Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government must feel under siege. And in late September it was literally besieged, as more than 40,000 people surrounded the Congress building in Madrid. On the same day, the regional government of Andalusia in the south asked for a bailout of almost $6 billion. It is the fourth regional government to do so.
Police attacked protesters with baton charges and rubber bullets. Dozens were hospitalised. Police beat others on their way home in public transport. After calling the “Occupy Congress” protests that blockaded parliament a coup attempt, the government declared a new protest the weekend after to be “totally illegal”. Yet even larger numbers turned out.
There has also been a general strike in the Basque country and major transport strikes in Barcelona and across the border in Portugal.
In Portugal the prime minister has spent two years pushing through cuts on behalf of the “troika” of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund But nationwide protests in September estimated to involve around a million people—almost 10 per cent of the population—forced him to abandon a massive national insurance hike.
In both countries unions are looking into calling their third general strike against the crisis—and protest organisers have called on them to co-ordinate it.
In Greece workers have held their first general strike in nearly eight months. It was the first since June’s elections, and one of the biggest since the crisis began. The pressure to strike again had been huge. Workers passed resolutions in their unions, and many on the demonstration chanted for more action.
Unions have agreed on another general strike when the government votes on the new round of cuts, but many are calling for strikes now.
The day after the strike, the power workers’ union announced they would begin repeated 48-hour strikes unless union federations come up with a plan for escalation.
The government is under pressure from both sides. It now has to present the troika with a new round of cuts. But it knows how dearly the previous government paid for doing the same thing.
By Dave Sewell
Socialist Worker UK