Grand pact: what for?

Pacts between political parties in Spain seem hard to reach - but are they desirable anyway?

Since the years just after Franco's death, Spanish democracy has looked back to the golden days of the Pact of Moncloa, when right and left sat down together and hammered out a reasonably modern Constitution. Nowadays, political parties, unions, employers and so on are often exhorted to recover the spirit of consensus and produce a grand cross-party agreement of state to find a way out of the crisis.

A necessary condition for this is that the principal actors want it to happen, or at least find themselves forced to want it. For the moment, this doesn't seem to be the case. The PSOE mumbles in its favor, but the PP seems utterly uninterested. Whatever signs Rajoy gives from behind his curtain are to the contrary. He points only to his clear parliamentary majority. His preferred channel for communication with the public are the meetings of his party. The golden pillars of his rhetoric are three: "I have clear ideas," "I have a plan," and "There is no alternative." What pact can you make out of those materials? Nothing but total submission on the part of the opposition - another step downward into the sclerosis of our democracy.

As for the social agents, the situation is the same. The unions call for agreement, and the employers are utterly uninterested. They place their trust in the PP, which has clearly shown whose side it is on. Then we hear of "pressure from the citizens." But is there really a desire in society for understanding between the political forces, or is this a question of wishful thinking on the part of the news media? Among the public, the most visible feelings are distrust and fear. Pacts based on fear would render the population even more a captive of the ruling class than it is already.

Pacts, then, seem hard to reach - but are they desirable anyway? Of course not, if they can only serve to enshrine the idea that there is no alternative. All the more so, when rising voices say that the EU is trapped in a meaningless orthodoxy, and that austerity and economic recovery are quite incompatible. The idea that "there is no alternative" is an insult to the intelligence, and a potent seed for the degradation of democracy. A set of pacts to convince the public that there is no way out but blind obedience to exterior, extra-political powers that condition our decision-making, would only serve to enlarge the distance between the ruling elites and the citizens. One and all confounded in the vast soup bowl of consensus: no voices of discrepancy. If this must be the result, better to forget national agreements. The opposition should work at overhauling its machine to be in a position to take over if the government burns out earlier than expected, and employers and unions are at each other's throats.

In my opinion, a grand agreement of state would make sense only for one objective: to stand up against external demands, and defend the country's democratic dignity. To prevent the consolidation of what Habermas calls the "executive federalism" concocted by Merkel and Sarkozy - which, in his words, proposes to "transfer the imperatives of the markets to the national budgets without any democratic legitimization." This pact is steering the EU project toward disaster. "The first democratic transnational community will turn into a particularly effective, because veiled, arrangement of post-democratic domination."

An active consensus, against post-democratic authoritarian rule, requires courage and a capacity for seeking European-wide support. But, having watched both Zapatero and Rajoy running after the dummy hare of the markets, I doubt that our major parties are up to it. And more so if, as De Guindos says, they are doing it out of conviction. The first joint battle has to be to defer the deficit objectives. Not even in this can I see the conditions for agreement.

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