Wednesday, June 08, 2016

From Pablo Iglesias To Pablo Iglesias

Two Pablo Iglesias, there are only two Pablo Iglesias. That's almost certainly not right. There must have been hundreds, thousands of Pablo Iglesias. Names come around quite often in Spain, especially from the old school of names that keeps firmly to a list of saints for christening purposes.

But there are two Pablo Iglesias. One was dead well before the other was born. The first had in fact been born in 1850. By one of those further twists of coincidence his native town was Ferrol in Galicia. Forty-two years later, a certain Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco Bahamonde was born in the same town. His brother, Ramón, came along four years afterwards, also in Ferrol. He, Ramón, crashed his hydroplane in Puerto Pollensa in 1938. He died. His brother didn't. Not until 1975 anyway. 

Pablo Iglesias the Elder, if one could call him that, would have known little or nothing about the Franco boys. He certainly wouldn't have fraternised with them, had he lived long enough, which he didn't. Pablo the Elder founded PSOE, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party. Franco wasn't beyond having those with PSOE affiliation executed. It was as well that Pablo the Elder died when he did. In 1925 when the other dictator was at large, Primo de Rivera.

The other Pablo Iglesias, Pablo the Younger - you'll have heard of him, I think - also founded a political party or maybe movement. He would like to be president (prime minister) of Spain after 26 June. Altogether, We Can change the government of Spain. Podemos. Maybe there's some genealogical link between Elder and Younger, though I'm assuming not. Were there, one fancies Younger would have mentioned it by now. Two peas in a pod, Elder and Younger. The latter a chip off the old block.

There are similarities and dissimilarities between Elder and Younger. The first Pablo was born into poverty. His mother had to beg. He taught himself French and read about French socialism. He was no intellectual but he would have known of the works of Marx and Engels. PSOE, founded in 1879, was to indulge differing philosophies before it was proscribed in 1939, but one - often the dominant one - was to be sympathetic to the Soviet brand of socialism.

Pablo the Younger is from a middle-class Madrid family: mother a lawyer, father a teacher. He himself has been a university professor in political science. He studied, among other places, at Cambridge. The difference in background between Younger and Elder is stark. What links them, other than name, is their roles as founders and political philosophy. Possibly.

Pablo the Younger was expounding on Monday morning the nature of Marx and Engels. They were social democrats, he said, albeit he was laughing and suggesting that there are different ways of interpreting their works. That's The Younger all over. Disarmingly charming at times. The Elder, one fancies, rarely laughed. The Younger was right of course. There were and are alternative spins on the works of Marx and Engels. Lenin abused them is one argument.

He was prompted to make his remark because Podemos has hooked up with the United Left. Its leader, Alberto Garzón, is a communist. The Younger has never claimed to be. Even with the United Left, Podemos would be establishing a "new social democratic space". PSOE, the current-day distant cousins of Pablo the Elder, will be horrified to hear that.

But should they be? What vision of social democracy is this? The mere mention of Marx and Engels makes one wonder what "new" space is being considered. In the new political age, one of (maybe) post-capitalism or even post-politics, it can seem odd to drag the two of them into discussion. The Younger's sidekick, Iñigo Errejón, has said that communists and social democrats are species of the past. There's a new politics around, where Iñigo's concerned, even if its definition isn't always clear or even if it might just seem to have echoes of the nineteenth century, when Pablo the Elder would have found much to interest him.

"The Communist Manifesto", in which Marx and Engels set out the basics of Marxist theory, was published two years before Pablo the Elder was born. 1848. What possible relevance can it have now? Plenty, if one is inclined. After all, religions (and their interpretations) are predicated on very much older theories, and look where that got societies. Look where they still do get societies, for God's (sic) sake.

It would be nice - truly, it would be nice - to believe that Podemos have hit on a new politics, whatever it might be. But how do you make people believe it? Those disinclined to believe, of which there are many. Deep in the consciousness - the intellectual "space", be it social democratic or not - is the narrative of the class struggle and of the competing dictatorships of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

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