* Please note: This post was written prior to the elections in Spain. Results are now available. FTB apologizes for the publication delay.

Today the Spanish people head to the polls in what might be the tolling of the bell for the bipartisan system that has characterized Spanish politics and European politics in the post-WWII period. A sort of peaceful coexistent between the traditional socialist and conservative forces, a neoliberal modus operandi that has dominated Spanish society since the downfall of the Francoist regime in 1974.

With the economic downturn of 2008, felt in many countries across Europe, came to shake-up the ailing Madrid consensus. From the rubble of the economic devastation that forced many working  Spanish families and precarious youth out of their houses and jobs, was born the tremendous social upheval of M-15, the indignados movement.

In the summer of 2011, this movement would occupy squares in every corner of the country, not abiding by the defined boundaries and cultural differences that run through Spain like arteries or veins. The scope of the protest, the potency of its message of economic equality and redistribution and its historical grounding in the Spanish Republican tradition, calling for a complete overhaul of the current constitutional framework in favor of participatory democracy and decentralization, turned the indignados movements into a force to be reckoned with on the Spanish political scene.

For the past four years, since the culmination of the indignation movement at Peurta Del Sol, the symbolic heart of the Spanish capital, the ideas that were hatched during the summer of 2011 have continued to inundate and influence the Spanish political discourse and made significant practical gains. Podemos, a political party that germinated in the squares of 2011, is a case study for left-wing and anti-capitalist political movements throughout the world, because of its success, because of its failures, but most importantly because of its potential that may or may not be reached within the near future.

Puerta del Sol in Madrid during the 2011 Spanish protests (image by fotograccion via WikiMedia Commons)
Puerta del Sol in Madrid during the 2011 Spanish protests (image by fotograccion via WikiMedia Commons)

Podemos is an island of hope within a sea of fear. Throughout Europe, right-wing populist movements and their rhetoric is taking centre stage, filling a void that left-wing movements have conceded. Traditional left-wing movements have become managers of capitalism and of the neoliberal consensus leaving the vast terrain of populist anti-system rhetoric to fascist right-wing movements and their affiliates.

The comparison between France and Spain is staggering. Whereas in Spain, Podemos has come to push the debate and embody a true alternative to the establishment politics, the void left in France by the incapacity of left-wing forces to create some semblance of a political alternative has allowed the rise of the fascist Front National.

The economic conditions and societal problems both countries are facing are similar. Affected communities, working-class communities, traditional bastions of the left, have shifted away from their traditional zones of gravitation. In Spain towards Podemos and in France, unfortunately, towards the FN.

Beyond the obvious political differences between a right-wing xenophobic party and an anti-austerity umbrella party, there are profound organizational differences as well. The FN has been incapable of moving beyond the volatile anti-system protest vote, shortcomings evident in their inability to break the bipartisan system in France during last Sunday’s regional vote.

Why would Podemos succeed where the FN has failed? Unlike the FN, Podemos, in the municipalities they hold, has created grassroots level spaces of dialogue and shared power, alliances of mutual reinforcement with societal actors, NGOs and social movements. One of the best examples of this is how Podemos-held municipalities have created strong ties with the anti-gentrification movements in the popular neighborhoods of  many the major Spanish urban centres. The Podemos-affiliated mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, was one of the heads of the anti-expulsions movement that was formed in the wake of the current Conservative government’s decision to deregulated rents, condemning tens of thousands of Spaniards to homelessness.

The conditions of the ascension of the FN and of Podemos are similar and both have taken every opportunity to gain political traction in municipal, regional and European elections. But while the FN was invisible and did not connect within the communities they were supposed to represent, instead parachuting in candidates from the Politburo, Podemos did by creating movements that mirrored local diversity.

Pablo Iglesias, the leader and sort of eccentric intellectual spokesperson of Podemos, identified the primordial question that his political formation faces. Podemos must continue to speak a language that resonates with disenfranchised and precarious Spaniards. At the expense, sometimes, of ideological purity, Podemos must translate their ideas into the diverse dialects that make up this movement.

The future of Podemos and the future of any left-wing anti-austerity party resides on walking this tightrope successfully and, for the time being, Podemos has been successful in doing so. They have been able to completely seize the moment and through their brilliant analysis of the current Spanish political quagmire, they have been able to translate the frustration that many Spaniards have into a political platform for change. The frustration that was translated into hate and xenophobia in France was translated into hope in Spain.

But will the success of Podemos also lay the seeds of its downfall? Podemos has become some sort of meteorite sensation in Spain and in the Western world, but their stardom is mixed with this discourses of not accepting the paradigm of left vs right and instead putting forward the Gramscian notion of common sense.

This has rendered Podemos vulnerable in two ways. First, their success is tightly strapped to the unpredictable roller-coaster ride of a decadent political system. Second, their formula for success could gain tractoion with right-wing, neoliberal propositions as well. Ciudadanos, the libertarian political equivalent of Podemos, for example, is giving Podemos a taste of their own medicine.

Do the ends justify the means or do the means justify the ends? Rather, do the means taint and change the ends? This is the unsolvable debate of anarchist, socialist, communist movements since time immemorial.

I believe that we can create a truly democratic movement, a space able to synthesize ideology and practice, capable of theorizing and mobilizing and maintaining the vital link between the two. Skip the Hollywood version.

There’s a lot to learn on this subject from the Podemos experience. Decentralizing decision making and mobilizing different perspectives in a asymmetric framework is essential, but all of this can only exist within the lineal objective of confronting and dismantling the unequal power relationships that breed oppression that exist within a capitalist framework.

In short, for Podemos to be successful, it must be transformative force and break with all of it and not fall into the trap of SYRIZA.

You got the time off work, you quit or you just plain up and left. However the adventure came, you’re on it and you have only the road to guide you. On this year’s escape from Montreal, head to Granada, for a gastronomical, musical and cultural experience that you will never forget. Get ready to experience life like Spain’s swankiest royalty.


Granada is not only a slice of seductive gastro-paradise but it’s also where you can see what’s it was like to live as a Moroccan Sultan. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out the Alhambra for an experience of pure architectural beauty and intrigue.

Constructed as a small fortress in 889 AD and converted into a royal palace in 1333 this “paradise of earth” will leave you feeling like an heir to the throne. From intricate art deco details to the always extravagant doorway, you feel as though you’ve entered a slice of Moroccan paradise in the warm comfort of the south of Spain.


After experiencing life as a Sultan, your next stop should be to head down a dark deep cave to a Flamenco show. Flamenco is expressed as a strange, dark struggle linked to death and creation. Mixing Romanian gypsy music with the rhythms of North Africa, Flamenco has a strong rooted culture in Spain driven by its unique and wild melodies that can be distinguished by the pounding of the bailaora’s nail-capped shoes. A single performance of Flamenco takes over an audience with grace and passion that proves to last you long after the night is over.


With an abundance of famous Flamenco shows in Granada it’s hard to choose where to go. If you want the best spectacle in town head to Venta El Gallo, where you can not only see an authentic Flamenco show but experience it in a cave as you dine on extravagant cuisine.

While delectable Spanish food melts in your mouth you get the pleasure of seeing some of the best flamenco musicians and dancers in town. With shows everyday you’ll never have to miss out on the most powerful and jaw dropping Flamenco spectacle. The women will dazzle you, the musicians will razzle you and the dancers will leave you with chills all night long.

When in Spain the magical experience that is tapas is a must to graze your lips. Tapas are a midday or evening appetizer between meals to help gulp down some wine or beer. The Spanish got it right. Instead of whipping out for a quick bite to eat or eating fast food in front of the TV, Tapas happens at a slow and luxurious pace. People seemed unconcerned with the passing of time instead focusing on the enjoyment of good company as they sip on tantalizing wines.

From olives to prosciutto to black calamari with rice your taste buds will be tantalized and cold beer helps you wash it all down. The best part? All you pay for is the drink. Don’t fall into the tourist trap of Barcelona tapas to get your fill, instead head to Granada, the capital of free tapas. If you want to experience the real deal check out Poë, La Riviera, Om Khalsum, El Nido del Búho, and Babel. Get ready to experience food like royalty with a buffet of food headed your way with every drink.

Don’t let the luxury end there. Finish your trip off by splurging on a luxury Spanish villa for a week or two with friends or family. You won’t be disappointed. With privacy, security, and the most luxurious and intimate dining experience you feel like true royalty on your own private villa. The architecture will astound you, as the nature surrounds you, let yourself dive into the mindset of the Spaniards of the past.

From tapas, to Flamenco, to Moroccan castles, to Spanish Villas, there are many ways to dip your toes in the luxury of the south of Spain. But more important then the luxury is the change that takes over your mindset when you jet to another place, an escape from your life that permeates deeper then just a vacation.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”   — Miriam Beard


Photography by Nica Storey

People love to invoke the name of Franz Kafka for the slightest fucking absurdity in their lives. Example: I waited in line at the post office for an hour. Then I was told by the clerk that I would have to put my own envelope in the mailbox! WHAT A KAFKAESQUE TWIST OF FATE! In truth, very few situations in our humdrum daily lives would actually make good material for one of this Czech/German/Jewish writer’s novels or short stories.

Then there’s the legal ordeal of Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, a human rights lawyer and jurist of the very first order who is currently standing trial in Spain for allegedly breaking the country’s laws. Perhaps the greatest living legal champion of justice for victims of human rights, crimes against humanity and war crimes, being accused of violating the law he was sworn to uphold and trotted out in front of his former colleagues on the bench to answer to their examinations. I absolutely think Kafka would recognize this.

First, a brief look at the event that made the man a hero to many of us advocates of international law and rocked the international community to its foundations. It may not seem this way now, but before 1998, the idea that a former dictator, let alone from another country, could be brought to justice for crimes committed by him or on his behalf by his subordinates years earlier, was laughable.

Garzon, on the basis of the increasingly accepted doctrine of universal jurisdiction, got the ball rolling with an indictment for General Augusto Pinochet, former Chilean tyrant and senator, for crimes committed during his 17 year rule as generalissimo of that country. However, due to a legal technicalities and Pinochet’s allegedly poor health, his trial before the British House of Lords was cancelled. This was a watershed moment in international law and has been cited as precedent in any number of cases involving war crimes and crimes against humanity (Charles Taylor, George W. Bush, etc.) ever since.

The current case against Garzon smacks of political vendetta. The main element of the state’s argument is that the Garzon has violated a 1977 amnesty passed by allies of the Franco regime in order to facilitate the transition to democracy and provide immunity for atrocities committed during the fascist era of the country’s history. In his defence, Garzon has raised two key points: that crimes against humanity cannot be swept under the rug by virtue of any domestic law and that, since the crimes investigated (i.e. disappeared victims of the fascists) are ongoing, they remain subject to criminal prosecutions.

Garzon has made powerful enemies over the years for his fearless willingness to prosecute criminals, regardless of their status or location. Though his targets have often included notorious right wing extremists like Pinochet, it’s worth noting his courageous attempts to bring their mortal enemies to justice as well, including the members of Al Qaeda and Basque terrorists affiliated with ETA.

While I am always in favour of national reconciliation, it should never be done at the expense of justice. How will Spain ever put the ghosts of the past to rest, if it doesn’t allow this type of investigation into historical crimes to take its course? Garzon is a hero all over world for standing up for international law and human rights, this trial is a travesty designed to besmirch the reputation of a man whose name is synonymous with integrity and the rule of law.