On the morning of Thursday March 14, a demonstration of shop stewards and convenors from across Europe marched through the city. Despite the fact that the trade union leaders organised it on a weekday morning, when most workers could not attend, the turnout was massive. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people participated. When the head of the demonstration had reached the end of the route, there were thousands still waiting to start marching. The last group of demonstrators only got moving an hour and a half later.
The city centre was blocked by a mass of people shouting and singing slogans against the attacks on living and working conditions, against right-wing policies of the bourgeois politicians, and for full employment.
The mood was very militant, the crowd of demonstrators was everywhere, it was absolutely amazing. The feeling of strength was spectacular. This demo shows that thousands of workers are ready to fight. In Spain and Europe the youth and the working class is fed up of making sacrifices and getting nothing in exchange.
But Thurday's demo was just a prelude to the mass mobilization of Saturday afternoon. Between four to five hundred thousand turned up for the biggest demonstration against capitalist globalisation that has taken place anywhere in the world. Youth, workers, students, pensioners, shopkeepers… Everyone was there, and all against the Europe of the capitalists.
As the head of the demo completed the route, the last one hundred thousand demonstrators were still waiting to move. Under the euphoric effect of such a demonstration, everyone passing by was forced to join and march with the rest. This was the biggest demonstration for decades in Barcelona and in the whole of Spain, and it had a marked anti-capitalist character.
In the last years we have seen a series of events that clearly show that there is a change in the class struggle - in Europe but also on a world scale. The two general strikes in Greece last year; the general strike in Galicia on June 15; the mass demonstrations in Genoa last summer; the struggle in Spain against the new university "Quality Law" (LOU); the increasing number of workers involved in strikes. And now the mass movement in Barcelona and the Italian general strike against Berlusconi's right-wing policies.
Capitalism can only offers workers and youth unemployment, casualisation and poverty. Our only alternative is to struggle against the attacks from the ruling class. Wider layers of the masses are drawing this conclusion.
The ruling class knows this and they are preparing themselves for the future. In order to protect the EU summit, 10,000 policemen were sent to Barcelona. Part of the city was put under siege by police and the army, including tanks and F-16 fighters. In the Palacio Real, where the summit was held, the metro and bus services were suspended and the roads closed. They even closed the motorways around the area of the summit. The university, in front of the Conference Centre, was closed and the lectures cancelled. The city was full of police - plainclothes and in uniform. On Saturday the police searched every single youth leaving the Plaça Catalunya metro station, where the demo started. Rather than discouraging the people, these measures stimulated thousands of people to protest.
During the demo there were no police charges, thanks to hundreds of stewards and the numbers of demonstrators involved.
At the end of the demo the anti-riot police started to charge against demonstrators, with truncheons and rubber bullets. They intervened on several occasions as the protestors dispersed. The police chased the demonstrators far away from where the demo was; people were even arrested in bars. That level of repression against a mass demonstration had not been seen for years. The aim was clear - to frighten the demonstrators and criminalize anyone with the will to fight. The only thing they have achieved is to show more clearly - if that is possible - the dictatorial and repressive features of the Spanish right-wing, and aggravate the workers and youth even more.
We as Marxists, must also prepare for a future where workers' struggles will be on the increase. It is not enough to fight against capitalism, we must have a revolutionary alternative. Only then, armed with the ideas of revolutionary Marxism, can we intervene in the events with a clear programme.
Only linking the needs of the masses with the struggle for Socialism we will be able to put an end to a system based on the profit of a few parasitic capitalists and build a classless society.
By Aniol Santo,
From El Militante
March 18, 2002