Juan Carlos I leaves Spain. The parties’ response, especially the institutional parties, is far from the official song of the 1978 Transition. Today, all the media insist that in little more than six years, the monarchy dispensed with its legal founder and the new king refounded de facto the royal house by removing the princesses and emeritus kings, striving to give the institution and its public accounts the most official appearance. Are we facing an institutional crisis? What forces are driving it? What are the bourgeoisie and the Spanish state reacting to, and with what horizon?
Now they portray it as the final scene of King Felipe’s strategy to save an institution damaged by the anti-corruption discourse of a generation on the rise and angry about the economic crisis. That is to say, the abdication of Juan Carlos I would have been ultimately the product of the petty bourgeoisie’s revolt that opened with the 15M and was consecrated electorally by Podemos. Although the existence of such a strategy was denied six years ago and now seems to be part of the official discourse, this explanation does not go far enough. It leaves out at least three determining factors.
The corporate court of Juan Carlos I. When talking about the high speed railway (AVE) commissions to Mecca, the accusatory evidence is a transfer from the King of Saudi Arabia to a Panamanian account of King Juan Carlos. Swiss prosecutors say they suspect that these are commissions. But commissions paid by whom? When did the buyer pay commissions to the mediator directly if not to cover up the real paymasters, i.e. the beneficiaries of a tender? What the investigation has shown is not that the king had accounts in tax havens as the Spanish media repeat, but the functioning of the network of large companies and political institutions that followed the king on those official trips from which they magically always returned with billions in contracts. It was common to hear the heads of large Spanish companies talk about the king as the best salesman in the world. And all high-flying salesmen carry around an irremediable cortege of Corinnas and minor commissioners. They all charge commission. The striking thing about those itinerant courts of the Spanish official trips that preceded practically all the great tenders and privatizations in South America since the end of the eighties, was their routine, mechanical, almost bureaucratic functioning. The business court of Juan Carlos I was a joint venture between big capital and the state to obtain contracts and bids. It is all these large companies, from inside and outside the IBEX, the jewels of Spanish capital, that now kicked out Juan Carlos as they fear being exposed.
That the case that kicked out the King Emeritus is the AVE to Mecca is no coincidence. From the very beginning, the different competing groups, in particular the German and British ones tried to put the offer of the two Spanish groups into question. There was even talk at the time of hidden subsidies and even complaints to the EU. It is these competing capital groups that have not forgiven the final tendering at a critical moment. Shortly afterwards, the battle between Sacyr and Panama over the canal expansion works would give a first sign that in the new scenario of crisis and fierce war for markets, no sportsmanship could be expected from international competition.
The third element is Switzerland. Why so much investigative interest from a judicial apparatus that, after all, lives to protect banking secrecy? The answer has its own name: Hervé Falciani. Falciani, a programmer at HSBC, the spearhead of Anglo-Saxon capital in Asia and Britain’s leading bank, leaked a large amount of data on secret accounts. Swiss justice, far from using the information, prosecuted him for disclosure of bank secrets. And Falciani, with help from the US, ended up in Spain under the protection of the Audiencia Nacional, which at the time was particularly interested in the Pujol and Gürtel cases. And it was not just a court. The Supreme Court changed its doctrine in a controversial way, in order to use the information provided by Falciani. It was clearly a matter of state. The Judiciary was then hoisting its first weapons against the independentist turn of the Catalan small bourgeoisie by attacking where it hurt the most, the family and political financing network of the Catalan president’s family and his party. Pure state logic. Nobody seemed to expect the response of the Swiss judiciary or the resentment of the British capital groups around HSBC that were already angered by the international tenders.
The new monarchy of Felipe VI
Spanish capital is entering a recessionary phase, the political apparatus of the 78’s regime is a mess, and in a global framework in which the access to international markets is as difficult as it is necessary. It comes, as we have seen, from having raised the wrath – and this is only part of it – of not a few competitors in their wanderings around the world. It is clear to Spanish capital that Juan Carlos I is, at this point, an expendable piece in the domestic game, a pawn, and a piece that its rivals are eager to claim. Granting it, making a king’s gambit, is an acceptable price. Although, as with the chess move, it is still dangerous. The gamble: to close the era of the corporate court and reinforce the political and cohesive role of the state that was seen during the Catalan crisis. And to promote everything as a renewal, as a refoundation. They will even begin to tell us, before we know it, of the wonders of a new monarchy in the figure of Felipe VI.
What did we learn about the monarchy in the Catalan crisis?
1. The king and the royal house are not empty, merely decorative institutions; they are not bodies superimposed on the state. They are fully integrated into Spanish state capitalism. They fulfil a cohesive function of “last resort” when political apparatuses become incompetent and are left without initiative to mobilize the state as a whole.
2. This cohesive function was the one played by the Christmas royal message. If the crisis of the political apparatus of the Spanish bourgeoisie continues to develop, if, as it seems, it spreads even to the factions within the state machinery, the role of the king can only become increasingly active and relevant. That is, more useful to Spanish state capitalism as a whole.
What about the Republic?
1. The myth of the Second Republic gives a model for the ” revolution” dreamed by the left wing of the Spanish petty bourgeoisie, to simply switch the head of state in order to stage a “democratization”, that is, the mass entry of a new generation of petty bourgeois into the state and its ideological apparatus. Their new social situation -an escalated version of the change in the lives of today’s Podemite leaders- accompanied by a symbolic change -the purple stripe on the flag- would allow them to display nationalism and show national capital that it has no better defender than them. After all, the Second Republic was not that impossible paradise of class conciliation portrayed to us with romantic pictures and abominable lies. From its first day, it was born as a way to reinforce the then young Spanish state capitalism in order to gain cohesion in the face of the rise of workers’ struggles. In the face of a Casas Viejas uprising, president Azaña’s “pulse did not flinch”, and the Republican governments of the left as well as the right brought repression to the last village in order to establish an impossible “social harmony” by means of firearms. The role of the republican government and the Stalinist PCE during the war, gives no doubts either. The Republic means the safeguard of national capital, first of all, against the working class. And that alone is what a Third Republic would mean.
2. The Spanish bourgeoisie always keeps the republican card. As monarchists always emphasize, the political “sacrifice” of the institution in a serious crisis, is the final function of the monarchy. The Spanish bourgeoisie has always kept and will keep an open door to proclaim the Republic in the face of an existential crisis, especially if this guarantees the loyalty of the petty bourgeoisie. The point is that today, as the Catalan question has shown, the petty bourgeoisie comes to the fore as a stick in the wheel of power, but it cannot go any further. (…) Only the appearance of massive workers’ struggles could lead the bourgeoisie to such a risky movement, and if this were so, it would certainly not be to “give in” to the workers in any way but to make us derail and be able to confront us with greater strength and more force, as was the case in 1931.
“¿Abolición de la monarquía?“, in our Spanish edition, 27/10/2018