How will the recent electoral success of Podemos in the Spanish State impact development of the BDS movement?
The success of Podemos and Popular Unity Candidates (CUP) in the Spanish state's recent regional and municipal elections and consequent establishment of governments in Barcelona and Madrid constitutes another breakthrough in the 15-M Movement’s ability to exert political expression institutionally. This is because both Podemos and CUP emerged out of the ongoing democratic assemblies and dedicated activism that has characterized the 15-M Movement since May 15, 2011. Furthermore, the vast majority of the activists that founded the 15-M Movement and supported the recent political shifts in Spain’s government are also Palestine solidarity activists. Consequently, analyzing the implications of these institutional political victories for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is both relevant and essential.
The first thing to note is that Podemos and CUP’s success shook the international solidarity movement due to the quick pace of these parties rise to power. Podemos and CUP were able to gain such political influence in a little over a year due to the schedule of the electoral calendar. European elections were held in May 2014, regional and municipal elections in May 2015, and the general election in November 2015. This quick succession inspired massive mobilization efforts and organizational shifts, such as consolidation. Such developments have had both intended and unintended consequences. For instance, one immediate affect of consolidating militant efforts has been a reduction in other social movements, such as those promoting international solidarity. We must remember, however, that this constriction of solidarity movements is only temporary, as the electoral successes both reflect and further invigorate a confident and enthusiastic mobilization of broad social sectors. Consequently, the emergence of these groups will likely reinforce support for BDS in the near future.
Moreover, one of the strengths of the BDS movement is its unitary character. This character is reflected in the participation of activists identified with parliamentary groups, as well as independent and extra-parliamentary groups dedicated to international solidarity efforts. All of these groups are involved at various levels in Podemos. In general society, this process has not been without conflict, especially in election campaigns. In this regard, it is important that the solidarity movement overcome this potential threat without being unduly affected by these tensions.
The unity of BDS can be seen, for example, in objectives of the various political parties, including the institutionalization of BDS in political platforms. Incorporating BDS in the agendas of political parties has been largely influenced by the fact that local and regional authorities have no direct competence in international politics (though before the crisis, some of them had international cooperation programs). Podemos commitment in this area has resulted in a complex and rapid process of participatory program development that has been focused on urgent problems of social change within Spain, resulting in international issues taking a back seat.
In other areas, however, Podemos has included proposals to incorporate social criteria, such as respect for social, labor, human rights by companies applying for government work. In forbidding the participation of companies in violation of human, social and labor rights (as the exploitation of native peoples or child slavery), such clauses also open the door for prohibiting companies that profit from or are complicit in the crimes of occupation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. The realization of this possibility will mean new challenges for BDS in the medium term.
More direct discussions concerning the agenda for foreign policy issues in the upcoming general elections will arise. Thus far, foreign policy issues have been a weak point. For action, we have relied heavily on the commitment of internationalist and activist circles (basic assemblies) and their institutional representatives (e.g. the European Parliament). The existence of a tacit consensus on the defense of human rights and the right of peoples to self-determination does not automatically guarantee the realization of such ideals in the sense of a programmatic commitment to BDS and international solidarity. Achieving this will require the commitment and involvement of Palestinian solidarity movement activists in and outside of the ranks of the organization in raising awareness in Podemos circles and leadership.
Hector Grad is a member of the RESCOP (Solidarity Network Against the Occupation of Palestine) and the Podemos Circle of International Cooperation