Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Capitalist Crisis in Spain: Accelerated by the Pandemic and managed by Social Democracy

By the Communist Party of the Workers of Spain (PCTE)

Spain is living in 2020 the worst capitalist crisis of 121 its history. The economy is shrinking on double-digit figures; there are millions of unemployed workers, and dozens of thousands of victims dead because of the pandemic.

A superficial glance could determine that the causes of the current crisis are completely due to the effects of the pandemic and the paralysis of economy during confinement. However, the analysis we had made before the pandemic were already predicting the looming of a capitalist crisis, being the Coronavirus actually a catalyst, rather than the cause of it. One that affects the capitalist relationships worldwide and not only its national expressions.

In our 11th Congress, held on November 2017, we stated that “world capitalism is being unable to re-cover the growth levels that preceded the last crisis, and there are already enough hints on the table to consider that a new overall crisis may break out in the following years”.

Indeed, after the 2008-2014 crisis, the economic growth rates only reached minor upturns before falling again into stagnation between 2018 and 2019. In that last year, the Foreign Direct Investment rate fell by 40%. The stoppage of the capitalist cycle had very illustrative examples like oil producers paying to who-ever took their stock: without capitalist reproduction, there is no realization of capital gains, and the first link in this chain is in the production and not the sale. This was preceded by a price war between the OPEC and Russia, which ended up in an agreement to decrease production, to which Mexico joined. Overproduction-was a fact before Coronavirus came into play.

In the previous capitalist crisis, between 2008 and 2014, there were those who pointed to the financial sphere as the only accountable for it. The dilemma would then be speculative capitalism against productive capitalism, being the first a negative one and the second a desirable one. Equally, nowadays there are those who are presenting the pandemic as the only origin of the crisis. The false dilemma they are presenting to us is, on one side, a predatory capitalism that wants to restart the economic cycle as soon as possible and turn the page on confinements; and an-other one that is building a “social shield” against the crisis.

We draw from the fact that there are no partial causes that explain by themselves any of both crisis; also that capitalism has crisis – derived from productive anarchy, which is derived from private property of productive means – as a rule that is besides useful to recompose the economic cycle and concentrate and centralize property; and that those who oppose one model of capitalist management against another one do it in a self-interested way: it is capitalism itself – and not its different management forms – the true origin, against which we communists direct our struggle.

Capitalist Crisis in Spain and the Social Democratic Management

The capitalist crisis has hardly blown the Spanish economy, in a moment when the working class had not recovered the life standards prior to the previous crisis either. The GDP fall was 5.2% in the first trimester and 18.5% in the second one. The IMF projections envisage a 12.8% GDP downturn in 2020 and the Bank of Spain lowers it to 12.6%, as long as there are no resurgences.

After a lifting of health restrictions in summer, matching the touristic period, September began with a devastating epidemiologic scene: 60,000 contagions per week and more than 100 deaths every day. The Community of Madrid, ruled by liberal-conservative parties, is announcing selective confinements: focused on some working-class neighborhoods, mainly located in the south of the capital.

But the central Government, into social democratic hands, has also given a class-oriented answer to the crisis. Its answers sustained in two types of measures:
On one side, the packages of fiscal stimulus inject assets to private companies and, specifically, banks, through public endorsements to credit. They are trying to assure capital circulation. The State even assumed significant productive costs – especially salary costs – of companies.

On the other side, the Government launched measures to sustain the demand and soothe, as much as possible, some effects of capitalist overproduction, which they hypocritically called “social shield” for workers: unemployment subsidies were offered even when the priced minimum was not reached, moratoriums for the payment of some taxes, mainly addressed to companies, and the so-called “Vital Minimum Income”. About this one, Pablo Iglesias – the leader of Podemos and currently Deputy Prime Minister – said that it was a “public investment that allows maintaining a minimum level of demand so the companies, both the big and the small and medium-sized companies, and the self-employed workers as well, can keep on invoicing”.

Meanwhile, more than 1 million workers lost their jobs in spring and 4 million more have been affected by Records of Temporary Employment Regulation (ERTE’s). The Government injected a huge quantity of cash to sustain the demand, getting ready for a short crisis with a fast recovery. These erroneous forecasts were aggravated by the huge public debt – equal to 98% of GDP –Spain already had before the current crisis. The indebtedness will soon lead to adjustment and cut measures, which will blow even more to the Spanish working class.

The Inter-Imperialist Contradictions within the Framework of the Crisis

Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the clash between the United States and China was the rule in a changing and instable international chessboard. But far from being in a new scene of Cold War, the economic and trade rivalry is between two countries where the capitalist productive relations prevail, and whose monopolies struggle for better positions in the appropriation of capital gains.

Technology is currently the main battlefield be-tween both powers, but apart from every analogy to the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Chinese effort is today led by pri-vate monopoly Huawei and its communication net-works. 5G is just the main axe of many of the value chains of the capitalist economy in the next decade. The technological race is for becoming such chain, a lucrative business far away from any clash between different social systems or productive modes.

The needs of the US propaganda force it to use again the anti-communist banner in its struggle against China, but the Communist Parties would be wrong if they answered to this offensive by raising the flag of a China where capitalism roams at ease.

In the ideological sphere, another false dilemma is between the so-called “globalists” and “sovereignists”. The ideas do not exist apart from the material reality and in both the Chinese defense of free trade and the multinational projects like the “New Silk Road”, and Trump’s call for the return of US capital to its territory, there are nothing but contradictory interests be-tween monopolies. On one side, the Chinese requirements of capital export in a world where the “pie” has already been shared out. On the other one, the rise of salaries in the Asiatic countries and in Eastern Eu-rope and the recomposing of international relations, which give a lesser competitiveness to the US and European externalizations. Within each bloc, its many contradictions, with monopolies firmly settled in third countries, whose interests have been undermined with these episodes of trade war.

Ultimately, it is a clash between monopolies which operate in a strongly inter-dependent world economy – therefore needing each other – and struggle for a bigger appropriation of profits – therefore clashing each other –. But on this occasion, socialism does not appear.

The new episode of open clash between monopolies, with the support of their respective Governments, is found in the race for the COVID-19 vac-cine. The Russian and Chinese vaccines have shown promising results, backed by proved scientific journals like The Lancet. The announcement of the success in such vaccines were followed by a campaign of media discredit in the Western countries as well as multi-million purchases in advance of vaccines from Western pharmaceutical monopolies still in process, aiming to inject public money in the research. The US Government besides introduced its usual sanctions against the institute that has created the Russian vaccine so nobody, not even individually, can legally acquire it in the American market.

When this article was being written, no vaccine had moved on to stage 3 and therefore it is not possible to assure its effectiveness. What all of them have proved is the interest of monopolies and Governments in achieving a privileged position in a business whose potential incomes are estimated in billions of dollars.

The capitalist crisis has accelerated the contradictions between the different imperialist blocs. The United States is moving military effectives from Eu-rope to the South China Sea. China and India are having military clashes in their long borders. Eastern Europe is suffering its umpteenth “color revolution” sponsored by the EU Governments – this time in Belarus –. Venezuela is living another meddling attempt, against the inability of its Government to form a true revolutionary bloc that overcomes capitalism in the country.

Certainly, imperialism will continue showing its more aggressive side as far as the capitalist crisis sharpens the contradictions between monopolies and capitalist powers. The US imperialism is still the worst enemy of the world working class, coupling its voraciousness with an aggressive policy supported in its huge military power. But communists would do wrong if we saw other imperialist blocs as allies, nor as a necessary counterweight either. The cause of the world working class does not have today its alliesin Brussels, Moscow or Beijing. Let us take advantage of their contradictions, but let us maintain the political independence of the working class, having socialism and communism as the only horizon.

The activity of the Communists of the PCTE during the economic and health Crisis

Since the day the State of Alarm was declared in Spain, the PCTE has been working under the premise of “class struggle is not stopped in this scene of pandemic”. The assaults against the health of the working class have been relentless and blatant, as the profits of capitalists were placed before the health of workers for a time. The PCTE asked for the closure of non-strategic workplaces to assure the health of their workers, because they were exposed to contagion every day in the collective transportations and their work posts, as there was a lack of the required security measures.

Subsequently, in the months of confinement, the activity of the Party diversified, gaining a special significance the activity through social media, where all the campaigns made in those months were published. Part of the public activity of the Party was or-ganized through video conferences in streaming, we also collaborated with other Communist and Work-ers’ Parties in similar initiatives. Likewise, we intervened in the organization of the workers’ movement under these conditions which required an adaptation to be able to maintain class struggle, clearly stating our opposition to the model of Reports of Temporary Employment Regulation (ERTE’s), largely supported by the boards of the main trade unions in the country.

At an inner level, the bodies of the Party held their inner activity, and two working groups could be constituted to lead the intervention of the comrades of the PCTE in the health (doctors, nurses, assistants, and so on) and educational areas. These groups mean a qualitative leap for the Party, getting the intervention guidelines closer to the specific reality of the sector.

All this activity was organized under the umbrella of two basic slogans for the PCTE: “We will not pay this crisis with our health nor our rights” and “Only the people saves the people”. Thus the ensemble of the Party could also check how the congress slogan of having a party capable of “struggling under all conditions” is specified. The forms of working may change, but the work of the PCTE is not stopped under any circumstance.

Once the restrictions were becoming more flexible and the ability to move was recovered, the PCTE took all the communicational campaign about the social democratic management of the pandemic to the streets, workplaces and the neighborhoods, spreading again our printed newspaper Nuevo Rumbo, in a version with more pages. Likewise, we took an active part in the different workers’ and labor conflicts carried out as a result of the political decisions regarding the management of the crisis as well as the result of the decision made by some companies to transform the ERTE’s into Records of Employment Regulation, not temporary ones, i.e. layoffs.

Currently, the situation in our country is uncertain, the management of the social democratic government is taking steps to set everything that was approved in the imes of pandemic, and labor conflicts are taking place in the country. Against the confirmation of an aggravation of the crisis and its outcomes for the working class and the working people, in the last part of the year, the PCTE has all its militant forces ready for class  struggling  under all conditions, having in mind what was learnt since March. 

#Special_Edition of the International Bulletin,