One and a half years after the start of the Acampada in Sol, the two major working groups who keep producing results on a regular basis are Politics and Economy.
Economy, together with Environment, Feminism and Pacifism have produced an interesting document called ‘Debunking Lies’. It covers many of the common lies that are implanted in people’s brains through the goebbelsonian mantra of repetition. If they get repeated long enough they will turn into ‘truth’.
This strategy worked very well in the 20th century, but thanks to internet and people informing themselves, the 21st century is different. I read through the document, and it failed to enlighten me. For a lot of us, all of this is common knowledge. As a matter of fact, consciousness about these lies, and the subsequent outrage about it were two of the very causes of the 15M movement to start.
Instead of talking about these issues at length I will concentrate on one of the pillars. Privatisation.
Ever since neoliberalism went into top gear after the fall of the Soviet Union, we have been told that privatisation (of whatever) would lead to more efficiency, better services, and lower prices. Because private companies would be forced to compete for the consumer’s favour.
In practice, private companies care about one thing only. Profit. Maximum profit for the shareholders at the least possible cost. Corporations are not inclined to compete with one and other, as it would hurt them all.
A private company that takes over a public utility will invariably raise prices, cut services, and lay off all the personnel that is not absolutely necessary to keep the company working. As a result, the customer ends up paying a higher price for a lower quality service or product.
Big corporations only start competing when there’s a new player on the market who naively thinks that capitalism really is about competition and offering the customer a good product at a reasonable price.
Such a player is a danger for the system and has to be neutralised. So the players who control the market cut their prices, spectacularly. Up to the point that they lose money on their venture. But they don’t care, they can handle it. The new player can’t, and goes broke. After that, prices return to their previous level, or even above that, to make up for the cost of pushing the newcomer out of the market.
In Spain, private players are entering the ‘health care market’. Following the above scheme, privately run hospitals are cutting costs and laying off personnel. One of the things they are economising on is cleaning.
According to the figures, there are more cases of infection-related fatalities in private hospitals compared to public hospitals, and more cases of infant mortality. Quite literally, privatisation of health care is costing lives.
Another common lie is that the whole system of public services is unsustainable for being too costly. But in Spain the welfare state is by far not as well developed as in countries like Germany or Sweden, nor is the percentage of BNP spent on the public sector as high as in the North. The problem is not the cost, but the lack of income as a result of massive tax evasion by big corporations and the top 1%.
Then there’s the major problem of corruption. Over here, like in Italy, Greece, Portugal and most of the world. All the world, actually. If the amount of money is tempting enough, even the Scandinavians can be bought. Iceland has proved to be an excellent example of this.
And yet, the north of Europe has a culture wherein public money is considered public money, and its expenditure has to be accounted for. In the South, it simply disappears as people look the other way.
All of these things are linked. You cannot change one, without having to change the other. You will have to change it all. And to do so, you will have to make revolution.