It was a “scary” story. This is how he described the situation that the novelist Manuel Longarez (Madrid, 1943) experienced every time he sat down at his desk to pursue his career. He feared publication and losing his pension. They could not continue to create an artistic legacy, had to abandon all artistic activity, whatever it was, if they wanted to collect the benefits accumulated during their working lives. They were threatened by the Treasury and Social Security, it was incompatible to stop production and collect their royalties. Retirement was not heaven, but hell. Today we are talking about that threat in the past, after more than a decade of struggle and tragic results to achieve the recognition of exceptional compatibility.
If published, pension was taken away. Almost nine years ago, a Salvamento Marítimo barge entered the luminous promenade of San Pedro de Llanès (Asturias) to rescue the body of a woman. A few weeks before that fateful day in December 2015, the writer, who wished to remain anonymous, received a notice from Social Security. They demanded a fine of more than 70,000 euros for defrauding the state. He made a mistake, despite receiving a pension, he continued to write, which he had to return. He was 80 years old and made the mistake of continuing to be active. Six months after her husband’s death, she reacted to what she considered a “scumbag” by writing a letter to the then Minister of Employment and Social Security, Fátima Bañez (PP), in which she avoided using the forbidden word: “suicide”. “.
“Through this document and its annexes, I would like to inform you about the insults I experienced, the indignation caused by the unjust attitude and its literal interpretation in my intimate environment. As a result, the death of my wife in a painful and traumatic way, the drama of my three children, who went from a happy family to the treatment of psychologists and psychiatrists, and the absolute destruction of me as an individual and a writer,” the author wrote. to the minister.
That paragraph, in quotation marks, was the beginning of the nearly 50 pages Fatima Bañez received in June 2016, in which she highlighted the “injustice” of her case, revealing the harsh reality of many like her. The shadowy author wanted people to know what was going on, but he didn’t want publicity. His “unsuccessful but satisfying” career, with about twenty books published and a regular columnist in local newspapers, was over. Writing was his downfall.
“It was the government you are a part of, once again the strong with the weak and the weak, that ruined my life. You, Ms. Fatima, and the Minister of Culture, the honorable Mr. Werth, are responsible for everything that happened to me and the painful consequences of not standing up to the brutal attack by the government led by Mr. Rajoy. Pensions were taken away from a group of elderly writers. You two are butchers,” he wrote in the letter, which was a missile, and it was part of a change in criteria. If last Tuesday the Council of Ministers approved the continuation of compatibility for the few retired creators who exceed the minimum interprofessional salary, it was, among other things, thanks to this letter.
The pension reform was proposed by the PSOE and the PP implemented it in 2014: authors had to choose between income from creative work and pensions. “Cristóbal Montoro and Fatima Bañez have become enemies of culture. We wrote them several letters explaining the situation, but they never responded. I went abroad to promote my comics and they couldn’t believe that such a bad host existed,” says writer Antonio Altariba (Zaragosa, 1952), winner of the 2010 National Comics Award for El arte, on the phone. .
Altariba worked at the University of the Basque Country from 1975 to 2012, when he retired as professor of French literature. He turned 60, had been in the business for almost 40 years, and was at the peak of his career as a graphic novel writer. “It was a very good time for me and I continued to work as an author. He was not dead, as this rule claimed, which was arbitrary and abusive and prevented creation. PP used this measure in practice with stupid arguments. They went against us because we were not the kind of voice they wanted, favorable to their ideology. They wanted to silence us,” says Altariba, who is currently finishing his new comic, A Story of Migration, drawn by Sergio García, National Illustration Award 2022. It will be published next fall.
Altariba says that for years he was “afraid” of exceeding the minimum interprofessional salary of around €10,000 a year, which was the allowed limit for copyright income. This indicates that it is in addition to the pensions they receive, some fairer than others. “I was 60 years old and I wasn’t dead. He went abroad to promote the work of what the PP called “Marca España”, but such an event can only be understood as a culture-hating event, a measure to stop creativity,” he adds.
In a historic photo that commemorates this difficult journey, Javier Reverte (1944-2020) and Antonio Fraguas “Forges” (1942-2018), two of the main assets of the retired creators, to preserve their rights without threat, are no longer present. there. Social Security took Reverte to court for receiving an annual amount higher than the minimum professional wage, then 12,600 euros per year. The writer retired in 2009 with a pension of 2008 euros and in the three years for which he was sanctioned (2011, 2012 and 2013) he earned 369,892 euros. The fine was 150,000 euros, which he fought in all court instances. The 14th Social Court of Madrid ruled that there was no incompatibility between retirement and the enjoyment of his creative work. Social security appealed the decision.
The second pillar of the Seguir Creando platform is the writer Manuel Rico (Madrid, 1952), who remembers this historic photo and what it was worth. “Now we have to be careful to see how the size is adjusted because there was no form from 2019 and the computer system did not allow for compatibility,” he explains. This newspaper is referred to by those poets who have abandoned performances and conferences because they were afraid of paying for their work. Nor does he forget the fear with which the authors lived during these years. “There is a German translator who spent €3,000 from SMI and was fined €70,000, his entire three-year pension. Montoro did it with complete brutality,” says Manuel Rico. It also ensures that 90% of authors do not exceed the SMI of around €14,000 per year with their copyright benefits.
This is the case of Manuel Longares. With ten novels, six books of short stories and four essays to his credit, the royalties earned by one of the most brilliant literary careers are by no means greater than SMI’s. This is the reality of the literary creator. It’s always suffocating: first they look for work to pay for their creativity, and then they chase because they want to get what they deserve, having written all their lives.
“That is why what we have achieved is so important,” says Alberto González, a lawyer and treasurer of the Union of Contemporary Artists of Spain, who was involved in the development of this event. From now on income will be understood as income from economic activity and not from work. This is the key. How was this change possible? “It was difficult to convince the social security and treasury technicians who were not aware of the cultural reality. But I think now they see the creative industries as a source of sustainable wealth that doesn’t produce waste. There is a new awareness coming from Europe, because before they believed that it did not create wealth and now they understand the opposite”, says Alberto González. It’s not a joke what happened, it’s a conquest, – he concludes.
Writer Clara Sánchez (Guadalajara, 1955), author of 14 novels, still doesn’t believe it. She doesn’t dare take the plunge and lose the pension she deserves after, among other things, a lifetime of teaching. “We were all working on other things because we couldn’t make a living from our writing. And then, you can’t write… it was a constant persecution. That’s why what’s approved is so important: it’s an achievement that ends injustice,” he says.
Until this week, many of these authors told us how the fear of success left them. This persecution has spread and it will be difficult to convince the creators that they are no longer in danger, that the state machine will not fall on them or their families. No one should be disenfranchised or mistreated because of creation. Now the state recognizes and cares about their contribution to the society for which they create. They are part of the heritage and decided to protect them.
During these years, according to the Collegiate Association of Writers, fined authors such as José Manuel Caballero Bonaldi, Antonio Gamoneda, Eduardo Mendoza or Antonio Colinas, whose situation was one of the most extreme. Colinas (La Bañeza, León, 1946) had 80 euros amputated from his monthly pension by social security. And his sentence would be repeated for 85 months. In 2016, I lived on 600 euros per month. One of the most famous poets and translators, who was called upon to give lectures and recitals, was forced to refuse to appear publicly, fearing new sanctions. He could not give up his pension, no matter how small it was, he had to quit his job. For eight years, the Spanish brand was supposed to persecute and kill the October intellectuals. That’s it.
Source: El Diario