Whether it was a brilliant idea or a concession to political messianism, Íñigo Errejón later discovered that it was a mistake to place Pablo Iglesias’ photo on the ballot for the 2014 European elections. It was that appointment with the polls in which Podemos appeared like a rocket at Mach 2 speed that broke all the china and glassware of the “regime of 78” (now that Felipe González uses that term very proudly, it is assumed that others can also do it without being looked at badly). The idea was his. To start with, Iglesias didn’t like it very much. “It is my face that is going to be there and my body that is going to have to endure that,” he said. He was right. From what turned out later, her body took it quite well. Errejón’s, not so much.
The deputy of Más País has published a book –‘With everything. From the fast years to the future ‘, edited by Planeta– with the intention of telling his version of the rise and fall of Podemos, his personal version and that of the party. He intervened decisively in the first and also in the second. His confrontation with Iglesias marked the end of the party’s innocence and blazing growth. They are a kind of memoir, which is striking in someone who is 37 years old. He publishes it precisely when Yolanda Díaz intends to form a candidacy that transcends the acronym of United We Can and any other party. Crudely showing the wounds of the past in a book right now is just a coincidence. It is also possible that it responds to other intentions. Errejón at the moment is skeptical with this project of regrouping to the left. To Iglesias, on the contrary, he looks more hopeful.
Back on the 2014 ballot, Errejón recounts the consequences of that gesture: “The party has surrendered to the sovereign. At least symbolically, it caudilliza “. Since the idea was his, it seems he is saying something like I forged the sword that pierced my heart. In his words, it doesn’t sound that epic. “Like a mouse who designs the trap that will then kill him.” Errejón as a victim of the maneuvers of others is one of the themes that circulates throughout the book. And where the others do not reach, he lends a hand. Not that he looks like a genius in that part of the self-portrait.
The Podemos crisis – or the traumatic divorce of Pablo and Íñigo – was reflected in many media as a struggle of the egos of the two main founders of the party. Errejón regrets that image that he considers false. Many of his voters wanted to believe that that was the only problem or thought that it was all part of a media conspiracy to end Podemos. The former number two of the party tries to deny it by saying that it all started long before the first sentence about their differences was written.
He always presents himself as someone who defends the essences of Podemos, the one who supports the populist strategy, the one who believes that they must overcome all parties, including those of the left – that is, the United Left – someone who has always shown himself distant from the “saddened and losing left.” Pablo Iglesias is the “idol of the masses”, the rock star who isolates himself and ends up surrounded by his “clique”. There Errejón recognizes the error of having left his friend and soon rival alone. Iglesias alone becomes the icon of Podemos who fights in all the media trenches, while Errejón is in charge of organizing the party.
Both of you will regret it later for different reasons. Errejón says that a group is formed around Iglesias to protect and advise him. “They begin to say that he is not careful, that they take care of him. There is no caudillista system without a court.” And that court, he writes, comes from Izquierda Unida and brings with it its party mentality.
Iglesias will regret having left his number two free in the internal structure. In a meeting of about twenty people in a town in Avila, he proposes to go in coalition with IU in the future general elections and remains in a clear minority. “This is the last time this happens to me,” says Errejón, who Iglesias told him later. A leader is not going to beg others to agree with him. It’s September 2014, long before things get worse.
For Errejón, it is the moment in which Iglesias begins to look for his own team, “people who obey him.” He interprets it like this: “If a party comes, I need communists. Because no one better than a communist to inhabit a party.” Errejón begins to see communists everywhere. Or maybe you write it now and didn’t realize it then. From that moment on, your die is cast. He has designed a vertical command structure, not very different from what exists in other parties. For this reason, he reiterates: “That first Podemos is the Podemos that I helped design and that finally ended up killing me.”
Errejón’s naivety draws attention. He says that the party was not something “central”, for his people. It was a kind of “nuisance” or just an instrument. The idea that you can do politics without parties to get to power leads to these kinds of inconsistencies. Those who pretend to be innocent always pay the price.
The division is inevitable and irreversible. The excellent result of the December 2015 elections does not serve to calm spirits. The opposite happens. He and Iglesias defend radically different strategies. There is a strong discussion between the two in the Citizen Council about possible government pacts that does not transcend in all its harshness. The leader proposes to reach a pact with IU with which to add his million votes. Errejón is opposed, although outside doors he will be more reserved. In the end, five (million votes) plus one end up adding five in the electoral repetition. But the relevant thing is that the party will already be divided until the end and will pay for it at the polls in 2019.
The following is already the chronicle of events. Errejón says he feels “guarded”. His fight with Irene Montero is “constant”. Everything takes on a warlike air. “The fighting for Vistalegre 2” is being prepared. The factions become Telegram groups. There everyone is released among their own. An oversight leak in March 2016 reveals to management what the Errejonistas are up to. Iglesias dismisses the Secretary of Organization, Sergio Pascual. “You are not going to survive,” says Pascual to Errejón. He is silent in public.
“Iglesias’s decision marked a before and after in his relationship with Errejón. It was never the same again,” writes Aitor Riveiro in ‘Heaven will have to wait’, a book about the first three years of Podemos. “Everything was screwed up there,” a person who knew what had happened later told him.
Months later, the Errejonistas challenge Iglesias with a candidacy against the regional leadership of the party in Madrid, chaired by Luis Alegre. The fact that in February 2017 Alegre published an article in this medium that subscribes to the Errejonist thesis on the “clique” that surrounds Iglesias (“they will manage to parasitize Pablo until they destroy the organism”) reveals that the psychodrama of Podemos tells with more twists than your voters can digest.
To summarize the internal environment, Errejón quotes in the book a phrase about Trotsky and Zinoviev and talks about purges. Maybe he thought someone had already written his name on an ice ax. When he gets down to business, Errejón has no problem connecting his rivals in a somewhat obsessive way with the worst of communism. Shortly before he referred to “cuqui Stalinism” (an ice ax wrapped in gift wrap?). Sixty pages later, it’s back to work. “You cannot be a dissident in Moscow.” Is he trying to tell us something?
The Errejonistas are ready to fight. “What happens is that we do not know how to do it.” From what is seen in Vistalegre 2 in February 2017, he is right. Errejón tries the path doomed to failure of presenting to the assembly a different program from that of the leadership, but keeping his former friend as leader. There is that surreal moment in which they take out a cardboard figure of churches during Errejón’s intervention, a scene that could appear in its own right in ‘The Thick of It’ or any satire on the absurdities to which politics can lead.
The tragedy has turned into a farce: “I can think of few worse ways to express an idea like that,” admits Errejón in the book on “Pablo de cardboard.” The same is that the original idea was ridiculous, which he does not recognize. I want a cardboard leader that I can voice. How could I expect it to turn out well?
Iglesias and Errejón embrace in Vistalegre 2 on more than one occasion. It is a fiction. As in all wars, the first thing that is destroyed are the bridges. Some remain, such as the candidacy of the second to the regional elections in Madrid, but when the time comes they will also jump through the air. Errejón goes with Manuela Carmena to set up another match.
At the end of the book, doubt assails the reader. Is it your will? Before saying goodbye to politics, do you want to have the last word on what happened in Podemos? The news of Pablo Iglesias’s withdrawal from politics causes him “enormous sadness.” A “feeling of the end of the cycle” and the “end of a generational trajectory” comes to him. Apparently he is not referring to himself. The book ends with one word: “We continue.” Therefore, it is possible that he will try again with that metaphor of his about the beginnings of Podemos – “having to run and tie his shoelaces at the same time” – that guarantees that sooner or later you will end up crashing into the ground.