Struggles mount in build-up to 29 September general strike
Any glance at newspapers or TV news programmes in Spanish over the last days and weeks would leave no-one in doubt as to the change that has taken place in the situation here. In the run up to the general strike on 29 September, the class struggle has become the biggest show in town. In the northern regions of Galicia and Asturias, thousands of miners have taken militant action against the government’s proposal to throw the industry’s entire workforce onto the scrapheap of mass unemployment, and have announced a series of strike days at the end of September. The fires which blazed on their road and railway blockades, and graced the front pages of Spain’s main daily newspapers, stood out as a symbol of the new situation in a country where the working class is poised to enter the stage of struggle in a decisive manner. Even the Guardia Civil police have joined the tide of protest, with thousands of their ranks taking to the streets in Madrid to demand better conditions!
The general strike on 29 September will represent the coming together of these isolated points of resistance into a single event – a battering ram against the offensive of the Zapatero government and the international markets. But one general strike will not be sufficient to force the hand of the government and the representatives of capitalism, determined as they are to persevere with their agenda of attacks and austerity in service to the international bondholders.
Zapatero’s labour reform bill, which provoked the calling of the general strike, is set to be followed up by an attack on the pension system, the raising of the retirement age to 67 years and the implementation of over 50 billion in public sector cuts. Only a sustained programme of action, with a series of general strikes and co-ordinated actions, can stop this onslaught in its tracks. At a general strike preparatory assembly in one of the barrios of Granada in Andalucia, a regional leader of the CC.OO (workers’ commissions) warned of the inevitable necessity of further generalised action, calling for “a general strike every month”, until the governments turns back. The CWI in Spain calls for the formation of democratic assemblies and committees of action in workplaces, universities, schools and communities to develop the next steps for the struggle. Only a generalised movement to bring down the attacks, linked to the fight for an alternative, genuinely socialist economic plan, can offer a way out to Spain’s workers and youth, its unemployed millions and the battered economy.
CWI members and supporters will participate in the general strike in a number of Spanish cities. Below is a translated and slightly edited text of the CWI leaflet that we will distribute.
CWI reporters, Spain
General strike against the crisis and labour reform!
For a programme of sustained struggle against the offensive of the government and bosses! For a series of general strikes to paralyze their offensive!
Let the rich, the speculators – those really responsible for the crisis – pay for it!
This has been the cry of hundreds of thousands of workers and youth throughout the Spanish state in the last months. But the government continues, in the service of the bosses and international vulture markets, to hammer the rights and conditions of the Spanish working class, both employed and unemployed.
The general strike of 29 September represents the first generalised response of the Spanish working class, the public and private sectors, in the face of these unprecedented attacks. The Zapatero government and the bosses, hand in hand, daily announce new attacks in their offensive on the rights, jobs and living standards of the majority, in the name of fighting the economic crisis. The latest and gravest of these attacks is the government’s labour reform bill, which criminally slashes the redundancy pay of sacked workers, the raising of the retirement age to 67, the freezing of pensions, and the biggest package of public sector cuts of the post-Franco era, which will see over €50 billion slashed from social spending.
And yet the government continues with its rhetoric of a “recovery”. What kind of recovery are they aiming for with these policies? That of the profits of the banks and big business! Banks and multinationals like Telefónica, Repsol and Santander have all announced multi-million euro profits for the first trimester of 2010. This is the only section of society in the Spanish state experiencing a “recovery” from the devastation of the crisis.
What is the response of the government to mass unemployment, with an official rate of over 20%, double the European average? Their labour reform, which cheapens the cost of sackings, represents a green light to bosses to engage in a further avalanche of job cuts. The raising of the retirement age further impedes the prospects of the young generation, facing a desperate situation, with close to 50% out of work. Zapatero’s austerity package will produce a further massacre of public sector jobs. This is the extent to which a “recovery” beckons for the majority! And yet, these savage measures represent only the beginning, the first stage of the agenda which the capitalists are determined to see through.
In January, when the government proposed the raising of the retirement age and the attack on pensions, the mobilisation of the working class, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets, forced Zapatero into a retreat. But now, even when faced with the general strike, he has come back with the proposal, determined to force in through within the year. This shows both the determination of the government and bosses in their offensive, and the fact that the workers’ movement cannot let its guard down. In facing their slash and burn agenda, the only option will be to fight!
29 September – What Next?
The general strike comes at a time of mounting anger and struggle by the working class, in all sectors. On 8 June, a strike by over 2 million workers paralyzed the public sector. 29 June saw a general strike in the Basque country. During June and July, the militant response of the Metro workers of Madrid added their fuel to the spreading fire of the fight-back. 29 September will see these struggles converge in a colossal display of the power of the working class to beat the attacks. But, without doubt, given the determination of the capitalists, the markets and the government to continue their onslaught, one general strike alone could be insufficient. The example of Greece, where 6 general strikes have taken place in 2010, gives us a glimpse of the type and scale of the struggle that will be needed to stop the capitalists in their tracks.
In contrast to the unscrupulous attitude of the government and capital, the leaders of the Spanish state’s main trade unions have only called this general strike under enormous pressure from below, after months of postponing effective generalised action. The continuation of our struggle must not depend on the vacillations of the current trade union leaders alone who could well, in the aftermath of 29 September, again become trapped in months of “negotiations” with the inflexible bosses, of which nothing will come. We call for the building of a real mass struggle, with the mass participation of workers and youth from all backgrounds, including immigrants. Organised in assemblies and democratic committees of action, we should discuss and decide the next steps in the struggle, developing a sustained programme of militant action to paralyse the attacks. If after 29 September, the government has not retreated, the unions should name the date for the next general strike! The programme of action necessary for the next period should include a series of general strikes and co-ordinated action across every sector.
Workers and youth throughout Europe – one voice against unemployment and austerity!
The workers of Spain, including immigrants, have the same class interests in the fight against the capitalist crisis. Against the attempts of the capitalists and media to divide the working class, we should respond with one voice. We support the struggle of immigrant workers for rights and a decent life, united with the struggle of all Spanish workers against unemployment, labour reform, the cuts and the crisis, because the capitalists are the real enemy!
The youth have suffered the most from the consequences of the crisis and the government’s policies. Youth unemployment stands at almost 50%, a situation brought about by the labour market, built upon precarious working conditions for young workers. The government’s labour reform does nothing to attempt to rectify this, but worsens the situation! Their only response has been to further close the doors to higher education through the so-called Bologna plan. The “ni-ni” generation (“without jobs, without training”) as it is commonly known, should be among the strongest and most dynamic participants in the general strike.
The general strike on 29 September takes place against the background of mounting anger and impending battles throughout Europe. 29 September has been called as a European wide day of working class action by the ETUC, and we will see massive strikes and demonstrations in Portugal, Greece, Italy and France on or around the 29th. The CWI supports enthusiastically this initiative and will participate throughout the continent. The character of the present crisis, caused by the reckless greed and profiteering which is fundamental to the world capitalist economy, strongly poses the need for international resistance. 29 September should be a first step towards an all-European 24-hour general strike!
No alternative under capitalism
There can be no real solution to the crisis under the control of those who caused it. The daily threats to the lives and conditions of the working class and youth can only decisively be banished on the basis of a programme which extends beyond the limits of capitalist logic and the capitalist system, which continues to survive on the basis of the concentration of profit in the hands of a few and the “socialisation” of the losses of the casino capitalist economy. On the basis of capitalism, only years of attacks, mass unemployment and misery will be on offer to workers and youth in Spain. Against the dictatorship of the capitalist markets and their political representatives in the establishment parties, we fight for the building of a new, genuinely socialist society in Spain and internationally. This would see the wealth and resources of humanity placed under democratic control, to plan the economy in the interests of the majority, not of the profits of the super-rich. We demand the nationalisation, under the democratic control and management of the key sectors of the economy, to bring an end to the fundamental social and environmental problems created by the current system.
No to labour reform and the public sector cuts!
No to retirement at 67 and the freezing of pensions! For the right to retire at 60 on a living pension!
For a massive programme public works to create millions of socially useful jobs!
For a 35 hour working week with no loss of pay!
Nationalise businesses making large-scale redundancies under democratic workers’ control!
No to racism and attempts at dividing working people! For a united struggle against the bosses and government!
For a sustained programme of struggle including a series of general strikes! For the formation of democratic committees of action in workplaces, schools, universities and communities to determine the path of the struggle!
For international resistance! Towards a 24-hour all-European general strike!
For the right to self-determination for the Spanish state’s national peoples! For a socialist federation of the Iberian Peninsula!
No to the dictatorship of the markets! Down with the IMF, credit ratings agencies etc!
Nationalise the banks and financial sector under the democratic control of working people!
For the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy, under democratic working class control and management! For a democratic workers’ government and a genuinely socialist plan of production to improve the lives of all, not fill the pockets of the rich!