Wednesday, October 6, 2010

brumaria on the general strike

Spain: The General Strike of September 29th

by Brumaria

On September 29th, a General Strike (Huelga general) against the Ley de Reforma Laboral — driven by Zapatero’s government and passed by the parliament — was organized by the practical entirety of labor unions and leftist organizations and parties, with unequal results.

It is necessary to search for the antecedents to said events in the profound economic crisis that Spain has suffered from during the last three years; this crisis (latent and prior to the global crisis of September 2008 involving the financial markets) is inscribed in the following parameters and events:

- Enormous growth of public works and construction of homes during the last 15 years (currently in Spain there are 3 million empty homes)
- Unstoppable increase in the number of unemployed (4 million to date)
- Economic recession, drop in consumption, and zero growth the last two years
- Exponential increase of public debt based on the search for financial resources with which to pay social loans to the unemployed

Zapatero and his social-liberal government’s response was at first to deny the crisis in order to finally accept the measures of cutting social costs, which were pushed by the European Union (the tandem of Merkel and Sarkozy), the International Monetary Fund (experts in ruining countries with economic crises), and the United States’ government. The disparate measures that international Liberalism has imposed on Zapatero can be summarized as follows:
    -cutting public costs
    -stopping investment in public works
    -decreasing pensions and loans for unemployment
    -labor reform that reduces redundancies
    -nullify capacity for refinancing debt in the fierce international markets

This totality of measures, far from stimulating the economy and stopping unemployment, has obtained the opposite results, that is, an increase in unemployment and negative economic growth. All this situates the Socialist Party 14 points below the right in polls taken for the next elections; in some way Zapatero — with tools from liberalism — paves the way for the right, which in a couple of years will give the definitive coup de grâce to the depleted “socialist state.”

But what results did General Strike achieve? Without a doubt we can describe it as a failure, or perhaps as a complicated failure. Allow us to explain ourselves; these were basically the results [turnouts]:

    -Education, between 3-5% following
    -Public administration, less than 5%
    -Public services, less than 5%
    -Construction, around 20%
    -General industry, around 90%
    -Automobile industry, 100%
    -Mining industry, 100%

If we abide by the available data we can extrapolate the following conclusions:

1. The General Strike was organized to a much lesser degree by the unions that represent the greatest number of workers
2. Zapatero’s government lacks an economic strategy beyond the recommendations of international financial liberalism
3. The General Strike of September 29th failed, but it clearly triumphed where there exists a “working class” with a strong tradition in political, union-based activity
4. The 4 million unemployed, a significant number of which are immigrants, continue to be a group that is heterogeneous and disorganized politically, a group that barely survives off of public loans, which in turn slow down growth
5. All this constitutes an explosive mix that nevertheless has failed to produce any kind of political consciousness or social alarm in spite of the fact that all of the information indicates that the worst has yet to come
6. The incidents on the day of the strike were minimal, marginalized, and without political significance
7. The protests organized at the end of the strike were not followed by a significant portion of the population

To finish this quick summary, we pose a couple of difficult-to-answer questions.

- Has the working class disappeared, has it become invisible, or is it in a state of transition?

- Do concepts such as “Post-Fordism” and “multitude” need to be revised in political theory?

The above remarks were sent in response to an inquiry I sent the editors of the Spanish leftist journal Brumaria. I asked for a local view, to probe the mirage of media representations. The text, a sobering critique of the actual strike no less than a scathing indictment of Zapatero's "Socialist liberalism," was written by Brumaria director Dario Corbeira and translated by managing editor Daniel Patrick Rodriguez. Thanks to both.

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