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Opinion
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Political ideas, anyone?

With Chacón at the top of the party, you wouldn't have know what you were voting for

I'm not the only one who feels relieved at Rubalcaba's victory in the PSOE leadership race, which has thus avoided suicide. Chacón represented the worst side of Zapaterism: trivial socialism and tribal socialism. With her at the top you wouldn't know what you were voting for: fines for speaking Spanish in Catalonia, smiling photos with Bildu, the financial deals of Roures and Botín... Rubalcaba's X-ray is a bit blurry too, but he gives the impression of greater solidity - of a grown-up socialism rather than an adolescent one.

The primaries, as they were called, augured ill. Both candidates said it was going to be a battle of ideas. But ideas were hard to spot in the barrage of advertising logos and the usual vacuity of Spanish political rhetoric, seasoned with soccer metaphors. It was like looking for a Krugerrand in a garbage dump.

A Zapatero man said that the ideas were posted on some web page. This may well be true: that is, they could have hidden them a little better. But to the layman, it looked as if the fight was really about who was going to control the jobs and salaries within the party. Not something to turn your nose up at, with all the public posts they lost in the elections. Indeed, the Socialist Party is in the dumps, not just economically but also spiritually. They simply have no idea which way to turn.

A recent article by Nathan Gardels looks into the moral paralysis of certain democracies, including our own. The economic interests of the major parties are so rooted in the world of capital, the relations of dependency and clientelism so obvious, that you can only play at demagogy, like Zapatero, for a while before you are scolded and called to order. Hence, for example, the vacuity of Zapatero's Alliance of Civilizations, his talk of "federalism" (a tribal fight for state money) and his coining of sexless neologisms to please the feminists.

Power corrupts the left. The right doesn't need to be corrupted, possessing all the big money in society anyway, though when in power they take a bit more for good luck. In general, conservative parties take it for granted that their financing and graft have to do with greedy subalterns, not with the top leadership. Leftist parties face huge difficulties in financing, and may easily end up with the rank and file having to support the paid party bureaucracy.

This is the (outsider's) impression of the Socialist primaries. Here we had two ways of understanding how to run the party, not the state. Two clientelisms, both calculating who would be best for them.

At a sanguine estimate, Rubalcaba has about eight years in which to raise his party's spirits. Let's hope he can eliminate the rhetoric redolent of the civil war, so cretinously prevalent in the court of Zapatero, which has turned Spain into a society where (in the terms of that rhetoric) 12 million fascists now have a clear parliamentary majority.

The road will be long and, above all, boring. The left has frittered away its historic capital. Equality before the law; education as a tool of social mobility; freedom for the majority and not just for certain minorities; culture as a tool of criticism; the struggle against corruption and parasitism (including that infecting the labor unions); rejection of the reactionary ideology of regional nationalism; promotion according to what you know, not who you know... In short, a whole page full of items of pending business - of which nobody has said a single word in these elections, or primaries, or whatever they are called. Not a single word.

One wishes the best to Rubalcaba, not so much in hopes of real renovation of the party as because in the face of a realistic, articulate opposition, the excesses of the right are likely to be more bearable. Help us, Rubalcaba - we're going to need it.

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