COVID-19 and the Lockdown Left: The Example of PODEMOS and Stalinism in Spain


by Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 24 March 2020,




The COVID-19 crisis is a historic turning point in world politics. It is no less significant than events like the collapse of Stalinism in 1989-91 or the 9-11 events and the consequential imperialist war against Afghanistan in 2001.


As the RCIT explained in a series of statements and articles since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis the ruling classes utilize the panic to advance their political goals. In contrast to nearly all self-proclaimed Marxist organizations we immediately recognized the political counter-revolutionary nature of these events. By now the bourgeoisie all over the world combines drastic attacks on democratic rights like mass lockdown and suppression of demonstrations and public assemblies with a massive austerity program. In fact, as we pointed out in the new RCIT Manifesto on the crisis, “what is currently taking place is the build-up of chauvinist state-bonapartist regimes.” The police and army are on the streets in full force, people are locked up in their houses, and undisguised surveillance a la “Big Brother” takes place. In other words, the ruling classes utilize the current crisis to create a new monstrous Leviathan. And all this happens under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis.


As it is often the case in such situations – one just needs to remember the beginning of World War I – major sectors of the official workers movement and the left capitulate to the pressure of the ruling class. Currently we see that reformist and left-populist parties all over he world are rallying to the calls of the bourgeoisie to “stand together” – which means nothing but support for mass lockdowns and austerity policy under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis. Shamefully, large sectors of the so-called “revolutionary left” also support such crucial reactionary measures of the ruling classes like mass lockdowns and the suppression of public assemblies and demonstrations.


A particular glaring example of such betrayal is the policy of PODEMOS and the Spanish Stalinists. PODEMOS is a bourgeois left-populist party. [1] It constitutes a kind of alliance of different forces. While the group around Pablo Iglesias dominates the leadership, it also includes other significant forces like the Partido Comunista de España (PCE, Communist Party of Spain) – the historic party of Spanish Stalinism – and its ally Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left). The PCE and IU are both part of the Party of the European Left (PEL), a Europe-wide alliance of ex-Stalinist parties like the LINKE in Germany, SYRIZA in Greece or the French PCF. [2] PODEMOS itself was also part of PEL until last year when the later suffered a split about some tactical questions. Since then the group around Iglesias has been allied with the French left-populist La France Insoumise led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon. [3]


As it is well know, PODEMOS has created a joint government with the social democratic PSOE led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in January 2020. This is a popular front government, i.e. a coalition of reformist and populist forces which serves the capitalist class.


The current COVID-19 crisis demonstrates very clearly that this “left-wing” government does not fundamentally differ from other bourgeois governments like Macron in France, Kurz in Austria or Johnson in Britain. Like these other governments, Sánchez/Iglesias have put the people in Spain under lockdown and suppress all possibilities for demonstrations and public assemblies. At the same time, the executive power of police and army has substantially increased. They imposed a state of emergency on 14 March, lasting for 15 days. [4]


The PSOE/PODEMOS government already announced that it will extend the state of emergency until 11 April. In contrast to the first time, this must be approved by parliament. However, this is guaranteed after the main opposition party, the conservative People’s Party, said it would support it. [5]


Bombastically declaring “we are at war,” this “left-wing” government uses the same militaristic rhetoric like Macron and other bourgeois state leaders. And indeed, police and army control the streets – currently nearly 250,000 police officers and soldiers are deployed across Spain! At the same time, the bosses are sacking hundreds of thousands of people and wages are cut massively. However, the suppression of democratic rights makes it impossible for the workers and oppressed to fight back.


As in other countries, the PSOE/PODEMOS government justifies its state of emergency with the COVID-19 crisis. Until now, about 2,300 people have died. However, they have died – and are continuing to die – despite the lockdown. The same is the case in Italy.


In fact, as the RCIT explained repeatedly, this epidemic can not and does not need to be fought by lockdowns. We have seen in South Korea that the virus can effectively be contained by mass and free testing and hospitalization of those infected. Despite the fact that South Korea was the first country after China where the virus spread, only 120 people have died until now! And all this has been possible without any mass lock down! [6]


However, the main purpose of the mass lock down is not to fight the Corona Virus but to atomize and paralyze the working class and popular masses so that they can not fight back against the attacks of the ruling class. It is characteristic for the bourgeois character of PODEMOS that it is a leading force in this counter-revolutionary offensive!


The same is true for the so-called “Communists” in Spain. Immediately after announcement of the state of emergency, the leadership of the PCE published a statement which leaves no doubt about the unambiguous and enthusiastic support for the draconic measures of the government: “We support the declaration of state of alert adopted by the Government of Spain and we keep working to adopt the measures needed to prevent the health crisis from becoming an economic and social crisis. These measures should be taken as soon as possible and while this situation lasts. (…) We welcome the declaration of the state of alert, which allows the Government to coordinate and plan measures and functions of any public administration.[7]


We note in passing that the same is the case with various other Stalinist forces in Europe. While these Stalinists claim to be orthodox “Marxist-Leninists” and often criticize the PEL for its “revisionism”, in effect they share the same bourgeois approach. To give an example, we refer to the Austrian Stalinists – the “Party of Labor” which is affiliated with the Greek KKE. In a recently published statement they also lend support to the state of emergency imposed by the coalition government of the Conservative and Green Party on 15 March. This state of emergency was declared after three (!) people have died because of the Coronoa Virus. Tellingly, in 2017/18 alone 2,800 people died because of Influenza without any actions by the government in response!


Pathetically, the Austrian Stalinists only appeal to the government not to suppress democratic rights for too long! “While many measures to contain the spreading of the Corona Virus COVID-19 are reasonable we also note that these restrictions of freedom of assembly and the massive interference in personal civil rights and liberties as well as in labor rights must be only of limited duration. [8]


This statement demonstrates very clearly that the Stalinists are fully aware of the nature of the state of emergency which takes place in a period of gigantic democratic and social attacks on the working class. However, they support these measures nevertheless and limit themselves to an appeal to the ruling class to maintain the counterrevolutionary state of emergency for “not too long”! How long is “not too long”? How many workers will have to lose their jobs until the Stalinists say “now it is enough”?!


The support of PODEMOS, the PCE and other Stalinists for the counterrevolutionary state of emergency in a period of the worst economic slump of 1929 dimensions demonstrates once more their fundamentally reactionary character.


The counter-revolutionary role of large sectors of the so-called left underlines once more the urgent need to build a revolutionary party – nationally and internationally. The RCIT repeats once more that all revolutionary activists must aid the vanguard to counter the current reactionary offensive of the bourgeoisie which has launched a shock-and-awe attack against the working class and the popular masses. Revolutionaries must explain that the global hysteria about COVID-19 is politically motivated and that only a proper health program, instead of lock-down police state tactics, can help. They must also explain that the workers and popular organizations must not accept the suppression of democratic rights and that they must fight against all attempts of the capitalists to put the burden of the crisis on the their shoulders. The RCIT calls revolutionaries to join forces of the basis of such an emergency program!




* * * * *


The RCIT has published numerous statements and articles on the COVID-19 crisis of which several have been translated into different languages. They are all collected at a special sub-page in our website:


In particular we draw the attention of readers to our new Manifesto:


COVID-19: A Cover for a Major Global Counterrevolutionary Offensive


We are at a turning point in the world situation as the ruling classes provoke a war-like atmosphere in order to legitimize the build-up of chauvinist state-bonapartist regimes


Manifesto of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 21 March 2020,




[1] See on this e.g. RCIT: National Elections in the Spanish State: Critical Support for Unidos Podemos! Workers, Migrants and Youth: Don’t trust the Left-Reformist Program of the Podemos/IU-Leaderships! Organize and Mobilize for a Struggle on the Streets, in Workplaces, and in Educational Institutions! 08.06.2016,

[2] On the RCIT’s analysis of the PEL see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019, pp. 270-276. The book can be read online or downloaded for free here: See also chapter 13 in Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, RCIT Books, Vienna 2013,; Michael Pröbsting: French Stalinists Join the Bandwagon of Anti-Migrant Demagoguery, 24.09.2019,

[3] See on this e.g. RCIT: Socialists and the EU Elections 2019. Against all imperialist states – both EU as well as national states! Open borders for migrants! For the United Socialist States of Europe! 11 April 2019,

[4] Belén Carreño, Ingrid Melander: Spain goes under lockdown to fight coronavirus, March 14, 2020

[5] Joan Faus: 'We are at war' says Spain of its coronavirus efforts, seeking extended state of emergency, March 22, 2020 /

[6] See on this e.g. Almedina Gunić: No, most likely it is not COVID-19 that is going to kill you. A manageable epidemic became public enemy number one distracting from the real killers, 16 March 2020,; Almedina Gunić: The chauvinist campaign behind the “Wuhan Coronavirus” hysteria & the revolutionary answer, 2.2.2020,; Almedina Gunic: 2019-nCoV and the Virus of Chauvinism. A comparison with measles and the reactionary Anti-Vaxx campaigners, 6.2.2020,

[7] PCE: In light of the situation created by the expansion of the COVID-19 epidemic and its impact in Spain, 16 March 2020, (This statement has been published in English language by the PCE itself.)

[8] Kämpferische Arbeiterfront statt „Team Österreich“! Stellungnahme des Parteivorstands der Partei der Arbeit Österreichs (PdA), 19. März 2020, Here is the German-language original: „So sinnvoll viele Maßnahmen, die derzeit zur Eindämmung der Ausbreitung des Coronavirus COVID-19 in Kraft sind, sein mögen, so sehr ist auch festzuhalten, dass diese Einschränkungen der Versammlungsfreiheit und der massive Eingriff in persönliche Freiheitsrechte und ins Arbeitsrecht nur von befristeter Dauer sein dürfen.“