I spoke to Germán Cano about the party’s relationship to Latin America near the Podemos headquarters in Lavapiés, the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in Madrid. Cano is a member of Podemos’s citizen’s council and is in charge of the party’s burgeoning relationship with Latin America’s “Southern Cone” — Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile.
He believes the Latin American experience shatters the Western assumption that “there is no alternative” to neoliberalism. “Latin America has been a laboratory that has shown us that it’s possible to build a majoritarian political will without adhering to the horizon they’ve told us is inevitable,” he says.
It’s a horizon that began long ago, Cano adds, but “in Europe it only began to make sense with the so-called Third Way of Tony Blair and the subsequent accommodations parties like the Spanish Socialists have made.” In the United States, Bill Clinton embodied this Third Way, which sugarcoated corporate welfare, anti-union policies, and the repeal of social welfare programs with the language of “investing in people.”
I ask Cano what he hopes to bring back from Latin America to Spain.
“It’s impossible to transplant exactly what’s going on in Latin America to a reality so different like the European or the Spanish one,” he says. “That’s something we are mindful of. These societies are very different.” But if there’s a deeper theoretical point Podemos has learned from the Latin American pink tide governments, it’s “how to articulate demands that in the first instance don’t appear to fit with already constituted identities,” he says.
Like any political party, Podemos is made up of different tendencies. Unlike in most, though, their differences largely remain theoretical, not practical. Iglesias and Errejón, for example, seem to subscribe to the so-called “post-Marxism” of thinkers like the late Ernesto Laclau. Monedero and Alegre, by contrast, align themselves more with classical Marxism, with what’s known in Spain as Republican Marxism, recalling the Spanish Civil War. These differences, however, take a backseat when it comes to politics on the ground.
And in terms of practical politics, Podemos is “betting on the recent political tradition called the ‘new populisms,’” as Cano tells me. They’re trying to understand “populism as a space that has been undervalued and underestimated as much by the liberal tradition as by the Marxist tradition, which hasn’t understood that the social composition doesn’t respond to fixed and already constituted identities.” Political identities, he continues, are always in the making.