Spain, a testing ground
Greece, Portugal and Ireland have been the first countries to yield to the tight rules of this new Europe that, if François Hollande does not avoid it, moves in the opposite direction than that of its history’s evolution until the end of the Second World War. Those countries, despite their political importance within the context of a European Union that is splitting up, are not the economic size of Spain or Italy. They have therefore been the easiest deadweight to be let go. Their small influence has enabled the generation of a cynical consensus while they were abandoned to the speculative pressures of the markets or to the unsupportive impositions of a European Troika that, in exchange for their rescue, imposes Draconian conditions on their citizens. However, this Conservative wave has started a second stage that will affect our country and Italy in a way that will bring a radical change to the social, political and economic equilibriums that have framed our society at least during the last 40 years. The damage that is being made will have uncertain consequences, but none will be positive. We are a testing ground in a process, apparently inexorable, that wants to move back in time to the 19th century. That is very clear. It is not demagogical alarmism, but the sad acknowledgement that none of the measures that are being adopted or announced for the future tackle our country’s economic reactivation, quite the opposite. The Spanish Government itself, the governing party, and its parliamentary support recognise that the labour reform, neither decreed with any negotiation nor informing the social agents, will not be useful to create jobs neither to stimulate internal demand, nor to even improve our competitiveness. Far from this, Prime Minister Rajoy has confirmed the European Commission’s forecasts regarding Spain’s poor economic growth figures and warned about a record unemployment figure that will reach six million people out of work. So? Why this imperious need to approve measures that will not solve our country’s main problem? In fact it is only putting on paper and under the public spotlight the hidden and historical programme of the most conservative and –please allow me– anti-economic sectors of our country. They are profiting from the great opportunity that this economic crisis represents to push for a reform plan that will end with a model based on the Welfare State and balanced labour relations between business-owners and workers on which, without any doubt, our progress as a country over the last decades rests. Only under this perspective such a reform can be explained, which establishes almost free-will and costless lay offs, impedes worker’s health rights, individualises labour relations and thus terribly weakens Collective Negotiations, makes youth fragility chronic, and discriminates between the unemployed, as the business-owners will receive an economic bonus for half the unemployment grant the unemployed person had the right to receive or, in other words, those jobseekers who have ended their unemployment grant –honestly speaking- will have it very difficult in order to come back to the labour market in decent conditions. To sum up: some will order and others will only have to obey. This is the old will of the Spanish social and economic right-wing, despite this will represents breaking all the agreements, despite it means driving the country into an economic depression and ending with the welfare achieved up until now. However, bells are ringing in Italy and also in France. Therefore, we cannot rule out that this wave that in Spain wants to reach new milestones spreads through the rest of Europe at the speed allowed by information and communication technologies. If we are able to stop in Spain, and in Catalonia, the powerful who want to dismantle Europe’s dream, we will save ourselves from having to do it elsewhere. On March 29th, we the Catalan and Spanish workers will participate in the General Strike. And I fear this is only the start.
Josep Maria Àlvarez
Secretary General of the UGT de Catalunya