A general strike, picket lines, and mass marches
At press time for this edition (La Verdad Obrera 394) the first 24-hour general strike against the government’s austerity plans, a strike that brought the heart of capitalist profit to a standstill, was concluding. Below, we offer a first report. In the next issue, we will present a more detailed balance sheet of this big workers’ fight. On September 29, the working class threw the biggest punch at Zapatero since he took office in 2004.
Industry and construction were struck, making the national electricity consumption fall by more than 20%, below that of a Sunday. Not a single car was manufactured, and in the rest of the industrial sectors, observance of the strike ranged from 70 to 95 percent. Big service sectors, like garbage collectors, also massively joined the strike, leaving more than 150 cities without refuse collection. Central distribution markets stayed blockaded for hours, some of them invoicing only 10% of normal sales. In education, the strike was observed by more than half of the teachers, and many universities woke up to find themselves closed or deserted. The press put out reduced editions with half the usual pages, and almost all the networks broadcast taped material. Even independent TV stations in Madrid and Andalucía were without any programs from midnight on.
In public transportation, the government negotiated some strike-breaking minimum services with the union leaders of the CCOO [comisiones obreras, a union] and the UGT [union], a shameful agreement that prevented total paralysis of the cities. Even so, beyond the minimum services (averaging 25%), the number of scabs that were able to get around the picket lines was nil. Even in some cities like Madrid, where the minimums had not been agreed upon with the Partido Popular (PP) government of the autonomous region, they were boycotted by the pickets. In the case of the city buses of the capital, of 800 established by law, only 100 of them managed to leave the depots.
There were pickets beginning Tuesday night, awake at the entrances of workplaces; they blocked highways and closed industrial parks of small enterprises, where the bosses’ dictatorship makes organizing and strikes very difficult. With their militancy, thousands of workers guaranteed that the country would stay paralyzed, by confronting repression by the different repressive organs deployed for the occasion, that left more than 100 arrested. The day finally concluded with massive mobilizations in more than one hundred cities. Historic mobilizations, with hundreds of thousands, took place in Madrid and Barcelona.
The working class has said, “Enough!” It has shown its strength and is opening the possibility that the situation will make a turn, and we workers will begin to strengthen our ability to struggle against the historic attacks that are being prepared. The day was marked by hundreds of conflicts, that as a whole constitute a step forward in this sense. In this first article we cannot describe all of those struggles, but we can describe those we participated in.
In Zaragoza, we, the comrades of Clase contra Clase, promoted the organizing of student picket lines that went to help the workers’ picket lines. Thus, beginning on Monday, a group of university and high school students joined the city transportation strikes (which began on Monday, September 27), and on September 29, they went to support workers at an ancillary company of GM, Johnson Controls, in their night and early morning picket lines.
These workers repaid this support with their own participation on the university picket line, together with these same students and service workers of the University of Zaragoza. The campus was completely blockaded, preventing vehicles from entering, and shutting the doors of all the departments on the main campus. An excellent experience in worker-student unity.
In Barcelona we have been participating in a group of trade-union leftists promoted by the city bus drivers.
We participated in workers’ picket lines, like that at SEAT (the biggest auto plant in the Spanish state, with 11,000 workers) and that of the same bus drivers, where we tried to block the minimum services agreed to by the leaders of the CCOO and the UGT [unions] of the enterprise. We also took part in the student picket lines that have been blocking some of the city’s main transportation networks, and we participated in the united picket line of union leftists and youth groups, that suffered fierce repression which caused half of the arrests in the whole country and the suppression of a recent occupation of a big bank.
In both cities, Clase contra Clase participated in the demonstrations together with the groups of union leftists, defending the need to form a bloc that will consider the struggle against the policy of the current leaders of the CCOO and UGT and their intention to return to the “social dialogue” after September 29. Next is posed the obligation of all workers’ and leftist organizations to fight for the release of all those arrested and for dropping the charges against them. In the future, the fight against Zapatero’s austerity plans will have to continue, by attracting all the groups of our class and popular groups that are suffering the capitalist crisis and by laying the foundations for the strengthening of a fighting, rank and file workers’ movement.