Law And Disorder In Spain

By Don Quijones, a freelance writer and translator based in Barcelona, Spain and author of the blog Raging Bull-Shit. Originally posted at Testosterone Pit

As in so many Western countries these days, the social, political and economic landscapes in Spain are shifting at a startling rate. Despite having lost all moral legitimacy after being caught with its hands in virtually every cookie jar imaginable, Rajoy’s democratically elected government still enjoys an absolute majority in parliament. It also continues to run a system of rigid party discipline, and as such can push through pretty much any and every law that catches its fancy.

In the last two weeks alone it has announced one draft law and passed another that threaten to radically redraw the country’s system of law and order.

Act 1: Criminalising Dissent

The first of the two laws, the rather Orwellian sounding Protection of Public Safety law – redubbed by its opponents the “Gag Law” – contains 55 articles, many of which are geared at gaining greater control over street protests.

As El País recently reported (in English), the aim of the draft legislation is to “put a stop to practices that, despite the best efforts of the government, have not been deemed worthy of penal censure in the courts.” They include the act of gathering outside the seat of parliament or many other public buildings without the express permission of the authorities.

Those caught transgressing the new law could face an administrative fine of up to 30,000 euros. Shouting insults at police officers or taking photos of them as they go about their duty will incur similar such penalties.

The law will also enable the police to establish “security zones” to prevent congregations of people. Although the draft makes no specific reference, the measure is designed to stop escraches — the practice of protesting on the doorstep of politicians or business leaders — as well as spontaneous gatherings to prevent evictions, both of which have become popular forms of political protest and which the country’s supreme court has already deemed legal.

Perhaps most absurd of all, the government also seeks to sanction, with fines of up to 600,000 euros, all forms of insults demeaning Spain’s image. This, one assumes, would include burning Spanish flags — a popular practice in Catalonia and the Basque Country — or using offensive language on placards against the Spanish monarchy or the nation itself.

Naturally, the law has provoked a chorus of concern over civil liberties — though not nearly as much as it should have! Not only does it pose a huge threat to the basic rights of freedom of speech and congregation in Spain, it also threatens to intensely politicise the role of the police force as well as distract them from their more traditional crime-busting activities.

As a source of mine in the Catalonian police force, the Mossos D’Esquadra, told me, “the government has crossed a red line with this law. In effect, we are being required to strip the basic rights of the people we’re supposed to protect while at the same time focusing less and less of our resources on hunting down real criminals — pickpockets, burglars, drug traffickers, fraudsters — whose numbers just keep growing and growing.”

Act 2: Privatising the Police

With the ink still moist on the Protection of Public Safety draft law and the echoes of public indignation still reverberating, the government passed another raft of law and order legislation this week, this time aimed at massively expanding the scope of private sector provision of policing services.

Among other things, private security agencies will be able to:

  • Carry out, both in private and public spaces, all the necessary checks, searches and preventative measures to fulfill their duties.
  • Pursue and detain suspects, again both in private and public spaces, and hand them over for arrest to the responsible state authorities.
  • Police the perimeters of penitentiary centers and immigration detainment facilities, as well as other kinds of “public” buildings.
  • Go about their business under much greater judicial protection. For example, any aggressions security agents suffer during the course of duty will incur the same penalties as if they had been committed against agents of the state.

The new law merely confirms fears long held by Spanish police officers that the government seeks to transfer many of their responsibilities to the private sector. According to José Antonio Soriano, a police inspector in the Spanish region of Castellón, increasingly tight resources have lead to a general deterioration in public safety, a necessary pre-condition for justifying greater involvement of the private sector.

It is the perfect example of the age-old practice of problem-reaction-solution: First you create a problem (an overstretched, underresourced public police force), which then prompts a reaction (rising public dissatisfaction about the deterioration in law and order), which you then use to justify the exact same policies and measures you wanted to implement in the first place (the transferal of many essential public police functions to the private sector, thereby enriching certain well-placed companies and individuals — people who Soriano calls the government’s “amiguitos” [little friends]).

And in this manner, the concerted will of the rich and powerful quashes the growing needs of the poor and powerless, as Spain – and the world we inhabit – gradually takes on the form of a neo-feudal system of economic and political governance (a subject I have already touched upon here, here and here). It promises to be a world where might and money make right; where government exists merely to collect taxes and redistribute funds to banks and corporations; and where not only opportunities but also security and the protection of the law become the sole preserve of those who can afford them.

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67 comments

  1. Marco Menato

    I have just returned from Italy where the situation is rapidly descending into chaos. Institutions are losing control in spite of the tightest media-wrap I’ve yet come across. After demonstrations and clashes in dozens of locations last week, there is a march on Rome planned for Wednesday. The media constantly attempts to distract public attention with exhaustive coverage of political games-play, making the occasional reporting from the street seem surreal. The constitutional court’s decision 10 days ago that the electoral law is illegal has factually delegitimized 8 years of government, and its “elected” officials. Let’s see …

  2. D'oh!

    Bye, bye human rights, welcome neofeudalism – kleptocracy Spain already had. 2 years until next election. Only positive thing is that most of those guys who are on the street protesting, doesnt have anything to loose. ^^

    This is excellent document about half-military police forces and stuff like that. How you can make people make evil deeds and so on. I really think that everybody should watch this.

    The Act of Killing
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2375605/

    “A documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.”

  3. John

    Act 1. This is not a new phenomenon and has grown often behind the scenes in western countries in recent years. Take the Occupy Wall Street Movement for instance. Peaceful gathering to vet against the establishment has become more difficult. Police agencies view them as criminal threats and are relentless in shutting them down — in order to protect the plutocracy.

    Act 2. Outsourcing security services is a well established practice in the US. It looks like Spain is playing catch up.

  4. The Dork of Cork

    This is what happens when the capitalist system finds it difficult to maintain the relative wealth gap and also civil order via “natural economic means”….i.e. their scarcity operations

    I must say the mask has been ripped off.

    Parliament and the executive become one dark force of banking oligarchy……Belloc was so F$£king correct.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barebones_Parliament

    One more step to a Lord protector …………but who are they protecting ??

  5. The Dork of Cork

    PS – this is not a feudal system of control.
    Money was not a important exchange between free serfs back then.
    Life centered around the former Roman villa of local production and village.

    This is a Cromwellian fascist system seen when debt money systems reach for the stars by digging down in the gutter.

  6. Banger

    Interesting that news from Europe in the U.S. mainstream media has been very sparse. Does anyone know if there is much popular support for these measures? We have to remember that Spain was fascist for many decades after WWII.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      They were fascist after a civil war with outside interference. Franco wasn’t elected, and judging from the U.S., does popular support matter? There weren’t elections.

      “General Franco was a loyal friend and ally of the United States.” -Richard Nixon.

      1. Nathanael

        FWIW, evidence is that Franco was in many ways popular — he was seen as conservative by large parts of a population reeling from major radical changes.

        Rajoy does not have that advantage. The dictionary-conservative portions of the population see him as the agent of radical change.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          “evidence is that Franco was in many ways popular ”

          He depended on Western largess for his country to function. Without the Cold War and before that fascist solidarity, how long would he have lasted? Two, there was no alternative voice in public.

          Back in 2006, Senator George Allen (R-Va) had his Macawitz moment, but if John Warner had done the same thing, nothing would have happened. The reason is every story about George Allen’s racist behavior was stories old professors from UVA would bring up. The media, politicos, and electeds all heard these stories. The stuff about his first marriage is even better which is supposedly why he never journeyed to Iowa and New Hampshire, a GOP opponent would acquire the goods. Supposedly, the Democrats have tried to buy the story over the years, but the price was too high.

          Biden says stupid things all the time, and no one cares because there are no gross rumors about him.

          Like Franco, rumors can circulate all they want, but without confirmation or an alternative voice, its difficult for people to believe rumors. Franco might be popular, but there was an odd situation.

        2. Jaggers

          Franco was popular amonst his supporters when he won the civial war. Not so sure about the losers or as his dictatorship extended into decades.

          What if the left had managed to bring the lay priests to their side at the beginning of the civil war? Both the left and significant numbers of lay/lower priests were appalled by existing social conditions unlike the upper ranks of the catholic organization. But an athiest left exterminated priests in mass, including natural allies, with exceptions in some regions, which drove the mass of the catholic organization with their religious flocks to Franco. The division between the athiest left and the catholic church probably won the war for Franco even though left and church had similiar social concerns.

          Too busy fighting over purity to unite in fighting the real enemy.

        3. Bobito

          Franco ruled for nearly 40 years, longer than men like Mugabe or Qaddafi or Stalin. In his early years the repression was ferocious, with many (tens of?) thousands executed and tens of thousands imprisoned. In later years his rule was so well established there was not so much need for overt violence, but a woman could not buy a washing machine without her husband’s permission, and a group of five people on the street could be detained as a danger to the state. Franco wasn’t popular, it was too dangerous to speak out against him. The Partido Popular was founded by a Franco minister, and is full of people who would love to perpetuate the corrupt oligarchy that thrived with Franco. The “crisis” has given them the pretext for imposing their economic agenda. They need no pretext to impose their radical social agenda that ranges from banning abortion to banning insulting police officers or protesting in front of Congress. They are fascists in the old fashioned sense of the word, and in a few more years they won’t mind admitting it openly.

    2. Ignacio

      Fascism nostalgics are a small minority in Spain. Nevertheless you have a point. The ruling conservative party is quite indulgent with Franco’s period. I cannot tell you because I have not seen any poll on these specific law drafts. What some media have pointed out is that by announcing these laws the government is trying to retain votes from ultraconservatives, tea-partiers and the like. The government migth have identified a risk of vote loss to radical rigth wing parties as it appears to be the case in many other european countries.

  7. from Mexico

    Doesn’t this story begin earlier, with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party? And let me be very clear here: these were the same brand of “socialists” or “Marxists” as Yanis Varoufakis.

    Without the Menshevik socialists’ betrayal and abandonment of the people — socialists who were socialists in name only, but otherwise marched the neoliberal straight and narrow — the fascist government of Rajoy could have never come to power.

    And by the way, as Hannah Arendt noted in her essay “On Violence,” “rule by sheer violence comes into play where power is being lost.”

    “For it is also true that terror is necessary for rule in the same proportion as support is limited.”

    –JONATHAN SCHELL, The Unconquerable World

    1. Nathanael

      Yes, of course it does. Capitulation to right-wing economic policy by “socialists” is usually what leads to fascism. It’s arguably part of what lead Weimar Germany to collapse.

      1. rkka

        “Yes, of course it does. Capitulation to right-wing economic policy by “socialists” is usually what leads to fascism. It’s arguably part of what lead Weimar Germany to collapse.”

        Not true. On 23 March 1933, the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, permitting Chancellor Hitler to rule by decree for four years. I passed 441-94. The 94 votes against came entirely from the Socialists. Every other political party represented, every single one, voted in favor. The Communists didn’t vote. The KPD had already been banned, and all KPD Reichstag delegates were already in concentration camps, in hiding, or in exile.

        So, no. Hitler got dictatorial power from the non-Socialists. All of them. Socialists & Communists opposed him to the end.

        1. Maju

          A single last minute backstep in the face of Nazi consolidation does not excuse two decades of facilitation by the SDP. The SDP took all the time sides with the bourgeois parties, begining by assuming the anti-Soviet government and sending the Freikorps (death squads that anticipated the Nazi SA and SS) against the communists. The SDP collaborated with the illegalization of the KPD, the SDP facilitated Hindenburg… the SDP did everything and more to sustain the bourgeois regime in Germany and fence off the communists. The end result was Hitler and only when Hitler was on his final step to total takeover, they seem to have realized that they went a bit too far.

          Too little, too late.

          Similarly the socialdemocrats in Poland did everything to stop the Soviets and let’s not forget that, in Italy, Mussolini was originally a socialdemocrat editor and that there also they failed to organized the much needed armed resistance to the fascist terrorist squads financed by the oligarchs.

          Nowadays we see them forming coalitions with the Conservatives everywhere in Europe, as it corresponds to their traditional role as puppet “opposition”, exactly the same as they did in Weimar. And they do so in the terms dictated by the oligarchs, not making a single half-hearted attempt of resistance against the capitalist dictatorship that is ruining and destroying our societies but exactly the opposite, as it corresponds to their role as assimilated pseudo-socialists, as mere facade of a “democracy” where all real alternatives are closed and even locked.

    2. Nathanael

      “And by the way, as Hannah Arendt noted in her essay “On Violence,” “rule by sheer violence comes into play where power is being lost.””

      I do believe that. Related idea to a line from an Isaac Asimov character, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Asimov was earlier, of course.

    3. Ignacio

      My answer is that the story started well before Rodriguez Zapatero. You could consider his tenure as a lapse between the protofascist pro-war Aznar (Rajoy was then Ministro de Interior, or State Secretary equivalent) and the Rajoy government which is turning truly fascist in the wings of the financial crisis. Zapatero of course represents the same kind of “socialist” as Obama.

  8. The Dork of Cork

    “PARLIAMENTS MUST BE OLIGARCHIES.”

    A tax was, for the men
    of the Middle Ages, essentially a grant
    The
    Government had to go to its subjects and say :
    ‘ We need for public purposes so much : can you meet us ?
    What can you voluntarily give us ?

    And the essential principle
    of the Representative Houses of the Clergy
    and of the Laymen all over Europe was a
    convocation for this purpose ; taxation was
    in those distant days a voluntary subsidy to the needs of the King, that is, of the public
    service.

    “The subsidiary attack upon the
    monasteries (the principal support of the
    Papacy) produced an enormous economic
    catastrophe and change in the distribution
    of wealth. Through this the Monarchy ulti- mately lost its preponderant position as the
    centre of the National Money-power, and was
    therefore replaced as a governing agent by
    the newly enriched landlords and the great
    merchants of the towns.”

    As
    for Elizabeth, her reign is nothing more than
    a confirmation of the new great landlords,
    with the Cecils at their head, who played
    the Queen as a card in their hands.

    This (cromwellian)
    revolution led, on the contrary, to an un- broken progress of the sort I have described.
    The masses grew more dependent, the rich more powerful and even immune ; but of
    the external growth and wealth and dominion,
    and all that of which patriotic men are proud,
    there can be no doubt.”
    Dork – This was a banking expansion , now no longer possible)
    ENGLAND
    then, as an effect of the
    Reformation, became an Aristocratic
    State. The nation developed organs proper
    to its new need organs, that is, Aristocratic
    in quality, the chief and central one of them,
    governing all the rest, the House of Commons.
    As an Aristocracy the nation proceeded
    till all memory of another political mood
    had disappeared.”

    Dork : It works until it does not.
    The banking system can no longer expand – so it must eat its vassals.

    https://ia600307.us.archive.org/31/items/houseofcommonsmo00belliala/houseofcommonsmo00belliala.pdf

  9. The Dork of Cork

    “The citizen of a founded Aristocratic State
    cannot conceive of Monarchy save as tyranny,
    or of Democracy save as something at once
    chaotic and insufficient.
    The citizen of an
    Egalitarian State foolishly conceives the
    Governing Class of an Aristocratic State to be something which imposes itself unjustly
    upon its fellow citizens. ”

    The massive Spanish capital expenditure on high speed railway lines when its people don’t have the tokens to use them is a classic & absurd example of state largesse with the insiders in a democracy controlling the system from the top down rather then giving the maximum power to its citizens / vassals from the bottom up.

    As the system fails it must employ police forces as rent collectors so as to maintain the rate of profit.

    1. Nathanael

      Actually, the HSR lines in Spain are very affordable. For contrast, look at the US railways.

      If it weren’t for the language barrier, I would expect Spaniards to be jumping on the TGV to move to France to find jobs.

      1. The Dork of Cork

        “HSR lines in Spain are very affordable………..”

        If they were affordable why are people not using them to capacity ?……
        PS : Do you mean the capital expenditure or the actual ability of the populace to buy a ticket ?
        Looks to me like massive capital overinvestment if Spain is to continue in the Euro.
        A default and reintroduction of a softish Spanish currency however would make internal jet flights a thing of the past and suddenly they would become a good investment.

  10. Lexington

    Let’s not lose sight of one important detail here: Rajoy was democratically elected by the people of Spain.

    So too was Samaras in Greece, Merkel in Germany, Cameron in the UK, Rutte in the Netherlands, Reinfeldt in Sweden. No one is really sure what’s going on in Italy, but for Italy that’s normal.

    By my count that leaves the standard bearer for the left as Francois Hollande in France – which is really saying something.

    I think many people are too inclined to award the extra parliamentary opposition the mantle of the “true voice of the people”, while ignoring the fact that centre-right governments are now the norm in Europe and they got there through the ballot box. The theory prominently promoted on NC that this is all a nefarious German plot to inflict maximum pain on smaller, weaker countries doesn’t account for the fact these countries are mostly led by governments that are themselves ideologically committed to austerity.

    If we’re going to turn this thing around we need to ask some hard questions about why so many people are willing to support political parties that are inimical not only to their own economic interests but also increasingly to their civil and political rights.

    1. from Mexico

      I think you’re missing something.

      In the United States, when the people voted for Obama and Democratic Party majorities in both the House and Senate, they didn’t vote for a continuation of the neoliberal status quo.

      In Spain, when the people voted for José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, they didn’t vote for a continuation of the neoliberal status quo.

      And yet, in both instances, that’s what they got.

      1. Lexington

        In the United States, when the people voted for Obama and Democratic Party majorities in both the House and Senate, they didn’t vote for a continuation of the neoliberal status quo.

        No, but that’s what they got. And how did they respond? They RE ELECTED Obama in 2012.

        The obvious lesson for the Democratic party is that their base may say they don’t want more neo liberalism, but they aren’t willing to put their votes where their mouths are.

        In Spain, when the people voted for José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, they didn’t vote for a continuation of the neoliberal status quo.

        Perhaps not, but they then replaced Rodriguez Zapatero by a government to the right of him. This is a huge part of the problem – there is arguably no legitimate centre left alternative in most European countries. The parties formerly of the left, including the Spanish, French and German Socialists, and Labour in the UK, have morphed into centrist parties that have broadly bought into the neoliberal consensus on monetary, fiscal and trade policy. They lack the intellectual vitality to challenge the status quo of which they are now a part (a process that actually began before World War I and arguably reached its consummation with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991).

        So I would suggest this is the first problem: there is no one in the political mainstream in either the US or Europe offering a meaningful critique of and alternative to neoliberal orthodoxy.

        In Spain, when the people voted for José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, they didn’t vote for a continuation of the neoliberal status quo.

        1. Fair Economist

          The absence of true leftist parties reflect the absence of true leftist ideas in public discussion. The plutocrats have effectively taken over the media and academia by being the source of financing. The independent intelligentsia is pretty much gone (I’m not enough of a sociologist to explain that) so they’re not a counterweight either. Political parties and politicians are opinion followers, not opinion leaders, so the leftist parties necessarily represent the most leftish views you can get on the media, and that’s basically neoliberalism. Such milquetoast leftish proposals as you can see are coming from what’s left of the traditional sources – $15 minimum wage from the labor unions and expanding Social Security from the what’s left of the old intelligentsia, the bloggers.

        2. Nathanael

          “This is a huge part of the problem – there is arguably no legitimate centre left alternative in most European countries.”

          Or in the US.

          The US, Canada, and the UK have the further problem of first-past-the-post elections in districts, which suppresses the appearance of third parties. At least in Greece or Italy or Germany, a new party can arise and get a large number of seats in Parliament *very quickly*.

          In the US, such a party can struggle for a decade — look at the 1850s — and by the time it gets into power, the country can be on the brink of civil war.

          Spain doesn’t have first-past-the-post, but it seems to be stuck in a two-party system anyway. There’s probably some specific detail of the system which causes this.

        3. beerdignado

          That’s a very good analysis, and I especially like how you point out that ideas precede the behaviour of parties. And our ideas are being manufactured and constrained by the press, but also by ourselves.

          BUT, when you say there is no left alternative out there: may I point out that the 15-M movement garners over 70 % popular support, even according to establishment press like El Pais? The alternative IS there, and it’s staying alive. You just won’t hear about it.

          1. Maju

            But the 15M is not a political alternative: just the expression of generalizazed discontent. I know how too often people think on these matters: “I believe in no one but the insumisos” (a very popular antimilitarist nonviolent action movement of the 80s and 90s), I have heard that a lot in the past. Now they say the same most likely: “I believe in no one but the 15M”. Where does that bring us? Nowhere because neither movement alone is going to make radical changes: just express discontent and, mostly, as we have seen, remain unheard. It’s a beginning but beginnings alone are not enough. It must take political form and then take power for the people. And both stages are full of brutal obstacles.

            And I must say that I also have some faith in the post-15M, rather than the 15M itself, for as much as it takes the form of neighborhood assemblies, which are true instances of democratic counter-power (the soviets of today in seedling form). But in any case it has such brutal challenges (internal and external) ahead that I don’t see how they can overcome the mere institutional inertia.

            When elections come, who will they vote? Many will abstain (“in protest”), the rest will scatter their vote through a wide range of minority options, some maybe more powerful like IU or the Basque, Catalan, Andalusian or Galician Left, but still very scattered. And electoral behavior only reflects the lack of a political project: what glues together the 15M is discontent in the “negative” sense but it has yet to muster a project in the “positive”, constructive sense: a true political project.

            Even if they’d manage to do anything like that (what would surely imply divisions and desertions), they’d still have to win. They can be declared illegal (as has happened with many parties and electoral coalitions in the recent past), they can simply be beaten in the electoral field because it’s totally rigged in favor of the twin party system, and finally, if everything else fails, they can be ousted by a reactionary coup, maybe as in Honduras, by means of rigging the elections.

            I don’t mean to be defeatist but just warn that the road ahead is plagued of difficulties which may well look usurmontable. It must be done however: there’s no other alternative.

            But right now the alternative is just a seedling.

            1. beerdignado

              I have to disagree with your assesment there, even though you make many valid points (how to achieve political weight, seedling).
              But in order to counter your argument more precisely, let’s look at the movements we’ve seen spring up in not just Spain, but also the US, UK and Europe (OWS) and, for example, Turkey.

              Yes, people unite “against” something. But they also unite for something else: the right of the people to OWN their democracy. All of these movements fight FOR sovereignty – freedom from the intertwined elected government (which I mainly consider a charade, pseudo-socialists attesting to that) and corporate state. So I really don’t think it’s just against something.

              I joined in the Occupy protest, and even though I was mainly hopping mad at banks at that point, the amount of creative and positive ideas I encountered continues to give me pause until today. People say Occupy is dead. How can it, it’s in my heart and changed me forever? And it was 15-M that inspired me. And they were inspired by Tahrir. And all of us inspired Gezi Park. There’s a spark traveling the world.

              Where I live, a guy (that started a test-case of deliberative politics) has written a book “Against Elections”, in which he argues for a democracy in which lottery plays an important role, like in did in the athenian democracy. The book is in its fourth print in a month. That “lottery” idea chimes nicely with the ideas of the general assembly. I am volunteering for a new truly cooperative bank in formation (called NewB), which is incorporating principles of direct democracy right in its statutes. It aimed for 10.000 people participating in three months but got 40.000 to donate 20 euro in under a week. Seedlings, maybe, but strong seedlings and very fertile ground.

              I have to agree though that the world vision some of us are fighting for badly needs articulating – or where it is, it needs spreading, and of course the mainstream media would rather die. It also never ceases to frustrate me how many books claim to give answers yet are 95% analysis of what’s wrong. Which is good, but is NOT a positive project that people can be inspired by.

              As a matter of fact, I don’t think “we” stand a chance unless we (quickly) use the internet to coalesce and aggregate on a global scale. In my more pessimistic moments, I see that happening no sooner than when truly catastrophic climate change is upon us.

              But to end on a positive note: seedlings can lay dormant for years yet carry life past hard winters. I like your use of that word, and whenever I doubt, I watch some Chris Hedges, like the brilliant series available here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1269183

              You and I seem to feel like he does: even if you are uncertain of the outcome, there is no alternative.

              1. Maju

                Yes, I may have overreached in “defeatism”. I really want to believe in these kind of movements but I also realize that widespread popular sympathy is not on its own quite the same as real popular support nor of materialization of a popular power takeover. Those supporting the discontent or even actively taking part in its expression (many less, naturally), take very different approaches when it comes to materializing the struggle in terms of power takeover, be it by means of elections or whatever other means.

                Much of the discontent is not yet revolutionary but nostalgic of the welfare system, social-democratic, so to say, reformist (although there are also many social-conservatives too). So my probably excessive criticism should be taken as the need to overcome this early stage of largely aimless rejection and become a more advanced movement with a comprehensive program. This will take time and effort because most people don’t seem yet fully aware of what there is at stake, not in the concrete aspects but in the more general aspect: the social project. Similarly they don’t seem to feel (yet) willing or able to radically change the system instead of merely reforming it in an impossible backwards direction.

                But I do agree that, as you say, there is a spark traveling the World, our societies, and is indeed most important. What I say is that it is a beginning but clearly not enough: the whole social perception of reality must change and, with it, social self-organization must grow.

                When we look in perspective at previous revolutions like the Russian one (with all the rejection of the ultimate para-capitalist treason after the civil war), we have to realize that before 1917 there was a 1905 and before 1905 there were decades of very hard and hardening struggles. Things do not happen in a single day or year… it takes time and internal growth in a sense that is not just numerical but also mental and certainly political.

                And that’s hard and challenging. But we are in the same boat, I assure you.

                1. beerdignado

                  Yes, we are in the same boat and on the same page. And yes, these things take time. After all, we are fighting the paradigm of neoliberalism, which has permeated our societies, our psyches, everything, to such a degree that we aren’t even aware of it anymore.
                  So all the movements we see springing up are just that – sparks. But I can’t help feel that a paradigm shift is underway. The lateral revolution Rifkin speaks of, but on a societal level (he approaches it much to technological to my taste).

                  Maybe it’s just because I’m consiously trying to stop analysing and try and be the small force for good that I can. As a consequence, I seem to meet interesting and warm, caring people. And being open to people, caring about them, showing empathy because even people that I think are “wrong” often TRY to act in the interest of their children – I get the idea that fundamental change IS possible. But I should add: at the local level. Everywhere above that, we have been rendered and have rendered ourselves impotent.

                  More power to you in whatever you do!

        4. Praedor

          True, they re-elected the neoliberal turd, but then, look at who was allowed as the alternative. Hmmm, would I rather be kneecapped or have my fingers broken. Do I want it done by someone who can speak in complete sentences or by someone who can barely put on pants by himself?

          1. Lexington

            And that’s exactly the wrong way to think.

            Those who subscribe to the “lesser of two evils” doctrine (a.k.a. “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”) condemn themselves to political irrelevance. The system is beyond redemption. Breaking the two party duopoly is the sin qua non for enacting any kind of reform. That means either a viable third party, or destroying the Democratic party in its present form and rebuilding it from the ground up along completely different lines. Either course means progressives must come to terms with their co dependence on the Democratic establishment and realize that until they let go of their fear of Republicans the Dems have them over a barrel, and they will ruthlessly exploit it (cf. Barak Obama, 2008-13).

            Granted, a Romney presidency wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but electing someone who’s taking the country to exactly the same place, just a little slower and a little gentler, is a Pyrrhic victory.

            Sometimes in war you need to accept tactical defeats in order to preserve the strategic objective. For progressives that means they have to be willing to allow to Democratic party to fail so that something better can replace it.

    2. ambrit

      Dear Lexington;
      I would refer back to Chomsky et. al. and say that we were seeing the results of a program of “consent” manufacture. The classic example would be Lenin consciously naming his small, nearly fringe party the Bolsheviks, (in Russian, Big Party,) and proceeding on from there as if the name alone conferred the reality.
      Hence, those people who “democratically” elected these neo-feudal “running dogs,” have been the victims of master manipulators. Don’t fall into the trap of “blaming the victim” here.
      Education is the key. A person can only escape from a prison when that person realizes they are in a prison to begin with.

      1. Banger

        Manufacturing consent and Machiavellian manipulation of the public has been going on for a long time. However, the truth is available to those that want it. People, I suggest want to believe the lies they are being told, in part, because most people value security and stability over justice and individual rights. The argument of “manipulation” does not explain the move to the right in Europe, in particular. On balance the publics there are far less gullible than the American electorate–the middle classes in Europe are chiefly concerned about keEping what they have and are getting tired of leftists who promise everyone the Moon and usually, in recent years, have delivered nothing. If anything the majority will move even further to the right mainly for ethnic and nationalistic reasons.

        The left needs to go back to the drawing boards and offer a fresh approach on both Europe and the U.S.

    3. Maju

      When the opinion polls systematically say that you don’t have anymore the popular support (and it’s almost two years since then – because they have done exactly the opposite of what they promised, lying systematically in every single discourse or press release) you should resign and call elections. In fact I’d suggest that all offices should be re-elected on yearly terms to prevent this kind of abuse of power.

      One thing is legality (they still have two years of that) and another very different thing is legitimacy. None of their measures have been put to referendum and it’s clear that they are opposed by the vast majority of the subject of legitimacy which is the People.

      But they don’t care and, after the next elections they will make a deal with the “socialists” (liberals), exactly as has happened in Greece, Italy and Germany. It’s Weimar II. And that’s exactly what they want it to be, hoping to put hard-handed neofascist regimes when they can’t hold up anymore with their “democratic” trickstery.

    4. Lune

      I like Maju’s distinction between legality and legitimacy. The fact that the current people in power managed to get >50% of the vote makes their election legal but it doesn’t mean they’re viewed as legitimate by their voters.

      Case in point: in the U.S. gerrymandering is perfectly legal. And thanks to it, we have less turnover among incumbents than even the old Soviet politburo. Indeed, the Democrats got a majority of the votes cast for the House of Reps. in the last election but are still sitting in the minority bench. All perfectly legal. And democratic in name at least.

      Similarly, the fact that a modern presidential campaign requires $1billion ensures that only people who can attract that type of money can run a successful campaign and be seen as a viable choice by potential voters. And who can attract $1bil? Pretty much only people who back the causes of the people who can afford to write big checks. That the voters get to choose among 2 people who have already sold their souls to the moneyed interests arrayed against them isn’t really democracy. After all, even the USSR had elections.

      How else to explain why the U.S. Congress passed the original Paulson bailout plan (“write me a $700bil blank check”) despite being swamped by letters from their constituents running 99-to-1 against it? In what way were they representing the popular will? And yet it was all perfectly legal and democratic…

    5. Nathanael

      Cameron most certainly did not get elected in the UK. Nick Clegg did, basically. Clegg proceeded to bait-and-switch.

      All of these countries with the exception of Greece and Germany and possibly Sweden have severe defects in the electoral system design (as does the US, as does Canada), which means the elected government frequently does not reflect the opinion of the people. (Spain’s problem involves the suppression of third parties.)

      Germany has an excellently designed electoral system. In Germany, unfortunately, Merkel is genuinely popular in the high-population state of Bavaria.

  11. Ulysses

    The Dork of Cork is absolutely correct that Cromwellian fascism is a more apt description of our current reality than “neo-feudalism.” Yet the final sentence that Don Quijones writes here is perfectly accurate: “It promises to be a world where might and money make right; where government exists merely to collect taxes and redistribute funds to banks and corporations; and where not only opportunities but also security and the protection of the law become the sole preserve of those who can afford them. ”

    We can (and should) resist the kleptocratic tyranny on the barricades, yet our survival depends more on constructing alternate realities on the local level. The outstanding example of spontaneous mutual support given by Occupy Sandy needs to inspire us always, not just in the aftermath of natural disaster.

    We are enduring a typhoon of destructive oppression right now. Families are trying to stay warm while sleeping on the train as it goes back and forth from Coney Island to the Bronx, there are lines around the block for a meager meal offered by a soup kitchen in Chelsea, while the billionaires in their stretch limos decide whether to fly to Paris or St Thomas for the weekend.
    A better world is not only possible, it is essential. If not now, when? If not us, who?

  12. The Dork of Cork

    @lex
    Because if they vote for the left they will find their tax / debt will increase even more.

    Its in the nature of the present monetary system.

    People who see themselves as frugal conservatives think the right is frugal with their money but it is not.
    They just redirect more of the declining money to rentiers , high speed trains etc etc

    Nothing will change until the money system changes,
    Which means a end to the absurd 19th century european sov bond market,
    Its the most classic double speak of them all.

    Leaders talk of regaining sov power – its a sick joke.

    People don’t understand that the banks create local scarcity so as to increase (pointless) trade to a even more absurd degree.
    Eventually this gets to comedic levels of absurdity where the Irish are forced to sell beef to the other side of the world.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlAm7ZPdg9I

      1. The Dork of Cork

        That video is over 3 years old now.

        The second deflationary part of the Irish economic crisis (it began at lets say 1973 or 1979) is over 6 years old now.
        Longer then the second world war.

        People in Industrial cages need money tokens to consume.
        They don’t have any agrarian options as before.

        1. Nathanael

          The Irish are remarkably willing to just lie down and accept oppression quietly. It’s actually more than a little bizarre. It’s not at all the same in Spain.

          1. The Dork of Cork

            By my reckoning (its hard to find figures given the level of political correctness) about a third to one half of the under 40 population population living in Ireland are not Irish born or have at least one non Irish parent.
            So the culture is not like any other seen.
            The scale of this plantation is very much like well……the previous plantation which was driven by the very same dark banking forces

            The native young people are leaving (given the fact that we has a nation exported our young people in a previous banking union which by design creates local scarcity & therefore we think of this as a natural event which it is not.) and are being replaced.

            From the official figures of Y2011 544 thousand people living in the state are non national – most of whom are under 50 ~.

            Ireland has seen the greatest flux in population in Europe.
            In a very real sense Ireland as a distinct cultural bloc no longer exists.
            As we cannot define who we are either using myth or fact we can be easily destroyed in detail.
            Between 1980 -88 800 non Irish nationals per year came to live in this bog.
            In 2006 39,448 non irish nationals came into the country.
            Despite the economic crisis
            In 2010 20,716 non irish nationals entered.

            We are a small jurisdiction.

            if you take these numbers at face value imagine a city half the size of Dublin blowing up within a decade or so.
            Also kids born to parents before 2004 became full Irish citizens so don’t show up in the numbers.
            Kids with one Irish parent continue to get full citzenship rights.
            Also there is numerous signing in occasions for people which disguises the true cultural flux also.

            Ireland is a relatively large petri dish.
            A interesting (but doomed ) experiment.
            As it is a island it is also a controlled experiment which can be sealed off very easily.

  13. Charis

    The people of spain,italy,greece,portugal,chile,brazil..and many,many other countries are on the streets day by day.The fact that the mass media in the UK,germany,USA and france are trying to hide these facts is not really shocking to me.Actually this is the reason why most of the media trusts have bought up even the smallest former independent TV channel and newspapers.They have done their job.They have learned their lessons from the past.

    The most shocking fact is that there are no serious mass protests in the USA the UK or germany.

    What I mean is very simple:I was in germany(Berlin) some weeks ago.I saw many homeless people on the streets,my friends told me that the jobless rate in this town must be in reality double as high as the “official numbers”(which is 12-14%),the soup kitchens of berlin have to feed at least 100.000 people of which many are children.To put things into perspective:In athens we have (according to latest surveys) some 70.000 people who need the soup kitchens.Most of them refugees from asia and africa and people from the balkans(bulgaria,romania).According to an survey from the university of athens we have 20.000 homeless people all over greece.Again most of them refugees and people from the balkans.According to serious sources in germany they have over 600.000 homeless.I dont know about the numbers in te UK and the USA.

    But obviously the “leftists” in germany or UK/US do only care about the desperate people in greece(most media coverage in the media),than spain,italy etc.And by “media” I dont mean the mass media but the leftists blogs like this one.

    Obviously the ones who should care about to inform their own people about growing social desperation in their own countries and to call them for resistance fall into the “we are fine or at least better off than the PIGS”-propaganda-trap which has been built up during the last few years for obvious reasons.Leaving huge numbers of the people in the most important and biggest developed industrial nations completely unprepared for the things to come.

    I have said it in the past and I will say it again since I see it here in greece clearer day by day:The “PIGS” did prepare themselves for the “next huge crisis” since the mid 70s.After the fall of the fascist dictatorships (greece,portugal in 1974,spain a little bit later) everyone there was eager to and hurried to build his own house,buying land and so on.For example the homeownership rate in greece is close to 90%.It is not very different in portugal,italy or spain.And most importantly our family structures are still very strong.As is the solidarity under friends and neighbours.

    You may see all the chaos on TV and the mass media may tell you in germany,the UK or the USA that “the PIGS are dying on the streets” but in reality the real purpose of these propaganda is to keep the masses calm in the biggest developed nations who have nothing but the growing fear to lose their job and to sleep under the bridge if they dont comply to the will of banksters and mobsters.Seeing others protesting and “burning the streets” should not work as the mass media wants you.To protest on the streets is NOT a bad thing and does not mean that a society will fall into chaos within a few days or weeks.Protesting is the most important thing in a democracy.

    I honestly hope that the people in the US,UK and germany join us “PIGS” on the streets.In big numbers.In your own best interest.Because you guys are not prepared for anything of what is coming like a tsunami over a flat landscape near the occean.This is what I have seen in germany and the UK.It is good that you talk about us and our “coming revolutions” but it does not make any sense if you do not join us on the streets by numbers of millions.But then again I ask myself who will be the people in the USA or germany who will organize the resistance.I cant see many possible candidates hope I am wrong.

  14. Maju

    I compare this evolution with Honduras. Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has been almost literally sold to private corporations and their “security guards” (paramilitary death squads in most cases). They obviously intend to do in Spain something similar (guess that the same that Thatcher was preceded by Pinochet, Rajoy was preceded by Lobo).

    In Honduras, as in Colombia, the common citizen is totally devoid of any “security” and exposed to life risk and many other abuses every single day. The threat does not come from common criminals most of the time, of course, but from powerful capitalist organizations, closely allied to US “libertarians” like that Pay Pal guy whatshisname? On occasion even the DEA has killed common citizens with total impunity.

    When the elections finally come, they are flatly robbed. I wonder if they will do that also in Spain: it’d be unprecedented.

    It’s clear to me that while they are promoting all kind of fascist groups, often armed and dangerous, they lack popular support. They have a “white brand” which is UPyD, which does has some popular support but is still weak and can’t probably grow enough to take the replacement.

    The big question is can you rule a state as big and complex as Spain against popular will? How? For how long? Can this model of arbitrary autocracy and plutocracy extended to all Europe? How? For how long?

    Personally I believe that they have the wrong plan: one (a fascist one) that simply cannot work in today’s conditions, largely because, unlike classical fascism, it won’t offer anything (some welfare) to the masses, who are highly educated and connected/coordinated but just brutal repression and hopelessness. Overall they do not have any plan to get the capitalist system back on its feet, just “grab the money and run” and “extend and pretend”, what is pitiful and useless. And without a workable plan, how can they succeed in the mid-term? The medicine man who does not bring rain is burnt at the stake, you know.

    1. Banger

      @ Maju: the sad thing is that the right often has popular support because when times are tough people prefer to be ruled by “tough” guys who offer stability and tribal support. My own grandfather was one of the Black Shirts who marched on Rome with Mussolini because he saw that Italy needed a “strong” leader to unify Italian society. Years later he regretted it when he saw his boyhood friends led away from their homes in the middle of the night and deeply regretted his youthful enthusiasm for order and stability.

      1. Maju

        That’s not too real. Times are tough because those in power serve the banksters: that’s how most people perceive it (and is quite correct). I don’t hear people asking for harder hand, I hear people asking for more sabotages and violence from the people against the system: “how can’t this all explode”, “this is solved by derailing some trains” and so on. People knows well that it is the state and the burgeois class who are robbing them at daylight and they hate them for that. They hate them a lot, more than you can probably imagine.

        At least in the state of Spain I don’t see people supporting fascism, except for very minoritary groups. The “leader” is anyhow a figure of other times, people do not believe in leaders either: they want, they demand, true total democracy, involving the economic sector first and foremost.

        “My own grandfather was one of the Black Shirts who marched on Rome with Mussolini”…

        He was probably friend of my grandpa then. My granduncle was even minister of Mussolini in the Republic of Saló. But, for all that, I know how pathetic fascists are: I have known a number of them quite intimately and they are mostly just pseudo-idealist suckers or, the smartest ones, terribly corrupt individuals.

        Whatever the case the disciplinary phase of capitalism belongs to the past (that’s why they liquidated Gaullism, Francoism and even the USSR) and I do not think they can control this not-so-new phase with such simple vertical methods. Today’s “leaders” are almost buffons, at best respected managers but the figure of “the leader” is dead for good. And more importantly the vertical disciplinary methodology of fascism and similar is also awfully obsolete.

    2. Nathanael

      “Personally I believe that they have the wrong plan: one (a fascist one) that simply cannot work in today’s conditions, largely because, unlike classical fascism, it won’t offer anything (some welfare) to the masses, who are highly educated and connected/coordinated but just brutal repression and hopelessness”

      This is my analysis as well. Classical fascism built lots of infrastructure and offered the use of it for free to people — if they were the right ethnicity and swore loyalty to the leader. That was offering something to the masses. The current version is offering nothing equivalent, therefore it cannot succeed.

      It does create an opening for genuine fascists to replace the current “no welfare” fascists, unfortunately.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        American-style fascism has been achieved. Short of secession, the U.S. is too large, too diverse, and possesses to many power structures to mimic Italy, Germany, or Japan.

        If you accept corporate control of media, the inability for elections to present meaningful change, and the utter devotion to the MIC from the TPB, fascism reigns. It wasn’t called fascism. Our betters lack the self-awareness because the concept of equality is too ingrained into American myth that they can’t articulate themselves as our fascist leaders and instead have to create myths of technocrats because we don’t have proper races with proper leaders who embody that spirit. Obama is the educated, cool son of an interracial couple who more or less make NPR listeners believe their own b.s. about their cultured views.

        There isn’t an outside threat such as Russia or European colonization which motivated Germany and Japan, but look at our reaction to the CIA bungling an operation to recruit Al Qaeda operatives in 2001*.

        *This is why identified the hijackers so quickly. The CIA was aware of the movements of certain members and chose not to tell the FBI in an effort to win a major intelligence coup. If the FBI knew, its likely they rounded them up and ultimately discovered the other hijackers, but then the FBI would win the glory.

      2. Maju

        As Yanis Varoufakis admitted recently (albeit self-contradictorily) there’s no return to welfare capitalism in any form. Keynesian welfare is dead and the replacement Thatcherian bubble is dead as well. There’s a lot of nostalgia for both but they won’t come back: the system as-it-is just plans to suck all wealth and power into as few hands as possible. Those inside the elite hope to remain inside and benefit from this looting, those outside they don’t care: that’s why they have sonic guns and all that warfare equipment, just in case the slaves dare to revolt.

        There’s not going to be social peace anymore. Just social war for as long as Capitalism keeps existing. No welfare (neither fascist nor democratic) no any other concession: just the Sheriff of Nottingham all the way to Hell… or to Revolution.

        And that’s the real issue: no alternative anymore inside the system: no reforms, no patches, no concessions… just the worst plutocracy anyone ever imagined. And that’s not socially stable, in fact it’s extremely unstable and instability tends to positive feedbacks until it all goes down.

        1. Ulysses

          Living under the baleful eye of the Panopticon, how can we come together to wrest control from the kleptocrats and their minions? I believe that we are in the midst of a slow motion installation of a far harsher totalitarian regime here in the U.S. than any of us could easily imagine. The lock-down of Boston last spring was a drill to see whether Americans would challenge in any meaningful way their loss of liberty. I fear we failed that test.
          The good news is that the kleptocrats are committed to the gradual imposition of this new tyranny, and will seek to preserve the illusion of freedom as long as possible. Therefore we need to make it as awkward as possible for them to impose their will. If we continue to behave as if electing Elizabeth Warren President would solve all our problems, the kleptocrats will continue to pretend that her ideas of prosecuting banksters and extending social security are still within the Overton window of possible outcomes.

          In January of 2012, I stood with a couple of dozen other people in the bitter cold of southern Manhattan to hear Chris Hedges et al. announce their lawsuit to challenge the indefinite detention without trial provisions of the NDAA, that President Obama had just signed into law on New year’s Eve. We were heavily outnumbered by watchful NYPD and DHS enforcers of the corporate order.
          We all knew that one thing alone prevented us from being mowed down by bullets before we left the square. The PTB want to keep the fiction of “rule of law” alive as long as possible.

          They will try to co-opt, imprison, discredit and marginalize us before they resort to killing us. Meanwhile, every day the chasm between the rhetoric and reality grows wider– and the people awaken to injustice all the more. Aaron Swartz’s fate doesn’t deter us– his martyrdom actually helps strengthen our resistance.

          Today a Federal Judge in the District of Columbia, Richard J. Leon, revealed the awkwardness our masters are experiencing in this slow-motion imposition of tyranny. He called BS on the NSA’s claims of legality, and declared their vast data collection to be unconstitutional!

          Here’s some highlights from his decision: “The almost Orwellian technology that enables the Government to store and analyze the phone metadata is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979..
          To my knowledge, however, no court has ever recognized a special need sufficient to justify continuous, daily searches of virtually every American citizen without any particularized suspicion…. And therefore [the good judge concludes] the NSA’s bulk collection is indeed an unreasonable search under the 4th Amendment.”

          If our Surveillance State thought that 9/11 was going to give them the same latitude that the burning of the Reichstag gave the Nazis, they have made a grave mistake. We will take advantage of every moment that remains to speak aloud our grievances. There are too many Americans alive who have read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to silence forever!

          The whole decision of Judge Leon is online here: http://legaltimes.typepad.com/files/obamansa.pdf

          1. beerdignado

            Thanks for linking Judge Leon’s judgment. Just saw a Chris Hedges video the other day in which he explained all about the NDAA lawsuit, and he mentioned the opinion was written in a rather accesible style and well worth the read.

            I’ll take his word for it, and your link!

  15. Lune

    I wonder if all these leaders (ours included) who privatize security forces really understand history. There’s a reason why the ability to use violence and physical force are monopolized by the state. It’s the one fundamental power on which every other power of the state rests.

    Every state which has employed mercenaries to fight their battles eventually finds themselves outbid by someone (wealthy citizens, rebel forces, foreign enemies, etc.) for the services of those same mercenaries. At which point, the hunter becomes the hunted.

    There are plenty of ways that states lose the power of physical force: their own security forces stop following their commands i.e. loss of civilian control; the people realize that as a large group, they can overwhelm even a heavily armored security force (the reason why the right to free assembly spooks so many govts), etc. etc. But surely training and hiring mercenaries is the stupidest way to go…

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “I wonder if all these leaders (ours included) who privatize security forces really understand history. ”

      No, they don’t, or they are so arrogant that they believe they are the exceptions. I for one think Obama believes his greatness is innate and the Presidency is merely a gold star to acknowledge his greatness. If people fail to recognize this particular reality, its their own fault, and Obama can take whatever means to correct them.

    2. Nathanael

      Yes, it is stupid, and no they don’t understand history.

      If they understood history, everyone in the country would have food.

      This was the basic principle of the first large government in world history — ancient Egypt. It was based around central planning of the food supply to guarantee that everyone always had food. A pharoah who failed to feed the people was overthrown quite quickly.

  16. Praedor

    Hmmm. I wouldn’t get along so well with private police. Like privatized mercs in Iraq or Afghanistan, I consider them illegit thugs with no real protections or authority. A private cop is someone who can be, should be ignored and when that’s not possible, beaten.

    People (victims) in Spain, you know what to do about this. Overthrow by whatever means required.

  17. Dr Duh

    The elites are getting nervous.

    Scenes like this in Italy, where the riot police took off their helmets and walked with the protestors have to terrify them.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jqzUX8fkMk

    The Spanish are not nearly as timid as Americans when it comes to civil disobedience. They have a modern history of massive general strikes, marches and yes street fights.

    Catalunya is trying to slip away and have scheduled their referendum.
    The Basques have effectively given up violence, I think internal immigration has made a similar referendum more difficult, but you never know.

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