Podemos falters in the face of austerity and crisis

Even after its second general election in six months, the Spanish political parties remain incapable of forming a government – a symptom of the capitalist crisis gripping the country. The second election held on 26 June strengthened the conservative Partido Popular of Mariano Rajoy, but not sufficiently to allow him to form a majority government despite the Socialist Party achieving the worst results in its history. Meanwhile, the apparently radical Podemos, once the posterboy group of modern-day social democracy, managed to lose a million votes – as its socialist-lite rhetoric rings increasingly hollow to a working class facing rising unemployment and a new tranche of austerity measures. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Madrid.


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Spain: new elections same old austerity

Mariano Rajoy

On 26 June, Spain will hold its second general election in six months, after the failure of the various parties to establish a coalition government following December’s poll. Although all the parties say they want ‘change’, their rhetoric continues to bow before the economic line decided by European imperialist institutions. The turmoil created by constant cases of corruption, repression of social movements and distrust between parties has created general disaffection and the slow polarisation of society. This time round, left-wing organisations have reached a 50-point agreement and will form a joint candidature, which may well put them in second place in the new elections.


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Spain: political parties tussle over way forward 

On 20 December 2015 Spain’s general election resulted in an unprecedented situation where no party gained a clear majority. The conservatives of the Partido Popular (PP) got 28.72% of the votes while the social democrats of the Socialist Party (PSOE) received a 22.02% share. Some new parties entered the parliament, in particular the right-wing Ciudadanos, (13.93%) and the social-democrats of Podemos (12.67%). The various parties trade accusations on a daily basis and hold tense negotiations but the result remains uncertain. Meanwhile, Catalonian parties have reached a last-minute agreement to establish a regional government which will pursue independence. However its stability is still in doubt after several months of negotiations. Contradictions arise and a complex time lies ahead, making it difficult to predict whether austerity policies will continue or whether there is a chance for change. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Madrid.


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Spain: Countdown to general election

On 20 December 2015, Spain will hold a general election amidst the turbulence of calls for independence in Catalonia and the weakening of the two-party system. The elite feels uneasy at the emergence of voices demanding constitutional reform, to open the way for the people to exercise their right to decide over territorial, political and social issues. The unwillingness of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to change the status quo has resulted in a dual strategy: on the one hand attempting to persuade voters of the country’s alleged economic recovery and, on the other, using repressive force to imprison activists – allowing him, conveniently, to introduce the threat of ‘terrorism’ into his election campaign. Juanjo Rivas reports from Madrid.

September’s election in Catalonia created a divided regional parliament, in which the majority is formed by bourgeois nationalists (Junts pel Sí) and pro-independence anti-capitalists (CUP). On 9 November, the Catalonian Parliament approved the beginning of a political process towards independence by 72 votes to 63. The decision was supported by Artur Mas, the right-wing politician who has been president for the last five years and who is responsible for privatisations, austerity policies, social cuts and corruption in his own party. Unsurprisingly, the CUP has twice refused to vote him into office and talks are being held to find an alternative candidate for a stable regional government by 10 January 2016. If this deadline to establish a new Catalonian president is not met, new elections will have to be called – something none of the separatists want.


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Spain: Political manoeuvres ahead of general election

By 20 December at the latest, Spain will face a general election, following the municipal and regional elections in May which significantly changed the country’s political map. The right-wing government of Mariano Rajoy fears that the coalitions formed by new and old social democrats could challenge the political framework established, post-Franco in 1978 which has until now remained untouched. Conservatives and other establishment forces are rushing to approve laws to secure their interests and privileges while repressing protests, to ensure that any new cabinet has its hands tied, subject to EU imperialist demands. At the same time, polls ahead of the Catalonian election on 27 September show a slump in support for Rajoy’s conservatives, and the prospect of a unilateral declaration of independence has stirred the government’s propaganda machine. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Madrid.


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Spain: Resistance against austerity and repression

On 1 July, some of the most draconian restrictions on the right to protest in existence in Europe came into effect in Spain. The Civil Security Act, known as the Ley Mordaza, or ‘Gag Law’, criminalises protest of almost every kind and has been criticised by the United Nations as having ‘a chilling effect’ on the freedom of peaceful assembly. It is a symptom of the government’s fear of the growing opposition to its austerity measures and repressive policies. On the eve of the introduction of the law, thousands of people marched in protest in 20 Spanish cities. Juanjo Rivas reports from Madrid.


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Spain votes against austerity

The new mayor of Barcelona, anti-eviction activist Ada Colau

The results of Spain’s regional and municipal elections held on 24 May mark a sea-change in Spanish politics as millions of voters rejected the austerity policies of the ruling Popular Party (PP). In Spain’s two biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, left-wing activists are set to become mayors. New radical coalitions are emerging that could have a significant impact in the general election in November. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Madrid.

While the conservative PP still received the most support (27%), it has lost 2.5 million votes since the 2011 local elections. This allowed left-wing coalitions, backed by the new left-wing party Podemos, to make significant gains. Although Podemos itself only received 12% of the vote, it may well gain important conservative strongholds, such as Madrid, Asturias, Valencia and Galiza if it forms alliances with the socialist democratic Socialist Party (PSOE), which was second overall.


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Can Spain follow Greece in the fight against austerity?

President Mariano Rajoy boasts about the end of the recession and an apparent slow decrease in unemployment rate. However, his optimism is overshadowed by endless cases of corruption, growing discontent among vast sections of society and the triumph of anti-austerity party Syriza in Greece, which could encourage those following similar strategies in Spain. This is a crucial year in which voters will have the chance to give an important blow to the two-party system, in municipal, regional and general elections, and possibly transform the political scenario.


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Spain: A wind of change

On 20 November, Mariano Rajoy completed his third year as President of Spain, a post he won in 2011 with a solid 44.6% of the vote. Three years later, Rajoy is trying desperately to lead a government which is staggering under the weight of corruption scandals, demands for referendums and increasing unemployment and poverty. A new political party has emerged from the social movements (see FRFI 241) which is already ahead in the polls. Podemos (‘We can’) rejects the austerity policies of the EU and is attempting to radically deepen democracy. A wind of change is blowing and it is making the privileged minority, those who have become richer from a crisis that the working class has to bear, very uneasy. Juanjo Rivas reports from Madrid.


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Catalonia: pushing the Spanish state into crisis

The struggle for Catalan independence is pushing the Spanish state into an unprecedented political crisis. On 9 November (9-N), 2.3 million people (out of an electorate of 5.4 million) participated in a symbolic vote on Catalan self-determination, with 80.1% declaring in favour of Catalonia becoming an independent state. Those who exercised their democratic rights did so in defiance of the Spanish Constitutional Court, which had suspended the official vote, and of a hostile central government, which declared the ballot illegal. The Director of Public Prosecutions has now filed criminal charges against Catalan President Artur Mas for defying a court order and wasting public funds. The Catalan government, along with other parties, is now calling for early ‘plebiscite elections’ to the Catalan Parliament, which, if a pro-independence majority is returned, will proceed to a unilateral declaration of Catalan independence. The complete inability of the Spanish state to meet the most basic democratic and social needs of the working class is becoming clearer every day.


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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.


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Can Vies – a symbol of resistance, from Barcelona to beyond

Si Can Vies va a terra, barri en peu de guerra!’ The authorities were promised war if the historic occupied social centre of Can Vies was evicted, and this is what they got. For seven days, an uprising unprecedented since the end of the Franco dictatorship raged on the streets of Barcelona. A week is a long time in politics and while the barricades burned, the Chief of Police resigned and a king abdicated. The struggle to rebuild not only Can Vies, but a fighting alternative to the misery of capitalism, continues. Joey Simons reports from Barcelona.


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Spain: Ruling class hypocrisy, working class resistance

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

On 30 April, the Spanish Minister of the Economy announced economic growth of 0.4% in the first trimester, and an expected 1.2% for the whole year. He boasted of a reduction in unemployment by just over 50,000 people. He avoided, however, explaining that this is based on a sky-rocketing increase in temporary and low-quality jobs, coinciding with the lowest number of workers on payroll in the last 11 years. Or that the country’s policies of austerity have pushed public debt from 36.3% of GDP in 2007 to 93.7% in 2013. The so-called ‘recovery’ is in fact entirely based on speculative growth, increased exploitation of the workforce and a growing dependency on European capital. From Madrid, Juanjo Rivas reports on Spain’s continuing crisis.

Far from the living standards of the working class improving, the rate of poverty keeps increasing; almost 50,000 families lost their homes in 2013, 11% more than in the previous year. All main industries have carried out mass redundancies and there is a visible decline in the provision of basic public services. For instance, the budget for education has been cut by 30.5% since 2010 and university fees have risen 67% in Catalonia and 58% in Madrid. Families with disabled members have seen most of their benefits withdrawn.


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Spain: State racism and the struggle for dignity

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

On 5 March, the European Commission released an analysis of the Spanish economy, praising the government’s success in protecting foreign investment and complying with orders from Brussels by cutting the provision of social services. It also requested more structural reforms focused on the labour market and specifically on slashing salaries. While multinational corporations notch up record profits, the majority of businesses are implementing mass redundancies and the poverty rate has soared to unprecedented levels. However, the Spanish working class continues to fight back and on 22 March a wave of about 1.5 million people marched from all over the country to seize the centre of Madrid in a militant protest that ended with severe clashes with the police. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Madrid.


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Spain: unity and struggle against austerity and fascism

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 237 February/March 2014

On 13 January 2014, Spanish President Mariano Rajoy visited the US White House for the first time. The Spanish delegation brought entrepreneurs from major companies to meet their US counterparts, in the hope of persuading them to invest in Spain. Rajoy tried to enhance the figures, which show a slight economic growth of 0.3%. Obama praised the effort but pointed out the challenge of reducing unemployment. The most recent official figures show an employment rate of only 44%, with many of these underemployed. Overtime is unpaid and there is a worrying growth of one-day contracts. The arrogance and corruption of the political class, in conjunction with the appalling conditions in some working class areas are fuelling popular unrest. JUANJO RIVAS reports.


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Gamonal resists: a battle for the heart of Spain

‘Glimmers of hope in Spain, which has adjusted its economy (cut labour costs)…’ wrote Financial Times blogger Dan McCrum on 28 January. ‘There are better returns coming, the conversation is turning to profits…’ Contained in McCrum’s parentheses is an entire ocean of social conflict and misery, as capital seeks to restore its profits at the expense of vast swathes of the population.


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Spain: Economy stagnates as resistance grows

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014

In early November, celebrating its second year in office, the conservative People’s Party (PP) boasted that it had avoided a further bailout for the economy, which shows signs of recovery after complying with European Union (EU) demands. However, for many the alleged recovery is an illusion, the result of politicians’ ability to cook the books; meanwhile those same politicians are planning a whole new raft of measures to attack civil and democratic rights and control a growing wave of resistance to their cuts. Juanjo Rivas reports from Madrid.


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Spain: Fight cuts and privatisation

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

Spain has the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of unemployment in Europe, with a figure of 26.30%, which rises sharply to 56.10% among those aged under 25. As a consequence, an alarming and unprecedented number of qualified youth are leaving the country, seeking better prospects abroad. Those who remain face a society with 13 million people officially poor, a figure that has increased at a rate of half a million every year since the beginning of the crisis, no matter whether social democrats or conservatives were in government.


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Spain: Corruption – and resistance

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

As we go to press, the ‘men in black’ are visiting Spain to have a close look at the country’s finances. Troika supervisors from the European Commission, the EU Central Bank and the IMF are likely to force Spain into the third phase of their plan for a general bailout. Last year the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy received €41bn to reorganise the financial sector. The troika could now impose a further loan of up to €60bn, raising debt levels and therefore requiring increased cuts, deepening poverty and accelerating the rate of social exclusion. Such an action would demonstrate the troika’s contempt for Spain’s economic sovereignty; it would be de facto an undercover intervention in the country such as we have already seen in Cyprus and Greece. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Madrid.


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Spain: Fightback against austerity

After the announcement of the EU bailout to Cyprus, the Spanish government hastened to claim that the situation in Spain is in no way comparable and will be unaffected by European Union intervention in the island. The cabinet of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has avoided asking for a second bailout by means of radical cuts in social services and benefits, leading to record levels of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion. This doctrine of ‘austerocracy’ manifests itself in Spain through a twisted combination of rampant corruption and megalomaniac projects on the one hand and, on the other, conditions of misery for the vast majority. From Madrid, JUANJO RIVAS reports.


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Spain: poor get poorer as ruling class squanders millions

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

The Spanish economy is stagnant, and all international reports agree that 2013 will be another year of recession with unemployment set to rise further over the coming months, to 26%. However, the conservative Rajoy government is pushing ahead with its programme based on cuts to social services and handouts to the corrupt banking sector, reaping benefits for themselves from the privatisations they demand. As a result, waves of protests and strikes continue to sweep across Spain, and in the last months these have involved underground workers, rubbish collectors, students, airport staff, university professors, civil servants, hospital staff, lawyers and many others. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Madrid.


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Spain: Resistance and direct action

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

Spain’s economic turmoil continues, throwing into question the EU’s ability to produce a way out of the crisis. The Spanish 2011 deficit has been revised up from 8.9 to 9.4% making it impossible for the government to meet its target of 6.3% of GDP. The EU bailout along with financial help to the banking sector has propelled Spanish public debt to a record 80%, which could reach 90% in 2013, the highest rate for a hundred years. Before the economic crisis struck, the figures showed Spain as having a low debt and a budgetary surplus. But the end of an economic period which had been based on a property bubble and the taking on of the losses of strategic banking entities brought serious problems for the country’s accounts. JUANJO RIVAS reports.


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Spain: resisting austerity and police brutality - Nov 2012

Spain’s economic turmoil continues, throwing seriously into question the EU’s ability to produce a way out of the crisis. The Spanish 2011 deficit has been revised up from 8.9 to 9.4%, due to the state’s funding of private banks, making it impossible for the government to meet its target of 6.3% of GDP. The EU bailout as well as the financial help to the banking sector has propelled Spanish public debt to a historic high, which could reach 90.5% in 2013, the highest rate for a hundred years. Interestingly enough, before the economic crisis struck, the figures showed Spain as having a low debt and budgetary surplus. But the end of an economic period which had been based on a property bubble, and the taking on of the losses of strategic banking entities, brought serious problems for the country’s accounts.


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Spain: Following in the footsteps of Greece

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

On 6 September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Spanish President Mariano Rajoy to discuss the Spanish crisis and issue instructions to her counterpart. On the same day, the European Central Bank (ECB) agreed to buy unlimited debt of any eurozone member which requested financial aid; ECB President Mario Draghi stated that any recipient would be subject to ‘strict conditions’. Four Spanish Autonomous Communities have already requested funds from the central state. It is only a matter of time before Rajoy’s cabinet is forced to request a new bailout. JUANJO RIVAS reports.


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Urgent letter from Spain

Protest in Spain

We are living through dramatic times over here and I feel compelled to write to you, with the hope that you can spread the truth. Thousands of Spaniards, with more each day, seek work in your country and may get involved in discussions with you on the streets about the situation in Spain.


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Spain goes begging to EU: resistance grows

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

On 25 June, the Spanish government officially requested an EU bailout for those banks which are on the verge of bankruptcy. Spain has become the fourth country to ask for a bailout, after Greece, Portugal and Ireland, and will shortly be followed by Cyprus. The EU Commission agreed a €100bn package to preserve Spain’s financial stability, in a deal that includes a right for the European Commission, European Central Bank and European Banking Authority to conduct on-the-spot checks of Spain’ financial institutions. JUANJO RIVAS reports.


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Arrests in Britain as Spain steps up war on Basque nationalists

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

Despite the announcement by the Basque nationalist group ETA in October 2011 that it was ending its armed struggle for independence, there has been no let-up in the Spanish state’s assault on Basque nationalists across Europe. On 13 July, Benat Atorrasagasti Ordonez was arrested in Edinburgh, after living openly in Britain since 2001, ‘in connection with historical crimes’ allegedly committed in France and Spain over ten years ago. Two weeks earlier, Antonio Troitino and Ignacio Leron were arrested during police raids in west London. Troitino had previously served 24 years of a prison sentence in Spain and was released in 2011, following a court ruling that six years he had served on remand should count towards the sentence. Under Spanish law, the maximum sentence is 30 years. He fled to Britain in the face of a sustained media campaign against him in Spain. The Spanish interior ministry then decided he should now serve the six years and issued an arrest warrant.


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Spanish Miners Fight Back

bwd  Set 1/2  fwd

In the context of a stagnant economy, while a €100 billion bailout has saved Spanish banks from disaster, other sectors are being left to die. The cuts to the Spanish coal mining industry are draconian and have led to a radical reduction of subsidies for companies, investment in infrastructures, projects, safety and educational programmes. Overall, there is an average cut in the sector of 63.2% and a promotion of forced early retirements and redundancies that leave miners with poverty-level pay-outs. Both social democrats and conservatives have pursued these policies for years, causing high unemployment, severe poverty and also growing outrage in the vast areas where the coal industry is located, mainly in the north of the country (León, Asturias, Galicia and Aragón). Some regions are barely able to survive and whole families having been pouring out onto the streets in protest, following the tradition of courageous struggle we’ve seen so many times in Spanish history. In Britain, former miners and trade unionists have set up the Spanish Miners’ Solidarity Committee in Sheffield, supported by fimmaker Ken Loach, to campaign and raise funds for the families of Spanish fellow workers. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Spain.


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Fightback in Spain grows: ‘the movement will itself become the future’

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

In France and Italy, voices are being raised against harsh ‘adjustment programmes’ imposed by the EU; the Greek people look poised to reject them altogether. But the Portuguese and Spanish governments are setting a fine example of budgetary discipline and obediently slashing public spending, rapidly exacerbating poverty and inequality. But as the attacks increase, so does the resistance. The Spanish movement born on 15 May last year (15M) has celebrated its anniversary by once again occupying streets and squares across the country. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Spain.


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Spain: Austerity plans face growing resistance

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

In February, the 2012 growth forecast for the Spanish economy was revised down from 2.3% to a decline of 1.7%. Immediate negotiations started with the European authorities, given the impossibility of meeting Spain’s commitment to reducing the deficit from 8.5% to 4.4% this year. The new agreement with Brussels sets the figure at a difficult to achieve 5.3%, requiring 35 billion euros of cuts. The government of Mariano Rajoy wants to prove its commitment to European capitalism, at whatever cost to the Spanish people. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Spain.


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