Friday, July 13, 2012

The Miners Struggle in Asturias – Class War in Spain in 2012

More on the Spanish miners' resistance.

 “Contra El Sistema, Organizate Y Lucha”

(“Get Organised and Fight the System” - graffiti in Mieres in Asturias.)

Several hundred Spanish coalminers walked 284 miles for three weeks from Asturias to Madrid.  On 11 July 2012 they were joined by 25,000  supporters and clashes with the riot police took place near the Ministry of Industry. Coalminers carrying banners saying “Miner's Struggle = Worker's Struggle”, and supporters threw firecrackers, stones, bottles, and cans at the police who were firing rubber bullets. Ten protesters were hit by rubber bullets, several arrests were made and there was a total of 76 injuries.

The working class bear the brunt of higher taxes, regulations that make it easier to sack workers, cuts to education and the national healthcare service, and 24% unemployment.  The coalminers have had cuts in funding to learn new professions. Reuters reported a coal miner saying “ We'll be back – with dynamite”. The protests in Madrid happened on the same day that right wing Prime Minister Rajoy announced a 65 billion Euros austerity plan that will assault the living standards of the working class, and probably put the country in a double-dip recession.

The main issue for the coalminers is the 63% cut in subsidies to the coal mining industry which will destroy the industry. Twenty years ago there were 40,000 coalminers in Spain and Asturias was one of the most prosperous regions in Spain. Today there are 9,000 coalminers left in the dwindling industry, but a total of 50,000 jobs in the coal mining communities would be affected by the closure of the coal mines. Asturias has a history of workers struggles against capital and the state; in the 1934 coalminers strike 3,000 coalminers were killed by the Army, and in 1962 coalminers led the first general strike under the Franco regime.

The 9,000 coalminers in Asturias went on indefinite strike on 31 May 2012. The coalminers trade union SOMA-FUTAG-UGT describes itself as having “socialist orientation with solidarity in working class internationalism”.  It was not until 10 June that a letter appeared in the Guardian informing the British public about the Coal miner’s strike in Asturias where John Cunningham of the Spanish Miners Solidarity Committee also wrote that the “NUM owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Spanish trade unions and particularly the Miners for their solidarity and financial support in 1984-85”.

The state deployed the Guardia Civil to the coal mining valleys of Asturias where on a daily basis they used tear gas, baton charges, and rubber bullets against striking coalminers, who have resorted to using stones, nuts, bolts, slingshots and fireworks issued from home-made rocket launchers against the police. Coalminers blocked roads, railway lines, offices of the Rajoy's  ruling political party have been attacked, and a suited dummy of Rajoy hangs from one of the towers at the Caborana coal mine.

The striking coalminers set off on their 'marcha negra' from Mieres in the heart of the Asturian coal mining region on 22 June carrying the blue and yellow flags of Asturias.  A coal miner said “This is not the first time miners have fought for all workers”. The coalminers three week march through the hot, dusty La Mancha region of central Spain elicited much support and solidarity from   people who gave food, water, shelter to the coalminers, the Spanish Rad Cross was on hand to attend to any injuries and sore feet, the Mayor of Azuqueca de Henares in Guadalajara welcomed them, and like athletes on a marathon they have regular food and water stations. This all demonstrated that the working class can work in co-operation in pursuit of a common interest. The coalminers arrived in Madrid in the evening of 10 July and were greeted as heroes in the Puerta del Sol and on Gran Via.

Socialists recognise that the 'strike' is a weapon of the working class in their struggle with the capitalist class. Socialists stand with the working class in their necessary battles with capital but it is important to continually point out that the real objective to aim for is the abolition of the wages system; the replacement of capitalism with socialism. The battles of the Asturian coalminers to save their jobs and communities are secondary to the ultimate goal which should be the whole world for all the workers. Marx wrote that the class struggle in places like Asturias were like “unavoidable guerrilla fights that  incessantly spring up from the never-ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market”. Working class struggles with the capitalist class are fertile ground for the development of socialist consciousness, and workers coming together in a Marxist socialist party to take political power. The working class can win just by sheer force of numbers. The main lessons of syndicalism and general strikes such as 1926 in Britain and 1968 in France is their ultimate failure because state power is left with the minority capitalist class.

Marx would say that the Asturian coalminers should “inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword 'Abolicion del sistema de salarios'”

Steve Clayton

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

The austerity-hit people of Spain are fighting back with a free food distribution scheme that relies on a co-operative effort between neighbourhood shopkeepers and local volunteers...Their anger at the hardship caused by the economic crisis has now turned into practical help - collecting food donations from shopkeepers, then passing it on to those most in need. The shopkeepers don't see it as charity, more a community effort with mutual benefits, helping people who previously helped them build their business...This is direct action - and it's a movement that's growing...Out of this, sometimes, springs a new spirit..