In fact, about 300,000 poured onto the streets in a carnival-like atmosphere. Although overwhelming made up of young people, many older workers from all over Spain and Seville also took part. The march was strengthened by the massive success of the 10 million strong general strike that took place two days earlier. To give just one example of the militant mood: the day after the general strike CWI members were drinking coffee in a café, waiting for another protest. As they left the cafe they found the building surrounded by the police. But this was not another act of heavy-handed police repression against anti-capitalist protesters. It was, in fact, a demonstration by 800 police demanding higher pay!
The protests took place after bombings by ETA. Some protesters arrived with home made banners proclaiming, ‘No to terrorism and capitalism’, as if to answer the press campaign that the protests would be violent. In fact, only three arrests took place during the protests and there was a mood to make sure it was peaceful. This was despite a large police presence, and their practice of stopping and searching people on their way to the march, including CWI members.
This was a radical protest against the hated Spanish government and capitalism. The foreign debt, the environment, workers’ rights, the rights of the Western Saharan people, these were all major themes. Although the marchers were serious and determined there was a carnival-like atmosphere. As demonstrators baked at 9pm in temperatures at 40oc, local residents showed their support by turning hosepipes to cool down the marchers and showering them with buckets of water. The Western Sahara protesters, who are demanding independence, led their contingent with a gigantic plastic camel. Youth rolled a massive model of the planet through the streets as a symbol of a ‘new world’. Of the main political parties, the communist party had the largest contingent, along with the CNT/CGT unions. People were eager to get hold of leaflets and other literature, as CWI members soon found out. If only one leaflet was given to a group of protesters, there was a clamour by all the other for their own copies! Within a couple of hours all the CWI literature was snapped up.
‘A new world!’ – ‘A socialist world!’
The marched started at 8pm and was still moving off by midnight. The CWI contingent of 35 comrades marched with a samba band and adopted the Spanish tradition on demonstrations of not only chanting slogans but also to pause, to kneel down, to stand up and then to rush forward waving banners and flags.
The marchers demanded a new world. The CWI chanted for a socialist world. The official organisers of the protest did not offer any alternative and failed to even organise a rally at the beginning or end of the demonstration.
However, further marches are planned in Spain as the struggle to topple the right wing Aznar government steps up. CWI members in Spain call for a 48-hour general strike, and if this action fails to force the government to back off with its anti-labour legislation, we call for an indefinite general strike and the formation of factory committees to prepare for it. Such a campaign could force the Aznar government out. But to make far-reaching changes, right wing capitalist governments need to be replaced with a workers’ government, guided with a socialist programme to overthrow capitalism.