MADRID, SPAIN, July 12 — A seven-week general strike of 8,000 miners in the northern coalfields of Austurias, Aragon and Léon protesting the Socialist government’s austerity attacks has turned into a mass uprising reaching all the way to this capital. After having seen 40,000 jobs destroyed in the past 20 years and facing the potential extinction of another 40,000, the miners said “Enough!” They have fought daily battles with the hated Civil Guard.
Scores of miners have locked themselves into the pits. Strikers have erected burning barricades, blockaded 16 main highways, shut rail lines and used improvised rocket launchers in their response to the rioting cops’ use of tear gas, clubs and rubber bullets. When special anti-riot squads of the military police tried to remove the barricades, the miners answered with dynamite. A Civil Guard terrorist invasion of a mining village using anti-riot gear against women, children and the elderly was routed by furious strikers and their families (see box). Their militant fight has inspired walkouts of transportation workers, teachers and shipbuilders.
The strikers have gone beyond the local Occupy movement’s protesters (the “indignados”) by shouting, “No estamos indignados, estamos hasta los cojones!” — “We are not indignant, we are pissed off to our balls!”
The uprising has drawn mass support from the working class which is suffering 25 percent unemployment — 52 percent among youth — a four percent sales tax on bread and medicine, and facing an increase to 21 percent on clothing and telephone charges. The strike was provoked by a government edict of a 63 percent cut in subsidies for the mining region, sales tax hikes, and an increase in the retirement age to 67, costing the working class 65 billion euros ($81 billion U.S. dollars) over the next 30 months — this all to bail out the bankers’ toxic assets and loans resulting in the collapse of the real estate market.
On June 24, thousands of miners took their protest on an 18-day march for 250 miles straight to this capital city where they were hailed as heroes by a half million workers and their families. Escorted by the city’s firefighters into the main square when they arrived at 2:00 AM, the crowds greeted the miners with raised fists, red flags, revolutionary chants of “Long live working-class struggle!” and the singing of the Internationale.
Support for their struggle has reached the British working class where the Spanish Miners Solidarity Committee was formed on June 11 in Sheffield, England by former veteran miners of the 1984-85 strike. They have organized a national campaign to send funds to the strikers’ families in the northern and eastern coalfields.
The world’s capitalist media — dwelling on Spain’s need to bail out the bankers — has tried to keep this struggle out of the headlines as they did with the months-long strike of 300,000 students in Quebec. But the march to Madrid broke through this blackout.
The bosses’ have smeared the miners with accusations of “terrorists” and lies about their wages and “early retirement.” However, workers have not fallen for this garbage. When Spain’s national soccer team won the Euro Cup recently, the ruling class created a mood of flag-waving national unity. But the thousands in Madrid’s Puerto del Sol main square chanted to the miners, “Esta es mi selección” (“This is my national team!”)
Spain’s main unions have played their usual pro-capitalist role. After having called a short general walkout in March, they never followed up with a long-range mass strike. They are allied with the Socialist Party which has sponsored this anti-working-class austerity. But they cannot control the anger of the rank and file.
The miners are part of a long tradition of struggle against the ruling class, which has been an occupying force in the Asturias coal fields. The first general strike against the fascist Franco, in 1962, was initiated by the Asturias miners, who organized guerrilla actions against the regime. Solidarity among the miners is a part of their way of life and work as brothers and sisters dependent on one another in the mines.
To turn this class struggle into a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system — the source of these attacks on the working class — requires the leadership of a communist party, which unfortunately is lacking in Spain. But the building of such an organization through the Progressive Labor Party is occurring in many countries worldwide and inevitably will reach the workers of Spain.
Meanwhile, workers everywhere should applaud their struggle and follow the example of the miners in England by sending solidarity greetings and money to the miners in Spain, as well as picket the Spanish embassies to send a message that the workers of the world are one international class. We will unite against the capitalists wherever they attack us, and eventually drive them into the dustbin of history.
Workers’ Power Wins the Day
On June 5, the Spanish Civil Guard arrived in force in the Asturias region to clear a roadblock erected by the striking miners on Highway N-630. But then the miners responded. They took up their shields and, supported by the whole population of the nearby village, they launched an assault on the Guard, driving them from the town center. In a veritable manhunt, they chased them through the residential areas and the surrounding countryside, driving them from the motorway to the edges of town, forcing them to abandon their attack.
Their flight was celebrated with long applause from the local population, expressing their solidarity with the miners’ struggle.