Javier Cercas, 15 October 2023
Image: Massimiliano Minocri
We have a big problem. We need real parties: without them, there is no real democracy
It’s called political parties. We had it before 2015, when the old system went into crisis and new parties emerged, and we have it now, when the new parties have proved to be worse than the old ones and the system has degenerated. The problem is not only that the parties colonise or try to colonise the whole of society, including the media; the problem is that they tend to be anti-democratic, sectarian, vertical and militarised clubs, where criticism is conspicuous by its absence and they operate by whist.
I give a blatant example, which concerns the party I voted for in the last elections, and the left in general. Like Sumar, the PSOE went to the polls with a programme that did not even mention the possibility of an amnesty for the leaders of the procés; what’s more, both voters and PSOE militants could be certain that this amnesty would not happen, because the party had been saying so for years, actively and passively, even during the election campaign itself. But a stroke of luck handed the key to the PSOE and Sumar’s government to the secessionists and, in the blink of an eye, the PSOE did a U-turn to obtain the secessionists’ support. It was incredible: what two weeks before was illegal and unacceptable for the PSOE and its media satellites became, two weeks later, not only legal but also good for everyone. Did anyone in the PSOE ask for explanations for this unprecedented change? Did anyone protest? As far as I know, no one except the old guard, who have no positions to lose or to gain, and one of the so-called barons, shielded by an absolute majority in his fiefdom. It was a joke to hear a PSOE leader give lessons in internal democracy to the rebellious old guard by turning around a phrase of Alfonso Guerra (“here, whoever moves, gets in the photo”), the day before expelling a rebel member of the old guard from the PSOE for speaking badly about the party; The joke also includes the old rebels, as obedient in Guerra’s time as the young in ours, and Guerra himself, self-appointed statesman and scourge of left-wing populism after having been an outstanding forerunner of left-wing populism, as well as responsible for some of the most incendiary phrases of the Transition.
That said, there can be no doubt: if the PP had had the slightest opportunity to make a pact with Puigdemont, it would have done the same as the PSOE, its cadres and militancy would have accepted it with the same meekness and, the day after the agreement with the secessionists, the right-wing press – as submissive as the left, both with very few exceptions – would have blessed it as an act of responsible patriotism and would have headlined full-page: “Puigdemont, Spaniard of the year”. How do I know this? Because this has already happened (and if we do not remedy it, it will happen again): in 1996, a PP in need of nationalist votes to form a government went from chanting “Pujol enano, habla castellano” to chanting “Pujol, guaperas, habla lo que quieras” and José María Aznar, a politician of unshakeable principles and a bulwark against peripheral nationalism, gave Pujol what is not written, started speaking Catalan (in private) and did not sing the Virolai while doing headstands because God is merciful. And in the PP and its satellites nobody said a peep.
Yes, we have a big problem.
We need real parties: without them, there is no real democracy. We need parties that do not serve us, but that serve us, that encourage criticism and self-criticism, that do not confuse discipline with submission, parties that are open, plural and generous, idealistic and realistic, made up of free and not intimidated militants and elected officials on open lists. In short: we need a new party law (and, incidentally, a new electoral law). The catch is that it can only be done by the parties themselves, who do not want to do it. So, ladies and gentlemen, either we force them to change, or they will not change. And the problem will remain ours, not theirs.