Spain 2014: Recovery? For whom?

Let’s make 2014 the year of the political general strike!

Below we publish a slightly edited version of the editorial from the latest edition of La Brecha, paper of Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in the Spanish state).

In the Spanish state, the year 2013 represented a continuation of the main processes set in motion by the capitalist crisis which exploded 5 years ago. The sinking of the economy kept pushing millions of people towards extreme poverty, in another year of mass sackings, attacks on salaries and evictions. The deep political crisis of the system rumbled on with the PP government permanently against the ropes. The crisis of legitimacy of the capitalist institutions and very state itself witnessed new episodes, especially around the national question in Catalunya.

However, we also saw important steps forward being taken in the key parallel process – a source of inspiration in times of economic and social strife. This process is the working class and social resistance, which in itself represents the first “green shoots” of a struggle for a new society. All in all, 2014 offers us the promise of mighty events and great opportunities, as these processes all continue and deepen.

La Brecha, February 2014

2014: year of recovery? For whom?

Throughout 2014, we will witness a great and consistent attempt by the ruling class in which the government and media collaborate, to “lift the general mood” in society. This essentially consists of an attempt to dilute the mass anger and growing resistance by assuring us that the economic recovery has begun and better times are ahead. They promise that this year, the economy will grow… by 0.6%!

For Marxists and the working class, the key question is what will be the character of this growth? Will it change the course of the crisis? Will it bring about a recovery in our living standards? If the answers to these questions are in the negative, one may ask quite legitimately: ‘what is this so-called growth worth to us?’.

Firstly, we must explain that in order to ameliorate the worst brutality of the crisis – mass unemployment of over a quarter of the workforce – almost all economists (even the capitalist ones) agree that growth would have to be over 2% at the very least. No serious economist or commentator predicts such a level of growth either for this year or the next years. This being said, the miniscule amount of jobs which are being created do give us a glimpse of the type of recovery that Spanish capitalism is working for: towards the extinction of permanent contracts and protected rights and conditions. The bosses are taking advantage of the crisis to carry out a counterrevolution in the labour market and impose a new pattern of precariousness and misery conditions.

Secondly, this nightmare situation is combined with a whole wave of attacks on our social conquests and democratic rights, as the ruling class also takes advantage of the crisis to eliminate historic conquests of the workers’ movement, such as the right to protest and strike, or to decide about one’s own body and maternity. This reality, together with the destruction of the welfare state and public services show us the hidden basis they need for their so-called “recovery” – a consistent driving down of living standards which has as its end the imposition of “third world” living standards in Spain and throughout the continent.

For a combative 2014 of sustained and generalised struggle! For a political general strike!

The prize for biggest obstacle to the development of the struggle in 2013 has to be taken home by the leaders of the main trade unions. As we have repeatedly explained in the pages of La Brecha, they played a key role in maintaining the government in place despite its deep crises.

However, we also saw how despite the brake imposed by them, workers continued throughout the year to intensify the struggle, employing more and more militant methods. 2013 was the year of the indefinite strike, from the education sector in the Balear region to the heroic strike of over 100 days that continues in the Panrico factory. These examples are in sharp distinction to the policy which the union leaders continue to defend, of merely symbolic and insufficient strikes of one day, without the intensification and continuity of struggle which the situation demands.

It was also the year of the first important victories, especially that of the Madrid street cleaners [who defeated mass sackings and a 40% wage but through indefinite strike action – eds], who showed the path which the whole workers’ movement should follow. Once more however, the brake set by the union leaders has stopped examples of militancy like this one getting a generalised expression on a state-wide level.

The recent movement in the neighbourhood of Gamonal, in Burgos [where repeated mass mobilisations grabbed nationwide attention and paralyzed an important speculative infrastructural project – eds] is another example of how struggle, conducted in a determined and militant manner, and based on mass support, can get results.

In the face of the new attacks which workers, youth and the poor will face in 2014, not least the government’s hated pension reform and abortion counter-reform, it is essential that this militancy is expressed on an ever greater scale. There is an urgent need to put the question of generalised action back on the table, especially the uniting of the strength and struggles of the working class in a new general strike.

However, it is equally essential that the necessary general strikes of 2014 break from the pattern set by the union leaders in those of 2012, organised only under unbearable pressure from below, symbolic, and isolated in time, to be followed by long periods of demobilisation. We need a new general strike to unite the struggles and raise the mood and confidence among the wider working class, but not a mere protest strike. We need a general strike with demands and goals that are capable of uniting the struggles of the working class around the fight for a general solution to the problems which provoke them, starting by bringing down the government and beginning the fight for a workers’ alternative.

For the unity of the working class in the struggle for the freedom of all national peoples

With regard to the national question, we are witnessing a new turning point, especially in Catalunya (although the question is becoming more and more prominent in the Basque country as well). On the one hand, the PP (and the former social-democratic PSOE) do not tire of talking about the “in discussible unity of the fatherland” but seem to lose their patriotic fervour when it comes to kneeling before the Troika’s demands. On the other hand in Catalunya itself, CiU and ERC pretend to champion the cause of the struggle for self-determination and the interests of “the people” but at the same time have no problem with getting together to bleed these same people dry through their cuts and austerity. The latter promise a referendum on Catalan independence, but admit to having no strategy (and indeed no willingness) to respond to the inevitable banning of it by the PP government, with PSOE’s support.

The only social force capable of struggling in a consequent manner for the rights of all national peoples to decide their own future is the working class, the only class capable of freeing Catalan, and Spanish society from the misery of capitalist crisis and austerity. The working class has every interest in in fighting against both of these bands of capitalist thieves. It is in the class struggle against the governments of the markets, united on a state-wide and international level, where the basis will be laid for a real solution to the national question, which the capitalist system has repeatedly shown itself incapable of addressing. This solution is that of the struggle for a free and voluntary confederation of the Iberian peoples, built on the cement of the universal right to self-determination, including the right to independence. Such a struggle can only be waged consistently on the basis of the fight for a socialist society, based on public democratic ownership of the wealth and key sectors of the economy.

This underlines the necessity of forging and strengthening the unity of the working class and its organisations, beginning with a united front of the left, workers’ movement and social movements, in the struggle to bring down the PP and fight for a workers’ government.

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