Wednesday, May 18

Javier Bardón novels the disenchantment of Podemos, from idealism to ‘realpolitik’

Javier Bardón defines himself as a teacher, psychologist, pedestrian and politically perplexed. From this perplexity he has written one of the few novels that narrates the evolution and disenchantment of the 15M movement and its subsequent translation into Podemos. “I wanted to narrate”, says the author, “that disenchantment of a process that began with enormous enthusiasm and idealism and that has been losing strength since the entry into governments and the realpolitik”. The approach of Remnants of a white flag (Ediciones El Drago) starts from sympathy for that political space, but also from criticism towards the leaders and the organizational apparatus of Podemos. In a combination of real and invented characters, Bardón recounts the adventures of Somos Alcalá, a municipalist candidacy for change in that city of Madrid between 2015 and 2019. However, the author clarifies: “It is not a localist novel because I have aspired to turn the case of Alcalá into a category that would serve the entire country”.

The political novel that spawned 15M

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In the long decade that has elapsed since the emergence of the 15M movement and eight years after the founding of Podemos, essays on the phenomenon have flooded bookstores. More or less informative books, sympathetic or detractor authors, academic works, current analysis or biographies of Pablo Iglesias and other leaders make up a vast catalog for all audiences. However, almost no novelist has dared to sink his teeth into the most innovative political process of recent years. Javier Bardón (Ponferrada, 1975) admits that the genre of political fiction does not have many followers in Spain and in his novel he has opted for an invented story, but with a real basis both in some characters and in the setting. “That mixture”, he explains, “responds to my desire to set a game with the reader in the sense that it seems like fiction and at the same time is somewhat plausible. In this way, the reader will not think that everything responds to the invention of the novelist. For this reason, the brief but intense trajectory of Somos Alcalá, a municipal candidacy in the orbit of Podemos and that governed the Complutense city in coalition with the PSOE, becomes the common thread of the novel. As a sad epilogue to the narrative, the Somos Alcalá group has dissolved just a few weeks ago. Bardón knows well what he is talking about because he lived with his parents in Alcalá when he was young, where he returned in 2014 to settle there.

Javier Bardón, a spirited and restless guy, is clear that the transformation of a sector of 15M in the Podemos party reproduced the vices of the system that attacked so much at the beginning. “The closed lists”, he comments, “along with the power of the apparatuses, the purges and the fight for public office, among other factors, triggered a strong erosion both in the city councils of the change, and later and little by little in Podemos. ”. Very critical of leaders such as Pablo Iglesias or Íñigo Errejón, who fragmented Podemos, the novelist admits that the emergence of Yolanda Díaz could be a shock to the left. “There is no doubt”, she affirms, “that her personality and her condition as a woman can help to reinforce the space to the left of the PSOE. In any case, it should be remembered that Díaz was designated as successor by the finger of Pablo Iglesias, something that Podemos always censored in the parties of the so-called regime of 78.

Attacks from the press and the right

Despite the internal errors and historical cainism suffered by the forces of the left, Remnants of a white flag It also addresses the ruthless attacks of the conservative and right-wing press and, on many occasions, the hoaxes invented against Podemos and its allies. In fact, a complaint from the Popular Party that was filed with the not find the prosecution any crime, combined with a journalistic offensive, ruined Somos Alcalá, which in 2019 was left without representation in the City Council. “Apart from that undeniable political hunt,” adds Bardón, “Podemos disregarded that group while Más Madrid tried to manipulate it. Therefore, these behaviors have led to the fragmentation that we have today on the left.”

In any case, Remnants of a white flag It not only reflects a collective disappointment in the key of political fiction, but also addresses the personal crises of some militants who, like Suso, the protagonist, are forced to review their entire lives. Javier Bardón clarifies that “although it is a choral novel, because there were and there are many people in those movements and parties, I have also included the human factor of a more personal look at that crisis of attrition”. Through a very dialogued story and an agile narrative rhythm, Bardón also manages to draw a generational novel. Thus, it introduces, for example, Telegram messages frequently on its pages. “It’s a little used narrative device, but it seemed to me a more clarifying contrast of the opinions of the characters instead of narrating some assemblies that used to and usually lead to gibberish that would be unintelligible to readers.”

An economist by profession, Bardón worked for years in multinationals based in Germany and Switzerland on marketing issues. But there came a time when he turned his life around and opted for social psychology as a professional and as a teacher at the Rey Juan Carlos University. And now his steps have led him to literature, although he had already made his first steps in the theater for years and that theatrical facet is evident in the construction of dialogues in his novel. Somehow his individual evolution has run parallel to the people he portrays in his novel. Javier Bardón is convinced that one of the mistakes of the first stage of Podemos was Pablo Iglesias’s obsession with giving the PSOE the upper hand. “That attitude led to a generational gap on the left between older and younger, which was an indisputable burden,” he says.