Alberto Garzón: ‘More unity and better unity’ “The PCE and IU each have a role to play, and both are complementary and absolutely necessary”

MUNDO OBRERO: The decision to enter in and join the government has its advantages, and also a cost for IU. How do you assess IU’s participation in the coalition government?

ALBERTO GARZÓN: I think it was the correct decision. Decisions regarding alliances must always be evaluated contextually, and the results of the general elections showed a certain stability between the blocs, -the progressive or leftist bloc and the conservative or reactionary bloc-, with the extreme right seeing spectacular growth in line with countries such as France. In light of this context, the best option was to join the government, knowing that it is a tool that can change people’s lives, but that it depends on a balance of power in Congress where the numbers were against us. At the same time, co-governance involves the risks inherent to governing along with those derived from the fact that you must come to agreement with a partner that does not share your same opinion, particularly on certain sensitive issues.
The decision was quite correct. I think that we rose to the circumstances, and that any other decision would have been difficult to understand at a time in which an economic crisis, territorial crisis, political crisis, environmental crisis, and the rise of the extreme right were coming together. Then came the pandemic to reaffirm that the working class’s state of need had to be addressed. I continue to hold the opinion that the best way to do that was by participating in the government.

We are facing a historical period in which IU no longer occupies all of the space to the left of PSOE with electoral support. How is Izquierda Unida’s alliance with Unidas Podemos to be understood?

Societies change. Class structures and technologies change, as does the political system. During a stable period running from 1986 to 2014, there have been ups and downs, but we have always been Spain’s third party after the two predominant parties that received up to 80% of general election votes in 2008. We at IU were educated in this culture of resistance. We have had municipal governments, yet we were greatly penalised by electoral law on the national stage, resulting in our becoming the nation’s third party while seeing a major decrease in our number of seats. Starting with a change in the 2011-2015 cycle, this transformed society and led to the emergence of new parties, and Podemos in particular, that covered a large portion of the demands that we had made and incorporated other new ones, while belonging to a different political tradition.

When that happened, there were two ways of addressing it. With a certain degree of resentment, of not fully understanding what the appearance of Podemos meant sociologically, or in a more intelligent way that meant trying to understand the ultimate causes for which a population that voted for us at one point would choose to vote for a new party. We chose the second option. We examined the causes and opened channels of dialogue to achieve this alliance, while thinking about the country and the working class. This was not possible in the first impasses. We tried, but were not able to convince our Podemos colleagues until 2016. That year, an electoral alliance began to be forged that, for us, had the aim of also being a social alliance, that had to be confirmed from the bottom, from grass-roots assemblies.

This time we moved forward. I think that the organisation accepts and assumes that this is here to stay, and that no other formula would make sense. Society, and especially opponents, see us as equals and have their reasons: we belong to the same political project, regardless of whether some stand behind the purple logo of Podemos or our Izquierda Unida logo.

There is still much to expand upon in this space of alliance, and that is what we must propose: improving the mechanisms of internal coordination, democratising decision-making, and, above all, being able to bring about change from the bottom so that alliances in the territories are living entities that are involved in the conflicts, and are the voice and instrument for the people that need them. We in the Izquierda Unida party have clearly stated our direction: more unity and better unity.

Flying in the face of so many predictions, the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) is preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary, and Izquierda Unida is marching towards its 40th anniversary, redoubling support of its strengthening in this assembly. What is the space and value that each of these organisations provides?

The PCE is a historical component of Spanish democracy. At the same time, the party is not only a piece for analysing the past, but rather an instrument for transforming concrete reality. This is demonstrated throughout this alliance that we have built -it was not guaranteed in any way- with the PCE, pushing it in favour of alliance and into Izquierda Unida. This is important because Izquierda Unida never pretended to be a single political party, but rather a space for the party to meet with many other individuals, including independents and those belonging to other political traditions. In this sense, the synergy between the party’s operations and those of Izquierda Unida is key. The PCE and IU each have a role to play, and both are complementary and absolutely necessary.


What are the tasks between the 12th and 13th Assembly that are aimed at reaching 2025 with a stronger IU?

We need to accept the assessment of what is happening in our country and our surroundings. This means accepting the gravity of the economic crisis, the gravity of the territorial and political crisis, and the gravity of the environmental crisis. We must be aware that we are playing with life itself, because capitalism is jeopardising the planet, the living conditions of the social majority and the least fortunate in particular, and, therefore, we have to organise ourselves so that a new path forward can be forged. Specifically, for us, this path forward means: feminism, environmentalism, and republicanism. With these three lines of action to transform concrete reality, along with a desirable political outlook such as the Federal Republic, we must continue to convince other fellow citizens that this is a useful tool. To do this, we need to have many more people, and be much more able to reach society. Izquierda Unida’s role is to reach people that are not affiliated with IU. This exercise in dialogue is at the core of strengthening IU.

Why is it important for IU to be feminist, and what does feminism bring to the IU’s other fractions: the red, white, and green?

We come from a beautiful political tradition that stems from the Enlightenment and became scientific socialism, theorised by Marx and Engels, where we have always paid particular attention to the conditions of production, and that has conditioned all of our analysis. What happens is that, in a given society, production requires two things: the planet (resources) and care. Historically, care has been a task conferred to women through the work of sexual reproduction. This space, made invisible for so long, and from which women have fought to emancipate themselves in the name of feminism, from a perspective of political tradition, must be reclaimed as a more complete point of view. It is absolutely necessary for everything derived from this demand, including care being more equally distributed and salaries being matched both in and out of the workplace, to be integrated into a leftist perspective that, despite their heroic struggles, has traditionally overlooked this other important attribute referring to no less than half of the world’s population.

IU is reaffirming its support for the Republic in this assembly, and associates this with the democratic breakdown. What does that mean?

It means understanding that in our country, as in all others, history conditions the present. That last two-hundred years have seen very few progressive or leftist victories in Spain. Reactionary powers in our country have been immense. They have always been able to limit any emancipatory attempt. The most recent example is that of the Second Republic itself, which was a process nipped in the bud by a coup d’état. That left a mark. Those that won majorities in these victories imposed a quite reactionary national notion: a uniform, single, centralist, monarchical Spain. There is another way of imagining Spain that includes diversity and cooperation. A more democratic, republican way that can and must be the solution to this force that is both centripetal through Spanish nationalism, and centrifugal through independence movements. This is not about choosing between the Spain of Menéndez-Pelayo and his entire political spectrum -from Cánovas del Castillo to Pablo Casado himself, including Primo de Rivera- or the independence of territories such as Catalonia or the Basque Country. There is another option, and that is understanding a republican Spain with room for us all, where that diversity is prioritised with working class rights being defended, regardless of where someone was born. Republicanism is that element that brings together socialist traditions with democratic traditions. As such, that means that everyone has the right to housing, the right to eat, to live in dignity, and to do so in a State that recognises that we are diverse, that there are different cultures, languages, manners of administration, and that all of this is perfectly compatible. Republicanism entails a profound democratization within the State.

"The mythologising narrative has awarded the monarchy with terrible impunity that it has used, as far as we know, in truly dark matters"

What role has the monarchy played as an institution with regard to the quality of our democracy?

It is important to remember that when our country voted for the Constitution, it was voting specifically between a Constitution associated with freedom and the dictatorship, and the monarchy came along with the Constitution. The people did not have an opportunity to choose how the Head of State was defined. With the benefit of time, we now know that Adolfo Suárez was reluctant to hold a referendum because they had information indicating that the Republic would win. So here we have a monarchy that comes in a democratic pack, effectively with citizen turned King Juan Carlos de Borbón acting as a legitimising force to halt a coup d’état according to a somewhat murky mandate that remains unknown as the documents remain classified. The monarchy’s mythologised construction prevents us from seeing what it did in the following years. It is a hereditary monarchy, inviolable and life-long, that does not have to be held to account. That is how what appears to have happened did: systematic looting from the State’s own institution, without the ability to investigate. The monarchy is an inviolable figure. Everything that happened up to the abdication of Juan Carlos I is legally protected according to prevailing interpretation, and everything after is protected by different, more complex factors. In essence, the mythologising narrative has awarded the monarchy with terrible impunity that it has used, as far as we know, in truly dark matters.


Business groups are preparing themselves for a feast of public funds. What can the working class expect from the European funds and the announced increase in public spending? Do the media and economic group attacks on Unidas Podemos have anything to do with the subsequent management of such a large quantity of funds?

Yes. There are various dimensions at play. One of them has to do with experiencing an economic crisis and a health crisis that has harshly impacted the economy since we were largely forced to halt economic activity in order to protect ourselves from the pandemic. As a result, following a major battle in Europe, we have a commitment for an enormous series of resources – 75,000 million euros- earmarked for our country’s transformation and economic recovery. These are very large sums of money that can be used in very different ways. We propose taking advantage of the situation to modernise the country, not just provide compensation for losses, in addition to building engines of economic transformation based on advanced technology and high added value. This, which is the debate surrounding reindustrialisation, would involve rethinking our country’s power structure in one way or another. That is something that certain actors, who are sometimes used to living off the administration’s public tenders, do not like. All transformative proposals involve resistance from those that see themselves as possibly being adversely affected. Large companies do not all share the same opinion. There are large, more cutting-edge or dynamic companies that would agree with what I am saying, and there is also a series of large companies that have upheld a culture of patronage, of the oligarchy. These actors have great power, in the broadest sense of the word, with the ability to influence the determination of media agendas, for example, that are involved in a major offensive to curb our influence. The brutal attacks on Unidas Podemos, on Izquierda Unida, and on Pablo Iglesias, follow a clear attempt to strip us of our influence because we want to talk about things like pension and labour reform, we want to talk about modernising the country, and we have an agenda that places the spotlight on the structure of power and wealth. That is something that major companies are not willing to tolerate, as they have always been governing in one way or another without having to run for election.

"Transforming our economy, adapting it to our environmental challenges, and protecting the most vulnerable is an urgent matter"

After fifty years of a united defence of neo-liberal policies associated with austerity in public spending, the IMF is now defending fiscal stimulus and public spending programmes while playing down the importance of public debt. Neo-Keynesian economics seem to have become fashionable. Prominent members of the coalition government openly embrace it here in Spain. Is there space in the coalition government for policy that goes a step further?

Many national and international economists realised that the only way to save capitalism was to protect it from its excesses. This is basically what Keynesian economics means. However, it has many facets and political objectives when applied. You can use fiscal stimulus to transform the economy, or to patch holes in sympathetic companies, bail out banks, or create a public enterprise. We are involved in a debate that we often lose because we hold on to labels. Europe needs to move on from its neo-liberal phase. International financial entities have already realised this, yet there is still powerful momentum in all instances. In the end, reality is what imposes it. The pandemic left them with no choice but to accept heterodox measures, even those that have always refused them. The question is if we are able to be bolder and more ambitious. It is technically possible, but the problem is political will. This is the fight we are in. All of our political spheres insist on the need for this money to be dedicated to improving people’s lives, and not just patching the system’s holes, which is what de facto Keynesian economics has been doing for the last ten years. We must be more radical and convincing. We need people and the planet to be protected, and both things require an immense stimulus package to transform our economy, adapt it to our environmental challenges, and protect the most valuable.