On Sunday 23 February, more that 1200 coaches and countless private cars took tens of thousands of Galicians, especially youth, to Madrid to the demonstration called by the Plataforma Nunca Máis. Once again the government and their media can say as they please, but everybody who went there knows that for a period of four hours all the avenues of the centre of Madrid witnessed a human flood of protesters, demanding the resignation of ministers and measures to alleviate the catastrophe of the oil tanker Prestige. The main target of the protest was the right wing PP Government of Aznar.
Actually, this fact, the enormously critical mood towards the PP and its leaders, was the most striking feature of the demonstration. The banners and the slogans chanted left no doubt about this. Some demonstrators, in a festive atmosphere, even demanded euthanasia for Fraga (the PP regional leader in Galicia) and the transfer to Guantánamo of those responsible for the catastrophe.
This critical mood is completly justified. First of all, for the magnitude of the oil spilt, which despite de triumphalist statements by the Xunta (Galician Regional Government controlled by the PP) is still continuing to contaminate the cost line, preventing the restarting of fishing, which is key for the Galician economy. Secondly, for the utter incapacity of the PP in facing the catastrophe. Thirsly, because the "alternatives" offered by the PP are not convincing: nobody believes in the "Plan for Galicia" and the Xunta is telling people that they have to get used to living with the oil spilt for a long time.
But the critical mood is also due to the arrogant attitude of the PP towards the movilisation of the workers and youth. Hundreds of thousands of Galicians have felt offended by statements as for instance from president Aznar who accused those criticizing his policy of "going around whining on the street corners" and of being manipulated. They have been scandalized at the fine imposed on a girl (although later on it was withdrawn) who insulted Fraga in the streets with the words "bastard, go and clean the oil spilt" and they have felt indignant for the lies, censorship and manipulation of the media, more appropriate to a dictatorship. In its desperation, the PP has even tried to link "Nunca Máis" with terrorism. Mayor Oreja acused this Platform of introducing the methods of ETA into Galicia. He seems to think (if this is the right word) that dissatisfaction leads to violence! That is, you'd better be satisfied with the Government or else you'll become a suspect.
The PP is very nervous and on the defensive, making even more blunders. That is why, three months after the oil spilt, the protest is not decreasing. People are challenging the Government and are prepared to come out on the streets. That is why after the historic demonstration against the war on Saturday 15, hundreds of thousands of the people of Madrid joint the demonstration called by "Nunca Máis" to show their rejection to the right wing government.
All this will have profound political implications, starting in the electoral front. The opinion polls put the PSOE above the PP. A disaster of the PP in the council elections this coming May would provoke internal divisions within the party and could bring a situation of political instability. And although the next general elections are not due until the middle of next year, nothing can be ruled out. The Government finds itself in a very weak position. As a political commentator put it in a recent article: "he had everything and now he has nothing".
The general strike of June 20 2002 was the turning point. Everything has changed since then. The events of the last months have shown the PP to be right wing pure and simple - reactionary, authoritarian, arrogant, lying, contemptuous - that is, the worthy heirs of Franco. After all, the current governing class are the children and grand children of the men of the Franco regime, and sooner or later it would have to show in their genes.
But most important is that the general strike and the disaster of the Prestige, to which we now have to add the imperialist aggression against the Iraqi people, have allowed the youth to understand through their own experience what is the real meaning of the right wing, sharing in this way the historical memory of the working class who experienced the Franco dictatorship and the right wing governments of the UCD which followed it during the first years of the so-called Transition. And this will have decisive political implications for the future.