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Corruption: it’s not true, politicians are not all the same

By Manel García Biel

Generalizations are often not fair, but now seem to be fashionable on the issue of corruption. We often say “everyone is corrupt”, “all politicians are the same”, “they do not represent us.” Generalizations lead to us to put them all in the same boat, and this is neither true nor fair.

It is true that corruption is now one of the main problems of the country, and it is true that the attitude of the major parties Popular Party ( PP), Socialists (PSOE) and Convergència i Unió (CiU), the Catalan nationalists, are not as they should be.

There’s no doubt that the PP is becoming embroiled in a case of widespread corruption as a party, from Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Madrid, Barcenas, Nasseiro, etc, and that the attitude of its leaders merely nourishes this conviction. It is also true that in the case of CiU’s serious corruption problems resulting from the conviction of one who believed that Catalonia was his and numerous cases affecting the two coalition
parties in Convergència i Unió, and also prominent members of the nationalist federation.

It is also true that the PSOE had a case of corruption, Caso Filesa, and is now peppered with corruption cases in various parts of Spain, but it does not seem to affect the party in a generalised fashion. There have also been cases, as has happened in Catalonia, of corruption involving members of all three [main] parties.

Tarring all with the same brush

But tarring the whole political class with the brush of corruption penalizes many people, thousands and thousands of people, dedicated, honestly to politics.

If we look at our recent history, the transition to democracy, we see that there was a whole generation of people who fought for democracy leading a life of significant personal sacrifice and cost and without asking for compensation for doing so. Some would say that was another time and they were different people. Certainly those were different times but this attitude has continued and perpetuated in political formations, in the minority today, who continue the fight against corruption as one of their objectives.

When we talk about political corruption we cannot ignore the dominant social and economic model in our country. A society where for too long social recognition is linked to economic success, and where money and wealth have been the object of all social recognition. Politics and politicians are the result of social reality. How can you not see this in cases like Marbella mayor Gil y Gil, who was repeatedly elected with  absolute majorities. In these and other cases we must recognize the degree of culpability of the citizens themselves, as it was the time when much wealth was generated from property and these corrupt politicians permitted economic accumulation among many of their voters.

Certainly there are corrupt politicians and corrupt politics, but we should also take into account that if there are those who are corrupted it is because there are those who corrupt them, especially those in business and with economic power. Both are inseparable. The Palau case is not just about Millet and the CiU, it is also about Ferrovial although non-one blames them. Why did CiU defend the interests of motorway operators in Madrid? Because among them is Ferrovial, that afterwards made donations to Palau, from which Millet and through him the CiU federations’s CDC party benefitted.

Politics reflects society

Political corruption is a scourge resulting from corruption in the economy and society, and that is why we need regeneration. And to do this we need all of entire society, starting with the media, which also have a great responsibility in this current mess, to know how to differentiate between the corrupt and honest. It is possible that the latter are more prevalent in minority groups. And you may need to question the existing
majority bipartisan system that has allowed some parties to take over the State and regional governments.

It should be noted that [Catalan federation of the commuist-led United Left] ICV or all the parties [of which the largest is United Left] Plural Left parliamentary group are not much affected by corruption. And they are constantly making proposals against corruption and to improve the political system, but are ignored by the major parties, and within their ranks, as is the case of ICV, there are no cases of corruption.

Here’s some examples and counterexamples.Take the city of Sabadell where the first mayor in the democratic era, Antoni Farrés of the Catalan communist-led PSUC-ICV, was in post for 20 years, until he decided not to stand any more. Farrés was an example of honesty and policy coherence, something recognized by most of the population and that made people who didn’t share his political views vote for him. An illustrative anecdote was that of a businessman who offered him a bribe of millions of pesetas, and his immediate response was to present a judicial complaint. Farrés, who stood down 4 years ago, contrasts sharply with current mayor Bustos of the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) who is charged with corruption.

Tax evasion fostered by main parties

It is clear that corruption is now a political and social problem of particular importance. The  shadow economy and tax evaders are a widespread problem that the parties that have governed, PP-PSOE, CiU, have not only not combated, but  have fostered. The PP’s tax amnesty, the pardon given by the Socialist Zapatero government [in its very last days in November 2011], to Alfredo Saez, vice president of Santander Bank, or amnesties to other corrupt people, do nothing but sow a sense of complacency about corruption and empower those seeking impunity for corruption, a situation which is present in society and particularly affects the more privileged social strata.

In such a moment of deep crisis, when people are suffering and facing continuous cuts, corruption and the fight against all forms of it, against corrupt people and the corrupters should be one of the foundations for a radical economic and social regeneration that is becoming ever more urgent.

The renewal we need will not blame politicians and politics across the board, but regenerate and strengthen it, and this by departing from being clear on the difference between those who are and those who are not corrupt, and setting new standards of control and combating corruption, not only for politicians but for the whole society and especially for politicians and those with economic power.


January 27, 2013

Translated/edited by Revolting Europe

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Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or email [email protected]


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