Interview with Communist Party of Spain’s General Secretary
The Spanish political activist, José Luis Centella, is far from the stereotypical figure at the podium. He speaks deliberately, exemplifying the adage that there is no need to shout when speaking the truth.
The party he has led since 2009 has a 90-year history of struggle, beginning with the defense of the Republic against fascism through the difficult times around the fall of the Berlin Wall. Centella is aware that the party is facing a new challenge today, given the economic and social crisis which is gripping Europe and especially Spain.
“For a period of 15 or 20 years, capitalism appeared to provide answers to Spain’s problems. There was employment, economic growth and a certain level of general well-being. And the socialist camp had disappeared. Even then, we said that was all fraudulent and based on speculation,” the leader said in an interview with Granma.
“In Spain today we have an unemployment rate of 24%, while one of every two youth is without work. In regions such as Andalusia, where I come from, the figures are even worse. All of this added to a level of poverty which has increased five times over, in just a few years.
“That other capitalism was, in reality, a fraud. And now people are in a state of uncertainty, leading to expressions of rebellion.
“Given this situation,” Centella affirms, “the PCE (Communist Party of Spain) appears as an instrument which can organize those affected by the crisis, to give the workers an instrument of struggle.
“At this time we are recovering the party’s strength. One of the keys to this has been reinitiating a clearly anti-capitalist and revolutionary discourse. Previously we went through a very difficult stage during which we lost our social base and strength, but in the last two congresses we have committed ourselves to strengthening our organization, to the displeasure of those who were rubbing their hands in glee, thinking that we were going to disappear.”
In the midst of a serious social and economic crisis, channeling discontent along a revolutionary path is crucial, since as Centella said, “The danger exists that this [discontent] could be used by fascists.”
“What fascism attempts to do is to identify the immigrant, your neighbor, as the enemy, to leave capitalism unscathed. The role of our party is to show who the real enemy is: a system which has plundered Spain, as it has many other countries.”
The nature of the struggle in which they are immersed has obliged revolutionary movements in Europe to seek unity. Thus Centella spoke of the alliances the PCE has made within the United Left (IU).
“The party is participating in elections through this alliance, but maintaining its independence and structure in the rest of its work. The other groups within it are not all communists, but they are anti-capitalist, nationalist or environmentalist. The Spanish left, as is the case in the rest of Europe, faces the challenge of showing that there are alternatives to capitalism. Doing this requires learning from all previous historical processes, but not copying them.
Centella believes that today Latin America is leading the confrontation with capitalism, where Marxism is in the streets, and said, “What is at stake in the coming elections in Venezuela is not whether Chávez or Capriles will be President, but rather whether socialism will be constructed or the previous system returned.
“The European left must be conscious that at this time in history, Europe is in the rearguard in this confrontation with capitalism. Today we have to learn, as opposed to teach.”
I FEEL AT HOME HERE
With respect to attempts by certain forces on the Spanish right to push a more aggressive anti-Cuban policy, Centella commented, “There is one fact which they have never been able to change. The Spanish people feel a great deal of solidarity for the Cuban people; despite many attempts, the right wing has never been capable of building anti-Cuba sentiment. They have never mobilized more than a couple of gusanos.”
What is increasing every day is solidarity with Cuba. Centella said, “In Spain, the case of the Five is increasingly known, it is no longer taboo. This is an issue that must be made known; it shows the injustice of a country which boasts about democracy and combating terrorism.”
“The movement in solidarity with the Five is very solid and many people have even been drawn closer to Cuba and its history after learning about these anti-terrorist fighters.
“The PCE has also waged a battle around the issue of the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Through an intervention in Congress, we were recently able to get the Spanish government to issue a statement condemning the blockade. It is very difficult to justify when faced with direct questions.”
Centella’s long-standing relationship with Cuba has even turned him into a baseball fan. His team? Industriales. But his affection for the country goes much farther and he doesn’t hesitate to say, “I feel very much at home here.”