Socialist Worker

200,000 give taste of what is to come

Issue No. 1804

UP TO 200,000 people demonstrated in the Spanish city of Seville last Sunday against government attacks on unemployment benefits and workers' rights. The protest was the biggest seen since 1979 in the Andalucia region in the south of Spain.

It took place in the run-up to the even bigger protests planned in the same city next week as the Spanish government hosts a European Union (EU) summit. On Thursday 20 June, the day before the EU summit begins, Spain will see a nationwide general strike against the attacks on benefits and workers' rights. The strike, like last Sunday's demonstrations, is backed by both the country's main trade union federations, the UGT and CCOO.

Spain's Tory government is pushing savage attacks on the country's labour laws. Prime minister Jose Maria Aznar is a close ally of Britain's Tony Blair within the EU, and both are also in alliance with Italy's right wing prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. This 'BAB' (Blair-Aznar-Bersluconi) axis is pushing for harsher measures against refugees in the EU, and for attacks on welfare benefits and rights at work.

Their drive will form a key discussion at the Seville EU summit. In Spain the Aznar government wants to axe benefits from workers who refuse any job, no matter what the pay, within 30 miles of where they live. It also wants to massively weaken laws on unfair dismissal and extend bosses' ability to use short term contract workers. In Britain Blair also wants to scapegoat the unemployed.

The mood for Sunday's demo and next week's general strike and protests was fuelled by the half million strong anti-capitalist protest in Barcelona in March.
For details of transport to Seville phone Globalise Resistance on 020 8980 3005.

World leaders' summit shame

SIXTY HEADS of state plus thousands of politicians and officials enjoyed the best of everything when they gathered in Rome this week for the World Food Summit. While they feasted the policies they support meant that hundreds of millions starved.

The United Nations has announced that some 13 million people face severe malnutrition in southern Africa. Tens of thousands have already died, and tens of thousands more will soon. Four million tonnes of emergency aid are needed immediately. In the first month of the appeal the Western countries have offered just 3 percent of that.

Six years ago world leaders pledged to cut the number of starving people from 840 million to 400 million. They have failed completely. Today at least 815 million are malnourished. The problem is not food production but how it is distributed. The world produces food equivalent to 2,720 calories per person per day-far more than is needed for a healthy life.

But some people starve and others are encouraged to eat piles of junk foods that make them ill. The US produces 40 percent more food than it needs, but 26 million US people need food handouts to survive. The politicians who met in Rome include those who continue to enforce debt payments from poor countries and make the suffering worse.

They also insist on the market polices and 'structural adjustment' which wreck people's lives.

THE preparatory meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development ('Earth Summit Two') ended in chaos last week. The US delegation blocked moves to put mild restrictions on multinational companies and, together with its allies, insisted on making aid conditional on market policies.

The British government, which backed the US, spent £180,000 on sending 28 delegates to Bali for the meeting. Earth Summit Two takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August.

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Article information

Sat 15 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1804
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