The name of the thing
Translation of an article by Guillem Martínez, published in El País, 13th of July. Readers in Ireland may wish to bear in mind, while reading this article, the wording of what was voted for in the Fiscal Treaty referendum:
‘No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of the State under that Treaty or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by bodies competent under that Treaty from having the force of law in the State.’
That is, no rights in the Constitution can be appealed to when the government undertakes to enact laws or adopt measures in order to meet the Procrustean requirements of the European powers that entail, as Mario Draghi admitted, the end of the European social model.
The metaphor for what is happening is the one about the old women. The one about the old women: as of June, women over the age of 65, widows registered on the health medical of their husbands, go to the doctor and, bang, they find out that they don’t exist. They have been deleted from Social Security by the State and its pal, the Comunidad Autónoma (CA, autonomous region) of Catalonia. This fact requires various considerations. The first, in any case, is to give it a name. The act of making an old woman disappear is called a cutback by the State/CA. But the State and the CA, for a couple of years now, have been short on inspiration for stage names.
We have left behind that golden era in which the State could slip past, through a culture specialised in creating cohesion and ruling in its favour, using any alias. Let’s recall the Transition culture (CT) catchphrases “unity of all democrats”, “non-nationalism”, “seamless constitutionalism” with which the State could settle any argument and, simultaneously, close down newspapers, prohibit political parties, implement extreme policies and avoid having to give explanations. As of this morning, first thing, the governments of the mainland can’t make any of their neologisms slip past. Phrases like “express constitutional reform”, “credit under favourable conditions”, “fiscal pact”, “hazte bankero*” or “cutbacks” have not been able to prevent being replaced in a flash by, respectively, “bailout”, “yep, a bailout”, “nothing”, “crime of fraud”, and “end of the welfare State”. Given this, what is the one about the old women really called?
It is important to put a name on things. The one about the old women, and and other exclusions from universal health care, represent a breach of articles 9.3, 10, 13, 18.4, 43.1, 43.2, 86.1 of the Constitution, and an attack on the autonomy statutes of Andalucía, Aragón, Catalonia and the Basque Country (source: United Nations Association of Spain. The one about the old women, the one about health care, the one about the unemployed, the one about schools, the one about the labour law is, moreover, a contravention of article one of the Constitution. The one that goes and says that the State is ‘social and democratic State, subject to the rule of law’. ‘And’ -not ‘or’—; such that if the State ceases to be social, it also ceases to be democratic and subject to the rule of law. It entails the omission of article 9.2, one of the few gems in this rather unsexy Constitution, an article copied directly from the German Basic Law and the Italian Constitution of 1945, and which signifies the imbrication of welfare to the State. Welfare, thus, is not an economic surplus. It is a citizen right and a duty of the State. It is a conquest that has entailed more than 100 years of struggle in Europe, through which an agreement was reached that life is a biological fact, that you only live once and that there are fragile stages of life -childhood, old age and whenever a rainy day comes- that must be protected, that chance cannot be the only law, that we are not animals, nor is this the law of the jungle.
Since 2008 we have been bailing out the banking sector. Through money that is extracted from welfare, and via bailouts that will be paid for in welfare. The measures of the government do not seem to be orientated towards the resolution of any crisis, but rather to bring about, via the crisis, a major structural change. The one about the old women, the one about health, about education, about the unemployed, about workers…all the State counter-reforms conducted against the Constitution that we have been beaten over the head with for the past four decades, all these things have a name. Society ought to start to consider if the end of welfare we are experiencing is- and this is a potential name of the thing- a coup d’État. A violent change to the existing legal order. A crime. And, as such, something that renders the people and the governments carrying it out liable to be put on trial.
*’hazte bankero’: reference to advertising campaign for Bankia, the bank whose operations are at the centre of the current bailout proceedings. ‘Banquero’ in Spanish means banker. Thus ‘hazte bankero’ was an invitation to become a Bankia customer, but also a play on words: ‘become a banker’. Like below: