December six, anniversary of the Spanish Constitution. For decades this day has been a liturgy of self-homage by the political apparatus and a celebration of the myths of the Transition.Today, the conservative and monarchic newspaper ABC published an editorial piece with the following title: The constitutional pact in bankruptcy. The newspaper El País, predictor and ideological factory for almost three decades of the modernizing project of the Spanish bourgeoisie, calls for a reform of the legal text, but not an immediate one, given the political division. Anyone following the Spanish media would be led to believe that the situation of the political regime is one of true decomposition. And yet…
1 The first thing is to understand what was the Spanish Transition and what was the meaning of the ’78 Constitution, in order to understand what forces lie behind its current challenge and why the lines of fracture fall on the limits and financing of autonomous power and on the monarchy.
The organization of regional autonomous governments throughout the territory became the cure-all that pulled the regional petty bourgeoisie into the project of restructuring the political apparatus of the Spanish bourgeoisie. The autonomous governments meant mass bureaucratic and academic posts right next to home, a reinforcement of the local chieftaincy in the agricultural areas and a real piñata of profits guaranteed by politically decided aid, purchases and urban development plans for the industrial petty bourgeoisie. Literature and cinema, from Crematorio to Muerte en León have recounted well the contradictions and the materiality of what decentralization meant as a social deal between the local petty bourgeoisie and Spanish capital.
What nobody seems to be willing to remember is that although the Transition implied that social deal, in no case whatsoever it was the central axis of the move.What worried the bourgeoisie at the time was not a revolting petty bourgeoisie, but a context of class struggle against the workers that Francoism was no longer able to channel. The Spanish bourgeoisie needed the left and the trade unions. Therefore, the real keystone of the Transition and its famous consensus was not the Constitution itself, but the Moncloa agreements and the imposition with them of a new labor order that would later be used to enforce three big industrial reconversions and to initiate a path of precarization and redistribution of income in favor of capital that neither has stopped today, nor is it put into question by those who want a constituent process. On the contrary, they are the ones who invoke the Moncloa agreements and organize and lead their sequel, the so-called social dialogue.
2 The 2009 crisis ended up dragging out the material bases of the constitutional pact with the petty bourgeoisie. The autonomous regions could no longer grow at the cost of a state that was threatening bankruptcy, and certainly could not rescue the mass of bankrupt builders and important men, nor assure a future in the administration for the children of the rural petty bourgeoisie. From the tenuous and festive revolt of the petty-bourgeois youth in 2011, we went into the mass development of independentism in 2012 Catalonia in 2012. The crisis reached the point of a false declaration of independence in 2017, followed by state intervention by the regional government and some regional elections that the state parties intended to win but ended up losing. Demoralization is rampant in the ranks of the state, but the royal Christmas message of that year reminds them that although they have not won, they have not lost either, and that in a battle of inertias, the inertia of the judicial heart of the state has the power to win.
3 But even if gradually and painstakingly the bourgeoisie and the state start winning the battle with independentism, the political apparatus will inevitably be torn apart. The motion of censorship that brought Sánchez to power made clear that the petty bourgeoisie’s revolt has become a real stick in the wheel for Spanish capital’s road map, which is in an ever-increasing hurry and wants to prepare itself for a new push of the economic crisis. After two electoral attempts with which Sánchez is trying to restore control to the institutional parties, the new Parliament expresses more than ever the territorial character of the Spanish petty-bourgeois revolt. In the end, Sánchez opts for an agreement with Podemos and the formation of a bloc with the Basque and Catalan pro-independence parties.
This is a controlled implosion of the political regime of ’78… which is based precisely on pushing its political substance to the limit. That is to say, to keep the modernizing program of Spanish capital by innovating in the forms and invoking social justice: control of the working day …which in fact increases its length, decreasing the total wage bill by combining the increase in the minimum wage with the conditions of a labor reform with the core of the previous one at its center, a pensions reform towards its Austrian-style privatization and agreen deal as the great horizon of a new massive transfer of income from workers to Spanish capital. And in fact, the first reflection of the PSOE-Podemos government when it sees the recession coming at the beginning of the pandemic is… calling for a new Moncloa agreement.
4 Once again, the pandemic and the recession that has returned with it are intensifying the contradictions and fueling the haste of the Spanish bourgeoisie. If it was already visible during the first wave, the de-escalation and the back-to-school operation, in November this has been really obscene: the state’s policy – hand in hand between the central government and the autonomous regions – has sacrificed thousands of lives to the Covid massacre in order to keep the economy running, that is, to maintain the dividends of big business and to support all that small commercial and hotel bourgeoisie whose complaints have been the only ones that the media have been amplifying.
In this deadly game for the workers, accelerated by the failures of Spanish capital, the government not only needed to pass budgets, but to show the economic power that by accepting the parliament as it is, it could undertake what is really strategic for its profits: pensions, a new labor reform and the green deal with the blessing and aid funds of the EU. But for that it had to allow the petty bourgeoisie in revolt a certain consolidation of positions. Hence the spotlight and the budgetary cessions granted to the PNV, the recognition as a legitimate force of Bildu, the acceptance that Spanish will cease to be a vehicular language in the teaching of Spanish-speaking children in Catalonia, and possibly the pardon of the prisoners of the independence process.
5 The problem with all this is that Podemos, a member of the government and coordinator of the so-called Frankenstein bloc with the independentists, does not benefit at all from any territorial tensions… that it is already suffering within itself. If its position during the Catalan crisis ended up reducing its parliamentary expectations by two thirds, the divergences with the confluences have taken it out of important autonomous parliaments.
Now we add an important background: the financial rinses and commissions of the former king were until recently celebrated for being coupled with commercial successes of the big Spanish companies. But now they are being used by various international rivals in order to discredit those same companies in their battles for international tenders. The Spanish corporate bourgeoisie, which has not the slightest qualms about kicking out the Bourbon king when it no longer serves it, let him run away with a hypocritical pout of moral condemnation.
And Podemos can see a great path ahead: redirecting the independentists towards the abolition of the monarchy allows it to find common ground with the latter which reinforces rather than erodes its electoral base… with no break in the important consensus within the ruling class, however much the right wing may be outraged.
Because we should not deceive ourselves, the abolition of the monarchy is, like so many slogans to the liking of the petty bourgeoisie, reactionary and utopian at the same time; but this time it is not even a political program. It does not even reach the point of an immediate slogan. In the words of Iglesias (Podemos’ leader) today, it is a horizon, something towards which the regionalist forces could converge, returning the centrality of the revolt to Podemos, reinforcing its position as a force of government.
6 Summarizing: recovering the lost profits will consume and focus the political efforts of the Spanish bourgeoisie until 2025. To carry out its agenda -at our expense- it needs to maintain social peace -that is, it needs the working class to remain paralyzed outside the global trend– and to conclude a social pact with the petty bourgeoisie, which, under Spanish conditions, is going through a territorial redistribution of power. This has already begun with the distribution of the EU’s recovery funds and budgets.But it will be consolidated with far-reaching movements tending to confederate the state and to give sources of income to the most unruly territorial petty bourgeoisies. In this sense, and in that of the structure of political parties, the regime of 1978 can be considered dead… precisely because what is coming are new attacks of dimensions comparable to those of the Moncloa agreements, and the old political apparatus is no longer able to impose them.
Of course, the upcoming event will not be a honeymoon either between the Spanish bourgeoisie – politically represented by the institutional parties – and the regional petty bourgeoisie. The intervention of Ana Oramas, threatening the return of an armed Canarian independence, reflects many real conversations that are taking place among the Spanish provincial chieftains.The cross of glances between Sánchez and Iglesias that followed anticipates how astonished they may be in the Vitoria, Barcelona Madrid triangle in front of the emergence of a third wave of petty bourgeois revolt beyond the dynamics between classical separatisms and the Spanish ultra-nationalism of a Vox. Against that, the Republican card can also be useful to the government leadership even as a decoy.
7 But what becomes clear is that the contradictions of the Spanish bourgeoisie only get worse every time they try to politically recompose what the recession is tearing apart. And that the decisive voice, that of the only force that poses truly social and universal objectives, has yet to make itself heard. The world of the ruling class and the system that sustains it is historically exhausted. What we were saying about the November Covid massacre is perfectly applicable to the conditions of poverty, precariousness and human, psychological and cultural destruction that this crisis is producing:
As things stand, with the state bent on recovering the accounts of big business and the petty bourgeoisie increasingly desperate and denialist because their businesses are going bankrupt, the only ones really interested in stopping the virus and saving lives unconditionally are the workers. We have to make it count because no other class or social group is going to do it for us.