Wednesday, April 23, 2003


An examination of Spanish Socialist leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

by Alan Murphy and John Chappell


The PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party) came to power after an overwhelming victory in the 1982 general elections; the PSOE was considered, at the time, to be a party of the little man, of the underdog, having been outlawed under the Franco regime. The Socialists were believed by most Spaniards to be pure and honest, and the Socialist slogan, "100 years of honesty", spoke volumes. They were led by young, super-charismatic Felipe González, who would govern the country as Prime Minister for the next fourteen years.

What really happened after the Socialist landslide was the reign of "los Sucialistas", "the dirty ones". It was a throwback to the worst excesses of feudal caciquismo (boss rule). A myriad of financial scandals such as the Rumasa case rocked Spain shortly after Felipe, as he was universally known, came to power. Subsidies flowed like sangría to the comparatively poor southern areas of Extremadura, Castile-La Mancha, and Andalusia, buying hundreds of thousands of votes of semi-skilled semi-unemployed agricultural laborers. How much money did they steal? Nobody knows. But they scored an enormous publicity victory in 1992 when Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games and Sevilla got the World's Fair; Barcelona and Sevilla, of course, were, are, and apparently always be Socialist fiefdoms.

ETA, the Basque terrorist gang, was Felipe's most serious problem. They ran around killing dozens of people a year; their worst atrocity was the Hipercor bombing of a Barcelona department store which killed and wounded literally hundreds of people. things came to a head even before this atrocity, though, because the Spanish Army has always held a great deal of power, and many ETA victims were army officers. In 1981 elements of the Army went so far as to attempt a coup and took over the Parliament building. Felipe desperately feared another coup, so something had to be done.

Felipe looked around. He saw that the British and the Israelis had a novel way of getting rid of terrorists, as exemplified in the triple killing of an IRA hit squad in Gibraltar by the SAS and the Mossad's selective assassination of any terrorist who looked at them the wrong way. My (Murph's) feeling is that was not necessarily a bad thing; after all, these terrorists do claim that they are soldiers in a war and so they can expect to suffer the consequences. Clearly, Felipe concurred with this view. So he decided to set up an enormous slush fund to finance his very own death squad.

However, there was what they call in intelligence circles "a significant operational difference" between the Brits and the Israelis on the one hand and Felipe's GAL, his very own secret army, on the other. Whereas the SAS and the Mossad select their operatives with utmost care, Felipe hired a bunch of illiterate Corsican mercenaries and alcoholic local cops. Naturally, these Keystone Killers bungled several hit jobs, once kidnapping the wrong guy and, repeatedly, leaving their fingerprints all over the crime scene when they did manage to kill someone who actually had something to do with terrorism.

So 1992 rolls around, the apotheosis of Socialist glory, with Barcelona and Sevilla occupying the center of the world's attention. Everyone is happy, but something is bubbling under the surface, and that something erupts in a pustulent chancre in the very next year. The press gets on the money trail and blows it all wide open. The money that was supposed to fund anti-terrorist operations was used to buy mink coats for police chiefs' wives. The head of the national bank and the boss of the Guardia Civil go to the slammer. Carelessness and incompetence. Exposure. Ruin. Disgrace. Cabinet ministers behind bars. Felipe walks. His troops stay loyal.

The PSOE government was exposed as corrupt, incompetent, and completely disrespectful of the law. Next time elections came around, in 1996, José María Aznar and his conservative People's Party toasted them. Exit Felipe to his palatial home in a plush Madrid suburb. Now the PSOE have to find someone, anyone, who can restore them to power.

To cut to the chase, the result was a two-headed monster. Some guy whose name nobody can remember (Joaquín Almunia--we looked it up) was the nomenklatura's candidate, but someone got the bright idea they ought to innovate and have a primary election, which was won by the charismatic Catalan José Borrell, surprising the hell out of said nomenklatura. It was decided that the guy-whose-name-nobody-can-remember and Borrell would sort of be co-leaders. This made everybody very confused since nobody was sure who was really running the party. The ambiguity was resolved when Borrell got mixed up in another financial scandal and had to be defenestrated; the guy-whose-name-nobody-can-remember ran against Aznar in the 2000 general election and crashed and burned. He hasn't been heard from since.

The PSOE's wheels were spinning in a muddy ditch and nobody was driving the pork-barrel juggernaut. They looked around for someone, anyone, who had a learner's permit to take the wheel. Somebody had to overtake the Aznar hot rod, which was disappearing over the political horizon. Who had the horsepower?

ZAP! Along came José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, whom nobody had ever heard of before, but he did look a little bit like Tony Blair. So, they figured, maybe he could do the same thing Blair had done--renovate the out-of-touch leftist party so it resembled something the ordinary Spanish José could identify with. And that's where we are today.

So does Zap's ponderous pork-barrelling eighteen-wheeler have the specs to catch Aznar's '66 Chevelle with a 350 V-8? Let's find out by looking at last Sunday's interview with the great man himself from El País, house organ of the PSOE.


Q. Hasn't this war at least served to put an end to Saddam Hussein's dictatorship?
A. No. What it's been good for until now, it seems, is to secure the oil wells. Everything has been a lie. In fact, there are other dictatorial regimes that are going to rearm themselves as a consequence of this war. No. this war was fought to exercise political, economic, and military domination in the area, ignoring the conventional norms of International Law.

...One. As this action concludes, it has been proven that none of the reasons used to justify and support this war were true. (Saddam's) regime had no WMDs, nor was the Iraqi Army a threat to the coalition or the world. Number two: the Iraqi regime was in a situation of absolute weakness, and the inspectors could have easily done their work. Now they tell us that the Iraqi war was a war of liberation. This is prohibited by the Charter of the UN, and moreover, not only is this liberation momentary, but the liberty which is being given to the Iraqi people has become libertinism. It is one of the most brazen moments that has been seen for decades, pillage, humiliation, and an absolute disregard for human rights. I believe that history will judge those who have allowed a part of our history to be destroyed. This war began outside the law, it has been carried out outside the law, and it seems that at the end of the war the law has not been respected.

...I am asking for a vote on the 25th of March as a function of the best constitutional values, as a function of the best values of tolerance, reaffirming myself in our Europeism. Reaffirming another method of governing and another method of behaving...I think the massive demonstrations correspond to three expressions. First, the rejection of the war. Second, the citizenry wants a more just international order, it wants an international order based on legality and not based on who has the most B-52s. And third, I think the people are expressing a feeling of an improvement of democracy, that their condition of citizen should be relevant and be listened to, with respect to a Government that in the last two and a half years has been conducting policy very much against the people in several ways.

...We must improve democracy in Spain. There are three aspects that seem essential to me. One, we have to improve the functioning of Parliament. Parliament has to be more and more reflective every day of what is happening in the national life. Two, I think we have to improve the truth when communicating the policies and the values of plurality, independence, the truth of information through the public media. I think one of the things that brought most demonstrators out onto the streets is the manipulation of the public media of communciation, the vulgar manipulation of the public media of communication and the attempt to control some private media. Spain needs a radical change of policy in the public media of communication. And, third, I think our democracy needs instruments and channels of participation on the part of the citizenry.

...I think that since I was elected secretary-general I said that I wanted politics to be governed by profound convictions and principles. I have been as radical in defending and supporting the Government in the struggle against ETA, exactly the same degree of radical and firm, as when opposing this war, because of moral conditions and principles. Exactly the same.

Q. Would a Government presided by you have permitted the use of the bases (in Spain) to the US?
A. For this action against Iraq, no, of course.
Q. Or the overflight of the B-52s?
A. For this action, no.
Q. And for actions in the future?
A. It would have to be in function of what the agreement, or a multilateral agreement, says, or if the territorial interests of Spain or the United States are at risk. And this is the chain of legitimacy. If not, we will arrive at the absurdity that the bases, of joint use, have no limitation, that the US can use our territory in any circumstances and that Spain cannot do anything...We democrats have chosen to construct a world in which right is not imposed by military superiority. Military supremacy cannot be the same as moral superirity and superiority in the rules of the game. The rules of the game are between everybody and for everybody.

...Sincerely, the one in a very evident minority within European social democracy is Tony Blair, and therefore, Tony Blair is the one who should reflect...I sincerely believe that Tony Blair's putative strategy has not borne fruit. Blair's discourse as an element of moderation and contention of the Bush administration has not given its fruits. It is so true, that we already see him in hot water, as when Colin Powell, Rumsfeld, and Bush start looking at Syria.

...I think every day there will be more and more positions like ours. I have certainly found this with many Latin American governments, various Arab countries, and with the climate there is in Europe that this has been a tremendous error. I think that, just as much France as Germany as the PSOE, what we are trying to do is that this erroneous line is not continued, that sensibility be recovered, that dialogue be recuperated, that the Bush Administration should listen to the rest. That there have been so many countries, the majority of the countries in the world, the majority of the public opinions of the world in disagreement, this road can not be continued down. And that is a message directed at Tony Blair and at Aznar.

...If the occupying forces try to act as administrative forces without the permission of the United Nations, we will continue in a situation of international illegality. Besides, in the political and social terms of benefitting the people of Iraq, I think that every day there will emerge a feeling among the Iraqi citizenry of seeing themselves as occupied and invaded, not liberated

Sorry, y'all, there's a page and a half more of Zap but I just can't bring myself to transcribe any more. Just a few comments: 1) He really is this dumb. It's not hard to speak clear Spanish, but Zap can't do it. This drivel is just as drivelly in the original. And they have the nerve to call Bush a moron. 2) Spanish political discourse really is this poor. Zap doesn't say anything specific in the whole damn interview. This is not unusual in these here parts. 3) We'll see if this is what the people want on May 25. If it is, they can't say they weren't warned.

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