Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Resisting European austericide: Spain

Felipe González Márquez, a former Socialist Prime Minister of Spain, seems to be a bit befuddled by the surprisingly good showing of a new left grouping Podemos - I guess we could call it the "yes we can" party, but Podemos probably works just fine in English, too.

González referred to their winning five seats after only four months of existence as a party as a sign that a Venezuela-style Bolivarian Revolution "is becoming fashionable" in Spain. (González dice que la revolución bolivariana está "de moda" Público 27.05.2014) Since he seemed to be pretty clearly criticizing even his own party for having embraced austericide policies, he doesn't seem to have meant the ironic reference to Bolivarian Revolution in entirely disapproving terms.

The United States could clearly have done more in the way of countercyclical, stimulative policies to counter the slump of 2007-8, and still could and should.

But Paul Krugman and others rightly compare the US experience with the stimulus of 2009 favorably to the more strict austerian policies pursued in Europe and in the eurozone in particular. And that's what González was doing in his speech. He was pointing the actual US experience as a more positive and constructive approach than what the eurozone under German Chancellor Angela Merkel's direction has done. That was the context of his Bolivarian Revolution quip, that he wasn't suggesting that drastic a change, although such a thing "is becoming fashionable" as evidenced by the vote for the left.

One of the encouraging results of the EP elections this past weekend is that the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) is at least nominally recognizing that there is a problem with their neoliberal, pro-austerity position. A little more than nominally, perhaps. SPOE Secretary General Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba is stepping down from the top leadership position. More base-oriented social-democrats like Beatriz Talegón are interpreting his decision to ask for a special party conference to choose the new party leader as a move to substitute another adherent of the neoliberal gospel for himself.

In Se les terminó el chollo, se terminó nuestro silencio Foro Ético 28.05.2014, she notes with approval the electoral performance in last weekend's election of the left groups Ciutadans, Equo, Izquierda Unida and Podemos. But she also stresses that until the left - by which she seems to understand an SPOE that starts to reject neoliberalism - can unite behind a pro-Europe/anti-austerity message, they won't be able to change Spain's austerity course.

Critics of the neoliberal course of the PSOE use a term all-too-familiar to the Democratic Party base in the US, "bipartisanship" (bipartidismo). (El mejor análisis de las elecciones lo escribió Pérez Galdós hace más de un siglo Público Strambotic Blog 26.05.2014)

In the case of the PSOE and the Christian Democratic Partido Popular (PP), that means on the most critical and genuinely matter of economic policy, Merkel's austerity program, both the two major parties, center-right and center-left, have been in complete agreement in supporting it despite the obvious damage it is doing to millions of Spaniards.

The most promising development for Spain would be if the SPOE adopts a pro-Europe/anti-austerity program and is willing to unite with the left parties on the basis of such a program and commit to actively opposing Berlin's austerity program.

Last weekend's elections drastically diminished for the foreseeable future the already thin possibility that active resistance to austericide economic policies would come from the European Parliament. Now the most likely option would be for an individual country to resist demands from Merkel that they continue with ruinous austerity programs and be willing to push it to the point that Merkel would have to relent or push to kick them out of the eurozone.

Otherwise, countries like Spain are currently looking at depression into the indefinite future.

Krugman's post-EP-election blog post European Green Lanterns 05/26/2014 was grim:

Sitting in a room listening to EU officials reacting to the European Parliament elections — and it seems to me that they’re deep in denial. Barroso just declared that the euro had nothing to do with the crisis, that it was all failed policies at the national level; a few minutes ago he said that Europe’s real problem is a lack of political will.

This is quite amazing, in a really bad way.

Sorry, but depression-level slumps didn't happen in Europe before the coming of the euro. And we know very well what happened: first the creation of the euro encouraged massive capital flows to southern Europe, then the money dried up — and the absence of national currencies meant that the debtor countries had to go through an extremely painful process of deflation. How anyone could deny any role for the currency ...

And if there’s one thing Europe has, it’s political will. All across the southern tier, governments have dutifully imposed incredibly harsh austerity in the name of being good Europeans. [my emphasis]
That's why any country's resistance to Merkel's austericide would have to be determined and ready to push it to the point of forcing Merkel to start breaking up the currency zone before they can effectively push back austerity.

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