The Crisis in Spain and the Basque Country

Of course, during my visit to Euskal Herria in early April, one of the topics that came up was the crisis. Spain is in particularly bad shape, with unemployment over 20% in the general populace and much higher for young men. The Basque Country is in reasonably good shape, with unemployment hovering in the 8-9% range.

It was interesting talking to different people about the situation. Some are clearly very pessimistic about the future, feeling that the rest of Spain cannot help but drag the Basque Country down as the situation worsens. They point to unresponsible government spending in a bad economy. One comment was that, since the Guggenheim in Bilbao, every little town feels like it needs its own museum. So all of these construction projects are going on, some of dubious use. This includes, in the opinion of at least one Donostiatar, the new addition to the San Telmo museum in Donosti, which is a glorified library/meeting space that seems much bigger than necessary.

In contrast, others point to the fact that, despite the supposedly rough economy, people are still taking their vacations and living the good life, including heading to the Mediterranean coast or even to Central America for vacations during Semana Santa. Clearly, in their view, the people have money to spend and they are spending it. It isn’t so bad, yet, such that people feel compelled to save every euro in the face of some great collapse. I heard this particularly from a more elderly gentleman, who likely has seen much harder times in his life.

Clearly, the crisis is on the minds of everyone and what the future holds for the Basque Country, Spain, and all of Europe is unclear. And, as with everything, everyone has their own views of what that future holds. To me, it seems that, as the economy in Spain as a whole worsens, it can only suck in the Basque Country more, worsening things there too. The Spanish Basque Country is an integral part of the Spanish economy and, as such, is not insulated from what is happening in the rest of the country.

One thought on “The Crisis in Spain and the Basque Country”

  1. An important topic, and an incredibly complex one.

    The crisis throughout Iberia is certainly bad, and worse in southern regions like Extremadura and AndalucĂ­a than in the Basque Country but it is bad economics to see this as a Spanish problem, a Southern European problem or indeed a European problem. This is a global crisis of capitalism and it has it’s roots as much in the US, UK or Germany as anywhere else.

    The simple reality is that investors are withdrawing from those markets that are in the worst shape first, let’s be clear though, the signs of economic disaster loom large in the ‘safe’ markets too for any with a decent grasp of economics. The US sub-prime market, of course, triggered the whole credit crunch and exposed how utterly unsustainable and degenerate finance capital had become but again the US is no more ‘to blame’ than Europe. Politicians, commentators and ‘experts’ trading blame across the atlantic serves nobody’s interests and obfuscates the economic reality: Capitalism is bankrupt on a global level.

    In the UK and Germany our pundits sit on TV doling out what passes for ‘analysis’ in the bourgeois media, pitiful as it is. Sneering at the profligacy and laziness of Southern Europeans, smug that it is they being bailed out by us when nothing could be further from the truth; it is Northern European banks being bailed out, not countries or people in Southern Europe.

    When the crisis first hit European politicians droned on incessantly on TV about the dysfunctional US property market being to blame, stirring up all the tired old cultural prejudices about American superficiality and hyper-consumerism. Now Europe is where the crisis is most acute American politicians and pundits dredge up reverse prejudices about funny old backwards Europe, stuck with our petty national divisions, same as ever. None of this reflects reality of course but it does a damn good job of keeping people ignorant and distracted from the real problems whilst the ruling class milk every last drop out of the rest of us, after all, they haven’t really been affected by this crisis, many of them are richer today than ever before.

    No, the truth is the whole system is screwed. Spain has it’s property market and mass unemployment, Germany relies on exports it has only achieved by lending unsustainable amounts of money all over Europe and beyond (when they say they are bailing out Greece, they are really bailing out their own banks and making the Greek/Italian/Irish/etc. people pay to save their economy), the UK banking sector has debts of more than 600 x GDP, by far the highest in the world, and will be the next Iceland, the US has a property market continuing to sink in most places, a government that is up to it’s eyeballs in debt and a student loan portfolio of a trillion dollars which faces insolvency.

    The only answer, as it has ever been, is socialism. Not reformist Social Democracy that tries to make capitalism fairer (that has nothing to do with socialism) but proper mass revolutions and workers taking power.

    If the Ezker Abertzaleak can stop focussing so much on Basque independence and recognise that they will only achieve socialism in Euskadi, and indeed independence, when it is achieved in Iberia and Europe then they might stand a chance of getting somewhere. If not the Euskadi faces the same fate as the rest of the world: another World War so capitalism can destroy it’s productive forces and re-colonise the developing world to snatch their resources and pull itself back from the brink.

    Sozialismoa bide bakarra da!
    Iraultza ala hil!

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