- (July 2006)
The Spanish miracle
Spain is a strange country. Very few empires self-destroyed so rapidly and
went from unspeakable wealth to utter poverty. Europeans who grew up two
centuries ago thought of Spain as a rich country. Europeans who grew up in
the 20th century thought of Spain as one of the poorest countries in EUrope,
a veritable third-world country in the middle of the first world. Spain
managed to avoid both world wars (the only major European country to be spared
those horrors) but, in between those wars, was torn by one of the biggest
civil wars on European soil (and the biggest in Western Europe since centuries).
Then suddenly, after the death of dictator Franco in 1975, Spain became a model
of democracy and of economic progress. Under prime minister Jose Maria Aznar (1996-2004) Spain's economy took off, consistently beating the big European economies in terms of growth rate.
Islamic terrorists defeated Aznar in the 2004 elections (he lost by a few percentage points following the Madrid terrorist attacks, after leading the polls by a few percentage points until the eve of the elections) but his socialist
successor, Jose-Luis-Rodriguez Zapatero, has been clever enough to keep Aznar's
economic program in place. Other than allowing gays to marry and granting a
fictitious autonomy to the various ethnic groups, and withdrawing Spanish
troops from Iraq, Zapatero has done little to destabilize an economic engine
that is still the envy of Western Europe.
Zapatero is emblematic of the new European spirit, little interested in world
politics (other than to despise whatever the USA does) and much more keen on
providing a nice lifestyle to the bourgeosie. Contrary to what many Europeans
think, this is Marx's nightmare: not the paradise of the proletariat, but the
paradise of the bourgeosie.
In fact, that is precisely why leftist coalitions win elections in Europe:
they tend to be more focused on providing a good domestic administration than
in entering international disputes.
It is very little to do with Marx (who had something else in mind) and a lot
more to do with the bourgeosie's desire to live a quiet, peaceful, indifferent
life. There is a palpable fear in Europe of politicians who may jump into
international politics and thus alter the simple routine that the bourgeosie
(The leftist coalition assembled by prime minister
Romano Prodi in Italy seems to mirror Zapatero's ideology, and so may
prove to be France's socialist leader Segolene Royal).
Leftist coalitions lose elections only when they fail to deliver that "good"
domestic administration that the voters expect from them (nonetheless, Schroeder
survived a long time in Germany despite being a bad administrator, precisely
because his leftist coalition was a guarantee of non-involvement in foreign
politics). The failure must be big enough (such as Schroeder's) for voters
to accept the risk of international politics.
Zapatero is basically the vanguard of a generation of politicians that are
redefining the meaning of "right" and "left", of "conservative" and "progressive". There is little in Zapatero's policies or ideology that is Marxist (leftist)
or progressive. Marx was not in favor of gay marriage or regional autonomy
(the only two major reforms sponsored by Zapatero). But there is a lot that
is about staying out of trouble.
On the other hand, the conservative parties (the "right") are typically more
progressive (and thus actually less conservative) than the leftist parties.
Conservative parties are in favor of dramatically reforming society in order
to bring long-term prosperity and security. This inevitably implies a) some kind
of strong dependence on the USA, b) globalization, c) involvement in the
turbulent events of other regions of the world.
Underlying this new definition of Right and Left is an even more dramatic
change in the psychology of Europeans, after 25 centuries of wars and foreign
expansion. Today's Spain is not a country of conquistadores but a country
of realtors and office clerks. Their main concerns are pensions and soccer,
not the reconquista or their colonies.
Spain represents how well this model can work. By focusing inwards, the country
is making progress and may soon overtake Italy and Britain in GDP per capita.
Nonetheless, Spain has the largest trade deficit in the West after the USA,
and the biggest real-estate bubble in the West after the USA.
The Spaniards have become the biggest critics of the USA (passing even the
French in anti-USA polls). They don't seem to realize how similar their
economy is to the USA economy.
Spain, like the rest of Europe, has to remember that its wealth comes from
a dual process: someone reforms the economy (e.g., Aznar), and then someone
administers it (e.g., Zapatero).
BUt if the former is missing (like in France under Chirac and Germany under
Schroeder), the economy may go into a tailspin, and the advantage of having
abandoned the international scene may turn into a nation's grave.
Zapatero's challenge is to prove that he can be both
(as Tony Blair has tried before), and avoid becoming
what Schroeder had become in Germany: a force to oppose all change at all costs.
TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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- (March 2004)
The terrorists win the elections in Spain.
It is no coincidence, of course, that the simultaneous deadly terrorist attacks
of March 11 were timed to precede the national elections: the terrorists clearly
wanted to remind the Spaniards who to vote for (or, better, who to vote
against). The Spaniards heard the terrorists, and complied.
Al Qaeda was able to change the government of a western country.
For the first time since the Middle Ages, a Muslim group has been able to
determine who rules in Spain.
Spaniards marched in the street with huge banners saying "PAZ". It translates
into: "Terrorists, I obey your orders". The "Paz" party has won the elections:
Spain will now report to Al Qaeda, not the USA, in Iraq and elsewhere,
as the new prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has already promised.
For two years now, the terrorist attacks of Islamic fundamentalists have
backfired. From New York (september 11) to Bali to Saudi Arabia to Morocco
to Istanbul, each terrorist attack has created a new enemy for the terrorists,
has strengthened, not weakened, the unity and resolve of their victims.
The March 11 terrorist attack in Madrid may be signaling the turning of the
tide: for the first time, a terrorist attack has not strengthened but weakened
the victim. Spain is the first country that has not struck back to the
terrorists, but instead accepted their conditions.
Whether you liked the old Spanish cabinet or you like the new one, Al Qaeda
likes the fact that it caused the old one to be defeated. Muslim fundamentalists
are rejoicing that they decided the outcome of a western election, for the
first time in history.
On march 17 the terrorists, pleased with the results of the elections,
wrote to a Spanish newspaper that they will suspend
operations in Spain, since Spain has now abandoned the alliance with the USA
The war in Iraq is between the people who want to create a democracy and
the people who oppose the creation of the Iraqi democracy (Baath party,
Al Qaeda, Chirac, etc). It sounds like Spain has just joined the
Now the terrorists have one more reason to strike at other countries: it
They can probably decide the outcome of any election in any democratic
Many other terrorist groups will be inspired by
Al Qaeda's success in the Spanish elections.
Expect huge terrorist attacks before every and each election
anywhere in the world, for many years to come.
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