Our angry, gigantic general strike across the Spanish state last week was a new step forward in the fight against austerity in Europe.
Tens of millions struck and two million demonstrated up and down the country.
Mass mobilisation returned to the Spanish state on 15 May last year with the “indignados” occupations of city squares.
Until then, discontent over the crisis and austerity seemed to have been channelled into fear and resignation.
Union leaders were often unwilling to act. Yet now we are seeing a huge turnaround in the struggle.
The mobilisation for the general strike was a massive success.
This is despite unusually high levels of unemployment, which currently stands at 23 percent.
The strike in industry was especially solid—electricity consumption in production fell by 88 percent on the day.
Sectors with less of a trade union tradition, such as education, were strong too.
In many regions nearly three quarters of workers supported the strike.
The strike was also strong because of widespread and radical picketing. This linked union activists with social movements.
And the demonstrations in cities and towns across the Spanish state brought together workers, pensioners, unemployed, students and youth.
Several hundreds of thousands protested in both Madrid and Barcelona.
Even smaller cities such as Vigo, Pamplona and Tarragona had demonstrations of over 100,000.
In November the conservative Popular Party (PP) won an absolute majority in general elections. This caused some demoralisation.
But just a hundred days of PP government has been enough to reactivate the struggle.
The government passed “reforms” that represent the biggest attack on workers’ rights since the transition to democracy in the 1970s.
These include eliminating almost all financial compensation against sackings and allowing employers making losses to unilaterally lower wages.
The reforms were the last straw that pushed union bureaucracies into calling the general strike.
The cuts and strike mobilisation have already eroded support for the PP.
In the Andalusian elections a fortnight ago it lost half a million votes—a real election shock.
Yet the PP government does not want to be the first in Europe to stall on austerity.
The day after the strike, the PP passed a brutal and regressive budget.
It drastically reduced spending on education and health, cut funds for employment services and the disabled and slashed aid for development by 70 percent.
In the same budget rich tax evaders were given a partial amnesty.
One minister called it a “war budget”—meaning a class war budget.
The government’s determination shows that the only possible way to stop the cuts is by escalating protest actions and another general strike.
New protests are expected on 1 and 12 May.
We must create a new centre of resistance to EU policies alongside Greece.