“There is a Spaniard who wants to live and to live he begins, between one Spain that dies and another that yawns” Antonio Machado
Spain appears destined to be the European colony of capitalism 2.0. Casinos, parties, beaches, music festivals and all kind of activities designed to offer pleasure to the visitor and servitude to the person attending him. The lumpen-oligarchy that governs us believes that devaluing us as people is the main selling-point that will calm the markets.
Precarized labour, and precarity in access to transport and housing, are the compass guiding the madness that rules us. It marketises those spaces that had remained outside the market, such as health or education, and anything that sounds like it has to do with the public or a hard won right. They impose upon us a flexibility devoid of any security, subjugate us in the name of jobs that don’t exist, and inject us with fear so that we obey. They single out the unemployed person as a parasite and the person who works as privileged. Meanwhile big businesses are responsible for 71% of the €81 billion in evaded taxes and 63% of wage workers take home €1,000 or less each month.
We have not “lived beyond our means”, as they endlessly repeat to us. On the contrary, for them, the 1%, to live within their means, they have to live on top of us and moreover blame us for it. They subjugate and discipline the collective intellect in order to submit it to a labour market where there is no guarantee of work and where work guarantees you nothing. The disobedient multitudes are laying claim to their role of innovators, the true entrepreneur that builds in common for common ends, up against the surplus value of financial rent and the blackmail of debt. Marx said in his article Revolutionary Spain that ‘Insurrectionary risings are as old in Spain as that sway of court favorites against which they are usually directed.’ In Spain there was a Civil War, and not just a coup d’état, because people, those from below, decided to defend life against the sad passions of Francoism. Today we take up the mantle of past dignity in order to combat our worst enemy, the same one we share with the rest of the world: the fear and cynicism that leads us into neo-slavery, which is nothing less than being free so as to become serfs.
RAMÓN ESPINAR MERINO
In the economic sphere, the crisis that began in 2008, and the fundamental collapse of the financial and construction sectors, present a desolate panorama. After two decades of a supposed economic miracle, the Emperor has been conclusively left without any clothes, as in the story: the Spanish economy has the highest rates of unemployment in the EU, especially so when it comes to youth unemployment, and a structural incapacity to put in place productive structures to replace the vacuum left by the construction sector and the meltdown of the property speculation model, both for the public sector (especially for local authority funding) and the private sector.
The exponential growth in debt as a consequence, alongside the interference of misbegotten speculative interests which translate into the rise in the bond yield, in the mechanism that sets the price of debt, combined with the paralysis of European institutions incapable of doing anything, headed by the ECB, not only portrays a scene of stagnation, but also allows us to talk about the end of a cycle.
The debt crisis means the asphyxiation of the public sectors of countries whose only escape in the medium term is a growth in public investment to replace sectors of the economy that have crashed never to return. The snake eats its own tail, and causes the metastasis to spread to ever bigger countries in population size, with the consequent impossibility for institutions of generating ways out.
In the political sphere, the situation is characterised by various elements: the EU’s proven inability to find a way out of the Spanish situation has translated into a de facto bailout without a quid pro quo, in which the Troika dictates the conditions in which the country must be ruled behind the backs of the citizens, without paying a single euro in return; the inability of the PP and PSOE governments to stand up for the country’s interests against the Diktat; the strategy of the elites, in the heat of the crisis, to dismantle the public services and social protection which, whilst never excessively generous in the Spanish model, had consolidated the model of coexistence since the Constitution of 1978.
Thus the situation can be resumed in two elements: in economic terms, it is impossible for this model of managing the crisis to provide, by any means, a way for the Spanish economy to recover prior levels of growth and quality of life, based on cutting back rights and narrowing the economy; in the political sphere, the neoliberal solution to the crisis of neoliberalism had blown apart the cement that provided the political regime with social consensus, and they have smashed the foundations of the social pact that has, as we speak, been put in question by the permanent state of exception decreed by the economic elites.
In this scenario, the social movements that have arisen as of the 15th of May 2011 have drawn a road map to follow: the break with the current Regime and the move towards a process of recovering politics that allows, at least as a first step, for the citizens to take on the responsibility of ruling themselves at a moment in which their rulers have placed sovereignty in the hands of private capital and private interests.
JÓNATHAM F. MORICHE
“In January of 1980, in the salons of the Hotel Ritz in Madrid, the Spanish reform passes its exam in front of the Trilateral Commission”, intones the narrator of the documentary Después de (After), whilst the camera portrays the noblemen Pedrol, Osorio, Garrigues and Salat in animated conversation. “The dictatorship has been ended without changing the social system” continues the narration, and “the democracy born from above has been born with a mortgage” (and proof of this will be that although Franco had died in 1976 and there had been a Constitution that was formally democratic in operation since 1978, this extraordinary tape by siblings Cecilia and José Bartolomé would be kept locked away between 1981 and 1983).
Spanish democracy has never left behind its founding nature of administered democracy. For the Francoist bureaucratic and corporate elites (including the monarchy), the Transition did not so much constitute a real rupture with the dictatorship as the formalising of its adherence to the norms and customs of the advanced capitalism that surrounded it. Despite the anti-systemic mobilisiations of the most conscious and combative sectors of anti-Francoism, the new constitutional consensus swept away those who opposed it with a diabolical combination of seduction (institutional or commercial co-optation) and terror (police or para-police violence). The civic-military attempt at a putsch in 1981 would conclusively discipline a centre-left that won power in 1982 with a rigorously neo-liberal programme (incorporation to NATO, industrial reconversion, liberalisation of the labour market, financial reform). In exchange for the right wing giving up dictatorship, (a large part of) the left gave up politics.
For 35 years, this system, based on cohesion among the elites and the depoliticisation of the masses, seemed to have worked. It showed signs of exhaustion during the crazed second imperial legislature of the neocon Aznar, it experienced ephemeral reformist hopes with the first legislature of the social-liberal Rodríguez Zapatero, and sank with the second, in the face of the ferocious impact of the global crisis on the already insane indigenous economic model. Barely seven months after its precarious electoral victory (due to the opponent not turning up), Rajoy already seems a mere parenthesis until the forming of a government of bipartisan unity headed up by some technocrat, to apply the memorandum of the European Directorate without any fuss: the tragic twilight of a Regime of (as defined by Vicenç Navarro) “incomplete democracy and insufficient welfare”, now under transition towards some kind of debtocratic protectorate that is unashamedly authoritarian and squalid. With the streets boiling over in spontaneous and electrifying (albeit intermittent and problematic) activity since the spring of 2011, the behaviour of the multitudes is now the most decisive and unpredictable of the unknowns in the Spanish equation.
JUAN DOMINGO SÁNCHEZ ESTOP
By definition, it is not possible to build a democracy atop a landscape of mass graves and a past of terror. The situation of crisis puts an end to that illusion. In the crisis, a social whole of complex articulation can come undone: each of its elements has its own lifespan and effectiveness, and also its potential fault lines. Nothing guarantees that the crisis is the end, just as there are no guarantees that the old order will remain in place. The precariousness of the system’s balances are clear on numerous levels. First of all there is an erosion of the regime’s legitimacy. The recovery of historical memory, the deep disrepair of bipartisanism, widespread corruption (the symbol of which is a monarchy that simultaneously appears as the pinnacle of a system of plunder and the heir to Francoism), all mean that the population perceives the political system not as a democracy in which its voice is heard, but as a regime that rules beyond the reach of democracy and even against it.
This problem of legitimacy also affects the economic system which, in connivance with the political system, has dashed the expectations for the future of numerous sectors and various generations, particularly the youngest, by liquidating the already starved welfare state, imposing extravagant levels of unemployment, and attacking wages and pensions. Today even the agents of the State’s apparatuses of repression challenge the government’s measures in the streets. The illusion of living in a democracy escapes these days via the same drains as the hope of living in a system in which all can enjoy a general prosperity. Thus the neoliberal cycle closes in Spain as a political crisis and a social and economic crisis. Both crises are inseparable, since the Spanish regime of the Reform that now enters a grave crisis was the one that opened the doors to neoliberalism, not through immediate terror as with the dictatorship of Pinochet, but by retroactive recourse to the primitive accumulation of Francoist terror. The lack of a rupture with Francoism kept active the wellsprings of the regime’s “legitimacy”. At the hand of the new social expressions of labour that make up the social base of the 15-M and similar movements, this terror is starting to disappear. Is this how an end comes to the cycle that began on the 18th of July 1936?
Rule by debt is not a linear device, but instead functions by inducing catastrophes. Thus the exception becomes the norm: each crash allows for new modes of expropriation to be generated, each time at a greater order of magnitude. Spain is quickly moving towards another such moment of bifurcation. And though the political task is tremendous, there is no other alternative but to try and block this transition, to derail it towards a process of radical democratisation.
The draining of political legitimacy from the regime opens up a chink of opportunity. The multitude mobilised in the streets of the State has now put on record its growth and its density: its ability to act, and to produce truths beyond established grammar and institutionality, is ever greater. The bifurcation, however, is double: the resistance must also change gear. Its ability must be articulated urgently in a broad and popular front, that allows it to actively influence the process and to neutralise once and for all the risk of its colonisation, of an opportunist and reactionary capture of the discontent in the street.
The conclusive politicisation of debt and its non-payment ought to be at the centre of this articulation: the government must be prevented from committing suicide so as to regenerate itself as an even more ‘technical’ and dictatorial monster. When the government gets ready to sign the next memorandum, it has to find itself confronted by the demos mobilised in a clear and unambiguous form. I think that building that front with strategic intelligence, in the short time available, is the fundamental political task of these days.
JOSÉ LUÍS CARRETERO MIRAMAR
The heat beats down on the asphalt in the streets of Madrid, but this is not just one more torrid summer. The temperature is high, indeed, getting higher all the time, but this can’t simply be blamed on the Sky King. Now, in the middle of August, the streets also burn with the railworkers’ strike, the taxi drivers’ protests, the public servant demonstrations, the ever more explicit expressions of a multitude that has had its fill of betrayals and unanswered aggression.
The cutbacks, the intervention, the new adjustments, the next bailout…the memorandum that is never the last one and which is always followed by a new memorandum, whilst the mountain of external debt is indefinitely piled higher and higher thanks to the enormous (strictly speaking, incalculable) amounts of private debt, belonging to financial entities and big businesses, that are going to be socialised.
Class struggle is waking up angry in the same the same streets that, not so long ago, denied it through an arrogant glorification of consumerism. They are looting us. It is that simple. Working conditions, social services, health and education infrastructure, public goods..all is coercively transformed into money, the same money that registers on shiny computer screens so that it can be sent virtually to fill the unfathomable holes in the balance sheets of national and foreign financial entities.
We are witnessing a radical redistribution of wealth in favour of the enormously wealthy, carried out by a ruling class that yearns for the abyss that its own blindness makes ever more probable.
It is a torrid summer. We have said so already. But it is not just any torrid summer. Today the streets vibrate with the texture of a dignity revisited, of a creativity regained, of a beautiful and precarious solidarity that manifests itself despite the opaque glow of police shields.
The streets are full of people. People who, sooner rather than later, will demand their primordial right to a new type of abundance: that of a direct, real and deep democracy in a liveable future for the many.
JESÚS GÓMEZ GUTIÉRREZ
We are not living through a crisis, but a systemic change, the final phase in the conservative revolution started by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. It involves destroying the social pact that came out of the Second World War to shape our circumstances to suit a new economy, in which labour as a factor is starting to be treated with contempt. This is the greatest error of European social democracy and a large part of the left: believing that with a little Keynes and a little welfarism, we can reverse the situation and turn back. There is no longer a back.
But it is also the moment for building alternatives, which by necessity will have to be internationalist, without the waffling of previous eras. And this moment had very special characteristics in Spain: in addition to the effects of the conservative revolution, which are global, there are the shortcomings of the regime that emerged from the dictatorship. The Spanish population is starting to understand that our political and economic framework has met its last, that we need a new one and that we will not conquer it by respecting the present framework.
The 15-M, which emerged as a cry, is evolving little by little towards a full blown regenerationist movement. Of course, it is not enough. Poverty and social fracture are moving ahead far more quickly than our efforts, but we are no longer just a principle, but rather a political fact that the system cannot look down upon. Even today, with millions of people unemployed and condemned to exclusion, we have much more than a year ago, when we occupied the squares: we have restored hope to people. We only need to learn to be ambitious; to go to the root of the problem.
Translation note: the original Spanish language version of this text uses feminine pronouns throughout (e.g. ‘nosotras’ meaning ‘we’, or ‘vosotras’, meaning ‘you’ plural), designating the subjects being referred to as feminine. Since there is no direct translation for these in English, they are included in brackets. ‘Compañera’, for the same reason, has been left untranslated.
Over two years ago, while at work, I was listening to the radio. They were talking about how this country where I live was starting to bear the brunt of what had happened in the US with junk mortgages. The announcer (locutora) from one of your companies was warning us solemnly that we could go into recession. Nothing new for me, or for any of my compañeras in that badly paid, precarious and strenuous job: that thing called ‘recession’ had been living for some time in our purses. So faced with this extraordinary scoop that you supplied us with, I barely blinked.
Things, true enough, are getting worse. For us (nosotras), of course, the ones who pay for all your bailouts. But also for you (vosotras) too because from behind the smoke and noise of all this destruction, your perverse plan is coming to light, drawn up from the corridors of the European Central Bank, Standard and Poor’s, the Financial Times and any other of those clubs, guilds and unions where in your business lunches you decide on the shape of the world and for dessert you eat people tart.
A plan very similar to the one you drew up previously in the purses of the smart and the beautiful in America, Asia, or Africa. There are times these days when I cry, between amazement and rage, whenever I listen to you announcing the latest chunk of our lives you have decided to snatch from us. But I’ll stop complaining now. I’ll stop. If not, this text will only make you rub your avaricious hands together, thinking that my compañeras and I are worn out. Instead, I’m going to show you what I do to dodge the bullets you let fly from your shotgun mouths (Lagarde’s, Merkel’s and Ashton’s have lipstick on them!) : 1. As I share a bed, kisses and embraces without restraint; 2. I collect, and give away, books, records, plant pots, brushes and shirts; 3. I amuse myself by looking at fields in which to plant onions, garlic, and other desires; 4. I think about the crop of compañeras on both sides of the pond; 5. I find spaces that are free from your clutches, and there I oxygenate myself with all the colours you try to rob from us; and 6. I always raise a glass to those who (las que) deserve it.
After this display and with my cells brimming over with energy (in chaotic but productive connection with the cells of others (otras), with those whom I obstinately keep meeting up with and without your permission in the squares for more than a year now), I no longer listen to the hypnotic speaker from your company and, in succinct response to your menacing memorandum, I am passing you the list of a few things I am going to do alongside my compañeras: 1. we will awake the sleeping population (don’t get agitated (violentas), we can’t reveal what with!); 2. we will deliver a very severe up yours sign to your Debt; 3. we will gather your names, those of all of you who (las que) have signed the forms and approvals that got us this far, and we will communicate to you in writing, that you shall no longer count on us (nosotras), and we no longer count on you (vosotras); and 4. we will organise a witches’ sabbath for the coming hours. The bonfire will be fuelled with the package we had in our homes without us realising: The Transition in Spain or how to keep them fooled for nearly 37 years (it is a vast work, hundreds of thousands of pages re-written and re-edited daily by the major media groups, their house intellectuals and other courtesans of thought and word). We shall also burn the grey cushions of your dreams (your dream of “social peace”, your dream of “dutiful obedience”, your dream of “silent majority” and a few more besides). And no, we cannot yet reveal if we will also throw the euro onto the fire (but be assured that sooner or later, we will also take Berlin). To finalise, I remind you that our purses remain empty, but our mouths do not conceal bullets like yours do, but they do conceal tongues that conspire, sing and kiss.