By Antonio Mora Plaza
In her initial comments after the collapse of the Socialist vote in the Galician and Basque regional elections on October 21, party spokesperson Elena Valencia talked of a ‘negative election cycle’ caused by the crisis and – I guess this is something – the [austerity] measures taken in May 2010 taken by former Socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Hopefully this is only a momentary view, because it is a total loss of vision, a monumental mistake. I believe the Socialists are still unaware of the mire in which they find themselves.
The Popular Party (PP) in Galicia saw its vote fall from 789,427 votes in 2009 to 653,934 (135,493 votes less, 17.2% drop); in the Basque Country the party went from 146,148 to 129,907 (16,241 votes less, an 11.1% drop). The Socialists in turn lost 230,817 votes in Galicia over previous elections (44% fall) and 106,173 votes in the Basque Country (33.4% fall). The PP’s loss of votes is very significant because it belies the idea that Galician citizens and especially the Basques approve of Rajoy’s management of the country (as the right-wing daily La Razon would have us believe ).
As for socialists, if there were any doubt about the cause of the loss of votes just consider the vote given to [the radical left-nationalist alliance] Alternativa Galega de Esquerda in Galicia, led by Manuel Xosé Beiras (200,101 votes). These are the votes lost in part by the Socialists, in part by the BNG [the nationalist party from where Beiras hails], which saw its vote fall from 270,712 to 145,389. Do not believe the reports by lazy – and right-wing – journalists who have been focusing on seats, not votes.
If the Socialists fail to understand these results, they run the danger of being excluded from government for a long time. And that would be a disaster for Spain. The PP is not only leading us to economic ruin with its reduction of public spending and thus, aggregate demand. It s leading us to a new dictatorship. A dictatorship through ballot box, it is true, but with the gradual destruction of the welfare state and the rule of law. In the 21st century we can no longer conceive of democracy as a mere electoral system like the USA. In Europe, either we move towards a consolidated democracy at least of a social democratic type, one that defends the welfare state, or we succumb, via other routes, to barbarism again.
The vaccination against Nazism, fascism and Franco is still working on the right-wing masses, but not for long. The temptation to seek to maintain privileges that right wing voters have, or think they have, at any cost, while respecting democracy, has an expiry date. The assault on democracy by Rajoy and his people has already begun, as happened after the arrival of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, which now has a government led by a man who didn’t stand for election. Same story in Greece.
Rajoy has begun the dismantling of the welfare state with measures against the systems of public health and education (with the help of the neo-Falangist Minister Wert), social services, cuts to the wages of public servants, with the new abortion law, the assault on the rule of law by appointing political commissars to state broadcaster RTVE, the stock market regulator CNMV, attacks on labour law, on divorce. In this new century, without a strong welfare state ensuring free access to a decent minimum for everyone, there is no democracy, only ‘choice’.
The task of the Left, especially the Socialists as they are for now the only alternative government, is to make the conversion to social democracy. I do not say reconverted, because the Socialists have never been a social democratic party in any coherent way. It is true that they bequeathed us undeniable advances in public health issues, social services, and to a lesser extent in education (the state still funds private, catholic schools!) But that is history now, and the advances made during the Socialist period were in any case insufficient. The direction we are heading now will see the share of public spending and spending on education and public health in particular returning to levels not seen since the pre-constitutional era [in the second half of the 1970s].
If Spain doesn’t change direction in economic policy, we will return to Social Aid [Franco’s harsh, ideologically catholic, fascist welfare system] and a tax system relying on revenues from [workers’] payroll taxes. And this against a backdrop where despite the crisis, both the number of rich people and their wealth has swollen.
The Socialists should recognize that the measures taken by [former prime minister Zapatero in May 2010 were a mistake because they started the cuts. Rajoy has amplified such measures with others from his own austerity sack (including a tax amnesty). These have failed to stimulate the economy, weakening it instead. Bond spreads are now on average higher, there are more unemployed and growth has decreased. Recognizing the mistake and being bold and open about this change of view will enable the Socialists to regain lost votes. The party is losing elections and seats not because the PP is riding a rising tide, but because the Socialists themselves are sinking.
The Socialists are hanging by a rope- half neoliberal, half neo-franquista – grasped by the PP, and until they cut it, the Socialists cannot hope to stay afloat. In the Basque country it is clear: a legislature that the socialists ruled with parliamentary support from the PP sunk because Socialists voters (those of the PSE in the Basque Country) hate anything that smells of, or comes from the PP. And rightly so, because this party reeks of Francoism.
Antonio Mora Plaza is an economist
nuevatribuna.es October 23 2012
Translated and edited by Revolting Europe