Guest Post: Why Spanish Social Tension Does Not Boil Over?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by J. Luis Martin, director of, first published in El Confidencial

Why Social Tension Does Not Boil Over?

Spaniards have come to accept that their country’s dire state of economic affairs will take years to overcome. After witnessing the suffering experienced by their European neighbors, particularly in Greece and Portugal, Spanish citizens have also accepted significant tax increases and the overall deterioration of their household economies with stoic resignation. Political and social stability have admirably prevailed.

As national economic indicators continue to confirm an even more painful future with record-high unemployment and unabated economic stagnation, one can only ask how much longer such stability will last.

The short-term outlook: more of the same

In the midst of stubborn unemployment figures, rising taxes, higher utility bills and falling wages, Spanish households are facing the arduous task of reducing their debt. While consumption has fallen marginally in real terms, so have savings, which have gone into negative territory. It now looks like Spaniards may soon (within months) have to further reduce their consumption habits and renew efforts to reduce their debt.

The state finds itself in a similar situation: in spite of budget cuts and reforms to reduce the deficit, the economic slowdown has had a negative impact in terms of revenues, as well as in the government’s ability to finance itself. Consequently, the revised 5.8 percent deficit target for 2012 seems extremely difficult to attain.

Spain’s exports have shown positive signs. However, this seems to be the case only on the surface, as more time is needed to properly assess if the trade balance improvement is actually a trend. For now, three constants remain solid in an area in which all European nations fiercely compete with one another: imports are falling due to the downturn in the economy, Spain’s dependency on foreign raw materials and energy continues to be high, and the race for competitiveness is far from over.

Over 90 percent negative about the economy

The latest public opinion survey by Spain’s Center for Sociological Investigation (CIS) reveals that 9 out of 10 Spaniards regard the current economic situation as “bad” or “very bad.” The survey also confirms the order of Spaniards’ main concerns: unemployment, the economy and the political class.

Clearly, Spaniards connect the current state of economic affairs with their perception of an inadequate political establishment coupled with corruption. Why is it then that the current economic reality and dire outlook (along with Spaniards’ indentifying the political class as partly culpable for it) not translating into social disorder?

There may be four important factors keeping the streets below boiling point: 1) Spaniards do not feel the relative deprivation that reigns in Greece; 2) Family networks of support have proven highly effective; 3) Unions have refrained from adopting a belligerent attitude; and 4) The government’s lack of a sensible communication strategy has not yet caused a disaster.

“Spain is not Greece”

The teeth-pulling negotiations of the first Greek bailout may be encapsulated in the following comment, made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Greece's former Prime Minister George Papandreou: “We want to make sure nobody else will want this.” As far as Spaniards are concerned, Merkel was spot on.

Indeed, Spaniards have witnessed the tragic economic, political and social developments which have taken place in Greece and have embraced the politicians’ “Spain is not Greece” mantra, but in the “things could be worse” sense of the phrase. 

Comparatively speaking, Spaniards are comforted by the fact that their country is not in such a terrible shape. Greece has become the ultimate threshold of economic suffering, one that Spaniards believe they will never have to cross, but which leaves quite a bit of room for pain.

There is also the element of how the entire Greek situation has been handled from the beginning. It echoes the frog in the pot analogy: the Greeks were thrown into the boiling water, while the Spaniards are being slowly warmed up.

Why the country is not in flames

Many ask how a country boasting the highest unemployment rate in the western world is not in flames for that very reason. The answer is three-fold: a strong unemployment benefits program, a growing underground economy, and the weaving of family support networks. These three elements sometimes even work together all at once.

While in some regions of Spain unemployment is a high as 32 percent, pensioners are now sharing their monthly check with their children. The long-term unemployed (particularly low-skilled labor) manage to survive in the black market economy. Then there are cases where unemployment benefits are too low for survival, so individuals resort to their relatives and the black market economy.

A simple example: If an unemployed plumber wishes to get off welfare (say he is receiving the €426 monthly minimum aid) and offers his services on his own rather than waiting for a job opening, besides giving up his unemployment benefits he is automatically liable to pay over €260 per month in social security; a monthly tax that he must pay whether or not he is able to generate income. Obviously, the incentive to enter the formal economy is simply not there.

The combination of the above, while keeping the streets calm, is equivalent to poison for the country’s ailing economy. Ideally, the government should switch the incentives that would promote self-employment when companies are not hiring, and make it easier for people to take on risks. However, that would require lowering taxes (and eliminating red tape), which is the opposite to the government’s current program to decrease the deficit.

Unions keeping it cool – for now

Spanish labor unions share almost the same loss of public credibility as the politicians they often confront. Their recent calls for protests, including the general strike of last March, have proven to be not only futile, but also receiving quite low support.

Also, as struggling small businesses have had to reduce staff (or shutdown altogether), labor unions’ have kept a rather discrete wait-and-see type of profile.

Perhaps the only area of the economy where unions may soon be able to regain visibility is in the public sector. As the government hints at more salary cuts in the public workforce this summer, September may see more protests and strikes from teachers, medical doctors, and justice personnel, among others.

The absent leader without a (public) program

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been in office for six months. During this time, he has offered only four press conferences on his own and in which he has accepted questions from journalists: two in Madrid, one in Mexico and one in Brussels. Rajoy has been seriously criticized for his elusiveness and lack of visibility, particularly during a period that can only be described as the most critical for the country since the crisis broke out in Europe. He has also cancelled this year’s “State of the Nation” debate in the parliament, a decision his office has justified on the grounds that he has only been in power for a few months.

Besides his public absenteeism, Rajoy’s government is characterized by another striking element: since abandoning an electoral program that already lacked substance only days after being electednobody knows what his plan for the country is.

Rajoy has quickly learned the European leaders’ use of euphemisms to elude difficult questions and to favor grandiloquent statements regarding his government’s actions. 

He and his ministers speak of “reforming” all areas of the Spanish economy, defending the country’s commitment to the European Union and the monetary union as “irreversible” realities, and reiterate an unshakable determination “to do what needs to be done.”

Deciphering the government's agenda

The general public is left deciphering leaks and loose statements from government officials to foretell what the prime minister’s agenda for the nation might be. 

Most news media in Spain are now pointing to imminent tax hikes, public workers wage reductions and layoffs, but there is nothing concrete in terms of specific policies. It’s all rumors until one Friday afternoon the council of ministers announces new policies in the form of unquestionable rules of law.

Therefore, for no reason other than a lack of an electoral program to carry out as promised, the Spanish government is able to proudly state that it receives no “pressures” from Brussels and that there are no other commitments to the EU beyond the agreed fiscal targets. No contradictions, indeed, if nothing has been promised or announced.

More striking, however, is the public’s reaction to an absent leader acting without a public plan: resignation.

State of fear and uncertainty

That Rajoy has not had enough time to tackle all problems, that the severity of the country’s situation was unbeknownst to him (or that he was deceived by his predecessor in this regard) and that his actions can only go so far because much of everything depends on Europe seems to have sunk in the public’s psyche to the point that it is hard to find opinions questioning elemental matters of democratic legitimacy in Spain.

Currently, the Spanish society lives in a permanent state of fear and anxious uncertainty, but it has not yet turned its back against Rajoy.

It is worth mentioning, however, that a recent voter survey showed that Rajoy’s Popular party is losing political support. The interesting element in the survey is that the main beneficiaries are smaller political formations and not the Socialist party. It is too early to tell if Spain is to experience the same kind of political fragmentation as that of Greece, but this is certainly worth watching.

Will it boil?

It is truly difficult to believe that social tensions may be contained indefinitely under a deteriorating economic scenario – although there is the 'frog in the pot analogy' again.

There are also escape valves which surely help keep social tension from mounting such as the ongoing criminal investigation in which former Bankia (BKIA) chairman Rodrigo Rato and 32 members of the failed bank’s board were formally cited this week as suspects of fraud, misappropriation of funds, and the falsification of financial documents; a necessary but inconceivable turn of events compared to only two months ago.

Ultimately, however, unless the long-yearned European breakthrough (which nobody has managed to properly define) occurs soon and some form of economic upturn begins to be seen as within reach, there is no reason to believe that Spain’s situation will improve over the next several months.

If the summer turns out to be as “hot” as expected, Rajoy may at least have to revise his communication strategy and start facing the public. The cooling variables which currently work in favor of keeping society simmering in a state of fear rather than boiling with outrage may not hold the fire.

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Nussi34's picture

Spain is Greece, just bigger!

THX 1178's picture

Spain will be Greece... just give it time.

Jack Sheet's picture

Interesting perspective, thanks. As long as they don't start burning German flags and effigies of Murkle with Nazi armbands there is a chance that the tourist industry will keep going (Greek bookings from Germany are down 30% YOY). The Balearic islands and Canaries are really great - (relatively) cheap, fantastic weather, great food & scenery, (still) well-functioning  infrastructure.

ihedgemyhedges's picture

And as the Euro keeps dropping and the Spanish economy keeps tanking, you will be able to pick up some quality culo on the over here in the states too when times are really tough, but most of our women are already spoiled.............

Thorny Xi's picture

"Why Social Tension Does Not Boil Over?"  Fluoride in the table salt over there, since its banned from the water.

i-dog's picture


"unless the long-yearned European breakthrough occurs soon"

There will be no "breakthrough" while they're just cooking books and passing a Euro note around the table!

Like Greece (and Portugal, and Ireland, and....), unless the unemployed bum gets out of the taverna and into earning an external income, things will continue to deteriorate. All indebted countries need to generate profits from exports to pay off their debts.

Passing money back and forth between father and son might make it look like something is happening (this is an analog for passing money between the taxpayer and the government and back again), but it's just a circle jerk.

Borrowing money from a neighbour (Germany) to pay the loan shark (eg. for oil and arms imports) does not change the situation ... unless the neighbour simply donates the money to pay the outstanding balance -- then continues to donate more each month to pay for new purchases. That won't last long!!

Oh regional Indian's picture

true i-dog. But the "real" reality is again missed by the author here. 

All anyone needs to look deeply into, is an appreciation of Spain's place in the "true" hirearchy of global power.

Knight of Malta Juan Carlos is one of the royals that holds enormous sway.

"King Juan Carlos is the Protector of the Holy Sites of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. King Juan Carlos controls the World with the Jesuit Order and no other Monarch comes close to his extreme power. He controls the Union for the Mediterranean which is the revived Holy Roman Empire."

That is why Spain will boil, and boil and boil til it's time to boil over. It's just not that time yet.



Jack Sheet's picture

"Extreme power" over what precisely, and enforced by what means?

Oh regional Indian's picture

That is a rabbit hole Jack. You can start here:


Also Google Eric John Phelps and check out the video list along-side the one above on youtube. World is controlled between secret socities, Orders (Garter being the most powerful) and the various Worshipful Companies (The Livery Companies based out of City of London).

That is a start, go in with an open mind.


Non Passaran's picture

Folks don't junk ORI, he knows his shit. Look at his comment 2480224, as seen on ZH here & I quote:
Patience Mark, it's a'coming, down the line, like a choo choo train with no driver or brakes... June 6th.... stay loose, stay nimble or stay OUT.

--- Yep, he really IS insane.

SwingForce's picture

Mebbe Rajoy is planning to take the bailout oney and use it for the people- and NOT give it to the banks. Wouldn't that be something?

i-dog's picture

LOL ... Let's see Merkel explain that one to the German taxpayer!

"Hey, peeps ... I've decided that you're going to send money to Spaniards to blow on tapas and new tyres for their SEATs". "What's that, you say? ... Can they pay it back?". "Well ... no ... but they're nice people. The jackboots will be popping around tomorrow to pick up your donation. BE READY to hand it over!"

At least with all the circle jerking between the various banks and bailout funds [sic], nobody knows what's going on.

InfinityZero's picture

I would like to understand why the yield above 7% is so dangerous, where can i find info about it ? Anyone ?

diesheepledie's picture

Even more than in America, Europeans have been emasculated and are completely dependent on the state. The ability to empower ones self has been removed. The EU financial system is collapsing, yes, but this was to be expected, and is natural course. It will be replaced. And it doesn't change the fact that the EU state is more centralized and more powerful then ever. Since when was Brussels allowed to dictate edicts to Greece, Spain, and to do things such as to appoint Prime Ministers? Only now is this happening, and it is glorious to see centralization solidifying in a natural evolutionary way. Crisis is needed to evolve - creative destruction - . The second phase of Globalization is beginning. Spain will not "boil over". I will as the article says "simmer in a state of fear" at what will be a more powerful EU. We are at the bright new dawn of an awakening to Global Government, and these crises are the catalysts. :-)

i-dog's picture


"centralization solidifying in a natural evolutionary way"

Unfortunately for your thesis, natural evolution is to de-centralize to specialised autonomous satellite systems.

TPTB won't be able to hold a global government together for long without applying extreme force.

diesheepledie's picture

Extreme force is only required when you have active resistance and lose control. Instead of extreme force we use extreme control. We have the equivalent of RFID tags for most of the human cattle, and they don't even know it. In fact most of them go to the Apple store and borrow more fiat to get the latest one as soon as its out. Let me show you an example of some sheeple tracking SW. It is public domain now and a bit dated, and there are newer/better available ...



mark7's picture

HA HA! The fatest nation is still pretending to be somekind of independent pioneers. Just go to any American supermarket at midnight of 1st of month and see how dependent Americans are on the state with their SNAP cards.

the tower's picture

"Europeans have been emasculated and are completely dependent on the state"?

Actually, private ownership and small entrepreneurial activity is almost twice the size as that of the USA.

The real European economy is actually quite healhy.

"The second phase of Globalization is beginning"?

Don't believe the hype. The opposite is happening, everyone wants out and is looking for reasons to leave without losing face.

Joe A's picture

Why Spanish social tension does not boil over? ---> Sodium Fluoride in the drinking water perhaps?

diesheepledie's picture

I am not sure about Europe but it has been very effective here in the US. fluoride accumulates in the brain of the fetus, causing damage to cells and neurotransmitters. It is an excellent way to ensure that we have a sufficient number of Betas, Gammas, and Epsilons. 

Joe A's picture Spain: Around 10% of the population receives fluoridated water.

US: 42 out 50 states in 2000 have fluorated water. Yikes.

the tower's picture

In Spain no-one drinks tap water.

So, it might be fluorated, but they don't drink it.

Statistics don't mean much in itself.

the tower's picture

Countries like Holland have had fluorated water since ages, and everyone drinks it - bottled water is relatively new - so what explains their generally high IQ?

Joe A's picture

Fluorated water was banned in the Netherlands in 1973, see wikipedia link.

Seasmoke's picture

i was sure their soccer team was the reason

i_call_you_my_base's picture

People are still hoping that they can get back to eight years ago. They are still holding out for a return, since the "good times" are fresh in mind. This is the case in the US too. I don't know when things will sink in, but when they do, it'll get ugly.

JOYFUL's picture

There's no great mystery in the lack of popular resistance to the impostion of a neo-fuedal order onto the Euromerikan societies.

The unremitting barrage of mind-altering chemicals in the air, water, and food, combined with the now pervasive technologies developed to control populations through electro-magnetic impulses has resulted in a slow but steady erosion of the will to resist...

It's remarkable how good the bastards are at their work...but they've been on this project for almost a century, and always analyse their mistakes with a view to improving their effectiveness for the future. That future is now.

The Sio-Nazis were very good at experimenting with Europoid DNA...with a view to discovering and exploiting every genetic weakness of the subject haplogroups.  The Boomers, for instance, were injected with so-called Polio vaccines that were actually a self-termination code, and virus-type posions which actively degrade the intelligence and surivival instincts, and they followed up with mass pathogens\pacifiers like LSD to complete their work.

There will be no rebellions against authority this time out, in Catalonia, Asturias, Andalucia, or elsewhere in Euromerika...that quality of instinctive resistance to tyranny has been bred out of the Europoid character.

The fight will take place in the hinterlands of Empire, where the eye of sauron only glances, and where new incarnations of salteadores, reivers, klephts and hayduks will join together out of the diaspora of a once proud peeple reduced to servile penury, to continue the struggle for the freedom we were born into but did not hold dear enough to keep. Join us soon, or prepare to live on yur knees.

False Capital's picture

unremitting barrage of mind-altering chemicals in the air, water, and food

If only.

The night slowly fades and goes slow motion
All the commotion becomes floating emotions
Same piano loops over
Arms wave eyes roll back and jaws fall open
I see in soft focus
Chattin to this bloke in the toilets
Dizzy new heights blinded by the lights
These people are for life its all back to his place at the end of the night
They could settle wars with this, if only they will
Imagine the worlds leaders on pills, then imagine the morning after

The Streets "Weak Become Heroes"

AnAnonymous's picture


The great US citizen genetic make up has been changed as US citizens had engraved in them the resistance to tyranny.

Others might say that tyrants seldom rebel against themselves because they are already sitting in top positions but they should not be listened to.

prole's picture



On a side note-- Chinese FoxConn trolls should not be listened to. Their product should be manufactured and shipped without comment.

(posted from Iphone)

magpie's picture

None dare call it's only the end product of a long line of exploitation and debasement of material and spiritual substance. Dwarves and despots remain.

RiverRoad's picture

They've got it calibrated perfectly; they know how to let it trickle down just enough...

q99x2's picture

Can't have all those people working, running CNC machines, injection molds and what not. Got the Chinese and the Germans doing that kind of stuff. So what you have to do is take the money from the ones that like to work and give enough of it to the ones that don't. That's the job of a technocrat (terrorist banker.) Like here in America for instance. You've got your service sector employees, those are the employees of the largest financial fraud corporations. What they do is steal from countries worldwide but mostly from the elderly in the US and of course farmers and anyone that works in a different industry sector or has a small business or corporation, and they take that money and give it out in SSI and Food Stamps to the ones that are smart enough not to work (those that refuse to be terrorised by the bankers). In the process the criminal bankers skim off plenty for themselves. Now this has been working for some time, decades in some cases. Then it doesn't and the bankers leave the countries in flames and make off with the goods to another country. So it will happen like that in the EU and the US but this time the crimminal bankers will not have a country they can hide in. That is when we have a social re-alignment and bankster heads worldwide begin to roll. Happens all the time on a long enough timeline.

mess nonster's picture

In Ancient Rome, there was never a revolt of the citizenry, even when the Empire was in steady decay. Even when Rome was beseiged by the Visigoths in the 5th century, when the Empire had shrunk to the walls of Rome, when the Emperor was no more than a figurehead servant of the Pope, and the people were utterly beggared, they did not rebel or revolt.

Perhaps the science of revolt is more complicated than we thought...

NorthPole's picture

The thing is the 'mob' , the 'people' never revolt or in fact do anything organized just by themselves. They always need a leader.

Ergo: provide your own leaders (i.e. the illusion of choice) and you've got them covered.

magpie's picture

Uh, but lots of secessionism and simultaneous military coups...

CitizenPete's picture

Perhaps like the other Western economies, they are stretching a rubber band that will eventually break or snap back. 

CitizenPete's picture

BTW, I will probably puke on my laptop if I see one more advert in the ZH margins from the un-constitutional collectivist Senator of Ohio, Sherrod Brown.  Can't this sort of sink scum be blocked somehow? 

Umh's picture

You could use some sort of VPN or TOR. The ads in languages that are difficult to read are sometimes funny and usually racier than the US ads.

BigAssPete's picture

Why does the Spanish population not boil over?  Maybe they remember the nasty events during their Civil War in the 1930's.  A lot of people died when things got out of hand.

NorthPole's picture

One thing puzzles me:  who, but a true patriot with honest desire to serve the people, would ever compete for power in countries like Greece and Spain now? Would a typical politican (i.e. a crook) really be interested to govern those places at this unfortunate moment? I know if I were a crook only interested in power and money I'd like to be sitting in the opposition now: let my competition bleed, not me.

So are we to assume Samaras & Rahoy are not crooks? Hmm...

AnAnonymous's picture

Unemployment is going down in Spain.

magpie's picture

AA, might you have a scale or index to rate the US citizenism of Spaniards ?

AnAnonymous's picture

US citizenism level is an internal discussion to US citizens.

Who is a true member of the US citizen gang is somehow the big question US citizens are going to ask themselves.

There is very few other options to maintain US citizen status quo than pushing another US citizen overboard. Too many US citizens, not enough Indians.

As to me, US citizens are globally equivalent.

prole's picture

Excuse me Chairman Mao, could you repeat that please? I can't seem to hear you over the screaming of your Tibetan victims.

Maybe if you would stop murdering them for a few minutes, would that be possible?

ebworthen's picture

"Ribbit, ribbit, CROAK!"

jonjon831983's picture

They're still out there... just waiting for their time.  When things get bad to worse and Pensioners cheques are not enough to feed their adult children. Well who knows.

RiverRoad's picture

A lot of folks in the US are sending their SS checks to their kids too.