barcelona 1936-37: social revolution or republican State?

9 03 2013

Barry Biddulph argues that the workers revolution in Barcelona in 1936 was contained within republican state structures, then destroyed, as a war in defence of a reconstituted republican state replaced social revolution. It is well-known that the Stalinists, above all others, finished off the revolution. But within the revolution there was a failure to push forward towards a post capitalist libertarian society.

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On the 18th of July 1936, President Luis Companys, leader of the Generalitat, the state in Catalonia, refused to hand over arms to workers organisations in Barcelona, when it became known that Franco was about to stage a military coup. Like other Republican politicians, he feared popular power more than the Fascists. The next day his greatest nightmare became a reality. The working class of Barcelona had rallied to protect working class interests and communities. They built barricades, formed committees, fought street battles to defeat the army units loyal to Franco and successfully stormed the army barracks. The answer to fascism was revolution. The workers organisations, controlled the entire city with over 90,000 captured rifles. The state had no army, the police, assault guards and civil guards had either gone over to the people or were unreliable.

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the spanish revolution

15 12 2012

In memory of Terry Liddle, a member of the Commune who died recently, we republish his short summary on the Spanish Revolution.

In 1931 the Spanish King Alfonso XIII, having supported the discredited dictator Primo de Rivera, went into exile. The Second Republic was proclaimed. Articles 26 and 27 of its new constitution placed stringent controls on church property. Members of religious orders were banned from the ranks of teachers. It also allowed divorce, gave women the vote and stripped the nobility of its special legal status. It established a legal procedure for the nationalisation of public services, banks and railways.

In 1934 Catalonia attempted to establish its autonomy with the Spanish Federation. This moved was suppressed and Catalonia only became autonomous in 1936. Its government was called the Generalitat.

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spanish miners strike back against austerity

30 06 2012

By Adam Ford

Two sets of miners have now been occupying their workplace for a month

Spanish miners are now a month into action against the Popular Party government, and behind them the international banking aristocracy, as they demonstrate against 60% cuts in subsidies, which are expected to result in the loss of 40,000 jobs. Read the rest of this entry »





unhappy economies: greek debt, PIIGS and the eurozone crisis

4 08 2011

Oisín Mac Giollamóir explains the meaning of the current European crisis, and the relationship between debt and class struggle

Happy economies are all alike; every unhappy economy is unhappy in its own way. The well-worn acronym PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) conceals more than it reveals. The PIIGS are not all alike.

Consider the difference between Ireland and Italy. Pre-crisis Ireland had a debt/GDP ratio of 25%, one of the lowest in Europe. Today it’s over 100% and is projected to rise to over 120%. Ireland’s crisis is not due to an over-expanded public sector, unsustainable spending, persistent budget deficits or anything like that. It is due to the bubble in the property market and the ongoing mismanagement, largely at the European level, of its collapse . Over the last four years Ireland’s economy has been wrecked by the crisis.  In contrast Italy has had major problems for sometime. Italy’s debt, which has already reached 120% of GDP, does not reflect the kind of rapid shift that has happened in Ireland. Rather Italy has had a long run budget problem. Italy’s debt has not been below 100% of GDP since the early 90s. Italy’s debt problem cannot be blamed exclusively on the crisis in the same  that Ireland’s can.

It is therefore important not to conflate the differing problems faced by the PIIGS. When we talk about the Greek crisis we need to be aware of the particular nature of Greece’s problems. Read the rest of this entry »





crisis and class struggle in spain

2 11 2010

Millie reflects on the crisis in Spain and the recent general strike

The recent boom in the Spanish economy was based on a real estate bubble and most new jobs were in construction and bars and restaurants.

When the crisis started, Spain had one of the biggest public deficits in Europe. The creditors started suggesting that Spain couldn’t pay their debts and was near to bankruptcy, and the credit rating was changed so the cost of the loans went up drastically. The government launched an austerity programme which involved cuts in services, the end of a recent 400 euro a month dole for people who didn’t have access to the contributions based system, and a pay cut for all public sector workers, whether temporary or permanent. So this was an assault on conditions for workers in the public sector. Read the rest of this entry »





‘not one train left the depot’

6 10 2010

Ahead of Spain’s 29th September general strike, Millie Wild spoke to a Madrid Metro worker about the recent movement against 5% pay cuts.

The Madrid metro went on strike this summer in defiance of the anti-strike laws of “minimum services”, up against a massive media hysteria campaign and a virulent legal attack by the employers. The wage cut is not only an austerity measure but an attempt to weaken the entire collective bargaining process. The Metro strike was important for the strike methods, the open strike assembly, the militancy of new workers, and the solidarity shown by others, so we interviewed one of the metro train drivers, from the union Solidaridad Obrera.

Background to the strike

In the spring the government, as part of the austerity plan, moved to cut public sector workers´ wages by an average of five per cent. We had previously signed a “convenio”, an agreement, which was for four years. These convenios have never been broken before. The metro workers were not originally part of this austerity measure but the right wing regional president of Madrid included the metro and other semi-public workers such as the water company in the pay cut.

The workforce consists of 7700 workers, drivers, maintenance workers and station staff, half of whom are young workers who started in the last few years.

The first asemblea general

We began with assemblies in the different sections and then moved to the general assembly. The general assembly of the strike works as follows: the decisions are taken on a basis of open voting by a show of hands. You do not have to be a member of a union to take part and vote in the assembly. Workers from other workplaces can attend and speak but not vote. The strike commitee is made up of two delegates from each union (ie. not decided by proportional number of affiliates.)

In the first general assembly there were about 5000 people. There were delegates in solidarity from the Madrid bus drivers. Some workers had brought their partners and kids. We had to take away all the chairs as there was no room. The heat was unbearable, people were standing in the corridors. The proposal was made to have a one day strike with minimum services, (ie. fifty per cent of trains would run) and then if the regional parliament approved the plan to reduce wages then there would be two day strikes without minimum services. (tr. minimum services are an obligatory level of services which are imposed on strikers in certain important services and which mean that strikes don´t ´cause too much disruption´.) The assembly voted 100% in favour of the all-out strike (with two abstensions!) There had not been a 24 hour strike without minimum services in the metro since 1987.

On 28th June, the first day of the strike, with servicios minimos, the regional parliament approved the wage cut and so the next day the workers moved to an all out strike.

All out strike

People started picketing from 3am. Not one single train left the depot, the strike was a 100% success. Thousands of pamphlets were distributed at stations asking for solidarity with the strike. At one picket line, there were 15 bus company workers on the picket line in solidarity, and forty squatters from Madrid´s social centres movement. The strikers were amazed at this level of support from outside the Metro, and the mass pickets had a really big impact on morale.

The company opened disciplinary proceedings against one thousand two hundred workers for not carrying out the servicios minimos. The company then said that they were going to open the line from the airport to the centre of Madrid. A massive contingent of police went to the start of the line. The company pressured drivers on temporary contracts, telling them their contracts would not be renewed unless they drove these trains. The TV were announcing live on the news that the line was going to open. The strikers reinforced the picket lines and convinced the drivers not to open the line and not one driver took out a single train.

Second day of the all out strike

Again the strike was very successful but the media were attacking the strikers with all guns blazing, strikers were on the defensive, there was a mass denunciation of the strike. At the general assembly, two of the unions in the strike committee didn´t want to continue the strike. In the end the strike continued for the next two days but with servicios minimos.

Negotiations

At this point the company contacted the strike committee and said they wanted to start negotiations, but their condition for negotiations was for the strike action to stop forthwith. Four out of the five unions in the strike committee were in favour of calling off strike action. Solidaridad Obrera wasn´t, they said they wouldn´t change their position unless the general assembly asked them directly. And in the assembly they said that they weren´t in favour of calling off the strike. However in the assembly there wasn´t a general will to continue with the strike owing to the attacks by the media and a general fatigue, and the assembly voted to stop the strike and open negotiations.

The company were intransigent that there could be no agreement without a pay cut. Four of the five unions agreed to this. At this point Solidaridad Obrera said that they were not prepared to accept the agreement, and so two proposals were put to the general assembly.

Seventy per cent of the assembly accepted the proposal but a large minority of thirty per cent voted against it. Many people who voted to accept it said that they did so out of fear and weren´t happy about the settlement. The mainstream unions said that the 1200 disciplinary proceedings would not come to anything, it was just to placate public opinion, but if the strike action continued, well, they couldn´t guarantee anything. They then turned around and signed an agreement which, for the first time, accepted that the disciplinary proceedings could go ahead after the strike finished!

Attacks by the regional government and Metro management

In August the regional government started legal proceedings against all five unions, and the members of the strike committee personally, claiming compensation of six and a half million Euro for damages. Metro management is also continuing with the disciplinary proceedings against drivers.

The unions have opened counter-proceedings, and an agreement has been made to call an emergency general assembly the moment any worker is sanctioned in these disciplinary proceedings.

The real importance of this strike has been how it was carried out. The participation of young workers, with no experience of strike action, was excellent. This strike has broken out in the context of an austerity campaign in which the government wants to impoverish the working class in order to pay back the debts they have taken on from the banks. To do this they want to attack the whole collective bargaining process. These types of disciplinary actions are not usually followed through after the strike has finished, normally they are shelved. This and the claim for damages against the union shows that the workers are now being attacked for the stand they have taken and we need a strong and united campaign of action to defend them.








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