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PORTSIDE  March 2012, Week 4

PORTSIDE March 2012, Week 4

Subject:

Spain's General Strike Is Also A Day of Action for the 99%

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Date:

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 22:24:57 -0400

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Spain's general strike is also a day of action for the 99%

Polls say only 30% of the employed will take part on Friday,
but it will also be what the Occupy movement calls an
'invisible' strike

By Katharine Ainger 

March 27,2012
guardian.co.uk 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/27/spain-general-strike-99-per-cent

Spain is about to experience huge austerity cuts that may
prove explosive. On Friday Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister,
is set to announce what even he describes as a "very, very
austere budget" to reduce the deficit. According to El País,
the EU is demanding cuts larger than those of Greece, Ireland
or Portugal: "There is no comparable adjustment in [our]
economic history," says the paper.

As a result of this and recent changes to labour laws, only
four months after the new conservative government took power,
Spain's two largest unions have called for a general strike
on the day before the budget announcement.

On top of E15bn cuts already announced in December, it is
estimated Rajoy will cut about another E40bn. Many are
expecting drastic cuts to health and education, not least the
financial markets, who are waiting to see whether Rajoy will
deliver what they require. This is on top of existing cuts to
social spending, wage freezes for public employees, and
privatisations, in a context where 40 home evictions a day
are taking place across the country.

Response to this austerity has already been fierce. Hundreds
of thousands protested across the country in February against
labour law changes described by the unions as "the most
regressive in the history of the [Spanish] democracy".
Thursday's general strike will be much larger, seeing
hundreds of planes grounded, public transport on a skeleton
service, manufacturing at a virtual standstill, and even
fresh bread from the bakeries in scant supply.

Polls suggest 30% of employed adults say they will
participate, but this figure hides the true size of what the
indignados movement is calling the "invisible" strike. With
the highest unemployment rate in the developed world - 23%
are out of work and 49.9% of those under 30 - there is a
vast, invisible precariat of students, temp workers, the
unpaid, immigrants and older people, looking for ways to
meaningfully participate in and expand the political
possibilities of the general strike.

This is the natural constituency of the indignados, who
launched the global Occupy movement last summer with their
city encampments and an emphasis on openness and direct
democracy.

Many have been instrumental in continuing struggles around
the Spanish state against what have already been drastic
cuts. For instance, the "iaiaflautas" are retirees and
grandparents who occupy bank lobbies against bailouts, buses
against price hikes, and health departments against cutbacks.
Their name is a play on the "perroflautas", Spanish slang for
crusty, to show how impossible it is to stereotype those
taking part in protests as typical activists.

Meanwhile in Valencia, one of the worst-hit regions, students
and schoolchildren took part in recent protests against
government cuts that had left their schools without adequate
heating, many sitting in blankets in classrooms during the
cold. The protests were brutally repressed. The sight of
schoolkids being arrested by police galvanised a whole wave
of solidarity protests around the country from outraged
citizens.

These are only the most visible actions. All over the country
small groups of determined everyday acts of resistance are
taking place, like the villages where people blockade the
highway weekly because their emergency clinic is closing
down.

In this context, the general strike will be a kind of
creative laboratory for the indignados who will be exploring
new ways to exert social pressure. They hold the traditional
unions at arm's length but join the dance, calling for
participation in what they describe as "a strike for the 99
per cent". Many of the actions on the day will start with
activists massing in defence of the homes of those about to
be evicted for mortgage default; local indignado assemblies
will hold popular lunches in the public squares to draw new
people into the discussion.

Few are expecting the unions to win immediate concessions,
for there are larger forces at work. The EU will be sending
officials in April to make sure Rajoy doesn't back pedal in
the wake of the strike. Meanwhile the indignados are building
for renewed mobilisations in May, taking part in global day
of action for the Occupy movement, and for the struggles
beyond. For, as Madrilonia, an indignado blog puts it, "a
defensive strike is not enough": ultimately this is a
struggle for a new social contract for the 99%.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited 

___________________________________________

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