INTERVIEW WITH Former Minister of Education Jose Maria Maravall
José Enrique Monrosi 13 june 2021
José María Maravall Herrero, Spanish sociologist and politician, member of the PSOE and Minister of Education and Science in the first two governments of Felipe González.
José María Maravall (Madrid, 1942) is a historical member of the PSOE. Of those that do not make noise. Sociologist by profession and Minister of Education during the governments of Felipe González, he is one of the voices that are publicly supporting Pedro Sánchez after deciding to pardon the pro-independence leaders. These days he presents his latest book, ‘Democracy and the Left’ (Gutenberg Galaxy).
‘Democracy and the Left’ is called his book. Ayuso would have titled it ‘Democracy or the Left’.
Ayuso repeats slogans of a well-known advisor and I have nothing in common with him. There are those who said that social democracy was the deepening of democracy.
In the book you raise, among other things, the usefulness of the labels “right” and “left”. Are they still worth to you?
They continue to exist both when it comes to equality and freedom. For me there is a very big contrast between Ayuso and Errejón or between Almeida and Carmena. In the book I explore these differences and reflect on representative democracy versus forms of direct democracy.
It also talks about populisms. Which one do you have identified in Spain?
To Vox. In the book I compare Vox’s vote with that of other European populist parties. It looks very similar, but in Spain the electoral appeal of the extreme right is even lower than that of some European countries.
How do you understand the political debate on the granting of a pardon to the independence leaders?
Supporting it. It is the most technically constitutional position. Some agreement must be reached to fit Catalonia into the rest of Spain.
Are you convinced that this step will trigger a lasting political solution?
I hope it is a step. We have dragged on the conflict since 1714. I am very Spanish but I understand that Spain is a country made up of a plurality of peoples, some with a stronger identity than others.
Will pardons have a social rather than a political effect?
I hope so. If the pardoned were to commit the same crimes again, the courts would put them back in jail, but it could be the beginning of a dialogue.
What did you think of the letter from Junqueras?
I hope that Catalan leaders reflect carefully on what future they have, because they have no future. No future.
Do you ever contemplate an agreed referendum? What political solution do you envision?
I am not contemplating a referendum because it is unconstitutional. The solution must go through a pact between the Catalan and Spanish governments to adopt measures that help the accommodation of Catalonia. Bilateral communication mechanisms can be adopted between leaders.
Could the decision cost Pedro Sánchez the government?
You say it very emphatically.
It could happen, hopefully not. But Pedro Sánchez does not cling to his position, he is brave. It is not the most popular thing in the world to adopt that decision, but neither is it to remove Franco from the Valle de los Caídos, the Celaá law, the minimum income or euthanasia and he has done it. Is brave.
What do you think of the opposition’s reaction to the pardons?
Incomprehensible. I don’t know what alternative they propose other than outright repression. But it doesn’t surprise me.
Are you more surprised by the reaction of your former colleagues such as Felipe González or Alfonso Guerra?
Sánchez heads an unprecedented thing that is a coalition government. That can make it difficult to understand some of his decisions. I do not share their criticism, but everyone is free.
Do you consider it disloyalty?
No, because they believe that they are defending something that is good for the PSOE.
Do you think they are not aware that they have become banners of the political and right wing and their media to attack their own party?
You should ask them.
Do you miss more attitudes like that of Zapatero, who at a difficult time for the PSOE and for Pedro Sánchez tries to help explain a complicated decision?
And don’t forget about Almunia. And with me there are already three.
Do you also understand that there are tensions regarding pardons in the current PSOE? There are regional leaders who are having a hard time facing this decision …
That’s right, but as long as the voters continue to vote for them … I hope they don’t influence the voters who vote for the PSOE in the general elections. I myself have received criticism from a senior socialist.
Regarding the general panorama of the left, how do you assess the departure of Pablo Iglesias’s politics? How do you think he can sit with the government and politics?
Maybe well, and maybe him too. I know Iglesias well, he was a student of mine.
Very good student. I offered to supervise his thesis but he chose another professor. I was also Íñigo Errejón’s teacher.
Which one do you keep?
As a student, Iglesias. As a politician, Errejón.
And what role would you like your favorite Íñigo Errejón to play in the future?
He is very young and very capable, but I am not at all sure that he will end up being a leader in the PSOE. That depends on him.
But do you consider that possibility?
Hopefully, but it’s not up to me.