In Spain, workers’ passionate fight against austerity measures

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The streets of cities and towns across Spain ring with chants. “It’s not a crisis, it’s daylight robbery!” “Hands up, this is a stick up!” The worldwide scenario of governments robbing working people of their livelihoods and homes, while bailing out banks, has hit Spain with a vengeance.

Its economy was booming until the international economic crisis hit in 2008. Now Spain’s working and poor are among the latest scapegoats of the international banksters. They are not taking it lying down.

Capitalism as usual. Just like the U.S., Spain’s depression began with a crash in the bloated real estate market. This caused bank losses as mortgages went unpaid. The Spanish government bailed out many banks in 2010, heightening its debt.

Those paying the price are not the ultra-wealthy, whose stock market gambling caused the crash, but ordinary people. Parliament initiated austerity measures, including “reforming” labor laws to make lay-offs easier and to slash severance pay. Public workers’ wages were cut by five percent, and subsidies to the mining industry by 10 percent, with huge layoffs. Provisions of a 2007 Gender Equality Act were cancelled.

Overall unemployment now stands at almost 25 percent, with over 51 percent of youth under 25 jobless. Retirement age has been raised from 65 to 67.

But that was just the beginning. This last June, a round of harsher attacks was launched. Privatization of public enterprises is in the works, jeopardizing the jobs and unions of thousands of workers. Ports, railroads and airports are on the chopping block. The federal sales tax is being raised from 18 to 21 percent.

Spain has been ruled by two parties for years. The Socialist Party (in name only) began the austerity attacks in 2010, and Spanish voters tossed the bums out. The conservative Popular Party is now in power, having campaigned on promises like not raising taxes, promises already broken.

Militant resistance. A March 29 one-day general strike of 10 million was organized by the two major trade union federations, prompted by a new labor law that slashes more jobs.

Massive protests on July 10 and 11 by miners and supporters protested 63 percent cuts to coal subsidies. These reductions will eliminate about 8,000 jobs directly and 20-30,000 indirectly. The miners had demonstrated for weeks. Many walked hundreds of miles to Madrid.

Public workers opposing pay cuts walked out on July 13 in a wildcat strike. Demonstrators shouted slogans like “next one to become unemployed should be a member of parliament!” Massive protests again by public workers on July 19 included police, firefighters, health and education workers. A million people participated in 80 cities.

The unemployed protested on July 21, and like the miners walked hundreds of miles to Madrid.

Demonstrations poured into August and September, including flamenco dance flash mobs at banks, occupation of an unfarmed estate, and “Robin Hood liberation” of supermarket goods to donate to the hungry. Healthcare providers, disgusted by a measure to limit service to immigrants without work permits, pledged to defy the regulations. On Sept. 11, tens of thousands of Catalonians called for independence from the central government because of their unfair tax burden.

This year’s upsurge was built on mass protests that hit the streets on May 15, 2011. Called the 15-M movement or Indignados (“the Outraged”), it is youth-based. Up to 8 million people have participated, including students staging walkouts against cuts to education.

Spain’s rulers are trying to force brutish measures on workers and unemployed. The Spanish people don’t intend to let them get away with it.

Send feedback to the author at FSnews@socialism.com.

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