NetWar: A New Socialism Is Born!

Contents Letter From Paris

Contents Letter From Paris

Monday, September 20, 2004


A New Socialism Is Born!

To promote Socialism in 2004 isn't easy. To talk about "citizen's socialism" when one is the prime minister of a democratic country somewhere in Western Europe, takes a man like José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The man that thinks that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a free, stable and sovereign country.

Indeed, reading his interview in Time Magazine felt like following Alice to the other side of the mirror. I also had that particular reverence of being in front of something unique, inimitable. Until I read Mr. Zapatero's interview, I thought that I had already seen all that there was to see of evasive rhetoric, answering on the side and beyond, and populist opportunism. Well...


Mr. Zapatero "answered": The one question we have to ask is this: Are things any better in Iraq after one-and-a-half years of occupation? The answer is, no. There's a spiral of violence and death.
We have two options: close our eyes or face that reality. Now Iraq needs to recover its freedom, stability and sovereignty as soon as possible.

Notice that he won't say whether he's willing or refuses to accept a fundamentalist regime in Iraq. Nor thinks he appropriate to say if he feels comfortable with an ethnic civil war there.

No. He says that he wants Iraq to recover "its freedom, stability and sovereignity".

That stupendous ensemble of vacant rhetoric calls for some exegesis. But first, a dictum for politicians meeting reporters. Let me call it the Zapatero principle: "If some one asks you about something you don't want to answer, answer to something else and smile".

In appraising Mr Zapatero, like he says, we can't close our eyes and pretend he isn't where he is. And yes, we must face the reality that he governs Spain, not Honduras.

Further down in the interview, Mr. Zapatero says that "the way to fight terrorism has to be intelligent".

For instance, when the whole (civilized) world is trying to put some pressure on the Sudanese government so that it stops massacring the non-Muslim population, he has a better idea: increase the Spanish aid to the Sudanese government from 2 M euros to 7 M euros. And say that threatening them isn't the best way to solve things. That may "serve to increase terrorism". Mr. Zapatero is a bright man, indeed.

And he doesn't want to be a great leader, mind you. He just wants to be a great democrat.

Do not ever think that he may be an opportunist, never saying "no" to anyone. He just wants to do what the citizens want to be done.

When visiting the Basque Country a few days ago, he understood that many people there wanted the old, obsolete, state-owned Izar shipyard to remain open. It is a machine to lose money (the last figure is more than €1 billion, about US$ 1,2 Bn), but the people working there didn't care much about the loses, they want to keep their jobs; so, a smiling Mr. Zapatero said to the local trade union bosses: "Don't worry, I'll save your shipyard jobs." To the story belongs that Izar's workers make less money than their south Korean colleagues, but their boats are much more expensive.

Within days after he made it back to Madrid, he went back on his word, saying that he supported a privatization plan that inevitably will cut to size the payroll. The workers cried foul, the word "treachery" was uttered and around the Izar factories there were the usual images of burning cars and riot police firing rubber balls at masked demonstrators armed with slingshots.

As a matter of fact, calling Mr. Zapatero a traitor is a bit of an overstatement. He only wants to please the people, with a resolute preference, on the spur of the moment, for the ones he is with…

In Madrid he had to please his (competent) minister of Finance, who eventually told him that the shipyard's only possible salvation passed by thousands of redundancies. Mr. Zapatero wanted so badly to please him too that he recanted his promises without much regret.

It would be ill advised to think that the Zapateroan brand of socialism is the same tired old populism of your typical Latin politico, God forbid. The Spanish citizen's socialism is the socialization of hope, the collectivization of dreams, nothing less!

Mr. Zapatero, very conscious that the so called "real socialism" failed to bring happiness to the masses, hatched up an ideological platform that doesn't imply, like the socialism of yore, nationalizing the means of production, but rather to promise everyone anything just to make them happy for as long as possible. That is the core of his citizen's socialism.

That ideological solidity of his explains why the unending row of gaffes of his ministers hasn't troubled him the least; between a rock and a hard place, Mr. Zapatero chooses a smile and a promise.

When his Defense Minister, Mr. Jose Bono, awarded a military medal to himself for his direction of the haphazard withdrawal of the Spanish troops from Iraq, Mr. Zapatero approved enthusiastically; even if some Spaniards -many Spaniards, in fact- found the gesture a little self-indulgent, he didin't want to miss the opportunity of pleasing Mr. Bono. After all, he's a citizen too.

Señor Zapatero is also a cunning political strategistç, endowed with the sense of opportunity. When he urged other countries to follow Spain's example and withdraw troops from Iraq, he didn't do that because he wanted to convince al Qaeda that he was a jolly good fellow. He knows that many Spaniards, nearly all who voted for him, would feel vindicated if his example was followed by other countries besides Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Of course, it was just a mere coincidence that he made his statement exactly the same day that the kidnappers of two Italian aid workers in Iraq demanded that Italy withdraw its troops or else they would be beheaded.

Thanks God, he says that he doesn't want to be a great leader!
UPDATE 1 ------------->
Señor Zapatero was at the UN in New York and said:"an effective counterterrorism strategy has to be based on respect for international law, respect for the United Nations and, most pointedly, respect for the Security Council" (i.e. the body that refused to endorse the U.S.-led war on Iraq).

Hey! What happened to Sexual equality? What's more effective against terrorism, respect for the UN Security Council or sexual equality? Please, Mr. Zapatero, enlighten me, please...
UPDATE 2 ------------->
Jaime R. from Camberra has sent me an email daring me to prove that señor. Zapatero’s defense minister got a medal for withdrawing the troops from Iraq.
It’s a matter of public record, but let me just quote from the Opinion Journal:
"Call it the Silver Chicken: Spain's Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has awarded medals for appeasement "to all those who helped in the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq," reports the Spanish news agency EFE. Among them were three generals and his own defense minister, José Bono, who had been in office all of six weeks when he got the award. Members of the opposition shamed Bono into giving the medal back."
Ole! Have a look at this (funny) Expatica article on the subject.
UPDATE 3 ------------->
I just read a very good post of Vman about Señor Zapatero's memorable speech at the UN. It's rightly called Zapatero's World, Insha'allah


[9/12/2004] Spain, Andalusia, Bin laden revisited by The New Yorker
[8/29/2004] The Plastic Politician
[8/15/2004] La responsabilidad de Rumsfeld y la ministra española [ES]
[9/14/2004] Zapatero's Brand New Old Europe (sigh) (sic)

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Location: Paris, France

I have been a journalist since I was 22. For a (long) while I worked as a reporter for the Swedish, Spanish (I was born in Spain) and American media, covering international affairs... After 1991 I recycled myself to the business press.

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Chapter One: Introduction
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