In the distant days of student politics it was common for the ranks of the dominant drunken, doped-up, hirsute, Marx/Trotsky/Mao-quoting brigades to be joined by hardened unionists. These were mature students, often very mature, as in old. They wore donkey jackets, generally eschewed beards in favour of ragged stubble, stamped around in heavy boots, drank brown ale and could devour vast plates of steak and kidney pie and cabbage. They were, to use the vernacular, bruisers, who were held in high reverence by the comrades on account of being the real thing. They were agitators from the coal face, and occasionally the mine itself.
One is reminded of those glorious days by the antics of one Joan Canyelles, whose appearance suggests a certain bruiser quality. He was until the other day the legal secretary of the Podemos Balearics committee for democratic guarantees: a Mr. Enforcer among other enforcers, having no truck with revisionist tendencies and adhering strictly to party lines determined by the Madrid politburo.
It is eminently possible that we would have been none the wiser of Joan's existence, if it had not been for last week's revelations. Joan, who does have a beard, is one of the Podemos cadre who only come into the public eye when things go awry. Would we have ever been aware of Montse Seijas, if she hadn't been expelled by High Command? I would suggest that we wouldn't have been.
"El Mundo", not - it is fair to say - naturally sympathetic to Podemos, got hold of a recording which revealed Joan's bruiser qualities. Its contents have been described as blackmail in seeking to silence any revisionism and thus criticism of party direction and of Balearic leader, Alberto Jarabo.
Specifically, he had told a member of the Balearic citizen's council - someone else we would never have heard of, Carmen Azpelicueta - to basically not attend meetings of the council. If she was a "good girl", then "we will look for a job for you". Apart from anything else, the reference to "good girl" did not reflect well on Podemos feminism. There again, the traditional bruiser from years gone by found contending with feminism a mite difficult. Joan appeared to have been cut from the same donkey jacket cloth.
Once exposed, Joan resigned, saying that he had acted totally independently and accepting that he had used "incorrect language" in having transmitted "manifestly imprecise information". Podemos then let it be known that disciplinary proceedings had been taken against Carmen for having attempted to defraud voting for the primaries to be on the list of candidates for election to the Council of Mallorca.
Joan's resignation left the committee of democratic guarantees so short of enforcers that Podemos have had to dissolve it. Guarantees cannot be guaranteed. Madrid's High Command will be doing the guaranteeing, at least for now. Meanwhile, questions were being asked as to quite how independently Joan had acted. The recording was styled with the use of the first person plural, i.e. "we", and inferred that Jarabo was aware of the so-called blackmail.
One of the remaining enforcers, the altogether less scary-looking Alejandro López, wondered why the recording had come to light. It was, after all, made a fair time ago. Insisting that Jarabo knew nothing, he suggested that the recording had been leaked in order to damage the image of the party, as if its image needs any more damage being inflicted. Which brings us of course to what is likely to happen tomorrow - the dismissal of Xelo Huertas as president (speaker) of parliament.
Into all this has stepped a Podemos within Podemos, a group known as "the Podemos that we want", which has armed itself with its so-called Manifesto of Sineu. It is demanding the immediate cessation of the party leadership and a review of the expulsions of Huertas and others. It then goes on to charge the leadership with indulging in "McCarthyist persecution", of surrounding itself with "henchmen who execute unspeakable deeds" and of having a "mafia-style conception" of its role.
The bruisers of 1970s' student politics would have relished such intrigue. Infiltrators, which they were and were duly noted as such by the university's administration, their role was partly (mainly) to foment greater agitation. Yet for all the direction that may have been coming from outside forces, typically the Communist Party, university politics never rose above a state of being unreal. Podemos, the bruisers and others, are for real, and they determine the direction of the Balearic government.