Spain: Massive protests

The EU-summit in Seville was confronted with a very big anti-capitalist demonstration on the evening of Saturday June 22. There were hundreds of thousands demonstrators, probably around 300.000! The demonstration remained peaceful and was very radical. There was a very political mood in opposition to the rightwing politics of the Partido Popular of the Spanish Prime Minister Aznar and the capitalist EU.

There were no riots and the demonstrators did everything they could to prevent provocations. The police however really tried to provoke, after the intimidations of the past days (enforced by the ETA bomb attacks) the government could have used this to criminalise the opposition movement. On the demo itself demonstrators acted immediately to remove several provocateurs.

The Partido Popular seems to be very unpopular. The decree measures are introducing to change the labour laws are similar to what Berlusconi is doing in Italy or what the new rightwing government in Portugal is doing. This makes the government very hated. The position of Aznar is under strong pressure, and could develop like the Tories in Britain. The bourgeois press is trying to present the social democrats of the PSOE as the "reasonable alternative". Despite the fact that there are few illusions in the PSOE amongst most workers and youth, the party could gain from the discontent towards the Partido Popular. The PSOE leaders attended the union demonstrations during Thursday’s general strike, the first PSOE-attendance at union demonstrations since 1982!

On Saturday’s demo it was clear that there is a strong polarisation in Spain. The demonstration was badly prepared. A few days before the demo the organisers did not even know the meeting point yet for the demo! While it is clear the organisational aspects showed strong weaknesses, the massive presence gives an indication of the growing radicalisation and polarisation in Spanish society. As the 500,000 strong March 16 Barcelona demo had previous shown, as soon as people know that a EU-summit is taking place there is a spontaneous mobilisation that assumes huge proportions. This shows the need for a mass workers’ party capable of organising the fighting potential in these movements and by its actions removing the strong anti-party feelings caused by the betrayals of the traditional workers’ parties or former workers’ parties.

Amongst the people demonstrating there were a lot of youth but also older people. It was clear that the general strike had an important impact on the mobilisation. The unions were not present as such, but a lot of individual union members took part. There also were several political groups. The anarchist union CNT had a strong presence and the PCE (communist party) together with Izquerda Unida ("united left", in which the PCE is one of the main organisations) also had a big contingent. The main slogans were against capitalism, but there were also slogans against terrorism following the ETA bombings.

The spontaneous and radical anti-capitalist mobilisation on June 22 was an important step forward in the building of a strong opposition against the rightwing policies of the government. The movement in Genoa against the G8 last year was clearly only a starting point. Today we see similar developments in the whole of southern Europe. Organising this movement is now a key issue. These mobilisations could be the starting point in each country to build local neighborhood and factory committees who could develop a national action plan against the rightwing governments of Aznar, Berlusconi and co.

CWI members on the demonstrations in Spain raised this idea. We met a lot of interest in our ideas, sold all the political material we had and collected a lot of names and addresses of people wanting to discuss with or join us.

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June 2002