By Eddie Sanchez
The wave of arrests of mayors and institutional and business leaders this week indicate the extent of corruption in our country. This is not about isolated behaviour, corruption is linked to our economic and political system and its collapse reveals the stark reality of it.
We have a structural problem, related above all to the power and centrality to the system of the banking and financial sectors. Both are characterized by a predominance of unproductive rentiers who are typical of a business community that seeks to avoid the economic risk of competition in a global market, favouring instead control of the domestic market in closed economic sectors like real estate and tourism – at a time of economic expansion – and appropriation of public services through privatization – now there is a crisis.
This model rests on penetrating the country’s institutions in order to control public spending and mechanisms of political decision-making to ensure that all political and economic decisions are in the interests of the economic elite.
Pillage of public wealth
This model doesn’t generate wealth but has shaped a political-economic framework aimed at appropriating the wealth that has already been created, either in the form of job insecurity or mortgages (the pillage of wages), privatization (pillage of our public services), real estate speculation and exploiting our natural environment.
We are witnessing the looting of our country, due to the direct control this business and political elite has on our public resources. This economic model requires the control of concessions, the award of contracts, planning permission for construction, outsourcing, revolving doors, inside information, in short all the mechanisms of expropriation of what is not already available in the market for corporations.
And the perfect superstructure to allow this elite to reproduce itself is the bipartisanship of the two main parties, the socialists (PSOE) and Popular Party (PP).
This is only way that one can comprehend how in the midst of a national emergency like the one we are living through the PSOE leadership is hurrying to seal a “state pact” with the PP on democratic regeneration, or the government’s decision to “save” the socialist leader Pedro Sanchez [from rivals to its left] by parking a new electoral law that would allow mayors to be elected without attaining 50% of the vote.
The anti-corruption Operacion Punica highlights the structural model in a region [Madrid] where PP mayors are in the dock together with the socialists: José María Fraile, the mayor of the Madrid municipality of Parla, was until recently the ultimate exponent of socialism in the capital.
This illegitimate siphoning off of public funds to the Spanish property and financial capitalism is a powerful mechanism for generating political alliances, comprising the professions, state or private sector bureaucrats, the media, powerful elements in academia, business lobbies from the construction, food, and hospitality sectors, and, at the centre, the bank Caja Madrid acting as the economic lung. And including, unfortunately, the co-option of representatives of the political and trade union left, as we have seen with the scandal of the “black” credit cards.
During the real estate boom, Madrid and its surrounding areas was one of the top regions in the world for the accumulation of wealth, and it is this that explains the scale of corruption in the Spanish capital. But the crisis dealt a major blow to a model where economic growth lay in our ability to borrow, and where alliances were woven through the reliance of all these oligarchies and power blocs on the budgets that grew and grew to the explosive rhythm of the housing bubble. So we should not be surprised that in a country with six million unemployed and where there is no longer enough money to go round, we are now witnessing the most shameful cases of corruption and financial scandals.
Corruption is the system, and as there is no “boom” to fund it, so the resources to fund the model today derive from cuts and structural adjustment policies. This means that political change in Madrid cannot be tackled from the old two-party alternation, or from a purely electoral standpoint.
There is no time to lose, to play games, to doubt or to speculate. The transformational left must: first, act in the historical moment in which we live and understand that change can be thwarted by the fragmentation of the popular vote, a danger that must be avoided, hence the need for convergence; second, break with the old party system and move towards a new majority for change through the confluence of all the sectors that oppose austerity policies; and third, overcome the current lack of a program for government, which is the result, in my view, of an old political problem of left that stems from the temptation to sacrifice political depth for alleged electoral breadth.
And above all, we must keep in mind the importance of looming electoral appointments and deadlines. The priority is to win all municipalities in Madrid and in the region in elections that will be held by May next year, ahead of national elections in December 2015. If we fail in these coming local and regional electoral contests it will be impossible to win in our country, and so to carry out of the transformation Spain desperately needs.
Eddie Sanchez a researcher at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and general coordinator of Izquierda Unida in the Madrid region.
Translation/edit by Revolting Europe
NOTE: The most recent opinion polls (September 5-11) for the Madrid regional assembly put the PP in the lead with 42%, followed by Podemos at 18%, PSOE at 16%, UPyD at 7.7% and Izquierda Unida at 5%.