Spanish Voters Reject Austerity – by Stephen Lendman
Since mid-May, Spain’s M-15 movement began protesting for “Real Democracy Now,” drawing large numbers of students, activists, unemployed workers, and other “los indignados” (the outraged ones) on streets throughout the country, defying a ban ahead of May 22 municipal and regional elections.
Tens of thousands said “No nos moveran” (We shall not be moved), opposing government imposed austerity to repay bankers at their expense.
Experiencing its worse economic crisis in decades, official figures show around 45% of Spanish youths unemployed, a crisis affecting all workers facing worsening, not improving conditions, some of the worst in Europe.
In response to growing needs, Jose Luis Zapartero’s Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government proposed 5% or more public worker pay and pension cuts, halting cost of living adjustments, raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, ending payments for births or adopting children, and more ahead, including reforming labor protections and pensions, not stimulus when it’s most needed.
As a result, the populist “Real Democracy Now” manifesto states:
“We are ordinary people. We are like you: people who get up every morning to study, work or find a job, people who have family and friends. People who work hard every day to provide a better future for those around us,” calling for “an ethical revolution” for change.
The same crisis affects other countries throughout Europe, notably Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Latvia, Iceland, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, and elsewhere, what Michael Hudson calls a specter haunting Europe, showing no signs of letup under crushing debt burdens counterproductively dealt with by neoliberal austerity.
On May 22, Paul Krugman’s New York Times op-ed headlined, “When Austerity Fails,” saying:
For over a year, the European “pain caucus” insists “that sound money and balanced budgets” solve all problems when, in fact, austerity destroys jobs and private-sector confidence, “threaten(ing) to make Europe the flashpoint of a new financial crisis.”
As a result, “the confidence fairy hasn’t shown up.” It’s plunging, not rising. Greece, Ireland, Portugal and other nations can’t service their debts, and if one or more default, “financial dominoes” across Europe may fall because insisting banker interests come first is a diktat doomed to fail.
In the meantime, working households continue bearing the burden of bailing out banking giants responsible for the severest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
How? The usual IMF solution, involving preserving capital at workers’ expense – a package including wage and benefit cuts, less social spending, privatizing state resources, mass layoffs, deregulation, lower corporate taxes, maintaining debt service, and harsh crackdowns on resisters.
In the 1980s, it was Reaganomics, trickle down, and Thatcherism. Today it’s “shock therapy,” and forced austerity, the same scheme pitting capital against people – disposable workers tossed out for big money’s gain, bankers most of all. Michael Hudson calls it a:
“neoliberal experiment….to drastically change the laws and structure of how European society will function for the next generation. If (successful, they’ll) break up Europe, destroy the internal market, and render that continent a backwater.”
Calling it a “financial coup d’etat,” he said “bankers are demanding (and getting governments to) rebuild their loan reserves at labor’s expense,” Washington using the same ugly scheme.
Workers, of course, get hammered, spending cuts and high unemployment taking their toll. More are coming, assuring greater deprivation and anger on streets to protest and at polls, throwing out the bums for new ones, choosing the lesser of bad choices, assuring everything changes but stays the same.
On May 22, Spain held regional and municipal elections, New York Times writer Raphael Minder headlining, “Spain’s Government Party Suffers Heavy Losses,” saying:
Indignant voters said they’d “pursue their protests to force an overhaul of their country’s political system.”
Conceding defeat, Prime Minister Zapatero admitted hard times caused Spaniards serious problems, exacerbated, he omitted, by imposed neoliberal austerity.
Protesters with no party affiliation handed his ruling Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) a stunning defeat with less than 28% of the vote. Most benefitting was its main challenger, the right-wing Popular Party (PP) with 38%. According to one protester:
“The message has surely gone through to politicians that they can’t keep ignoring our frustrations and pretend that nothing has changed,” though it’s hard imagining how any favoring business will outperform others any more than Democrats do in America over Republicans, or the reverse.
To no surprise, Zapatero said earlier he won’t seek reelection, anticipating popular rejection, affecting most PSOE members, PP ones also offering little social relief. As a result, “los indignados” urged voters to boycott major parties, serving banks and other corporate favorites at their expense.
They also want permanent protests through nationwide popular assemblies until key demands are met, including “Real Democracy Now” and essential needs; namely: jobs, decent pay and benefits, healthcare, education, housing, less military spending, privatized state enterprises re-nationalized, and putting popular needs ahead of business.
Achieving those goals requires uncompromising struggles for change, a popular groundswell for what politicians reject. So far it’s absent everywhere, but can happen with enough commitment, an incentive for workers to act.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.