The real Spanish transition

International media has always praised Spain as the example to follow for a peaceful transition from a dictatorial regime into a democracy. For many years people like me, born in the 80s thought we were indeed an example. Then you start realising that the Two Spains (Pro Franco and Republican) are still alive and showing their hate to each other every day in the media, local conversations, politicians’ spins…. You open your eyes and see that all Transition did was putting the unresolved things (massive murders from both sides, missing persons, political differences, economic social injustices like the taxing system) into a cupboard and lock it. There was no opportunity to deal with it in a civilised manner so everyone could heal and the society as a whole could progress into a democracy mentality, where everyone is equal with same rights and responsibilities. Little lee way was given to communist or republican parties for fear of upsetting the right movements and the army with the pretext of not provoking another war. It feels as if the left had to make all the concessions for the good of the country (to avoid another war) while the right and the people who already had power during the Dictatorship aligned themselves with the new economic powers to keep social structures and institutions working almost like they were during Franco. Since the 40s when the Dictatorship started workers are paying a high proportion of their income as taxes, they suffer this burden even more if they are freelance, having to pay a minimum of 250 € monthly as a fee no matter how much they earn which prevents many from doing a start-up; land and company owners benefit from tax breaks and institutions are controlled by political parties, too often they don’t choose public employees on merits but their friends and family, as if public money was theirs to spend on private favours instead of the good of the country.

Thus Democracy started. My parents generation wasn't given a choice: Parliamentary Monarchy or Parliamentary Monarchy. If a real transition had been put forward another option should have been available, Republic; after all the civil war begun because the army didn’t approve of the Republic that was functioning during the 30s. With the fear of a new war, the majority chose Monarchy, hoping that this new system would be more equitative even though the preferred option for many would have been the Third Republic.

Since the taxing system was copied from the Dictatorship, the government didn’t have enough money to provide for public services and they started borrowing money from abroad instead of rising taxes on the Oligarchy. Years pass by, we get into the European Union and start receiving developing money which went almost solely to construction companies, not the development of the country as it was supposed to. Instead of investing it in research, education, credits for companies or innovation to develop a prosper economy, politicians promoted roads and construction projects; it was easier and generated more profit for them thanks to a law signed by Aznar (Conservative President during the 90s) that allowed local authorities to declare land fit for construction and receive money for such transactions. Thus every land owner (usually wealthy people already associated with the old regime) started selling their properties to build houses. Meanwhile city halls justified their increases on taxes by doing maintenance works on roads and footways, as if public money only could be spent on roads.

I lived in Leon for 20 years, a city with about 175000 residents; I can’t remember the number of times City Hall replaced footways, even when the existing ones didn’t present any need of upgrade. They sometimes also inflate the value of the project so they could justify the use public money and deviate some to their pockets. After a few years on a public seat most of the people magically increase their patrimony, acquiring second houses, expensive cars, etc. We all knew it and we all thought it was wrong but that was how the system worked when we were in the Dictatorship and unfortunately many people didn’t know that wasn’t the only way a country can be governed. Together with this construction bubble we had an extensive clientelism culture. If you have connections amongst the rich you will have the best job and all the possibilities, too often they go as far as to hire you as consultant for a public office. Likewise middle class workers prosper more by praising the manager than working hard and honestly.

And we got to the point we are now, realising we have a corrupt society that never did a proper transition towards a decent society of opportunities. Some blame belongs to the politicians and economic powers that designed the new system without any ethic values nor consideration for the society, doing it closed and obscure to protect themselves and be able to do whatever they want. But the bigger share of blame is onto the society. The lack of culture we inheritaged from the old regime made us sheep thinking that this was the only way; it has stopped us from demanding a transparent, meritocratic and just system and above all from realising that we are the majority and there is power in numbers. Austerity has been the last straw, we have lost our rights and services while the people responsible are at large and wealthier than before. Now things are changing 11 May 2011 was the beginning of the Spanish awakening. It may take time but we will create the Spain we want and we deserve. And then we will be a real example of transition into democracy.

 

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