Is the Spanish bourgeoisie abandoning Sánchez?

21 September, 2021

Pedro Sánchez speaks to the CEOS and presidents of some of the main Spanish monopolies.
Pedro Sánchez speaks to the CEOS and presidents of some of the main Spanish monopolies.

The electricity companies, the CEOE employers’ association, the banks… the corporate bourgeoisie is radicalizing, at least apparently: it is charging against the lukewarm palliative measures on electricity prices, against a rise in the minimum wage below inflation and even against the distribution of the recovery funds being decided by the government. What is happening? Why is the ruling class threatening to abandon Sánchez and take the wheel itself?

Table of Contents

A fierce resistance against cosmetic measures

European Commissioner for Climate Change and Commission Vice-President Timmermans with Sánchez Galán, Chairman of Iberdrola. The architect and the main Spanish beneficiary of the Green Deal.
European Commissioner for Climate Change and Commission Vice-President Timmermans with Sánchez Galán, Chairman of Iberdrola. The architect and the main Spanish beneficiary of the Green Deal.

The increase of the minimum wage by 15€, which does not even cover inflation, meets a closed and fierce opposition, excessive even for the most stifled petty bourgeoisie.

Electricity companies are no less aggressive. One need only read the economic press, well aligned with the giants of the sector, to discover the arguments: the government’s shock plan, which cuts only the most unjustifiable part of their extraordinary profits and only until May, would -according to them- be a “great electrical reform” calling into question the reliability of investments in Spain.

Read also: The most expensive electricity bill in Europe or how imperialism also shows up on the workers’ bills, 19/6/2021

But neither the electricity monopoly is going to stop delivering windfall profits to investors by moderating for a few months their already bloated windfall profits, nor the petty bourgeoisie is going to go bankrupt en masse by paying 50 cents more per day to its lowest paid workers.

Read also: 2021 minimum wage hike in Spain: Questions and Answers, 8/9/2021 

The news about “business concern” over the execution of the recovery funds has a similar background. It is true that only 46% of the planned spending for the year as a whole has been authorized and 41% committed and 18.7% of the 2021 funds executed. But the reality is that the money began to reach the Treasury only in August and that the times are almost a speed record for the Spanish administration. The bottom line of their “concern” is a different one and they are not shy about expressing it either:

They warn that the centralization in Moncloa of the decisions on the projects to be financed may end up acting as a bottleneck when it comes to allocating the resources of the European Transformation and Resilience Mechanism.

The Government faces the final stretch of the year with 80% of the EU funds not executed, La Información

A “matter of principle”

Pedro Sánchez, president of the Spanish government, campaigns by hanging from an Iberdrola wind turbine in Cuenca.
Pedro Sánchez, president of the Spanish government, campaigns by hanging from an Iberdrola wind turbine in Cuenca.

The obvious lack of proportionality between the real economic dimension of the government’s temporary and barely palliative measures and the response of electricity companies and employers’ associations indicates that the dispute is not really about the immediate consequences on the balance sheet. It would rather be a “question of principle”.

A part of the Spanish corporate bourgeoisie wants to set the rules of the alleged “electricity market” directly, unambiguously subordinating the state’s considerations and its political logic to their own interests.

For electric utilities, it’s an old story. The electricity companies have historically been the safeguard of the Spanish national capital and in times of crisis they do not hesitate to accept any cost to the system as a whole before losing control of the rules of the game.

Everyone still remembers, for example, how in February 1978, one of the most critical moments of the Spanish Transition, the electricity monopoly did not hesitate to force a government crisis to remove the then vice-president Fuentes Quintana, not at all suspected of leftism, from the elaboration of the National Electricity Plan. They did not care about weakening the state, their state, at a critical moment of political and economic crisis. The first thing was to set the rules that would ensure the extraordinary benefits of the electrical “safe harbor”. A “matter of principle” indeed.

The reasons for impatience among the corporate bourgeoisie

Evergrande Hong Kong offices
Evergrande Hong Kong offices

The corporate bourgeoisie is much more aware of the global picture than the government itself. They are all looking to the US in the awareness that if Biden’s 3.5 trillion plan finally goes ahead, European recovery funds will be anecdotal and the entire EU will be adrift and against the tide in heightened global competition and with the US leading the global Green Deal.

That’s a best-case scenario, because Evergrande’s bankruptcy is multiplying fears of a financial crisis in China or at the very least a more than likely sustained drop in the Asian powerhouse’s growth figures. The crisis in China would have a much greater impact on Europe – and the South American markets – so still important for Spanish capital – than on U.S. competition. Hence the rush to access European funds.

The change of attitude of the Spanish bourgeoisie towards Sánchez’s strategies is noticeable. In just two weeks we went for example from the enthusiasm for Desigual’s pilot workday reduction with salary reduction, to the “failure” of a similar attempt at Telefónica. The company’s four-day workweek with 16% pay cut was not accepted by a sufficient number of workers and the company rejected it as a useless tool to reduce its wage cost.

Everything speaks of a shielding of capital’s positions, not of the time before an accelerated recovery. With the bleak prospects for Spanish capital, the Sanchist strategy to advance the basic interests of Spanish capital is beginning to fall short for the corporate bourgeoisie. That is why the bourgeoisie is making the pretense of putting its hands on the steering wheel.