Normally, local elections in Spain are not big news. Compared with the desperate revolt against tyrants in the Arab world now being acted out on our TV-screens, it looks like small fries.
It is hardly big news if an opposition party makes some gains when a two-terms ruling party has manifestly failed to deal effectively with a major economic crisis, causing massive unemployment and general economic hardship to the people.
One peculiar local result merits attention. In Valencia, the Conservatives offered the voters a list of candidates where all ten in the top seats had been indicted before the elections in a court case, accused of major corruption (for defrauding the public, accepting bribes and falsifying accounts). The crooks won by a landslide. Our own Icelandic Conservatives could easily put up such a list of candidates. Would they win?
WHAT IS THE FUSS THEN? Well, it is not only that although the ruling party was justly punished, the opposition did not win by a landslide, far from it. Rather it is because a sizeable segment of society, the young, the poor and the excluded, didn’t vote at all.
WHY? A frontpage photo in El Pais says it all. A young man, standing by a protest sign in La Puerta del Sol in Madrid, where hundreds of thousands of people gathered before the elections to vent their frustration, wore a T-shirt with the following statement printed up front: JUVENTUD SIN FUTURO: SIN CASA, SIN CURRO, SIN PENSION—PERO SIN MIEDO (youth without future, without an apartment, without work, without pension—but without fear).
WHY VOTE—if you think it doesn’t matter at all? If you have no confidence in any of the political parties? After all, political parties are the basic instruments of a functioning democracy. But why vote, if you think the political parties are—behind different facades and slogans—all the same?
Well, then—democracy isn’t working—is it? And that is the plain truth and the main lesson of the Spanish elections: Democracy is in crisis. The neo-conservative ideology of the omnipotence of so called free markets has ruled the world for three decades, and has during its rule rendered democracy itself almost impotent. Why vote, if the financial elites that own this world have the power to dictate to politicians what is permissible, and what is not, for the state to do?
For the past thirty years, the neo-con ideology has ruled the world. Its basic postulates—omnipotence of the markets and impotence of the state—are simply incompatible with democracy. This ideology is in practice the political theory of plutocracy—the dictatorship of international capital.
The Economist recently published a survey on the super-rich and the rest of us. Here is their conclusion: The richest 10% control 83% of the world’s assets. Within the elite, the super-rich 80 thousand individuals or so (out of 7 billion humans on EARTH), control the vast majority of the world’s assets. Although 90% of the world’s adults share between them 17% of total wealth, more than 50% of humanity own nothing at all.
FINANCIAL WEALTH, as opposed to the income generated by the real economy, has during those thirty years grown to become more than ten times the world’s GDP. It is, incidentally, the same ratio as the Icelandic banks’ growth beyond our GDP! This vast wealth is controlled by a tiny international elite—although predominantly American. The neo-con ideology is about their rights to profits, to the exclusion of any state action to redistribute wealth. It excludes democracy. And it confronts social democracy, which is about equality. Why then not vote against the plutocracy?
The US originated international financial crisis was caused by the bottomless greed of this financial elite being let loose on the WORLD without the democratic state reining it in through legislation, regulation and supervision. When their avarice had pushed the financial system to the brink of bankruptcy, the state came to the rescue and bailed the bastards out on the presumption that the System had grown “too big to fail”.
Taxpayers had to pick up the bill. With too much debt in their accounts, many nation-states became dependent on “financial markets” to refinance their debt. Then the owners of capital insisted on risk surcharges on their interest, making the cost of debt-servicing unsustainable. Again, taxpayers have to pick up the bill. So the order of the day is this: Increase your taxation and cut your social expenditures. Money talks, as the Americans say. The “financial markets” have spoken. Why then vote?
THE WELFARE STATE is under a continuous onslaught by the forces of international capital, which are using state treasuries as a risk-safe object for their profiteering. The welfare state is the product of many decades of democratic action by people, who wanted to tame “the wild beast” of capitalism and create, through “people’s power”, a stable and just society.
Now all of this is being challenged by the forces of reaction. Is there a new generation ready to take up the challenge? That is what the young and excluded in la Puerta del Sol were groping for. But before they can hope for any success they must for sure learn one hard won lesson by heart: “Know thy enemy”!