Spain has been the theatre of a prolonged speculative wave that ended abruptly in 2007, having been one of the world leaders in the cycle of real estate-financial accumulation. Spanish capitalism took advantage of an intensive use of the territory that guaranteed strong profit rates, with the support of large masses of capital acquired on global financial markets. The characteristics of this model are well known: unprecedented volumes of house building and transport infrastructures, a proliferation of rapturous macroevents and megaprojects and levels of real estate revaluation that seemed to distribute wealth to anyone who was the owner of a house, or at least, “owner” of debt.
Underneath this financial-real estate mirage, a process of plundering of the commons was always at work, bringing about a very heavy concentration of social wealth in the hands of a few. This process can be traced in the commodification of fundamental goods such as housing, the irrational consumption of non-renewable resources, the irreparable damage to areas of highly ecological value, or to people’s health.
Now, once the expansive phase has closed, we find ourselves, moreover, with a landscape of fantasmagorical settings, full of empty motorways, ports and airports, of unoccupied buildings that coexist with the increase in evictions. In parallel, the levels of family indebtedness, in a context of intensification of unemployment and precariousness, are strangling households.
One cannot understand the irrationality and the flagrant short-termism of the previous cycle without singling out those who have been, and still are, the beneficiaries of this model. The real-estate cycle and its decline has been controlled and promoted by oligarchies encrusted in institutions at the level of state, autonomous region and local authority, which have designed a government regime that is monolithically favourable to their interests, which they share with the neoliberal European project. When real estate-financial profit ceased to flow, these oligarchies have unloaded the costs of the crisis onto the rest of society, and, especially, onto the most precarious sectors, through privatisations and cutbacks that affect basic services, in connivance with the Europe of the marketeers. Also we should not forget about the responsibility of citizens who have contributed, on a different scale, to strengthening this circle.
Against the financial-real estate nihilism that the main political parties cling to, and the silence of the academic world, we want to open a path towards a transformation of the economic model, starting with recovering the right to the city and resolving the main problems outstanding. To do so we propose:
- To make an inventory and audit of the surfeit of assets in land, infrastructures, buildings and housing in order to take democratic charge of its uses.
- To make an inventory and audit of debts, public and private, to determine responsibilities for them, their legitimacy, and to establish conditions regarding whether or not they should go unpaid.
- To strengthen networks of knowledge co-operation and co-ordinated actions, in light of the imposed model of inter-territorial competition.
- To institute the “statute of the commons” for a collective and democratic management that guarantees the inalienability of the goods necessary for living.
*Note: I have translated bienes comunes as ‘commons’ (as in, enclosure of..); however this translates literally as ‘common goods’.