In the last electoral calls, what we have come to know as the “left” -political space where the two authors of this article would be located- have suffered important setbacks.
In Andalusia we find the last and perhaps crudest of its expressions. In addition, said setback is not exclusively electoral; It is not necessary to be a clever social analyst to verify the disconnection that an important part of the citizenry has made in relation to the left in the plural.
It is a trend and neither the complaints nor the blaming of society (of the type “society goes right”) will manage to reverse it. Nor do calls for “unity on the left” become a solution, as has been proven in Andalusia: the aggregation of weaknesses does not add up. From defeat to defeat no “final victory” is reached; Rather, we installed in a “melancholic loop” the people who, with all their enthusiasm, participated in the umpteenth “unitary” electoral platform through which we were supposed to be able to connect with a social majority. The fixation for “unification”, detached from any criterion of electoral efficiency, responds to the emotional impulse of “grouping us all” (those of us who think more or less the same), instead of opening ourselves to our environment in a broad sense. It also links with a radical limitation that underlies the discourse of the “conservative left”: its distrust of political pluralism.
This is another symptom, not a minor one, of the disconnection with a society that is characterized by its diversity and complexity, a society that makes heterogeneity one of its strengths and powers. The formula to bridge that distance is therefore neither unification nor obviously the fact of insisting on entrenching oneself in a corner of the political board. Pretending to connect with the social majorities goes through referring back to everyday life and opening up to all its complexity. Fight the falsely liberal speeches of every man for himself and propose public policies that make people’s lives easier.
The flag of the progressive sectors must once again be that of happiness and the common good, taking up and revitalizing the enlightened aspiration “to the happiness of all” (and of all). Aspiration that found, long ago, a political translation in the declaration of human rights and the first liberal constitutions against absolutism.
The left to the left of the left questions, in the best of cases, a little more than that 10% of the electorate that, sometimes by identity and others by rejection, votes for it. The results are obvious. It is necessary to get out of the trenches reinventing devices from top to bottom in order to try to connect, not with 10%, but with the wishes and aspirations of the social majority. The obsession, turned not infrequently into a sad passion, because it is so far to the left, should give way to another obsession and, yes, a happy passion: to become something infinitely more useful, that is, neither more nor less, to become a tool to improve people’s lives.
It is more necessary than ever. We live in complicated and gray times with enormous rates of social inequality, with an increasingly pressing climate emergency, together with a suffocating precariousness of life for growing layers of the population.
For this reason, the defense of rights and freedoms is today one of the axes of the progressive project against the absolutism of the markets and reactionary currents.
The disregard for individual aspirations or the constant call to “sacrifice” from day to day for the sake of a better future do not help to make the necessary connection with the majority. Faced with the absolutism of the markets and the false starts offered by the reactionary wave, the progressive project must assume as a central element the defense of the rights and freedoms of each and every one, the possibility of living free as we are, in a society of free men and women.
Faced with the reactionary discourses that oppose the rights of some to the rights of others, we have to rebuild citizenship as a community of subjects of rights: my rights and my freedom are not opposed to the rights and freedoms of those who are different from me, but which are your condition. If we are capable of virtuously articulating them, we will be building a political space that challenges the majority. If the reactionary movements are capable of chaining the grievances and fears of those who feel that they are losing some privilege due to the advancement in rights of different sectors (women, migrants, LGTBIQ+), the progressive political project must offer a space of hope for the enjoyment of those civil rights, for the free deployment of diversity in all its dimensions.
This has nothing to do with the satisfaction of individual desires at any price, with irresponsibility and immediacy. On the contrary, this freedom must be linked to the security of a material base that allows us to enjoy it in an equal framework: the fight against climate change and its consequences and the development of a socially just ecological transition give a new meaning to measures such as the reduction of working time, strengthening and modernization of public services, the establishment of new rights such as basic income and tax reform in a progressive sense (that those who have the most pay once and for all).
Hope and realism for a better, necessary and possible future. A possibility that can be stated and that serves as a bow and incentive. A better future obviously realistic and obviously for the majority. The 15 M and the first Podemos represented the greatest connection in the last decades of a project of democratic advance with a social majority; then that project knew how to get out of the left margin of the political board, abandon that identity to appeal directly to the majority.
At some later point that was lost, the identity and the trench were returned, and there are the results. Only Más Madrid (second force in the Community and first force in the Madrid City Council) and Barcelona En Comú (first force in the city of Barcelona in municipal elections) have had a much less comparable development with the traditional left. Therefore, these two experiences that are much less ideological and more rooted in the real problems of people’s lives must be analyzed.
The electoral victories of Gustavo Petro in Colombia and that of Gabriel Boric in Chile offer us hopeful examples at very different junctures. In none of these cases was a “left” program offered, but rather an inclusive route for the whole of society, a constituent moment with new welfare policies that will favor the majority, not their own.
A different device, and from which we must also take note and learn, is the one offered by the Green Parties at European level (Germany, Holland, Scotland…), parties that election after election have better results and they always do so pivoting, in a very realistic and pragmatic, on the areas of ecological and social justice in the area where all the battles of the present take place, the European Union.
When we talk about the possibility and the need to articulate different projects and desires in a common future horizon, active civil society is an obligatory reference. There are powerful social and citizen movements in our societies that transform values and that do so across the board, and again without appealing to any left-wing trench and identity. The most significant case in recent years has undoubtedly been the feminist movement, but we cannot lose sight of the climate justice movement or the many expressions adopted by the demand for social justice and material well-being: the movement for the right to housing , the movements of people who have a dependent life and also that of the elderly who demand better pensions, and the mobilizations in defense of health and public services against the policies of abandonment deployed by the governments of the right.
In addition, in our country the territorial movements that demand greater decentralization of powers, that point to a federalization of the territorial model and that have a component of democratic progress, in the sense that they are oriented towards a more widespread dispersion and distribution, acquire particular weight. of political power and the ability to decide and dispose of resources.
Learning and being useful to them, not rhetorically, but effectively turning their demands into realistic public policies is part of the path we must take.
Finally, it would be prudent to stop criticizing the PP voters or the voters of nationalist groups. They are not fascists nor do they look like them. Many of them at some point had sympathy for 15M, they see the ecological transition with good eyes, the enormous social inequalities seem fatal to them and they fear that money and not merits is indeed a requirement to have a better life. But they vote for them. And they do it because a part of those rights and nationalisms have been able to offer horizons for the future. Surely they are implausible and misplaced horizons of an irreversibly global and falsely meritocratic world.
Versions, some harder than others, but after all versions of the war of all against all: I worry about “mine” and I forget about the “others”. A definitely bad horizon, but a horizon after all.
A progressive political space, with a majority vocation, must build horizons of hope not for “ours”, but horizons where we all fit. Capable of responding to the plurality of hopes, but also to the fears and insecurities present in our days. A project of majorities based on a relationship with others that starts, not from domination or war against each other, but from “consideration”, from mutual recognition in the construction of a common tomorrow with realistic horizons.
We will say it again: global civil society, born of the globalization of communications and the mobility of people, knows that planetary problems (fight against poverty and for new citizenship rights, climate emergency, freedom of movement… .) are only accessible from institutions on a global scale which, in our case, have their first station in the European Union.
Small countries, including states, are insufficient for some of the main challenges of the 21st century. Will we make it clear in the near future? Will we know how to be useful to that civil, global and European society?