Throughout Europe the pandemic situation is very worrying. In Germany the press claims that the real question is no longer whether there will be a second wave, but how many waves there will be, how dramatic they will be and how people can better protect themselves, while predicting a wave of bankruptcies. In France an horizon of new confinement in autumn has already fallen short and strikes in hospitals, demanding beds and means are spreading throughout the country and becoming indefinite. But Spain takes the lead: 3775 new cases in the last 24 hours and 131 deaths in the last week. Should the figure not be impressive enough, the headlines speak for themselves: the number of deaths has been multiplied by 11 in one month and the nursing homes are at maximum risk already awaiting a second wave. Spain is the European country with the highest number of infections in August and the country in the world with highest incidence in terms of population. How did we end up here and why are they doing nothing to prevent another massacre?
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Out of those priorities, these deaths
It’s a matter of priorities, of course. And no wonder the president and the government try to enjoy a vacation without the slightest embarrassment. Saving investments has been a priority since the beginning of the pandemic. The results of such a denialist policy can be really awful as we can see in the United States or Brazil. The slogan of business managers and politicians is that in autumn there cannot be another lockdown… no matter what. The Basque councillor for economy stated it quite plainly: with a new lockdown fewer people would surely die but… the economy would die instead. Investments take priority over lives for these people. It’s clear that the model desired by the European bourgeoisie is that of Trump or Bolsonaro, they don’t care if the pandemic runs out of control as long as profitability recovers and speculative markets rise.
Today’s outbreaks are the consequence of having ended the lockdowns prematurely and above all of trying to save investments in hotels and tourism at all costs, turning a blind eye and selling a safety that did not exist. Predictable paradoxes: by uncontrollably opening up, the only thing they managed to do was accumulate travel bans and compulsory quarantines. The result in less than two months: 54 million fewer foreign customers in 2020 and a good number of avoidable illnesses and deaths. Now the government is putting out a new plan and promises to reinvent the sector once covid has been defeated. But… weren’t the borders opened to tourists because the worst of the pandemic was over and the hardest part of the pandemic had been defeated? They even organized a state funeral for the dead to close the epidemic as if there would be no more!
Back to school?
In Spain, classes start in September… when one cannot expect anything but a new peak in the epidemic. The regional governments, which see what is coming, are asking companies to allow parents to telework. They are right to be afraid. Scientific studies say that children are in most cases asymptomatic, but that they infect more people than sick adults with symptoms. It is foreseeable that bringing children from different families and backgrounds together will create the basis for widespread community transmission. If we add to this the distance measures in the classrooms recommended by the government are merely wishful thinking, the prospect is distressing. Leaving aside the fact that most Spanish jobs are not digitizable, the absurdity of the regional governments’ position speaks for itself: if they know that opening schools is going to generate massive pockets of propagation and they are going to be forced to close schools anyway, why are they even trying? How many lives is it going to take to fake normality for a few more weeks?
On the way to the disaster, the teachers’ unions extended the ambiguity for as long as they could, or otherwise they disregarded any mobilization at all. Only when the consultations to their own affiliates began to show that the teachers were massively against the reopening, did they raise the possibility of calling strikes… limited to Madrid for the time being and under a hypocritical discourse of safe reopeningsimilar to that of their American counterparts.
Saving lives is an obstacle to saving accounts and capital
The slogan, a thousand times repeated, that the European funds were to be used to avoid another long period of cuts and austerity, was pure and simple lie. Not a single month has gone by and everyone is already very concerned about a record public debt of 110% of GDP, which has nevertheless grown much less than would have been expected given the context. That public spending has been insufficient even according to the parameters of the system’s economists is clear when prices drag on painfully and do not even reach the European average of inflation.
But the concern, in reality, is already different: that social pressure in the face of a new massacre will lead to widespread confinement. Even today, one of the most relevant economists of the financial world pointed out the brutal increase of the companies’ indebtedness and the uselessness of financing the companies that were already in the new debt crisis – the famous zombie companies– to threaten with the danger of a financial crisis if they returned to confinement.
Saving capital is not about saving productive capacity, but about destroying it
Now everyone, starting with the Bank of Spain, is pushing the government to give preferential treatment to the SOCIMIs. The SOCIMIs are the big funds quoted on the stock exchange dedicated to real estate speculation. The Bank of Spain wants to accelerate the concentration of the rental housing market on their behalf so that they may dictate prices. Once again there is no shame: the discourse that investments must be saved in order to save employment, goes up in smoke. There are few clearer examples of how, in order to save capital, what is actually proposed are speculative destinations and new monopolies that will keep investments alive at the cost of sucking up more of our wages… without creating jobs.
To save capital is not to save productive capacity, but to destroy it. The examples are all around us: the banks, harassed by the fall in profitability, are heading for a new wave of branch closures and layoffs. Large Spanish companies, like 90% of the world’s largest companies-plan even more layoffs than they already undertake to improve profitability. The new automotive gurus are the champions of reducing plant and production capacity to, on a smaller scale, increase their rate of profit. The whole secret: fewer workers, doing more work and earning less. In other words, greater exploitation and less production.
The crisis of capital in all its rawness, as we are seeing it, is a feast of productive force destruction. And the main productive force is labor. It is not only the many thousands of workers who will fall victim to a pandemic that has not been stopped in order not to damage profitability. It is the pensions, of which not a day goes by without new proposals for reform that serve only to prepare a frontal attack. Also the scam of the minimum income that supposedly ensured that no one would be left behind but that leaves 99% of those who need it without an income, literally 99%. It is the housing, increasingly substandard as it fills up to the last room to accommodate unemployed family and friends. By the way, according to the EU, if there is any room, no matter how small, dedicated to something other than a bedroom, the dwelling is considered to be underoccupied .
Towards a new slaughter
With infections on the rise and an increasing number of occupied beds and ICU patients, things are already approaching the level of early March. The opening of schools in September threatens to trigger a new phase of mass community transmission. And the only thing made clear by the Spanish bourgeoisie and state is a red line: no more lockdowns, we lose revenues and taxes. Only a strong strike movement can force the state or the bourgeoisie to put lives, our lives, ahead of their profits.