Three million march on Spanish general strike

The general strike in Spain has been a resounding success and is an enormous source of inspiration for socialists all over the world. As Alan Woods predicted yesterday, the Spanish media today recorded the surprise of the trade union leaders at the massive following of the strikes and the unanimous opinion of the media owners and the government that the strike had been a failure. Another thing obscured the media coverage of the strike and gave an additional excuse to the mass media to hide the truth: ETA planted two bombs in Andalusia, one in Marbella and one in Fuengirola. This shows once again the reactionary character of individual terrorism. Marxists stand for the revolutionary transformation of society which will be achieved by the combined force of millions of workers and youth, a mighty power which showed its strength yesterday in Spain during the general strike and which will again show its numbers tomorrow in the demonstration against the EU summit in Seville.

The general strike in Spain is part of a process of reawakening of the class struggle which is taking place in Southern Europe, with the general strike in Italy and the mass mobilisation in Rome which prepared for it, the general strike in Greece, the national day of action in Portugal and the mass mobilisations against the extreme right in France. The general secretary of the European Confederation of Unions warned yesterday that if the EU summit was to approve anti-social measures the unions would call a Europe-wide general strike. Certainly such a measure, if combined with the national demands of the workers in each country, would have a massive following.

The general strike in Spain, and the general strike in Italy, refute once and for all those theories, so popular in the last few years, which said that the working class no longer plays the same role in society, that because of casualisation the workers have become atomised, that it is impossible to organise the new sections of the class, and that in order to change society one must look for other agents, to be found in "civil society".

What we have seen in Spain and in Italy is that when the organised sections of the working class start to move they act as a powerful magnet for those sections that that are not yet organised. One striking feature of the mass demonstrations in Spain was the participation of youth and unorganised layers. Once the workers move in a decided way they pull behind them all other sections in society (with the obvious exception of the capitalists). A small anecdotal indication of this was the attitude of professional cyclists in Spain during the strike. They were participating in the Tour of Catalonia but voted overwhelmingly in a mass meeting to join the strike on June 20, refused to run in Spain (they only ran the Andorra leg and even there, they did not compete, but rather run together).

Note on the police repression

The government used the police forces in a desperate attempt to prevent the success of the strike. Dozens of trade unionists were arrested all over Spain. Particularly brutal was the action of the police in Leganés, south of Madrid, were a police officer threaten a group of trade unionists with a hand gun. As a result of the tension and violence provoked by the government there a police agent died of a heart attack. The local CCOO branch in Leganés is sorry for this but puts the blame squarely on the government side for their provocative behaviour. The comrades are asking for the immediate release without charges of all arrested trade unionists in Leganés and all over Spain, and the government delegate in Madrid:

Madrid government delegate: + 34 913108390
Leganés police station: +34 914811013
And send copies of solidarity messages to: elmilit@arrakis.es

We publish here the balance sheet of the strike issued by the Marxist current in Spain which publishes El Militante. For up-to-date information (in Spanish) see their website: www.elmilitante.org

This article has been translated from the original Spanish: Más de 3 millones de personas acudieron a las manifestaciones

More than 3 million people on the demonstrations

Resounding success of the General Strike in Spain

The workers have the strength to defeat the right-wing government

Now CCOO and UGT must continue the struggle

The general strike of June 20 has been a resounding success. The strike was followed by more than 90% of industrial workers and it spread throughout the country in all sections of industry: transport and telecommunications, auto industry, metal industry, shipyards and harbours, chemical industry, building industry, etc. The education sector was also paralysed, as was the health service. Most civil servants at national, regional and local level also followed the strike. In the countryside thousands of jornaleros (agricultural day labourers) unanimously followed the strike and the towns in Extremadura and Andalusia were completely paralysed. In the main cities the strike had a massive character with the main industrial areas completely shut down, road traffic reduced to a minimum and news kiosks closed. This general strike comes after the Greek general strike on Tuesday and takes place on the same day as the national day of action by thousands of workers in Portugal and the regional strikes in Italy.

During the day of the strike the right-wing Popular Party government organised a massive media campaign to try to minimise the effects of the strike and publicise its alleged failure. The script of all the government spokesmen, Pio Cabanillas, Rato, Rajoy and Aznar himself, was to deny what was happening in front of their own eyes: that the strike was having a massive following! It was pathetic to see Pio Cabanillas state that only 6% of the workforce had participated in the strike. The government did everything in its power to defeat the strike: there had never been such a massive deployment of the security forces against the right to strike. In fact, on June 20 the "violent pickets", of which the government had been talking in its propaganda, were precisely the security forces who were used as a picket against the workers and in favour of the bosses. The brutal repression against thousands of workers and youth, the police blockade of the UGT central headquarters in Madrid and the police charges against dozens of workers who were there, the arrest of nearly 100 trade unionists all over the country - all these actions expose the real reactionary character of this government. However, and despite all the attempts by the PP, the strike had a majority following

The role of the media

The government, in its provocative attitude, had the support of the owners and the boards of directors of the mass media, the same media that uses the fig-leaf of "impartiality of the media" but serve the interests of the capitalists and their political representatives. The information given by the TV channels, particularly Antena3 and the state owned RTVE was scandalous in its bias. It is difficult to lie so much and with such arrogance and shamelessness. As for the newspapers, the decided attitude of their workers to join the strike prevented the attempt of the owners and directors of El Mundo, ABC, La Razón or El País, to see their papers published. Their workers were helped by the exemplary behaviour of the newspaper couriers who made sure that no newspapers reached the selling points in the big cities like Madrid.

It is now clear that these newspapers who sometimes dare to attack the government on secondary issues, all unite against the common enemy when it comes to defending the fundamental interests of the ruling class. An example of this is Pedro J Ramirez, editor of El Mundo, and champion of the freedom of enterprise, who has been one of the most vocal opponents of the strike and who used anti-riot police vans to get copies of his newspaper distributed. But all his efforts were in vain, as newspaper distribution workers solidly prevented any of them from reaching their destinations. The same can be said of the "liberal" El País which tried to break the strike, overwhelmingly supporting by its workers, by using scab printers in Valencia and then sending thousands of copies to the capital city by van. Again none of them reached their destination.

In fact, this defiant and arrogant attitude on the part of the government and the media had the opposite effect, encouraging people to attend the demonstrations.

The success of the strike can also be measured by the participation in the demonstrations. The mass participation in these is the best proof of the willingness of millions of workers to fight to the end against the attacks of the right-wing government. In many places these were the biggest demos in 20 years, in some others they were even bigger than those during the massive general strike of December 14, 1988. In Madrid there were more than half a million people, and the same number participated in Barcelona; in Vigo more than 150,000; in Seville more then 100,000; in Oviedo more than 100,000; in Granada 50,000; in Malaga more than 20,000, and so on in all towns and cities throughout the country up to a total of more than 3 million.

In the demonstrations there was a clear bold mood of confidence and euphoria. This mood comes from the strength of the strike and also from the anger and frustration accumulated over years against the right-wing government. This strike and the extraordinary participation in the demonstrations shows clearly an idea that the Marxists have been defending for years: the enormous strength of the working class, its central role in the mobilisation against the policies of Capital and the need to put an end to the policy of class collaboration and social partnership carried out by the trade union leaders of CCOO and UGT.

The general strike of June 20 marks a turning point in the political situation. It underlines the failure of the policy of the trade union leaders of demobilising the class which has meant setback after setback, casualisation and multi-million profits for the capitalists. This general strike must be the starting point of a serious struggle based on the strength of the working class and its enthusiastic willingness to fight.

The leaders of CCOO and UGT have an enormous responsibility. If the PP government does not backtrack and withdraws the decree on the reform of the unemployment benefits, the duty of the trade union leaders is to prepare for a stronger movement: a bigger and wider strike against the economic policies of the PP until they are defeated with the idea of overthrowing this government which only serves the interests of the bosses and the multinationals. It is necessary to organise a widespread campaign of mass workplace meetings in every factory, school and neighbourhood throughout the country in order to draw a balance-sheet of June 20 and to prepare for the next stage in the movement.

Up until now the weakness shown by the trade union leaders has provoked a more decided attitude on the part of the government which has launched attacks on all fronts: education, health, democratic rights, immigration, etc. Now it is the time on our part to show an equal resolve not to accept any more cutbacks.

Workers, trade unionists and youth organised in the Marxist current El Militante, have been at the forefront of the struggle against the Popular Party, participating in the struggle of the student youth and the Students' Union against the LOU and the so-called quality law, in many workers' struggles and now in the general strike. We make an appeal to continue this work, starting with the full participation in the working-class trade unions in order to transform these organizations into genuine fighting tools of the class and to strengthen the militant Marxist tendency within them.

At the same time we must stress the fact that the struggle for our rights, against the government's decree, against casualisation, to defend public education and the health service, the defence of our democratic rights, these are all part of our struggle to transform society, to put an end to this rotten and barbaric social system and to build a new social order based on the common ownership of the means of production and workers democracy: a socialist society.

See also:

[Back to In Defence of Marxism] [Back to Western Europe]