|This woman was one of many injured as the state clamped down on solidarity|
A fortnight ago, I commented on the miners struggling against government and police attacks in Spain. Most crucially, I described how:
“At 150 million euros, the subsidy cuts [to the Spanish mining industry] amount to a tiny fraction of the €27 billion slashed from the national budget in April. For this reason, the nightmare plaguing the ruling class is practical solidarity between other workers and the miners. The trade unions have dutifully played their part in trying to isolate the miners’ struggle by calling miner-only demos and asking the government to draw up a new ‘plan for coal’, rather than calling out all workers against all cuts.”
Over the past few days, the trade union leadership’s plans to tire and isolate the miners have spectacularly backfired, and the ruling class has responded with wild brutality, in an attempt to smash burgeoning solidarity amongst the Spanish working class. The union bureaucracy had organised a ‘black march’ across two hundred plus miles from the Asturias mountains to Madrid, where leaders were to once again beg the ruling Popular Party for some concessions. But for many amongst the Spanish working class, the miners became an emblem of the struggles they are already facing, or will confront in the very near future.
The march concluded at the Puerta del Sol – iconic central hub of last year’s ‘indignados’ demonstrations, which proved to be a forerunner of the international Occupy movement. An estimated 150,000 gathered in solidarity, while The Internationale and “we are the 99%” rang out amongst the crowd. Police then entered the fray in frenzied aggression, firing rubber bullets. As RT reported:
“Protesters panicked and sought shelter as police began to disperse the crowd, Olvidio Gonzalez, 67, a retired miner from the northern Asturias region told AP. “We were walking peacefully to get to where the union leaders were speaking and they started to fire indiscriminately,” said Gonzalez, who was also struck by a rubber bullet. Witnesses and demonstrators claim that police started the attack without any warning. “We were eating quietly when they began to appear with several police vans. Then we started to shout and some threw a few bottles, which gave rise to the charge”.
This vicious state assault – which included the shooting of an eleven year old child – coincided with Prime Minister Rajoy’s announcement of still more austerity measures – his third package in just six months. Under this combination of cuts and tax rises totalling €65bn (£51bn), VAT was increased by 3%, unemployment benefits were cut for those claiming for more than six months (against an unemployment rate of 24.6%), and an increase in the retirement age was brought forward. With the bankers breathing down his neck – and as the example of Greece has repeatedly shown – there will be more austerity measures not far behind these.
As governments attack more and more sections of their respective working classes, they inevitably bring ever more into struggle. This necessarily creates the conditions for potential solidarity across industries, across regions, and ultimately across national borders. The unfolding situation seems to recall Marx’s famous quote that “What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”