Spain: Workers’ movement shows its strength on 14 November

Continue with the struggle! Name the date of a 48 hour general strike!

The struggle must continue! Now for a 48 hour general strike!

The struggle must be stepped up and intensified, in the Spanish state and throughout Europe

The general strike of 14 November, like those of 29 March this year and 29 September 2010, shook society throughout the Spanish state. The trade unions cite participation in the strike at 77% solid, a higher percentage than previous strikes. The mobilisation and consequent paralysis was especially strong in manufacturing industry, and in the transport sector, the strongest bastions of the organised workers’ movement. Many more unemployed, young people, pensioners and precarious workers in less well-organised sectors (such as services and hotel workers), unable to strike for the threat of immediate sacking, showed their active support for the strike by participating in the enormous demonstrations which took place throughout the day. Millions – 5 million according to union sources – marched throughout the state, with over a million marching in both Barcelona and Madrid respectively. Some places, saw the biggest demosntrations of their history, such as the northern region of Galicia, where half a million marched in the main cities. Even the distorted figures given by the police and capitalist press (60,000 in A Coruna, 45,00 in ferrol) give an indication of historic turnouts.

In the countrys’ key industrial workplaces (e.g, Telefonica, Seat, Toyota etc etc), as well as in transport (when union-agreed “minimum services” are taken into account, the strike was near 100% solid. The economic paralysis, along with the shutting down of city centres throughout the state, which characterised 14N, comes as yet another reminder that fundamentally, not one wheel of the economy can turn, without the permission of the organised working class.

Almost the only “black spot” on the day, was the refusal by the leaders of the Basque nationalist unions – ELA and LAB – to support the general strike call. This decision reflects an absurd sectarianism, especially when the international character of the mobilisation and general strikes on 14 November is taken into account. However, despite this, we saw determined action being taken by many among the rank and file of these unions, who in some important factories, including Volkswagen in Pamplona, walked out on strike despite their leaders. This shows the willingness of the base of the workers’ movement to drive the struggle forward, over the heads of its "leaders" if necessary. This is a tendency which must be strengthened, and will become more and more present over the next period of the struggle.

Towards demobilisation or intensification?

The success of the strike and mobilisations clearly shows once again that our class is not prepared to accept the conditions of misery, unemployment, the loss of rights and the destruction of public services, which are being imposed on us by the government and dictatorship of the markets. However, we must now learn the lessons of the previous general strikes, and fight for 14 November not to become only 1 more symbolic action called by the majority trade union leaders (of CCOO and UGT) in order to let off steam in response to our anger, before rapidly demobilising us afterwards. After the strike of 29 March against the PP labour reform, this strategy of demobilisation – when after the strike, leaders Toxo and Mendez only pleaded with parliament to ’improve’ the reform – led to the passage of an even more anti-worker labour reform than that announced before the strike! This is the consequence of leaders who prefer to base themselves on pleading with the capitalist politicians, rather than base themselves on the power of the working class to defeat the attacks being made.

We now find ourselves at a similar conjuncture. On thursday, the leaders of CCOO and UGT were already announcing the great success of the strike, and calling on the government to change its policies, or if not, to seek the "approval of the people" in calling a referendum. We must clearly understand that no change to the government’s policices will be achived without a sustained and escalating struggle by the working class and youth, to really pile on the pressure. A glimpse of this has been seen in the latest developments in the struggle against evictions. New measures, announced by the government after the strike (to impose a moratorium on evictions in a small number of exceptional cases), despite their grave insufficiency, were the direct product of struggle over the last years, including direct actions to prevent evictions, demonstrations and the occupation of banks etc.

Along the same lines, we must continue to struggle against this government of cuts and misery until it is brought down, but also struggle against those who wish to demobilise our movement when it has only begun. Before 14N, local initiatives by various platforms of activists, often from "15M" assemblies, set up functioning "strike committees" in neighbourhoods, to organise workers to build for the strike locally. These committees must now be used to organise from below and fight for a combative strategy, to defeat the demobilising strategy of the union leaders. Some smaller unions (such as Cobas) have already come out in favour of calling a new general strike, as part of a strategy to defeat the austerity of the PP and other autonomous governments. Socialismo Revolucionario supports the calling of a new general strike, this time of 48 hours, for an escalation of the working class movement’s plan of action. The partial occupations by workers which are spreading through the hospitals of Madrid, also could add another element to the strategy of struggle, that of occupations of workplaces, town halls and ministries, to resist layoffs and privatisations.

Democratic committees an assemblies could also take on a key role in the setting of "minimum services" in key essential services, such as hospitals etc, free of the impositions of the central and regional governments, which take advantage of anti-trade union legislation in order to impose abusive levels of minimum services in a wide range of sectors (for example, up to 50% in public transport in some regions!). The huge variations between minimum service levels seen in different regions are a result of pressure and impositions from local governments and bosses.

As the scandal over evictions and the government’s forced attempt to calm the situation, have shown, the Rajoy administration is in a much weaker position than at the time of the 29 March strike. The massive clamour against evictions and the current abusive mortgage law, has been seen to extend to improbable sectors such as judges, the police, and even figures within the PP itself, underlinng the government’s weakness. Although they will try to cling to power in the next period through their parliamentary majority, their weakening will continue, opening the potential for a successful struggle to bring this government down, and fight for a workers’ government to represent our interests. However, for this task the workers and youth must be equipped with political representation in the form of a mass anti-capitalist left, armed with a genuinely socialist programme which rejects the unjust and illegitimate payment of the debt, and the nationalisation of the banks and key sectors of the economy, under democratic control and management. With these resources in public hands instread of a few private ones, the needs of all could be guaranteed (basic income, dignified work, health, education, housing etc) under a democratically planned economy.

14N was also the first Iberian general strike, and was accompanied by partial strikes of hours in Greece and Italy, and other strikes and actions in "northern" european countries such as Belgium, Germany and France. This historic coordination is of great importance, and puts the question of an all-European strike on the agenda, a strike against the austerity of a pro-capitalist europe which castigates the workers and unemployed to please markets, which can lay the basis for a new Europe of the workers, run in the interests of the great majority.

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