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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 March 2010

Spain: Thousands join mass demonstrations

Mass protests took place in Spain last week against the PSOE government´s attacks on the country´s pension system. Tuesday 23 February saw workers take to the streets in 10 cities, with 60,000 marching in Madrid and 50,000 in Barcelona. The next day saw 45,000 march in provincial capitals throughout Andalucia.

These mass demonstrations, which will continue into next week, reflect the boiling anger developing in crisis-ridden Spain, as the Zapatero government begins its attacks in earnest.

The pension 'reform' will set the retirement age at 67, from 65 now, and dramatically increase the number of years work upon which pension entitlements are calculated. It is part of the mother of all austerity packages, which will slash €50 billion from public spending. The package was announced in the face of massive pressure piled upon the Zapatero government from Spanish and international capitalism to act to cut the massive public deficit, equivalent to 13% of GDP in 2009.

Unemployment

The government is also pursuing a reform of labour law, making it easier to sack workers on fixed contracts. Yet over 4 million are officially unemployed, approaching 20% of the workforce, with a devastating 42% unemployment rate among those under 25 years old.

The government has declared that "Spain is not Greece", to assuage the international markets, wary of Spain´s economic position. Zapatero has pointed to the relative health of the banking sector, with Spanish banking giant, Santander, raking in over €9 billion in profits in 2009, for example. While it is true that life for Spain´s bankers, drunk on public money, €160 billion of which was thrown at the sector in successive bailouts, seems to be continuing relatively unabated, the government´s assertion that Spain is on the verge of exiting the recession must seem a sick joke to the millions thrown into poverty by the crisis. For the majority, mass unemployment, an uncertain future and declining living standards are the reality, with no sign of meaningful improvement in the foreseeable future.

The massive anger that exists is clear. However, the leaders of the country´s main trade unions have proved woefully unwilling to give adequate expression to this anger and willingness to fight. Anyone who attended the mass union-organised national demonstration in Madrid on 12 December 2009, was left in no doubt as to what course of action the majority of workers and trade union activists favour at this stage - a general strike!

How long the trade union leaders will succeed in holding the movement back from a general strike is unclear. However, it is clear that, despite the government´s anxiety to stress that "Spain is not Greece", the militancy of the Greek working class will be matched by Spanish workers and youth, who will decisively move onto the stage of struggle in the next period.

CWI members participated in demonstrations in Madrid and Seville and received a warm response to our material calling for the immediate organisation of a 24 hour general strike to begin the fightback.

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In The Socialist 3 March 2010:

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