An isolated event can have consequences of unpredictable depth and political and social significance. Without the economic disaster of 15 years ago we would not have reached the political turmoil that Spain is currently experiencing at the hands of leaders who only want to stay in power.
On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers, one of the most important American banks, collapsed. This is the sound of a financial explosion that some telluric movements have been announced for months. A year before that, on August 9, 2007, the Federal Reserve had to inject $90 billion into the American financial system in just 24 hours to keep it from collapsing. Hours later, the ECB intervened to the same extent when BNP Paribas, the leading bank in France and Europe, began to falter.
This deterioration of the financial system dragged the world into the biggest economic crisis since October 29, 1929. Its consequences are so severe that it is likely that if the history of our time is studied, it can be said that that date is the one that marks a change in time, in the same way that October 12, 1492, with the discovery of America, marks the passage from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age and July 14, 1789, with the taking of the Bastille, the birth of the Contemporary Age.
The financial crisis originated in the United States with an undercapitalized and deregulated banking system. In 1933, after the crisis that followed the “Black Tuesday” of 1929, Roosevelt approved the Glass-Stagegel Act, to control the financial activity that until then was uncontrolled. But in 1999 Clinton dismissed it: a return to the past created the ideal conditions for an explosion, and the ‘junk mortgage’ crisis was the fuse that caused the explosion.
The shock wave of the American economic explosion had devastating consequences for the entire Western economy, including Spain. In 2008, financial institutions in our country provided loans that exceeded their deposits and lent money that was also lent by the European Central Bank. When the crisis broke out, millions of Spaniards lost their jobs, they had no money to pay their debts and loans, and Spanish banks were left without liquidity to repay the ECB what they had lent them. . The then governor of the Bank of Spain, Luis María Linde, summed it up in these words years later before the Congress of Deputies: «In October 2012 the Spanish bank owed 409,000 million. Spain suffered a financial collapse; “The most serious situation since the Civil War.” Unemployment, which was 8.2 percent in 2007, increased to 26.1 percent in 2013. And GDP per capita fell 24 percent.
Historical experience teaches that every economic crisis creates a social crisis which, in turn, provokes a political crisis. And Spain is no exception. The sense of frustration, insecurity and frustration caused by the economic collapse has created a distrust of millions of citizens in institutions and rulers. The crisis has widened the inequality gap and impoverished a portion of the middle class and a good portion of the working class with continuing pressure. An OECD report says that “income inequality among its member countries (one of which is Spain) is at its highest level in the last half century”… .” And the weakness of the middle classes class – the support of democracy, as Aristotle wrote – ended up undermining it.
Spain has suffered for many years due to the political consequences of the economic and social crisis. We believe that in 1977 we began an irreversible path towards democracy, economic development and political stability. But the crash of 2008 awakened us from a long slumber of thirty years, and pushed us down a path of regression that would bring us back to the worst of our past.
Bipartisanship exploded. The right is divided into three parties and the left into two. The result was unstable governments and five general elections in just seven years. The fragmentation of votes and parliamentary groups has created weak governments, captives of their own will to small separatist parties with an unprecedented capacity for pressure, if not blackmail. our history, which allowed them to undermine the order of the 1978 constitution.
Congress moved from being an institution of debate and control of the Government to being a ratification chamber under the executive branch. And caudillismo began to replace leadership, with a serious breakdown of the parliamentary regime.
From a restored, prosperous and democratic Spain we returned to a divided and unequal Spain with a parliamentary democracy in crisis. And what is more serious, with its national unity seriously threatened.
Martin Wolf writes that the times of the rise of global capitalism coincide with the processes of democratization, and in times of crisis there are times of the decline of democracy.
It is not about threatening that the wolf is coming, but warning that the wolf is already among us.