Basque country: General strike on 26 September a success

Now for an united and international mobilisation to take the struggle forward!

As a new explosive cycle of struggle begins in Spain, following the massive mobilisations of the last weeks and with a likely state-wide general strike in November, we publish below a report by Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain) activists who participated in the general strike which took place in the Basque country on 26 September. More material on Spain coming soon…

Thousands of workers and young people took part in the GREBA OROKORRA, General Strike on September 26th in the Basque Country called by the majority Basque unions, LAB and ELA. The strike was called in response to the vicious cuts being imposed by the right wing PP government in Madrid and the never ending austerity measures which are destroying the health service, education and social welfare in Spain’s autonomous regions.

The strike followed the March on Madrid (see previous article) organised by the CCOO and UGT. Unfortunately the majority unions in the Spanish state did not support the Basque unions’ General Strike.

Despite the lack of support from the CCOO and UGT the strike was considered a success by the Basque Unions. According to them, 56% of industrial enterprises were completely shut, in one of the spanish state’s most heavily industrialised areas. Over 110,000 joined mass demonstrations in Gasteiz, Iruñea, Donostia y Bilbao, of a comparable size to the massive marches which marked the Spain-wide general strike of 29 March. Public transport saw services limited to imposed “minimum services”, with participation of up to 80% among Metro workers. The construction sector was almost completely paralyzed, as was the key industrial port of Bilbao.

In the public sector, there was also a generalised paralysis, including civil service and public administration. Between 75% and 90% of education institutions were effected, from primary level to universities. Local government workers also joined the strike in force, with the overwhelming majority of town halls shutting down for the day.

Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in the Spanish state) intervened with a a team of comrades in the Basque General Strike. We distributed materials in Euskara (Basque) and Spanish calling for a 48 hour General Strike in the Spanish state to take the movement forward. In Vitoria-Gasteiz there was a big presence of young people, both school and university students. Local government workers, teachers and health workers made up the ranks in the morning and evening demos. There was less of a presence of industrial workers which was due to the non-participation of the CCOO and UGT unions, emphasising the importance of united front action between the Basque and Spanish unions, in order to bring the full power of our class into play. This was in contrast to the Basque General Strike of 29 June 2010, when all the unions struck together.

We received a warm response to our ideas, and were able to easily distribute our leaflets and sell our newspaper/bulletin. Our slogan for a 48 General Strike was particularly well received. We also discussed with the strike committee of a company in ALAVA who are fighting 90 redundancies.

Some questioned our slogan: “No pacts with PNV/EA!”. In the forthcoming Basque elections on 21 October we are calling for a vote against the cuts – and a struggle in favour of a socialist alternative. Many workers are looking to the left-nationalist formation, EH BILDU, to oppose the cuts. EH BILDU is a coalition of parties one of which is Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) who were formally in coalition with the pro-capitalist Basque Nationalist party PNV. Although EA describes itself as Basque nationalist social democratic party it does not have a history of standing for clear socialist policies. SR believes it is correct to clearly state that EH BILDU should not contemplate pacts with pro-capitalist parties, but should fight for a government to clearly oppose cuts, basing itself on mobilisations of the working class to impose alternative policies. It remains to be seen how far the EH BILDU electoral programme will go in a genuinely socialist direction in the forthcoming elections and how clear the leaders will be in rejecting all cuts and pacts with pro cuts nationalist parties.

The mood on the general strike was angry but serious. Schools students as young as 14 walked out of school to participate in the strike despite being threatened with detention and punishment. In Gasteiz one of the six demonstrators arrested after the Basque police charged the march in the morning was only 15! It was inspiring to see whole schools marching together in groups, many of whom were on their first demo. Students throughout Spain are planning more strikes against cuts in the coming months.

It was noticeable that the platform speeches were quite short and vague. The union leaders talked about the damage the PP government is doing. The uncertainty and increase in unemployment and lack of a future for young people were constantly mentioned but a clear strategy was lacking. ELA/LAB leaders talked about creating a “Social” society but did not mention any socialist policies. They mentioned the greed of the bankers but did not call for the nationalisation of the financial institutions, as a necessary measure to break from this logic and put society’s resources to use in creating jobs and regenerating the economy.

SR’s demands for a united struggle across the whole of the Spanish state and to link up with the Portuguese and other European workers who are also engaged in general strikes and mass demos is absolutely necessary given the seriousness of the situation. Although we support the right of the Catalan and Basque people to exercise their right to self determination, we cannot allow divisions amongst the working class which allows the Spanish ruling class to drive through these unprecedented cuts and attacks on the living standards of all workers across whether Basque, Catalan or Spanish. The struggle for genuine self-determination must be linked to the fight against the cuts and impoverishing policies imposed by the capitalists, whether they be Spanish, Basque, Catalan or otherwise.

The demos in the Basque Country after the General Strike all ended with the mass singing of the Internationale which shows that although national tensions are heightening in the present crisis the Basque workers at least have an instinctive feeling that an internationalist solution is necessary to solve the social and national problems here. We aim to build on those sentiments, in the building of an international fightback, capable of doing away with this rotten system.

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October 2012