Now build a Left alternative to defeat cuts and repression
Here we publish a translation of an article posted by Izquierda Revolucionaria following the fall of the Rajoy government on 1 June 2018. More current material and analysis will follow…
It is over. The fall of Rajoy following a no confidence motion led by Pedro Sanchez, reflects above all, the depth of the crisis of the Spanish capitalist “regime of 1978”. It is a direct result of the massive social discontent throughout the state. Millions of workers, youth, women and pensioners feel a great sense of joy for having removed this reactionary and his corrupt party from the Presidency.
This victory must serve as a boost to the struggle for our rights. We must now struggle for the fall of the PP’s policies of cuts and repression, and defeat them in practice as soon as possible. There is only one way to achieve this: intensifying mass mobilisation and building a Left alternative which breaks with the logic of the system designed to defend the privileges of the powerful.
A negative outcome for the ruling class
The stage which has come to an end represents much more than the fall of a mediocre President with bloodthirsty cuts, countless corruption scandals and a brutal anti-democratic offensive under his belt. It represents the crisis of a whole regime.
The current government has lasted barely a year and a half, which has been full of frustration for the ruling class. When on 29 October 2016, after a re-run of the general elections, the ruling class carried out a coup d’etat within PSOE to guarantee Rajoy’s election as President, they hoped that things would begin to go their way again. What has happened is quite the contrary.
Political instability is worse now than then, and the crisis in Catalonia is still not resolved. In the fall of the PP, the Spanish ruling class is seeing one of the pillars of the stability of its system pass through its worst moment ever.
Even though no establihsment journalist wants to admit it, the ‘Gurtel’ corruption scandal only accelerated this process. The decisive factor in the fall of Rajoy can be found in the rise in social mobilisation, including the uprising of the Catalan people in October 2017, the great feminist strike on 8 March and crowned off by the rebellion of the pensioners.
These protest movements, which again have taken place outside of the control of the social democracy and main Trade Union apparatus - who were more concerned with providing oxygen for Rajoy – give a better measure of the mood in society than any parliamentary debate. The loss of legitimacy by the PP, despite all efforts to keep it afloat, was accelerated because of the millions of workers, women, pensioners and youth who believed none of the lies – first and foremost that of a false “recovery which only increased the wealth of the bosses and banks. In this context, the verdict of the Gurtel corruption trial was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The attitude of Rajoy
It is no secret that the PP is a corrupt political machine in the service of the ruling class. However, the National Criminal Court describing it as a “real and effective system of institutional corruption…”, and recognising that it has kept ilegitimate financial accounts since at least 1989, is unprecedented.
They have always tolerated the PP’s systematic corruption until now. But things have reached their limit. The fact that within one month we saw the resignation of Cifuentes (President of the Madrid regional government), the arrest of Eduardo Zaplana (former leading PP figure) and the verdict in the ‘Gurtel’ case, made the atmosphere unsustainable.
The severe sentences handed out, of no less than 351 years combined for 29 defendents, are striking when compared to previous cases of a similar nature. We must not be fooled by superficial appearances and look to understand the fundamentals of what is happening. The crisis of the regime of 1978, sharpened by the period of social rebellion which began with the ‘indignados’ movement in 2011, has been seen on many fronts. The loss of credibility of the monarchy and parliament, the decline of the two-party system and social democracy, the rise of Podemos etc. In terms of the “justice” system, its huge discrediting has exploded following the scandalous ‘wolfpack’ rape case, which provoked a level of social indignation with little precedent. With the sentence in the Gurtel case, they are trying to recover some of their lost credibility, but from the system’s point of view, the cure has only worsened the disease.
The ruling class did not wish for this scenario. They needed a strong government and have been working for some time to find a solution to the crisis of the PP. The support given to Albert Rivera and the right populist Ciudadanos (Cs) by big sections of the bosses and media, is part of this strategy. They have been working towards a manoeuvre similar to that which promoted Emmanuel Macron in France, in the midst of the discrediting of Gaullism and the social democracy, to try and resist the rise of social mobilisation and the crisis of capitalist institutions.
In editorials, commentary and analysis, the spokespeople of the economic and media powers called for early elections to build a new majority around Cs. They urged Rajoy to resign to allow for these elections. However, this is not what happened. Rajoy preferred to dig in and avoid a resignation that would be a public admission of guilt and boost Rivera’s party in immediate elections, accelerating the end of the PP. There are times when the immediate interests of the political apparatus of the capitalists d not coincide with the strategic needs of the capitalist class.
The leading circle of the PP opted to “win time” and engage in a confrontation with the new government based on even more incendiary Spanish nationalist demagoguery. As Rafael Hernando, PP spokesperson, said in parliament, PSOE is taking power “with the support of the friends of ETA and those who want to break up Spain”.
In any case, the crisis of the PP will not be resolved by this type of gesture. What is at stake is who holds the hegemony of the political right in Spain. Rajoy’s resignation is a logical part of a manoeuvre to try and “refound” the party publicly and stand in the next elections with a less toxic candidate.
There is no doubt that the tension and conflict between the PP and Ciudadanos will sharpen in the coming months. Ciudadanos has also not been strengthened by the no confidence vote. When its position for new elections didn’t prosper, they ended up voting in favour of the PP. The frustration on their faces was a reflection of their political impotence.
The Pedro Sanchez government and the tasks of the Left
The victory for the motion of no confidence and fall of Rajoy has provoked a feeling of relief and joy. This could not be any other way: the suffering which we have endured from this government has been tremendous. The elimination of rights, the inequality, the rise in political repression to levels unprecedented since the fall of the dictatorship and the Spanish nationalist offensive are too great not to celebrate the fall of such a repugnant government. This is the social pressure which is behind the parliamentary victory of Pedro Sanchez. This is also the only explanation for the vote by the PNV (right-wing Basque nationalists) and PDeCAT (right-wing Catalan nationalists for the motion.
We must try to develop a perspective for the Sanchez government. To begin to do so, we must start from what PSOE has done during the last year and a half of PP government. As we know, the PSOE “barons” handed power to Rajoy in parliament after launching a coup within PSOE to force the resignation of Pedro Sanchez as both general secretary and an MP. This coup, led by former leader Felipe Gonzalez and his acolytes, and in collaboration with the IBEX35 (list of Spain’s biggest companies) had the intention of producing political stability and guaranteeing the austerity plans of national and EU capitalism.
Since November 2016, PSOE has fulfilled this role, but at the cost of a sharp internal crisis and electoral decline. When Pedro Sanchez won the leadership primaries in May 2017, he awoke some illusions in the idea of a turn to the Left by PSOE. His victory was a triumph for the PSOE rank and file and a huge blow to its apparatus. However, this shift to the Left which so many hoped for, to fulfil Sanchez’s “no means no” message by showing tough opposition to the PP, never happened.
With Sanchez back in the leadership of PSOE, it remained part of a triple alliance which sustained Rajoy on all the key questions. An example of this was their refusal to support Podemos’ no confidence motion in Rajoy in May 2017, or when they supported the repression of democratic rights in Catalonia and gave the green light to article 155, giving legitimacy to the attacks on the independence movement and imprisonment of its leaders.
PSOE also justified the PP’s attacks on free speech and even proposed measures to tighten control on the social media. They took the same approach to cuts, evictions, sexism and the PP’s refusal to give justice to the victims of Francoism.
To guarantee victory in the motion of no confidence, Sanchez declared that he will govern on the basis of the budgets agreed by the PP and PNV, which included brutal cuts to health, education, investment and infrastructure. What can we expect from this? Nothing positive for the working class, pensioners, youth and women. He has also ruled out calling new elections. He claims to want to “normalise” relations with the Catalan government and lift article 155, though he continues to underline he will never support a legal referendum on independence.
PSOE has made us all accustomed to betraying its promises. However, on this occasion they are not even making promises, claiming only to have removed Rajoy in the “interests of democratic health”. In their short term calculations, they hope they can take advantage of the period before the next elections to position themselves as the champions of “stability” and that way recover some credit. But they will not have it easy: the PP and Cs will not let them breathe.
The defeat of the PP and the formation of a government led by Pedro Sanchez once again puts the emphasis on de leadership of Unidos Podemos (the electoral alliance of Podemos, Izquierda Unida and others). It was absolutely correct for them to vote in favour of the motion of no confidence in Rajoy. However this is one thing, quite another thing is giving PSOE a blank cheque.
There is no doubt that the fall of Rajoy has filled broad sections of the working class and youth with hope. This victory must now be complemented by a campaign of mobilisation to force Pedro Sanchez to satisfy those who have really made this victory possible, not to satisfy the IMF, big banks and the bosses.
Izquierda Revolucionaria calls on Pablo Iglesias and Alberto Garzon (leaders of Podemos and IU respectively) to move onto the offensive, demanding that PSOE takes effective measures: ending austerity, establishing a minimum pension of €1,100 per month, repeal the reactionary education and labour reforms, ban evictions and guarantee public housing, repeal the anti-democratic laws which curb free speech, fight against sexism in the justice system, recognise the right of self-determination for Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia, and free all political prisoners.
We hope we are mistaken, but it is more likely than not that Sanchez will do none of this and that millions will again gave their hopes frustrated. We must be prepared for this. The class struggle can have a big impact on electoral results and to put ourselves in the best position to fight the PP and Cs, we must base ourselves on the mobilisation of the working class, youth, feminist movement, pensioners, the people of Catalonia, united in the streets.
The leaders of Unidos Podemos have a great opportunity before them and must now seize it.