(Update: Ione Bellara's further appeal, 30 October) Ione Bellara, the Spanish Minister of Social Rights has called upon the countries to act to end Israel's murderous war against 2.6 million Palestinians in the Gaza strip. The transcript of her short speech is:
|"Resisting is pointless," we hear endlessly repeated. "So many years of protest but the crisis continues, why bother?" insist others, inoculating us with apathy and resignation. "Protests could lead to something that's even worse," whispers the machinery of fear. They want us submissive, heads bowed. Dreams of change are forbidden. However, history rebels, indomitable. And it shows us, despite the naysayers, that struggle is worth it.|
The victories against the privatization of Madrid's public health system, of the Gamonal neighbourhood standing up to speculators and the corrupt, of the cleaners in their battle for jobs in the capital and the struggle against evictions and the banks, are good examples.
It is not easy to achieve concrete victories when the political class betray our rights and sell out to capital. It's hard to win when the state apparatus defends the haves, and rolls back our democratic rights and freedoms. The task of change is arduous, when the media are hijacked by private interests. Still, there are victories, big and small, showing us the way.
The Madrid government's u-turn on its plans to privatize six public hospitals is one of them. The [Popular Party-run] administration in the capital has been forced to revoke the "outsourcing" plan after fifteen months of protest and the announcement of the High Court of Justice of Madrid to provisionally suspend the privatization process on the grounds it could pose "serious and irreparable damage." There have been months of demonstrations, strikes, a referendum with nearly one million votes against such measures, hospital occupations, lawsuits. The triumph swept away its leading promoter, regional health commissioner Javier Fernández-Lasquetty, who has been forced to resign. It's worth the fight.
Gamonal, another great victory. After little more than a week of intense protests, from 10 to 17 January in Burgos, against the construction of a boulevard in the neighbourhood of Gamonal, mayor Javier Lacalle had no choice but to halt construction indefinitely. The conflict, however, came from afar. A multi-million euro project, with huge profits for firms and politicians of the day, in a working-class neighbourhood lacking investment and amenities. The "urban" conflict in Gamonal became the spearhead of the fight against corruption, land speculation and crisis.
Demonstrations were held across Spain in solidarity with the community. And the attempts to criminalize and spread misinformation failed. It's worth the fight.
Thirteen days of strike and tons of debris around Madrid were necessary to avoid 1,134 layoffs of street cleaners and gardeners of the City of Madrid. It took an indefinite strike to paint into a corner private contractors that not only wanted to have hundreds of workers, but to carry out pay cuts of up to 43 per cent. The victory was partial because the staff had to each accept 45 days temporary furloughs (unpaid lay offs) annually over the next four years, and a wage freeze until 2017. Still, this does not detract from an indefinite strike, unprecedented sadly in this day and age, succeeding in protecting every single job. It's worth the fight.
The fight against evictions has been, without a doubt, the ultimate expression of a collective rebellion against this con-trick of a crisis. In response to the unlimited usury of the banks, people organized at the grassroots. Over a period of more than four years, the Platform of People Affected by Mortgages (PAH) has managed to stop 936 evictions, rehouse 712 persons in empty properties owned by financial institutions and today occupied under the Obra Social campaign of the PAH. And it has forced many banks to negotiate hundreds of repossessions and social rent. Some will say that is very small progress compared to the overall offensive. That's true. However, I would put that to all those who thanks to the PAH have a roof over their heads. It's worth the fight.
Since the emergence of the indignados, or 15M movement, we have gone from "They do not represent us" to "Yes we can." We have regained confidence in ourselves. The offensive by capital continues, but our indignation and disobedience increases. Victories today are catalysts of the victories of tomorrow. Struggle is imperative to change things. We must take note. And if we do, we can win.
In recent months, the pathologically greedy bankers who run the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and corporations have demanded of European Governments they inflict financial misery on millions of Europeans to supposedly restore the fiscal 'health' of those economies. The measures include the reduction of government services and the sacking of public servants who provide those services.
Fed up with that austerity, dictated by bankers and other big corporations to governments that were supposedly elected to represent their best interests, people of Germany and Spain have taken to the streets in large protests and clashed with police.
This was reported on the 7.00PM ABC news bulletin of 2 June 2013 (emphasis added):
Anti-austerity protesters on Saturday took to the streets of dozens of European cities, including Madrid, Frankfurt and Lisbon, to express their anger at government cuts they say are making the financial crisis worse by stifling growth and increasing unemployment.
Thousands marched peacefully toward Madrid's central Neptuno fountain near Parliament, chanting "Government, resign."
Around 15,000 people gathered outside the International Monetary Fund's headquarters in Lisbon shouting "IMF, out of here."
Many protesters were carrying banners saying, "No more cuts" and "Screw the Troika," a reference to the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the three-member group that bailed out the governments of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus.
The report went on to put the justification given by the European Governments:
The bailout loans were given on the understanding that governments enact stringent austerity measures to rein in their heavily indebted finances.
Spain came perilously close to needing a sovereign bailout last year and was forced to negotiate a 40 billion euro ($52 billion) loan for its stricken banking system when its borrowing costs soared.
Ordinary Germans and Spaniards have not accepted this excuse by greedy bankers and their government glove puppets to impose an economic recession and destroy their livelihoods and have taken to the streets in protest.
According to on ABC report, Is microeconomic reform on its way back? of 29 May 2013 Australia Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is hinting that he may well also find excuses to slash and burn government services should he be elected to Government on 14 September. He will consider reviving the Hilmer report of 1992-94 which made it obligatory for state and federal governments to privatise assets and services.
Below are reports from Russia Today of the protests of 2 June 2013 in Germany and, before that, of 31 May.
Activists of the anti-globalist Blockupy movement scuffled with dozens of riot police who charged into a marching crowd to disperse protesters, reports RT's Peter Oliver. The march has been reportedly stopped.
What was supposed to be a march through the middle of German's financial capital by anti-austerity demonstrators really lasted only about 500 meters, when several hundred riot police in full kit came among the crowd.
The protesters started throwing paint-filled objects at the police so puddles of paint are here and there, RT's Peter Oliver reported. Later the paint filled bags were confiscated by police.
The organizers maintain there are tens of thousands of protesters and Peter Oliver witnesses a whole column of protesters going around the ECB headquarters.
The police force has split into two groups now. They do not let anybody through so the demonstration is not moving anywhere, as police and protesters are locked in a stand-off.
Water cannons arrived at the scene of a peaceful protest, Oliver reports.
Riot police officers have already used pepper spray several times and some people have been taken away, but it is not clear if they have been arrested.
RT's crew working at the scene has been separated by the riot police dividing demonstrators. The crew reports the use of fences and barbed wire by police.
Protests in Frankfurt-am-Main started on Friday when some 3,000 'Blockupy' protesters, clutching signs demanding "humanity before profit", blocked the main entrance of the ECB, the organizers announced that the coalition has "reached its first goal" of the day.
The anti-globalism march was called to celebrate the anniversary of the 'Occupy' rallies by blocking the European Central Bank.
The protesters moved to city's downtown from activists' camp in the Frankfurt suburbs, set up earlier.
Police reported that though some protesters thrown stones and there were some clashes at the barricades, several people were detained on Friday.
The ECB, which has headquarters at Kaiserstrasse 29, in Frankfurt-am-Main, has promised to remain operational during the planned demonstrations.
Blockupy activists lay blame for the debt crisis in Europe with the banks and in particular the ECB for its role in imposing austerity measures on EU citizens.
The austerity measures proposed by the so-called troika, consisting of the ECB, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Commission have not reduced the national debts of the European countries. An increase of taxes and cuts of governmental social programs they promote have actually worsened the situation, deepening recession and increasing unemployment in the EU dramatically.
Hanno Bruchmann, an anti-austerity activist, believes that "There have been many capitalist crises before, but now it is happening in the US and Europe, the financial crisis has transformed into a debt crisis, and now is the moment in which this has become a permanent capitalist crisis on a big scale."
"The fact that the protest is taking place in what's supposed to be the most advanced country does show the level of the problem" Antonis Vradis, of the Occupy London movement told RT.
A demonstration in German's Frankfurt-am-Main is expected to gather up to 20,000 protesters. Several European capitals are set to see large rallies later in the day.
In a separate rally in Berlin people are protesting in solidarity with the Taksim square demonstration in Turkey now into its second day of violence with tear gas and water cannon being used
From Russia Today, of 31 May 2013, 3 days ago
The entrance of the ECB is blocked by over 3,000 'Blockupy' protesters in a march against austerity. 'Blockupy' has announced the coalition has "reached its first goal" of the day.
Anti-capitalist protesters have taken to the streets of the financial heart of Frankfurt a day ahead of Europe-wide gatherings planned for June 1 to protest leaders handling of the three-year euro debt crisis.
"We call up everyone to join our protests."
The ECB spokesman told The Guardian that the Blockupy protests have not disturbed day to day operations at the bank, but would not specify how many bankers managed to come to work.
Apart from those who amassed outside the ECB, a smaller demonstration took place at the nearby Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) headquarters, where around 50 police vehicles had been deployed. The protesters set off by midday.
The crowd, estimated at 2,500 by local authorities, clutched signs demanding 'humanity before profit'.
Rain-soaked and dressed in ponchos, the crowd is equipped with a wide array of protest props- vuvuzelas, yellow wigs, pots and pans, and mattresses with the spray-painted slogan 'War Starts Here'.
'Blockupy' has become a top-ten Twitter trend in Frankfurt, and at 10:09am (08:09 GMT), user Enough14 tweeted, "Strong Powerful blockade at Kaiserstr. Not one banker will come through here," in reference to the ECB headquarters.
Police reported some protesters had thrown stones and there were some clashes at the barricades, but so far the protests are being conducted peacefully.
The mass of protesters first gathered early Friday morning in the rainy financial center of Frankfurt, in an effort to block roads leading to the ECB and Deutsche Bank headquarters.
The crowd was met by police decked out in riot gear accompanied by large Alsatian dogs. Helicopters hovered above and water cannon trucks were on standby.
Many of Frankfurt's banks have urged staff to take Friday as a holiday, following a state holiday on Thursday.
Spokesman Martin Sommer said Frankfurt's financial district could be occupied by as many as 20,000 who believe the Troika -- the ECB, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund -- is imposing an "austerity dictate" on financially troubled countries they have bailed out.
Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, have received bailout loans and Spain has received loans for its banks.
Blockupy spokeswoman Frauke Distelrath said the protest was not aimed at bank employees, but at its role "as an important participant in the policies that are impoverishing people in Europe, in the cutbacks that are costing people their ability to make a living."
The protesters have been granted permission to demonstrate at the airport by a court on Thursday, even after the airport operator requested the group be kept outside of the terminal.
Blockupy assembled outside of the airport at 1 p.m. local time local time to protest against German immigration policies and what activists have decried as an "inhumane deportation system." Fraport, the airport operator, has advised passengers to arrive early for their flights.
The court said if the number of protestors in the terminal exceeds 200, police can break up the gathering. Felix Gottwald, a pilot, tweeted that security had been stepped up at Frankfurt airport in anticipation of the arrival of Blockupy protesters. Passengers at the airport have noted the heavy security presence, saying that only those who show a valid boarding pass can enter the building.
Activists are tweeting that anywhere between 200-800 protesters are currently blocking Frankfurt Airport Terminal 1, although those number remain unconfirmed.
In last year's protests police shut down Frankfurt's city center in anticipation of the demonstration.
Eurozone employment hits record high to 12.2 percent in April.
The demonstration is taking place almost exactly a year after police detained hundreds in a four-day march against a temporary ban on protests in Frankfurt last June.
Blockupy protesters are also protesting against other issues, including food price.
Spain's newly re-instated monarchy
Spain is attracting a great deal of news coverage for all the right reasons lately, but the Spanish people have suffered enough.
It has a recently re-instated monarchy. On 22 November 1975, two days after fascist dictator General Francisco Franco's death, the Bourbon heir Juan Carlos was designated King according to the law of succession promulgated by Franco. In 1969, when Franco named Juan Carlos as the next head of state, Spain had had no monarch for 38 years.
It has a King who, as head of the Spanish “branch” of the World Wildlife Fund, thinks it appropriate to holiday in Botswana shooting elephants.
The king’s daughter, la Infanta Christina Federica Victoria Antonia, is married to Inaki Undangarin, Duke of Palma de Mallorca, who is currently facing charges of embezzlement of millions of euros.
Spain's justice system in tatters
It has a justice system in tatters. The Supreme Court suspended fellow Judge Baltasar Garzon from practicing for 11 years after investigating so called (7) irregularities in Garzon’s investigation into wide scale corruption within the conservative Partido Popular. Up to 70 senior members were being investigated.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Dívar on Thursday resigned under pressure for charging 32 long weekend trips to Marbella and other Spanish destinations to the judiciary. (1)
Spain and the Oil Wars, News Ltd and ex-Spanish PM, Aznar
Carlos Divar was appointed by Jose Louis Aznar, ex- prime minister of Spain from 1996 – 2004. Aznar, now a very prominent member of Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd board, was a founder member of the “coalition of the willing” leading the “oil wars”, even before John Howard. The only natural resources Spain has is a small amount of coal in Asturia.
Aznar was “scholared” in politics by Manuel Fraga. From 1951, Fraga served in various posts in the Franco regime, including minister for information and tourism. He took part in the Transition (restoration of the Monarchy), and formed the conservative People's Alliance (AP), the precursor to the Popular Party (PP).
Fraga was known as a heavy-handed politician. The drastic measures he took as chief of state security during the first days of the Spanish transition to democracy deeply damaged his popularity. The phrase "¡La calle es mía!" ("The streets are mine!") was attributed to him. This phrase was his answer to complaints of police repression of street protests. He claimed that the streets did not belong to "people" but to the State.
Partido Popular (PP) - The Peoples' Party
Appointing Aznar as head of the Partido Popular (PP) in 1989, Fraga duly became President of the PP. Fraga was known as a “social liberal”. He relaxed censorship laws (despite the severe lobbying of the Catholic Church) and finished his political career as Franco did, in office. He died in January 2012 serving as Spain’s ambassador to the European Union.
The “lineage” is further continued into the present day when Aznar’s “puppet”, Manuel Rajoy became head of the PP in 2004 after Aznar was dumped. (Rajoy is currently prime minister). Aznars wife is Mayor of Madrid, Spain’s largest city and the seat of government.
Fascism and economic crashes: the 1930s and 2012
Nothing has yet been mentioned of the fascist dictatorship, even less is currently spoken about the Second Spanish Republic from 1931 -1933, but if a cursory glance is cast, striking similarities can be seen to current events and recurring themes played out, separated by time but very relevant to the history of Spain.
Spain’s economy collapsed after the Wall St crash in 1930. General Primo’s 12 year dictatorship ended when the monarchy and people (who hated his brutal era) lost confidence in the government and elections were held that produced a republican and very anti-catholic majority. The unification of 1851 under the Bourbon (French) monarchy was being undone as King Alphonso XIII abdicated and Catalunya and the Basque became independent regions.
General Franco earned his stripes and became known as “the butcher of Asturias” after his brutal suppression of the miners strike in1933.
In January 1936 new elections were called which confirmed the socialist alliance as the dominant majority, but a series of assassinations and fascist/socialist violence (this is when Hitler and Mussolini were warming up), saw the invasion of Spain by Franco’s North African army. Three years later the civil war was won. General Franco, supported heavily by the catholic church, led a rebellion which systematically crushed the most progressive social and political reforms of the 20th century.
George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia is a wonderful journey through the rag tag war.
A full length film #more-1632?">“Living Utopia – Anarchism in Spain” (subtitled) – details this tumultuous period. It tells and shows an impoverished, hard- working intelligent, society realising the truths of brutal fascism with original footage. (6)
Franco’s victory in 1939 allowed a period of massive reprisals aided by the catholic church. Claiming neutrality gave licence to untold mass murder under the cover of world war 2, including asking Hitler’s Luftwaffe to bomb and destroy Guernica in the Basque region. A bonus was the post war escape from attention afforded many fascists of the time because Franco was now actively butchering the communist leftovers much to the approval of America and the U.K.
The random killings and brutality continued right up to Franco’s death. Many of the prison camps and detention centres remained into the nineties. It was not until the 2004 dumping of Aznar and election of socialist Zapatero that the statues of General Franco were removed from all the major plazas and intersections around Barcelona.
The Falange lives on in Spain. They recently brought a summons against Baltasar Garzon for forcing the recovery of over 100,000 bodies which still remain in mass graves throughout the country. Manuel Rajoy has stopped any federal assistance to the searches. There is a group called the Commission of Historic Memory Recovery (8) which flounders to bring about what is granted in Australia on an “as needs” basis, a human right proudly supported by the government, - to re associate families with their dead/missing relatives. They are not even buried in a foreign country for God’s sake. (4)
The Catholic Church offers no support, preferring to denigrate homosexuality and force the government to reverse abortion rights, access to the morning after pill, and gay marriage. (5) Their [Rajoy’s Peoples Party government] crackdown on public gatherings makes further fascist tendencies obvious.
Last week, Interior Minister Jorge Fernández gave more details: Peaceful resistance will be deemed a form of illegal undermining of authority, punishable with one to three years in jail; the punishment for civil disobedience, which is currently six months to one year in jail, will be increased to two to three years. (2)
The corruption in the judiciary and government is not a one-sided affair. The first socialist government since Franco was ousted because of corruption, and Garzon had prosecuted both socialist, Basque separatist, and conservative, even handedly, as corruption in Spain is endemic, apolitical and established for many reasons.
Banking, Real-Estate and Development corruption in Spain
The banking industry is yet another industry rife with corruption as a servant of the real estate/development industry and is a prime example of the rampant corruption which extends into every one of the three levels of Spanish government – Federal, Regional (autonomous) and local. All Spanish bank board approvals are political appointments, so builders, teachers, cleaners earn board fees for unknowingly approving sub prime loans and not assessing budgets.
Corrupt regional governments have been allowed to finance self agrandisment projects worth hundreds of billions of dollars with help from the E.U. The country was 3rd world when Franco died, just starting a “package holiday” tourist boom initiated by Manuel Fraga which virtually destroyed the Mediterranean coastline. Jose Louis Aznar’s neo conservative economics saw Spain BOOM. The property market rose exponentially from 1996 until in a repeat of the Wall Street crash of 1929, Wall Street crashed in 2008.
European money providing infrastructure projects such as high speed rail, air ports and solar thermal power generation, saw Spain’s investment levels reach record highs and become the center for European tourism and holiday home acquisition. During the Aznar years regional governments such as Valencia's were given carte blanche to go for the tourist dollar. An airport was built at Castellón at a cost of 200 million euros with a 300,000 euro statue of the regional governor at the airport entry. Although completed in 2010 a license to operate has not been issued and the runway has been found to be too narrow to allow international flights to turn round.
There are now 48 airports in Spain, double the number in Germany. Only 11 make a profit. (9)
1 million empty houses and unsalable real-estate
Many reports detail the 1,000,000 empty homes in Spain as well as real estate which is virtually “unsellable”. (10) Caused by the pre-2008 bubble, exactly the same as in the U.S. Iceland and more particularly, Ireland (see below - McCreevy). It has taken 4 years for the true picture to be known.
It has taken 7 months of lies to hide the true extent of Spain’s bankruptcy and finally ask the E.U. for a 100 million euros “bail out.” Meanwhile Spanish bonds have been downgraded to junk as the taxpayer further bears the brunt of sovereign debt totally caused by corruption, speculation, belief in infinite growth and a destruction of the environment.
Socially the results have been disastrous: 25% unemployment, 50% 18 – 25 year unemployment, evictions, general strikes, indefinite miner’s strike in Asturias causing flashbacks to 1933 and Franco’s repression. (This really is war and perhaps people are only just hearing about it (11))
A veil of secrecy has always been part of the Monarchic/fascist/conservative Spanish governments, which fawn on protocol and tradition, and assume an undue respect. Those that experienced the hardships and brutality of the fascist regime, and the prosperity that followed to make Spain the 4th largest economy in Europe and the 10th largest in the world, are fearful of a return to a brutal past which has never been discussed during the “transition to democracy”. The church is very powerful socially and has easy purchase within the Peoples Party.
Time and again corrupt regional governments in Marbella, Valencia, the Balearic Isles, Catalonia and Gallicia were returned in the hope they would keep the “good times rolling”. Never has the average Spaniard experienced such 'wealth creation'. It is now common daily news reporting to hear of a mayor or regional governor in court facing corruption charges, and a recent (June) El Pais article asks “Is something rotten in the state of Spain”. (12)
Rajoy Peoples Party Government ratifying illegal developments and enforcing evictions
The people voted for Rajoy and the Peoples Party knowing that election day was the anniversary of Franco’s death, and a return to “austerity” was already foreshadowed by Rajoy, who was keen to participate in the friendly fascism underway in the Goldman Sachs-ing of Europe. His answer to the 1000’s of houses built and completed illegally on land not zoned for development, is legalization and further destruction of coastal environment. His answer to whole of the building industry cast into unemployment was to enforce evictions.
Rajoy Peoples Party Government trying for another unsustainable housing bubble
His answer to unemployment and the recession, that Spain seems doomed to endure for another 10 years, is to create another bubble, this one courtesy of Las Vegas and Macau gambling multi billionaire Sheldon Adelston and “Euro Vegas” (13) with 6 casinos, thousands of hotel rooms and 18 BILLION euros worth of investment which would reportedly halve Madrid or Barcelona’s unemployment rate. This would add to the already established 30 casinos currently operating in Spain.
A very insightful book has recently been authored by the son of the Republic in Exile post Franco, Nicholas Sanchez-Albornoz. The book is called Prisons and Exiles and revisits Franco when the police caught up with him and his colleagues in the anti-Franco fight. The escape of Sánchez-Albornoz and his fellow prisoner Manuel Lamana from the slave labor practiced at Cuelgamuros near Madrid in 1948 was one of the legends that most damaged Franco.
The Franco regime never conceived of peaceful co-existence among Spaniards without political exile, the period from 1939 to 1942 in which, according to reports from the time, more than 100,000 people were executed. But Sanchez-Albornoz's account is not from that time. It
“begins in 1947, and I am sure there were still firing squads then because I lived through it. The executions lasted until Julián Grimau in 1962, Franco kept killing after the war.”
Sánchez-Albornoz sees the whole 40 year period as ;
“corrupt. Franco's authority rested on two elements: death and punishment, and corruption . . . .
Q./ The regime ended. But when your father returned from exile in 1976, then Interior Minister Manuel Fraga Iribarne prohibited a formal dinner in his honor. So, the regime was still there.
A./ And it is still here today. There is a de facto group, which stands for everything that fuels that dark side of a segment of the Spanish population.”
Q. How do you see this current period?
A. There is a global economic crisis led by the financial system and its abuses, which in the case of Spain has been worsened by a dreadful economic policy created by the PP in its last government (Aznar), to give free reign to the real estate sector, which resulted in a certain level of euphoria at the time. And Zapatero didn't put a stop to it; he didn't know how to burst the bubble. What is alarming in the current situation is the level of improvisation. There is a return to certain Francoist roots in society, and that is worrying. A very unpleasant Spain is surfacing. “ (14)
The remnants of fascist Spain can most easily be seen at peaceful public demonstrations. Tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets are a first response, now demonstrations are being made illegal. (15)
How did Spain's banks survive the 2008 crash? – Basically, endogenous corruption
The Zapatero socialist government introduced many reforms after 2004, including Zapatero's most popular one of withdrawing troops from Iraq as soon as elected, but weakly caved into a laissez-faire ignorance of the bubble. It has recently been discovered that when the execrement hit the fan, Spain’s central bank, the Bank of Spain, had, in the timeless Spanish tradition, been cooking the books.
The full extent of indebtedness was only hinted at when E.U. contagion was considered. Greece’s debt pales into insignificance when compared to the level of debt owed by the Spanish real estate sector. This comprises anything up to half the money the European Financial Stability fund has on its books, just to recapitalise the Spanish banks, whose debt is now seen as “sovereign debt”.
Both socialist and conservative governments have been shamefully responsible for dereliction of duty with the burden of debt. In true Goldman Sachs fashion, they have transferred the debt from the private to the public sector. Rajoy’s PP government has been in complete naïve denial and lied as much as it could to save face, to just kick the can down the road until after summer and the tourists have gone. The full debt is still not known and Rajoy was refusing to call for assistance as recently as the end of May. He is now openly criticized in all European media.
Only 12 months ago he oversaw the privatization of Bankia, Spain’s 4th largest bank. The share float began at 3.69 euros and is now 1 euro.
The end of year 2011 report declared a 40 million plus euro profit which, on independent audit, was revealed to be a 3.3 billion euro LOSS. Bankia has now asked for a 19 BILLION euro bail out. The total “immediate” bail out for the banking sector is said to be 62 BILLION euros, this is excluding the BoS as it would not have enough time to complete the audit until September as “too many staff would be on leave over summer”.
See also a report republished on The Automatic Earth, with a short history of the Spanish debt and how it has been handled internationally. In 2009 Charlie McCreevy, the EU’s commissioner for financial services from 2004 to 2010, who previously had been Ireland’s finance minister, has said that he knew Spain's banks were violating violating International Financial Reporting Standards, but thought it was okay for them to do so.
Europe's current debt crisis has been blatantly caused by well known financially reckless governments. But the problem of the reckless is being allowed to drag down sound responsible economic states into bailing out the financially reckless ones. Why?
Why dig a bigger hole? The only benefit offered is to maintain unity for unity sake. But the 'rescue package' repeatedly talked about does not address the underlying causes of the financial problem, nor entail removing the culpable captains of the reckless spending and borrowing. It is past time to cut the tether to prevent the ship sinking.
Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy have all but become insolvent sovereign states. Since their respective governments allowed their debt to spiral out of sovereign control, they have breached the European governance standards of being sovereign members. They should be declared bankrupt and expelled from the European Economic Community.
But do reckless governments have a representative right of the people to make responsible decisions? No. So the vote needs to be democratic.
The vote is one of direct democracy.
Instead, European 'groupthink' has prevailed into a 'eurothink' allowing the euro zone debt crisis to escalate. Ultimately, the governments of sound financial managers Germany and France are retrospectively assuming guarantor financial responsibility for reckless gamblers - Ireland, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy.
But government aristocrats have no democratic right to commit their people to external debt, with a plebiscite. Going guarantor for the hundreds of billions of unpayable debt of these countries means raising taxes, and sovereign financial exposure (bonds) to another countries debt.
The euphemism 'rescue package' is misleading.
Germany needs to get out quick or be dragged into a spiral of uncontrollable debt.
No responsible leader in Europe has yet postulated the ultimate risk scenario for Europe, but it is very real. Is it worse for insolvent member countries to be expelled from the EEC, or for Europe to financially collapse outright?
Europe's government aristocracies are transfixed in 'Eurothink' and the people recognise this whole issue as patently anti-democratic.
When it comes to ultimate risk, the consequences for group-think decision-making, risk becoming catastrophic.
We are entering can era of severe scarcity
Illustration: Gustave Doré's Don Quixote
We are entering can era of severe scarcity in which centralised and globalised systems will fail to provide for us and we will have to develop highly localized economies. Most people would probably doubt that we could organize satisfactory communities without vast state bureaucracies and corporations. The achievements of the Spanish Anarchist workers collectives in the 1930s show what miracles ordinary people can do.
One of the strong beliefs reinforcing the acceptance of consumer-capitalist society is the assumption that it has to be run by authorities up there somewhere, by governments, bureaucracies, corporations, experts, CEOs, via big complex systems that ordinary people like us can’t fathom and couldn’t possibly run. People take it for granted that there is a vast distinction between our governors and we who are governed, and this is inevitable in a modern complex technocratic society. Our only role in government is to elect our governors occasionally, then submit to their rule. Meanwhile it is best if we devote ourselves to working diligently, consuming, football, celebrities and trivia.
In my very firm view consumer-capitalist society will soon be over. It is extremely unsustainable and unjust. There is no possibility that the per capita rates of resource consumption the 1.5 billion rich have can be extended to the other 7.5 billion we will soon have on earth. The Australian footprint of 8 ha of productive land per capita is about 10 times the area that will be available per capita in 2050. Well before that we will run into savage and insoluble shortages of oil, water, food, fish, several minerals, phosphorus, and the ecological consequences of the greenhouse problem, destruction of soils and forests, and a holocaust of species loss, the social and political impacts of collapsing states, resource wars and massive refugee movements.
Globalisation is over
Whether we like it or not we will localize. Globalisation is over. If complete collapse and die-off is avoided the only viable path will be in terms of mostly small and self-sufficient local economies in which people cooperate to organize their own local productive capacity to produce for themselves most of the things they need with little trade. In the coming age of severe scarcity economies must be mostly focused on needs and not profits, and organized by rational and cooperative control of the economy as distinct from driven by market forces (although they could still have a role.) Above all there can be no economic growth at all, and affluent “living standards” must be abandoned. The goal must be satisfactory but frugal and self-sufficient ways in stable or zero-growth economies.
Most people would probably totally reject this vision, believing that conservation effort and technical advance will enable us to go on pursuing ever-increasing affluence and GDP. In addition they would not believe that an acceptable alternative defined in terms of frugal living standards and no growth could remotely be designed. However I have no doubt that we could easily and quickly build a very satisfactory as well as sustainable and just society…if we wanted to. Its principles would have to be frugal but adequate living standards, high levels of self-sufficiency in mostly small local economies of the kind indicated above. (For a detailed discussion see The Simpler Way website, .) In my view this is the direction we will be moving in soon, whether we like it or not.
Again l think one of the most powerful ideological forces blocking such a transition is the general conviction that a satisfactory society could not be run without all those heavy bureaucrats, experts and CEOs, and rule by authoritarian and complex governments. Well if that’s your view, let me tell you about what the Spanish Anarchist collectives did in the 1930s.
The Spanish Anarchist Workers Collectives
In a period of about six years after 1933, during a civil war, the anarchists got control of large areas of Spain, containing 8 million people. Possibly 1800 collectives were established. Often they were able to take over factories and estates abandoned when their owners fled the war. With remarkable speed collectives made up of workers in these firms formed and organized to continue production. Many very large ventures were quickly put back into operation. For instance three days after a battle in Barcelona the trams were running again.
Attention was focused on the most important needs, for instance the setting up of communal dining halls. The collectives plunged into the reorganization and improvement of industries, for instance combining many previously struggling small firms, coordinating and integrating. In some regions they ran the fishing industry, from the boats to the canning factories and the distribution networks. They actually organized and ran whole regional economies, including public services such as policing, road construction, flood control, water supply, transport, maintenance of parks. They set up banks, flour mills, theatres an aluminium industry, organized international importing, printed their own money, abolished interest payments, and ran railways and telecommunications systems. Entire health systems were established, including medical centres, hospitals and sanitoria. In Barcelona six hospitals and eight sanitoria were built. Dental services and surgery was free, provided by doctors receiving set payments. Schools were free. Ordinary people gained access to medical services they previously could not afford when doctors only served the rich. They even established engineering and optical training institutes, and a university. The city of Barcelona with a population of 1.2 million was run in these ways.
Towns exchanged surpluses. Some towns and collectives abolished money, arranging all production and distribution in terms of needs and vouchers. Abundant things, such as fruit in season, were free, but scarce things were rationed.
The basic format for this “governing” was the weekly assembly of all workers in the factory, reviewing all operations, planning, electing managers, making decisions. Factories would send delegates to meetings handling issues involving several factories, and similar delegations up to larger and more centralized assemblies would deal with wider regional issues. These latter gatherings had little or no power because recommendations would be taken back down to the factory assemblies where everyone had a vote. That’s the essential Anarchist principle; all power is held by citizens and any centralized issues are thought out by delegates but the recommendations are taken back to the citizen assemblies for approval. They refused to resort to bureaucrats, let alone paid or professional officials, managers or politicians. Managers were just more experienced workers elected by the assemblies, recallable at any time. Committees mostly met after work hours or on the weekend. In other words the government of factories, farms, industries and entire regions was actually carried out by ordinary people deliberating in citizen assemblies. Of course in all these domains more experienced people had key roles but were not bosses or privilelged.
From accounts such as those in Dolgoff, The Anarchist Collectives, (1973) the production of goods, the efficiency of operations, the effectiveness of distribution and allocation, and the social welfare and justice consequences were huge improvements on what had prevailed before when control was in the hands of privileged elites and most people lived in poverty and oppression. They reorganized and innovated extensively and quickly. Men and women became much more equal. Large transfers of goods were organised to poor towns, supplies to hospitals were quickly established. A voluntary retirement age of 60 was set. Unemployed people were paid a full wage. By bringing previously idle and inefficiently used productive capacities into operation huge surges in output and welfare were quickly achieved.
Where wages were retained they were made more or less equal. However in many industries wages were abolished, for ideological reasons. Wages are elements in the system where capital hires labour, controls production, and takes the product, and workers have no involvement in production other than selling their labour and they can be dumped at any time at the whim of the employer. Instead in some cases they simply organised to provide all workers with listed necessities, sometimes via voucher or coupon systems. These entitlements varied with need, for instance being greater if there were children in a family. Thus they implemented the basic “communist” principle of allocating according to need not work done or skill.
In his introduction to Dolgoff, Bookchin makes some important observations on the mentality of the industrial worker. A lifetime of taking orders, discipline to often mind-numbing grind, no control or responsibility or concern with the uses of the product or its social value or who benefits, is likely to produce passive consumers primarily interested in their wages, i.e., purchasing power. Workers tend not to think they should do any managing. It is not surprising that in Spain the alternative thrived most in the rural regions because in addition to the collectivist traditions, the peasant way of life involves conditions and dispositions that are foreign to the industrial worker. Small; farmers must be multi-skilled handymen, energetic, thoughtful and responsible. I believe the coming revolution will be led by the spirit of the peasant and homesteader. When your welfare depends not on a wage, but on whether you organise and manage and fix and plan and think ahead and troubleshoot, and plant the beans in time,…and maintain the cooperative relations with the people in your community you depend on…then you are more likely to have the dispositions Anarchism requires.
Marx didn’t grasp any of this. In my view Marx’s analysis of capitalism, how it works, why it has problems, where it is taking us, is of the utmost importance. But what he thought about the post-capitalist society and how to get to it are I think of little value or mistaken (apart from the principle “From each according to ability, to each according to need.) If we get through to a sustainable and just society it will not be via violent revolution led by the working class led by a vanguard party which will rule from the centre until we become capable of communism. None of that can lead to local economies run by local people in participatory ways. In addition Marxists still fail to see that a satisfactory society cannot be heavily industrialized or affluent. But what’s most important here, as Bookchin points out, Marx didn’t think the outlook and personality of the worker was important (except in so far as he would support revolution.) That could be left until after the revolution. All that mattered was harnessing workers to revolution. The Anarchists in Spain had a totally different view, realizing that everything depended on how aware, committed and autonomous ordinary people are. They put a great deal of thought and effort into developing what they called “personalities”. That’s our main problem now.
Achievements were more impressive in rural areas than in the urban and industrial areas. Many impoverished peasants were able to come into larger and more farms. They were not coerced to do this and many remained outside the collectives as independent farmers. These received surprising levels of assistance from the collectives, often enjoying the benefits they would have enjoyed had they joined. They were not allowed to own more land than they could work.
These achievements were made in difficulty conditions, with many able bodied people away at the front, produce sent from regions to the troops, and at times under destructive attack from enemies.
The material I have read does not throw much light on how they were able to coordinate things. How were they able to make sure that enough bolts of the right size turned up at the right factory when they were needed. Remarkably it seems that such things were sorted out well enough just by people organizing to get and send the necessary information and supplies. They did put a great deal of effort into collecting statistics to enable sound decisions, and into research to improve production.
The extremely important point for us in all this is that their achievements demolish the claim that you have to leave the mass of decisions to the workings of the market or to centralized state bureaucracies. They seem to have shown decisively that rational planning carried out by citizens can run an economy at least well enough. Remember that in the coming era our economies will be far less complex than they are now, greatly simplified by the absence of growth, making the control of small and local economies more tractable.
Note that although they did these things without huge professional planning bureaucracies. They did plan and make rational decisions, based on the detailed statistics they continually collected. But apparently they could quickly see what needed doing and then make the necessary decisions and carry them out via grass-roots assemblies and elected managers. Compare that with our bureaucracies where if you are lucky you get a letter back in two months.
So there, we can do it! Ordinary people can run economies via participatory democracy, without states, capitalists, bureaucracies or authoritarian rule.
As I see it Anarchism defines political maturity. For thousands of years humans have tolerated rule by kings, tyrants, dictators, and politicians. Representative democracy does not allow people to govern themselves. They are treated as infantile and untrustworthy. The goal must be citizens taking responsibility for running their own collective affairs directly, with no one having power over anyone else, via highly participatory procedures. In his discussion of the way this was done by the Ancient Greeks, the Medieval and New England towns, Bookchin stresses the educational significance of this, its importance for the development of mature, thoughtful, caring and responsible citizens. When your fate and that of your town depends on whether or not you can help make good decisions in the assemblies you have a strong incentive to develop conscientious thoughtful and caring dispositions.
So it’s a bit more complicated that I have made it appear to be at the start. I misled you by saying that in Spain “ordinary people” achieved all those things. The key to the Anarchist success is to be found in the long history and powerful ideological traditions of the regions. For hundreds of years rural villages had functioned in highly collectivist ways. In addition Bakouknin’s Anarchist theory had been brought to Spain in the 1880s and had been widely influential. The movement had grown significantly in the decades before 1930, so when the opportunity came with the civil war large and sophisticated pre-existing forces sprang into action. Ideas, values land practices that had been in existence and rehearsed for a long time could be quickly put into operation.
The point is that the remarkable achievements of the Spanish Anarchists were made possible by extra-ordinary people. We will not be able to do these things unless the right ideas and values have been widely established. People in consumer-capitalist society are far from the necessary state. Governments cannot do it for them. They cannot develop the new local participatory economies, firstly because they can’t think in any other than centralised, top-down solutions, free markets and capitalist control. More importantly, the required economies of The Simpler Way will by definition be run by the citizens of the town or suburb. Only they can learn their way to the procedures for doing this that suit their local conditions. We cannot begin down that path until people in general see that it is the way to sustainable and just society, and eagerly seek to take that path because they can see that it will yield a much higher quality of life.
We are sadly very far from having anything like the necessary ideology and values among the passive, trivia-preoccupied consumers of late capitalist society. That defines the task before those who want to help solve global problems. We have to work very hard to build the required world view, values, and commitments, and there isn’t much time left to do it.
How do we do it?
In my view the Left has always been remarkably weak on the nature of ideology and how to liberate people from the dominant ideology of consumer-capitalist society. Here are brief notes on how I think we should try, given the global situation we are in. (For a more detailed discussion see.)
Again we are in a historically unique situation because after hundreds of years in which increasing wealth and abundance were taken for granted we are likely to rapidly enter an era of permanent and intense. Especially as petroleum dwindles, people will realise with a jolt that the old systems will fail to provide for us and that communities will have to organise local economies. This is already happening, most inspiringly within the Transition Towns movement. By far the most important step that can be taken by anyone who wants to save the planet, prevent global warming, eliminate Third World poverty, bring peace to the world, etc., is not to join a green party, buy a Prius, lobby against wood-chipping, or learn how to fire an AK47. It is to come and help us start building aspects of the new society, here and now, within the towns and suburbs where we live. This is not just because those are the alternatives that must eventually be built. More importantly it is because working there side by side with ordinary people will give us the best possible access to build the necessary critical global consciousness, that is, to get people to understand that the old systems cannot be made sustainable or just, that vast and radical change is needed, that free markets, growth, competition and acquisitiveness must be scrapped, and that there are far more satisfactory ways.
Dolgoff, S., Ed., (1990), The Anarchist collectives : workers’ self-management in the Spanish Revolution, 1936-1939 ,Montréal, Black Rose Books.
The headline in the Corriere della Sera, Friday 30 May 2008, was "A million empty houses; an unusual Spanish crisis".
Cement chokes Spain's economy. The Spanish growth rate at 2.2% was one of the "most envied" in Europe, where the Eurozone median was "only 1.7%".
Due, however, to land speculation, Spain has overshot demand. According to a study by the University of Barcelona, housing prices in major cities of Spain have collapsed to 20% less than in 2006. Spain is for the first time in the grip of the unusual problem of having more houses than it needs.
Source:Maria Luisa Cohen in Europe.
Two days ago we wrote about the collapse of the French housing market. Everyone knows about the US housing market collapse. How soon before the Australian one hits bottom?
The fact is that construction is very heavily dependent on oil and banks are very dependent on construction.
With peak oil prices this cannot go on.
History of Spanish Housing 'Market'.
(Source: Sheila Newman, "Land and housing prices, land-use planning and housing systems in Australia and elsewhere (pdf file); the impact of globalisation, the internet, trends in natural increase, households and immigration: Submission to the Productivity Inquiry on First Home Ownership", page 36.)
Even during the civil war Franco was concerned about social housing. In 1957 the position of Minister for housing was created and publicly funded housing went from 100,000 dwellings in 1957 to 397,000 in 1973. By 1970 64% of the Spanish were homeowners. The 1973 oil shock saw massive cutbacks in public and private sector construction but rationalisation of the industry and renovation of older stock has given Spain the highest rate of homeownership in Europe.
About 70% of the Spanish are homeowners. There are few real-estate agencies in Spain because notaries and solicitors handle most sales.
Debt and price hikes up to 85% in 8 years had not yet resulted in a slowing market activity in 2003. Demographic changes, structurally low real-estate taxes and the large proportion of homeowners had all contributed to the high prices. Similarly to Thatcher's Britain, public housing was sold off to individual purchasers, many of whom then resold, causing a speculative boom which coincided with the wider global housing bubble.
See also: French housing market collapses of 29 May 08, Sydney's housing crisis - a different view of 27 May 08, No right to housing in the USA - Americans start to revolt of 26 May 08, Homeless may now sue state in France & Europe: Test Case of 26 May 08, European Union condemns Spain over 'disastrous' over-building of 21 June 07, In Spain, Water Is a New Battleground in the New York Times of 3 Jun 08