Anyone who reads the papers, listens to the radio or checks out the mood on social media these days could be forgiven for concluding that the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) is a party with no pulse and no willpower, a finished entity that could no more run the country than be an effective opposition group.
Socialists themselves – whether party leaders, grassroots members or voters – are not immune to this state of mind. Instead of embracing the party’s (objectively dismal) results at the polls, trying to understand what went wrong and working to correct it, they have gone from a state of denial to an attitude of doom-and-gloom that leaves no way out.
The PSOE must use its role as opposition to the PP as an incentive to rebuild itself
And we should not underestimate the priceless contribution of the Popular Party (PP), whose cynical pose of affliction barely conceals its gleeful desire to prolong its rival’s misery.
Nor should we play down the role of the media, with their live coverage full of titillating details about the final days of a once-proud lion in its death throes, which is how they are selling the story to their audiences.
Finally, let us not forget the chorus of lazy analysts and their endless, repetitive utterances about the crisis of social democracy, and their unavoidable conclusion that no matter what they do, within or without Spain, the Socialists are history.
This combination of factors inevitably leads to the same conclusions regardless of the fact that they come from very diverse sources: the PSOE is dead, or else about to die, or else about to commit suicide.
As is usually the case with all analyses imbued with a sense of anthropological or ideological pessimism, the starting point is logically the same as the finishing line: pessimism.
The problems afflicting Spain’s Socialists are many and grievous, and it would be senseless to avoid or minimize them. But they are not the only ones – or even the most serious ones – affecting Spain. Nor is the PSOE the only party in deep trouble (a brief glance at the PP and at other parties going through an identity crisis, from Podemos to Ciudadanos and to the former Convergència in Catalonia, confirms this fact).
The PSOE is said to be dead, or else about to die, or else about to commit suicide
And while it is true that social democracy is facing major problems at the global level, it is also true that conservative parties are under pressure of their own (because of their xenophobic, nationalist right wings) that pales compared with the problems of social democracy.
There is a future for social democracy. What is it? One in which social democrats are able to use their activism to forge a renewed self-confidence and the ability to understand the way that social needs have changed. From Trudeau in Canada to Renzi in Italy and Obama in the United States, it’s clear that reformists still have a lot to say and do.
The situation is no different in Spain, and therefore it does not have to be any worse here: the PSOE’s refusal to accept its election defeats and the serious strategic mistakes it has made since the general election of December 20 have widened pre-existing rifts within the party, and undermined efforts to restore self-confidence to the party.
But once it is back on the right track and accepts its double defeat at the polls, the PSOE must use its role as opposition to the PP as an incentive to rebuild itself into the reform-oriented alternative that this country needs.
English version by Susana Urra.