Sunday, October 30, 2011

News and Views from Spain

The Castle of Salvatierra, Seen from the Castle of Caltrava la Nueva
Things are happening over here in my adopted homeland. Things of some considerable importance, and not just to the politicians and journalists and professional screamers, but really important, to everyone. There will be a general election on the 20th November, anniversary of both the death of Franco and the execution of Primo de Rivera by the Republicans. Whether there was any symbolism intended in this, an attempt to gather a few votes by association, or it just struck the socialist government as the best date, it is hard to say (because they aren’t going to tell the truth, obviously). The centre-right Popular Party will almost certain win, unless there is some major political upheaval between now and them, and Mariano Rajoy, a moderate man, at ease with normal people, intelligent and an unrepentant smoker (still, I think), will become President of the government. It is possible, but by no means certain, that he will have an absolute majority, giving him some freedom to fight the recession in his own way. What he will do with that freedom, whether it is something that can be solved by politics, is another matter. Cuts in public spending, the encouragement of liquidity, and radical exhortations to work harder, we may take as read. He can’t sack any civil servants, because of the absurd nature of public employment here (a system introduced in the 19thC to try to combat a certain kind of corruption- it’s possible it might be in need of review, but who is going to commit political suicide by telling four million people they don’t have jobs for life any more, and might have to justify their wages like the rest of us?) He will not negotiate with ETA. The PP never has, which is why their local councillors became the target of the terrorists in the 90’s and early 2000’s. He will cut a better figure in the world than Zapatero, but he is not of the clique, as he believes in individual freedom and democracy in a way that many European politicians don’t. Zapatero is not standing. He knew his time was up and left the job of losing to someone else. Typical of the man. Too small in every way. He should never have become President, and he wasn’t meant to be, not even by his own party. It was a fluke. The man who has accepted the job of fighting the election is Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, one of the best and most intelligent of the leaders of the socialist party, a man who is capable of not doing cheap politics when the occasion demands more than slogans and PR. If he takes seriously the job of leader of the opposition we might get some decent government in the next few years. I wonder. The parties are largely financed with public money, and elections are by party lists, meaning that you are not really represented by anybody, not even in the limited way that you are in England. You don’t know who defends your interests and represents your views to the government, who holds it to account in your name. Since MP’s are, because of this system, employed by the party, it is the party that controls their loyalty, their minds and their consciences, and as the party pays them with taxpayers money, the divorce from any real democratic representation is complete. Despite which, it works up to a point. This is a free country. Full of petty bureaucracy, worthless people with little bits of power, prohibitions on all kinds of trivial things, permits for things that should not require permission, and the usual suffocating effects of rampant statism, you can ignore a great deal of it and complain openly and robustly about the rest, you are still allowed to possess, to buy and to sell, to meet and talk to whoever you want, to speak publically and privately and to say and do what you want- up to a point- without having to explain yourself to anyone, and that is probably the closest to freedom it is practically possible to get in this world. In other news, ETA have realised they weren’t getting anywhere by murdering innocent people and have announced a ceasefire. They say it is permanent, but they have said that before. They seem to think that they deserve a prize for this, a prize of their own choosing, which we will have to give them or they will start killing people again. There really does seem to be a mentality among the leaders of ETA that they can make demands about how their defeat and destruction will take place. They are already demanding the release of their prisoners (because Tony Blair let IRA murderers out), and expect to be treated as normal human beings, as though decades of bloodshed could just be forgotten. They have made this announcement because they are weak, and because it is politically expedient. They have not come to realize that random slaughter is intrinsically wrong, that you can’t necessarily kill people just because you haven’t got what you want, that they don’t in fact represent any more than a tiny fraction of the people in whose name they claim to act. They haven’t even realised that they are doomed to continue indefinitely the abject failure of everything they have ever attempted, except for the murders themselves. They have seen that more people voted for their area of the political spectrum when they stopped killing people and formed a coalition with a democratic party. They have dimly perceived that they might do better in the upcoming election if they make a point of not killing anyone between now and then. The new President (anticipating events very slightly) has said he will not negotiate with them, and I hope he means it. There are plenty of democratic organizations and democratically elected politicians who genuinely represent the varied opinions and desires of the Basque people. To treat the terrorists as though they could legitimately speak for others is an insult to them, and to everything they have suffered at the hands of ETA.

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