The pandemic continues unabated, death figures become blurred and confused , borders open up and a massive autumn outbreak is taken for granted. But the grim prospects – infections, deaths – are something so openly negligible for national capital and its politicians that it no longer occupies any media space. The important thing for them is that the OECD as well as the Bank of Spain predict a fall of more than 11% of the GDP this year. Spanish capital cannot make ends meet and the political apparatus is not responding adequately. The general attitude, in all areas, is to “save” investments and business profits no matter what. The big companies and banks are clear about this and are pushing towards the “new normality”. Today, they gave a great public representation of the direction they intend to take. So convinced are they that we should move on from the medical dimension of the epidemic that most of the big corporate directors spoke via a video conference. It doesn’t matter. The important thing was to call the politicians to order regarding a three-pronged plan: a “green deal” starting from an energy transition, indirect aid to ensure the profitability of banks and an alliance with the trade unions to further precarize the labor market.
Saving capital no matter what
The government today released the aid plan for the automotive sector. In spite of the rhetoric, the numbers are, at first glance, insufficient. Spanish capital arrived too late at the race for the electric car due to the fact that the first steps towards the green deal were abandoned during the crisis of 2009. The models that are now being manufactured in Spanish plants will be obsolete in a decade or so. If they want to convince the big European and Japanese brands to produce cars without combustion engines, they have to increase local consumption much more than what can be expected with 550 million euros in subsidies for the renewal of vehicles. But not even the industry dares to ask for more when public debt has beaten its historical high. As it stands today, the plan will only serve to lighten the massive stocks of unsold vehicles that today are on the verge of saturating the storage capacity of factories.
In May, the Spanish Social Security registered 26,000 new companies… this was celebrated as the beginning of the recovery. In reality, this is less than 30% of the companies shut down during confinement and the data on “recovered” jobs was even worse. In the hotel and catering industry alone, the number of jobs destroyed is expected to reach 400,000 this year, that is, one in four job positions will not be recovered even if temporary layoffs remain at least until November and under the assumption that there will be no massive resurgence of the epidemic.
But what matters to capital and to the state is not the 99.9% of companies in which it is difficult to invest due to lack of scale nor, for the moment, what this implies in terms of employment. The tone is so falsely optimistic that they celebrate, for example, that the management of the Spanish National Securities Market Commission (CNMV), by vetoing downward bets on the value of companies during the height of the confinement, has helped to preserve the value of the shares. This is funny because, if true, it would demonstrate the falsity of the entire official theory on the nature of speculative markets. If short selling modifies long-term values, speculation would not simply be a price mediation between presents and futures, but would have a direct impact on accumulation by determining the fate of capital and labor productivity. In other words, the famous ‘markets’ would not optimize the destinies of capital as taught from high school onwards to justify why contradicting ‘markets’ would be akin to causing a catastrophe. But who is going to notice that? What matters to big capital throughout Europe today is to prevent the prices of big companies and monopolies from falling and other, stronger capitals, especially Chinese capital, from seizing them and depriving European capitals of investment destinations on their own soil in the future. That is why they present the state’s barriers against foreign buyers as great anti-crisis successes. Successes for whom?
If we look at the banks, one of the potential “victims” of purchases “hostile” to Spanish imperialist interests, the situation of Spanish finance capital is, to say the least, fragile. It is coming out of a long profitability crisis, which has been exacerbated since 2017 by negative interest rates. The banks have entered a new stage of the crisis with the lowest level of capitalization in European banks and only in May increased their own debt by 5%. So, while they are admonishing the state for getting into debt, they are asking as well that taxes not be raised in order not to lose even more profitability and with it investments.
The reality is that Spanish capital is barely standing on its own feet. The state by itself, without monetary sovereignty and indebted much more than the EU would allow it, would barely be able to go beyond the “National Bicycle Strategy” to encourage domestic consumption. If capital wants the state to be able to transfer the volume of resources it needs at the speed it requires, it depends on European money. And it is not at all likely that it will be as extensive or as free of charge as the Franco-German proposal. Hence the emphasis on turning Calviño, the Minister of Economy, into the president of the Eurogroup and Ecofin. Aid, loan or transfer, the injection from the European budgets would in reality be the opening phase of an adjustment plan directed from Brussels.
Sources from the PSOE and also from the opposition admit that if Calviño gets the job, “covert” control of the EU over Pedro Sánchez’s Executive will become inevitable. For these sources, a Portuguese-style adjustment plan during the coronavirus crisis is coming.
The idea brought peace to the banks and big companies who understood that:
The possible promotion to such an influential position would force Spain to comply with the orders of Brussels, which implies for the country the approval of very austere budgets.
In other words, the PSOE government is preparing for a repeat of the first Rajoy government, the one with the “social cutbacks”, sky-high indirect taxes and labor reform. The “hunger queues” that do not appear in the Spanish news but do appear in all the European press, will be far from disappearing. But what worries them, at this point, is not the cost to the workers but how to organize the political apparatus to carry out the attack on living, working and retirement conditions, which is already underway, to its ultimate consequences.
The crisis of the political apparatus
In a first development, the last weeks of the confinement have once again triggered the revolt of the petty bourgeoisie. But at the cost of a verbal violence that actually erodes the political apparatus as a whole, the PP managed to absorb its share. Casado managed to equal Sánchez’s PSOE in the polls, and what seemed even more difficult, to place Vox in an internal conflict between Salvini-type economic ultra-nationalism and the crude neoliberalism of its Aznarite roots… which in the end won and led to the minimum income vote, leaving the role of the socially conscious right-wing to the PP.
On the left, the PSOE did the same with Podemos, taking advantage of the new law for the protection of children. The background: the feminist bunfights. By turning feminism into a state ideology the PSOE imported its conflicts and disputes. The law served to display in public the difference between Podemos’ feminism and PSOE’s feminism, which had already generated physical quarrels on the last and fateful 8th of March on a base that erodes Iglesias’ one electorally. The dispute, of undoubted theological-sectarian tones, can be summarized as “is there a difference between sex and gender or is sex merely subjective?”. Vice President Calvo led the PSOE and government apparatus into a ludicrous battle of arguments with the Podemos’ spokespersons in order to define the feminist orthodoxy of the state… while Pedro Sánchez played on Twitter with Miley Cirus to showcase himself as the image of a Spain that “leaves no one behind”.
But beyond the misdirection and farce, the political apparatus remains fundamentally broken. Parliament is still an impossible puzzle of the various manifestations of the territorial revolt of the petty bourgeoisie. The pressure is still there, partly as an diffuse anti-Madrid feeling, partly as centralist rage in Vox and partly as peripheral nationalisms. In any case, the centrifugal forces are strong enough to force Sánchez to leak that he is “studying” breaking up the expected but undefined European rescue fund among the regions. It is doubtful that this will finally happen, but he is trying to buy time. The political climate is murky and it nothing else is convenient for him at this time. In Madrid and Barcelona there are many attempts to reorganize the government and pressure for a cabinet formed or at least supported only by the two state parties. And although it seems little more than noise, the unhappy and unglamorous closure of the 8M case points to fundamental movements between the state and the PP and PSOE apparatus to take over the situation.
On the other hand, the investigations of the Swiss judges on King Juan Carlos and his corruption has revived the republican myths of a certain petty bourgeoisie anchored in the stalinist myths. But significantly, this time not even the state parties have defended the former monarch and even their affiliated press invites him to “leave Spain”. The fundamental crisis of the political apparatus and its relations with the state remains, and the erosion of the monarchy is another part of it.
While the right wing brings out for a walk their doberman wrapped in the red and yellow flag and the left wing enjoys discussing children’s sex and the future of princesses, the reality of the workers has already initiated the “adjustment”. Rent has risen by 7% and 38% of families are struggling to pay it. The price of the shopping cart has increased by 32.5%. And all this while almost 400,000 workers have been waiting since March to receive the money of their temporary layoffs.
And this is just the appetizer on the menu they prepare for us. We can’t remain silent… or still.