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Articles on Spain after 2006
The Spanish miracle
The terrorists win the elections in Spain

  • (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 aspires to. (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 (Reuters).
    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 anti-democratic alliance.
    Now the terrorists have one more reason to strike at other countries: it does work. They can probably decide the outcome of any election in any democratic country. 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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