Podemos supports Madrid’s commitment to NATO’s war against Russia

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Podemos’ aggressive support for NATO’s war in Ukraine against Russia amid the working class’ growing anger at inflation and war exposes it as a reactionary petty-bourgeois militarist party. Fearing growing opposition from his left, Podemos has been staging anti-war charade after anti-war charade while continuing to support Spain’s imperialist war effort in Eastern Europe against Russia.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, January 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Podemos’ latest charade was featured in last week’s parliamentary debate on Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership. NATO countries signed the two countries’ accession protocol in July, but they must be ratified by NATO member-state parliaments before they can be protected by the Article 5 defense clause.

The Spanish Parliament approved the accession by 290 votes in favour, 11 against and 47 abstentions. The ruling Socialist Party (PSOE), the right-wing Popular Party, the far-right Vox party, the Catalan nationalist PdeCat and the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) voted in favour.

Podemos, meanwhile, chose to abstain while one of his parliamentary factions, the Stalinist-led United Left (IU), voted against. Ridiculously, IU leader and Consumer Minister Alberto Garzón abstained to ensure no NATO minister voted against a pro-NATO resolution.

Podemos spokesman Gerardo Pisarello presented Podemos’ “anti-war” charade. He said: “Let Sweden and Finland make the decision they see fit, but it will not be on our behalf.”

The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO is a ruthless provocation to Russia. The US-led alliance wants Stockholm and Helsinki not only because of their well-equipped and modern armed forces, but also because of their geostrategic location. Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, located in close proximity to St. Petersburg. Swedish membership of NATO would leave Russia completely surrounded by NATO allies in the Baltic Sea and make it easier for the alliance to resupply its battlegroups in the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the event of a war with Russia.

Pisarello then cynically complained that the EU was not pursuing the peace policy on which it was allegedly based. He said the EU was “founded with the stated aim of seeking peace and is doing little or nothing to end the war”. In fact, for decades, European states have played a leading role in NATO’s imperialist wars in the Middle East, Balkans and Africa, which have devastated entire societies such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Chad and Mali, costing millions of lives and transformations millions of refugees.

Pisarello played the anti-American card, claiming that Europe must have its own imperialist interests outside of NATO. “The US priority is that Europe doesn’t have its own defense policy,” he declared, after saying that belonging to NATO “subordinates itself to a military and economic oligarchy that doesn’t care about the fate of those attacked… It is one oligarchy that will support the most warmongering extreme right.”

In fact, the PSOE-Podemos government has sent anti-tank missiles to far-right Ukrainian militias.

The Pisarello stunt had two spectators. On the one hand, the whole debate was aimed at signaling to the US and NATO governments Spain‘s full support for the Ukrainian army’s counter-offensive against Russia in Kharkiv. The USA and the EU have responded to the collapse of Moscow’s northern front by further intensifying their involvement in the war against Russia in Ukraine. They are sending millions more in offensive arms, adding to the more than $50 billion in arms and other aid so far.

Spain’s PSOE-Podemos government was a key ally in supporting the Kiev offensive. In early September, the Spanish Air Force transported 75 pallets of field artillery to Ukraine in five flights. Spanish 155 mm howitzer ammunition was used in the offensive. Madrid also sent 20 armored vehicles, an anti-aircraft system and 1,000 tons of diesel and 30,000 winter uniforms. The Spanish military will soon begin training Ukrainian soldiers in Spain in tanks, missile systems, combat medicine and demining operations at an army base in Zaragoza.

On the other hand, the Spanish ruling class is using Podemos’ false anti-war rant to channel rising anti-war sentiment behind the PSOE-Podemos government.

The PSOE-Podemos government will include a 20 percent increase in military spending in a special defense plan, the most expensive in Spain’s recent history. The increase will therefore not be included in the 2023 budget, and Podemos will claim that – as promised in August by Deputy Prime Minister and de facto Podemos leader Yolanda Díaz – no budget will be supported that increases military spending.

At the same time, the PSOE and Podemos will deploy other T8x8 tanks, NH-90 helicopters, Eurofighters, S-80 submarines, F-100 warships and a Hisdesat satellite paid for by Spanish workers.

What lies behind this breathtaking hypocrisy of Podemos? She is doing this because she is acutely aware of the deep opposition to war within the working class, and thus to Podemos himself. A mass radicalization of the working class is underway as strikes erupt in Europe and the US, and amid the greatest collapse in living standards since the 1930s, a pandemic that has claimed tens of millions of lives, and an escalating war by NATO against Russia in Europe.

Podemos is a petty-bourgeois party defending the interests of Spanish imperialism: imperialist war abroad and class struggle at home in the form of austerity measures, bank and corporate bailouts, and police attacks on strikers.

If Podemos can continue his “anti-war” charades, it will be largely thanks to forces like the Morenoite Revolutionary Workers’ Current (CRT) protecting his left flank. In every successive stunt by Podemos since the Russian invasion in February 2022, the CRT has intervened, claiming that Podemos could be pushed to the left by the pro-war unions.

A recent article on the CRT website La Izquierda Diario, titled “Government intends to increase military spending by 20 percent in 2023 and is preparing with Podemos and the PCE to justify its support,” claims that Podemos passively supports the war and is caught up in a pro-war PSOE government.

“All this 2023 budget sleight of hand is aimed not only at garnering parliamentary support, but also at ensuring that it is not challenged by the left. Yolanda Díaz works in this way to improve the climate [Podemos’] Passive support for the Sánchez administration’s foreign policies continues to prevail, including its pro-NATO commitment and brutal tightening of immigration policies. All this with the complicity of a union bureaucracy that has not criticized one iota of this new imperialist escalation in which your government is taking part.”

What does the CRT propose? That the same union bureaucracy under the Podemos-linked Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) and the social-democratic General Union of Workers (UGT), closely linked to the PSOE-Podemos government, is waging a fight against the militaristic budgets and inflation:

“It is necessary to demand that the trade union organizations end their submission to the coalition government and propose a plan of struggle that includes both defending wages eroded by inflation and the crisis and opposing militaristic plans.”

This seeks to stem growing social opposition to inflation and war, which is making useless appeals to Podemos and the unions that have been crushing strike after strike in Spain. That said, the CRT itself is a barely disguised wing from Podemos.

Building an anti-war movement requires building grassroots committees independent of the union bureaucracy in an open political struggle against tendencies such as Podemos and the CRT. Only such a struggle can mobilize the workers independently of the national bureaucracies tied to imperialism and smash the political obstacle that these pseudo-left parties oppose to a struggle against war and for socialism.

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