Monthly Archives: September 2011

From The Wires

There is a passage in Adam Phillips’s most recent book On Balance where he quotes Freud biographer Ernest Jones as observing that it is not the people we hate the most that we want to kill, but the people who arouse in us the most unbearable conflict. Thinking about its media campaign around its ‘crackdown’ on welfare fraud, is there not something similar happening here with the Irish Labour Party?

Historically, the Labour Party claimed, as did its ‘sister parties‘ across Europe (those parties that comprise the Socialist International, including until recently the parties of Zine El Abidine Ben-Ali and Hosni Mubarak, though there is no reason, given the Labour Party’s intense collaboration with Fine Gael, for openly right-wing parties such as the Partido Popular in Spain or the Christian Democratic Union to be refused some sort of honorary sibling status) to represent working class voters and to protect them from the depredations of big business interests.


Now, it collaborates in a government that oversees the transfer of billions of euro of public money (€1.5bn this week alone) -which could go to schools, hospitals, social welfare payments and public works schemes-  to wealthy investors. It has set up a scheme that uses the unemployed to subsidise employers with free labour and simultaneously drive down wages. When the ECB makes the demand for more cuts to wages and social welfare payments, the Labour Party announces it will introduce bio-metric ID cards for welfare claimants, who on losing their jobs will join a new disciplinary society in which they will all be treated as potential criminals.

In seeking some sort of egalitarian response to the economic crisis, Labour Party voters may have been looking for ‘a party of Government‘, as the party ceaselessly advertised itself. As those who find themselves on the dole through no fault of their own are starting to discover, what they got was a party of governmentality that comes down hardest on the people that reminds it most of what it is supposed to be.

‘A democracy, to be sure, with open and free elections, but far from governed in the interests of its people’ is how Conor McCabe assesses the picture of Ireland that emerges in light of the bank guarantee in Sins of The Father.

The contradictory character of this picture will intensify in the weeks and months ahead, as the government presses on with its intention to continue sating wealthy bondholders while cutting vital public jobs and services, selling off public assets, harrassing welfare claimants, undermining wages and working conditions, and dumping an even greater burden onto households through regressive taxation measures, all of which is precisely what the wealthiest and most protected sector of Irish society demands.

It will claim to do all this in the name of ‘our children’s future‘. Meanwhile, in the misleadingly-titled ‘Measuring Ireland’s Progress‘ report released yesterday by the CSO, 8.2% of children under 15 were in consistent poverty in 2009, up from 6.1% in 2008, a figure set to rise even further on account of the continued austerity drive of the current government. 

In his think-in speech, Eamon Gilmore spoke about the importance of looking to the Labour Party’s values, and named solidarity as one of these, when it came to casting away the ‘old manuals’ of social democratic government. His cabinet colleague Brendan Howlin recently gave a vivid illustration of the meaning of solidarity from the point of view of the Labour Party.

Nominated as ‘Business person of the month’ for July by Business and Finance, the magazine approvingly quoted Howlin on the value of solidarity:

We want to preserve the social solidarity that has been manifest in this process to date and not to have the discordant situation that you have in Greece, where people resist change that I’m afraid is inevitable.

There lies the true value of ‘solidarity’ for the government politician: a handy instrument for quelling dissent so that the robbery can continue unabated.

As this translated piece by Manuel Castells, originally published in La Vanguardia, shows, the Republic of Ireland is far from the only nominally democratic European country with a government that openly and willingly prioritises the interests of people whom Richard Drayton of Imperial College London, described in a talk earlier this year as ‘a nomadic global pirate class’. The options for the residents of this country, as with Spain, Greece and elsewhere, are either to capitulate, or to recover the real meaning of words such as solidarity and democracy through dissent, collective action, and new forms of participation and mobilisation.

A couple of notes on the translation:

Acampada has been left untranslated, because it has a specific historic sense in Spanish –especially in light of the setting up of camps during the 15-M mobilisations- that ‘camp’ in English does not convey.

A desalambrar means, literally, get rid of the wires. This is an allusion to the song of the same title, written by Uruguayan singer-songwriter Daniel Viglietti


but also sung by Victor Jara, the Chilean folk singer who was arrested, tortured and murdered when the US-backed forces of General Augusto Pinochet launched a coup against the government of Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.


Viglietti wrote the song in response to heavy repression of a demonstration by refrigeration and meat workers in Uruguay, in which pro-government forces tortured workers with estaqueo – using stakes driven into the ground to maintain the body of the victim in the form of an X- in working-class neighbourhoods.


The land referred to in the song is both the land used to torture the workers, and the ground for the demand for agrarian reform. A desalambrar in Viglietti’s song suggests the removal of any ties –whether physical in the form of fences or instruments of torture, or institutional, or mental- that may bind the exercise of freedom.

Citizens and markets

Manuel Castells


Zapatero will go down in history as the worst president of Spanish democracy to date (Aznar at least had ideological coherence). The pantomime of constitutional reform, treacherously perpetrated under cover of night by the two big parties acting in cahoots, affects the root of democracy and the autonomy of the State. It has been a decision imposed by Merkel and Sarkozy, resuming a proposal from the PP. It is reasoned that it was necessary in order to calm the distrust of the markets about the Spanish debt which could precipitate a crisis in European debt, in particular that of Italy, thereby sinking the Euro. To refloat Greece, Portugal and Spain is difficult. To save Spain from bankruptcy is unviable for German and French finances. Hence the pressure on the Spanish government, which some time back abandoned any pretence to economic sovereignty. All this in the name of prophecies about the behaviour of the markets, that supreme and mysterious power that must be appeased with human sacrifices: the cutbacks in social spending affect health, education and pensions, or in other words, life.

But who are the markets? Do you know any market personally? In reality one can put names and surnames to them: they are the investors (perhaps you yourself) represented by financial intermediaries. But what do these investors and their intermediaries want? Balanced budgets? The capacity to pay debts long term? All these are strategic calculations to get to another end, to what really motivates investment: hard profit in the short term. This is how financial firms operate, it is on this that shareholder dividends depend and, above all, the commissions and profits of financiers. And this short term profit is obtained through multiple means, among these through betting on changes in valuation on financial assets, including treasury bonds and foreign exchange. Therefore, for some, the devaluation of Spanish sovereign debt and the increase in risk premiums can be juicy business. It is precisely in a situation of financial turbulence that the big profits are made.

By contrast what the investors (called markets) take into account is the outlook for business in each economy. Because recession and a rise in unemployment are bad business for everyone. Precisely because of this, when in spring of 2010 Spain decreed austerity measures the ratings agency Fitch lowered the rating of our public debt. What will these investors stop at now, knowing that even if in the long term Spanish debt can be paid, in the short term the country has been parched of possible fiscal stimulus in a situation in which private investment cannot get out of the employment and demand crisis on its own? Economic slowdown is the darkest outlook for the markets.

And this is why on the same day that the yes-sirs of the Courts of the Kingdom voted to bind the hands and feet of the State by removing its capacity to acquire funds whenever the need arose, Spain’s sovereign debt-risk premium rose and stock markets of the world fell in reaction to the negative jobs data in the United States. In contrast, there was an upward reaction by the stock markets when the agreement was reached so that the United States could get into more debt. And they have sunk again after the IMF made the announcement about the possibility of the recession despite (or because of) the cutbacks. It is for these reasons that Spain and the euro can go to the wall, not because we got into debt.

It is not about saving the Spanish economy but rather of taking advantage of the crisis to tie the hands of the representatives of citizens in case they get the temptation to follow their voters instead of the markets as interpreted by Merkel, Sarkozy and all those who save their political hide in their own countries at the cost of other Europeans: a clear case of European (dis)Union.

And here we have the crux of the matter: in the name of the markets (whose judgment remains to be seen), a constitutional reform is imposed on the citizens, without consulting them and by taking advantage of a parliamentary majority that may dissolve in three months. And in so doing, it delegitimizes a Constitution of convenience, which is untouchable for some things and is manipulated in a few days to suit those politicians circumstantially in power. There would never, in this way, have been approval for the 1978 Constitution, which however imperfect it might be, allowed the organisation of a political coexistence based on an evolving consensus which has now been broken with no imperative need and without informing the citizens just why such urgency apart from the dark references to the perception of the markets. But the citizens have a right to make mistakes because that too is popular sovereignty. What they do not accept is the invocation of democracy as a source of legitimacy only to then act on such important matters by using the parliamentary bulldozer as though the country belonged to the politicians. The Icelandic example returns to mind: after months of social agitation a referendum on crisis policies brought about financial regulation, sacking and prosecution of politicians guilty for the crisis and to the non-payment of banking debt. And things were solved for people.

If there was already a deep crisis of legitimacy in Spanish democracy, a source of outrage that the great majority of the population shares, this shameful reform of the Constitution dynamites any credibility held by the politicians who voted for it. And in passing it makes things very difficult for Rubalcaba, who tried to save some respect for his party and for politics by extending bridges to the feelings of society. If the source of the Constitution is the markets, let the bankers call the shots directly. But if the citizens think that they are the constituents, perhaps they should re-found democracy peacefully and clean out the institutions of majoritarian parties who camp out in the Courts as if it were their ranch and we were their peons. Acampada versus acampada. Political cynicism against citizen hope. A desalambrar.


A desalambrar (Victor Jara)


I ask of those present

If they have never stopped to think

That this land belongs to us all

And not to whoever has the most


I ask if on the land

You have never thought to yourself

That if the hands are ours

Whatever they give us is ours


Tear it down, tear it down

The land is ours

Yours and his

Pedro’s and Maria’s

Juan’s and Jose’s


If my song should bother

Someone who happens to hear

I say he is a gringo

Or an owner of this country


Tear it down, tear it down

The land is ours

Yours and his

Pedro’s and Maria’s

Juan’s and Jose’s

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E Pluribus Unum?

This is an interesting short comment piece, translated below, by Isaac Rosa, originally published on Público, on relations between the 15-M movement and the main unions in Spain. There was a lot of (often quite uninformed) critical commentary from the far left in English speaking countries during the first flushes of the 15-M movement that the movement was apolitical and failed to appreciate the role of unions in society. Rosa’s article deals with the first joint demonstration –or rather, the first demonstration unions and the 15-M movement attended jointly- held in response to the reformazo – the introduction of a debt ceiling to the Spanish constitution, previously mentioned on this site. It is a bleak enough picture all the same.


The good news is that the main unions and the 15-M came out onto the streets together. The bad news is that they didn’t come together that much, and when they did it was to argue. And there is even worse news: very few people turned up to the demonstrations, both by comparison with other mobilisations and in relation to the magnitude of the motive for the protest.

The right wing press and the radio and TV debate programmes licked their lips at the images of confrontation, and repeated time and again the banners and shouts against the unions. Some, after trying to drag the 15-M through the mud, have momentarily rehabilitated it to use it for their favourite game: pouring petrol on the union member.

The result was somewhat bitter. Some of those will have lost the inclination to turn up to the next date, especially on the union side, since it is hardly appetising to be called a sell-out while you’re protesting. Others had to spend the demonstration moving from one pavement to the other, since they have a double militancy, belonging equally to their union and their neighbourhood assembly, they struggle in their workplace at the same time as they stop evictions or take to the streets, and I don’t suppose they liked what happened.

I am the first to have criticised time and again, from this column, those unions who indeed bear their part of the blame for the demobilisation of workers, for their continued strategy of making pacts, the lack of continuity after the general strike, and the incomprehensible agreement on pension reform.

That said, I also think that presently, and for a long time in the future, the 15-M does not have the capacity to take the place of unions when it comes to defending labour rights; and without them, without counting on their embedding in firms and their experience, 15-M cannot really seriously plan to call that strike that they have been threatening for months.

In sum: this is the moment to join forces, not to divide and engage in more confrontation. And each one must think what its priority is today, what it considers to be the gravest and urgent problem: the attitude of the unions –in which moreover, it scarcely needs to be said, there are many brave and determined people- or the attack against workers that we are suffering. I, without stopping being critical, am very clear on this, especially after seeing how in the demonstrations on Tuesday we were very few, and very poorly matched.

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Good Golly Bad Golly: Amidst The Wreckage of Malignant Ideology

How should we think about the newspaper columns of writers such as John Waters, Kevin Myers and Ian O’Doherty, as well as those of the Elders of Sindo (Harris, Dudley Edwards)? 


These columns are a regular fixture in the rhythm of journalistic production in Ireland, and they address roughly the same range of topics, with varying degrees of flourish and indignation. For the past ten years at least (i.e. as long as I have been reading these newspapers), there has been a consistent throughput of content that deals with (this is not an exhaustive list) threats to Western civilisation from barbarous Oriental practices that sweep all before it; left-liberals whose softness and weak-mindedness on a host of issues belies their hegemonic powers of censorship, thought control and legislative cunning; the feminisation or emasculation of society; congenital terrorists who like to party like it’s 1938, as it always is.

Gavan Titley recently wrote a superb exploration of the public role of such individuals, to which I have nothing to add.  But I would still like to address my long-cultivated exasperation at the grim regularity with which these pieces appear. I am mindful of the fact that part of their function is to elicit frustrated responses, so that the author can present herself or himself as the gaunt, heroic and embattled voice of reason, fighting off the hordes of hysterical reaction.

And so I’d like to move the focus away from the actual content toward the function fulfilled by that content in relation to the other content produced by the organ in which it appears.

This won’t be the most scientific of endeavours: both my sample size and my population will be 1. And I will be concerning myself simply with today’s Irish Times Comment and Analysis pages and John Waters’s column. To confound things further, as I’m in Spain and the local kiosk doesn’t sell the Irish Times and I don’t subscribe to the e-paper, I can’t see how Waters’s column is positioned in relation to the other columns, which in and of itself can intimate how much importance ought to be accorded to the column.

There are other things too that I can’t see: for example, the colour and font size of the byline. A little while back I had a piece published in the Irish Times and when I read the paper and saw my name printed in big block capitals I instantly thought “shit, I didn’t realise I was that important.”

In sum, when reading a newspaper, there are lots extra-textual factors that affect the way we perceive a particular column, beyond that column’s actual content. Our disposition when reading John Waters is affected by the way we read the other columns, or the headlines of the other columns. Similarly, how we read the other columns is affected by the way we read John Waters. I say this based on the assumption that your powers of perception do not allow you to seal off completely from memory what you had been reading two minutes previous.

So there is the experience of reading the newspaper, and reading the John Waters column is part of that experience. Unless, that is, you are not reading the John Waters column in the newspaper at all. You may very well be reading it from a link sent to you by someone else. And in this case how you read it may be prefigured by a sarcastic comment, or even by the tacit suggestion that there is something in the column that is worth looking for, whether heinous or marvellous.

But for the moment I would like to concentrate on the matter of the John Waters column relation to other columns in today’s paper, since it is the fact that the column is published in the Irish Times, and not on that makes it an object of interest.

We know the Irish Times is read by people with access to positions of influence and power (the US Embassy, for instance, considers it ‘the paper of record’, as shown in Wikileaks cables) and this affords its content a certain weightiness, regardless of the actual reliability of any particular article. So here is how today’s Comment web page layout looks.


And as we peruse the content, we find:

  • A leader column with the tried and tested mixture of sympathy for people who are the victims of a patent injustice on the one hand, and world-weary circumspection about the prospects for a satisfactory resolution on the other. To be more specific – the denunciation of the manner in which the Talk Talk workers were dismissed, but an identification with the legitimate authority firm that conducted the dismissal (in that they attach value to the claim made by Talk Talk that the workers had shown ‘huge dedication and care’) and pat insistence on the continued need for improvement of ‘competitiveness’ and the ‘removal of red tape’. Unencumbered by the need to be more specific, the latter measures boil down to a) driving wages down further; b) reducing business running costs respectively. That is, the solution to the problem of a firm that zealously drove down business costs with scant regard for the welfare of its employees is the driving down of business costs. And yet it laments ‘the absence of common cause and a broad sense of purpose’.  
  • A second leader on the plane crash in Russia that killed 36 people. The crash is portrayed as the consequence of disastrous policies affecting Russia’s ‘once-mighty’ industry, and the author lays the blame for this, and the crumbling of public infrastructure, at the feet of Vladimir Putin. Precisely when Russia’s industry was mighty, and what has changed in terms of political economy since, is devoted no attention. Rather, Putin the cronyist securocrat is the sole depository of blame. As ever with these foreign dispatches, the piece is pitched to an Archimedean reader who does not live in any particular country. Whilst there may be comparisons and contrasts to be drawn, in terms of cronyism, lack of investment in public infrastructure, a failure to diversify the economy, and so on, between Ireland and Russia, this leader column is neither the time nor the place.
  • An opinion piece by a man whose experience of witnessing a sex attack and the subsequent court case has allowed him to conclude that sometimes court cases take too long, that perhaps the court sittings could be extended, that an accused person’s prior record should not be revealed in a court case, that there should be adequate victim support, and that ‘faith’ in the jury system works. ‘Strange as it might sound, some decisions are too important to leave to the experts’, concludes the professor of criminology at University College Dublin.
  • A disturbing testimony from a person who attempted suicide ‘some months ago’ who recounts difficulties with friends, health professionals and employer because she or he suffers from depression. ‘Crucially, I love my employers as a family,’ writes the author, who despite the fact that ‘employer has done and said since my absence has been illegal’ has ‘no interest in shaming those I work tirelessly for. Their interests are still inextricably entwined with my own.’ The author writes in order to raise awareness of suicide in Ireland ‘because we can’t afford it. Every day a company loses a valuable employee and every day a family loses one they love’, as though the two were somehow commensurate.

This is the content in the ‘left-liberal’ newspaper (Waters’s description) in direct proximity to Waters’s piece on how black people complaining to the police about racist symbols outside their home, along with ‘left-leaning’ people’s adherence to the ‘malignant ideology’ of ‘political correctness’ are contributing to the fall of Western Civilisation.

A quick run-down of what we have seen: identification with the priorities of firms in tackling the problem of unemployment even when the inciting event that led to the article getting written was a firm ruthlessly pursuing its own priorities; the treatment of Russian industrial decay as the fault of the cronyist policies of one man, as though the Soviet Union did not exist and as though none of this had any particular relevance to Ireland; a conclusion by an expert that the justice system works well on the whole; a personal account of troubles caused by the illegal activity of an employer with regard to an employee’s mental illness that refuses to blame the employer and views the employer as though it were family. Interestingly, none of the articles on the comment page today contains any critical treatment of the actions of any Irish politician.

What we see when reading through the content of the other pieces is a total absence of critical systematic questioning, whether in terms of political economy, power relations or social justice. Rather, the employer, the government, the legislature and the great man of history (or its inverse, in the case of Putin) are the fairly sturdy pillars on which the reader’s conception of society and everyday life –and crucially, the opinions that other people appear to hold on these questions- is built.

It is from amidst this wreckage that the would-be iconoclasm of John Waters comes to take centre stage, the gaunt prophet raising aloft his mighty staff to strike down that vile and dangerous beast: ‘the anti-golliwog lobby’.


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Run Social Democrats, Run

Though currently in Spain, I did catch Eamon Gilmore’s grim speech in his party’s parliamentary away-day. In it, Gilmore restated his party’s ‘social democratic’ character whilst underlining the fact that any sort of reference established social democratic practice was irrelevant.

If Ireland is to be the first country to emerge successfully from an IMF programme, then the present Irish Government will be the first Government in Europe to achieve that, and Labour will be the first social democratic party in Europe with responsibility for achieving that goal.

In these circumstances, we cannot fall back automatically on prescriptions from the past. There is no old manual of social democratic Government that applies here. What matters now is what works. And that will bring us to decisions that, though necessary, are outside the comfort zone of old ideas.


There is no ‘off-the-shelf’ formula that we can apply. No previous Irish Government has faced similar circumstances. The Labour Party hasn’t done so, nor have our sister parties in Europe. We are pioneers in a new place.

Are ‘we’ indeed?

Here is a piece by Juan Carlos Monedero, published the other day in Público. It is about the PSOE, a social democratic party, now led by Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, after Zapatero indicated he would not seek to lead the party into the forthcoming elections on 20th of November (aka 20-N; the anniversary of Franco’s death).


The PSOE is on the whole considerably more progressive than the Irish Labour Party, but it too has proven itself the faithful servant of the demands of ‘the markets’, the ECB and the IMF in recent years.

Most recently, it has connived with the Partido Popular (the direct heirs of Francoist rule in Spain, and present European Parliament stablemates of Fine Gael) to introduce debt ceiling legislation into the Spanish constitution, at the behest of the big European powers, via a parliamentary vote. This despite the fact that the Spanish constitution had been hitherto considered a quasi-sacred document.

Protests have already taken place throughout Spain against what is being called the reformazo, which effectively enshrines neo-liberal rule in the Spanish constitution.


Ireland will soon be required to implement debt ceiling legislation. Like his Spanish counterparts in the Partido Popular, Enda Kenny has already declared his support for such legislation.

In the event of such legislation coming to light, do you think the Labour Party -that quickly vaulted the ‘red line’ issue of the JLCs, that oversaw the introduction of JobBridge whereby the state would pay companies to use unpaid labour, that is fully behind the introduction of additional regressive taxation measures to the benefit of the wealthy- would oppose it?

As Monedero’s article illustrates, the posturing of the PSOE is eerily though not unsurprisingly similar to that of Gilmore’s Labour.


Run, Rubalcaba, Run

“Walk or sit, but don’t wobble’

-Yunmen Wenyan 

Signs to confuse

At a crossroads, a wrong step will take you miles away from the original destination.

Who said that the times are simple? Gangs of professional tricksters have for some time been changing the direction of the arrows, the names of the towns, the distance left to travel for the place you’re headed. They have invented new, difficult to interpret signs which, like in pretentious bars, fail to make clear which bathroom is the ladies and which is the gents. Signals that cancel thought. Signs that are nothing more than the moribund system’s self-help manual. Signs that mark the way with symbolic ferocity whilst at the the same time doing all that is possible to make you think that it is your freedom doing the choosing. If you happened to look back for a moment, you would feel that you are getting further and further away. Run, Rubalcaba, run.

Lowering taxes on the rich, the signs say, is a left-wing move. So too would be to move from direct taxation -where the person who has most pays most- to indirect taxes, such as VAT, which treats everyone as though they were the same. They consign once more to the rubbish bin of history those thinkers who saw things clearly when everything was less confused.


Marx, they repeat, is dead, as they tramp down with their heel the earth where he lies buried two metres below. As for the rest, they don’t even remember their names. To fill in the void, they shout out with determination, keeping their nostalgia for their days as sticking-plastered soixante-huitards on the inside, that they are neither from here nor there, whilst they stroke a cat of uncertain colour that only catches coloured mice.

Convince with theory, strike down with practice

The masters of confusion have forgotten the difference between theory and practice, and they shout out convinced that the market is left-wing because it guarantees competitiveness. Without blushing they claim once again that the law is made to protect the weak from the strong (as if Pashukanis had not been murdered by Stalin for saying the opposite). They also dare to mumble that labour contracts are free agreements between free citizens, as if capitalism were that dream of small property owners as thought up by certain liberals of the 19th century. The same ones who were frightened by the strength of socialism. They get us arguing about theory and not practice, and they forget that this will merely leave us concerned with interpreting the world whilst others continue to take charge, with the rigour of soldier ants, of transforming it.

That strange Michelin guide to left wing thought says -whilst a Minister for Labour tries not to move a muscle on his face even if it means his face goes numb- that it is better to be employed than unemployed. Subsequent steps without getting into ontological landslides are served up: “isn’t it better to get paid something than to get paid nothing?” “Which do you want, a job or a contract?” “Isn’t it better to be a slave and eat than to be unemployed and die of hunger? “OK, so your boss has taken ownership of parts of your body that aren’t written down anywhere and he’s telling you to be affectionate, but maybe you’d prefer to be at home twiddling your thumbs?” Thought has to adapt to circumstances. Run Rubalcaba, run.

And forgive us our trespasses since you will not forgive us our debts

These bearers of ad hoc signs say that getting into debt is bad, which is at the level of the bully who after beating up his victim and breaking her bones gives her a sermon saying that she needs to look after herself because ill health can adversely effect life’s normal course of development. These new seekers of their own benefit have learned a word that they repeat as a mantra (adanismo [literally, ‘Adamism”, denoting the activity of wanting to return to first principles – R]) to reproach those who look on with an expression of surprise, telling them not to fool themselves by wanting to start from zero because we do not come from nothing. Heaven forbid that someone should say to them: if I can’t breathe with these rules of the game, I want to start a new scene from scratch. After a while, they make claims again and again as if we did come from nothing, by forgetting that the indebtedness of our systems -turning money into photocopies of money with a supposed guarantee of states which, it has always been said, never go bankrupt- was the way of steering clear of the socialist pretensions of the workers who had defeated the right wing in the Second World War. That public indebtedness was then completed with private indebtedness.

Both the lubricant of the system and the horizon of happiness was to consume, consume and consume, something that was impossible with the real decline in wages. That was not a problem: the same people who got rich paying less for labour loaned to workers the money they needed to buy their own commodities from them. The same people who, not knowing what to do with so much money, put it into bubbles that always end up bursting, dragging with them the dupes who believed that they could play in the same league as the powerful. Popular capitalism they called it. One of its greatest tricks was pulled off when they made the home -the cave where we live our lives- the latest business craze. Spellbound by the artificial increase in the price of houses -as if selling ones own did not necessarily entail looking for another- we fell into madness. Those who started off the spiral went about calmly: the State would always take over the debts. But, as always, they stretched the string until they said it was broken (let no-one believe that there is an objective rate of string breaking). There could be money for wars, bank bailouts, salaries of top executives, monumental works contracted to construction industry friends, tax cuts, acts of Church for people who had the capacity to hold dialogue with the powers that be. For the broad mass of people, on the other hand, it is time for some truth. Not all of us fit in the lifeboats. There is a new business model to be built and there are too many people. The political parties decided a while ago which side they were on. Run Rubalcaba, run.

Tarantino Socialism (Constitution and Europe, bululú and death)

The constitutionalising of the debt ceiling does not seem to have affected the risk rating. Or does anyone believe that when “the markets” know they can rob you of your wallet that they are going to give you something in return. In this race, the killer who has an inkling of doubt -to say nothing of honesty- will be unmercifully executed by the other members of the cartel. The logic works, as Karl Polanyi said, like a satanic mill. Did we have to forget about these things too? OK: don’t celebrate Marx, but read him. The circuit “I sell my commodity, I obtain money, I buy another commodity that I need” satisfies social utilities. On the other hand, the circuit inherent in capitalism: “I put my money in, I sell a commodity, I get money back, but more of it” -which is what the banks do with the commodity of “money” -is an end in itself. And if that end is broken, you break up precisely that mafioso game they devote themselves to. In this logic, there is no alternative. Like in the adolescent joke, after asking you whether you prefer bululú or death, when they have finished enjoying themselves with bululú they kill you. Our democracy has become a Tarantino film. What is social democracy doing headed in that direction?

Congress voted on the constitutional reform. Which a few months back was impossible because we were not mature. In the Spanish parliament dissidents did not even reach 10%. 10% of deputies who connect with these citizens that are on the verge of ripping up the signs that lead them to the brink. Who is right? Those who still see a big wall and a mild crack, or those who know that the crack marks a trend? Those in the PSOE and PP think they are the ones who understand the country well. The remnants of sociological francoism still maintained by our culture render difficult any discussion that concerns a Constitution or that contradicts something that comes from Europe. Europe and the Constitution were the dreams during the nightmare of Francoism. That is why the right was always against the Constitution and against Europe. Is it not suspicious that these are now their main weapons?

The grand coalition of the PSOE and the PP (what the baron says goes)

The study of the behaviour of the PSOE in the current crisis points towards the creation of a real or formal grand coalition after the 20-N elections. If the pressure of the markets has suspended democracy by justifying decisions for which popular sovereignty has not been consulted, the new attacks -which are inevitably around the corner- will give way to the suspension of ideological differences (and, one fears, of their very expression). As Maurice Duverger said over half a century ago, a deputy of the left is closer to a deputy of the right than to their own base. To defend the system, even by paying the price of five million unemployed, of the loss of basic labour rights, of hundreds of thousands of people evicted, of the greater difficulty to obtain a pension, of more than a million homes without an income, of greater problems to access health care or public education, of the elitist reconversion of the university, only shows that the main interest of the political caste is to defend its business model. That is, their job. The main objective of the deputies and senators of the Spanish parliament, apart from the honourable exceptions left by the electoral law- is to defend their place on the list of their respective parties. The loyalty is not to the Constitution -if they have to, they’ll change it-; it is not to the citizens -they see no need to consult them about anything-; it is not to the workers -they make their working conditions more and more difficult-. Their loyalty is to those who guarantee them their job.

In the PSOE there was a mild dissidence when Zapatero announced the plan for the constitutional reform. But the area delegates came -territorial barons they’re called- and the discussion ended. All fell into line like an army of soldiers who had banished the fatal urge to think. Pure internal democracy. “Political parties”-says the Constitution of 1978 in article 6- express political pluralism, agree on the formation and manifestation of the popular will and are a fundamental instrument for political participation. Their creation and the exercise of their activity are free in accordance with the Constitution and the Law. Their internal structure and functioning must be democratic”. But what the baron says goes.

From the 15-M to 20-N: new faces sought for the Parliament (shameless self-promoters need not apply)

Four deputies in the Icelandic Parliament were essential to put the Prime Minister in the dock, to give parliamentary support to the popular refusal to pay an illegitimate debt, to promote a constitutional reform from top to bottom. 35 deputies in the current Congress of Deputies, 26 senators, would have been enough to give back the responsiblity that corresponds to the citizens in a democracy via referendum.

The 15-M, that citizens’ drive that has confronted the tired Spanish democracy, needs to restore its own drive. Three battles, which have taken a lot out of it, force it to do so. The battle against Vatican hypocrisy (this country, in the course of its history, has never resisted a fight against the church). The recent battle against the constitutional reform (where the citizens cannot be won over by resorting to simplistic ideas such as saying that this Constitution is a legacy of Francoism or to try and say in a single slogan “Down with Capital, down with the Constituion!). And the battle against the tiredness of a permanent mobilisation that cannot be maintained and which threatens to present the movement to those who have the greatest possibility of perservering, especially if these are small numbers. Among the new challenges ahead for the 15-M, the elections call on it. It is true that it needs to learn to ‘organise its silence’, but also to speak like the new political interlocutor that it is. It has nothing to do with becoming an electoral option. The 15-M’s drive goes on far longer than that. But it needs to take terms of political office into account. If its example serves to translate its radical assembly- and consensus-based horizontal methodology into electoral spaces -without becoming part of them- it will demonstrate once again its capacity to move forward on a virtuous path. It is not so much a question of programmes -parties such as Izquierda Unida (United Left) largely coincide with their minimum consensus points- as ways of understanding political participation. And it is here that all the parties still have a lot to learn.

The worst legacy that the PSOE will leave.

We already know how where the PSOE is headed and where the PP is headed. Their challenge is nearing. The impetus that the “Rubalcaba effect” could have provided has been dissolved by the constitutional reform, where, once again, it remains clear that what unites them is greater than what separates them. This applies also to Zapatero, who has oscillated between a lack of courage to refuse to oversee reforms for which he was not elected, and forcing a constitutional reform guided by the sole interest of not closing his pathetic second legislature having dared to force the hand of the European Union. Let others tell the truth about the lie of the Europe that currently exists. They are more interested in their legacy than in service. Rajoy and Zapatero have already held negotiations. Rubalcaba has given his assent. And it doesn’t matter who wins. Whether formally or de facto, the grand coalition has been agreed. Social democracy will only live off the national-catholic excesses that the PP might commit. And the PP will live off recalling the excesses committed during the bad management of the PSOE. One out of ideology. The other, out of uselessness.

The attitude of the sole Izquierda Unida deputy, Gaspar Llamazares, has served to cast light on a corner of independence and honesty in Congress. The boos from the wooden fixtures that make up Parliament is a coherent sign for everyone: of those who dare and the cowards. We need Icelandic deputies in the Parliament. Dust is gathering in the corners.

The PSOE seems bent on always leaving a terrible inheritance after spending time in government: to leave a PP legitimised to do whatever it wants. There is practically no policy that has not been brought forward by the socialist government. The space remaining for social democracy is no longer ideological, but of mere administrative management. Will militants and socialist voters awake? Will the rest of the citizens say enough and make themselves heard as needed? An old phrase comes to mind, attributed to the Peronist and fishing friend of Felipe González, the IMF-eulogised Carlos Menem: “A year ago we were on the brink of the abyss. Today we have taken a step forward!”


Quick, quick, quick. Don’t stop. Run Rubalcaba, run.


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