Felipe González, a former Socialist prime minister of Spain, warned against following the example of Venezuela’s so-called Bolivarian Revolution instigated by deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. González said that it would be a “catastrophe”, not only for Spain but for the rest of Europe, to pursue “Bolivarian alternatives influenced by some regressive utopias”. Speaking on May 28 in Madrid at a conference entitled “Democracy without politics”, González also said that there is a growing gap between Spain’s political elites and the people. Listeners assumed that the former leader of Spain was referring to ‘Podemos’ – Spanish for ‘we can’ – a political movement that was launched in January 2014 by Pablo Iglesias, a professor of political science. Gonzalez did not address the current crisis within his own Socialist Party.
González expressed pessimism about Spain’s current economic impasse. While he expressed the hope that Spain has reached the “bottom”, Gonzalez also said that it will be there for some time. According to Spain’s National Statistical Institute, unemployment reached 25.93 percent at the end of April. Nearly half of young people in Spain, as in Greece, are unemployed.
Podemos managed to win five seats in the European Parliament during the May 25 election in the EU. “A Bolivarian alternative would be a total disaster for Spain and Europe”, said Gonzalez. “I hope it won’t come to pass, but if it does, one will have the consolation of having said ‘I told you so,’” he added. He expressed concern that “Bolivarian alternatives that are influenced by regressive utopias” will lead “to the same old thing” such that “everything, except poverty, will be shared evenly except by the nomenklatura – which never ends up poor”. He described the results of the EU election as “very grave”. The election has been a tremendous shock for mainstream political parties in Spain and the rest of Europe since it made manifest the tremendous reserve of hostility to the EU found in half of its member states, including the largest.
González, who is a recognizable member of a group critical of Iglesias and Podemos, has not been in power for 18 years. Once the golden-haired boy of Europe’s moderate leftists, González is now a grizzled veteran who also recognizes that he is among the “oldest guys in the place”. He recalled that in 1968, a turbulent year for Europe and Spain – the latter of which was still ruled by dictator Francisco Franco –there was a similar broad protest against the political system that brought extremists to the fore. Ultimately, Gonzalez said, Spain’s citizenry discovered who these extremists really were.
Other European political leaders have expressed fears about the results of the EU parliamentary election. For example, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said when the results came in, “There is no doubt that many populist, Eurosceptic, and even nationalistic parties are entering the European Parliament.” London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, said of the election, “From Dublin to Lublin, from Portugal to Pomerania, the pitchfork-wielding populists are converging on...Brussels—drunk on local hooch and chanting nationalist slogans and preparing to give the federalist machinery a good old kicking with their authentically folkloric clogs.”
The election brought an assortment of nationalists, neo-fascists, and hard leftists who are united against the EU. They now represent almost one third of the members of the European Parliament. Whether or not such a minority can actually sway the EU is yet to be determined, given the disparity of their beliefs. France’s National Front and the UK’s Independence Party seek to pull their respective countries out of the EU. The National Front got more votes than either of the French mainstream parties, the Gaullists and the Socialists. While in Britain, the United Kingdom Independence Party beat both the Conservatives and Labour. Greece’s Syriza Party seeks to eliminate the Euro and terminate the austerity plan for economic recovery. The Alternative for Germany seeks to keep the Euro but wants to kick out the Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Spain. Hungary’s anti-Semitic Jobbik Party and Denmark’s Danish People’s Party seek drastic reductions in immigration. To round these off, the National Democratic Party of Germany and the Golden Dawn party of Greece have been likened to the Nazi party.
Gwynne Dwyer, writing in Straight.com, blamed Europe’s unemployment and a failure of the economy to rebound since the 2008 financial crisis. “If the EU’s current unpopularity is mainly due to a poor economy, then a few years of economic growth and rising incomes should make it go away. Most of the national economies in the EU will grow at least a bit this year, and as the economic situation improves the anger should subside.” The Canadian author and columnist, predicted that the election may signal the formation of a “much looser form of European union. “As in many other parts of the world, the widening gulf between the few rich and the many whose living standards are stagnant or falling has created an incipient revolt against globalization—and the EU’s centralising tendencies are widely seen as part of that problem. Renewed economic growth will not cure the EU’s malaise if the wealth does not trickle down to the majority.”
The leader of Podemos, Enrique Iglesias – who some have called a pony-tailed Fidel Castro – was triumphant following the May 25 poll. "From tomorrow, we will work together with other partners from southern Europe to say that we don’t want to be a colony of Germany and the troika," Iglesias said. This was a reference to the triipartite committee led by the European Commission with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In a February 8 press conference, he explained that Podemos is based on “decency, democracy and human rights” and that it seeks to include those political and social movements that oppose the curtailing of social welfare programs. Active in politics since the age of 14 and a former member of the Communist Party, Iglesias said “This is not a party nor a new product: it is an initiative proposes participation by the people. We are not seeking the sit in the European Parliament so much as finding a means for citizen participation.” It is expected that Podemos will align itself with the Syriza party of Greece.