Socialist Worker

Eyewitness Spain: Bank crisis fuels the rage against a rotten system

Andy Durgan writes from Spain about the economic crisis spreading from Greece—and the anti-austerity response

Issue No. 2305

Protesters against education cuts in Valencia last month (Pic: http://www.flickr.com/marcsardonMarc Sardon )

Protesters against education cuts in Valencia last month (Pic: Marc Sardon)


Spain’s rulers are in a panic as economic indicators point to a Greek-style collapse of the economy.

They deny a bailout is on the horizon—but all the ingredients are there.

Interest payments on the country’s debt have reached new heights and the credit rating has plummeted.

Brutal austerity measures have done nothing to calm “the markets”.

A building bubble in the 1990s fuelled by cheap credit has now burst and made the crisis particularly acute.

The result was a massive rise in unemployment—now touching 25 percent.

Some 170 homes are repossessed every day.

The crisis has left banks with unpaid debt of an estimated £144 million.

Power

The conservative Partido Popular (PP) government came into office last November.

Since then it has crusaded to destroy jobs, remove workers’ rights and cut spending to one of the most underfunded public sectors in Europe.

Young people have been hit hard. Nearly half are unemployed and most of those who work are on short-term contracts and low wages.

The government has poured nearly £19 billion into the country’s fourth largest bank, Bankia.

Yet an estimated £8,000 million has been lost by the granting a partial tax amnesty for individuals and corporations.

But like Greece it is not just economic collapse that our rulers fear. Mass resistance is also an increasing reality.

The emergence of the indignados movement on 15 May last year has changed everything.

The movement has widespread support—some 65 percent in the most recent poll.

Although the numbers involved in local assemblies has declined, hundreds of thousands took to the streets denouncing capitalism and calling for “real democracy” on 12 May.

There is a growing overlap between workers and young people in the 15 May movement and in the struggle against austerity.

The movement in defence of public education is the clearest example of this.

In Catalonia, Madrid and Valencia the methods of 15 May have led to mainly young teachers taking the initiative through mass assemblies and mobilisations.

In Valencia cutbacks by the PP regional government have led to schools having the electricity cut off.

Some 30 percent of teachers there voted in a recent ballot for an indefinite strike and 40 percent backed intermittent stoppages.

The PP is already in deep trouble. It was recently defeated in regional elections in Andalusia—barely six months into its term.

Alternative

What is needed, however, is a political alternative.

The Socialist Party is totally discredited for having opened the doors to the PP.

The Communist Party-led Izquierda Unida (United Left) has seen its vote rise.

But its haste to join the regional government in Andalusia and its justification of “temporarily” cutting wages and spending show the limits of its politics.

Unlike Greece, the organised anti-capitalist left in Spain is weak.

But the mood on the streets and in the strikes show the possibilities of building resistance and a militant political alternative.


Back story: Spain’s exposed economy is on the rocks

  • House prices have plunged by 25 percent
  • The government has to pay nearly 7 percent on money it borrows. This level sparked bailouts in Greece, Portugal and Ireland
  • The government recently agreed to give the Bankia bank over £15 billion
  • British banks are exposed to £52 billion of Spanish debt

Andy Durgan is a member of En Lucha, the Socialist Workers Party’s sister organisation in Spain, www.enlucha.org


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Article information

International
Tue 29 May 2012, 18:45 BST
Issue No. 2305
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