What hope for Spain?

As the crisis in capitalism deepens, the situation in which Spain finds itself seems increasingly hopeless.

Pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to about Spain recently seems agreed that Spain – and maybe the world – is approaching some sort of cataclysmic reckoning. This sentiment might well be declared a sentimental form of millennialism – after all, aren’t we rich and comfortable enough to entertain fantasies of impending doom? – were it not for the gentle crackle you can hear in the air here. This crackle, this oceanic roar heard from a great distance, is the sound of millions of people waiting for the decisive moment at which they will try once again to reclaim their rights.

Spain is fucked. And not because of Berlin or London, but because of us, the Spaniards who have done nothing to stop Spain getting fucked. While Catalans moan about motorway tolls, Asturian miners are blockading motorways with flaming barricades. And protestors are being shot by police with rubber bullets (bullets that give the police a chance to shoot you multiple times rather than just once – possibly the highest embodiment of planned obsolescence at state/capital level), and Greece never quite got the revolution that seemed so possible just a few weeks ago.

Andrea Fabra, daughter of a repulsive conservative politician from Castelló, summed up the attitude of Spain’s political class with impressive candour this week. As PM Mariano Rajoy announced higher VAT (designed to hurt the poor) and deeper cuts to the unemployment benefits system (designed to hurt the hopeless), Fabra uttered the immortal words: “Fuck ’em!”. She wasn’t talking about her colleagues in the PP who joyfully applauded as Rajoy delivered the negative prognosis. She was referring to the 25% of Spaniards who are unemployed. “Fuck ’em!”, she declared because that’s how she and her colleagues feel about Spaniards in general. If you’re not bright enough to fuck everyone else, then fuck you.

The background crackle just intensified a little. Catalonia’s conservatives, CiU, have been making themselves busy recently finding ways to criminalise protest. One assumes that pro-flag, pro-independence protest will still be officially encouraged. We’ve had two useless general strikes in two years with decent turn-outs but no effect on policy. We had millions of people marching against an illegal war and the government ignored that too. It is clear that they do not listen to argument. And when protest is derided so openly by those in power, the same people who raise a regressive tax in order to pay off crooked banks, the citizens must use other tools to make themselves heard.

Someone told me the other day that the only way we in Spain can end this cycle of corrupt parasitism is with war but that understandably, no Spaniard wanted to recreate the disaster of the 1930s. I hope and pray that this is nothing more than sentimental millennialism. But at the same time, I can’t see a way out. What hope does this country have, then?

4 thoughts on “What hope for Spain?

  1. I’m not so pessimistic. I don’t see the fabric of Spanish society unraveling around me, not even a hint of that so far. I think the country will weather this storm without abandoning all of the gains they have made for the middle class in the past 30 years. I’m more worried about the USA where the crisis is being used as an excuse and a bludgeon to destroy the gains of workers over the past century. What people have to remember (and politicians made to remember) is that this was almost entirely brought upon us by a huge failure of the capitalist system. It wasn’t socialist policies that wrecked the banks; it was unbridled greed mixed with almost nothing in the way of government regulation.

  2. “Fuck You Poor People” is of course the battle cry of neo-cons around the world, from Thatcher/Reagan onward, so no surprise that it should be uttered here in the present climate.
    The welfare state, and the social safety net, and universal education are all very much under siege, following the collapse of the bubble economy.
    But I believe Rajoy, within the very limited sphere of autonomy which is left to him after the Bundesbank is done telling him what to do, probably wants to preserve whatever vestige of it he can. And at least the Spanish economy has come under something like adult supervision.
    More serious within the Spanish state is the dialogue of the deaf between Madrid and the autonomies. This can only end badly for Spain as a political entity.
    I’ll be (slightly) sad to see it go, but relieved that I’m living in a fragment of it with the potential to become a mature democratic and economic polity.

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