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Half a MILLION Workers march through Madrid against the "decretazo"

Half a Million Workers
Half a million workers march through Madrid against the "decretazo"
By Maria Castro

On Saturday October 5, more than 500,000 people demonstrated against the government's proposed bill to reduce the rights of the unemployed (known as the "decretazo"). This demonstration was the continuation of the struggle that began with the June 20 general strike against the attacks on labour and trade union rights in Spain.

The leaders of the two main trade union federations (UGT and Workers Commissions) did not really prepare for the event adequately, in the same way as with the general strike. There was hardly any fly-posting; there were few factory meetings, very little propaganda, etc. In spite of all this they still managed to mobilise half a million people in Madrid. Once again, the Spanish working class has shown its willingness to fight and its determination to put an end to Aznar's right wing Popular Party government.

In the course of the last few years the Spanish working class has suffered a series of attacks by the PP government on rights won over years of struggle: on the welfare state, on state education, on labour and trade union rights, with an increase in the number of short term contracts, cuts in redundancy pay, and casualisation of labour. Even the bourgeois economists recognize that the main driving force behind the economic upswing in the last few years has been wage restraint, which has meant a fall in the purchasing power of the workers.

Yet the bosses are still not satisfied, especially now that a slow down of the economy is evident. They are demanding more in order to maintain their profit margins at the expense of the workers. This is the reason for further attacks from the government and the bosses which involve a wage freeze for the public employees, reduction of the minimum wage, cuts in public expenditure, a limit to the right to collective bargaining, attacks on the right to strike, further attacks on state education in favour of private education, and so on.

The demonstration of October 5 clearly demonstrates that the labour movement and youth are prepared to continue their struggle. This coming October 29 we will see another example of working class militancy. There is going to be a general strike of the education sector (students, teachers and parents) against the so-called Ley de Calidad (Law of Quality). This law would restrict access of working class children to higher education and it would also involve a transfer of public funds from state to private schools.

To the degree that the struggle is becoming more intense, support for and prestige of the government are falling. The latest opinion poll published a week ago, shows that the government would now lose its absolute majority and is only two points above the PSOE (Socialist Party) that has increased its support. The government has another problem. Council and regional elections are coming up next year in May and if the loss of support for the government continues at the present pace, they may suffer an important electoral defeat.

The bosses are beginning to get seriously worried about, as everything seems to point to an intensification of the class struggle in the coming period. The day after the rally, the editorials of the two main newspapers linked to the bourgeoisie and the PP, ABC and El Mundo, suggested that the government call early general elections, before the economic situation gets any worse and before the struggles of the working class get out of hand.

The battle against the PP has just started and the beginning could not have been better. First we had the success of the general strike. Then we had the massive rally of October 5. This will be followed by the next battle, the strike in education. The working class and the youth have shown an impressive energy and will to fight. Now all this energy must be channelled to take the movement forward and put an end to the right-wing government. The trade union leaders have the responsibility for developing this struggle. They should plan for new actions, including another general strike.

The government is trying to manoeuvre by "watering down" the unemployment reform. The trade union leaders must not fall into this trap, which is only a diversionary tactic aimed at demobilising the working class. We must understand that the PP government is in a weak position. Up until only a few days ago it refused to even recognize the success of the general strike and was resisting any changes to the "decretazo". This shows that only by mobilising all the forces of the working class can we stop the right wing.

We, the Marxists of El Militante, took part actively in the October 5 demonstration, selling more than a thousand papers and handing out thousands of leaflets, which posed the need to keep up the momentum of June 20 with another general strike.

October 8, 2002

See also:

Seville EU Summit 200,000 march against the Europe of Capital and War by Julio Cruz. (June 26, 2002)
Three million march on Spanish general strike (June 21, 2002)
The General strike in Spain by Alan Woods in Malaga. (June 20, 2002)
Spain - 300,000 Andalusian workers march in Seville by Raquel Estevez. (June 10, 2002)
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