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Grupo Barbaria: No one is left behind?

Spanish territory. No one is left behind. These have been the words with which the PSOE and Podemos government has filled its mouth since March 14, 2020, a sad day to remember. Those together with the already well-known “victory morale”, to selflessly endure the rigors of confinement and the health and economic crisis for the benefit of “the social peace of our homeland”, because it is “our duty to our compatriots”: an untrustworthy phraseology, which pretends to emulate the language that inspired the great bellicose acts of the bourgeoisie, taking the lives of millions of workers all over the world, as they did before.

Originally published by Grupo Barbaria. Translated by Riot Turtle for Enough 14.

A phraseology empty of any content other than that of sustaining a system that is sinking at all costs, that is increasingly failing in more and more places, and, above all, that wants us to go down with it. Nine months have been enough to shatter those passionate promises, which in any case they already knew they could not fulfill. If it were only that disgusting bubble that has been destroyed, but along this painful path nearly 100,000 lives have also been destroyed in deplorable conditions, both during their time in hospitals (some official, others improvised) and after their death (like that horror in the Palacio de Hielo in Madrid), and thousands of proletarians have lost their jobs and have been forced to queue up in churches and food banks in order to have something to eat at the end of the day. The consequences of this crisis bring back a question to many people: where are all those loved ones with whom a year ago we celebrated these dates, without imagining what awaited us, but also, where is all the promised aid, all those millions of euros that were going to bring us out of the crisis so quickly, “in the form of a V”?

It is probably here where things are no longer as clear-cut as in those speeches, and we find ourselves with this confusing reality that has so much uncertainty in store for us in the coming years. The now well-known “Great Confinement” (as if we had suffered another one) has shaken the finances of the whole world and in Spain it has already caused the biggest recession since the Civil War. Despite this, the Spanish economy was already slowing its growth at the beginning of 2020, with GDP growth of 2% the previous year, compared to 2.6% in 2018 or 3.1% in 2017, this data being prior to the pandemic. What the period of confinement has done, therefore, has been to accelerate and deepen an economic crisis that was going to happen anyway. What has become clear is the economy’s need to keep moving in order to grow, even at the cost of our health. Evidence of this is that the first two weeks of the state of emergency (the only two in which a significant part of economic activity was paralyzed, properly speaking, together with the first nine days of April) were enough for the GDP to fall by 5.3% in the first quarter of the year, which was twice as much as in the first quarter of 2009, which was the worst quarter of the previous crisis.

It was then that the Government of Sánchez and Iglesias decided to bless the battered economy with an unprecedented rain of millions, as long as this recession did not translate into unemployment. So, neither short nor lazy, the dear administrators of our misery decided to mobilize 200,000 million euros in the form of public guarantees to boost bank credits, which in turn resulted in this attempt to patch up the economy and delay the inevitable, the temporary ERTE (1) layoffs, which reached 3.4 million workers in the month of April. If we add the 3 million unemployed prior to the pandemic, plus the 800,000 jobs that were destroyed without remedy in spite of the salves and concoctions of the economic doctors, we are left with a figure of more than 7 million people unemployed, which would be equivalent to an unemployment rate of 30%. From April 9, economic activity began to resume in steps, until June 21, when the state of emergency ended and the so-called “new normality” began, and with it economic activity at full capacity. However, despite the fact that the second quarter of the year saw only nine days of economic closure, the gradual reopening of the various sectors (the famous “de-escalation”) caused the GDP to fall by 17.9%, a fall which the Spanish economy experienced never before, and which was also the most serious among the euro countries.

The reopening during the summer of a key sector such as tourism, together with the reopening of the borders, led to an upturn in the economy at the same time as the contagions rebounded. In any case, and despite the euphoria, the rebound was insufficient, because although GDP rose by 16.4% in the third quarter (more than ever), reducing the annual decline to 9%, the truth is that tourism only performed at 10% of what it used to be in previous years. By the end of the summer we were in a second wave of the pandemic and the economic recovery was already showing signs of exhaustion, despite the juggling of the different administrations to find a balance between health and economy (which implicitly meant recognizing the contradiction between the two). The only possible balance for the bourgeoisie is the one we have been seeing throughout these nine months, a number of deaths they considered acceptable in exchange for an acceptable amount of wreckage. The function defines the organ and the function of the capitalist State, of whatever political color, is to favor and promote the accumulation of capital. Whatever the cost. Whoever falls. As always, our criticism stems from the antagonistic opposition to any government policy because all of them are located in the terrain of capital. What does seem important to us is to unveil the cynicism and lies of the government and its leftist sector in particular, Podemos, with its show of empty promises that cover up the brutal attacks of capital on our class.

Thus, in October the barrier of one million infected people was surpassed (according to official figures) and the Government declared a new state of emergency which will last until May, although this is a state of emergency different from the one declared in March, in which the main thing is to take “surgical measures” in each autonomous community so that the economy suffers as little as possible, keeping schools, universities and workplaces open, with the consequent congestions both in these places and in the public transport which millions of proletarians take every day to go to these places. That yes, a state of emergency that respects the night, which we know confuses us all, and that is why our bureaucrats decided to implement the “curfew” (or rather 17), that is, an hour at which we should all be at home as responsible citizens. Because, as we all know, the virus is more contagious at night, and particularly if we are doing any activity that is not directly related to the growth of the economy (Like such abject and detestable acts as meeting with our friends or seeing our relatives), so they have been fast when it comes to applying their best communication strategies, such as those sinister posters hanging on the façades of official buildings and on the bus shelters of the Madrid subway that say that we will give a fatal death to our elders for seeing our friends on days close to the most important dates for the economy (such as Christmas). In addition, to add forcefulness to their message, they spice up their campaign of pointing out the bad citizens with that ugly aesthetics that excites so much those who run the DGT (2) campaigns every summer.

With the new state of emergency, new restrictions were imposed, which, while in summer had been imposed on nightlife, this time they were imposed on the hotel and catering industry in general, as well as perimeter closures and confinements of certain areas. Meanwhile, the number of workers affected by temporary lay-offs of the ERTEs once again exceeded 750,000, which does not guarantee that they will be paid. The collapse of the social security system, which in most cases did not even pick up the phone, has been followed by the rise of mafias that sell appointments to request ERTE benefits, given that the waiting period can be up to six months, that is, a worker can spend half a year without receiving any income until the relevant authorities are willing to give him or her a few crumbs.

On the other hand, it must be taken into account that the economic disbursement does not pass for nothing for the State. At the end of December, the economy is expected to close the last quarter of the year with a new fall, which the Bank of Spain estimates to be close to 1%, which will be a new brake on its longed-for economic recovery in 2021, and this will mean that 2020 will finally close with a fall of between 11% and 12% of GDP. Furthermore, pandemic spending has meant that the public deficit has jumped to 11% from the 2.8% it was at in 2019, which in turn has caused public debt to rise to 120% from 95.5% the year before. The unemployment rate, which officially stands at around 16%, rises to 21.5% if we count those affected by the ERTEs, a part of whom will not return to their jobs when the benefit ends, which according to the latest news has been extended until March. Thus, the aid promised by the EU for the coming years, valued at 72,000 million euros, is insufficient in the face of the crisis that the State is suffering, and in particular to solve the boom in public guarantees that has taken place, in what seems to be a bubble by the book. GDP growth of 6% is expected for 2021, a far cry from the falls experienced this year, but the Government, displaying its usual optimism, raises this forecast to 7.2%, and ups the ante to 9.8%, including European aid.

And while they promise that they will be happy in the coming year, we, the workers, are expected a more than foreseeable wage freeze (in spite of the pathetic staging of the podemita [3] sector of the Government). The pension reform demanded by the EU in exchange for its aid will also be imposed on us, whereby contributions will be calculated on the basis of the last 35 years, and not on the basis of the last 25 years, and the retirement age will be raised, just as Zapatero’s socialist government did a decade ago. Not to mention the progressive privatization of the pension system and the more than possible implementation of the Austrian rucksack, i.e., the management by private entities of severance payments, which Sánchez has been trying since he entered the Government in 2018. In addition, taking into account the huge deficit of the Spanish economy, it seems quite likely that the PSOE-Podemos tandem will prepare further cuts to those public services of which they are so proud. As a remedy for unemployment, they are recycling an old proposal of the “former right wing” of Podemos, to reduce the working week to four days, in order to force employers to hire more workers. The Complutense professors (4) must not know what undeclared overtime is, or that no employer is going to pay the same salary for four days as if you worked five. And the profit rate is what rules in the real world of capital: the result of the proposal will be that the fewer days worked, the lower the salary received. Possibly that is why, according to a recent survey, almost 60% of workers oppose the measure, which would only serve to erode our already meager purchasing power. All these are the reasons why Sanchez rejoiced in his triumphant appearance on December 29th, since, after all, he is fulfilling his mission, which is none other than to save the economy at any cost.

All this and who knows what more awaits us workers in 2021. Misery, poverty and physical and psychological violence affecting millions of people around the world. Uncertainty and powerlessness in the face of so much misfortune and suffering. But this is temporary, and this calm that we are experiencing will soon become a huge gale, the hurricane of our class, of our needs, that regardless of its outcome will irremediably end with that “national unity” that is touted by the Government, and that will be a victory for our class. Because we only want to live in a humane way, and that will always lead us to the outburst against this world that every time dooms more and more people to misery, poverty and death. There will be no unionists blinded by seafood and cocaine who can guarantee “social peace” in the years to come. There are no possible pacts with this world, only the revolution will get us out of this quagmire, and that is something that more and more people all over the world are aware of every day, and that is where we have to work on. There will be no peace for our murderers! For a 2021 in flames!

Grupo Barbaria, December 31, 2021.

Notes

(1) ERTE: An agreement between Spanish trade unions and employers to extend temporary lay-off schemes known as Expedientes de Regulación Temporal de Empleo (ERTE).

(2) The Directorate-General for Traffic (Spanish: Dirección General de Tráfico, DGT) is the government department that is responsible for the Spanish road transport network. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directorate-General_for_Traffic

(3)Podemita is a term of recent creation (2014) in Spain and is as known to any member of the political party can. Some prefer to call them podemistas.

(4) Professors from Alcalá de Henares – a city in the autonomous Region of Madrid.


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