite brilliantly. In contrast, in other countries in the south of the Continent protest has instead been channelled into opposition to the Nordic countries. With slogans like: “We do not want to become protectorates.” And when the Nordics accuse us Spaniards of being people who do not want to work, I say that is not true. Because the figures show that in Spain we work a lot, when there is work. And this is the case in Italy too.
One of your party colleagues in a discussion on the crisis of European social democracy made a simple and profound observation: “Podemos is successful because it breaks the now fictitious right-left pattern, in a historic moment that instead calls for a choice between continuity or rupture.”
I’ll respond, also to deal with those who tell us that we are the Spanish grillini [Italy’s Five Star Movement party led by comedian blogger Beppe Grillo]. We never said we were neither right nor left. I am of the left, it is clear. But for us right and left are, so to speak, metaphors that no longer fit with today’s reality. But we are not the Spanish grillini, even though I have got to know them in Strasbourg and I think many of them are good people, with whom one can work together.
Even to leave the euro, as they ask?
In my opinion you cannot leave the euro at this moment, although the euro has become one instrument of financial hegemony that we fundamentally oppose. We can change things, but only with [radical] popular governments in Greece, Spain and wherever else they may occur. For example, in Spain, if we become the government we will exit NATO. We know that this will not be easy. But I want to defend the sovereignty of my country. I do not want to have foreign troops in Spain.
What is the position of Podemos on the push for independence in the Basque Country as in Catalonia?
Given that voting is always an important thing, I can answer that citizens must have the right to decide on all things, from the economy to social rights. And also on territorial issues. But I think that Spain is a country of nations, and that the problems are solved with democracy. Personally, I do not want a Catalonia outside of Spain.
What do you think of Italy’s PM Matteo Renzi?
A good communicator. But there is so much difference between what he says and what he does. He, too, pushed for the election of Juncker. And he’s doing a deal with Berlusconi to exclude other political forces. He’s not done or said anything about the financial powers, Wall Street, to show he’s on the side of the citizens. I think the Italian politician most happy with Renzi is Silvio Berlusconi.
Translation by Revolting Europe