Although the official discourse is optimistic and we are told that the curve is flattening, the truth is that 14 of the 18 Spanish autonomous regions suffer from incidences of over 400 patients per 100,000 inhabitants. 5,897 new diagnoses and 435 deaths last Tuesday make clear the horror and daily slaughter the second wave of the Covid has become in practically all of Spain. In addition to the direct deaths, we should also add those of patients suffering from other diseases who could not be diagnosed or treated due to the saturation of hospitals and ICUs, something not reflected in the official data of the pandemic. Because, after converting even the broom closet into an ICU, the theoretical overcrowding levels were reduced, but the staff shortages are being felt more than ever before.
However, the Spanish governments do not have the slightest aim to confine again. They hope to lower the figures a little with measures of little economic impact and even smaller sanitary impact in order to reopen stores in December and cheer up billing and sales during the holidays. No one thinks that the Christmas campaign will save the companies’ accounts in 2020, but the profitability data are bad, very bad, and the worse the results, the more inhuman the anti-pandemic policies will be.
400 dead per day, every day, are no longer considered a sufficient level to impose household lockdowns, let alone temporary closures of non-essential production, because public health policy is steamrolled, flattened before the business income curve . There could not be a clearer example of what the phrase the dictatorship of capital means.
Just a few days ago the IMF declared that, taking for granted that Covid would not be contained in Spain, production and sales figures would not reach 2019 levels until at least 2025. It also warned that the debt at risk of vulnerable companies called could rise to 37% and that it is afraid of a crisis of defaults. The Spanish government, which worked in the same perspective, urgently approved a package of solvency measures that gives an extra year of grace and three more years of time to pay back ICO credits, prevents creditors from requesting insolvency proceedings until February 2021 and extends state protection to avoid sales at knockdown prices of companies with EU capital based in Spain.
The type of measures and the deadlines give a gauge of the situation of a significant part of the companies. But what the Bank of Spain and the government fear at this point is coming to the final stretch of the pandemic without sufficient funds to save the businesses that are still financially viable, so they take advantage of the cheapness of borrowing thanks to the ECB and the expectation of European funds, and try to put everything at the service of the business rescue without worrying too much about beating new debt records period after period.
Of course, the famous social shield is still as weak as before, despite the injections to the unemployment office and the Social Security: 60% of all requests for the minimum vital income are rejected, the price of the gas bottles -the power source used by the poor- is rising again dramatically and the food banks calculate that almost two million people will soon need food aid. But once again, despite Podemos and PSOE’s continued rhetoric about the vulnerable, their priorities are not based on the needs of workers, let alone the most vulnerable, but on what can help the profitability of capital and its investment in enterprises.
Nowadays, the priority of the social policies is to materialize what have been the central aims of the Spanish bourgeoisie in recent years: the launching of pension privatization in the form of complementary funds and a new precariousness-inducing reform of labor. The latter, in its final draft phase, looks increasingly similar to Rajoy’s reform, the same reform that was supposed to be repealed.
What is actually being flattened?
In the face of a lack of profitability, the capital without destination is being directed to speculation on basic products such as housing or energy. In October, rents rose an average of 10% and the auctions of renewable energies warn of future increases in household bills. This is only the first step. In Germany we are already seeing how the costs for the workers of the green deal are starting to escalate beyond what was predicted, without industry and government putting any limits. And we are not using for the workers as a rhetorical device. While the workers see their incomes plummet, the bourgeoisie and the corporate petty bourgeoisie protect themselves from the general fall in wages and even in the big companies, they raise their own salaries. This is just one more consequence of a reality that is the great taboo of this crisis for the media: a massive redistribution of income from labor to capital is already underway.
Summarizing: We only need to pick up the headlines of the week to see clearly that both public health policy and reducing contagion, as well as labor legislation, retirement coverage and distribution of income and revenue, are being flattened in the face of the eagerness to improve the immediate results of the investments made in companies. What capital demands in order to recover profitability takes precedence over the most basic and urgent needs of the workers, who are systematically made invisible under a hypocritical rhetoric of protection of the vulnerable and social justice.
This slope will not be corrected by waiting, holding on, or voting out the government, but by standing up and asserting the needs – human and universal – of the workers above the immediate profitability of the companies. As much as the unions tell us that capital can’t deliver anything unless it makes a profit, it’s not true, fighting together works and is the only thing that works today.