The window of opportunity opened in the summer by the ECB, promising unconditional backing for short-term Spanish and Italian debt, is closing in the gloom of autumn, as the euro-zone political climate darkens due both to the indecision of Rajoy, and to that of Merkel, who keeps putting off her backing for the bailouts and for a banking union. Things are worsening in Spain with the rebellion of the Catalans, and the spread of civil disobedience: two new fronts for a government that seems incapable of addressing them with a minimum of political intelligence. Instead of offering to negotiate, the government preferred to bare its teeth and snarl, speaking of hispanicizing the Catalans, leaving itself with no margin for flexibility.
Meanwhile, it is worth commenting on another issue that has heated political spirits: the repercussions of the massive Surround the Congress demonstration on September 25, called by the Social Summit, an amalgam of labor unions and a variety of leftist and anti-system protest groups. The government tried to stop it, first, by filing legal charges against some of the people who called the demonstration, charging them with crimes against the state, and then by establishing a perimeter around Congress, as if to repel a military attack.
As events developed, the police charged the demonstrators with unnecessary violence, arresting some 30 activists, who were then charged in the Provincial High Court with the crime of sedition. Meanwhile the government delegate for Madrid spoke of "modulating" the right to demonstrate, while the dog pack of the PP's media voices set up a howl, solemnly comparing the "Siege of Congress" with Colonel Tejero's attempted coup in 1982: inflating it into the category of a grave terrorist and anti-system threat to democracy and the rule of law. The tragicomic absurdity rose to a paroxysm when the High Court judge rejected the charges out of hand, rightly pointing out that these people were only exercising their right to protest in public against the "well-known discredit" of the political class. That unleashed a ferocious verbal lynching against the judge, who was termed a "frivolous posh anarchist" for thus vilifying the Fathers of the Country.
We may excuse the bungling of a government that, surrounded by big problems that it cannot solve, is trying to distract attention by magnifying a minor problem, mounting a disproportionate scandal about an imaginary enemy within the state: the disobedient anti-system activists. But the move backfired. First, because it slipped into populism by decreeing an inquisitorial persecution against some supposed culprits in the hope of recovering popular support and voter sympathy. But that brought about the opposite of what was intended. And by acting in this manner it has revealed its real inclinations, which are only doubtfully democratic. How can you venture to criminalize someone, accusing him of crimes against democracy, when he was only exercising his constitutional right to associate, meet and demonstrate?
Do they fail to notice that, if anyone is committing crimes against democracy, it is the government itself, when it represses, curtails or derogates the demonstrators' civil and political rights - as it has already been doing to the social rights of all citizens, with an unjust policy of fiscal austerity?
Meanwhile, the underlying reality of the issue is clear. The Spanish people, and thus the Social Summit, have a perfect right to disagree with Congress, existing laws and even the Constitution. This is a constitutional right that inherently belongs to them, like the right to demonstrate, publicly expressing their dissidence and civil disobedience against a political class that is governing against the will of the people it represents. The same dissidence whose political content, to judge by the opinion polls, is shared by three-quarters of the Spanish public: quite a "silent majority."