Albert Noguera – Spain: The Coalition Government as a Prelude to Disaster

A couple of days ago we posted a piece by Stuart Medina Miltimore concerning the impending coalition between the Spanish Social Democrats (PSOE) and Podemos HERE. Here another take on this issue

Albert Noguera is Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Valencia. He is a member of the Ruptura group.

Originally posted in Spanish in El Diario

Translated and edited by BRAVE NEW EUROPE

Del cuadro de "El abrazo" al abrazo real: Dos maneras de sellar un pacto

There seems to be a widespread euphoria in sectors of the left over the announcement of a PSOE-Podemos coalition government. I don’t wish to spoil the party, but if we analyse this agreement we realise first that it will not allow any structural change to be implemented in Spain. And second, that, on the verge of a new economic crisis in 2020, it will lead to the burial of the state institutional left and allow the extreme right to cash in on all social discontent. The coalition government is a prelude to disaster.

Podemos’s decision to join a coalition government instead of negotiating the toleration of a minority regime, and staying out of government, shows its inability to understand the economic, political, and territorial moment.

The inability to understand the economic moment

Economic limitations make it impossible to carry out any structural change in the country:

On the one hand, although the euro zone and also the Spanish economy have grown since 2013, all indicators point to a new economic crisis in European countries in 2020: a possible increase in inflation will force interest rates to rise and harden market conditions and budgetary stability criteria imposed by the EU. At the same time, in the case of Spain there is a close relationship between curbing the public deficit and protecting of social rights and public services. The Constitution does not place social rights among the “rights” section but among the “guiding principles” of public policies. This means that their provision is closely linked to the budget. In addition, the free availability of the material support of social rights, and even their possible regressive nature, has been endorsed by the Constitutional Court itself, which has underlined the non-binding nature of the duty to provide them.

Thus, the combination of an economic crisis to come, with point 10 of the PSOE-Podemos pre-government agreement, that sets out the need to respect the deficit targets set by the EU, leads not only to Podemos being unable to make structural changes but also forces it to manage its own new cuts in social services.

The inability to understand politics

One of the slogans of Podemos during the campaign was to focus on jobs and not on flags. In other words, the superstructure should not distract us from the structure. The party has eliminated from its discourse any reference to its old demands for a Constituent Process or plurinational State, in order to focus on pointing out that the only important thing is economic measures. This is the objective with which we intend to enter Government, to use the State as an instrument to make “workers’ use” of it. Right now, Podemos does not have a theory of the State, but only an economic programme and the belief that the State is a passive means, without any autonomy, which can be used, when desired by anyone, to achieve its economic ends.

This is an approach that completely ignores the autonomy of the political sphere. Politics is not a mere reflection of economics, but economics and politics have parallel histories that may coincide or contradict each other. And the state apparatus in Spain is lagging behind Podemos’s economic programme. The latter can never be implemented without a modernisation of the state apparatus of the regime.

The State is a complex organisational articulation of diverse apparatuses and their branches and if Podemos acquires control of some ministry, the regime can shift the real power towards other apparatuses or branches (Congress, TC, Senate, PSOE ministries, etc.), converting the spaces occupied by the left into spaces of formal power. The institutional design of the State formulated in the Constitution and in the Organic Law of the Constitutional Court permits this. Consequently, only if the State apparatus were in line with Podemos’s economic programme would it be possible to apply it. Otherwise, as it happens, Podemos will enter government and at the same time will be blocked by the State.

The institutional left must understand that its economic program is not possible if it does not first change the political structure, which requires dissolving this regime and initiating a process to design a replacement.

The inability to understand the territorial moment

Finally, Podemos embarks on a coalition government, misreading the Catalan conflict, which will end up dragging them to the precipice.

Podemos opposes what it considers a situation of “irrational government of passions” embodied, supposedly, on the one hand, by the strategy of disobedience of social independence and, on the other hand, by the right wing that defends repression and the violation of fundamental rights in Catalonia. Faced with this, they propose a “government of reason” characterised by dialogue within the State and the Constitution. This is stated in point 9 of the pre-agreement of the PSOE-Podemos government. Consequently, it is a question of defending a state reason which, paraphrasing Hegel, would understand that only in the State, and within its constitutional rules of the game, does the subject have a rational existence.

This position of Podemos is based on a representation of reality built on two false premises: the first is that it poses a dilemma between a “rational government of passions” versus a “government of constitutional reason. And the second is that it attributes to each of these two regimes opposing values, a negative value to the irrational government of passions and a positive value to the government of constitutional reason.

Neither of these two premises is true. The dilemma “governance of irrational passions or governance of constitutional reason” is a false or misplaced dichotomy because one does not exclude the other, as long as they do not share the same historical moment. Historically, the irrational government of passions appears when the government of constitutional reason has entered into crisis. They are not two forms of government that occupy the same historical moment, but are forms of government that correspond to different historical moments: that of consensus in the case of the former and that of the organic crisis of regime in the case of the latter. In each of these moments one fits but not the other, so they are not exclusive. And, for that very reason, they cannot be valued as either good or bad forms of government. Each of them is neither good nor bad, but simply corresponds to different historical moments in which one can occur but not the other.

Therefore, if you are unable to understand the historical moment of regime crisis in which you live (neither social ungovernability nor repression in Catalonia is going to stop) and, instead of joining the regime’s own form of government, that of passions, resistance, and rebellion to overthrow the regime, you mount yourself on the form of government of constitutional reason proper to a historical moment that no longer exists or is in open crisis, playing the role of “statesman”, the crisis of the latter ends up also becoming your crisis and drags you down.

In short, these elements will not allow Podemos to implement any structural change in the country. To achieve a different outcome Podemos must opt:

1. For negotiating a programmatic agreement of toleration of a minority government that includes concrete legislative measures and Pedro Sanchez’s commitment to submit to a mid-term vote of confidence, where he is accountable for compliance with the agreement; and

2. Not to enter the government, but instead to carry out an internal process of de-bureaucratisation, reorganisation and re-establishment of relations with social movements and the citizenry that allows reactivating the mobilization in the streets and reconstructing a social left, so that, with the coming economic crisis, it is not the right but the left that gains power.

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