Huge numbers of women struck across the Spanish state on Friday, International Women’s Day, in a howl of rage against oppression.
An estimated six million workers took part in a mass two-hour walkout to demand equal pay and rights for women, according to the UGT and CCOO union federations.
The UGT said it "considers that this 8 March is the clear expression of a desire for change in Spanish society. It clearly challenges a political class that has been ignoring workers, but will not be able to continue in that attitude for much longer."
There were also massive demonstrations. According to official figures, between 350,000 and 375,000 people took part in Madrid (last year the estimate was 170,000), and 220,000 in Valencia. In Barcelona, the local police estimated a total of 200,000 participants.
Protesters in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square chanted, “We want your respect—we don’t want your compliments.” In nearby Cibeles Square hotel cleaners and civil service workers joined a protest during a two-hour strike called by the main union federations.
The strike saw the Madrid Metro cut to just 35 percent of its normal service for most of the day.
Tens of thousands joined a protest in Bilbao in the Basque country. Ainhoa, a member of the Marx21 socialist organisation, told Socialist Worker, “There were masses of people on the march today. Even when it finished there were still masses of people arriving.”
Jesus Castillo is a member of Marx21 and a trade union organiser of SAT in the University of Seville. “There was a protest of around 1,000 people at the palace of justice in Seville,” he told Socialist Worker.
“Thousands of women and men mobilised in picket lines from the early morning. There are ten social centres where men are cooking and taking care of children collectively.”
Marina Morante is from Marx21 in Barcelona. She told Socialist Worker, “Constant signs of injustice, abuses and violations have involved new sectors of women as well as men in the struggle for women’s rights.”
Students and education workers struck and joined protests. The CCOO, said the strike was over 80 percent solid in universities.
It said the action “is being observed by a large amount of workers, both female and male, as well as students, the majority of who are absent from the classrooms”.
The CCOO estimated that 61 percent of students and workers in secondary schools struck, along with 42 percent of those in primary schools.
Marina said the strikes and protests are focusing on pushing back sexual violence, defending abortion rights and fighting discrimination.
“Class demands are also incorporated,” she said. “These include the defence of public education and health, as well as the public pension system, which is under threat.”
In Greece workers struck in Athens, Thessaloniki and Chania on Crete. Strikers focused on the impact that austerity has had on women, and demanded more funding for services and an end to unequal pay.
Argyri Erotokritou is a junior doctor at the General Hospital in Athens. She told Socialist Worker, “The strike was a big success and had a huge impact. It’s the first strike we have had on the issue of women’s oppression.
“The public and private union federations called a three-hour stoppage under pressure from the rank and file.
“Hospital cleaners who are facing sackings were at the head of our demonstration in Athens, mostly women.
“Many workers, women and men, are now feeling more confident to demand more from the unions. The unions need to keep taking up women’s demands. Many workers agreed that 8 March is not the end – the movement is continuing.”
In Belgium thousands took part in the country’s first ever national women’s strike. Protests hit at least a dozen Belgian cities including Brussels, Antwerp, Liege, Gent and Leuven.
Over 1,200 protests were called across Spain, with 139 authorised in Andalusia alone. Protests were planned for later on Friday in dozens of Spanish cities under the “1,000 reasons” slogan.
Unite Against Fascism and Racism will join the Brazilian women against fascism bloc on a protest in Barcelona on Friday evening. Activists plan to hand out thousands of leaflets for the international day of protests against racism on 23 March.
Marina said young women are playing a key role in the movement for women’s rights, and in pushing back the far right. She said women’s oppression is part and parcel of a system that needs to keep ordinary people divided.
She said, “To end oppression, we need to fight against the foundations of this ideology, and against exploitation, capitalism and class societies.”