It has to be acknowledged that never in Spain have ever we had a strong State, capable of serving the interests of the common good or the interests of all the people. Always, ever since the State arose in the territory of the Spanish Empire, it was for the private interests of a concrete social group. This might have been the ruling family or the elites of the nobility of the moment, including the group of winners of the Spanish war of the 20th century. After the death of the dictator, Spain had the opportunity to build a social State, one that would guarantee rights and liberty, held together around the Constitution of 1978. That State was constructed on the German model of a social State based on law, with a solid material basis that would guarantee social welfare and the exercise of democracy in its fullness. Nevertheless, this was cut short very quickly. The timid reforms of the early Socialist governments crashed headlong into the neoliberal wave that swept over Europe at the beginning of the 80s, by the hand of Reagan and Thatcher and the policies imposed by the European Union to which we were given admittance in 1986. We were granted access to and we were supplied with a very large amount of structured funds in order to create infrastructure. In exchange, we were obliged to take apart our industry and enable an economy which would be a subsidiary of Germany. Spain lost key industrial sectors, like those of building blast furnaces and shipbuilding. Instead, there was built a service economy, dependent on international tourism with very little value added and no capacity for creating a homegrown industrial network. Spain denied to itself the capability of being an industrial power alongside Germany, Great Britain and France.
In order to make matters worse, the elimination of a powerful industry was joined to the fever for privatization sponsored by the neoliberal pressure groups of the Socialist government and which culminated in the policies of Aznar. The profitable strategic enterprises of the State were handed over (one cannot even speak of it as a sale) to groups that were close to the center of power. In that way the State amputated its own economic capacity and the possibility of making public policy that would be for the interest of the whole population. This bit of nonsense created apoplexy when the emblematic Spanish energy company, Endesa, ended up in the hands of a public company belonging to the Italian state which is now the one who determines the energy policy for Spain, while the Spanish state, because of some unknown neoliberal complex, is stopped from owning companies unless they are running a deficit.
The amputation of the economic arm (for example, the State cannot by itself produce what it needs on the level of energy) is now joined by the semi-amputation of the fiscal arm. From the beginning of the decade of the 1980s, the maximum reach of the IRPF in Spain has fallen from almost 60% to 43%, along with the almost zero taxation of capital and fiscal subdividing used by the great companies of the IBEX, all of which had previously been public. All this is to say, Spain loses almost half of its fiscal income by the application of policies that only benefit the economic elites that have privatized businesses, lowered taxes and built an economy for profit that does not serve the general interests of the State, nor creates employment nor sustains the population. This situation of fiscal penury and incapability of formulating economic policies for the long-term makes us vulnerable when faced with situations of economic difficulty. So therefore, when a crisis comes, Spain pays for it with unemployment and more poverty, while Germany barely notices the difference in employment. Spain does not have, or more accurately it has had taken from it, the economic and fiscal tools that would allow it to build an economy that is less dependent on the economic cycle and on unforeseen circumstances such as the pandemic.
Nevertheless, there is a structural problem that is as important as the ones that we have just seen and that is the lack of a solid structure to the State. The application of the neoliberal policies of the last thirty years has led to the diminution of the public sector, both in the central administration and in those of the autonomous regions and the municipalities. Considering our population, Spain needs a functional structure of at least a million more public employees. We are seeing that in a way that becomes clearer every day now that we need a strong State muscle system in order to carry out millions in investments that will be coming to us from Europe in the next three years. We should be capable of planning for them and utilizing them so as not to lose them, but we don’t have the human structures sufficient to manage this money in such a short time. Nor do we have the capability of managing a pandemic, and much less a war, if that should be the case. Spain is looking like a failed state.
The dreadful application of Article VIII of the Constitution, with the famous “coffee for everyone”, has been used to advantage by each one in his own country estate in order to build a small kingdom where he can rock his followers to sleep and obtain fidelity from his political clientele. The privatization of public services, as well as the municipal ones, the administrative concessions and the subsidizing of private health services and private education with public funds has destroyed the little bit of power that the Spanish administration had on its different levels. The Spanish public administration [Trans.: prosecutor] seems to be a prisoner from which a pack of hounds is tearing pieces of meat until the whole is consumed. There is no national direction. There is no strategic policy. There does not exist a plan for the country that will make us stronger when faced with the challenges that we already have hanging over us. These challenges are as serious as the effects of climate change, the reduction in the availability of energy, the dependence on foreign sources to cover our basic necessities in the essential sectors of caring for the population, the planning for investment in science and research that allows us to take advantage of the human assets who have been formed in our country. There is an almost interminable list that tells us about the enormous areas of need that are not covered by the different governments in Spain, nor by that of the Autonomous Communities which had been previously greatly empowered by their policies.
Before there comes upon us another diversion of nature or the global problems carry our country ahead of them, we should conscientiously rethink things if we want to live like a great community that is host to all the people with whom we have shared history and culture for centuries. We should reconsider how we want to organize the State in function of the common good and the interest of all and what we ought to do to build a political reality that protects us from the dangers that are surely coming closer to us. Otherwise, the same hordes as always will wave the flags of hate and I don’t know if we will be able to avoid the horrendous fratricidal destiny of our country. In the end, the poet was right: will one of the two Spains freeze our hearts?
[Image by justraveling from Pixabay]