The Indignation in Spain Rises Gently From the Plains

For the past week, in anticipation of local elections this weekend (May 21-22), Spanish students and young people defied legal injunctions and held protests in the country’s major cities. An estimated 10,000 “indignados” (indignant ones) crowded into Madrid’s Puerta del Sol plaza and published a co-ordinated Communiqué or Manifesto [1] on line.

The protests and the expected defeat of the “socialists” at the polls highlights the international nature of the economic crisis and the ideological challenges facing the would-be left.

The effective cause of the protests is Spain’s high unemployment and the government’s austerity program pushed through in response to the global recession which ensued in the wake of 2008’s burst financial bubble.

On average, unemployment in Spain hovers around 20 percent; however among 20-somethings it reaches a staggering 44 percent. Spain was particularly hard hit because much of its vaunted “economic miracle” was built on “housing starts” engineered by now familiar Greenspanianwizardry. Now that the erector set has collapsed, jobs have vanished, vast tracts of real estate lie unoccupied and foreclosure agents have come a knocking.

Spain’s pseudo-socialist government (Partido Socialista del Obrero Español or PSOE) has met the crisis with the by now predictable austerity measures. Limping on after nearly two years of recession, the Government wants to slash its deficit from 11.2 percent of GDP in 2009 to within the EU limit of 3 percent by 2013.

To this end, Zapatero’s “socialist” government has sought to cut wages for civil servants by 5 percent, reduce unemployment benefits, abolish maternity grants, freeze pensions, raise the retirement age to 67, raise the value added tax and revise regulations so as to make it easier and cheaper for companies to lay people off. The package of cuts, which was first floated in May 2010, hopes to save $21 billion over the next two years so as to meet the EU’s “austerity target” and avoid the necessity of an IMF or EU bailout which would impose much the same cuts in any event.

However, the package is not limited to cuts. It includes capital-friendly measures such as granting pardons and favorable rates to tax-evaders in order to entice them to repatriate 50 billion euros held offshore. It also includes anti-labor measures such as a “reform” of collective bargaining rights so as to “loosen the link between inflation and wages” as one pro-business rag put it.

Reviewing the proposals last May, the IMF’s “rutting chimpanzee,” Domnique Strauss-Kahn, the Fund’s putatively socialist managing director, told the Spanish conservative daily ‘ABC‘ that Zapatero’s measures were “strong” and would help “recover” confidence. “The issue now is to see how the measures will be implemented,” Strauss-Kahn said, “especially those concerning the labor market.”

Contemporaneously with DSK’s pronouncement, Santiago Lopez Diaz, an analyst with Credite Suisse stated, “Once the economy recovers the structural profitability of the system is unlikely to return to the levels witnessed during the boom years in spite of excellent efficiency levels.”

In plain Spanish, the austerity measures are not a temporary cure on the road to prosperity but rather a “discipline” to get Spaniards re-accustomed to a replay of the lean and lackluster economy of the Franco era. With socialists like Zapatero and Straus-Kahn, who needs capitalists?

Anyone who does not by now understand what is at work probably does not have sufficient cranial capacity to be part of the species known as homo sapiens.

The pattern in Spain falls into a global paradigm that applies to Greece, to Ireland, to Portugal, to France, to California, to Wisconsin – to everywhere. The mantra is the same everywhere: In order to “reassure financial markets” and “calm investor fears,” governments need to reduce their budget deficits to minimal levels by reducing social expenditures.

However, in order to reduce expenditures, it is also necessary to destroy the ability of workers to demand expenditures on such things as a living wage, pensions, secure and safe working conditions, and health care. The goal is not just balancing books, but rebalancing the equilibrium between capital and labor so that labor is destroyed as a political force and rendered incapable of demanding better living standards.

In other words, “recovery” depends on “impoverishment” or in the Newspeak of the New World Order

Austerity is Prosperity

The pseudo-science behind the slogan is the same in Spain as in Seboygan: Once “spending” is reduced to minimal levels, investor confidence will return, and re-stimulate the economy with new job-creating investments, although admittedly never again to the good ol’ levels of before. Workers will worker harder than before (“excellent efficiency”) but get by on less. As for the millions who don’t get by at all — “structural unemployment” is the price “we” pay for a free market.

American exceptionalism includes the bizarre and baffling notion that what goes around somehow doesn’t come around here. But what goes around has come around.

This past month the I.M.F., declared war on the American worker by announcing that the U.S. deficit was “unsustainable.” As working men and women around the world know, such “findings” are the opening salvo before imposing “austerity measures.” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner understands and agrees. His disagreement with the “investor class” which the socialist chimp represents at the IMF is over what might be called the ‘rate of impoverishment ‘ Geithner wants a “soft landing” — one that takes place as slowly as possibly so that the never very acute American public does not realize that it has been boiled into frog-meat.

Along with the slow boil comes the Big Diversion. It is absolutely essential that the American public be kept as stupid as possible. The successful restructuring of the New World Economy is too important to be left to chance stupidity. And so, for the entire past week, while thousands of students and young people were protesting in Spain, the pages of the U.S. mainstream tabloids were packed with titillating column inches on Straus-Kahn’s rutting after a chambermaid and Sperminator Arnie’s siring of a “love child” with his other child’s nanny … or whatever. As usual, Arnold came out ahead, preserving at all costs his macho image and covering his truer persona as Blue Shield’s Girlie Boy.

The students and youth in Spain have seen past such distractions. Theirweb site [2] proclaims: “We want a new society that gives priority to life over economic and political interests. We advocate a change in society and in social consciousness.”

Their specific priorities were published on line in a manifesto or “comuniqué of the assembly.” Although the manifesto includes demands which are specific to Spain or to the European Community, its general contours are applicable to all countries which are being attacked by the New World Order.

In summary fashion, the students demand a political economy that is democratic, transparent and which subsumes the demand of “business” to the welfare and needs of people. The manifesto’s demands are the mirror-opposite of the IMF’s standard “prescription.” They include a stiffening of labor protections, an extension of social benefits, re-nationalization of previously privatized industries, non-market driven academic autonomy, taxes on speculative financial transactions, an end to tax-havens and to anti-immigrant discrimination, the use of renewable, non-nuclear energy, and unweighted, proportional representation at the ballot box.

The manifesto avoids the ideological stamping which is so characteristic of European political movements and specifically states that the it is not associated with any current political party or social or syndical organization. In true “anarcho” tradition, the “tomalaplaza” web site announces, “We are a spontaneous movement configured in an Assembly.”

In their aggregate, the students’ positive demands are neither liberal (capitalist) nor socialist but rather fall into a category that might be called neo-syndicalist. They point to a middle path of mitigated and regulated capitalism that had been the program of Europe’s social democrats. In other words, the students are demanding that Spain’s “socialist” government be what it purports to be.

However, they avoid saying even that. It is evident that the “movement-in-assembly” wants to avoid falling into the trap of political sectarianism and, rather, to appeal to as many people as possible on “positive” singular points. There are perils and advantages to this approach.

However, an accurate characterization of the student demands in tandem with the expected electoral results is important because the mainstream media both in Europe and the United States will blandly announce that Spain has rejected and repudiated Zapatero’s “socialist” government, when in fact it will have rejected a government that merely labelled itself socialist and was hardly even social-democratic. But from their false premise, the organs of popular disinformation will then argue that voters are in favor of free market “austerity” when in fact just the opposite is the case.

Distilling ideological essences is an academic exercise; but identifying those who bear false label is not. From Greece to California, the working class in the Western World has been betrayed by those who claim to have spoken for it, by the Democrats in the U.S., the Labor Party in the U.K. and by the “Socialists” or “Social Democrats” on the Contintent. In all countries ordinary working men and women must oppose compromising with their own defeat. Poverty is not Prosperity.

1. asamblea/


Synopsis of Manifesto

20 May 2011

1. Electoral reform by which representation is made proportional to votes received.

2. Safeguarding fundamental and basic rights such as:
(a) the right to decent housing
(b) free and universal public health
(c) right to a free and secular education (free from credal influences or church control)

[In particular, the manifesto demands that the law be changed so that foreclosure cancels the mortgage debt in its entirety. Currently, in Spain (as similarly in Canada) the borrower remains liable for the face value of the note and/or interest even in the event of sale or foreclosure.]

3. Repeal of unjust and discriminatory laws such as the Bologna Plan for educational reform, anti-immigrant reforms and the “anti-download” law known as Ley Sinde.

[Three complex and controversial topics in one sentence. Along with a unified currency, EU states enacted the “Bologna Plan” providing for uniformity, inter changeability and open access among educational requirements, degrees and institutions. While the reform seems desireable in theory, in practice it makes education more costly, subjects university education to the demands of the market and subordinates curricula to corporate needs.]

4. Fiscal reform including: lowering low income tax rates; revision of inheritance taxes; institution of a Tobin Tax on speculative financial transcations and abolishing tax havens.

5 & 6. Enactment of various anti-corruption and political transparency laws.

7. Regulation of banking and financial market pratices in conformity with Article 128 of the Constitution which provides that “all wealth, in whatever form, remains subject to the general public interest.” Including
(a) reduction of IMF and World Bank influence
(b) immediate nationalization of those banks which have been “rescued” by the State.
(c) Stiffening of financial controls over financial entities and their operations.

8. Effective separation of Church and State as required by the Constitution

9. Promotion of direct, participative democracy as well as popular access to media and means of communication.

10. Effective enforcement of laws regulation working condition.

11. Shutdown of all nuclear plants. and promotion of renewalbe sustainable and free sources of energy.

12. Re-nationalization of public enterprises which were privatized

13. Actual separation of powers between three branches of government.

14. Reduction in military spending, and shut down of arms factories.

15. Revindication of historical memory with repsect to the fight for democracy in Spain.

16. Total transparency of the financies of all political parties.

©Woodchipgazette, 2011