Millions mobilize as general strike brings Spain to standstill

by Jerome Roos on March 29, 2012

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A day before the government is set to vote on Europe’s most dramatic austerity budget, millions walk off their jobs in the first general strike since 2010.

Millions of Spaniards are walking off their jobs today in a massive general strike and a series of protest marches against the proposed austerity budget and labor reforms of Prime Minister Rajoy’s 4-month old conservative government. As the Spanish debt crisis deepens — at 23 percent, unemployment is the highest in the Western world — financial markets and EU leaders are demanding even more far-reaching reforms and austerity measures than in Greece.

As a result, the Spanish government is set to vote tomorrow on Europe’s most dramatic austerity budget, with another 40 billion euros expected to be cut on top of 15 billion in cuts already announced three months ago. The austerity measures come after a series of radical labor reforms enacted last month that make it much easier for employers to lay off workers, cut wages and modify pre-existing labor agreements.

Owing to the profound unpopularity of these measures, labor unions claim a massive participation of 85-90 percent, with industry and transport most heavily affected. Many large cities ground to a halt as trains and buses only run at 30 percent of capacity, picketers blocked access to stations, and hundreds of protesters occupied a major access road to Madrid. Riot police were deployed in a desperate attempt to allow large main street shops to open.

Nevertheless, the government still claims that the situation in the cities is “normal” and assured that it would not allow the country’s largest strike in years to upset its austerity drive. But with the economy set to contract by 1.7 percent this year, labor unions correctly point out that Spain risks following the fate of Greece, where radical reforms and draconian austerity measures tipped the country into a negative spiral of economic decline and social unrest.

Interestingly, today’s strike — initially called for by the anarcho-syndicalist CNT — is widely supported by members of the decentralized indignados movement. Major marches are planned throughout the country for Thursday night, with the march in Madrid culminating in the capital’s iconic Puerta del Sol, the square that was occupied by hundreds of thousands of outraged protesters last spring.

Katherine Unger was therefore correct to point out that “Spain’s general strike is also a day of action for the 99%.” With financial markets pushing the people to the brink of despair, popular support for radical action is rapidly being ramped up. Now that the indignados are preparing for a spring of discontent, culminating into a global day of action on May 12, a powerful sign is being given to those in power: as their system crumbles, our movement grows ever stronger.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Martin March 31, 2012 at 15:47

This article is very biased. You have totally ignored the major factor that contributes to this mess in the countries of the south. In Spain, Greece and Portugal, and then Italy, people work very short hours and protest all the time and expect the EU to fund their lifestyle. They seem to have lost the work ethic and like spoiled children want to drink ouzo all the time. They need to understand that nothing is free and it is time for them to appreciate work. Otherwise they all must be expelled from the EU.

Look at the Irish standards and how fast Ireland is recovering? Why? Because the Irish do not spend their time destroying shops and protesting. They WORK. This is what moves things forward. Work and NOT lazing around.

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Jerome Roos April 1, 2012 at 10:52

Stop talking bullshit and get informed on the facts:

http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=ANHRS

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Alice Marcelino April 3, 2012 at 15:58

Dear Martin, I challenge you to go to one of the country mentioned, find a job and give the good example you are preaching. But of course at the end you probably are one of the many that goes to south Europe countries to spend vacations… and be lazy.

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Julien Febvre April 4, 2012 at 11:19

You say that we, Spanish, Greeks, Portuguese and Italians are lazy (which is not true). I say, is this a problem? You want to spend your whole life doing meaningless things in order to survive? You want to struggle for the obvious, basic welfare? Then you are a slave.

“They seem to have lost the work ethic”
Sorry my friend but this is conservatism my friend and not an opinion. Read some Aristotle, Hannah Arendt, Cornelius Castoriadis and other truly democratic philosophers and realize how narrow minded you are. Work is crime http://eagainst.com/articles/for-work-is-a-crime-by-herman-j-schuurman-1924/

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Def April 10, 2012 at 22:06

I lived in Spain for 7 years, they work as hard as anyone else. The problem is that there are no jobs. What part of this is hard to under stand? NO JOBS.

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sally April 16, 2012 at 18:02

people all over the world are struggling, it is not a matter of laziness or vandalism,
too little thought for one to believe these statements, these people are you and me, we all are struggling under a financial weight and disaster the world over that was not our making, that crumbles despite our hard work for such little reward,
vandalizing shops happens in areas where resentment and frustration spill over after suffering quietly for too long. the Spanish people did not cause this economic crisis, but they are made to suffer for it, lets be clear about this,
we all suffer for this financial global crisis, and we did not cause it, did not participate in it, the ordinary man must rise up and point the finger where it belongs, at the fat rich bankers,and governments, no where else.

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Jeeon June 6, 2012 at 00:35

Work is crime! indeed. I like the econ stats from the OECD showing that Spain and Greece work just as hard as anyone. It’s not the work. It’s the ideology, stupid. There is good work, and then there is working for the bank. Long live capitalism, because it will burn itself to the ground, and exist as a memorial to a mindless life.
By the way bloging is part of that mindless ness. Let’s leave the internets to the global corporate info-state.

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