As a general strike is mooted to coincide with Europe-wide action, the anarcho-syndicalist CNT union is warning that one day outings will not be enough to deter deep public sector cuts
Spain's fifth general strike hasbeen set for September 29th amidst massive public sector cuts and attacks on job security passed by the ruling Socialist Party - and the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo is calling for it to be made indefinite.
Following a one day public-sector strike earlier this month the union is warning that “gesture strikes” will not be enough to force the government to change course.
In a statement after the June 8th event they said: “The government’s plans to stabilise the economy through reducing the public deficit by 11% have placed the cost of the economic crisis on the shoulders of the disadvantaged.
“It is evident that the proposals are designed to satisfy banks and employers by compromising with the neoliberal designs that prevail in the EU.”
“If there had been earlier mobilisations the government would not have dared to present the measures announced and would have had to cut elsewhere. It would have had to seek income where the money really is – on the bench, through corporate taxes, inheritance, hedge funds etc.
“We believe it is a mistake to continue ‘negotiating’ labour reform, which is simply a concession to employers. The only possiblility for correcting this situation is to fight this economic aggression through social confrontation, to continue and expand protests to all sectors.”
“These great evils can only be treated with great remedies, and such remedies do not include, of course, a 24-hour general strike which, assuming that UGT and CCOO (the two major reformist unions in Spain) dared to actually convene one, would act only as a giant safety valve for employee discontent.
“An indefinite general strike paralysing the country until the government withdraws anti-worker and anti-social actions would by contrast act as a binder for workers to recover their class consciousness and act together, with an eye to the destruction of the capitalist system through social revolution which is the only truly effective medicine against congenital diseases of the system.
Larger TUC-style unions called the public-sector strike on June 8th, which the left claimed got 75% of public sector workers out (state sources put it 16%) and saw tens of thousands of people on the streets in protest. The public sector accounts for around 2.5 million jobs in Spain. However the measure has made little impact on narrowly-passed plans to slash 5% from public sector pay, part of a 15 billion euro package of austerity measures being implemented in the next few years.
Other measures include the uncoupling of pension payments from inflation, an end to tax breaks for new parents and cuts in public investment and development aid of up to 6 billion euros. The Party is also taking the opportunity to “free up the labour market” by making it easier to hire and fire workers, a measure which would be likely to help drive a general strike outside the public sector.
Its actions, taken as Spain is threatened by international markets over its debt ratio, are widely seen as a betrayal of the electoral promises which put the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Jose Zapatero into power in 2004 on the back of widespread discontent with the right, though anarchist groups in the country have pointed to the situation as emblematic of party politicians’ inability to represent working people.
In an editorial for the periodical CNT, the union noted: “Economic crises are inherent in the capitalist system and will, unfortunately for humanity, regularly occur as long as the system exists.
“At the end of the day, the problem lies in the balance of power between two social classes with conflicting interests - the bourgeois class, which holds exclusive ownership of the means of production and distribution, and the proletarian class, which has no more than their manual and intellectual labour to sell as dearly as possible. The salary of the employee, and therefore the worker himself, is just another cost of production like machinery, electrical power or fuel.
“And when the worker is considered this way, not as a human being but as a cost to be cut without a second thought, you can do with them what you will, without remorse. That is neither more nor less than what capitalists do with us now.
“We can not remain silent before these measures announced by the government, which will result in yet more desecration of labour right to add to a long list of infamies imposed since this pompously-named “democracy” came into existence. Lowering the salaries of officials and freezing or eliminating pensions, among other measures, are not appropriate ways to solve the so-called crisis, and will have the determined opposition of the CNT.”
- An edited version of this article first appeared in Freedom anarchist newspaper