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Spain April 10th-General Strike of Students and Workers against the War on Irag

War on Irag
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Spain - April 10th:
General Strike of Students and workers against the war on Iraq
By Lluís Perarnau - UGT Barcelona
The impressive mobilisation against the war has been non-stop since February. Millions of demonstrators have come out onto the streets again and again to show their absolute opposition to the imperialist slaughter in Iraq and to the servile support which the Spanish conservative government is giving to this war. The start of the war on March 20th brought about real social turmoil. Around 800,000 high school and university students took to the streets paralysing the cities of Spain. The students' movement had made their own the call of the Sindicato de Estudiantes to demonstrate on the day the war started. Since then, the situation has been one of ceaseless activity: demonstrations and rallies every day, sit-ins of actors and artists against the Partido Popular (PP) MPs and a boycott of their activities and meetings, rallies at the headquarters of the PP and many other protest activities. These are an expression of the growing indignation and anger of the people at the arrogance and provocative stance of Aznar and the whole of his government. It is also worth mentioning that the isolation of this government has reach such a point that it is reacting in a completely hysterical manner. The response of the masses to the policies of the government has been overwhelming and that explains why they have tried to undermine the movement by using savage and indiscriminate police repression. They have desperately tried to concentrate the attention of the people on the "acts of violence" which the police have actually tolerated and, in many cases, incited in order to have the excuse to attack the demonstrations. The level of arrogance and openly provocative behaviour of the government can be seen in the fact that they have tried to criminalise the antiwar movement by taking the organisers to court and claiming that they are the victims of harassment in the streets.

This militant mood is a clear reflection of how this war has shaken broad layers of the population: students, workers, middle class, etc. In these circumstances it is clear also that the trade union leaders have come under great pressure. People were expecting from the unions more than just participation in the demonstrations, especially after the success of the General Strike on June 20, 2002 which had clearly demonstrated how one could make the Government retreat even on key questions for the bourgeoisie, such as the "decretazo" was (put link to article general strike). Also, the propaganda of the Sindicato de Estudiantes which constantly raised the need for a 24-hour general strike against the war contributed to the spreading of this slogan like wildfire. In fact, this has been one of the most common slogans on the demonstrations, together with the demands to stop the war and for the resignation of the government.

That is how we arrived at the 2-hour general strike per shift on April 10th organised by UGT and other smaller trade unions. According to this union, 70 percent of the workers took part in the strike. In spite of this, the PP government claimed the figure was only 4 percent! (No comment!). The most important thing about this strike is that despite the boycott by the official leadership of the CCOO (Workers' Commissions), with Fidalgo, the general secretary at its head, who refused to support the strike, it was quite successful in the industrial estates and in the big factories. In the car industry, for instance Citröen and Ford, the support for the strike was massive. In many factories, the CCOO branches ignored the threats and pressure of their union leadership and joined the call for the 2-hour strike per shift. Also, 10,000 CCOO trade unionists have signed a manifesto in favour of the strike.

April 10 demo in Seville
The success of the strike was also reflected in the demonstrations, which have been massive. In Madrid, at noon, there were 100,000 people in the Puerta del Sol (the main Madrid square) at a rally organised by the Sindicato de Estudiantes which was supported by the UGT; a meeting took place at the end of the rally where the Madrid UGT General Secretary, the Madrid CCOO General Secretary (who had come out in support of the strike in opposition to his own national leadership) and Miriam Municio, General Secretary of the Sindicato de Estudiantes, who gave a 15 minute speech in which she called for a struggle fo the socialist transformation of society in order to combat the imperialist war; in Barcelona more than 50,000 people attended the demonstration called jointly by the Sindicato de Estudiantes and the teachers' unions of USTEC and UGT.

In Madrid, in the evening, there was another demonstration which gathered more than 500,000 people. By the way, in this second demonstration, which the CC.OO. officially supported, Fidalgo had to listen repeatedly to his own union members demanding his resignation. The CGT made a call on the same day for a 24-hour general strike, which although it had a lesser echo, in some areas and sections of industry achieved significant support. In Catalonia, for instance, there were around 150,000 workers who went on strike for the whole day.

In short, the strike on April 10th, despite the refusal by the official leadership of the CC.OO. to back it, has had important support and, above all, it is a clear reflection of the unequivocal rejection of the war and the PP by the Spanish working class. We the Marxists have stressed the importance of the need for the working class to intervene as a class against the imperialist war. This government would not be able to withstand the a massive battering on the part of the working class. A 24-hour general strike, well organised and spread to every workshop, would be a blow to the government that it would not recover from easily. Yesterday, April 10th, did not reach this point but it is another blow against a cornered and weak government. The arrogance of some of its spokesmen (Aznar and Arenas are two of them) is only a vain attempt to hide the reality (a harsh reality for them, an encouraging one for us).

April 11, 2003.

This article has been translated from the original in Spanish.

See also the Sindicato de Estudiantes and El Militante websites.

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