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29th September, an opportunity and a challenge
General Strike in the Spanish State
The adjustment measures proposed or planned by the Spanish government and its advisers to fill the State's coffers and stimulate the economy place all the burden on the popular classes in the form of lower wages, consumer taxes, pensions cuts, cuts in unemployment benefits, more privatization and the introduction of more obstacles to workers organizing (such as making it easier for employers to lay off workers and more restrictions on collective agreements). [Castellano]
29th September, an opportunity and a challenge
Of all the countries in the European Union, the Spanish State is facing one of the more difficult economic situations. The crisis is particularly bad and persistent and its impact is being felt in the rising public deficit, the deteriorating conditions of life and work of the great majority and the accelerated destruction of jobs starting with the sector that during the boom years fuelled the illusion of endless growth – construction – extending to the whole economic structure.
The adjustment measures proposed or planned by the government and its advisers to fill the State's coffers and stimulate the economy place all the burden on the popular classes in the form of lower wages, consumer taxes, pensions cuts, cuts in unemployment benefits, more privatization and the introduction of more obstacles to workers organizing (such as making it easier for employers to lay off workers and more restrictions on collective agreements).
Ever since the crisis broke, the more militant sectors of the trade union movement have been demanding that a general strike be called to oppose these unpopular measures, but because they were confined only to certain sectors and geographic areas, they were unable to achieve it. A general strike for 29th September was eventually called by the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), the only organizations with the capacity to declare a general strike with a hope of succeeding at a country-wide level, despite their growing disrepute among workers, their lack of enthusiasm, their bloated apparatus and their extreme bureaucratization.
In fact, there is even some doubt as to the ability of the union movement as a whole, including the CCOO, UGT and militant trade unionists (the vast majority of which is organized outside the two big federations) to paralyse the country, since the sector with the highest levels of unionization and the most stable employment, which has only just been the target of a direct attack by the government (the largest pay cut for decades) – the civil service – gave only very limited support to a strike of its own sector on 8th June last. Most union members did not even go on strike and were not disciplined by their organizations as strikebreakers.
The cultural and social offensive on the part of the Right and its values which has gone hand in hand with the organizational and ideological disarming of the working class and the Left (a phenomenon that is not only Spanish but widespread throughout Europe) and the fear of losing one's job in the context of real unemployment at close to 20% of the population, are factors that work not only against the success of the forthcoming general strike, but also against a revival in the short to medium term of the popular movement.
The left in general and anarchists in particular have a long road ahead if they are to rebuild the organizations and the culture of solidarity of the working classes. To begin this, we must work to break the sectarian and political short-sightedness of our own little chapels, to be able to come together and consolidate into organizations that can act as reference points beyond our private feuds, so that they can become an alternative in the eyes of the masses and reverse the demoralization, disenchantment and individualism that has been spreading like a fungus.
It is very important, as a first step, for this General Strike to be a success and for the 29th September to see as many people as possible opposing the policies of the Zapatero government, outside the workplace and on the streets. The only help the government is giving is to the banks and employers, playing the game of the reaction organized by the Partido Popular, capitalizing politically on the bankruptcy of a Partido Socialista which, in a suicidal exercise "State responsibility", is destroying its traditional social base and delivering it into the arms of the heirs of Franco who, incidentally (and indeed could it be otherwise?), oppose both the government (as part of a strategy of attrition) and the strike.
If the strike should fail, it be not only a failure on the part of those that most of the public considers to be the unions that called the strike – the CCOO and UGT. It will be a failure on the part of the entire working class. It will not worsen the image of the CCOO and UGT in the eyes of the workers – it will simply further demoralize the workers... and that is always something that the bosses and the more servile elements of the trade unions, those less worthy of the name, take advantage of.
On the other hand, the more successful the strike, the greater the success of the workers, as it will provide a clear demonstration of the strength that lies in our unity and will therefore be a step forward in our consciousness and in our levels of organization. Thus, it will not be a triumph for bureaucratic, conciliatory trade unionism, but for combative, class-struggle unionism. We have an opportunity and a challenge ahead. Let us act accordingly!
22 September 2010
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