Communist playing a leading role in Spain’s governing coalition
Yolanda Diaz, the popular Communist Minister of Labor in Spain, has become a nationally admired figure in the country. | Press pool photo

Spanish Communist Yolanda Díaz presently serves as minister of labor and social economy in the coalition government headed by Pablo Sanchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE). It includes the United Podemos (UP) formation, with which Díaz’s own Communist Party of Spain (PCE) is associated. (Podemos is “Yes, we can!)

UP leader Pablo Iglesias in early 2021 resigned from his post as the government’s second deputy prime minister – also referred to as “second vice-president.” Díaz replaced him there and also as leader of the UP.  Polling suggests that Díaz now is “Spain’s most highly regarded politician.”

Yolanda Díaz is in the news.  She recently criticized the strong-arm tactics of government security forces in confronting an eventually successful strike in Cadiz involving 20,000 metalworkers. “The key role of the UP in the government in blocking repression and confronting liberal sectors of the PSOE” was clear, according to the PCE’s Mundo Obrero news service.

Díaz on November 13 joined four other political leaders, all women, before an audience in Valencia. They were exploring what they called “Other Politics.” She told listeners that, “We are you,” [and we] … “know that my country wants to move, advance and guarantee equality.” Her appearance prompted enthusiastic applause and, in reference to her political future, shouts of “President! President!”

As labor minister, Díaz has gained recognition for leading negotiations aimed at repealing or reforming anti-worker labor laws. She has worked with unions and business groups to secure furloughs and monetary support for workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She resists Iglesias’s preference for early national elections, an idea opposed by Prime Minister Pablo Sanchez.  She states that, rather than deal with elections, she wants “to govern, to govern, to govern.”  She is angling for an electoral coalition, a broad front, that would eventually include the PSOE.

Díaz speaks out. Pablo Casado currently heads the rightwing People’s Party (PP), which has long served as the main conservative force opposing the PSOE in national elections. On November 20, Pablo Casado attended a mass celebrated at Granada’s Cathedral for dictator Francisco Franco, who died on that day 46 years ago.

Responding, Díaz told reporters that “Casado must immediately provide explanations  and rectify what he has done,” adding that, “Catholics and believers in this country do not understand this type of performance.”

Conservatives have castigated Díaz since the publication in mid-September of a new edition of The Communist Manifesto that contains a prologue she authored. (It appears below in English translation). The PCE republished the Manifesto as part of its centennial celebrations.

The People’s Party bench in the Chamber of Delegates called upon the PSOE government to take responsibility for Díaz’s prologue.  PP spokesperson Edurne Uriarte denounced Díaz’s portrayal of the Manifesto, pointing to her reference to a “magical and timeless book” and her praise for its “impassioned defense of democracy and freedom.”

Defending Díaz, former Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias noted that “the PP was founded by seven ministers of the dictatorship.”  He suggested that “the PCE and [the workers movement] have a lot more democratic credentials than does the Spanish right.” The socialist government of Pablo Sanchez has evaded the issue.

After her legal education, Díaz studied urban planning, labor relations, and human resources. She worked as a labor lawyer, was a municipal councilor, and served in Galicia’s parliament. Since 2016, voters have repeatedly returned her to Spain’s Chamber of Deputies. From 2005 to 2017, she coordinated the Galician federation of the United Left. She served as an advisor for Pablo Iglesias when he formed Podemos in 2012.

Díaz’s current role as tribune of Spain’s radical left is no accident. At age one, she was held in the arms of her imprisoned father Suso Díaz. As a Communist Party member necessarily working underground, he had resisted measures of the Franco dictatorship. Suso Díaz and his brother Xosé were prominent Galician labor leaders, and Suso has remained such. Suso Díaz remarked recently that people used to refer to Yolanda as “the daughter of Suso.” Now he is “the father of Yolanda.”

Yolanda Díaz’s prologue accompanying The Communist Manifesto:

The thinking of Karl Marx appears to have been written, in indelible ink, on the wind of history. It always resurfaces in a context of social and economic crisis, with all of its clarity and its capacity for stimulating reflection. His look at the mechanisms of capitalist production still illuminates and helps us understand the major problems of our world and our time.

There are many Marxisms in Marx, many dissenting views, many rescues. There are post-colonialist viewpoints and orthodox views, condemnations of his patriarchal leanings, and celebrations of his affinity with nature and the environment. Whatever the case, as social theorist Marx disrupted the ideologic framework of the bourgeoisie, of capitalism. He pulled apart the seams and pitfalls of their language and, at the same time, their capability for dominating.

In Galicia, we use the expression “moving the boundaries” in referring to how we get angry, as if it were treason, at the practice of, in the dead of night, changing boundary lines and physical markers that enclose tracts of land or an agricultural section. Sometimes these markers no longer physically exist – the stone, the tree, the little stream bordering the property that dried up. But this ancestral knowledge of boundaries survives in memories of the spoken word, almost in our collective consciousness.

Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto have shifted the invisible boundaries of western thought, doing so in broad daylight, with the world watching. Together they began a new conversation that, with an optimistic and revolutionary spirit, shook up conventions and denounced prehistoric injustices.

Marx has been caricatured and over-simplified innumerable times. The very language he used for dismantling things played a big trick on him. The translations from the original German carried out over many years, for example, have introduced phrases and clichés – “dictatorship of the proletariat being one of them – that don’t correspond to the real core of his thesis. The metaphors of Marx and Engels also, on occasion, obscure the categories they are referring to.

The Communist Manifesto, we must not forget, is a political text, is propaganda. And yet its literary soul, clear and assertive, is surprising. It’s brilliant that way; the four hands of the two friends intertwine their judgments and their preferences. It’s a text for brotherhood, not only for its accessible style but also for its essence as an open letter to humanity, to people at the grassroots level.

Marx, who was a scholar speaking several languages, regularly read Homer, Shakespeare, and Cervantes. Dante also. He could recite entire passages of The Divine Comedy, a passion for which he shared with Engels, who paid homage to that poet in the prologue of the Italian edition of the Communist Manifesto in February 1893. There, Engels asks, “Are we offering Italy a new Dante who is announcing the birth of the proletarian era?”  And Marx certainly admired Balzac’s capacity for exploring the depth of the human soul and the social transformations of his time.

Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, author of that visionary essay “The Right to Laziness,” once mentioned old Karl’s predilection for Balzac’s The Unknown Masterpiece, a story where the philosopher of Trier miraculously finds reflections of himself. Lafargue says: “In this work, a brilliant painter is so tormented by his determination to reproduce things exactly as they appear in his mind that he continually works on his paintings and retouches them to the point that he ends up with a formless mass of colors. Nevertheless, with his blurred vision, it represents a most perfect rendition of reality.”

Perhaps from this same viewpoint, that of a work perpetually growing and being transformed, it may be quite appropriate today for us to approach our reading of Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto this way: not as static, impassive, and monochromatic dogma, anchored in its own frame of reference, but as a key for interpretation, as sketchy as it is exact, allowing us over and over again to sharpen and tinker with our visions of the world and its affairs.

In this sense, The Communist Manifesto is one of those magical and limitless books, born to last, that succeeds in portraying reality and, at the same time, transfiguring it. I believe that Marx and Engels themselves were conscious of the transformational nature of their work, or at least of the unforeseeable variability of the equation presented there which, in the name of communism and of a revolutionary ideal, gets resolved through invalidating eternal truths and achieving true democracy. This process is also reflected in the different prologues of the international editions of the book. Taken together, they are like a set of Russian dolls that, inside, hide the sub-texts and the para-texts making up its content.

To approach this genealogy of different interpretations with my own prologue is both a responsibility and a source of pride stemming from my profound respect and admiration for the voices and contributions of those responsible for the edition and the translation: Marta Sanz, Wendy Lynne Lee, José Saramago, Santiago Alba Rico, Iván de la Nuez and José Ovejero.

In 1872, José Mesa y Leompart, editor of La Emancipación — a weekly magazine in Madrid with which Pablo Iglesias de Ferrol, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party founder, was involved— translated the first version of The Communist Manifesto to be published in Spain. This was a translation not from the original German but instead entered our language by way of the English and French versions of The Communist Manifesto.

The editorial offices of El Socialista on Calle Hernán Cortés in Madrid, #8, was where in 1886 another of the early editions of The Communist Manifesto was published. That building no longer exists. And nothing exists on this narrow street, perpendicular to Calle Fuencarral, that commemorates Marx and Engels’s declaration of worker solidarity. Reclaiming such memory is a political task, something apparently unthinkable in a capital troubled by amnesia. Its municipal authorities didn’t think twice about removing plaques in a public space honoring the socialist Francisco Largo Caballero [Prime Minister of the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War].

There’s poignance in thinking about those first copies: sheets of paper moving from hand to hand. They are there hidden in rows, like gold over cloth, under someone’s work clothes, or in the folds of a skirt.  These are words imprinted for a lifetime in a student’s mind, and in the hearts of those men and women whose hopes we must respond to today. After all, their hopes are, first and foremost, our hopes too.

The “now-moment,” declared Walter Benjamin, is that specific moment in which the past collides with the present. It reappears there — like a great wave taking shape far from the shore, where we cannot see it, in the middle of the sea, and then breaking on the rocks under our feet. Now.

In this sense, the new installment of the Manifesto is an act of memory and redemption that, happily, joins the celebration this year of the centennial of the Communist Party of Spain. The PCE, founded in 1921, has suffered wars, repression, exile, and underground existence throughout its troubled life.

The programmatic character of the Communist Manifesto has continued to develop according to the rhythm of a century full of global economic crises and great revolutions. Capitalism has always been in charge in all of the century’s diverse and voracious mutations, ready to swallow up, corrupt, and disintegrate the very reality on which it was built. But it has never been able to escape the theories of Marx and the transforming power of this text. This is a book that speaks to us of utopias coded into our present existence, our being, in which pulses, today and yesterday, a vital and impassioned defense of democracy and freedom.


W.T. Whitney Jr. translated.


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.