On Saturday, the 4th of April, Pedro Sanchez renewed the state of emergency laws until the 26th of April, at the same time that he declared that all non-essential work could restart on the 12th of this month-When the pandemic is far from being under control, with almost 15 000 reported deaths and 130 000 reported infected, and with the public health system and public health staff completely overwhelmed and exhausted, the PSOE-Unidas Podemos government follows the demands of the economic oligarchy.
The facts are clear. A few days ago, Rafael Domenech, responsible for Spain economical analysis at BBVA research, demanded the “undertaking of massive testing in the population to see who is already immune to the virus, so that they are ready to go to work and restart the economy”. Ana Patricia Botín promptly followed with “we need to plan, as soon as possible or even sooner, the return to work of the younger people and those that are immune.”
Said and done. The coalition government, once again, has paid full attention to the demands of the banks and big companies, sentencing millions of working-class families to put their health on the line so a handful of parasites can fill their pockets and escape the crisis.
Does this have anything to do with left-wing politics or a “social shield” to protect the most vulnerable?
The bosses on the attack
The bosses are very happy with the measures undertaken by the government. The criticism by CEOE- the Spanish Business Association- against some of the aspects of the government handling of the crisis have only the objective of keeping the pressure up so they do not change course.
Beyond propaganda, the measures enacted by the Government- which have been enthusiastically supported and applauded by the bureaucratic union leadership of CCOO and UGT- have been very clear: to make 100 000 million euros , 10% of the Spanish State GDP, available for big banks and companies, a new public bailout of the finance sector that is even higher than the 2008 one. A barrage of “temporary lay-off contracts” (ERTE), written to suit the benefits of the big companies, which will not have to spend a single euro of their profits. Waiving the National Insurance payments of the big-business whilst the health crisis lasts...
A government who keeps saying loud and clear that they “will leave no-one behind” was not even able to actually forbid redundancies, nor to guarantee the right to housing, only a feeble moratorium in rents and mortgages, as well as only parting with a small crumb of 600 million euros to social services, whilst millions of workers are facing a catastrophe.
Not only that, but the big landowners in the Spanish state also have reasons to be happy. A bill was approved on the 7th of April which gives free reign for the precarious temporary hiring of the unemployed and of underage migrants. This “progressive” government will provide almost free labour to the big agrarian business owner, in conditions of labour. Worse, in the case of the migrants, their work and residency permit will be ceased at the end of the contract. Use and throw them away. Once well exploited in workdays lasting from sunrise to sun down, they will be “illegal” again and have to flee from the persecution of the “democratic” state apparatus.
With the excuse of feeding the people, savage and brutal abuses will take place whilst the food industry will line their pockets with gold. And all this with the approval of Unidas Podemos and the big unions.
Unidas Podemos whitewashes the Government procapitalist policy
Pablo Iglesias, Alberto Gárzon and all the leaders of Unidas Podemos have repeated ad nauseam that their objective in taking part of the Government was to push PSOE to the left and not to crumble under the pressure of the big economic groups. Nothing like that happened. The UP ministers- which claimed that they joined politics to end the ‘78 regime- are playing a pitiful role of accomplices, devoting all their efforts to whitewash the governments’ procapitalist policy.
Pablo Iglesias is the main character, and his role is to promote with fanfare- pretending these are amazing social policies- the miserable crumbs given to the workers. It was like this that he presented, on the 31st of March, the squalid package of “social” measures approved by the government: microcredits to face the costs of rents that were not suspended and that we need to keep paying, guaranteeing the income of the banks and the big letting and housing companies; a 440 euros subsidy for the unemployed which their contract was ceased after the 15th of March; a 6 month delay on evictions whenever there is no housing alternative, prohibition of energy, water and gas cuts whilst the state of emergency is in place.
Millions of workers have seen their wages drastically reduced overnight and what does the government offer? Microcredits (small loans). Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs and the Government wants them to survive on 440 euros a month. And what is going to happen to them when the state of emergency is lifted and they are still not able to pay for energy, water and gas? And when after 6 months they are still unemployed and unable to pay the rent?
If they really intended to provide a “social shield”, a left-wing government would enact an indefinite unemployment allowance of 1200 euros until the unemployed could find a dignified job, and it would finance this with a tax on the rich and nationalising the banks and the big monopolies. Why is it easy to devote 10% of the GDP to IBEX 35 (35 biggest companies on the stock exchange) and in turn it is impossible to dedicate similar resources to defend working-class families?
A remake of the Moncloa Pacts? No, we need to prepare the most overwhelming mobilisation against the bosses’ attacks
The results of this policy have been devastating: since the state of emergency was decreed, 900 000 jobs were destroyed, 302 365 people were made unemployed in March only, and at least 370 000 mass lay-offs (ERTEs) which affect more than 2.5 million workers.
With contraction of the labour market only in its beginning, when forecasts predict a 10% fall of the GDP, when we are in the waiting room of an international economic recession which, as shown by data, will be deeper and more brutal that the 2008 one, the PSOE-Unidas Podemos appeals to “national unity” and to the Transition spirit to “overcome difficulties”.
Pedro Sánchez has resorted to a patriotic tone in all his speeches, but on the 4th of April he gave another step by calling for a new instance of the Moncloa Pacts*. He has asked Vox, PP, Ciudadanos and all the parliamentary parties to commit to them, Pacts with which he hopes to confront the explosive social situation that will come after the pandemic.
The government has appealed to the “common sacrifice and effort to overcome these difficulties” for weeks. Common sacrifice and effort? Who is dying? Over whose shoulders will the brutal effects of the current economic recession fall on? The answer is clear: the working-class.
By using a new version of the Moncloa Pacts, they are attempting to tie the hands and feet of the working-class. The original Moncloa Pacts, where Felipe Gonzáles’ PSOE, Santiago Carrilo’s Spanish Communist Party (PCE) and the leaders of the big trade unions UGT and CCOO have allowed for the Francoist State apparatus to remain intact and the crimes of the dictatorship to go unpunished; which have enshrined Juan Carlos I monarchy; which kept the obscenely wealthy capitalists that acquired their fortune during the dictatorship safe and in control of the reigns of power; which also meant a tremendous loss of buying power and labour rights, and even more precarious working conditions; brutal and savage industrial restructurings, reduction of social subsidies and a limit on the right to strike. Those were the 1977 Moncloa Pacts, and its repetition now seeks exactly the same objectives: to support the ‘78 capitalist regime and crush social rebellion.
The Moncloa Pacts were able to come into existence because the labour organisations which defended them had leaders who had a recognised history of struggle against the dictatorship and, for that reason, wielded great authority amongst the workers.
Today, we have a very different story. This Government’s authority rests solely on the fact that the right-wing option is much worse for the masses. They have far less influence than the aforementioned ‘78 labour leaders, who lost it very quickly in the following years.
PSOE’s credibility, as well as people’s trust in it, has been weak and fragile for a long time. The same is happening to the influence and prestige of the UP leaders, which is fastly diminishing and will keep doing so at a greater rate if they keep following this path. Never before in history have the bureaucratic leaderships of CCOO and UGT, the two biggest trade unions, been so discredited. Any attempt to unload the burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of the working-class will be faced, sooner rather than later, with a ferocious response.
We need to firmly reject the “national unity” policy and this social pact with which they want to bound and gag us. We need to prepare, now, a massive and consequent social mobilisation, by raising an action plan and a programme that makes the capitalists pay for the crisis. But if something has been made clear by the experiences of the past years is that we need a combative left that does not buckle under the intolerable pressures of the big capitalists and resolutely and decisively fights for the transformation of society.
There is no time to lose. Join the Revolutionary Left!
* The Moncloa Pacts, the Pacts of the Transition, were the pacts made between the labour organisations (PSOE; PCE; CCO; UGT) and the francoist apparatus of the regime. These pacts allowed the francoist regime apparatus to remain intact, its butchers and pillars to have an amnesty and all of the capitalist basis that supported the francoist regime to remain in place and control the productive basis of the country. They are a betrayal of the working-class and had the main objective of staving off a revolutionary process that was happening in the Spanish State at the time