THE TERRORIST attacks in Madrid, placed in three local trains, took place around 7.30am last Thursday. Most of the victims were commuting to work and school. The aim of the terrorists, according to the police, was to blow up the trains inside Atocha's station and bring down the whole building.
Against the background of the pain of the victims and their families, of the solidarity of the people of Madrid, the conservative government of the Popular Party launched a massive campaign to manipulate the popular feeling. A few hours after the attacks, the minister of the interior, Acebes, assured people that ETA had been behind the bombings. For the conservative government, it had to be ETA.
The Popular Party has built its electoral campaign programme around fear. Its fear of any change in the constitutional status that denies full self government to the Basque country, to Catalonia and Galicia. Its fear of the new regional governments that question neo-liberal and centralist policies.
Its fear of the anti-war movement, and fear of the students' protest against reactionary university reforms. Its fear too of workers' industrial action against the transfer of industries to the new-found lands of cheap labour.
And ETA represents, more than anything else, fear. This allowed the conservative government to keep the opposition PSOE completely tied to its dominance through an 'anti-terrorist pact'. It excluded any solution to the national question in the Spanish state not based on repression.
The objective was clear-mobilise the conservative electoral base, paralyse the left or, at least, stop it campaigning. It wanted use the terrorist attacks to transform popular feeling in a radical way as the Bush administration was able to do after 11 September. It wanted to consolidate its hold on Spanish politics in a decisive new way, breaking and smashing the momentum of the biggest wave of popular protests in the Spanish state since the end of Franco's dictatorship.