secretary general of Podemos, a new anti-austerity party in Spain.
Watch a recent address by Spain’s Podemos Secretary General Pablo Iglesias, a political science professor and activist who could become the country’s next prime minister if his anti-austerity party wins the national elections later this year. Last May, Podemos surprised many when it received 1.2 million votes and five seats in the European Parliament elections. Iglesias spoke February 17, at The Center for Place, Culture and Politics at CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.
Don’t miss our interview with Iglesias on Democracy Now! while he was in town.
AMY GOODMAN: Pablo Iglesias.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Good morning, guys. I feel really good here with you. I have to apologize because I arrived late. I was on Wall Street. And it’s not difficult to say I feel better now. Normally, I don’t use to read things, but today I want to say many things, so I’m going to read.
Dear friends, it’s an honor for me to speak here at this university, in this city and in this country. Some of the people who fear that we will win the next elections in Spain say many terrible things about us. Now they say, "Why are you going to the U.S.A. if you don’t even like the U.S.A.?" And so, I want to begin my speech by showing my admiration for the people of this country.
Often people—often people speak of the hands that built America, the hands of immigrants from many different countries all over the world. There still remains something of them in this city, and I deeply admire that unique spirit of different people joining hands to build something new. I admire the strength of the Chicago workers in 1886, claimed their right to an eight-hour workday. The press called them crazy, just as they still call those who defend the working class today. How can I not admire that same United States working class? How can I not be moved listening to Bruce Springsteen singing "The River"?
I also admire the words of some of the presidents of this country, like those of Abraham Lincoln, who said in his Gettysburg Address that a government is a government if it is of the people, by the people and for the people. We, too, say the same thing in our country.
I admire those cultural geniuses who held the banner of freedom high and resisted the persecution of Senator McCarthy—Dalton Trumbo, Bertolt Brecht or brave men such as Frank Sinatra or Humphrey Bogart.
As a Spaniard, I haven’t forgotten the generosity of Americans, many of them people of faith, who in 1936 and afterwards welcomed and helped Spanish exiles who came to this country with nothing.
This country is also great because of its athletes. How can I not admire Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who, with their fists, raised the dignity of African Americans in 1968? How can I not admire Lebron James and his teammates, who showed their full support to Trayvon Martin, a teen killed for being an African American and for wearing just a hood?
How can I—how can I not admire a country that gave birth to Rosa Parks, who showed that dignity is disobedience? How can I not admire a country that gave birth to Angela Davis, to Harvey Milk? How can I not admire a country that has given birth to so many freedom fighters? I am very happy to be in the United States with you.
But today I am here to speak to you about Podemos, to speak to you of how it’s possible that a political force like us, born just one year ago, is now ready to take the government in Spain and to win the elections. To be able to speak to you about this, I first need to speak to you about the financial crisis and austerity policies.
If the economic crisis has served for anything, I think it has been to make a classist political plan, whose origin began in the '70s, peaceable to the public. That global plan put the financial powers at the top of the pyramid of world order. A billionaire, Warren Buffett, clearly expressed the success of this political plan when he openly said that "a class struggle exists, and it's my class that is winning this struggle." Shortly after being elected president of the United States, Bill Clinton—I read this history in a David Harvey book—Bill Clinton met with his team of economists that alerted him to the urgency of reducing the public deficit to calm down the bond markets. Clinton said something like this: "Do you mean to say that the success of the economic program and my re-election possibility depend on the Federal Reserve and a handful of bond traders?" "Yes, that’s the way power works, in the States and in the world."
The financial powers represent the Supreme Soviet of global political power: They are above president and above parliament. They are what David Harvey calls the party of Wall Street. It’s like the Third International, but the international of the global powers. This party represents those living in the attic of the economic system. It’s the same party that favored the subprime mortgages in the United States that served to evict millions of Americans from their homes. It’s the party which Angela Merkel serves—she’s a militant of the Wall Street party—the party that controls the European Central Bank, the party that controls the European Commission and the IMF, and the same party that yesterday made the plans for a structural adjustment in peripheral countries. It was the party that designed the Maastricht Treaty in my Europe, in Europe, in my country. The party of Wall Street also has officials in Spain, who go from being of the boards of large companies to Council of Ministers, and vice versa. We call members of this party the caste, la caste [speaking Spanish].
Do you remember how this crisis began? It all started in 2006 with the increase of evictions in poor neighborhoods in a few U.S.A. cities. In late 2007, more than two million Americans had lost their homes, and another four million were about to. Several mortgage companies went bankrupt as a result of falling real estate prices, and the chain reaction began. Banks, aware of this situation, stopped lending money to households and businesses. The U.S.A. economy, which was no longer based on production, but rather on finance, witnessed private debt go up to three times its gross national product, GNP. In this context of criminal irresponsibility, the rating agencies, now known worldwide, who were paid by the owners of the assets to be evaluated, lied over and over again and maintained the credibility of a model that could crash the week. The credit rating agencies lied, and so did the IMF, who always praise the vitality of the financial system, and in 2007 even said that the eurozone area was prepared for a period of growth.
And finally, the U.S.A. banking system collapsed and ceased to perform its functions as a credit provider. And the crisis arrived in Europe. A few months later, millions of people lost their jobs. They were evicted from their homes because they couldn’t afford to pay their mortgages. And the public wealth and the public health and education systems were dismantled, were destroyed by austerity programs that put to rest what was known now as the welfare state in Europe. The burden of the banking crisis was transferred to individual citizens. To deal with an unprecedented national debt, the people of the peripheral European countries has to accept the austerity measures and budget cuts in public services. At the end of the day, they had lived beyond their means. The phrase that sums up the political agenda of the financial powers could be: "Rescue the banks, and give the bill to the people." The identity of the eurozone as a reserve of social rights ended. The crisis has finally created a Europe of a north creditor, south debtor, that established a division of labor controlled by the rich countries. The south must specialize in products and services, with a strong demand for labor, but with low salaries.
What have governments in southern Europe, such as Greece, Portugal or Spain, done to emerge from the crisis? Austerity policies. They reduced the salaries of public workers, and in turn favored the condition for all salaries to be reduced. They carried out labor reforms to lower severance pay, raised taxes on basic necessities, protected the banks and privatized everything. They reduced pension and raised the retirement age. They raised the price of medication and degradized healthcare. These austerity policies have not only created great suffering among the people of Europe, but have also proved quite ineffective. They have not served to solve the three major European issues—debt, unemployment and domestic inequality. On the contrary, these issues become worse. In my country, for instance, unemployment levels are unacceptable. Debt has increased, from just over 30 percent to almost 100 percent of our GDP. Almost half of the employed earn less than 1,000 euros per month, and I assure you that is quite difficult to live for a family in Spain with just 1,000 euros per month. There are shocking levels of poverty and malnutrition among children in my country. Those who have governed until now have not only provoked pain, but they have failed. And probably Podemos is the result of this failure. While all of this has been happening, the number of millionaires in Spain has increased, of course. In a situation of social emergency, the government rules in favor of a rich minority and against the weak people.
What can we do? What can we do? We stand for a national plan in a new social Europe. We must carry out a debt restructuring to adjust the debt to social justice criteria and legitimacy. We must make the European Central Bank stop working for the banks, and instead help government to fulfill their obligation to protect their citizens. We must create a public banking system to insure investment and credit for households and small and medium-size companies. Public ownership must be extended to certain key areas of the economy, such as energy, transport, utilities and other strategic sectors. We must begin a process of reindustrialization through public investment, for which we need to adapt the education system by reinforcing access to primary and secondary education and the quality of vocational training, universities and high-level research centers. Thanks to this investment, productivity, which is always associated with weight, will increase. We must also perform a tax reform, a tax reform that will redistribute tax and end the fraud of great fortunes and impose more pressure on the privileged. As a result, the supply of public funding for public health and housing will improve. We must fight tax havens.
In order to accomplish all of this, a political change is necessary in Spain and in Europe. I think that this is—I think that this democratic change is underway. I know that they are not going to make it easy for us, but if there is anything the people of Spain have sound to us, it’s that we can do it, es que podemos. Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: So, there are microphones on the left and right side of the audience, and you can line up and ask your questions, or if you have comments. But as people line up, Pablo Iglesias, I was wondering if you could speak a little bit more about your own family, for people in the United States meeting you for the first time, how you were formed, the forces that shaped you, the history of Spain.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Thank you very much for the questions. My family probably represents the historical political commitment in my country. As Amy said before, my granddad was a freedom fighter in the Spanish Civil War, and my parents were doing politics during the Franco dictatorship. And since I was a child, I understood very well that politics are a cluster of tools that sometimes are really useful in order to improve the life of people. When politics is just a thing of the politician, a thing of men with ties and these people who is in the top of the system, these members of the party of Wall Street, they are able to steal everything from the people. Politics should be—should be a cluster of instruments for the people. I knew that since I was a child, because my atmosphere in my family was a very politically committed atmosphere.
But probably in Podemos, we are creating something new. When they ask to us, "OK, you are leftists, or you are from the right-wing?" I always say, "I’m leftist, of course. But in order to create a new political majority in our country, the notion of left and right is not always useful." And I have the feeling that in my country, when we had a center-right party and a center-left party, finally, the banks win. So, we prefer to speak about the people from below and people from the top. And we say it doesn’t matter what is your origin. It doesn’t matter if your granddad was a member of the Franco army. It doesn’t matter what did you vote in the past. If you agree with us that we have to democratize economy, if you understand with us that there is no democracy if financial powers and—if financial powers have not democratic control, if you think that is something of common sense, the fact we need a public health service and a public system of school and that we need public universities, you can be with us. We can be the majority. We don’t need all flags, if our political target is to take the political power and to change the things. And probably this is the best lesson of Podemos.
I remember when the M-15 movement, El Quince M, the indignados movement, was in the squares in Spain. Of course there were leftist people—like me, for instance. But there were many other people, many other people. And I remember some old members of the leftist party very upset. They were very, very angry. "So, you are indignados? I am indignado since I was 15 years old, and you are new in this." And you should understand that probably the fact that many guys who are in the streets protesting, saying just, "We want democracy, and we don’t feel represented by these politicians," the fact they are on the streets is probably the best proof of the failure of the left in my country, because you didn’t organize these demonstrations.
I remember my students. I used to be a professor of political science in Madrid. And my students were very, very political, you know, some of them Marxists, Leninists, and these ironic and beautiful words. Some people think if you have a photo of Che Guevara, of Marx, that you are more revolutionary. And the revolution is not—it has nothing to do with photos or with posters or of T-shirts. It depends of the power relations. And they were very angry, because they were in the assemblies of the movement, and they were trying to explain, "But you are workers! You are the working class! And you are proletariat, and you have to change." And people didn’t understand them. And I said to them, "OK, you are doing real politics now, because politics is not just to have the best analysis of the situation." I know very well that—what’s the meaning of capitalism as a historic system. I know very well what’s the meaning of class struggle. But in politics, it’s very important to use a language understandable for the majority of the people.
And probably—thank you—and probably the big success, the big victory of the financial powers or the victory of the neoliberalism or the victory of the ideology of capitalism is that they were able to change the words, to change the language. A political struggle is a struggle for the meaning of the words. You have to fight with the words. You can be a caricature. You can be a—something ridiculous, a all-left militant, alone all the time, crying against capitalism, and nobody understand you. You have to use media. You have to use a new language. You have to try to create a new majority. And even if I came from a very radical left family, and I consider myself Marxist, I know that the important thing in politics is to create a majority. And that’s the reason because now in Spain and in Greece the powers that be are very worried about Syriza and about Podemos, not because Alexis is a Marxist or not because I come from a very radical family, but because we have the possibility to take the power and change some things. But if you want to change something, you need a majority. And sometimes to get this majority, you need to leave away—to put away the old flags and to create something new. And the fact the powers are very worried about us is probably the best proof that we are doing the things well.
AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t we take the first question for Pablo Iglesias?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: I wanted to know whether you intend to include in your program some mechanism to ensure the fulfillment of Spain’s obligation to investigate and prosecute international crimes, war crimes or crimes against humanity committed during the civil war and during the dictatorship. As you know, now the prosecution is quite difficult as a result of the judgment from the Supreme Court in Baltasar Garzón’s case, but there are alternatives, such as the commissions of inquiry, as we have seen recently in Brazil. And I guess that I can guess your position with respect to this subject, but I want to know whether you’re going to include that in your program, something concrete with respect to Spain’s obligation on this matter.
PABLO IGLESIAS: For us, it’s quite important. And, in fact, we have a person in our political direction, in our political committee, the council, the citizen council we have that is the maximum organ of Podemos, of Podemos party, working—working on that, for us, is something very important. And I feel—I feel very bad regarding the way the governments in Spain have managed that. So, of course we will try to change it.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Hi. My first question is for both of you, Amy and Pablo, which is: How can we create a horizontal alliance between Europe and North America, including Mexico and Canada, which allows us to tilt the balance and make finance capital our server and not our boss? And I have a question specifically for Pablo, which is: Why didn’t you speak about education? Thank you.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Regarding the first question, an alliance between Europe and North America and Mexico, in geopolitical terms, it’s quite difficult. I don’t know if you were speaking about the alliance between people. And I think that’s—
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Horizontal alliance.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Oh, that’s very important. That’s great. It’s very important to internationalize not just the fights, not just the struggles of social movement, but the common sense. I think we are in a geopolitical transition nowadays. And I think it’s opened a structural—structure of opportunities to change many things in the world. This is not necessarily a good new, and it’s difficult to imagine what is going to happen in the next years. But I think we need, again, some kind of global civil society with new issues. I think that the human rights are now in a terrible situation, and it’s quite important to defend them. And I think that in Mexico, in the States and in Europe, we have good reasons to defend human rights.
Regarding the second question, I don’t know. I think education is quite important, and especially public, public education. If I have the opportunity to come back in New York—never again in winter, I promise you—I will try to prepare a conference about education. It’s a topic quite interesting for me.
AMY GOODMAN: And on the issue of, you know, horizontal alliances, we have to facilitate open media. I mean, I come from an independent media movement. And what comes out of that global conversation is for people to shape, but we have to ensure that forum is there. I just remember being down at Zuccotti Park with all of my colleagues at Democracy Now! interviewing people and seeing—I mean, we are in the media metropolis of the world, yet for the first week or so there was almost no media coverage, even as these journalists would walk by to go to work. And then, I remember Erin Burnett on CNN, she was starting her show that week or that day, and all the interviews with her before is, "I am going to give voice to the people." And that first broadcast that she did on Zuccotti Park, the header on it was "Seriously?" So it makes me think of that famous Gandhi phrase, right: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you," which I think is where Pablo Iglesias is now with Podemos and the movements that have recognized them, "then they fight you, and then you win."
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: Thank you so much for being here today. My question is—you’ve spoken a little bit about your stance on Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Could you share with us your thoughts, if your party gets into power, what your stance will be on the Israeli occupation and your current position on the BDS movement against Israel?
PABLO IGLESIAS: I’ve been in Palestine in September, and I saw this unacceptable apartheid situation. In my opinion, Israel is violating all the time the international law. And the attitude of the U.S.A. government regarding Israel is completely unacceptable. The attitude of Europe is very—probably the best word in order to define the attitude of Europe is hypocrisy. I think that Palestinian people have the right of a state. And I think that going back to the borders of 1948 could be the more reasonable solution for the conflict. I know it’s very difficult because Israel is a powerful country and they have the support of the United States. But we will work for democracy, and work for democracy means support the Palestinian fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 3: Mr. Iglesias, since you are running for Spanish presidency, I have a couple of questions about internal politics. The first, about one year ago in your TV show La Tuerka, you said that following the definitive cessation of terrorist—ETA terrorist activities, all Basque terrorist prisoners should be released. And I was wondering if you still maintain this position, and especially referring to those terrorists who committed assassinations very recently, 2010, 2011, who killed Isaías Carrasco, Ignacio Uria and others. And the second question regards to the Spanish security sector structure. You know that we have two main national law enforcement agencies. One is military, the Guardia Civil; the other is civilian, the National Police. Do you like this system? Or do you think we shouldn’t have a military police in Spain, we should eliminate them or merge with the civilian police? Thank you.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Regarding the first question, recently I vote in the European Parliament, with members—together with member of the socialist Spanish party and the Spanish popular party, a resolution supporting the peace process in Ireland. A peace process means that law should be respected. And I think that the exceptional situation that we have in Spain regarding the prisoners is something of the past. I think that when someone commit a crime, should be in prison and should be in prison the years that the law—in my case, the Spanish law—say. If you have to be 20 years in prison because the Spanish law say you have to be 20 years, that’s right. But as you know very well, in our country there is already an exceptional situation for a group of prisoners. And I think it could be a matter of responsibility of a state to end the exceptional situation, always with all the respect for the victims of terrorism. And obviously, as you know, we condemn seriously the terrorism of ETA in our country. I have to remind you that the Spanish governments, the Spanish governments of Aznar, Zapatero and Felipe González, were sitting in the same table with the members, with the heads of ETA, talking about prisoners and talking about a prisoners policy. And I think it’s a state matter, very, very, very difficult, but I think that I can ask to my government to have a state’s responsibility in order to organize his policies regarding this issue.
The second question is about the police system in Spain, where we have different police forces—police, civil guard. We have had meetings with unions or association of police and civil guards. And if we are in the government, we should open a big dialogue with all the sectors in order to organize the most effective system of security in our country. It’s not an easy discussion, but the most important things is to try to be more efficient, listening—listening to the actors in this case.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 4: Syriza is going for a European debt conference, the model of this being the London Debt Conference of 1953, which allowed Germany to resolve itself of 50 percent of its debt and move into an economic power position. Do you call for that? And if so, what would be the proper percentage for Spain? Thank you.
PABLO IGLESIAS: I think the Greek government is right, and I think they are making very—very good proposals in order to—in order to improve the situation in Greece. And restructuring the debt is something needed. It’s impossible to pay the debt if your economy is completely destroyed. The austerity programs have destroyed the economy, the economy in Greece. And I think we are now in a very difficult moment. I see very dogmatic behavior in some countries in Europe, especially in Germany. And I think we should say to Angela Merkel, "You did a mistake. These austerity programs have been a disaster for the European Union. And maybe if you continue to develop this dogmatic behavior, maybe next year you will sit in a table with Marine Le Pen. And we don’t like that." So I think the Greek government is extending the hand, is giving an opportunity for retake, for recreate the project of a democratic European Union. And I think the European governments, especially the socialist one, should take that hand. Regarding Spain, our situation is different respect Greece. We are the fourth economy of the eurozone. And probably we will have another position in an eventual negotiation.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 5: Yes, hi. I just returned from Spain after a two-week visit, and all I could hear from the media and from your opponents in the political world is you won’t define yourself, you won’t position yourself ideologically, you won’t make a program clear to the Spanish people and Spanish voter. I’m not going to say whether I agree with that or not, but basically, is this strategic ambiguity on your part? Is this something to not—so to position yourself in such a way as to isolate the other parties? And in order for you to perhaps define yourself, maybe for this audience, what makes you different from the Partido Socialista? What makes you different from the party that, despite the corruption and the problems, you know, gave universal access to education, universal healthcare, voluntary military service, etc., etc., etc.?
PABLO IGLESIAS: Even if my English is not so good, if you understood some of my conference today, I think ambiguity is not a word able to define my discourse. I think we are very clear when we said we don’t want more evictions in our country, and using European law, we can finish with evictions in a week. When we say we need a restructuration of the debt, we are very clear. There is no ambiguity. When we say we need a fiscal reform in order to make rich people pay taxes in our country, we don’t have any ambiguity. And probably, probably this aggressive behavior you can find in some Spanish newspaper is precisely because there is not ambiguity in our course.
Regarding the—regarding the Spanish socialist party, if they change, if they do the things in another way, my hand is extended. But I think they have some ambiguities. For instance, they deal—they deal with the popular party in order to change the constitution in Spain without a referendum, in order to limit the deficit. That means to reduce the sovereignty capacity of our country. They have dealt two weeks ago with the popular party in order to create a new penal figure in our legal system: the permanent prison—something that is against the European values and against the democracy, democratic values. In the European Parliament, the Spanish socialist party negotiate the European Commission that is led by Jean-Claude Juncker. And after we knew the implication of Jean-Claude Juncker in a scandal of a secret negotiation with transnational companies in order to make them not pay taxes, we proposed an investigation committee in the European Parliament in order to know the activities of our president, our president of the European Commission. And the Spanish socialist party answered us with ambiguity. They say, "We are against the fiscal havens, but we are not going to vote for this commission." So, I think the problem of ambiguity is not our problem, it’s maybe the problem of the Spanish socialist party.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 6: Bienvenido nuevamente, Pablo, a Nueva York. I teach economics here at John Jay College in CUNY, and I constantly put up to date my students with what’s happening with Podemos. And I’m also a member of the Partido Pueblo Trabajador in Puerto Rico. We’re closely following what’s happening with Podemos. So I just want to make two quick questions. First, I think it will be great if you can give a general overview of the Maastricht Treaty and its ratification in Lisbon, so we can understand how, in one way or another, it contributed to what’s happening in your country. And second, in your talks, in your platform, you normally try to emphasize, underline how capitalism has undermined democracy, how capitalism and its markets, financial institutions, have undermined democracy. When you normally speak about unemployment for all the age groups in Spain, you like to refer to the need to increase the aggregate demand, and many people here know that that language and those concepts can be associated with the thought of John Maynard Keynes, who was the—one of the biggest defenders of capitalism. So I wonder what critique do you have of Keynes, given that I know that you have in your staff very important and admirable economists like Vicenç Navarro advising you. Thank you.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Thank you for your questions. This is a very difficult exam.
AMY GOODMAN: If you need help, [David] Harvey is in the front row.
PABLO IGLESIAS: I’ll try to do my best. Regarding Maastricht Treaty, in my opinion, it was a mistake. The problem of Maastricht is that a state lost their sovereignty powers, and they gave to the European Central Bank, an "independent" institution, the power of something that is very important for a state. That is the power of have money to create—to create money. And many of the problems we have now in Europe has many things to do with this situation. In this point, I think that there is not alternative, and it’s something very sad. One journalist asked to me, "You will like to put Spain away from the eurozone?" I say, "No." "So you love eurozone?" It’s not my best dream, but it’s the reality, and it’s probably impossible to make another thing.
The second question is great. Obviously, we are defending a neo-Keynesianism. And Keynes was a defender of capitalism. In fact, the Keynes ideas was probably—were probably the best way to protect capitalism and to make capitalism survive. But probably you know very well that it’s impossible to change capitalism just winning an electoral process. Even it’s impossible to change capitalism teaching in universities. You can be the most Marxist professor of a university, and you are giving an excellent theoretical background for your students, but you are not changing anything. So, even if I recognize that the capitalism is a terrible system, the things we can do if we win elections are very small things, very small things in the margins of free market economy. And we assume that we will have to deal with economic powers. We know very well that it’s impossible to change capitalism just winning elections. But I don’t like people who say, "OK, in that case, I will be a superhero, an anti-capitalist superhero in the underground of the society." In my country, there are much people without a decent salary, with much problems, and we have to do something. And I know that the things we can do are reformist things. You could say to us, "You are a reformist, and you are not a real revolutionary." But if you study the history of the 20th century, I think we have to respect the expression of the class struggle that in the end finish in a reorganization of the powers and redistribution of the wealth. We are not very ambitious in that sense. We just want to make clear that democracy means that we can limit the financial powers. But we are not—we have not the force, we have not the power to change the whole system.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Thank you. First of all, congratulations to Podemos on behalf of the Schiller Institute, which has been fighting for some three decades now for the right of economic justice and economic development for every nation and every person. And we truly feel that we are in a revolutionary moment, that that is precisely what we’re seeing in—with Syriza in Greece, with Sinn Féin in Ireland, with Podemos in Spain, and, emphatically, with the new process that’s coming into being with the BRICS alliance. The entire Transatlantic economic system is coming down right now, and it means that the possibility of changing everything from top to bottom absolutely exists. And we’re not talking about a few billion dollars of debt in Spain or Greece, but we’re talking about two quadrillion dollars in completely fictitious derivatives and related debt. And this financial collapse is also absolutely the driving factor behind the danger of thermonuclear war. We’re seeing it every day with the provocations against Russia and so on. So, I think the opportunity exists—not only this must be changed, but the opportunity exists right now to change it. Now, we have an offer from the BRICS nations that every nation—Xi Jinping proposed that the United States, that every nation join in with the BRICS. We have been leading the fight here to get the United States to join, and also for an international Glass-Steagall, which would bankrupt the predators and the too-big-to-fail banks in Wall Street and related areas. So, my question is: What is your view, both on the war danger, as it relates to this, and also on the potential with the BRICS, what Xi Jinping called a win-win situation of cooperation among sovereign nations, as opposed to confrontation among nations, particularly at this both very dangerous, but very opportune, moment in history?
PABLO IGLESIAS: Thank you for the question. This is probably the most difficult exam of my life—and in English. Professor Immanuel Wallerstein and other members of this world-system analysis tradition, like Giovanni Arrighi, a friend of David Harvey, and others of this tradition, said we are in a geopolitical transition. We are in a post-hegemonic transition. I agree with that. And I think that there is—there are many opportunities of change. And probably the global power now is in a changing situation, not just the BRICS. Also the role of China in this moment is quite important, and Russia is in the game again. And this geopolitical tension is probably a great opportunity. And, of course, the BRICS can be some kind of alternative for the rights of the people and some kind of alternative for democracy, even if this dynamic is very contradictory sometimes.
We saw many years Latin America as a possibility, a possibility of a new regional power able to contend, able to create a new power, able to negotiate with a different force with the States and with the European Union. But I don’t see this situation as a revolutionary moment, if we understand the word "revolution" in a historical sense, a historical sense that brings you to Russia revolution or China revolution. I think we are just in a moment of change of the global powers, where the national state is coming back. If you maybe read the book of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Empire, in this book, you could see, OK, there is not national states anymore, there is just empire, this global sovereignty. I think this crisis is showing that the national state is coming back for being here for many years.
New possibilities of alliances between countries are developing new opportunities for the people. It’s impossible for me to give an answer. I would like to imagine a future in Europe with Syriza ruling the government in Greece, with us in Spain, with the Sinn Féin in Ireland, and with other forces in Europe retaking the idea of a social Europe. But I think we are in a very difficult situation, and our enemies are very powerful. And they are going to use all the tools, all the weapons they have in order to stop us. So I can’t—I can’t answer you the question if the BRICS are really the alternative of the new possibility for a new world order.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: I think we also share the love for this country. I’ve been here for 10 years. I started my family here. I work here. And I honestly feel proud—feel proud of this country every single day. I also think we have in common the fact that we don’t like the caste, right? It’s something that you said repeatedly, and I fully agree with you. And that’s partially the reason why I became agnostic. Corruption, number one; two, the media; three, decisions that are not good for anyone. I fully support that. Now, having laid all this out, my main question to you—and you said this was a difficult exam for you—I think—I doubt anyone has asked you this question before: As a Spaniard, why should I vote you for president? And, you know, each of us have different interests, of course, and I think it’s important to lay out my interests, as well, so we can address them. I think, you know, it’s organized—I would like to go with you as actually for hours on this conversation, but I understand other people want to ask questions, and we’re on limited time. So, you know, my first interest is on ETA, the terrorist group that has killed hundreds, you know, thousands of people in Spain. I personally have witnessed two terrorist attacks, first one when I was seven years old. I have seen you many times, and I’ve seen, you know, graphical video document that you were, you know, spending time not only with ETA, but also crying out loud, "Gora ETA!" which is "Live ETA!"
PABLO IGLESIAS: Me?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: You, yes. This is on YouTube everywhere. I am happy to leave my contact and forward that. In the—yeah, in ikastolas, which is—anyway, so that’s—
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: Well, hold on. No, no. Yeah, I’ve seen it. The second question I have, or the second interest that I have is how—how close do you want Spain to become to countries like Venezuela? And the first—I thought the College University of New York favored freedom of speech? And I thought that we were all here to ask questions. If you want me to stop, I can ask—I can stop. So, I think this—listen, I think this gives him a great chance to explain many things, and I think that this gives everybody a chance to live by their word.
ROB ROBINSON: I’m going to ask you, as an organizer, to respectfully ask your question and step back from the mic to allow [inaudible].
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: OK, Pablo, I’m—I’m not finished. I was going to ask you more questions. If you want me to stop, I will stop and leave. If you want me to ask my full question, I—it’s totally up to you.
AMY GOODMAN: So, why don’t you—you’ve just asked two—one on ETA, one on Venezuela. What’s your third? And then let him answer the questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: My main question is: Why should I vote you? And my concern is ETA; Venezuela, where people don’t have anything to eat, and we know that. And the third question is—
AMY GOODMAN: And just—and your third question?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: You guys—you guys are representing Podemos by saying that.
ROB ROBINSON: Ask your question. Ask him your question.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: OK. And the third question is, from a political—from an economic policy perspective, why do you think—
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead. "Why do you think..."
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: Why do you think imposing a 3,000-euro salary is good for everybody, especially when you make much more than that as a European [inaudible] and you make much more than that at a university and—
ROB ROBINSON: OK, thank you. You’ve asked him your question.
AMY GOODMAN: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: OK.
ROB ROBINSON: Please step back from the microphone, and he’ll respond to each of your questions.
AMY GOODMAN: Pablo Iglesias?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: I thought you wanted to hear the entire thing, Pablo.
ROB ROBINSON: Please step back from the microphone.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: Thank you.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Thank you. Thank you for the questions. I don’t have any problem to discuss every issue, but I don’t accept lies. You said I did a crime. You said I was supporting a terrorist band, a terrorist group, and you said there are videos. That’s not true. That’s not true.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: It’s on YouTube. It’s on YouTube. You can search. "Pablo Iglesias gora ETA."
PABLO IGLESIAS: It’s not true. And as you know, every—every declaration, every opinion I had is very well known, because the right press in my country have used everything. But you said here, "You said, 'Gora ETA.'" And this is—this is terrible, because I have to say, with all my respect, you are a liar.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: Well, maybe—maybe, if I was—if I was wrong—so, you condemn ETA. Do you condemn ETA?
ROB ROBINSON: You’ve already asked your question. Give him a chance to respectfully answer your question.
PABLO IGLESIAS: And I didn’t interrupt you, even if you were lying. My opinion regarding terrorist groups is that we have the law, and we have a state of rights, and we have a penal code, in order to combat that. And there is no doubt about it. And Podemos condemn, Podemos is against any form of terrorism.
My opinion regarding Venezuela, I could say it’s a beautiful country. But I think you are asking me my opinion about the government of Venezuela. My opinion is that there are some things that the government in Venezuela, the present government, did well and others they didn’t—they didn’t do the things well.
And regarding the last question, I don’t remember. What was the last question?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: Salary.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Ah, the salary. Ah, this is strange, because we are the only members of the European Parliament that gave—through two or three parts of our salary, is for a member of the Parliament, if you are—if you are a member of Podemos, you can’t take more than three minimum—three minimum salaries. That is less than 2,000 euros per month. And I think it’s a good salary. But in that case, I think we are an example in our country. The salary of a member of the European Parliament is more than 6,000 euros per month, and we just take less than 2,000. When I was professor in the university, my salary was 950 euros per month. And I was happy with that, because I don’t have children, and I don’t have health problems. But I think we’d prefer a better salary. I think I answered your questions.
The reason why should you vote for me for a president, I don’t know. The best thing of democracy is that you can choose, and you have many options. Probably you will never have the chance to ask questions to the other candidates. But—
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 7: That’s why I wanted to go for hours.
PABLO IGLESIAS: You can do your own choice. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 3: Should or when Podemos gains a majority, what would Podemos do during the first month to deal with the troika?
PABLO IGLESIAS: We will try to implement a rescue—a social rescue plan, a citizen rescue plan. And the first thing we really want to do is to end—is to end evictions. The evictions in my country, the word in Spanish is desahucios. I don’t know if the translation is correct when I say "evictions." And the evictions probably in our country were the best expression of the unjustice situation we live, where the banks, the banks that had a big responsibility in the crisis, were protected by the government and were allowed to put the people out of their houses. And it was a terrible image to see the police taking the people from their houses. I would like to be a president in a country where the police is going to—is going to take the people with responsibilities in the crisis. And that’s the reason—that’s the reason we understand that to finish the evictions could be a great first decision of our government.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to take one more question from each side. Here.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 8: Hola, Pablo. I have a difficult question: Do you think Syriza’s ability to execute their program successfully, and if they fail, not because they are not right, but because the enemies are more powerful, or they might win—do you think that will condition Podemos’ ability to win electorally in the popular perception of Spain? Thank you.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Now, all the people is comparing Syriza and Podemos, and we have a great relationship. We are friends. And we are very happy with the success of Syriza in Greece. I think it’s the best new for Greece people. Finally they have a Greece president, not a delegate of Angela Merkel. To rule a country is very difficult. And if the economy of your country is destroyed, and you are in the European Union, and you have many of the financial powers against you, the margin you have to rule a country is quite small. But I think the Greek comrades are very clever, and they understand how this chess game works. And I think they are going to do the things very well. But we were not the cause of—we couldn’t help Syriza to win the elections in Greece. Greek people had to do their own homework. And for us, it will be the same in Spain. I really want that the government, the Greek government, succeed in his work, and I am sure they will do it, because they are—they have really good ideas. But our histories is going to be completely different, completely different. And obviously we can learn many things in Greece, but we have many things to learn also here in the States and in other countries. And nobody is going to give us the victory of the elections. Just if the citizens in Spain understand that we can be a tool in their hands in order to change their lives, the victory of Podemos will be possible in Spain.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 9: We’re going to share a question, since there’s only one allowed, of—
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 4: Thank you! Thank you! He’s the best!
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 9: And we’ll make it short. So, we know that even the reforms that we’re going to win, when we win the election, are not going to be able to be done just by government alone, right? It’s going to require mass mobilizations of the population, of the working class, of the people. But you didn’t address any of that in your talk, so I wonder if you could address some of that now and the importance of non-electoral activity in order to effect change in the electoral arena.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 4: And then, very, very fast, and I stop. If I was Spanish, Pablo, I will vote you. You are great. I’m Catalan. I have a nation. I also—no, well—[speaking Spanish]. So, you support—we are the same, actually, because you have a dream, I have a dream. You support a Palestinian state, I support a Palestinian state, and Israeli, too—in my case, both. Yes, y soy Catalána. If you support a referendum for a Catalan society, will you actively campaign towards the no? Because you say—you talk about patria. And my patria is the Cataluña. And I love Spain, as I love any country in the world. But mi patria es Catalana. [speaking Spanish].
PABLO IGLESIAS: Regarding the second question, as you know, in Podemos, we defend the right of Catalan people to decide—and to decide about everything, not just about the national issue of independence. We think that the only way, the only possible way, to discuss about this possibility is to open a constituent process in all the state. And I am very clear with this. I support a referendum in Catalonia, in Països Catalans. We will have to define the area. But I think that in order to make any decision about the territorial situation in the Spanish state, we need to open a constituent process and to discuss about the right to decide about this issue and more issues. Regarding my opinion, in Podemos there are people that in that referendum will vote yes, will vote no, and will vote yes/no. So, because it’s possible to have different opinions in Spain, in Podemos. If you ask me, I respect that many citizens in Catalonia, they feel themselves not Spaniards, but Catalans. I respect that. But it’s true that there are many citizens, too, that feel themselves Spaniards and Catalans, or Catalans and Spaniards. And my opinion is, I don’t want that Catalan—that Catalonia could go away, but I think that the decision is a decision that should be made for the Catalan citizens in a constituent process. I think I’ve been very clear with this.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 4: Bueno. So you’re saying that the Spanish, together, they have to decide, not only the Catalans.
PABLO IGLESIAS: The problem is the possibility. Me and you, we can’t define the situation. And the only possibility to create different relations between the different nations in Spain—I think that Spain is a plurinational reality, I think that there are different nations in Spain—is to open a constituent process. And I don’t believe—for instance, when Artur Mas said this is a problem between us and the Spanish government, I don’t believe them, because I know very well what Artur Mas represents. When the problem is the money, they have just one nation, the money. And some of the elites of the Catalonia leadership are exactly the same that members of the Partido Popular in Spain—
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 4: OK, but you talk about Syriza. You—the CUP, we have the CUP. So, you can be—
ROB ROBINSON: OK.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Of course, of course.
ROB ROBINSON: Señora, we have to end.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 4: [inaudible] CUP. Sorry, and thank you. Gracias.
PABLO IGLESIAS: And I respect so much CUP, and I have a great admiration for David Fernàndez and Quim Arrufat and other comrades, even if we don’t have the same opinion regarding all the issues.
The first question, of course, we will need a popular movement in order to change the things in our country. That’s the reason because we organized the demonstration of the change, the marcha del cambio, last month, with more than 200,000 people in Puerta del Sol. It was something amazing. We know very well that we are not able to change the country. We need civil society. We need social movements. We need to empower the people in order to change the things. It’s not possible to make change just with a government. You need to—you need a organized civil society, a organized popular movement, in order to create new possibilities for real democracy in our country.
ROB ROBINSON: So, big round of applause for Pablo Iglesias.