Monday, November 17, 2008

Izquierda Unida - Missing In Action

At times like this, with the established certainties on the economy crumbling in the face of the current crisis, you would hope that those who have a different political vision might step forward to make their case. Sadly, Izquierda Unida (IU) - the third national party in terms of votes in Spain - doesn't seem to be ready to meet the challenge. Following a disastrous general election result which saw their parliamentary presence reduced to just 2 members, IU has been facing a very difficult situation. Their conference held this weekend doesn't seem to have resolved those difficulties.

The problem is largely historical, IU was forged out of an attempt by the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) to form an alliance with other sectors of the left outside of the social democratic PSOE. The PCE always envisaged this alliance as being one that they would control, a vision that has led to a steady leakage over the years of those who find that their voices will never be heard. The federation is currently split between three broad groupings, those loyal to the PCE leadership, supporters of the positions of outgoing national coordinator Gaspar Llamazares, and those who represent a third way independent of the two other groupings. The voting at the weekend reflected the stalemate between these factions, with the PCE drawing the largest vote but without achieving a majority.

Llamazares himself came from within the PCE, but took the federation in a direction that his party's national leadership rejected. He appeared to understand the need to reach out to other social movements and attempted to make the concept of a coalition mean more than just a series of mini planets orbiting around a PCE sun. The PCE leadership holds this strategy responsible for the decline in votes, but in reality it's unlikely that any other strategy would have made a significant difference. Apart from the longer term decline in support for a left alternative to the PSOE, the latter party grabbed many votes this year that they would not normally get because of the fear that a possible return to power of the PP provoked amongst the voters of the left.

Whether it's the reality or not, the impression that many people will get from the weekend is that of a seriously divided party. None of the attempts to reach consensus over the leadership issue were successful, although the fact that serious attempts took place to find agreement suggests that all may not be lost. A declining PCE has always regarded IU as being its property and still cannot come to terms with the idea of a genuine coalition where it does not decide the political direction to impose via a preliminary caucus. It is at the same time the single largest provider of members, and the single largest problem that IU has. Particularly on the economy, but also on other issues, there is clear political space to the left of the PSOE. IU's problem is going to be getting its act together in time to present that alternative.


Tom said...

Yes, it's disappointing that IU hasn't been able to pull itself together since the election. A stronger party to the left of the PSOE would be able to offer a powerful alternative when it comes to explaining just why so many people are losing their jobs.

Almeria said...

The PCE has pulled IU far too much to the left, and the PSOE did a job of picking up the few vote winning issues on the centre-left side.
Things weren't helped by that idiot saying that IU would always vote with PSOE in parliment - it translated into public minds as "a vote for IU is a vote for PSOE, so let's just vote for PSOE and have a strong party".
IU needs to shake off the PCE hardliners and establish itself as a strong, independent party capable of voting against PSOE if necessary. But seeing as to how it's imploding...

Troy said...

Why is it that everyone seems to know about what the previous 2 comments have mentioned, but no one seems ready to deal with it. Unhitch the unrealistic PCE boat to the ship and become a viable alternative to the bloody PSOE. Surely there has to be an option to Bono's Maravillas left!

Graeme said...

If only it was that simple - a split would probably finish them off electorally. In any case the individual PCE members form an important part of the organisation. The ideal solution is for the PCE to dissolve itself so that its members only belong to IU and act as individuals. Don't see it happening though.