Network parties in Spain: Interview with Labodemo, Podemos participation team
Representatives of the groups involved in D-CENT met in London to share their experiences. Miguel Arana Catania, of LaboDemo, which is working with Spanish political party Podemos, talked about how he sees the project. Miguel will take part in the FutureFest panel hosted by D-CENT Networks, Movements, and Parties: D-CENT and the challenges of the netera politics
What is Podemos?
During the last three years we’ve had a huge mobilisation in Spain – 15-M - coming after the Arab Spring and many other demonstrations. Podemos is the current stage of that. We tried many things – petitions, demonstrations, whatever. With elections approaching, a lot of people said “let’s make a party, otherwise these people won’t really hear what the people want to do”.
It’s a new kind of party. The structure is quite similar to the mobilisation of 15-M. It’s made of 1,000 assemblies, along with a leader and a more organised part. There’s an important focus on direct democracy and new technology, and we’re asking for real democracy in Spain.
How did you get involved?
I was there from the beginning in the 15M movement. I was there in the demonstrations, in the first camps – we thought it was very exciting and why not? The first camps [in Puerta del Sol, Madrid] were just supposed to be for one week, ahead of local elections. And then people started joining the camp, they were evicted by the police and a lot more people came. Then it exploded and it was crazy.
It’s the first real political movement we’ve had in Spain for a long time that’s got real hope to change things. Everyone wanted to be involved, and I had a bit more time to get involved. The support over the past three years has been amazing.
What does D-CENT mean to you?
It’s a very interesting project – to establish a decentralised network, a different kind of internet, and to show the problems the internet is having right now – control by corporations and users’ data. Promoting democracy tools is very important, as we have a unique opportunity to create a different kind of tool to interact with people, not only to protect privacy but to maximise reach. There aren’t many companies doing this, so D-CENT is very important.
What can D-CENT do for Podemos?
It can help build tools that can be used in a new way of doing politics. Of course, Podemos is involved in this, but there are also other forces in Spain – such as Barcelona En Comun (“Barcelona in common”) – that are also involved in this path.
These tools go beyond political movements. Whatever happens with Podemos, the tool can be used in other countries. It’s designing a new kind of democracy, a new way of doing things, where people are really involved. It’s just not just somebody representing you.
Doesn’t this exclude people without the web?
If you use the internet alone, of course you exclude some people. You should always combine with physical and other processes. There are things you can’t pick up through the internet – emotions, how people engage with the processes, the way you look.
The internet can’t give you that, but it does mean we can do things that weren’t possible before. It’s an extra thing that’s really changing. On the first night of 15-M, it was on Twitter, and other people came, and then the movement replicated in 50 cities in one night, just because of the social network and the work that’d been done.
I want to suggest a new policy in Podemos – how would that work?
In Podemos, we are trying to build a lot of different ways for people to interact and propose things. So if you wanted to suggest a tax, you could join the assembly for the economy and then just go there, propose something, and if people like it, they will propose it to the next step in the organisation - the council, the main organisation of the party.
And then we have something called the Podemos Citizen Initiative, a process where people can go to the global space for debate we have in Reddit called Plaza Podemos (“Podemos Square”). It’s an open space for everybody and you can just go there and propose something. If enough people support it, it will jump to the official Podemos website, and if it gets through that, there’ll be an internal referendum. Then everybody in Podemos will be able to vote.
If we like it, it’s on. It’s a very straight path of direct democracy which we think is easy and useful. We are working to make it happen technologically, and in one or two months it will be ready.
What challenges will D-CENT help overcome?
It will help build these paths to create policies. It’s very important to build connections with other countries, there’s a lot of experience – we’re working with Finland, Iceland, and other countries to understand their experiences, their different tools and processes, to see what happened and improve on them in Spain, and to give feedback on their projects.
So this is the special point of D-CENT– the connection between countries’ experiences. If there’s something we want to do, maybe they’ve already done it.