I’m reading about the history of neoliberalism in Spain, and it’s very instructive.
In 1982, the Spanish Socialist Worker Party achieved a historic landslide win in the general election. Immediately (and I mean, really at once), the Socialists started putting in place a gigantic austerity program that, according to contemporary sources, was Thatcherite in inspiration. By the end of their first year in power, The Washington Post published an article observing how anti-labor and pro-business these Spanish socialists were.
At the beginning of the 21st century, it became obvious that a massive recession was inevitable. But the Socialists, who were hoping to come back to power in 2004, were still completely neoliberal, pro-austerity, etc. How to get people to vote for them when everything they had done in the 1980s was backfiring?
The Socialists did the exact same thing that today is done by every global corporation. They rebranded towards “social justice.” As one scholar says, they went heavily into the postmaterial realm to mask what they were doing in the material realm. Abortion rights, gay marriage, and the endless drumbeating about the Civil War of 1936-9 were aimed at distracting people from the real estate bubble that was about to pop and the plummeting working conditions. “We are antifascists and our opponents are fascists” became their favorite argument. It worked because it always does.
Today, when Spain is still processing the devastation of 2008-9 while dealing with the added devastation of COVID, the Spanish Socialists who rule in coalition with the far-left are even more aggressively touting their postmaterial social justice achievements. For example, just as they announced terrible price hikes on energy that will financially ruin several hundred thousand citizens, they conducted a series of “toy strikes.” Toys go on strike to protest against gender stereotypes in how children play. In a situation where a tragic number of young people report not being able to afford having children, these bastards have the gall to offer vapid, stale talking points about gender stereotypes in toy marketing. Imagine how this must feel to people who are in their mid-thirties, still dreaming of maybe having a kid one day while hunting for a gig that might employ them 10 hours a week. Like all leftist performances, this one is deeply cruel.
As I said last month at a conference, it’s funny how “reproductive rights” are always and only about the right not to have children. They are never about the right to have as many children as you want, even today when the number of women in Spain who report being prevented from aborting is minuscule in comparison with the number of women who report not being able to afford having the children they want to have. This produced a bit of a stupor in the audience until two female academics in their early thirties loudly and almost tearfully supported me. (In general, I’m finding that it’s a lot easier to explain my ideas to academics under 40 and / or from Spain.)
The lesson here is that masking economic dispossession with social-justicey claptrap was first invented by leftist political parties and then eventually imitated by global companies.
What we need to remember is that whenever a politician or a corporate boss starts going on about anti-racism, social justice, and anti-fascism, they are out to rob us. This is a con, a trick to use our better impulses against us. We need to learn to resist these emotional appeals and see them for a dirty trick that they are.