Prospects for the Spanish Left, Part 3

William Saas, Jorge Amar, David Glotzer, and Scott Ferguson

This is the final part of a three-part series on Spain’s economic crisis, the program of the new leftist political party Podemos, and both the limitations and potential of the Spanish left today. This installment focuses on a possible recomposition of Podemos that could lead to the “left turn” in economic policy—including exit from the euro and the jobs guarantee—that the authors advocate. Parts 1 and 2 are available here and here.

William O. Saas is an assistant professor of rhetoric at Louisiana State University. His work has appeared in symplokē and Rhetoric & Public Affairs.

Jorge Amar is a Spanish economist, president of Asociación por el Pleno Empleo y la Estabilidad de Precios, or Full Employment and Price Stability Association), and a doctoral candidate in applied economics at the Universidad Valencia. Recently, Amar served as economic advisor for Spain’s Unidad Popular party.

David Glotzer is a valuation analyst at Solidifi, and freelance writer whose background is in Economics and Mathematics. His writings have appeared in CounterPunch, Investig’Action, Strategic Culture Foundation, and Young Progressive Voices.

Scott Ferguson is an assistant professor of humanities and cultural studies at the University of South Florida. He is also a Research Scholar at the Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. His essays have appeared in CounterPunch, Naked Capitalism, and Flassbeck Economics International.

The Way Forward

In order to escape its cycle of debt deflation, Spain must ultimately do what its counterparts on the European “periphery” have so far failed to do: exit the eurozone. To proceed otherwise—to continue to acquiesce to the destructive rules of the institutions—is to guarantee the continued immiseration of the Spanish working class.
It is time for leaders within Unidos Podemos to pledge, in no uncertain terms, to take the steps that are necessary to restore Spain to prosperity. The most controversial of these steps will be the Spanish Left-exit, or “lexit.” Path-breakers in a lexit-oriented Unidos Podemos must anticipate and account for popular reluctance to depart the euro. With the example of UKIP’s noxious campaign for Brexit fresh in their minds, some Spaniards will doubtless view Spanish lexit as an inherently reactionary proposal. In stark contrast with UKIP, however, a lexit-oriented Unidos Podemos will be able to supplement its proposal with a roadmap for a prosperous post-euro Spanish economy, as well as a leadership that is prepared to execute the requisite sharp left-turn.

Several prominent members within the Unidos Podemos coalition understand the urgent need for a Left-exit (or “lexit”). Indeed, while his public actions have often been less than encouraging, Pablo Iglesias has himself subtly signaled that he knows Spain must exit the euro if the nation is to have any hope for meaningful economic recovery. What Iglesias needs to do now is publicly embrace what he knows privately to be true—and to act accordingly. His first act ought to be to discard the conciliatory politics and cloying branding strategies of Podemos’ peacemaker-in-chief, Íñigo Errejón. Placating peace-signs and Ikea-style adverts have already proven to be political dead-ends and will surely not do the trick when it comes to selling the Spanish lexit. Next, Iglesias should form a new cabinet of economic advisors made up of pro-lexit comrades like Juan Laborda, Miguel Urbán, Adoración Guamán, and Eduardo Garzón.

The pernicious nature of the EU system is not news to Juan Laborda, friend of Nacho Álvarez and economic advisor to Podemos. Indeed, Laborda’s recent embrace of MMT has enabled him to see clearly that the “consensus among the extractive European elites on austerity is not based on any logical understanding of the modern monetary system and deliberately ignores many of the actual options that are at the disposition of a fiat currency issuing government. …The objective is to continue maintaining behaviors and institutional structures that limit the spending capacity of the government.” Observing this to be the case, and recognizing also that there is little hope for creating different conditions within the confines of the euro, Laborda argued in the lead-up to last summer’s elections that “the best option for countries like Italy, Spain, Greece or Portugal is exiting unilaterally from the monetary union by restoring their own economic and political sovereignty.”

An audacious proposal for lexit from Iglesias could expect further support from Miguel Urbán, EU MP and prominent member of the United Left. Urbán has long been both an outspoken critic of the euro and a dedicated advocate of restoring popular sovereignty to nations in the eurozone. Most importantly, Urbán understands that lexit ought to be the inaugural gesture for a left Spanish government. “The first thing that a progressive government should do, that wants to protect the people,” Urbán has said, “would be to disobey the EU’s treaties. … We have to break these rules in order to make clear that this political and economic framework is not workable.”

Iglesias would then do well to consult Adoración Guamán, director of the progressive Fundación por la Europa de los Ciudadanos think-tank, and Eduardo Garzón, chief economic advisor of UL, for a workable alternative to the EU’s austere economic framework. Like Laborda, Guamán and Garzón have leveraged the insights of MMT to argue that Spain must break loose from the fiscal straitjacket of the euro before it can have any hope of restoring prosperity to Spaniards. But Guamán and Garzón further recognize that a swift and remorseless lexit is only the first step toward recovery. Once out of the euro, the Spanish government will have to follow through on its pledge to provide for the health and welfare of its citizenry. It will have to put Spain back to work.

Of course, such a maneuver will require a level of coordination and agreement that is not readily found in the current configuration of Unidos Podemos. But the schematics for a new and more effectual configuration are easily sketched. Our proposal: Retain Pablo Iglesias as the political and ideological leader of Unidos Podemos. Assign Adoración Guaman and Eduardo Garzón to serve as Iglesias’ chief financial advisors. Invite Juan Laborda and Miguel Urbán to oversee the implementation of UP’s new plan to restore Spain to prosperity through lexit and the job guarantee. Íñigo Errejón and Nacho Álvarez will be left to decide whether they want to get on board with this revolution in Spanish political economy, or remain behind in futile pursuit of squeezing ever more euros out of the already destitute.

The economic prospects of Spain in 2016 remain as dour as they were in 2014. Unlike 2014, however, today there is a critical mass inside the Unidos Podemos coalition that is ready to support a fresh and genuine alternative agenda for Spain. With the specter of a PP-led government looming on the horizon, it is likely that Iglesias and Unidos Podemos will soon be faced with a stark choice: stay the course and hope for change, or change the course and make a better future.

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