Two contrasting crises, each one serving as a grand symbol for the times, are converging on Madrid. EU politicians nervously ready an enormous bailout for Spanish banks while striking miners march on Madrid.
Yesterday, 28 Spanish banks were downgraded by Moody’s credit rating agency. The banks were downgraded as a direct result of the Spanish government’s credit downgrade to just above junk status. Spain and her banks are being downgraded for a reason; she appears to be tottering on the edge of a cliff as all EU eyes have turned from Greece to Spain in realisation that the underlying structure of Spain’s economy is setup for a worsening crash. A couple of weeks ago we wrote an article on the euro-crisis in which we showed how Spain’s crisis had absolutely nothing to do with government spending and much to do with a debt-fuelled capitalist growth cycle centred around a property boom. Nonetheless, here, like elsewhere in Europe, it seemed the necessary response was to make it easy to fire workers (with youth unemployment already over 50%), cut pension payouts and spread the pain quite evenly amongst the working classes. As we argued in our article, the Europe wide nature of the austerity drive meant it wasn’t an adjustment programme to address relative wage differences between countries, but a readjustment of working class wages across the board: old fashioned class war.
In Spain the government’s cuts provoked a very well attended one-day general strike amongst teachers, transport workers, and many more. An entrenched ideological government is about as likely to be swayed by a one day general strike as a drill sergeant would be by a recruit’s ill-timed pout. However, the government may have made one cut too far for their own good: the snip that snapped back at their faces was a 63% cut to coal that will devastate mining communities. Miners, not usually known around the world for being the most laid back sector of workers when pushed around have an exceptionally militant history in Spain having risen against Franco’s fascist forces in 1934 and 1962. The first time initiated a revolutionary insurrection crushed militarily with 3,000 miners killed. The second time around was the first major general strike in Franco’s fascist regime and resulted in victorious wage rises. Both times, rightwing forces tried to keep these events out of the eyes of the press (with many newspapers forcibly closed in the 1934 revolt). The Spanish’s government’s militant response was warmly received as miner’s cobbled together home-made missile launchers. A Spanish miner confided in the BBC, ‘we have been using lengths of pipe to aim sky rockets, slings, golf ball launchers and even a home-made device to fire potatoes to keep the police away.’ Every day news appears of new barricades the miners have constructed, miners have locked themselves down the mines and now two hundred miners are on the march to Madrid in what’s being called, The Black March. Due to arrive on the 11th of July, they will confront an intransigent government that is currently putting together a 100 billion rescue package to hand over to Spanish banks.
The familiar cry, which is beginning to find a deja vu filled resonance across Europe, the UK and the US is that there is money for the bankers, but none for the rest of us. A miner rejoined ‘Nosotros no estamos indignados, estamos hasta los cojones’. ‘We are not indignados, we are up to our balls, seething with anger.’ The ruling governing party blocks all investigations into incidents of corruption in major Spanish banks that very well might have incriminated that very same ruling party. The government responds only with silence to the miners demands for dialogue in response to this unilateral declaration of cuts that would financially ruin regions economically structured solely around mining. The European establishment is lining up in an attempt to shore up Spain’s crumbling banking sector. There has largely been a media blackout across Europe in regards to the miners struggle and fate.
These two crises stand as concrete symbols for the coming storm. Our economic structure is on the brink of further collapse. Our governments are willing to brazenly provide unfathomable quantities of financial support to prop up the high structural end of a faltering economy and leave the poor end to decimation. Why do they risk such a blatant choosing of sides? If your premise is that the market economy must be kept going at all costs, there are a decreasing number of ways to protect it. Coal mining may not be the way of the future, but we must be humanly capable of transitioning to green energy industries without decimating communities to do it. At some point the people of Europe will have to say to their ‘leaders’ if this is the cost of the market, let us drop it.
The miners, having marched hundreds of miles, arrived in Madrid in the darkness of Tuesday night, with their head lamps lighting their final steps in the march. Striking and marching for their very livelihoods, they might not have expected the government to welcome them to the capital with open arms, but the shocking showers of rubber bullets that rained down as they approached the government on wednesday was a physical metaphor for the government’s legislative announcements. Spain’s banks need propping up, so pensions, support and more jobs will be axed in a massive austerity binge that sees VAT taxes take a huge leap. This can only further depress spending economically and will tighten up the belt on the millions of Spaniards already living close to the tipping point.
The miners see it is now or never; if they lose this struggle their livelihoods and communities will be decimated. They’re right and they need to be supported. If the working class of Spain doesn’t stand together, it opens itself up to a pounding race to the bottom. Support the miners in their difficult struggle and help them keep food on the table as they keep a front against austerity open.
Financial support can be transferred into this account from any bank around the world.
- ⁃ ACCOUNT NAME: “SOLIDARIDAD CON LA MINERÍA DEL CARBÓN”
- IBAN: ES69 0182 2370 4302 0152 8433
- SWIFT: BBVAESMM
Additionally you can tranfer money to the british bank account of the Spanish Miners Solidarity Committee. All support goes directly the miners families.
Sort Code: 08-92-99
Account Number: 65568150