Practically from the beginning, the PSOE Congresses have included an important point on the agenda, which is the debate on the management of the bodies that have led the party since the previous conclave. This debate has usually been a political debate on the policies carried out, the successes but also the problems, the mistakes, the past and its projection for the future. A debate that used to take quite a long time, usually half a day of each congress.
Now that the regional congresses of the PSOE have been held, it is time for some reflections on this facet of self-criticism, which is so important in a democratic party. Because in the last two congresses that affect me, the 40th Federal Congress held last October in Valencia and the recent PSOE Congress in Madrid, this debate has not taken place.
At the 40th Federal Congress, the management report was made not by the Secretary General, but by the Secretary of Organisation – who, by the way, had only been in office for three months – and at the end of his speech and after the applause, the President of the Congress hastily said that the management was unanimously approved, despite the fact that there were delegates who raised their hands asking for the floor, among them some from Izquierda Socialista. There was hardly any debate in the commissions either, where the reports were quickly approved with a few amendments and none could pass to the plenary. There was therefore little debate, and although the PSOE is governing, it would have been positive to debate the objectives and conditions under which this coalition government has been acting, as well as some other pending issues in Spanish society. It was a Congress that had more of a “Convention” towards society than of internal reflection, with parallel tables where policies were exposed to the public without any debate, and with a political objective: to show a united party after the previous conflicts through the interventions of the former presidents of the Government José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Felipe González together with that of Pedro Sánchez himself.
Worse was the absence of debate at the PSOE Congress in Madrid. In this case, the formal argument was that since there was no outgoing Executive Committee, having resigned after the electoral failure in the Community of Madrid, there was no room to debate its management. But this reason should not have prevented a debate on what had happened in the last few years and on the causes of the debacle in which the party found itself in Madrid. The fact that it was not debated was of interest to those who had supported the policies that led us to failure, who are still in their institutional or organic positions, keeping a low profile and controlling the situation once again. But in my opinion it was in the interest of Madrid’s socialism, militants and sympathizers, to analyze the causes of what happened and to remedy it. Without analysis of what happened, without debate, without self-criticism, it will be difficult to recover the lost electorate.
I would like to highlight some of the many mistakes made in recent years, mistakes that ultimately boil down to the loss of autonomy of Madrid socialism and the submission of many of its cadres to the finger that comes from above. It reminds me of Luis Gómez Llorente’s phrase that the party had become a syndicate of public officials.
The first mistake was that of the candidacy for the Madrid City Council. Although it affects me personally, I must not forget that a comrade was chosen, an excellent person, with no political experience whatsoever, no relationship whatsoever with socialism and no knowledge whatsoever of the reality of Madrid and its problems. But a majority of cadres and militants voted for him enthusiastically, simply because he had the support of the Secretary General of the PSOE, despite the fact that the latter, in his primaries against Susana Díaz, demanded in writing to the then Federal Management Committee the strictest neutrality. The failure is well known. In the middle of the “Sanchez era” and while we improved the results in the Community of Madrid, the capital was the only major city in which the socialist vote fell compared to previous elections, and after a while the candidate left the City Council.
A second major mistake was the compatibility of the post of Secretary General of the PSOE in Madrid with that of Government Delegate. We knew that Gabilondo had said in public and in private what kind of discourse and opposition he was willing to make, because of his way of doing politics and even more of doing parliamentarianism based on words, on reasoning about the complex. And when we most needed the party and its leaders to make hard opposition to Mrs. Ayuso, or to the mayor of Madrid, the secretary general was neutralized by appointing him delegate of the Government. It is well known that the latter has to cooperate with the regional and local institutions, so he could hardly confront them, quite the contrary.
And the final straw was last May’s campaign for the regional elections in Madrid, in which thee, in view of the haste of the electoral call, Gabilondo disciplinedly accepted to be a candidate again. But the first part of the list of deputies was not imposed from Moncloa, the same as an absurd and changing electoral strategy, which began by questioning Podemos and announcing not to raise taxes in a community like Madrid, with the lowest taxes for the rich in Spain, to seek votes from Ciudadanos, without getting any, losing more than two hundred thousand voters to the left. All this at the mercy of the spindoctors on duty, who led us to lose 10 points during the election campaign.
All this, and more, should have been debated at the PSOE Congress in Madrid, but nothing was done. It was of no interest, the cadres who had supported each of these policies preferred not to remember, supporting Juan Lobato as candidate for Secretary General, who spoke in his campaign of transparency and autonomy of Madrid socialism. I did not support Lobato, among other reasons because I thought that he would not have the capacity to defend the autonomy of the PSOE of Madrid, in the face of what Laski called the “bear hug” that he understood was being given by many of the public supporters he had, excellent colleagues, but directly responsible for the situation, who supported him enthusiastically, probably with the aim of continuing to control politics from their positions and posts.
And indeed, the first thing has been the accelerated call for the General Secretariat of the Madrid Grouping. After 20 years of being included in the Statutes, it is being called in an accelerated manner with only one day for the presentation of candidacies, making it as difficult as possible for those who are not in the running to do so. I am afraid that this is a clear sign of the tolls he has to pay for having been supported by some. Moreover, the candidacy of the Delegate of the Government again affects the experience of the incompatibility between cooperating institutionally with the mayor of Madrid and criticism of the City Council of the Capital, in addition to the command over the National Police, which if in any case commits excesses will be blamed on the Secretary General of socialism in Madrid.
I think it is not a good start for Juan Lobato, for the announced and needed autonomy of the PSOE of Madrid. However, we must give him the maximum support to exercise the political leadership of the Madrid socialists with firmness, with integration and autonomy, which is not confrontation but loyalty to the party and its state leaders. To fight the cultural battle against the right wing and its individualistic and privatising values and to recover collective self-esteem and win Madrid back for the people.