Spain - Solidarity is the future

On 8 September, the OECD congratulated the Spanish government on the measures it has taken to overcome the crisis – and proposed a few more. For instance, like the IMF, it demands yet another increase in VAT, while reducing corporation tax. Prime Minister Rajoy’s cabinet assures us that the economy is in recovery, but the continuing risk of deflation and the poverty rate, alongside record levels of youth unemployment and economic exile, expose the uncomfortable truth. Juanjo Rivas reports from Madrid.

The crisis has in fact been a strategy to secure improved returns for capital and to open the way for private corporations to take over areas traditionally under state control. Between 2009 and 2013, companies managed an average 16% increase in profits, only possible because over the same period taxes on large businesses were reduced and salaries fell by 9%.

Despite the Rajoy government’s spurious optimism about the economy, the truth is that exports have fallen since the end of 2013, and unemployment increased in September. There are nearly two million households where all the members are unemployed, yet only half of those out of work have access to unemployment benefit. Evictions continue at an average of 4.5 per day: even families with children and members older than 70 are ruthlessly dispossessed and left on the streets.

The 25 May European elections forced a critical U-turn by the traditional political forces. The emergence of the new party Podemos (We can) poses a real threat to the political elites. Podemos won five seats in the European Parliament and recent polls of voting intentions for the municipal elections in May 2015 put it on 17%. Many of its candidates are under 40, they spread their politics via social networks and organise in ‘circles’ as Bolivarians do in Venezuela, with straightforward talk about the need to regenerate democracy, reject the policies of austerity and get rid of the corrupt political ‘caste’ that has bowed before EU plans. Mainstream media have launched a campaign of slander about Podemos, knowing that an alliance of left-wing forces could challenge conservative and social democratic parties, creating a scenario similar to that of Greece when Syriza emerged. Currently there are initial talks going between Podemos and local parties born out of the 15M popular movement, as well as hints that they could discuss a programme with the United Left (which has 11 seats in Parliament).

Meanwhile fascist groups collude in misleading the working class. Like Golden Dawn in Greece, they adopt socially radical speech and in some cases a charitable approach to promote their racist views. In summer, neo-Nazis squatted a building in Madrid to carry out ‘social work’ – for Spanish nationals only – confronting left-wing activists from a food bank and a social centre in the neighbourhood. Police stood back as fascists stirred up conflicts in an area where many immigrants live, until two were brutally beaten by the racist gang. Finally, the fascist squat was closed down.

On 23 September, the Minister of Justice resigned following the rejection of his proposed abortion law. This reactionary proposal would have overturned all the rights won in the last 30 years. President Rajoy has shelved the law – for the moment – following massive protests. Despite criticism from conservative forces who see it as a concession, it is in fact a strategic move ahead of next year’s polls.

Meanwhile, Catalonia is demanding a referendum on independence (see box). The old structures are shaking and state repression is the only answer to the contradictions. In September, the trial of 28 Basque youth for political militancy began: the only evidence against them is confessions obtained under torture. The attacks on militant forces continue, with the demolition of more squatted social centres and the court hearings of activists arrested during the last general strike.

But still the people’s resistance shows that solidarity is the way forward. Strikes and actions against evictions are frequent, preparing for an autumn of social struggle which includes demonstrations against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on 11 October and more workers’ marches on Madrid in November: in March such marches ended in riots and street battles.

Juanjo Rivas

Catalonia referendum

On 11 September 2014, well over a million people flooded the streets of Barcelona in a massive show of support for Catalan independence. The march was the latest demonstration of the unstoppable tide in support of independence. On 19 September, the Parliament of Catalonia approved by a huge majority the Consultation Law, allowing Catalan president Artur Mas to hold a non-binding referendum on self-determination on 9 November. The vote was passed in the face of absolute opposition from the Spanish state which has declared any referendum illegal. However, the revolutionary wing of the independence movement, with which tens of thousands marched on 11 September, is clear that the bourgeois nationalists currently leading ‘the process of sovereignty’ – and who are themselves responsible for brutal cuts – have no intention of disobeying a regime of which they have been an integral part for four decades. As ARRAN, the youth organisation of the Independence Left, recently declared: ‘Disobedience to the law of Spain is the only guarantor of the 9 November referendum … only the organised strength of the working class will be able to win this battle...for independence, socialism and feminism in the whole of Catalonia!’

Joey Simons

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 241 October/November 2014