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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 June 2009

General strike in Basque country

Spanish capitalism suffering deep crisis

ON 21 May, a general strike took place in the Basque country and nearby Spanish province of Navarra. Organised by Basque trade unions, which organise a significant majority of trade union members in the region, the day was a resounding success, despite the failure of the main Spanish unions, UGT and CCOO, to back the strike.

Danny Byrne, CWI, Spain

Tens of thousands attended demonstrations in the region's main cities of Bilbao, Vittoria and San Sebastian. Chants and banners decried the vicious effects of the capitalists' economic crisis on the living standards of working class and young people.

With unemployment soaring towards 20% and over 35% of young people out of work, the depth of the current crisis of Spanish capitalism, and the attempt to make workers pay for it, are proving to be ingredients for the development of major class battles in the period ahead.

The action of Basque and Navarran workers on 21 May, in the Spanish state's most industrialised region, represents a powerful initial response to this situation, but also offers a glimpse into the certain future - of Spanish workers and youth moving into sustained struggle against the capitalists and their representatives.

Basque political crisis

In the Basque country, Spanish capitalism is currently embroiled in a political crisis. After decades of power in the 'autonomous' Basque parliament, the right-wing PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) lost power to a "grand coalition" of the two main parties of Spanish capitalism, PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers Party) and the PP (People's Party), headed by Paxti Lopez of PSOE.

However, their election victory was only made possible through undemocratic repression and 'illegalisation' of a number of pro-independence parties.

In the March elections, over 100,000 voters cast blank ballots in opposition to this repression. This political crisis formed an important backdrop to the events of the strike, as workers raged against the effects of the crisis, but also against the actions of the anti-democratic PP-PSOE government, united behind capitalism and its attempts to make workers pay for the crisis.

Unite the fightback

The strike exposed the absolute bankruptcy of the leadership of the main Spanish trade union federations, the UGT and CCOO, who not only refused to back the strike, but actively came out in opposition to it.

Their refusal to prepare for a general strike, to send a message to the government showing the power of workers to struggle and force back the attacks of the bosses, is becoming more and more ridiculous as the crisis deepens.

For many, the fact that with over four million unemployed, the government is now negotiating with the bosses on the implementation of a labour law reform which would make sackings easier, was the last straw.

On this year's May Day celebrations the mass demand for a general strike was palpable (see previous article on socialistworld.net by Nick Auvache). The strike in the Basque country and Navarra, which has helped to put the idea of a general srike firmly on the agenda, will undoubtedly prove a thorn in the side of the union leaders. A 24-hour general strike would be a vital way to unite the opposition to the attacks and could serve as a step in the development of a united struggle of workers and youth against the crisis and government.

Socialist solutions

The response by the main political parties to the crisis leaves us in no doubt as to whom they represent. In particular, PSOE, once seen by many workers and trade unionists as 'their party', who in national government have bailed out bankers to the tune of billions, alongside billions in public spending cutbacks, have earned the disgust and contempt of Spanish workers.

In the fight against the crisis, the question of political representation for workers and youth will inevitably arise. There is a crying need for a new mass political party that could galvanise the anti-government mood in society and present itself as a workers' alternative to the bosses' parties.

In Spain, the living standards of workers and the futures of young people will not be protected by the capitalists and their parties and many now recognise the necessity of fighting back.

If real lasting gains are to be won, this fightback must be linked to the fight for an end to the dictatorship of big business and the market and for a new society where workers and young people control how wealth is used.

The need to build support for the ideas of genuine socialism throughout the Spanish state is more urgent now than ever.

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In The Socialist 10 June 2009:

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