Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/641/10361
Spain: workers demonstrate their strength
On 29 September the general strike marked the entrance of the Spanish working class onto the stage of struggle with all its weight and power.
Ten million strikers and 1.4 million angry demonstrators participated. The day after the strike all but the most right-wing newspapers were forced to admit that the strike had shaken Spanish capitalism.
SARAH WRACK reports on events in Barcelona.
The biggest issue facing Spanish workers is a process of labour reform which will lead to bosses having to pay almost no redundancy and the tax payer subsidising what they do pay. This is obviously paving the way for a new wave of job cuts. With unemployment already over 20%, the working class of Spain is left with no choice but to fight against it. Militant demonstrations in every city brought 70% of the workforce onto the streets. Members of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) were present in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Murcia and the Basque Country.
With the exception of several small picket lines outside banks, things seemed a little quiet until we came across our first 'flying picket' of the day. About 40 workers and trade unionists were gathered outside an open café blowing horns and whistles and chanting constantly. Several of them went inside and carried on making noise until all the customers were forced to leave. Others stacked the chairs and upturned the tables outside to make it clear they were closing the place down. When they finished, they moved on to the next open shop.
In Barcelona, the general strike was tarnished by the actions of a small group of 'anarchist' demonstrators, who during an afternoon demonstration of about 5,000 workers and students, took advantage of the assembled crowd to engage in pointless clashes with riot police, which included the burning of police cars and endangering of the safety of peaceful protestors.
Although the involvement of agent provocateurs in these actions is suspected, even those 'anarchists' who participated in these clashes motivated by a genuine anger and desire to change the world, have fallen into a counter-productive trap.
It meant that the majority of what was shown in the media, particularly internationally, looked like a riot rather than the militant, organised working class action that most of the day was. But it also gave the police the excuse to break up the afternoon demonstration and spend much of the rest of the day attacking groups of protesters, including violently ending the occupation of a major bank.
The anti-trade union laws in Spain also held back the strike to an extent. Before a strike, the unions, bosses and government must come to an agreement about a level of minimal service that will be provided, for example, a certain level of metro service at commuter times. This forces the unions into cooperating with strike-breaking but the law was marvellously ignored in some areas. However, when non-agreed transport was seen, it was stopped. One bus without the sign showing that it was part of the minimal services was surrounded by a group of protesters who covered the windscreen in strike stickers and stuck wooden blocks with nails under the wheels.
The first step
On the trade union demonstration in the evening, 400,000 people of all ages and from all industries marched through central Barcelona with tens of thousands of union flags flying. The angry chants and vibrant atmosphere made it obvious that the working class of Barcelona and of Spain are determined to defend the gains they have won in the past and not to pay for the capitalist crisis more than they already have.
Everywhere we went there was a huge interest in the ideas of the CWI. Leaflets were grabbed out of our hands and read from beginning to end right in front of us. We sold many copies of Socialismo Revolucionario, the paper of the CWI in Spain whose headline was: "General strike: the first step!" Several people said they wanted further discussions about the possibility of joining or working with the CWI in Spain.
Many were clearly impressed that we were making concrete suggestions about how the movement should continue after the general strike. The one-day stoppage was impressive and damaging for the bosses but will not be enough. We pointed to the example of Greece to say that more general strikes as well as democratic committees to organise the next steps would be necessary to really force the government backwards.
In The Socialist 6 October 2010:
Defend Child Benefits
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party workplace news
Health and Safety
Europe: fighting the cuts
International socialist analysis
Socialist Party review